This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the
controversies over the study and teaching of evolution at Brigham Young University that resulted in the resignations or firing of three of Brigham Young University’s prominent faculty members and a significant blow to the university career of another. This Mormon Matters episode tells key elements in the story of those 1911 events, but it primarily uses them as a launching pad for a tour of the history of LDS views and approaches to evolution from then to now, as well as more specific reflections on the various tensions between Mormon scriptural and doctrinal commitments and the main thrusts of evolutionary theory.
Joining Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for this episode are philosophy and intellectual history professor James McLachlan, and BYU emeritus and current science professors Duane Jeffery and Steve Peck, all of whom argue that these tensions between Mormonism and evolution are quite minimal, and that Mormonism actually contains many teachings and theological thrusts, including a rich history of viewing scriptural accounts of creation as primarily figurative, that are extremely accommodating to evolution—far more so than those of many other traditions that begin with God creating everything ex nihilo (out of nothing) and being in full control of everything.
We know that you’ll very much enjoy learning the history of Mormonism in its interactions with evolutionary science at BYU and beyond, as well as listening in on this far-ranging and insightful discussion about the science and religion interface within Mormonism and the broader world. After listening, we hope you’ll join in the conversation by commenting below!
Links to additional readings or blogs:
Gary James Bergera, “The 1911 Evolution Controversy at Brigham Young University,” (from the volume, Search for Harmony: Essays on Science and Mormonism, eds. Gene A. Sessions and Craig J. Oberg, Signature Books, 1993).
James M. McLachlan, “W.H. Chamberlin and the Quest for a Mormon Theology,” Dialogue 29, no. 4 (Winter 1996)
Duane E. Jeffery, “Seers, Savants, and Evolution: The Uncomfortable Interface,” Dialogue 34, no. 1 (Spring 2001). This is an updated version of the original article, which was published in Dialogue 8, no. 3/4 (Autumn/Winter 1974).
Steven L. Peck, “Crawling Out of the Primordial Soup: A Step toward the Emergence of an LDS Theology Compatible with Organic Evolution,” Dialogue 43, no. 1 (Spring 2010). Because it is so recent, this article is not viewable online except to current Dialogue subscribers. However, the issue is available for purchase online.
Essay by Steve Peck, “Why Mormons Should Embrace Evolution.” (Posted as a guest blogger at Jana Riess’s blog, Flunking Sainthood.)
Link to the papers or slides from the session on Mormonism and Evolution at the 2011 conference of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology, held at the University of Utah, 11-14 July 2011. This session featured this podcast’s three panelists, plus David H. Bailey, who presented: “Creationism and Intelligent Design: False Friends”
William E. Evenson and Duane E. Jeffery, eds., Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements. Link to book available for purchase at Greg Kofford books
Howard C. Stutz, “Let the Earth Bring Forth: Evolution and Scripture,” with a foreword by Duane Jeffrey. Link to book available for purchase at Greg Kofford books