The scriptural account of the creation states that plants and animals are to multiply and replenish the earth “after their kind”.
And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth grass from its own seed, and the herb to bring forth herb from its own seed, yielding seed after his kind; and the earth to bring forth the tree from its own seed, yielding fruit, whose seed could only bring forth the same in itself, after his kind; and the God’s saw that they were obeyed. (Abraham 4:12)
And the Gods prepared the waters that they might bring forth great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters were to bring forth abundantly after their kind; and every winged fowl after their kind. and the Gods saw that they would be obeyed, and that their plan was good. (Abraham 4:21)
I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of years, and I couldn’t see the connection between this and the scientific view of evolution. Then, yesterday, Jared posted in his blog, LDS Science Review, remarks about the plants and animals being created “after their kind”. As I read his remarks and studied the scriptures in Abraham about the creation, the correlation between the scriptural account of the creation and the scientific view of evolution became clear to me. As I try to explain this, I’m doing so from the viewpoint of the scriptures with meaning and context from evolution. The result is a hypothesis that brings science and religion together into unity about this issue. In describing this hypothesis, I will use language that describes the hypothesis as fact. My remarks should, of course, be interpreted as speculation.
The traditional religious view is that God created the plants and animals such that they generated offspring “after their kind”. Those verses tell us *what* happened, but they do not tell us *how* it happened. To understand the *how*, we must turn to science, where we learn that genetic information is passed from parent to child in the form of DNA codes and sequences and genes. If the world were perfect, genetic information would always be passed correctly, and reproduction would always be “after their kind”. This means that in a perfect world, science and religion would be in harmony with each other about this matter.
However, the world is not perfect. Genetic information is not always perfectly passed from parent to child. Mutations occasionally occur that cause a child to receive genetic information that is slightly different than that of the parent. Sometimes these changes increase the chances of the child’s survival, and the changes are propagated to grandchildren, and so on. At other times these changes decrease the chances of the child’s survival, and the grandchildren who receive the mutations are less likely to survive.
We need to ask the following question: If God knew the mortal world would not be perfect and that changes in the genetic information passed from parent to child would occur, why did He command that plants and animals would propagate “after their kind”. Let’s think about this for a moment. Suppose God allowed plants and animals to not propagate “after their kind”. What would be the result? My answer is chaos and confusion due to disorder and to a lack of organization. The changes from parent to child could come so quickly and without order that the survivability of a species would be unlikely. A particular change could occur in a child, and before that species could adapt to that change, other changes could occur that would require even more adaption from the species. In some cases, the later changes would counteract the earlier changes. The result would be unstable reproduction and an increasing likelihood of changes not becoming permanent and an increasing likelihood of the species disappearing from the earth.
Instead, think of the system established by God in His creation of the earth. Plants and animals propagate “after their kind”, but occasional changes or mutations do occur. Because the mutations are relatively small and occur infrequently, there is time for species to adapt to the changes and to make the changes a permanent part of the genetic information of that species. The result is a stable reproductive system that insures that life will endure in harsh environments. The mutations occur infrequently because reproductions are, in general, “after their kind”.
Another question that must be asked is, Why didn’t God prevent changes in genetic information from occurring. Plants and animals would always have children “after their kind”, and everything would be stable. Yes, that would be the ideal situation, but our mortal world is not that way. It is reasonable to think that when God created our mortal world, He did so using the laws that govern that world, and a characteristic of our mortal world is that changes do occur in the genetic information that is passed from parent to child. It seems that God’s choice was either to create an unstable world in which reproduction would yield chaos, or to create a stable world in which reproduction would yield order in the midst of changes to genetic information. I’m grateful that He choose the latter.
So, when I read in the scriptures that God commanded that plants and animals reproduce “after their kind”, I realize that He was establishing a stable foundation for reproduction in a mortal world, and the stability of the reproductive process would allow natural selection to continue the positive changes and to discontinue the undesirable changes.
Now for my disclaimer. I am an electrical engineer/software engineer not a biologist, and my knowledge of genetics is very thin. If I have misunderstood aspects of genetics and have stated things incorrectly, I apologize and hope someone more knowledgeable will jump in and clarify my remarks.