‘BYU Evolution Packet’ offers answers to religion-evolution debate

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    By Whitney Clark

    With the 200th anniversary of Darwin?s birth this week, students can look to many resources to find out the stance of their religion, as well as many other religions, on the topic of evolution.

    Evolution has been a topic of discussion for many years. For this purpose, BYU created a ?BYU Evolution Packet? to help students find answers to their religious questions concerning the topic.

    ?There were a sufficient amount of inquiries about evolution,? said Duane Jeffery, an emeritus professor in the Biology Department and one of the compilers of the packet. ?We put together an authoritative statement from the church.?

    The packet, completed in 1992 by Jeffery and William Evenson under the direction of the BYU Board of Trustees, combines the official state-ments made by the first presidency about the topic of evolution.

    ?The full range of official views should provide the basis for the evaluation of other views that have been expressed but that do not have the status of official church posi-tions,? Evenson said.

    When asked questions about the Church?s stance on evolution, faculty and staff are told to refer to the packet for answers.

    Jeffery said the packet was made available to all teachers who address the issue of evolution and to any students or others inquiring on the issue.

    A copy of the packet has also been placed on reserve in the library.

    The packet contains four official statements from the First Presidency.

    In the first statement, ?The Origin of Man,? written by the first presidency in 1909, the leaders stated, ?The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity.?

    Throughout the packet, the First Presidency discusses the idea that Adam was the first man to be put on earth.

    The packet emphasizes the idea that the church does not want to create argument about the issue.

    ?Diversity of opinion does not necessitate intolerance of spirit,? said the second article, called ?Words in Season From the First Presidency.?

    ?Our religion is not hostile to real science,? according to the second article.

    Evenson said the purpose of the packet is to give the information that the church has said and then leave the rest up to individuals to draw their own conclusions.

    Other religions around the state have also come out with official statements regarding the issue of evolution.

    The Presbyterian Church has an official statement, ?Evolution and the Bible,? found on its Web site, pcusa.org, which summarizes that none of their teachings take away the possibility of evolution as a scientific theory.

    ?Nowhere is the process by which God made, created or formed man set out in scientific terms,? according to their statement. ?Unless it is clearly necessary to uphold a basic biblical doctrine, the church is not called upon and should carefully refrain from either affirming or denying the theory of evolution.?

    Janet Riley, a minister for the Presbyterian Church in Springville, said all denominations take a little bit of a different stance on evolution, but her specific denomination believes it will benefit from modern science.

    The Roman Catholic Church has also made an official statement on the issue.

    The Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, said ?The theory of evolution is understood as an investigation of the origin of the human body from pre-existing living matter, for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold firmly that souls are created immediately by God.?

    Timothy Johnston, the director of Liturgy for the Catholic Church in Utah, said in his experience, the topic of evolution is not discussed much in a church setting but more in an aca-demic setting.

    Different from the other churches mentioned, the vice president of the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Charu Das, took a firm stance on the issue.

    ?Evolution is a myth,? Das said. ?There is no evidence to support it.?

    Das said that the real evolution is that of the soul, where one moves from a lower species to a higher species.

    ?All species were originally created in the beginning by God,? Das said.

    For students who are interested in learning more about the topic of evolution, biology professors have their doors open to discuss the topic and answer questions.

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