Absurdity and Authority Do Not Refute Evolution
25 December 2007 (updated 10 April 2012)
These days, if you ask a university-educated faithful Mormon whether she believes God may have used biological evolution as a mechanism in the creation of humanity, you have (estimating roughly from my experience) about a 50/50 chance of receiving a response in the affirmative.
Some Mormons are particularly supportive of incorporating biological evolution into our understanding of human origins. While the Mormon Transhumanist Association has no official stance on biological evolution, I know of no member that rejects it and many that consider it inspiring. “Mormons and Evolution: A Quest for Reconciliation”, although not updated recently, is a good resource from Mormons that favor biological evolution.
On the other hand, some Mormons are particularly antagonistic to biological evolution. For example, in the January 2008 Ensign (a monthly magazine published by the LDS Church), Elder Douglas L Callister of the Quorum of Seventy suggests, in an article entitled “Our God Truly Is God”, that it would be absurd to think that biological evolution could result in the complexity we observe in the human body.
Consequent to Elder Callister’s article, a Mormon blogger, R Gary at “No Death Before the Fall”, commented that “. . . the important thing is that Elder Callister obviously believes it is absurd to think that the eye could have been formed by natural selection. Furthermore, Church Correlation and the Ensign editorial staff found Elder Callister’s views acceptable for publication.” The implication, here, is that appeals to absurdity and ecclesiastical authority should factor into our perspective on biological evolution.
However, appeals to absurdity should not factor into our perspective on biological evolution, or anything else. From a logical perspective, X can be true regardless of whether someone tells you that X is absurd. From a practical perspective, there are innumerable historical examples of appeals to absurdity, even from respected authorities, regarding matters that are no longer controversial.
Moreover, appeals to ecclesiastical authority should not factor into our perspective on biological evolution, even if we are faithful members of the LDS Church. Church leaders are, for the most part, not experts in the mechanisms of creation. Furthermore, their calling is not to receive inspiration regarding the mechanisms of creation, but rather to receive inspiration regarding the governance of the Church. You and I, particularly if we’re doing the hard work of biological science, have as much or more right to inspiration regarding the mechanisms of creation as do ecclesiastical leaders. Indeed, as Joseph put it, “. . . not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.” (D&C 128: 18)