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A Mormon Darwinism

Lincoln Cannon

11 June 2008 (updated 12 March 2011)

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On the Mormon blog, By Common Consent, in a post entitled “Towards a Mormon Darwinism”, Steven P asked how readers reconcile evolution with various aspects of Mormonism, and wondered whether we could do so while preserving notions of God’s creation, Adam’s fall and Christ’s atonement. Of course, I think we can, and that we should without appeals to anything supernatural. Below are my thoughts.

Adam and Eve are archetypes of humanity. This is clearly suggested by the wording of a passage from Joseph Smith’s version of Genesis: “In the image of his own body, male and female, created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created and became living souls in the land upon the footstool of God.” (Moses 6: 9) Adam left the garden when humanity emerged from innocence communally, attaining a degree of intelligence necessary to conceptualize pain and pleasure, joy and misery, and good and evil; and Adam continues to leave the garden as we individually emerge from innocence. The fall of Adam, then, is humanity’s loss of innocence that accompanies its communal ascendance to complexity in ethics and esthetics.

Evil is incongruence between and among our anatomical desires, individual wills, communal laws and environmental laws. The atonement of Christ, to which we pledge our discipleship, is the eternal work of reconciling between and among conflicting anatomical desires, individual wills, communal laws and environmental laws. While our pre-human ancestors experienced pain, misery and death, they did not conceptualize them as we do. Their corresponding tragedies were realized more fully in our minds and in the minds of the gods.

Transfiguration or resurrection to immortality produces what the scriptures describe as a “spiritual body” (in contrast to a “spirit body”). Unlike a spirit body, the spiritual body maintains the magnitude of material organization attained by the physical body, although with greater reconciliation between spiritual will and physical desire than when in a mortal state, which forwards the work of atonement. An immortal being, such as a god, remains a natural physical being, but has become the result of both biological and technological evolution. God first found himself in the midst of eternal matter, and thereafter sought to reorganize it toward congruence with our desires. In other words, God first evolved passively and biologically before evolving actively and technologically.

God interacts selectively with his creation, leveraging the natural laws within which he found himself while attempting to expedite the organization of gods like himself for purposes beyond our current anatomical capacity to imagine. Thus, God is (among other things) an engineer: working within his knowledge of the possible (science) to discover and create a world more congruent with our desires.

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