Farewell to Eden: Coming to terms with Mormonism and Science By Duwayne R. Anderson
Back in 1995 I was exploring my beliefs regarding the religion I was born with. I lurked on alt.religion.mormon, and it wasn’t difficult to see that many of the former Mormons made much more sense than the Mormon apologists, which was ironic considering I thought of myself as a Mormon apologist at the time. My conversion to the other side did not take long once I decided to approach life with honesty and holistic, reasonable evidences rather than ad hoc explanations. Duwayne Anderson was one of those posters on alt.religion.mormon in those days that influenced me.
Almost a decade later his thoughts are now organized into a book dealing with the same topics as most of his posts: namely, the differences between (the ever undefinable, yet Duwayne tries to define) Mormon doctrine and science. Finding the differences isn’t a very difficult thing to do if you can, first, get someone to pin down what Mormon doctrine is. Mormonism started out somewhat adopting the prevailing scientific views. The Word of Wisdom is an example of that (even if it wasn’t followed then like it is now–even now, when do you see Mormons eating meat sparingly?). As the years went on the doctrines began to fall years, and then decades, behind. Now there is a gulf between Mormonism and science of a century or more on many issues. The problem, now, really is that neo-orthodoxy has taken over Mormonism. Catching up to science has become difficult, if not impossible. That being the case, Mormons are now programmed, on a continual basis, to ignore, evade, or split their minds when it comes to the disconnect between their religion and reality. Mormons are dealt, in their Sunday schools, seminaries, institutes, and other repetitive religious trainings, a hand of ad hoc explanatory trump cards to further this programming process and allow the individuals to weather the storms of education, science, and normal philosophical maturity that comes with aging and everyday experience. Duwayne’s book is for those who are either so new to the programming process that their hand of trump cards is still weak or for those who have grown tired of playing a hand of trump cards that really don’t trump anything in the eyes of a rational, objective observer.
Your typical Mormon isn’t going to be impressed with a disproof of God’s omniscience based on chaos theory. Even if Mormons believe in a physical god who lives in the universe they still believe him to be supernatural and capable of getting around chaos theory. The ad hoc supernatural trump card can be played in this situation (and many others).
Your typical Mormon may wonder a bit more about some other things, like how the Garden of Eden got to America, or why Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham translation doesn’t match that provided by Egyptologists, or how mistakes got into the Book of Mormon. But they have ad hoc, generic trump cards for all these things too. Faith, god’s ways are not man’s ways, we’ll understand all this in the end, obedience is more important than independent thought, follow the prophet, lean not unto thine own understanding, trust not in the arm of flesh, etc., etc.
Although Duwayne is far more knowledgeable about Mormonism than many of the authors out there writing on the subject there are still occasional items that may be misleading or subject to different interpretations to someone in the know. For instance, on page xii he states that “I handled the sacrament of the Lord’s flesh and blood” which brings up imagery of Catholic, rather than Mormon, doctrine. Mormons believe the sacrament is symbolic, unlike the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation holding that it becomes the actual flesh and blood. Duwayne’s work is stronger when he deals with specific Mormon scripture, rather than with various Mormon leaders’ views or general theology.
However, even Mormons will disown a scripture (but not usually as fast as they will a leader’s words) if it will get them through a tough spot. As I’ve said elsewhere, “no matter what one claims doctrine is, they will quickly change that view when something they don’t agree with happens to fall into the previously defined parameters.” Mormons are the ad hoc champions. Duwayne makes this same point many times. Realizing that, I believe he wrote the book more to finalize his thoughts than to try to convince others or to be responded to with more ad hocs.
Duwayne isn’t under the illusion that his book will send shock waves through the church causing half the membership to leave and the other half to demand a more scientific set of doctrines. Mormonism doesn’t pretend to be in accordance with science–at least not frequently enough. If it did, then the shock waves could happen. Right now, it is just the occasional, ignorant remarks of people within the church (claiming that Mormonism and science are in agreement or that some scientific theory like evolution is false) that cause the thoughtful to go out and actually see if there is a disconnect. If the leaders can shut up, and get the members to shut up, when it comes to false claims they can continue to delude the Mormon masses. If they keep preaching faith, selective scripture reading, and Mormon-spun–rather than scholarly–scripture interpretation, as they have done fairly effectively in the past few decades, then we’ll continue to see an ever growing faithful core moving ever further away from the truth.
from the publisher:
Farewell to Eden is the first comprehensive reference book that examines virtually every aspect of LDS doctrine relating to the world of science. From subjects as diverse as the age of the earth, extinction, evolution, quantum mechanics, and ancient American archeology, this book captures the essential elements of LDS doctrine and illustrated in clear and concise prose the gulf that exists between it and science.
The book’s layout includes five chapters that deal individually with specific issues relating to Mormonism and science. Within each chapter, Anderson first describes Mormon doctrine regarding the subject and then describes what we know of the matter from science. Summary sections at the end of each chapter contrast the two, pointing to specific and important areas of disagreement.
Farwell to Eden also describes the personal toll taken upon the lives of individuals who strive to hold to their Mormon upbringing while pursuing a carrier in science. A seminal work on the subject, Farewell to Eden is an essential reference guide destined for the personal libraries of every intellectual associated with or interested in the subject of Mormon theology and modern science.
A fourth-generation Mormon, Duwayne Anderson has a Bachelors degree in Physics from Brigham Young University, and is a Principal Engineer for a major Test and Measurement company, where he specializes in fiber optics. He is the co-author of a leading textbook on optical time-domain reflectomery, and a frequent presenter at national and international conferences on fiber optics, especially in the field of telecommunications. Duwayne is also the author of several dozen trade journal articles and papers, and holds 16 patents.
You can purchase the hardcover edition of this book here.