Dear 100 Hour Board,
What's your take on evolution? Obviously vaccines work and MRSA is a thing, but is million year evolution really a thing? Did God use evolution to make man, or is there a scientific gap somewhere?
-My Name Here
I believe that we are God's offspring, and that Adam was the first man on the Earth. As for what that really means, I'm not sure. I think it would make perfect sense for God to use principles of evolution to create man, but it's hard to tell what that looked like exactly.
When Adam fell, so did the Earth. At that time, the history of the Earth could have been rewritten to match its fallen state. It's hard to tell how the creation actually happened, since the Earth was in a completely different state than it is now.
In short: As the other writers stated, it's got a lot of evidence going for it and explains how life came to be so diverse and varied pretty well. I like it. It is a good theory.
In this and in other scientific theories, I sometimes see a lot of fear from religious people that scientific advancements will negate their faith and so they reject them. On the other side of the spectrum, some scientific people use brilliant scientific theories and models to nullify religious beliefs even when they do not necessarily contradict each other. In both cases, it seems like facts are not involved so much as fear or disdain for those on the other side. It feels like science and religion often seek to disprove each other to confirm their own biases rather than really seek to understand the world.
Science and faith are both ways of perceiving and understanding the world around us. My old World Religions professor had an entire class period on integrating science and faith rather than polarizing them. He talked about how their roles are not opposite, but just different: science seeks to understand the physical world through observation and experimentation, whereas spirituality focuses more on the metaphysical and meaning beyond observable reality. Putting them against each other doesn't really help us understand the world we live in or why it matters. It can help us understand more about the other and come to more correct practices of either, but ultimately, they are seeking different things.
When researching this question to see if any other sources might help, I came across a series of articles Einstein wrote between 1930 and 1948 on science and religion. The article "Science and Religion: Irreconcilable?" particularly stood out as helpful in making peace between faith and science. In this article, he acknowledges the societal belief that religion and science inherently contradict each other but feels that this is not so. He brings up similar points as my World Religions teacher did: science uses methodical thinking to find connections between sensual experiences, and religion is concerned with ideals in regards to human relationship and the emotional foundation of human behavior.
He also notes that many who contributed to scientific advancement expressed spiritual devotion, and that it was this devotion that evoked wonder in them and encouraged them to seek scientific knowledge: "While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to whom we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge. If this conviction had not been a strongly emotional one and if those searching for knowledge had not been inspired by Spinoza's Amor Dei Intellectualis, they would hardly have been capable of that untiring devotion which alone enables man to attain his greatest achievements."
So yes, those are just some thoughts. I think the other writers covered how evolution can work in a religious context well and just felt prompted to address how science and faith are not enemies but two methods of understanding.
Evolution is totally real! The idea that man descended from apes is, as Alta said, a misunderstanding. What evolution actually says is that humans and apes have a common ancestor somewhere way back up the line. Which makes total sense. You and I have a common ancestor way back up the line, and the fact that we're very different as people (I assume. I don't actually know who you are or how similar we may or may not be) doesn't discount the fact that 10 or 15 generations ago we have the same 15th great grandfather/mother. Evolution is basically the same sort of thing but instead of looking over some number of generations, it's looking over some number of millennia or even some number of millions of years.
Also, like Kirito said, we don't have a perfect understanding of how the creation process went down beyond the fact that God created all things spiritually before he created them physically and, as far as life on earth is concerned, He made plants first, then animals, then Humans. That order of creation actually lines up with evolution pretty perfectly. Do we know exactly how God used evolution in the creation? No. Probably won't until we can ask Him in person. But does the theory of evolution contradict LDS Doctrine and Theology? No it does not. It poses an understandable hurdle for many people, but the long and short of it is that you can be a faithful active member and still believe in evolution, and believing in evolution doesn't have to preclude believing LDS Doctrine about the creation. Trust Heavenly Father, and know that if you ever have struggles due to this, or any other apparent clash between science and religion, He is totally willing to help you understand how the two can be reconciled.
Evolution is one of the most well-supported scientific theories there is. When science calls something a "theory," that's very different than a hypothesis or a guess. A theory is a hypothesis that has been tested over and over, and has not been proven wrong. Additionally, those tests have produced compelling evidence that the theory is right.
Other scientific theories are germ theory, the theory of gravity, the theory of plate tectonics, cell theory, and atomic theory.
In other words, scientific theories are not just guesses. They are often so certain that we colloquially refer to them as facts. Germs cause diseases, for instance. That is a fact. Bodies are made up of cells. Everything is made up of atoms. Those are facts. But in science, we call them theories. Theories can technically be proven wrong, but the more times a theory has been tested, and the more evidence there is, the less likely that is to happen.
And evolution is one of the most well-supported scientific theories there is. Look back at that list of theories. Evolution is among them as a theory that is so well-supported that should be colloquially referred to as a fact. If anyone wants to believe evolution is wrong, you have to believe that most science, or even the scientific method itself, is wrong.
That doesn't mean there isn't a lot we still don't know, especially on the religious side of things. And I certainly don't believe that a religious belief in the creation has to be at all contradictory with the theory of evolution. I believe there are a lot of things we'll learn in the eternities to make it make sense. But from an earthly, mortal perspective, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to doubt the theory of evolution.