Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Dialogue Online!

Kudos to Dallas Robbins for sharing the news about the online version of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, made available by the University of Utah. While this journal contains some controversial items, I have found a number of thought-provoking and fascinating essays and poems. Issues up to 1998 are available. For more recent issues, head to a library or make an online purchase.

One of my favorite articles is not yet available online not at the U of U site but is now available at the Mormon Fortress: Michael Ash's "The Mormon Myth of Evil Evolution" (Dialogue, Vol. 35, No. 4, 2002, pp. 19-59). It offers an excellent overview of the issue of evolution in LDS thought, clearly reminding us that there is no official LDS position on this topic, contrary to the assumptions of many. (It's one of the works I discuss on my LDSFAQ page about science and Mormonism.)

Speaking of science and Mormonism, I gave a fireside at our local church last Sunday night on the topic of "Science and the Book of Mormon." Talked non-stop for over an hour - pity my audience! But I didn't fall asleep once. It was actually a High Priest Group social that we extended to anyone interested in the topic. We began with several fine batches of chili and some other light refreshments, and then came the lecture.

Key topics: the limitation of science and the scientific method, Arabian Peninsula geography (including candidates for the River Laman, Valley of Lemuel, Nahom, Shazer, and Bountiful), Mesoamerica, volcanism and Third Nephi, and DNA and the Book of Mormon.

Toward the beginning I mentioned that clashes between science and religion often are due to incorrect assumptions, and that we may need to discard old assumptions (such as the assumption that the "days" of Creation refer to 24-hour periods, when the Hebrew word can equally well refer to an age or era, as in the "times" of the Creation account in the Book of Abraham). Needing to reconsider an errant human assumption is not necessarily the same as needing to abandon one's faith. Science, being forever tentative, calls upon us to regularly update and revise our understanding of things and our assumptions. But properly viewed, the areas where science can shed light on the Book of Mormon can enhance our appreciation of the text and even strengthen our testimony. Those who claim to have lost faith in God or the Church because of science are, in my opinion, drawing errant conclusions based on faulty and often naive assumptions.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to side with Elder Packer as to the subject of man having evolved from lower points of life. I do not see it as consistent with the idea that humans and animals are different, which is constantly upheld in the church. Interesting study though.

Mormanity said...

To say that the Church does not have an official position on evolution (in general) is not to say that we can be comfortable with the theory that man evolved from lower forms of life. We do have an official position that God is the Creator, and that we are created in His image and He is the Father of our spirits.

I could imagine, though, that this planet was prepared over billions of years with numerous adjustments to life forms and the environment to bring it to its present condition. Science cannot yet determine whether the periods of transition - the jumps in "punctuated equilibrium" were caused by natural or supernatural processes. But science has been able to determine the modern humans ARE NOT the descendants of the Neanderthals, based on genetic testing of remains that were preserved. Science can determine that we share much of our genetic structure with other species, being especially close to the primates - but science cannot reject the theory that the the "common building blocks" shared by us and other species is due to a Master Architect using a common set of tools to craft different creatures, as opposed to a natural result due to common origins.

In my view, humans and chimps do have a common origin: a Divine Creator who used similar genetic tools for the similar bodies of both species.

Anonymous said...

One small quibble -- the name of the journal is Dialogue, with "ue" at the end.

Mormanity said...

Fixed. Thanks!