On Creation vs. Evolution
Thoughts from various authors
in a Church & Science e-mail list
Out of the Dust of the Ground
The Bible states that "the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work" in Genesis 2:1-`2. Genesis 2:7 then says that the "Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground."
Of the dust of the ground. Every "beast of the field, and every fowl of the air," in fact, was formed "out of the ground." (Genesis 2:19) Out of the ground. That particular phrase, which says that man was formed of the dust of the ground, is mentioned twice in the same chapter. Why? Obviously, there is a point trying to be made, that mankind was formed out of the dust of the ground; the phrase is included on multiple occasions to give it emphasis. What does it mean, though? If the "dust of the ground" alluded to was made into all sorts of living creatures, as Genesis states, could it have possibly been by evolution? What other process would have changed the "dust of the ground" into all sorts of organisms?
Perhaps it was creation by evolution that brought human beings into existence. One reason why this deserves serious consideration is because God has to work by the laws of physics. Nowhere in the Bible does it state outright that evolution was not the process of the creation of mankind. In fact, several statements in the Bible could be logically interpreted as alluding to evolution. Man was brought up out of "the dust of the ground," as was every other living organism, according to Genesis 2:19. Someone could use this argument from the Bible to promote the theory of evolution, whether it be of mankind or any other living creature.
Creationists, who support the account of the creation given in the Bible, do not believe one species can evolve into another. However, if two groups of specimen from the same species are isolated in different environments where there is no interaction from the outside world, and enough inbreeding is done, then eventually the two groups will become unable to reproduce successfully with one another.
Webster's Dictionary says that a species is "a group of individuals . . . capable of breeding within the group but not normally outside it." So, by definition, when two isolated groups are no longer able to reproduce successfully and normally with one another, they are considered to be of different species. These two groups had originated from the same species, though, and ended up being two different species. This biological phenomena, which has been proven numerous times through experimentation, shows that one species can indeed evolve into another.
On the other hand, to limit and insist upon the whole of life and death to this side of Adam's advent, some six or eight thousand years ago, as proposed by some, is to fly in the face of facts so indisputably brought to light by the research of science in modern times, and if it is part of our doctrine that animal and plant life had spiritual as well as physical creations (same as humans) and expect to have a life in the hereafter, then why should we be threatened to find that their intelligence is comparable to our own? Does it make us feel less human? Less "chosen" by God?It should not. Instead it should enhance our awe of the process of life just like scripturally we learn that there are many different gifts alotted but all are given by the same Spirit. So too should we look at the gifts of the animal kingdom, us included. Each has evolved different talents, but we should not be greedy or jealous. All are for the enhancement of our experience here and to increase the glory of our Father in heaven.
As for us being children of God, are we any less spiritually his crowning creation or physically the crowning product of evolution because our animal kingdom is more intelligent than we with limited thoughts ever realiized?
Sorenson suggests that in Abraham 5:9,20 and Moses 3:7,19-20 the word "earth" refers not to the entire globe but specifically to the Garden of Eden (which he also interprets as a local event). Thus, man was not the first flesh upon the globe, but the first flesh in the Garden of Eden, etc. (Note that it is very common in the scriptures for the word "earth" to refer to a local land, or to quote Sorenson again "In Hebrew one word, 'eretz, is translated either "land" or "earth" depending on the context.")
Here's another possible way to look at some of these narratives: treat them as attempts of people not versed in science to explain something which can only be explained scientifically. The writers did the best they could to describe things they saw but did not understand; they had neither the background nor vocabulary to do the subject justice. Further, even it they could have explained things correctly, their immediate audience was not prepared to understand.
If this sounds a little far-fetched, try explaining the basics of quantum mechanics to a 4th-grader sometime. It's not that the writers lacked intelligence (some of them were obviously very competent), but simply that their background was insufficient to the task at hand.
Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God; whether the first parents of our generations, Adam and Eve, were transplanted from another sphere, with immortal tabernacles, which became corrupted through sin and the partaking of natural foods, in the process of time; whether they were born here in mortality, as other mortals have been, are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God. (Improvement Era, 13:570, April 1910, Joseph F. Smith & Edward H. Anderson editors)
You young people live in an age when freedom of the mind is suppressed over much of the world. We must preserve it in the church and in America and resist all efforts of earnest men to suppress it. Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts. (at a spring convocation at Brigham Young University, Church News, 24 May, 1969)
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