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Evolution & the Bible: Irreconcilable Differences? (Part 1 of 8)

Can evolution be reconciled with the Bible?  Ben Spackman is a Ph.D. candidate at Claremont Graduate University, and he says “Yes, but not the way people think.”  He introduces us to the idea of “Concordism.”  What is that?

Ben: This is not a question that is answered easily within 30 seconds, because it requires dealing with assumptions that people don’t even know they have. The main one is something called “concordism.” It’s an assumption that science, especially evolution or the age of the earth or various aspects of that, and scripture are speaking the same language. They’re talking about the same thing and therefore they have to match up or one of them is false. They have to be in concord with each other.

The assumption that Genesis is providing a natural history of the earth, a physical history of the earth, is simply not an accurate assumption, but most people have it. So you end up going in a couple of different ways. You have people who say, well, this is what my reading of the Bible says, so I’m going to make the science match that. You get young-earth creationists who say that the earth is only a couple of thousand years old. Everything was created more or less in its current form as we know it within the last couple of thousand years. Then you have the people who go the other way and they say, well, here’s what science tells us. So obviously that’s what scripture must be saying in some kind of veiled or poetic or metaphoric way.

You may wonder why I decided to talk to Ben. He has a very interesting background.

Ben:  If you really want to understand evolution and how different religious people have thought about it, you need three different areas of expertise. You need to understand the science of evolution, at least basically. That’s what my two major rounds of science as an undergrad and then as a post-bacc premed have given me. I have more science than a lot of people. But you also need history, especially intellectual history of about the last 500 years. That is history of ideas. That’s where two of my three Ph.D. exams come in, American Religious History and Reformation History. My third exam will be History of Science. So I’m really getting at the history of the worldview that people have today that leads them to read Genesis in certain ways. What are the roots of that worldview, of those unspoken assumptions back 500 years ago?

The third leg you need– so you need history, you need science, then you have to control the biblical interpretation. You have to be able to look at the Bible in its ancient setting, in its Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek. The problem is that many people who write about evolution are scientists. They don’t have the history and they don’t control scripture. Most of the people who write about this, well, let me limit myself to a Latter-day Saint context. Most Latter-day Saints who have written about reconciling science and religion or evolution have either been scientists, so they get the science down well, but they don’t do the history or the scripture.

Most of the people who have written about it from a scriptural perspective, they don’t know the history. They don’t know the science. Because of our 19th century populist inheritance in Mormonism, that is, we were very skeptical of experts, very skeptical of clergy, very skeptical of authority telling us what this had to mean. If you look at all the books that have been written by a Latter-day Saints on this topic, the vast majority of them have no relevant expertise at all. They’re lawyers. They’re accountants. They’re doctors. They’re people who don’t really do the science. They don’t really do the history and they don’t really do the scripture either. So to my knowledge, I’m the only one who really has a foot kind of in all those different worlds, which is kind of a historical accident. I certainly didn’t choose to spend six years in graduate school and then be given the boot because of Babylonian or to not get into medical school. But in retrospect it’s worked out very well and my wife and I have been very lucky in certain ways. So that’s my story and my educational background. I consider myself an eclectic historian with different skills depending on the time period we’re looking at.

Check out our conversation….

Ben Spackman discusses whether reconciling Genesis & evolution is even an appropriate question.
Ben Spackman discusses whether reconciling Genesis & Evolution is even an appropriate question.

Here are some other conversations about Genesis & the Bible:

154: Simon’s Thoughts on Noah’s Flood, Religious Beliefs (Southerton)

075: Is Evolution Compatible with the Bible? (Perego)

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Buying the Spalding Conspiracy

Mark Hofmann tried to create evidence of the Spalding Conspiracy.  There has long been a theory that Book of Mormon was plagiarized from a manuscript originally written by Solomon Spaulding (or Spalding.)  The problem with the theory is that there was never a connection between Joseph Smith and Solomon Spaulding—until Mark Hofmann came up with a document.  Steve Mayfield talks about buying this Hofmann forgery.

Steve: So, in January of 2000, the former owner of Cosmic Aeroplane sold it to Ken Sanders who used to work there. He now had his own bookstore there in Salt Lake, Ken Sanders Books. Well he had it on display and I’m just sitting there just [thinking], “Oh, oh, I love it.” But it was like $4,000 they wanted for it. Well, I had enough in a credit card, so I bought it from him.

GT: Oh my goodness.

Steve: In August of 2000. So, for four years I owned a Hofmann.

GT: You knew it was a forgery.

Steve: Yeah, Yeah. I mean he sold it as that. The minute he sold it after I bought it, I take it back to the office and show George [Throckmorton.] He showed some things on the document that only he and I know.

I guess this proves there is a market for Hofmann forgeries!  What do you think of Steve’s purchase?

Check out our conversation, as well as Steve’s other conversations….

Mark Hofmann forged a document that attempted to tie Sidney Rigdon & Solomon Spalding together.  Steve discusses why it is a forgery.
Mark Hofmann forged a document that attempted to tie Sidney Rigdon & Solomon Spalding together. Steve discusses why it is a forgery.

194: What is the Dead Lee Scroll? (Mayfield)

193: John D. Lee’s Role in Mountain Meadows Massacre (Mayfield)

192: Mormons & the FBI (Mayfield)

191: Steve Mayfield: Crime Photographer (Mayfield)

190: Mormon Connection in Patty Hearst Kidnapping (Mayfield)

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What is the Dead Lee Scroll? (Part 5)

A lead scroll was found at Lee’s Ferry in Arizona, now known as the Dead Lee Scroll.  What is it exactly?

Steve:    Well, one of the documents or artifacts that came up in 2002 was a lead plate they found down in Lee’s Ferry and it’s been given the nickname of Dead Lee Scroll. Will Bagley gave it that name. It’s a piece of lead. [It’s] very thin. So, it’s not the hardest thing.

So, he is in there cleaning. And all of the sudden he come across this thing rolled up. He opens it comes up and starts reading John D. Lee. Whoa! That has something to do with it. So, he cleans it off and they look at and they come up, hey, is this a confession? Is just some document that points out to it. Well, of course, boom, everybody loves it. Well, March of 2002, the archeologist for the Park Service, she’d taken it to Phoenix and showed it to Bill Flynn who worked with George Throckmorton on the Hofmann documents. Bill Flynn’s not LDS. Then she brings up to Salt Lake to George Throckmorton who was my boss at the time in Salt Lake Police crime lab. And so, he examined it, taking pictures of it and everything.

Was it a long-lost admission of guilt from the only person convicted of participating in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, John D. Lee?  Steve Mayfield will tell us more about it and attempts to authenticate it.  (It features forensic expert George Throckmorton, who we interviewed previously!)  If you want to see photos of the scroll and Lee’s Ferry, Go to Youtube.com/GospelTangents to see the video.  Steve was kind enough to share some of his photos with me.

Does the Dead Lee Scroll implicate Brigham Young in the Mountain Meadows Massacre?
Does the Dead Lee Scroll implicate Brigham Young in the Mountain Meadows Massacre?

Check out our conversation…