For this week's online essay, go read "The Mormon Retreat From Science," the editors' introduction to a collection of essays published by Signature in 1993 under the title The Search for Harmony: Essays on Science and Mormonism. The editors are Gene Sessions, a historian, and Craig Oberg, a microbiologist, both at Weber State University. The essay chronicles the open-minded attitude towards science of 19th-century LDS leaders like Joseph and Brigham; the expressly pro-science view of early 20th-century LDS leaders like Talmage, Widtsoe, and Roberts; and the increasingly anti-science tilt of recent LDS leaders, most notably Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie.
Much of the essay discusses the LDS position on evolution. The authors claim that "Mormons tend to accept the whole cloth of 'creation science.'" I'm not sure that's true — the neutral LDS position regarding evolution is pretty well known in the Church. Further, the authors (who were writing in 1993) noted an LDS trend against science as a whole: "[O]nly recently has the general tenor of church pronouncements joined in the marginalization of science and scientists." That might have been true in the years running up to 1993, but if so, LDS leaders have certainly toned down the rhetoric in the last ten or fifteen years.
I would agree that the Church as an institution exhibits a sort of "historical schizophrenia" (their term) "as outspoken Mormons discredit Darwinism and its derivatives yet praise open-minded, scholarly pursuit of truth." But when there are Mormon voices heard at many points along the spectrum of opinion on this topic, that's an indication of tolerance or lack of any official position, not some sort of institutional schizophrenia. Mormons are free to vote for any political party or candidate; Mormons are free to drive whatever car they want; Mormons are free to form their own beliefs about evolution or other scientific theories. Why is this schizophrenic?
The authors close with this thought:
Some suggest that anti-intellectualism in the Mormon church is cyclical, that the archives and minds of the church will reopen. Unfortunately, a multi-generational mindset now seems in place that retracts fetally to intellectual challenge.
Well, the archives have reopened. LDS leaders have changed their position on an issue as fundamental and entrenched as homosexuality, now adopting a sympathetic if not quite tolerant view. So maybe the anti-intellectualism is, in fact, cyclical. Perhaps there is more cause for hope for a reversal (anti-anti-intellectualism?) in 2007 than there was in 1993.