Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spencer Wells and evidence I'd been trained to ignore


     In the spring of 2003, I was home alone watching PBS (yep, geek) when they broadcast geneticist Spencer Wells' film The Journey of Man, documenting the journey our species made to go from living in a small region in Africa to living in all corners of the globe. I was riveted by how science could unlock such a mystery.
     A couple of things surprised me. First, this study placed our common male ancestor "Adam" as having lived about 50,000 years ago. I'd been taught that Adam and Eve lived about 6000 years ago, and since they were the first man and woman, no humans had lived on this planet before that. 
     Second, not one bit of evidence pointed toward the American Indians having descended from Middle Eastern ancestors. Yet the introduction to the Book of Mormon stated explicitly that a small group of people that God led out of Jerusalem in 600 B.C. came and populated North and South America and that "they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians" (from the edition of the Book of Mormon copyrighted 1981).
     It seemed a little strange to me that scientific research was contradicting rather than confirming what had been revealed by God, but, well, no worries. Science gets stuff wrong all the time. They used the think the world was flat, for crying out loud. Besides, I had a witness from the Holy Ghost.
     Interestingly, in 2006, the Church published a new edition of the Book of Mormon and altered the introduction to say that the Book of Mormon characters from Jerusalem are "among" the ancestors of the American Indians, rather than their principal ancestors. Considering that they claim to get their information straight from God, they sure seem to need to tweak things pretty frequently, but I guess DNA evidence can be a real bitch.


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8 comments:

  1. You know I remember being actively encouraged to disregard evidence that conflicted with church teaching. Evolution through natural selection was a particular sticking point between me and my parents even when I considered myself a good Mormon.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My mother flat out told me that carbon dating was flawed and geologists had their dates all wrong. And my mother is a very intelligent woman.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm a pretty reasonable man. I claim that if we have to separate church and state, then we also must separate church from science.

    Seeing as science represents the ongoing efforts of the human race to understand the universe they live in through their own observations/measurements and religion represents the ongoing efforts to better ourselves to the end that we are a happier people, there doesn't seem to be much overlap between the two except where men have decided that there must be.

    Don't get me wrong, I love science. My B.S. degree is in physics for crying out loud. That said, I still love my God and the evidence that I have in my soul from the things I've seen and felt only serve to convince me that there must be a God and that following the teachings in the scriptures makes us happier people.

    So my point is this, true religion comes from God but science comes from man. This disparity between sources cannot be reconciled. Attempts to reconcile this disparity have very rarely led to any truth, and less frequently have led to happiness.

    I have room in my heart for both science and religion. I rejoice when I see evidence that the two share some common trait but I don't lose sleep (or faith) over apparent contradictions. Focusing on these contradictions is missing the point of both science and religion.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey Leah, you don't know me but I know Kat, but I am a recent convert to the church(1 year) and I find myself questioning already, I to found that found it very interesting that the native americans were suppose to be descendants of middle easterners, but after doing a little research, and I am no scholar, but all the evidence I have found says that they are actually of asian descent.
    I subscribed to your blog also, TTYL.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ray, thanks so much for reading and subscribing! Best wishes to you in finding the answers you seek. Let me just say that life outside the Church is not miserable, as I was led to believe growing up. I am much more content and peaceful now than I ever was a Mormon.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey Leah, you don't know me but I know Kat, but I am a recent convert to the church(1 year) and I find myself questioning already, I to found that found it very interesting that the native americans were suppose to be descendants of middle easterners, but after doing a little research, and I am no scholar, but all the evidence I have found says that they are actually of asian descent.
    I subscribed to your blog also, TTYL.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm a pretty reasonable man. I claim that if we have to separate church and state, then we also must separate church from science.

    Seeing as science represents the ongoing efforts of the human race to understand the universe they live in through their own observations/measurements and religion represents the ongoing efforts to better ourselves to the end that we are a happier people, there doesn't seem to be much overlap between the two except where men have decided that there must be.

    Don't get me wrong, I love science. My B.S. degree is in physics for crying out loud. That said, I still love my God and the evidence that I have in my soul from the things I've seen and felt only serve to convince me that there must be a God and that following the teachings in the scriptures makes us happier people.

    So my point is this, true religion comes from God but science comes from man. This disparity between sources cannot be reconciled. Attempts to reconcile this disparity have very rarely led to any truth, and less frequently have led to happiness.

    I have room in my heart for both science and religion. I rejoice when I see evidence that the two share some common trait but I don't lose sleep (or faith) over apparent contradictions. Focusing on these contradictions is missing the point of both science and religion.

    ReplyDelete
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Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism