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Monday, July 11, 2005 

I Am Not a Monkey...Although My Husband Begs to Differ

Scopes Monkey
My initial “issue” with this topic is that religious people who call in to defend “creationism” on the radio don’t come off sounding like the most intelligent people.

In any case, for this timely topic I went straight to the ultimate source on Mormon information: my mom. No seriously, she’s amazing. I asked her a question about “would you feel weird if I said this online….?” and she came back at me with nine other sources that said what I wanted to say…and this is with her internet being down. Kudos to Mo.

As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the in/famous “Scopes Monkey Trial”, we can reflect on how far we’ve come on this topic, which is to say…not so far.

We are still battling this issue in Arkansas and Kansas where parent organizations are demanding that stickers be put on science text books that say :

“This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”

Only to be countered with disclaimer stickers that say :

“This book mentions Creationism, New Creationism, Scientific Creationism, or Intelligent Design. All of these beliefs rely on the action of a supernatural entity to explain life on earth. Scientists rejected supernatural explanations for life in the 1800’s, and still do today.”

But back to the monkey trial…

If you weren’t already barraged by one million radio shows on this last week check out NPR’s coverage of the trial including interviews with people who were present. This story is relevant because back in 1925, it sparked a HUGE national debate. By this time, however, the First Presidency of the Church had already published a statement declaring the Church’s official doctrine on the matter. It was first published in 1909 and was titled “The Origin of Man”. It was republished in the Ensign in 2002.

If you don’t feel like reading the article yourself here are the basics…

1. Everything (and I mean everything) was created spiritually before it was created physically.

2. And speaking of the word “created”… officially, the modern-day prophets have preferred the word “organized” to describe the act of creation. God organized us (and everything) out of existing matter. He did not conjure us out of thin air…in a vacuum…

3. While the Bible uses the word “day” to delineate the different tasks God “organized”, modern-day prophets prefer the words “creative period”. Good old Brother Brigham says that “we are not authorized” to say how long those periods were, and he coyly insinuates that no one can calculate or prove that these creative periods were of equal length!

4. God made provisions for our species, and all species, to multiply and replenish “in their own sphere”. He merely set all of this in motion and created us so that we could adapt to changing climates, extremes in geography, humidity, altitude, sunlight, etc. He “organized” this earth to be quite extraordinary.

So my personal view is to not take either side quite so literally. I don’t believe in the creationist view that God created the earth in six days, nor do I subscribe to the thought that our existence, that all intelligent existence here, was set in motion by pure freak-of-nature chance. I think the theory of evolution is fascinating and should not be shunned in the halls of learning, but I also know that science is not done with the subject yet. Really, thank goodness for modern revelation, or else I might be one of those people who call in to talk shows…oh wait…


And check out the 1960's movie "Inherit the Wind" which told the story of the famous, and ill-named "Scopes Monkey Trial".

Inherit the Wind movie poster

Well done!

This subject frustrates the heck out of me, and when I try to engage in a conversation about it I feel like a moron (like that never happens). Great post.

Not to be outdone by the sis...well done, CA!!!

Also...I truly hope your nephew is alright....poor guy!!!

i am with you, CA, in that i am not 100% on either side.

there is a lot of evidence to back up the theory of evolution. i've kind of adopted the idea that the two aren't mutually exclusive. rather, since the definition of "day" in HF's dictionary is different than ours, who's to say that perhaps evoltion didn't occur? maybe the day he created animals was...ooo...roughly 1000s of years? either way, both sides are too literal, i'd agree with you on that!

My scientist grandfather always said that evolution was the tool God used to create the world and man, and I have to agree.

I think many religious people feel comfortable writing off evolution because it is "just a theory." But theory doesn't mean the same thing to scientists that it means to lay people.

Here is some really good info explaining the difference, from http://wilstar.com/theories.htm

(Sorry for the threadjack, especially since I'm not an established commenter here, just a lurker, but this is such a pet peeve, that I have to post it. Delete it if you must...)

Three such terms that are often used interchangeably are "scientific law," "hypothesis," and "theory."

In layman’s terms, if something is said to be “just a theory,” it usually means that it is a mere guess, or is unproved. It might even lack credibility. But in scientific terms, a theory implies that something has been proven and is generally accepted as being true.

Here is what each of these terms means to a scientist:

Scientific Law: This is a statement of fact meant to explain, in concise terms, an action or set of actions. It is generally accepted to be true and univseral, and can sometimes be expressed in terms of a single mathematical equation. Scientific laws are similar to mathematical postulates. They don’t really need any complex external proofs; they are accepted at face value based upon the fact that they have always been observed to be true.

Some scientific laws, or laws of nature, include the law of gravity, the law of thermodynamics, and Hook’s law of elasticity.

Hypothesis: This is an educated guess based upon observation. It is a rational explanation of a single event or phenomenon based upon what is observed, but which has not been proved. Most hypotheses can be supported or refuted by experimentation or continued observation.

Theory: A theory is more like a scientific law than a hypothesis. A theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. One scientist cannot create a theory; he can only create a hypothesis.

In general, both a scientific theory and a scientific law are accepted to be true by the scientific community as a whole. Both are used to make predictions of events. Both are used to advance technology.

The biggest difference between a law and a theory is that a theory is much more complex and dynamic. A law governs a single action, whereas a theory explains a whole series of related phenomena.

An analogy can be made using a slingshot and an automobile.

A scientific law is like a slingshot. A slingshot has but one moving part--the rubber band. If you put a rock in it and draw it back, the rock will fly out at a predictable speed, depending upon the distance the band is drawn back.

An automobile has many moving parts, all working in unison to perform the chore of transporting someone from one point to another point. An automobile is a complex piece of machinery. Sometimes, improvements are made to one or more component parts. A new set of spark plugs that are composed of a better alloy that can withstand heat better, for example, might replace the existing set. But the function of the automobile as a whole remains unchanged.

A theory is like the automobile. Components of it can be changed or improved upon, without changing the overall truth of the theory as a whole.

Some scientific theories include the theory of evolution, the theory of relativity, and the quantum theory. All of these theories are well documented and proved beyond reasonable doubt. Yet scientists continue to tinker with the component hypotheses of each theory in an attempt to make them more elegant and concise, or to make them more all-encompassing. Theories can be tweaked, but they are seldom, if ever, entirely replaced.

Sue M...you should really think about doing the guest blog on Sunday.. :)

JP - I would, but I only sound smart by default - that info is all from the site I posted above - http://wilstar.com/theories.htm

I would never have been able to explain it so succinctly!

My sophmore year biology teacher's husband was a christian pastor/preacher (not sure which faith). So after a lecture she taught on evolution I asked her what she thought of the creation as taught in the bible. Her answer was, "I've just seen too much evidence to the contrary to believe in that."

I am satisfied knowing that there are a lot of things I may not understand in this life. Just think: if everyone in the world came to a complete and infallible concensus regarding the creation and/or evolution of the earth there would ultimately be no real reason for faith in God. Either he would not exist, or we would have a sure knowledge of Him. And everyone would know.

You know, all of this discussion of "evidence" and "proof" really needs to point us in the direction of epistemology (sp?). What do we accept as definitive sources of truth? Do fossils and carbon-14 dating trump modern revelation through prophets and apostles? I would question the validity of several widely-accepted "laws" or "theories" of science, not only evolutionary, but regarding relativity and thermodynamics. Is God bound by the "law" that states entropy and disorder will always increase in the universe? Is he limited by the speed of light? So perhaps all the "evidences" and "proof" out there supporting various theories and laws isn't quite as rock-solid as some would have us believe. And for the record, I am a scientist, and hold a doctorate.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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