I was pointed to this presentation by Ugo Perego at something called the “Transhumanism and Spirituality” conference in 2012. It appears to me that this conference was intended, like Mormon Scholars Testify, to give a little academic cover for Mormon beliefs.
The presentation is kind of surreal. Perego seems painfully aware that what he is saying is pretty fanciful and silly, as he looks rather sheepish and a little embarrassed.
Like so many others, he has tried to reconcile his Mormon beliefs with the scientific evidence in favor of organic evolution. His solution is similar to one I’ve heard on this board and elsewhere: Evolution took its course over millions of years until hominids had reached a state at which they were ready to receive a human spirit from God; this event occurred around 6,000 years ago when Adam and Eve were introduced into the garden.
Of course this doesn’t work logically with LDS doctrine, which is that humans are the literal offspring of God, created in His image, that they, as His children, are to progress in maturity to be like Him, as a puppy becomes like its parent, a dog. Here’s Boyd K. Packer:
No lesson is more manifest in nature than that all living things do as the Lord commanded in the Creation. They reproduce “after their own kind.” (See Moses 2:12, 24.) They follow the pattern of their parentage. Everyone knows that; every four-year-old knows that! A bird will not become an animal nor a fish. A mammal will not beget reptiles, nor “do men gather … figs of thistles.” (Matt. 7:16.)
In the countless billions of opportunities in the reproduction of living things, one kind does not beget another. If a species ever does cross, the offspring cannot reproduce. The pattern for all life is the pattern of the parentage.
This is demonstrated in so many obvious ways, even an ordinary mind should understand it. Surely no one with reverence for God could believe that His children evolved from slime or from reptiles. (Although one can easily imagine that those who accept the theory of evolution don’t show much enthusiasm for genealogical research!) The theory of evolution, and it is a theory, will have an entirely different dimension when the workings of God in creation are fully revealed.
Since every living thing follows the pattern of its parentage, are we to suppose that God had some other strange pattern in mind for His offspring? Surely we, His children, are not, in the language of science, a different species than He is? (“The Pattern of Our Parentage,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, pp. 66-69.)
LDS doctrine asserts that God is a married man and that through His marriage to his wife/wives, He spiritually procreates our spirits, which are then given mortal bodies in which to dwell. Brigham Young seems to have believed that Adam was created by sexual reproduction, making Adam both the spiritual and physical offspring of God. If we are the offspring of God, and our destiny is to be like Him, then it follows that we share His genetic makeup; He is, therefore, an exalted version of what we are now.
Perego and others would have us believe that billions of years ago, God put a process of evolution in place that would have many branches, countless numbers of which would become extinct, until finally the magic moment arrived when humans were genetically like Him to be His children. LDS scripture states that “the spirit of man [is] in the likeness of his person” (D&C 77:2), meaning that, before the physical creation, our spirits already looked human.
But for Perego, God created spirits that looked like Him, that had the potential to be exalted in the same way He is exalted, but that God gave over the spiritual creation to a random process that would eventually simmer long enough to result in a body just the way it needed to be: identical to God’s.
The problem (besides the absurdity of the argument) is that we are supposed to be children of God, not the result of some iterative process of random genetic mutation that has been going on for billions of years on countless worlds. Russell Nelson has said:
Spirit and body, when joined together, become a living soul of supernal worth. Indeed, we are children of God—physically and spiritually. (“We Are Children of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1998.)
Indeed, the church teaches that humans are different from all other living beings:
Many religions teach that human beings are children of God, but often their conception of Him precludes any kind of bond resembling a parent-child relationship. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught of a much simpler and more sensible relationship: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit … was to make himself visible … , you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.”
We are of God’s family. We are His sons and daughters, created in the image of heavenly parents. “No greater ideal has been revealed,” taught President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “than the supernal truth that we are the children of God, and we differ, by virtue of our creation, from all other living things. (See Moses 6:8–10, 22, 59.) No idea has been more destructive of happiness, no philosophy has produced more sorrow, more heartbreak and mischief; no idea has done more to destroy the family than the idea that we are not the offspring of God, only advanced animals, compelled to yield to every carnal urge.” (“Strengthening the Family: Created in the Image of God, Male and Female,” Ensign, Jan. 2005.)
But Perego believes that we are advanced animals, evolved from primordial slime, and only children of God in a spiritual sense. The simple pattern of our parentage is replaced by the random mutations of nature.
Maybe we should revise the song:
I am the product of billions of years of random mutations until my spirit could be received into a body like God’s,
And He has sent me here …
This may make sense to Perego. To me it is a mass of confusion.