By DEGAN JOHN KETTLES
Universe Staff Writer
Although most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the biblical account of the world's creation, BYU professors say LDS views differ significantly from the beliefs of a religious movement called creationism.
In a recent creationism conference at Victory Baptist Church in Orem, Dr. Don White of Montana State University refuted evolution based on beliefs that no intermediary stages between animals have been found, that carbon-14 dating is not accurate and that evolutionist theories are actually a religion.
Creationism, according to writer Isaac Asimov, is a belief system that is based upon unshakable faith in a literal interpretation of all the words of the Bible. White reflected creationist beliefs stating that he believed in the Genesis, not the human, account of history.
Some BYU zoology professors disagree with White's basic reasons for refuting evolution.
"We see macroevolution (an evolution from one species to another) very clearly in the fossil record," said Richard R. Tolman, chair of the BYU Department of Zoology.
"Amongst vertebrates, there is a sequence (in the fossil record) all the way from fish to humans," said Duane E. Jeffrey, professor of zoology.
Carbon-14 dating is another subject the scientists disagreed on.
"Carbon-14 dating is based on the assumption that you know the rate of atoms decaying," White said. "You don't know how much was there to begin with; you can't measure something that has already occurred."
White also said there is so much variation in carbon-14 dating that it is not used much. White said scientists often choose among widely varied data to find information that best fits their suppositions.
Jeffery, however, believes carbon-14 dating is accurate. His office files are thick with carbon-14 dating information. "With cross-checking, and used properly, there is a high degree of accuracy," he said.
Jeffery said one of the many cross-checks that validate the findings of carbon-14 dating is the data supplied by annual tree rings, which shows that certain historical events occurred in the same time period that carbon-14 dating indicates.
White said that evolution was a kind of religion, whose followers promote an agenda which competes with Christianity.
Although it might seem that White's beliefs concerning evolution's lack of compatibility with the Bible would be shared by any religion, that is not the case.
Fifteen major religious organizations have published statements in a book called Voices For Evolution that have favorable views of evolution and its use in education. Some of these organizations are the American Jewish Congress, the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church.
Tolman and Jeffery also believe evolution is compatible with the theology of the LDS Church, but point out the church does not have a stand on evolution.
"I'm looking for a synthesis in science and religion, not setting them against each other," Jeffery said.
In regard to the creationist belief in the literal interpretation of the Bible, Jeffery said the Bible was meant to be a religious record, not a scientific one.
An article from the March 1980 Creation Society Quarterly shows the differences between evolutionist theories and fundamental creationist beliefs taken from the Bible. LDS beliefs are found in each of the columns.
Tolman said LDS theology does not qualify as creationist theology and identified one example of how the LDS faith reflected an evolutionary approach to the creation of the world.
"The creationist belief in 'ex nihilo,' creation out of nothing, is strictly non-LDS," Tolman said. "Joseph Smith taught that matter is eternal."
Printed in the Daily Universe: June 5, 1996
Source: @BYU Newsline