Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Rees, Robert A.
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Seers, Savants and Evolution I A recent treatment outlines the basic positions of vitalism and mechanism thusly: Life, the subject matter of biology, is a phenomenon intimately connected with matter. Biology, therefore, must be concerned with the relationship between matter and the phenomenon we call life. Animate and inanimate things have matter in common, and it is in their materiality that the two can best be compared. In this comparison, two theories, vitalism and mechanism, compete for the mastery. The vitalist sees in a living organism the convergence of two essentially different factors. For him matter is shaped and dominated by a life principle; unaided, matter could never give rise to life. The mechanist, on the other hand, denies any joint action of two essentially different factors. He holds that matter is capable of giving rise to life by its own intrinsic forces. The mechanist considers matter to be "alive." The vitalist considers that something immaterial lives in and through matter.44 To Mormons, the divergence between the two approaches is best seen in two basic issues: 1) whether an outside force is necessary to make a body "alive," and 2) whether such an outside force is material. The popular nineteenth-century theological view, of course, was that life is due to a non-material force. Science, profiting from a long series of investigations on spontaneous generation dating primarily from Redi in the seventeenth century to Pasteur and Tyndall in the 1870s, became associated with mechanism (materialism). The reason for this latter association is not that either view has been rigorously proved. It is rather that the materialistic view allows experimentation whereas the vitalist view does not, since one is hard pressed to experiment with immaterial "things." As Hardin has so aptly put it: "The mechanistic position, whether it is ultimately proved right or wrong, has been and will continue to be productive of new discoveries. Indeed, if vitalism is ultimately proved to be true, it is the mechanist who will prove it so. It is doubtful that anyone can meaningfully pinpoint a consistent Mormon "doctrine" on the matter of spirit, life, vital force, etc. Teachings of the Church in the nineteenth-century were in a high state of flux when it came to issues beyond the simple basics. Terms were confused and misused, concepts were loosely defined and highly fragmented, speculation was rife. B. H. Roberts points out quite correctly that Joseph Smith sometimes used the terms "intelligence," "mind," "spirit," and "soul" interchangeably—"life" and even "light" could be added to the list as well.46 There is no satisfactory synthesis of the subject, and it is doubtful that one could be produced. Andrus' imaginative treatment47 is as