Mormonism and Intelligent Design: Richard Sherlock’s Essay

Mormonism and Intelligent Design” by Richard Sherlock makes some excellent points, adding a reasoned and broad perspective to an emotionally charged topic. He defines intelligent design broadly, seeing it as a spectrum of ideas that stand in opposition to belief in pure materialism and accidental causation of life and the universe, rather than the ideology of any single author or institution. As a Latter-day Saint and as someone involved in the sciences, I reject randomness as a sufficient explanation for this world of ours, and agree that there are many forms of evidence for divine intervention.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

13 thoughts on “Mormonism and Intelligent Design: Richard Sherlock’s Essay

  1. Good paper – I was especially pleased with his refutation of materialism, and his recognition of the religious anti-God dogmatism that infects so much of the scientific community. As G. K. Chesterton stated, if there were no God there would be no atheists.

    There is one aspect of Intelligent Design that is consistently overlooked, in my opinion:

    Given that the biological blueprint — DNA — is discrete and not continuous, it is clear that evolution requires discrete jumps or changes. In other words, the smallest change that can occur in DNA is not infinitesimally small, but is measurable, and no change can occur which is smaller.

    Irreducible complexity adds the understanding that not all genetic combinations produce viable organisms. In many cases, the genetic distance between viable organisms is very large. The implication is that small genetic mutations are not sufficient — only a genetic mutation that is both large and specific can result in a viable organism. This has a devastating effect on the probability of the Darwinian explanation.

    In other words, viable species have huge genetic barriers between them. This is perhaps why we don’t see new species spontaneously arising, and why Darwin was wrong even though mutations clearly do occur and natural selection is real.

  2. I have long been a supporter of intelligent design as a legitimate way of discussing the origins of man. Thanks for this post and the excellent article.

  3. The basic premise of intelligent design is that if the universe we a little bit different, we would not be living in it. But if we were not living in it, we wouldn’t observe it. So the chance of us observing a universe that appears designed is 1.

    Different conditions promote different events. If a puddle were able to think, it would find a nice little hole fitting precisely the shape of the puddle. Does that mean the hole was designed to fit the puddle? Or does the puddle shift into the shape of the hole?

    With regard to “irreducible complexity”, it widely dismissed as psuedoscience. Minor changes in DNA will not completely change an organism. Even identical twins can have as many as five differing genes.

    Once widely used examples of “irreducible complexity” (eye, flagella, blood clotting cascade) have now been dismissed as scientists find their predecessors.

  4. So, does mormon theology support creationism? I know this must sound like a silly question, but I really don’t know what the answer is. Could somebody please explain the mormon theology in terms of beginnings, ie. the Genesis account and all that?

  5. Historically, Mormons didn’t believe in “creation” in the same way as most other Christians. They didn’t think God “created” Adam, they believed that God literally “begat” Adam. In other words, the doctrine was that God literally had a body of flesh and bones, and in a natural process before the Fall, baby Adam was born.

    So in the context of Mormonism, the question isn’t “who designed human beings–who designed Adam?” The question is, “Who designed God?”

  6. Actually, I would disagree with that post on Mormon theology towards creation. Yes, I’m sure you can find all manner of various quotes on creation in J of D, but frankly, they’re so amorphous in inconsistent that it would be wrong to pin any of it down as doctrine I am referring in particular to the idea that God physically begat Adam. Having read PLENTY of the early leaders’ words on this (and some support the notion) and being a full-fledged orthodox Mormon, I can state unequivicolly that this is yet another explanation for something about which we know very little. However, I find the question, “Who designed God?” to be quite thought-provoking; I like it.

    I personally believe that God created man’s physical body much the same way a shipbuilder creates a ship (so B.H. Roberts put it). The begetting is one of the spirit, as seen in Romans: “the spirit whispereth to our spirit that we are the children of God”

    In other words, how physical body was created is utterly irrelevant to my salvation. What is important is that my body is in the image of God and that I am indeed a child of God.

  7. Thanks anonymous.

    Who created God?!?! The hole gets deeper…

    I guess the idea that before God was another God – could work philosophically (I think)…but what we might get is an infinite number of regressions and where would it stop? Does that then mean that the God that Joseph Smith proclaimed is governed by time, by emotion etc.?

    …and how does this correlate with what the Psalmist/Isaiah/John said about God? That He IS from everlasting to everlasting?

    The God revealed in the Bible is FAR BIGGER than the one Joseph Smith declared. The God found in the Bible IS THE SOURCE OF ALL THINGS

    Could it be possible then that Joseph Smith worshipped a different God from the One revealed in the Bible?

    *the plot thickens*

    For those who are interested: I have a video on my blog (just click my username) showing a debate between William Lane Craig a professor in Philiosophy and Theology and Anthony Flew, a once ardent atheist, also a professor from the University of Oxford. In the video, William Lane Craig describes the God found in the Bible…

  8. I don’t buy your explanation of God–at all frankly. Bigger, yes–in some sort of innocuous, impersonal way.

    I’ve often heard the “everlasting to everlasting” argument. If Christ is both a separate individual and the heir of the Father, that requires that we revisit the nature of “everlasting.” After all, an everlasting God couldn’t well have a successor or predecessor–of which we see both in case of the relationship between the Father and the Son.

    Just a thought…

  9. ” I don’t buy your explanation of God–at all frankly. Bigger, yes–in some sort of innocuous, impersonal way.”

    Then you miss the point that although this Big, seemingly innocuous and impersonal God, in His infinite magnitude, infinite wisdom, infinite holiness, infinite power and strength is also the same one who is INFINITELY LOVING!

    How do we know that this BIG God loves us? Because He sent His Son to die for us?!


  10. My bet is that we don’t have the ability to understand God sufficiently to answer all of the questions raised here. For example, Einstein showed that time is another dimension similar to the three spatial dimensions with which we’re familiar. What if God is 5-dimensional? What about 11-dimensional? How are we going to understand that? What if our time is simply another spatial dimension for God?

    Infinite regression makes a lot of sense, although it can be hard to grasp. Anything with a beginning can have an end, which is why I like Joseph Smith’s description of humans as containing an eternal core that has always existed and cannot be destroyed. That raises the question of why there is such a thing as time-based progression, but then again I don’t think we really understand time.

  11. Pops,

    I agree that the idea of an infinite number of regressions is philosophically viable. It would certainly correlate with Roger Penrose’s idea of multi-verses(!) Still, it is diametrically opposed to the idea found in the Bible that before God was nobody else; that God is the ultimate reference point.

    Whatever we might know of our universe, whether through Einstein’s smooth general law of relativity or through quantum mechanics…our human understanding is far inferior to the ultimate knowledge that our Creator has. If you click on my username, you’ll be able to see a posted video that I have of John Piper who expresses the supremacy of Christ. Watch it and see what you think… =)

  12. Nat,

    I am afraid you have just departed from traditional Christianity, and one of the bastions of Protestantism at that. In 1801, in the Book of Common Prayer as approved by the Episcopal Church of America stated that there is “but one living and true God without body, parts, or passions.”

    Of course, we do not have time to discuss Augustine’s thorough-going Platonism, he believing that the form of God was merely an illusion for greater ideas or “invisible nature.”

    No, this talk of an infinitely loving essence takes away the impersonality of it. Can fog love? Only if we ourselves are of the same essence. So here we are, finding that if we wish to adopt this Platonic model, we must essentially deny our reality in the corporeal world and thus deny the physical resurrection (I’m sure you’re familiar with Luke 24:36-39).

    So before you call these Mormon thoughts absurd, I might recommend examining the assumptions of your own theological heritage before throwing stones at another.

  13. I have to say that I am an avid reader of this blog. I have been for awhile now. It’s funny that there are those of other faiths who claim to be real Christians are usually the first to point out how non-Christian everyone else is. It’s entirely disheartening as well, because they make there own fellow faithful Christians of the same church or religion look bad.
    On the note of their being a God of God…it would make sense either way, if there was just Him and Christ and us. But it would also make sense that there could be a Father of Him, and so on and so forth. Alma, pointed out something along those lines when he stated in Alma 30 “Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” There is a pattern in all the life around us, it would only be part of that infinite Pattern that there is a Father in Heaven, who also was a Son, and so on and so forth. But that’s just my take on it.

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