Mormons, evolution, Daniel Quinn, and other fun topics

7/16/00 - 12/7/00 Messages

The most recent messages can be found here.

received 12/7/00
At the risk of imposing on your time and having this E-mail getting lost and buried in the abundance of fan mail you must receive, I just felt I had to thank you for providing your forums for us. I am greatly impressed with the quality of some of the people your forums have attracted and how amicably most of them seem to get along with each other, despite sometimes very great differences of opinion. I am also very grateful for some of the friends I have met through your forums and with whom I now have a regular correspondence via E-mail. My only complaint is that your forums have so much to read that is of interest to me, that my book reading has suffered tremendously. I may have to take a long vacation from your forums in the near future and get caught up on my book reading. I feel I am falling farther and farther behind some of the intellects I admire so much on your BBs, including you. I guess I will have to start getting more choosy about whose posts I read and respond to.

Thanks again, and I think you are providing a great service. I would suspect that even General Authorities of the Church, if any of them have visited your BBs and read any of your posts, must have at least a grudging admiration for you.

received 11/26/00
I just stumbled onto your
2think website while researching more about Daniel Quinn's philosophies, and have promptly bookmarked it. I recently finished Ishmael and The Story of B, and am getting started on Providence, Beyond Civilization, and Ayn Rand's Anthem and Atlas Shrugged. Far be it from me to know what the hell i'm talking about, but i will nonetheless submit to you my 2 cents regarding Quinn's philosophy.

Another reader had some comments, to which you posted the following, which i will use as "fuel" for my discussion.

Let me start from the top - I found not one single error of logic in Daniel Quinn's logic thus far. Some of his assumptions might not be adequately established -- he needs to better explain the basis and facts behind certain assumptions he makes -- but I was unable to find a "mistake" in his work. Note also that some of the things that people claim as falsehoods are really misunderstandings. I felt after reading Ishmael that Quinn had not completed his work, and i think he himself would agree with me. That why we need to read his succeeding books. After reading The Story of B, many of Quinn's earlier statements I found not entirely watertight were better clarified and stood up to my scrutiny.

Quinn speaks not in terms of absolutes, nor is he stating that tribal cultures are perfect - as with any text, you have to put in proper context. The Yoruba tribe certainly may have a problem with depression (wouldn't you feel depressed if the other 99% of the world felt you inferior for not living a "civilized" lifestyle?). Take any scientific sampling of data and i'll show you a datapoint that doesn't fall neatly on the trendline. Quinn himself provides the analogy of the tobacco company; they love to hear about those people who have smoked their entire lives and are still healthy as ever. Does this mean the scientific proof that carcinogens in tobacco cause cancer is not valid?

Wild dogs in Australia could be considered saints compared to humans when it comes to the killing of innocent species. While we "civilized" humans don't necessarily rip flesh apart with our teeth, we ravage ecosystems and destroy habitats both intentionally and unintentionally. What is sad is that we know better!!! Again, to pick an isolated example of one species that doesn't perfectly fall into line with Quinn's general philosophy of natural law is pretty shallow thinking.

With regard to materialism, it is clear that J.B. Bennison has not yet read The Story of B. Quinn addresses this directly in the appendix, under the presentation "The Boiling Frog", if i'm not mistaken. The fundamental rules of food supply and population apply to all species, and are separate and distinct from materialism. Those societies who have an oversupply of food and can afford to spend (burn?) resources on other things may indeed show slow, or even negative, population growth. but the population of the world continues to climb, and the wheat grown in Nebraska is still shipped to "developing countries". Again, one has to look at our culture - the taker culture, East and West - as a whole, not as individual countries. To claim that "rising the standard of living" will eliminate starvation or stabilize the earth's population is a direct disregard to the fundamental cause of population growth. Could it be that the countries who are so well off materialistically are correspondingly overcrowded to the point that the population recognizes this and has taken measures to suppress further local population growth? mind you, they export the excess food and products to support growth of population elsewhere in the world, often in places that cannot naturally support the existing population there.

Regarding the size of the brain - there is absolutely no correlation between brain mass and actual intelligence level. I feel it a shame that Bennison thinks Quinn is advocating "neo-noble savagism", because this is not the point of Ishmael at all. Quinn has pointed out, in simple but logical terms, where man started to go astray from a sustainable way of life. He does not eschew technology - indeed it is technology which has uncovered the facts that form the basis of his philosophy. Rather, it is our culture's fundamental way of living - totalitarian agriculture, as Quinn calls it - which we must abandon. Our modern conveniences are not the evil here, it is the way we brandish them to destroy the planet and all other species on it. Is Quinn's science wrong? No, not at all.

Thanks for hosting this terrific website. I welcome hearing your comments and will certainly be visiting your corner of the web again!

Unfortunately, it has been so long since I read "Ishmael" and having yet to read "The Story of B", I can not respond in any kind of detail to your message.

received 9/22/00
Your article about what Mormons feel about Evolution was quite interesting. You have done your homework on finding everything that any church leader has ever said against evolution. I just thought that you should have included some of the things that leaders of our church have said in favor of evolution. Elder James Talmage (one of the Twelve Apostles you are so familiar with) sheds a different light on evolution. Read some of his comments...
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." (Gen. 1:1-2). Any question as to when that beginning was is largely futile because [it is] unanswerable. In the first place we have no time unit by which to measure back through the ages to the time at which, so far as the earth is concerned, time began.

Years are as inadequate in any attempted survey of the stages of earth development as are miles to the astronomer who would span the distances of interstellar space. He speaks in terms of light-years, such unit being the distance traversed by a ray of light speeding on at the rate of approximately 186,000 miles per second throughout a year.

Secondly, we are without information as to what stage of earth development is indicated by "the beginning." And what is a beginning in nature? At best it is but a new start in advance of what had passed up to that point of time; and every beginning is an ending of what went immediately before, even as every consummation is a commencement of something greater, higher, and therefore superior to the past.

The Earth Older Than Man

To the thoughtful mind there can be no confusion of the beginning spoken of in the opening verse of genesis with the advent of man upon the changing earth; for by the scriptural record itself we learn of stage after stage, age after age of earth processes by which eventually this planet became capable of supporting life -- vegetable, animal and human in due course.

Whether or not scientists have been able to see, however dimly, the way by which the earth as an orb in space was formed, matters little except as a subject of academic interest. For many years it was very generally believed that the earth, once formless and void, passed through stages of cooling of superheated gas to liquid, thence to the solid state, as the Nebular Theory assumed; but this conception has given way to the later thought that the earth as a solid spheroid has resulted from the bringing together of particles once diffused in space -- this being the basis of the Planetesimal Hypothesis.

But this we know, for both revealed and discovered truth, that is to say both scripture and science, so affirm -- that plant life antedated animal existence and that animals preceded man as tenants of earth.

Life and Death Before Man's Advent

According to the conception of geologists the earth passed through ages of preparation, to us unmeasured and immeasurable, during which countless generations of plants and animals existed in great variety and profusion and gave in part the very substance of their bodies to help form certain strata which are still existent as such. [This was written before the introduction of radioactive isotope dating techniques.]

The oldest, that is to say the earliest, rocks thus far identified in land masses reveal the fossilized remains of once living organisms, plant and animal. The coal strata, upon which the world of industry so largely depends, are essentially but highly compressed and chemically changed vegetable substance. The whole series of chalk deposits and many of our deep-sea limestones contain the skeletal remains of animals. These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation.

From the Simple to the Complex

From the fossil remains of plants and animals found in the rocks the scientist points to a very definite order in the sequence of life embodiment, for the older rocks, the earlier formations, reveal to us organisms of simplest structure only, whether of plants or animals. These primitive species were aquatic; land forms were of later development. Some of these simpler forms of life have persisted until the present time, though with great variation as the result of changing environment.

Geologists say that these very simple forms of plant and animal bodies were succeeded by others more complicated; and in the indestructible record of the rocks they read the story of advancing life from the simple to the more complex, from the single-celled protozoan to the highest animals, from the marine algae to the advanced types of flowering plant -- to the apple-tree, the rose, and the oak.

What a fascinating story is inscribed upon the stony pages of the earth's crust! The geologists, who through long and patient effort has learned at least a little of the language in which these truths are written, finds the pages illustrated with pictures, which for fidelity of detail excel the best efforts of our modern engravers, lithographers and half-tone artists. The pictures in the rocks are the originals, the rest at best but copies.

In due course came the crowning work of this creative sequence, the advent of man! Concerning this all-important event we are told that scientists and theologians are at hopeless and irreconcilable variance. I regard the assumption or claim, whichever it be, as an exaggeration. Discrepancies that trouble us now will diminish as our knowledge of pertinent facts is extended. The creator has made record in the rocks for man to decipher; but He has also spoken directly regarding the main stages of progress by which the earth has been brought to be what it is. The accounts can not be fundamentally opposed; one can not contradict the other; though man's interpretation of either may be seriously at fault.

Adam a Historic Personage

So far as the history of man on the earth is concerned the scriptures begin with the account of Adam. True, the geologist does not know Adam by name; but he knows and speaks of man as an early, continuing and present form of earth-life, above and beyond all other living things past or present. We believe that Adam was a real personage, who stands at the head of his race chronologically. To my mind Adam is a historic personage, not a prehistoric being, unidentified and uncertain.

If the Usher chronology be correct, or even approximately so, then the beginning of Adamic history as recorded in scripture dates back about 4000 years before the birth of Christ. We as a Church believe that the current reckoning of time from the birth of Christ to the present is correct, namely 1931 years -- not from last New Year's day, January 1, but from the month that came to be known among the Hebrews as Nisan or Ahib, corresponding with our late March and early April. So we believe that we are now living in the 1931st year since the birth of Christ, and therefore 5931 years since the beginning of the Adamic record.

This record of Adam and his posterity is the only scriptural account we have of the appearance of man upon the earth. But we have also a vast and ever-increasing volume of knowledge concerning man, his early habits and customs, his industries and works of art, his tools and implements, about which such scriptures as we have thus far received are entirely silent. Let us not try to wrest the scriptures in an attempt to explain away what we can not explain. The opening chapters of Genesis, and scriptures related thereto, were never intended as a text-book of geology, archaeology, earth-science or man-science. Holy Scripture will endure, while the conceptions of men change with new discoveries. We do not show reverence for the scriptures when we misapply them through faulty interpretation.

Primary and Secondary Causes

There has been much discussion over the alleged conflict between the teachings of science and the doctrines of the revealed word concerning the origin of man. Let it be remembered that the term origin is almost invariably used in a relative sense. The mind of man is unable to grasp the fundamental thought of an absolute or primary origin. Every occurrence man has witnessed is the result of some previously acting cause or purpose; and that cause in turn was the effect or result of causes yet more remote. Perhaps we have never been able to trace an effect to its primary or original cause. Man may say that he understands the origin of an oak in the acorn form from which it sprang; but is not the acorn the fruit of a yet earlier oak, and so in reality rather a continuation than a beginning? Yet there is something fascinating in the thought of a beginning; the persistence of a process once started is far less mysterious than its inception.

It is not enough to refer effects to the First Great Cause; it is unsatisfying and not always reverent to answer questions as to how things came to be what they are by the easy statement that God made them so. With such an answer the scientific man has little patience. The fact that all created things are the works of God and that all processes of nature are due to Him as the administrator of law and order is to the scientific mind an axiom requiring neither argument nor demonstration. The botanist knows that God makes the plant grow; but he, weak mortal, is devoting time and energy of body, mind and spirit, to a study of the way in which God works such a marvelous miracle. The geologist knows that God created the earth; but the best effort of his life is put forth in the hope of finding out in some degree, however small, the method by which the Creator wrought this wondrous world. The astronomer gazing into the starry depths sees in their orderly procession the Lord Eternal walking in His majesty and might; and in humility the student of the heavenly bodies spends days and nights striving to learn a little of the way in which God worked out the marvel of the universe. In proportion as any one of these may learn of the ways of God he becomes wise. To be able to think as God thinks, to comprehend in any degree His purposes and methods, is to become in that measure like unto Him, and to that extent to be prepared for eventual companionship in His presence. The scientist is busily engaged in the study of secondary causes -- the ways and means by which God works and through which He accomplishes His miracle, ever beginning, never ending -- and in his search for the truth the student of science scarcely dares lift his eyes to look toward the First Great Cause, the Eternal Power that stands and operates behind and above all the secondary causes, or what we call the processes of Nature.

The Origin of Man

The question involved in the origin of man, therefore, is not raised as a challenge to the belief and declaration that he came to earth through Divine direction, but it is in the nature of an inquiry as to the conditions under which he came. There are many who claim that man's advent upon the earth was effected through processes of evolution from lower forms, processes that had been operative for ages, processes by which man is made kin to the brute and a development from the lowest type of organism. Others affirm that he differs from all mortal creatures of lower rank, not only in degree but in kind; in short, that he is not one with the animal creation and that therefore his coming was in no sense a natural and necessary result of earlier animal life. Discussion on this question has developed intense animus, and too often the quest for truth has been lost sight of in the strife for triumph. In speaking of the origin of man we generally have reference to the creation of man's body; and, of all the mistakes that man has made concerning himself, one of the greatest and the gravest is that of mistaking the body for the man. The body is no more truly the whole man than is the coat the body. The man, as an individual intelligence, existed before his earthly body was framed and shall exist after that body has suffered dissolution. Let it not be assumed that belief in the existence of man's spirit is a conception founded upon scriptural authority only; on the contrary, let it be known that it is in accordance with the best and most advanced scientific thought and philosophic belief of the day to hold that man consists of spirit and body; and Divine revelation makes plain that these together constitute the soul. We have difficulty in comprehending processes for which we find no analogy in things familiar. Even were it possible for us to know in detail the way in which the body of man was formed and then endowed with the power of procreation, insuring the perpetuity of the race, it would throw but little light upon the subject of the ultimate origin of man. We know but little of things beyond the sphere upon which we live except as information has been revealed by a power superior to that of earth, and by an intelligence above that of man. Notwithstanding the assumption that man is the culmination of an evolutionary development from a lower order of beings, we know that the body of man today is in the very form and fashion of his spirit, except indeed for disfigurements and deformities. The perfect body is the counterpart of the perfect spirit and the two are the constituent entities of the soul.

This is only part of a speech he gave from the pulpit of the tabernacle. Elder Henry Eyring (also one of your favorite twelve) has many other insights on evolution that you might want to read in his book Reflections of a Scientist. Please read it if you already haven't, but you probably know the book and have just selectively left his comments from your attack on my church, I hope that is not the case.

By the way, you're attack on Moses 2 about the plants not being able to survive without light might want to be retracted. God created light in verse three on the first day, which is before the third day.

So you have found the contridiction too? Good. Many people read Moses, and the book Joseph Smith relied on when he created it--Genesis, without ever realizing that two completely different and contradictory creation myths are being told. Verse 3 is a different mythological tale than the one critiqued on my site (but not by me BTW) which deals with verses 14-19.

I'm sure that you can find some flaw in that thinking also, you tend to be "learned" with "a perfect knowledge of the language of the people" you probably know from what context I'm taking this since you've read the book dozens of times.

I believe that the prophets are men. Men have opinions, they have their own minds, and it has been given unto them to judge just like the rest of us. The difference is, they are obedient and trustworthy. Our doctrine states that when men are "moved upon by the holy ghost" they are speaking the mind of God. If that doesn't happen, they are simply speaking their opinions, and we all know that opinions of men can be wrong. I am a Mormon, and I believe in evolution, and I make no apology.

Did you look at the links on the page? I have numerous quotes from Mormons in favor of evolution and links to all the official declarations on the subject. Also see,

received 9/6/00
Hi, I have a question regarding a comment on one of your pages (at least I believe it is your page.) The URL is The page title (from the browser title bar) is "My response to FARMS". The specific comment I would like more information on is the following: "The Christian suppression and destruction of documents is well documented so I won't go into that here." I was wondering where this document suppression and destruction is documented, because I have not heard of such activity by the "Christian" church. Could you provide me with some links or resources that I could look into? Thank you for your help! : )

Try Chapter 4 of

or read about the Crusades

or read about the Canon problem here: bible_cr.shtml (scan down to section 3)

The Council of Trent states that its purpose is "for the suppression and destruction of the enemies of the Christian name."

Read also the story of Galileo: -

I could go on, but perhaps this will keep you busy enough for now. ;)

received 8/15/00
It's me again. Still enjoying your site! Wanted to recommend a book I just read. It's called
Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein's Brain, by Michael Paterniti. I saw the title and had to buy it, didn't know anything about it, but really enjoyed it.

Paterniti is a free-lance journalist who tracked down Thomas Harvey, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Einstein in 1955, and just kinda took his brain home with him & kept it. Anyway, he drove Harvey & the brain across the country to meet Einstein's granddaughter, and the book is the story of their journey, with some historical info on Einstein and some reflections on life from the author mixed in. I'm not sure what category you'd put it in, but I think it's worth a read.

received 8/13/00
i have perused your site somewhat and i notice that the topics of debate are mainly either scientific or of occidental religion in their orientation. I notice a complete lack of material about taoism, hinduism, shintoism, or of my personal faith
buddhism. This is merely an observation, and i would like to suggest that buddhism and other eastern philosophies deserve to be addressed with the same respect and spirit of honest seeking for enlightenment as science and various forms of christianity. I apologize for not reading the bulletin board and other areas of the site for other feedback in this respect as my time online is somewhat limited at the moment. If this is a redundant request then i express my sincere apologies. However the lack of material on the above mentioned philosophies moved me to respond with this suggestion as i feel it is somewhat unfair to explore Christianity and Scientific Method while ignoring what i feel to be valid teachings.

You are, of course, absolutely correct. There should be more on the site dealing with the eastern philosophies. I even know more about them than your average U.S. citizen being how I lived in Japan for a couple of years and studied a bit about some of them--both in college and while in Japan. However, the site was never set up to be totally comprehensive. Nor has it evolved in such a manner. It focuses mainly on the topics I have read/studied during the past four years or so. In addition, I have lost interest in religion for the most part and have done very little reading in that area for the past couple of years and plan to do little more on it in the future. So, for that, I am sorry. Perhaps someday I will again have an interest in the subject. If I do, it will more likely be in Buddhism than it will be in Christianity or some other Western religion.

received 7/16/00
I just wanted to say that I found the information regarding
the pope and the recognition of evolution quite interesting. Whether you wrote it or not, I would like to thank you for making it available. I am currently a student at Loyola Marymount University (Jesuit) and also in the process of developing an interdisciplinary class involving the Church's policy changes with regard to scientific advancement and the theological basis for these changes. I applaud you on your intellectual quest and hope you find the peace that you seek. As far as myself, I am a practicing Catholic as well as a physics and mathematics major. If you want a little insight into my approach, I guess I could say that I follow the interpretation that when Jesus spoke of the "believer and nonbeliever", he was referring to the same person. We all grapple with this issue and I have been raised in a religion that responds to it in a certain way. I am aware of this. Religion is dangerous when people fail to recognize that it is only one method for coping with our ontological questions. I must say, though, that there really are certain aspects that I do "believe" in just as there are tenets that atheist really believe in. It is crucial that neither path limit our search for what is right, what is true, and what is beautiful. Ultimately, regardless of which course we take, we must be able to shake hands at the end. Well, I look forward to reading the rest of your thoughts. Good luck!

Thanks for your message. I hope there are many more Catholics like you out there.

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