This is in follow up to my earlier post and in response to Facebook thread on this subject. The thread is found here an this essay is in that post. I decided to put it in my blog.
Let me explain to this group and those who have joined evolution with their LDS beliefs in particular, why I am so adamant about these evolutionary disputes.
Science has a special place in our current world. It is seen so often as indisputable. This world of indisputable science, particularly the natural sciences had an impact on the LDS faith that most do not know.
For most of the 20th century, the Smithsonian Institute would release upon request a statement denouncing the Book of Mormon. The basis for this denouncement was founded on evidence in the natural sciences. According to the Smithsonian, assertions in the Book of Mormon contradicted what is known about the natural world. The denouncement had nine evidences of why the book if false based on natural sciences, mostly archeology and anthropology.
Except that much like the explanation of the Archaeopteryx given by Nathan Liddiard, this evidence was disputable to begin with. However in the present case, they had all been disproven. The nine evidences of the falsehood of the Book of Mormon were not scientifically valid.
In 1982, LDS Scholar John L. Sorenson cited the evidences refuting each of the claims in the Smithsonian denouncement. Still the Smithsonian continued its course of action. In 1995 Sorenson updated his original paper, published it again, and sent a letter of recommendation to the Smithsonian to revise its statement. Later that year The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (now called the Maxwell Institute and now part of BYU) conferred with the Smithsonian. in 1998 they revised their statement to what is now a very neutral view of the Book of Mormon.
Now the Smithsonian had a good reason for a statement. Rumors of the Book of Mormon being a study guide for research at the Smithsonian have circulated among LDS communities for many years. Inquiries into this would be made to the Smithsonian and thus a release created. Why they decided to take such a negative stand on the Book of Mormon remains a mystery.
However the negative affects of this will continue for decades to follow. I can still find the old Smithsonian statement posted in anti-mormon forums and literature of very recent years. It made it's way into a Washington Post Op-Ed piece during the last presidential election.
The Smithsonian Institution is one of our country's jewels, a system dedicated to the preservation and promotion of American scientific research and discovery. Things with their stamp are considered fully authoritative. Yet this inaccurate denouncement has been out there for nearly a century. It was given as based on sciences and not disputed for many years. This was wrong.
It is similarly wrong that evolution be given such indisputable credence. The dismissive nature of those who dispute it as was given in the thread that motivated this essay is equally wrong. Evolution serves us well, but it is not final. While I am against creationism as an equal science, were it not for the scientists who maintain a creationist view, evolutionary theory would go unchecked. Even with them, evolutionary theory enjoys a free pass as demonstrated in this thread. Academia has become dogmatic about evolution. This is not a good place for discovery. It is a good place for censorship.
What the Smithsonian did is a prime example. Had Sorenson and FARMS not challenged a major scientific body, they would still be denouncing the Book of Mormon without sufficient reason or proof. The natural sciences need this challenging and if they will not do it themselves. Creationist theory may not have a valid scientific background as evolution. However if it continues to keep evolution in check, it has a valid place and purpose.