This illustration is totally misleading and perpetuates misunderstanding of human evolution
The illustration above, with the first figure resembling a chimpanzee, suggests that humans descended from chimpanzees. This is a false understanding of evolution whether it be of humans or any other creature.
Evolution is better illustrated by a family tree with many branches. At the point where each branch forks there is a common ancestor that may not resemble todays evolved creature. The evidence for a tree of life, evolution of all life from simple organisms, is however, very strong. But a complete fossil record that clearly identifies all common ancestors is unnecessary in order to prove the process of evolution by natural selection. There are many alternative studies that produce the evidence.
So where do I begin in presenting the evidence for evolution? The answer is, I am passing the buck!
I am new to the disciplines of geology, biology, chemistry, zoology and genetics, my background is in engineering. However, as I have begun to delve into these disciplines my appetite has grown considerably. My reading of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ by Richard Dawkins I found enlightening although I would have preferred it if his crusade against those who oppose teaching of evolution had been left out and kept apart. The resources I found on richarddawkins.net were useful, particularly the link to a website supported by the University of Oxford Zoological Department called statedclearly.com. Here I have learnt about the building blocks that make the case for evolution by natural selection overwhelming. DNA, genes, chromosomes, proteins, embryonic development, how natural selection works and many other facets are presented so well. So, rather than restate what is comprehensively covered, I simply include the link while I turn to the implications this has on faith and doctrine.
Because I am seeking to understand evolution from the point of view of one who believes in God, as in a being who is vastly superior to ourselves in knowledge and power, I firstly restate what Brigham Young, the second prophet of the restoration, had to say about knowledge and truth.
‘Our religion measures, weighs, and circumscribes all the wisdom in the world—all that God has ever revealed to man. God has revealed all the truth that is now in the possession of the world, whether it be scientific or religious.’ (Discourses of Brigham Young. Selected by John A. Widtsoe. 1941.)
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ we covenant to seek after truth, circumscribe it and incorporate it. We believe, as above, that God reveals all the truth we discover, which may come through the scientific process or through His mind to ours, which we call revelation. During the past two centuries there has been an explosion of knowledge, both through latter-day prophets and through scientists. That knowledge however is seldom dogmatic, but will always be subject to scrutiny and development. Both bodies of knowledge therefore should not be studied in isolation, without considering the other when they seem to contradict. It is particularly interesting that all branches of scientific and technological development are assisting the spiritual programs God is initiating through his delegated on earth.
Could Man Have been Artificially Selected and Organised into the Image of God?
The scriptures accepted as standard works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. Three separate and differing accounts of the creation are in Genesis and the Pearl of Great Price which has two accounts, one attributed to Moses and a second to Abraham. As well as these accounts there is a fourth which is part of the endowment presentation given in our Temples. All four accounts are different, mainly in not calling the periods of creation days and in the order of creation. But in both the Abraham and the Endowment accounts the use of the words, ‘prepare’ and ‘organise’ rather than create is, in my opinion, significant. Perhaps, some time less than 10000 years ago man was organised not in only the image of his biological ancestors but also in the spiritual image of God. That new man and woman, Adam and Eve, born of Earthly parents just like their predecessors, (unless they were clones with genetic modification*) were artificially selected as the parents of a new race. They differed in that in their subconscious they were spiritual children of Heavenly Parents (Yes, we believe in a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father). The evidence for that spiritual ‘mutation’ (Natural Selection states that there are good mutations that prevail and bad ones that do not) C S Lewis identified as a universal Moral Law or Rules of Decent Behaviour that we all believe in but seldom keep.
C. S. Lewis’s argument for this inherent Moral Law is worth reading in full; however, here I include a few lines of his defence for this point of view.
‘Question: Isn’t what you call the Moral Law simply our herd instinct and hasn’t it been developed just like all our other instincts?’
Answer: Now I do not deny that we may have a herd instinct: but that is not what I mean by the Moral Law. We all know what it feels like to be prompted by instinct— by mother love, or sexual instinct, or the instinct for food. It means that you feel a strong want or desire to act in a certain way. And, of course, we sometimes do feel just that sort of desire to help another person: and no doubt that desire is due to the herd instinct. But feeling a desire to help is quite different from feeling that you ought to help whether you want to or not.’
(Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity (p. 9). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.)
He elaborates by arguing that this Moral Law is not a set of evolved instincts in that what we feel is morally right under one set of circumstances may feel morally wrong under another set of circumstances.
Lewis argues extensively from this point of view which I hold to, which is that the greatest evidence for God lies not in the awesome universe we live in, not in the amazing organic life on our planet, not in the laws that govern everything but, can be found inside our hearts.
There are many aspects of the scriptural accounts of ‘the Creation’ that I cannot reconcile with the evolution of man. Like for example Eve being made from Adam's rib. However, as all these accounts were written before scientific evidence was discovered perhaps we just have to be patient for what is yet to come. Meanwhile we can always fall back to symbolism which approach gives us much still to ponder over. All evidence, however, we have covenanted to evaluate and if it stands up to scrutiny, to accept as knowledge that God wants us to have. When it comes to Information Technology, media, communications, medicine, agronomy and much more, they all accelerate God's programs on Earth, so what about the science of evolution?
One thing evolution seems to be in bed with is our stewardship of this amazing planet we live on. Scientists are now capable of monitoring the oceans and the atmosphere and predicting the effects of our exploitation of the Earth. We undersatnd better than ever our interdependancy on all life. One science inspires the other. As we look at the tiny period of time when the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve have occupied this planet, it is not a glorious history, we seemed to be determined to destroy ourselves as well as pillage the planet we live on. But, the Earth is resilient. As in ages past it will recover and Natural Selection will ensure the life forms that most readily adapt will prevail. God through scientists is warning us and providing ways and means for saving the planet, but as in all things with God, our agency is sacrosanct, he will not save our planet for us while we can do something about it ourselves. God has given us the truth. One body of knowledge leads to another and all truth given to man serves His purposes.