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Re-reading my post, it sounds like I'm disagreeing with the authors, which isn't really true. The essay is a nice historical overview of LDS views and LDS leaders who have made their views known on the "science and religion" issue. Obviously, I think it's well worth reading or else I wouldn't have featured the essay in a post.

For some thirty-five years, Duane Jeffery has been a de facto spokesman for Mormon evolutionists. As such, he is not likely to overstate the anti-evolution sentiment among Mormons. Yet he estimates

"probably 90 percent of people who are LDS think the church is against evolution." (Deseret News, Mar. 19, 2005.)

Along those same lines, the essay by Sessions and Oberg begins with this statement:

"By the last decade of the twentieth century few members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would doubt the truth of the following statement: The ideas of organic evolution, particularly as they apply to the development of humankind, are false."

If, as you say, "the neutral LDS position regarding evolution is pretty well known in the Church," why do you suppose most Mormons think evolution is false and the Church is against it?

Re Jeffery's suggestion that "probably 90 percent of people who are LDS think the church is against evolution": where is his evidence?

Re Jeffery's suggestion that "probably 90 percent of people who are LDS think the church is against evolution": where is his evidence?

Didn't Crapo do a survey on this at USU? I thought it came out more like 60/40?

Gary, I suspect one of the reasons is that evolution is depicted in the media, in textbooks, and by many scientists as necessarily excluding belief in God. That is, evolution and God are often presented as mutually exclusive choices. That is not the case, as illustrated by the many LDS scientists and members who accept both, as well as by the percentage of scientists in general (about half, by most surveys) who accept both evolution and belief in God.

I'll bet that if I did a survey of my last ward that the majority of people would say that the church is against evolution, therefore making them against it.

My current ward includes the local university so maybe people would have a different opinion.

The big problem is confusion over what evolution entails. Once its explained I don't think most people see a problem. This is true of a lot of issues. For instance most people don't see a problem between what Blake Ostler calls robust free will and foreknowledge. Explain the issue and people understand the problem. Some people change how they view freedom and remain (roughly) compatibilists. Many adopt libertarian free will. Some refuse to believe there is a problem.

But it seems to me that in these sorts of surveys one has to keep in mind that most people, when questioned, are largely ignorant of the controversy and debate and are reacting on a very, very superficial level.

" I suspect one of the reasons is that evolution is depicted in the media, in textbooks, and by many scientists as necessarily excluding belief in God. "

Umm, what textbooks are you talking about?

While there are some vocal scientists who assert a conflict (Dawkins, much of the Science Bloggers with a few notable exceptions) I don't think you can quite say the above. Even prominent popular science journals like New Scientist have been pretty open on the issue, publishing good overviews as well as editorials by anti-religious figures as well as those who see harmony.

Gary writes:

If, as you say, "the neutral LDS position regarding evolution is pretty well known in the Church," why do you suppose most Mormons think evolution is false and the Church is against it?
That's an easy one. It's part of our cultural myth — widely-held beliefs falsely assumed to be revelation-based doctrine. It came about through a combination of JFS and BRM's overwhelming influence through their publications, and an adoption of fundamentalist Christian religious and political attitudes following World War II.

It's not unlike the "blacks are descendants of Cain" myth. There's no revelation that says this, and the scriptures used to come to that conclusion are dubiously interpreted, but since everyone believes it, it must be true. (Even though it isn't.)

Let's not underestimate the power that a handful of forceful, charismatic speakers can have on a group of people already conditioned to accept authority.

I'm not sure if it is cyclical, but there is definitely evolution. Cyclical implies that sometimes in the future there may be bouts of anti-intellectualism systematic with the Church. I'm optimistic that this is not the case.
When studying the careers of folk like JFS II and BRM, we see conditions that no longer exist and that likely will never exist again.

The problem is really very simple. Pre-Darwin there was no other explanation for how we got here than that found in the scriptures. Darwin changed everything. For the first time there existed a purely rational explanation of how we "might" have arrived at the point of being able to contemplate how we arrived.

Another "gap" wretched away from the God of the Gaps people. No wonder people are upset. And no wonder science is feared by the simple people.

This is an issue I've tracked for many years (Duane Jeffrey was my faculty advisor my freshman year [1971] at BYU) and that I addressed in part in a blog posting elsewhere.

My own observation is that there is a shift going on back to where the Church was in the 1930s. However, it's going to take a while, particularly given the remnants of creationism in Church Education System materials (Seminary, Institute, Sunday School). I'm a bit discouraged that White & Thomas couldn't get their Flood article (PDF) published in BYU Studies (it came out in Dialogue instead) -- but I suspect that would have been getting ahead of CES.

Given some of the publications coming out of the BYU Religious Studies department (e.g., How We Got the New Testament), I have hopes that the CES materials will get a needed revamping in the next decade or two. ..bruce..

Yes, Bruce, there seems to be a disconnect of about 20-30 years between the presently used CES materials and the material being put out by various BYU Religion types. Strange.

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