Being committed to the search for truth in the lab and the church.

Steven L. Peck is the author of Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist, and he will be reading from it here at Pioneer on Thursday, December 3rd at 7:00. Here is something to whet your appetite:

When Steven L. Peck joined Doug Fabrizio on Radiowest last month, the host asked about a 1987 address delivered at BYU by President Russell M. Nelson called “The Magnificence of Man.” President Nelson’s talk included this quote:

“Others have deduced that, because of certain similarities between different forms of life, there has been a natural selection of the species, or organic evolution from one form to another. …To me, such theories are unbelievable! …It is incumbent upon each informed and spiritually attuned person to help overcome such foolishness.”

Doug Fabrizio: So how do you fit as a BYU professor who is at odds with Russel M. Nelson?

Steven L. Peck: So, there’s been a diversity in the history of Mormonism on evolution. And we find apostles who believe that, that…

DF: They did make way for it…

SP: They did make way for it, like James E. Talmage and B.H. Roberts. And in fact David O. McKay called it “a beautiful theory” in his private writings. And so I know there’s a diversity of opinions on this. As far as the church goes, though, there has never been an official statement about it, in fact we’ve been told this at BYU, that…

DF: I guess you would know at the biology department at BYU…

SP: Right, right, right, and we’re told to do the best evolutionary biology we can. And to really do that, you need to believe in it and that’s fine. But I don’t fault him for that. I hold opinions that lots of people would disagree with because of my background, because of the things that I’ve experienced. And so my inclination is that he’s speaking as an informed physician who has a difference of opinion on that. But I think that diversity is OK in the church.

DF: He’s an acclaimed physician, an acclaimed doctor who doesn’t believe in organic evolution.

SP: Yeah. And for me, that’s fine. I’m not troubled by that at all, and in fact…

DF: You’re not troubled by that? An educated, informed man doesn’t believe in organic evolution, a theory that’s been pretty well worked over…

SP: Yes, and from the scientific point of view I think we have such strong evidence that it’s undeniable. But I don’t expect him to be familiar with that evidence…And at BYU, he dedicated our building recently. And he said that the…

DF: For the biologists? For the biology department?

SP: Yeah.

DF: He dedicated your building and he doesn’t believe in organic evolution?

SP: Yes, and I think he sees that science may sort this out. And I know that’s fine with me. He said some very great statements in his dedicatory talk about science and religion being two ways of viewing the world. And so I’m fine with that, and I’m fine with ordinary members who don’t believe in evolution. I understand they haven’t been exposed to it. What I would like to argue, though, to those ordinary members, for example, who may want to take evolution out of schools, who may want to try to dismiss it, is that ultimately their children are going to be exposed to the most powerful scientific theory on the planet. And if they haven’t been taught it in school, if they haven’t had a chance to see its power, they’re going to get to college and they’re going to think, “oh, my religion doesn’t allow this,” and either their going to sort of dismiss science, which I think is a problem, or they’re going to dismiss religion. And for me that’s tragic.

DF: You want them to have both.

SP: I want them to have both. I really do.