Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Our Secular Critics and the Adam and Eve Myth

The people over at the Orwellian "Mormonthink," in their section, "Conflicts with Science," paint the picture that because Mormonism depends on founding Biblical myths like Adam and Eve, the Flood, and Babel, the scientific impossibility of these myths disprove Mormonism. "Mormonthink" actually stifles the thought of its readers by oversimplifying the issue.

I won't offer a full-blown correction of all their errors. Nevermind that Mormonthink's (henceforth MT's) representation of the LDS Church's stance on evolution is woefully and misleadingly incomplete (cherrypicking Church statements, ignoring that evolution is the official explanation for human origins taught at LDS institutions of higher learning). MT's argument with regards to Adam and Eve and the Church is fallacious. Their first error is making a roundabout, convoluted argument that because evolution happened, Adam and Eve could not have existed, because people are related to apes, etc. If I were arguing their case, all I have to do is cite the genomic evidence showing that not all humans descended from a primal couple! They can thank me later for improving the sophistication and succinctness of their argument.

I also won't go into the myriad of ways that Adam and Eve can be interpreted allegorically within the LDS tradition (For one, MT must have missed strong cues in the temple ceremony). What I will do is introduce a better test if facts regarding Adam and Eve can sink the Mormon case. If the myth was formulated at a very late date, i.e., after Lehi allegedly left Jerusalem, then Mormonism would be false, because the Adam and Eve tradition would be anachronistic. But the Book of Mormon does not require Adam and Eve to be real. It only requires that the tradition predates the Babylonian exile.

I have considered the possibility that Israelites formulated the Fall tradition in exile as a way to allegorize their expulsion from the Promised Land. The myth also may have been due to Zoroastrian influence during the exile. Zoroastrian myths hold all humans descending from a primal couple, when all other Ancient Near Eastern creation accounts like the Enuma Elish do not.

However, there is evidence that Adam and Eve account in Gen. 2-3 was written during the Assyrian exile, which started in 722 B.C., well before Lehi left Jerusalem (See Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, The Eden Narrative [Eisenbrauns, 2007]) . So the Adam and Eve story could have been available on the Brass Plates.

Just because George Washington existed does not require that he literally chopped down the cherry tree. Myths can be joined with history, and that is one among many things MT blatantly ignores.


6 comments:

MT said...

Thank you for contacting MormonThink, and giving us the link to your blog.

Your acceptance of the fact that Adam and Eve is a myth proves the point.

As you suggested, we are thanking you later for the new Jan. 26, 2012 link (not available when MT was written, but MT has now added it!), which fits in nicely with all the other links already provided to science sites, like TalkOrigins.org

"Cherry picked"? LDS Scriptures and LDS General Authorities were quoted, not "the traditions of men" in LDS higher education. Do you have any quotes from a General Authority (not an apologist) stating that the church's position is that Adam and Eve is a myth? Do you have any scriptural references saying Adam and Eve is a myth? If so, MT will be happy to include your quotes. If not, then there is nothing authoritative for MT to add, because if we were to do so, we would be called out for "trusting in the arm of flesh".

"evolution is the official explanation for human origins taught at LDS institutions of higher learning" But this is not the official LDS Church position. If you can document otherwise, we will be happy to add it.

"Secular Critics"? Do you have evidence to support that we are all secular?

"Orwellian"? "The adjective Orwellian connotes an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past." Which better fits the definition of Orwellian, MT or LDS Church? Does MT have tithing settlement for finances, or temple recommend interviews for worthiness (including sexual questions), or HT and VT, or disfellowship/excommunication, or other Big Brother controls and monitoring?

As stated above, we are happy to include your credible and authoritative documentation to change any misinformation we may have.

At the time of first writing, we purposefully stayed away from the temple ceremony, so as not to offend. Although you may see it as allegorical, many others see it as literal, including us. We'll let the reader decide, as the full temple ceremony is at another site here, http://www.lds-mormon.com/compare.shtml

If you have further points to address, please write again with authoritative documentation.

Thank you, MormonThink

MT said...

Thank you for contacting MormonThink, and giving us the link to your blog.

Your acceptance of the fact that Adam and Eve is a myth proves the point.

As you suggested, we are thanking you later for the new Jan. 26, 2012 link (not available when MT was written, but MT has now added it!), which fits in nicely with all the other links already provided to science sites, like TalkOrigins.org

"Cherry picked"? LDS Scriptures and LDS General Authorities were quoted, not "the traditions of men" in LDS higher education. Do you have any quotes from a General Authority (not an apologist) stating that the church's position is that Adam and Eve is a myth? Do you have any scriptural references saying Adam and Eve is a myth? If so, MT will be happy to include your quotes. If not, then there is nothing authoritative for MT to add, because if we were to do so, we would be called out for "trusting in the arm of flesh".

"evolution is the official explanation for human origins taught at LDS institutions of higher learning" But this is not the official LDS Church position. If you can document otherwise, we will be happy to add it.

"Secular Critics"? Do you have evidence to support that we are all secular?

"Orwellian"? "The adjective Orwellian connotes an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past." Which better fits the definition of Orwellian, MT or LDS Church? Does MT have tithing settlement for finances, or temple recommend interviews for worthiness (including sexual questions), or HT and VT, or disfellowship/excommunication, or other Big Brother controls and monitoring?

As stated above, we are happy to include your credible and authoritative documentation to change any misinformation we may have.

At the time of first writing, we purposefully stayed away from the temple ceremony, so as not to offend. Although you may see it as allegorical, many others see it as literal, including us. We'll let the reader decide, as the full temple ceremony is at another site here, http://www.lds-mormon.com/compare.shtml

If you have further points to address, please write again with authoritative documentation.

Thank you, MormonThink

Nellie said...

Thanks MT for the reply an link to this blog.

When I said "cherrypicking," I was clearly referring to MT's quoting on evolution, not Adam and Eve. Although it appears that you have added additional (more balanced) links (or I missed them the first time), none of it is quoted on the website. The only quote found on MT just so happens to be the one most antagonistic towards evolution. The explicit denial of evolution is not found anywhere in Official Statements but in the Doctrines of Salvation passage which you appended to the official statement. The reader may get the mistaken impression that the denial is official.

It is also not the LDS Church's current position on evolution. The current position is found in the 1931 statement, which is buried in a link.

By the way, just rereading your website now, it appears that you buried the strongest evidence for evolution (chromosomal fusion) in a link as well! Pseudogenes aren't as impressive because they've found uses for them (hence not really "pseudo"). I think readers would be less confused if you were to mention that human chromosome 2 is a fusion of chimp chromosome 2a and 2b.

You also omitted an important fact about "No Death Before the Fall." Apostle James Talmage asserted that there must have been death before the Fall because he has seen the rocks Joseph Smith said Adam made an altar from, and they were fossiliferous. I would be happy to find a reference if you would include that.

There was a public debate between Widstoe/Talmage/Roberts vs. Joseph Fielding Smith on the subject of evolution. All this happened even before the smoking-gun molecular evidence surfaced on the genome. This prompted the 1925 statement by President Heber J. Grant, which did not come down on any side of the issue, but left science to do its own thing. This statement set a precedent for the Brethren's not being in the business of declaring whether something is literal or allegorical.

I also said I was not making a case for an LDS allegorical Adam, but instead providing a better falsification system for the Church's beliefs on Adam and Eve. Perhaps I will make the case later.

You said:
"evolution is the official explanation for human origins taught at LDS institutions of higher learning" But this is not the official LDS Church position. If you can document otherwise, we will be happy to add it.

The Church does not officially teach evolution (like it's the Church's business to do so anyway), but the BYU evolution packet has been approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles. Yes, by all means add it:

http://emp.byui.edu/claytonr/EvolutionPacket.pdf

Your website, for whatever reason, mentioned the Creation Museum. That is opposite of what the Church stands for, as BYU prohibited the instruction of Intelligent Design on campus long before the courts did. The First Presidency and certain members of the Quorum of the Twelve comprise Board of Trustees of BYU. If you take "trusting in the arm of the flesh" to mean that education is bad, I have nothing further to say. One who reads the scripture in that way is also more likely to theorize that the Church is out to get them with tithing settlement.

In summary, MT completely blacks out the wide range of thought on evolution that can be found among LDS leaders. That is the cherry-picking I was talking about. This isn't surprising, as it is a common tactic among atheists nowadays to incite a war between religion and science.

You said:
Do you have evidence to support that we are all secular?
By "secular" I meant the nature of MT's content, not the individual beliefs of all its team. Our fundamentalist Christian critics usually do not question the historicity of Biblical events, if you know what I mean.

Thanks again for engaging.
Nelson Chung

MT said...

"or I missed them the first time"

Yes, you missed them. Talmage altar quote was already there. BYU packet was already there. The only link added is to this blog.
You may consider them "buried", but we don't consider quotes or references or links to be buried.
Readers could ask themselves why MT links to church sites, but church sites, FAIR, Maxwell don't link to MT? What does the "only true church" have to hide?
MT

Nellie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nellie said...

Thanks for the correction. I linked to Mormonthink on my follow-up post.