As is evident from my participation on this blog, I am not a scientist, but I enjoy reading good, non-technical, science writers. One I really like is Carl Zimmer, who blogs at The Loom. He writes a lot about evolution and genetics. Ady Hahn (our guest blogger who is currently on Christmas break) promised to talk about evolution later, but after reading the latest entry at The Loom, I feel the desire to press the issue.
We should first make one thing clear: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints takes no position on the theory of evolution, except to affirm that man is “the direct and lineal offspring of Deity…. Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with diving attributes.” (First Presidency, 1909 & 1925). Some apostles — Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith come to mind — have publicly proclaimed their opposition to the theory of evolution. But others — James E. Talmadge and John A. Widstoe being the most prominent — seem to embrace the theory.
I do not feel qualified to take a strong view one way or the other, nor do I feel a pressing need to take a position, though I enjoy reading about evolutionary theory. But here is what interests me at the moment: in a training session for local Seminary teachers a few months back, the topic of evolution arose and everyone (except me) assumed that we would dismiss the theory in our teaching of the Old Testament. We even had an hour-long presentation by one of my Seminary colleagues who knows even less about science than I do about why the theory of evolution is a crock!
Where does this attitude come from? I don’t think I was witnessing deviant behavior by Wisconsin Seminary teachers. I think that this negative view towards evolution is fairly widespread among members of the Church. Is this just another unfortunate example of Church members unthinkingly embracing the views of evangelicals? Or does this reflect the influence of McConkie and Smith? (But why would they be so much more influential than other apostles?) Or perhaps there is another explanation?