Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The dawn of Man

The story of Adam and Eve was an easy favorite for me as a child, second only to the story of Noah's ark. Probably because even though it had just as many animal species it lacked the adventure of the roundup and the violence of the Flood. I loved that Adam got to name all the animals and live with them and Eve happily in a kind of Tarzan-Jane-like existence. Even thinking about it now makes me happy.

Despite the thrill of such a wonderful story I knew there were some problems with it. For starters there were the likes of these guys

and plenty of others. Then again my parents never showed any indication of subscribing to young earth creationism. In fact my dad had taken me and my siblings out trilobite hunting once or twice and he was sure to explain that the fossils we found pre-dated the dinosaurs, who were themselves hundreds of millions of years old and probably never in the Garden of Eden. I was told at home, in church, and later at BYU that the details of the Creation would be revealed to us at some point after we died, so I kept the whole issue of where prehistoric creatures came from on the shelf labeled "We won't know, so we don't care" for a surprisingly long time. Admittedly I noticed the shelf bowing horribly when I was studying the Old Testament on my mission and read quote after quote from general authorities stating that the Church's stance on the matter was unbendingly pro-young earth and therefore aggressively anti-scientific. It hurt to read that kind of senselessness. I didn't want to be wrapped up with it, nor did I want to place my faith in something so demonstrably inaccurate.

Now let me return to the question of Adam and Eve. I was taught that they were literally our "first parents", meaning that all human beings can trace their ancestry back directly to them. I believed that my physical existence resulted directly from their procreative efforts so many millennia ago. (No, Y-chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve do not fit the biblical narrative, people!) As a youngster I oscillated between thinking they were folks who looked like my family and our church-going neighbors and thinking they were probably special cavemen who had, you know, touched the obelisk or something.  

It's embarrassing now to think back on these things. It's painfully embarrassing to hear people defend creationism and attack evolution. The last two times I've attended LDS church services I was treated to witnessing explicit attacks on Darwin and the scientific method! Of course this was only a couple of months after Mormon apostle, Russell Nelson took a stab at refuting the Big Bang in General Conference with a snide and ignorant remark about an explosion in a printing press producing a dictionary... 

How does anyone stay a believer when this stuff is obviously wrong even to a small child? These are issues that extend far beyond Mormonism to all of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. How could this absolute nonsense persist and flourish still today among billions of people? I'm guessing that many people do what I did: they doubt their doubts and not their faith.

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