Genealogy and Darwin

September 19, 2015    By: Jeff G @ 12:38 pm   Category: Before Abraham

This is basically a repost of a comment I left over at SteveP’s site, but thought that it would be more than a little inappropriate to discuss there any further:

I think the concept of genealogy helpfully illustrates some of the problems that many might have with Darwinian thinking. Originally, genealogy was a means by which people established and legitimized their social roles within society (especially nobility) in that people inherited their stations from their ancestors.  This is very intertwined with the idea of birthrights.

This same thing in found throughout the Bible in that the Hebrews think it extraordinarily important that they are the descendants of Abraham and thus the inheritors of his covenants (and land, I might add). Mormonism (especially 19th century Mormonism) is by no means a strong departure from this tradition: genealogies within our expanded canon establish lines of priesthood authority, by performing vicarious ordinances we bring our ancestors within our individual priesthood lines, our patriarchal priesthood and blessings establishes which tribe we belong to, etc.

Placing non-human organisms within this same genealogical framework is very subversive to this entire tradition of legitimizing social standing, covenants, stewards, land, etc. through inheritance…. for better or worse. It suggest that these lines of inheritance do not go back to some divine act or promise of God which might legitimize what I do now. Indeed, it suggests the exact opposite.

There are two potential ways of framing this:

  1. The more modern way is to say that any kind of genealogical reasoning is, in fact, a genetic fallacy such that describing the origins of something carries with it not intrinsic moral valence.  This says that the very fact that Abraham is one’s ancestor (through biological or priesthood lines) is totally irrelevant to the authority which you claim to have.  The scriptures clearly reject this.  Who my authority can be traced back to is VERY important.
  2. The other, closely related approach is to say that our values could have evolved in that they merely emerged out of a nihilistic past.  But this poses another problem in that it implies that, over time, Abraham’s descendants gradually cease to inherit his covenants, authority and birthright… or that over time other people with no biological relation to Abraham can come to acquire his covenants, authority and birthright.  While we do accept some form of this, the process of spiritual adoption is itself mediated through a different, non-biological line of authority, covenant and birthright.  At this point, the argument simply repeats itself.

In summary, the legitimizing value of genealogy seems to be 1) non-negotiable within the Abrahamic tradition and 2) unacceptable with the Darwinian tradition.  Adam and Eve is the most obvious point of contradiction here since they are the point at which our genealogies are morally grounded (we inherit both the fall and the promises of redemption from them).  It is difficult to see how the two perspectives could ever be fully harmonized.


Neo-Pragmatism and a Young Earth

September 30, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 12:27 pm   Category: Before Abraham,Determinism vs. free will,spirit birth

Neo-pragmatism (at least as Richard Rorty understands it) is committed to the position that, in some sense, the earth did not exist until there was a community of people to conceptualize and categorize it as such.  To be sure, there are obviously ways of reading this which do not do justice to the neo-pragmatists.  The main point at issue lies in the question, “In what sense did the earth not exist until relatively recently?”  I think this question is especially interesting within the context of a Mormon worldview that – in some sense – believes in a very young earth.  In this post I want to sketch out some (very) rough interpretations and possibilities of how neo-pragmatism might(!) link up with LDS claims.  (Warning: rampant speculation ahead!) (more…)

Why (Religious) Evolutionists Bug Me

January 19, 2013    By: Jeff G @ 4:26 pm   Category: Before Abraham,Truth

Let me lay some cards on the table, if only to provide a bit of context for what I want to say.  I am a strong and unequivocal evolutionist who places Darwin at the very core of my philosophical mindset.  My relationship to religion, on the other had, is …. complicated.  I don’t think any of the standard categories unambiguously matches up with what I think and feel, and I’m somewhat okay with that.  I just hope that these confessions serve to clarify rather than obstruct the conversation I hope to have.  (more…)

Evolution and “No Death Before the Fall” working together

August 21, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 9:59 am   Category: Before Abraham

The point of this post is not to give opportunity to arguing whether evolution or no death before the fall (NDBF)is correct. It is not to look at whether S. McMurrin and H. Eyring Sr. or J. Fielding Smith and B. Packer more accurately state the official position of the Church. If you have perspectives along those lines, table them, because those sorts of comments will be deleted here, even if you do have a fancy ™ on the end of your name.

The attempt here is to take the two positions, or for the sake of this post, assume BOTH are true. Then we can look at possible ways that both can work together.

Melchizedek, the King of Salem

February 17, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 4:30 pm   Category: Before Abraham,Theology

In my recent post on Abraham I brought up the enigmatic figure from scripture, Melchizedek. There is a tradition that claims Melchizedek is actually Shem, the son of Noah. I speculated, based on my reading of our scriptures, that Melchizedek might actually be the pre-mortal Christ himself rather than a mortal prophet. In this post I will briefly sketch out these two ideas. (more…)

Abraham as our literal Adam

February 14, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 11:58 pm   Category: Before Abraham,Scriptures,Theology

In my recent post on the figurative and allegorical aspects I see in the Noah story I admitted to a new thought that I have had as I’ve studied the scriptures recently:

I don’t know about you but I am having an increasingly difficult time seeing the pre-Abraham scriptural narratives as being literal in our modern Western sense. They seem to be symbols of truth rather than literal historical accounts. In other words – they seem like theology rather than history to me.

In this post I’ll discuss Abraham and the parts of his story that make me wonder if he plays the role of our literal “Adam”, or the role of our father and first literal prophet. As I’ve noted recently, I have begun to suspect that the narratives about Adam and successive patriarchs in the scriptures might be allegorical. (Note- I got the ideas for this post after studying the scriptures in Old Testament Sunday school lesson 7 which is about the Abrahamic covenant.) (more…)

The Noah version of the creation narrative (or, ark=uterus?)

February 2, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 11:25 am   Category: Before Abraham,Scriptures,Sunday School Lessons,Theology

With Sunday school lesson #6 on the story of Noah up next I have been reading up on it. Over at Julie’s thread on the subject someone linked to an article in Dialogue by Sheldon Greaves that briefly discussed the Noah story and its parallels with the earlier creation story starring Adam. While the discussion of the Noah narrative was only a side note in the overall article, I found it fascinating. Here are the highlights: (more…)

Eden as Allegory

January 26, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 7:42 pm   Category: Before Abraham,Theology

As the next post in my mini-series on the Garden of Eden story as an allegory, I will respond to an interesting set of questions Tim J. posed in one of my posts over at T&S. He asked:

I think to follow the Fall as an allegory, I would need the allegory to be pretty well spelled-out. What I mean is such things like:

What does the Garden represent?
Is Satan’s role allegorical-if so what is he representing?
Why was Eve first to partake of the fruit?
Why did Adam refuse the fruit (if we are to believe the narrative that he was offered beforehand)?
Is the Atonement (which is inextricably linked w/ the Fall) also purely allegorical, or literal?


Happiness and The Fall

January 25, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 11:56 pm   Category: Before Abraham,Happiness,Theology

There has been all sorts of talk about happiness lately in the ‘nacle. (See here, here, and here.) I think these happiness discussions dovetail nicely into my recent posts and comments about the Garden of Eden story being allegorical. Since I promised I would flesh this idea out better, I figured I could start that process by looking at how an allegorical Fall of Adam and Eve could or should affect our expectations for happiness in this life. (more…)

Adam the Transformer

November 9, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 11:46 am   Category: Before Abraham,Eternal Progression,MMP,Theology

The Garden of Eden story is packed with symbolism. Jeff Giliam has even made compelling arguments here at the Thang that the Garden story is entirely symbolic. In this post I will riff on this idea that the Garden story is symbolic rather than literal. Before doing so, I want to point out that I am not hinting that there was no literal Adam on this earth. I think the evidence that there was a literal Adam is quite compelling. Rather, I want to look at possible meanings of the garden story and pre-garden story. (more…)

Monkey Man

October 6, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 7:58 pm   Category: Before Abraham,Eternal Progression,Scriptures,Theology

So I was listening to the song Monkey Man by The Specials this afternoon and it dawned on me that I haven’t written a single post on Mormons and evolution here at the Thang. That changes today. (I’m always thinking of how to tie posts in with anyway…) (more…)