Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Joseph Smith Jr vs Charles Darwin

I’ve been reading a book on the life of Charles Darwin, a contemporary of Joseph Smith. I can’t help but see many of the same thought processes, cognitive dissonance and ah hah moments in Darwin’s life that I have experienced in my life. It is interesting to see Darwin’s thought process “evolve” as he is presented with more and more information that conflicts with what he had been taught throughout his life. Somehow I relate.

Darwin was brought up in a somewhat freethinking family. His father wanted him to study medicine and be a doctor. He didn’t enjoy medicine so after a few years of medical study altered his focus to become a clergyman ... of all things.

At the time of Darwin, society believed that God created all life. Each living creature was His perfect creation. God being perfect , created each living thing to be exactly as it was, there was no variation...each was Gods creation by design.

But as Darwin was soon to discover during his voyage on the Beagle... reality did not support this long held religious explanation for the existance of life on the earth. Facts don’t lie. And as Darwin soon discovered, there was variation within the same species living on different islands. But how could this be? Did God Create different versions of the same animals and place them on different islands? Did Noah place these animals throughout the earth? And how did an original population of finches from the mainland migrate to the Galapagos and then change into several species? Yet there was no denying reality... Darwin could tell which island a particular bird or turtle or lizard lived on based simply on the variations each of these animals held from their cousin species living on different islands.

The light didn’t go on immediately for Darwin. It took months of study before he privately concluded that animal life evolved from one generation to the next through mutation and adaptation, “Natural Selection” and many more years before he took his evolution theory public.
Darwin’s theory of Evolution was heretical. It forever changed how we view the world. TRUTH and ANSWERS to DIFFICULT QUESTIONS drove Darwin irrespective of where they may take him. Society, religion, culture, reputation be damned.

As a former believer in Mormonism, my world was turned upside down as well. When I finally decided to examine the beliefs of my youth and subject them to the buffetings of reality. I placed the foundational claims of Joseph Smith on the “Scales of Truth” and found them out of balance.

Just like Darwin ... each of us has had or is seeking our ah hah moment ... our own epiphany of clarity, when the puzzle pieces of cognitive dissonance finally fall into place and the fog of confusion is lifted.

For those of you still in pursuit of this clarity ... stay focused on your desire for truth; know that there are answers to difficult questions. For those of you have had those puzzle pieces fall into place, well done, you have chosen correctly.


Anonymous said...

Not being afraid of the results is what I believe ditinguishes leaders from followers, and that is particularly true when applied to the LDS Church and those who discover its real truth and not the one marketed to us.

Great post Cr@ig!

Sister Mary Lisa said...

It's interesting, isn't it? Very cool thoughts on Darwin here. I'm glad to know I chose wisely too!

Anonymous said...

Good Post, I enjoyed reading it.

Lets hope someday Mormonism evolves.

Simeon's Peep Stone said...

Very well put. Leaving mormonism is a 180 degree turn in the other direction. Just dealing with it mentally is hard enough. When you are programmed to think and feel that this is the worst thing that can ever happen to someone, it's a huge mind fuck.

Christy said...

I found your blog linked on others blogs... I love your writing and style, I wish you would post more.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to your next post.
Please write more.
I hope all is well.

Gluby said...

Nice post!

Just to add another interesting Darwin fact, one idea he did NOT apparently support was the idea of evolution as improvement.

For a long time, to those who have accepted evolution to some degree, it has seemed natural to most people that evolution is a natural process of improvement, the culmination of which is us.

To Darwin, this was merely imposing normative human judgments on a process that could care less about what is "good." In his opinion, it was important to realize that evolution produces adaptation to environment and circumstance, often highly-specialized (such as birds whose beak shape is specifically adapted to one kind of plant seed, but is horribly maladapted to other kinds). Successful propagation of the species has little to do with its inherent good.

An example of a species that really blew religious investigators of evolution away was a particular species of wasp, very successful in nature, that reproduces by finding caterpillars and laying its eggs inside them. It pierces their skin to do so, and its poison numbs the area so that the caterpillar hardly detects it. As the eggs hatch into larvae, the larvae eventually start consuming the caterpillar from the inside out, a process that takes longer than it should, and that is horrifically cruel.

The religious investigator would then ask, did god design this unnecessarily cruel species? It was very unsettling. But the evolutionary triumphalist might also see it and question whether evolution has a praiseworthy natural direction.

It's my opinion that the pinnacle of evolution is predators, and that this is not in itself good or bad -- as Darwin said of evolution, it just is.

But, taken from the point of view that seeks to preserve quality of life, predators make life miserable for everyone and everything underneath them. The social darwinistic ideas that still have some implicit influence today putatively point toward overall improvement, but might it be true that they merely provide a fig leaf for certain social groups (or nations, or, say, church hierarchies) to act predatorily upon others?

Anyway, great post! I look forward to reading more of yours.

T. Wanker said...

I'd never juxtaposed Darwin and Joseph Smith. I liked that about your post. Although I actually see more similarities between Smith and Darwin than differences.

As I've left my former-Mo faith, I've always thanked Joseph Smith, rather than cursed him. The entire Joseph Smith story is an appeal to 19th Century American rugged individualism and the same 19th century empiricism that you praise in Darwin.

Religion got you confused and down? Figure it out for yourself. Test it. Faith is constantly changing and consistent revelation is needed to see how religion and faith should evolve. How many times did I hear that before it sunk in?

Yes, I know the whole Moronoi 10:4-5 "double bind" concept, where you study something out and if you don't get the right answer the experiment was flawed, but that isn't the scientific method. You can't ignore contrary results, because as Thomas Kuhn would say, "They don't fit your paradigm."

The zeitgeist of the 19th Century spawned both Darwin and Joseph Smith. The intellectual stream is one gave rise to a scientific and industrial revolution. One hundred and eighty years later, I think the intriguing question is where do we go from here?

OmegaVector said...

It's interesting to see that most comments in this blog simply accept the fact that macroevolution (the popularized evolution of our culture) is accepted as fact. I'm not a Mormon so I'm not really interested in the Joseph Smith comparison. It's the know-nothing, blind blather of praise for the great enlightenment of Darwinism and that mystical trip in the Beagle that really irks me. Darwin himself did no real science, only observations and wild speculation. Even Darwin himself was unsure if the future of scientific discovery would validate his hypothesis of origin of species. He was a philosopher trying to escape his education as a clergyman. He based his assumptions on Lamarckian macroevolution. Real science work in genetics has disproven Lamarckian evolution, but the desire to hold on to the philosophical underpinnings birthed by Darwin's great enlightenment now birth the movement we call Neo-Darwinism. In Neo-Darwinism we must place our faith in random-mutations as being the only impetus for new information input to the genetic pool which is constantly degrading. The only problem is that most mutations that we can catalog produce disease or a passive trait that when combined with another of it's kind causes disease or death. The total failure of modern science to vindicate faith in Neo-Darwinism and genetic mutations as the engine for upward change has spawned the panspermia theories that are know-nothing attempts to move the question of origin off of our planet and to another far away location to help us wash our intellectual hands of this gross misuse of scientific reason and to keep the lower evolutionists in the dark, groping around for the truth. posted by omegavector at xiloetek dot com.

polarpaul said...

Darwin was actually very concerned about how his findings would impact people with respect to religion. His Origin of the Species minimizes his discussion about the implications of evolution for humans. He withheld publication of his findings for almost 20 years until another scientist was going to publish them and they published together. The idea of evolution had been around for a long time since the greeks at least. The new idea was natural selection: Natural selection is the process by which favorable traits that are heritable become more common in successive generations of a population of reproducing organisms, and unfavorable traits that are heritable become less common. (from Wikipedia)

A major difference between J. Smith and C. Darwin was that Smith was a very young man who sought truth through direct communication with God and Darwin was a mature man who observed nature and was obsessed with validating his findings before publishing them. He sought to minimize rocking the church's boat whereas Smith was persecuted for declaring himself to be a prophet of the one true church.

I think one of the most disturbing aspects of Darwinian evolution for many people is that it did not require a creator to work. Of course many religious people have reconciled it in their own minds by believing God got the evolutionary ball rolling.

What I find very strange and hypocritical is all of the people who use pseudo science to attack evolution, yet have no problem utilizing medical and other technologies derived from this line of scientific research. There was an uproar when it was proposed the earth was not flat and when the earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa. Most of the world's major religions have resolved these issues, but evolution still seems to be a major issue for many.

I think a literal interpretation of Noah's ark is about as credible as Evan Almighty being marketed as a documentary.

Wallace Family said...

Another similarity is between Joseph and Darwin is that both of their wives were named Emma. I wonder what Joseph would have thought if her would have lived to be able to read the Orgin of Species?