Coronel Suarez was the last town I was assigned as a missionary. One feature of the town was polo. From 1952 through 1983, teams from that small town on the Pampa had won the Argentine Open Polo Championship 25 out of 32 years. In the fields surrounding the town we would see them practice as we visited with stable keepers who lived near the horses. A couple rungs up in that world was a trainer we met with who had worked for royalty in the Mid East and in the Far East.
Also of note were the Volga Germans. At the invitation of Catherine the Great, they had migrated to Russia in the 18th Century, and in the last decades of the 19th Century, a portion of them came to Argentina. Within a couple miles to the south of Coronel Suarez were three “pueblos alemanes” (German villages). One hearty Suarense of about sixty said that in his day if any young man from Coronel Suarez were found in the German pueblos, he would be beat and thrown out of the village, and reciprocal courtesies were extended to any young German male found in Coronel Suarez. He recalled this wistfully, not with any malice, but just a bit of longing for the days when a good brawl could be a civic duty, and visiting nearby could be an adventure.
By the time I arrived, the population of the main town and the auxiliary villages had mixed together to a degree. One person we met with a few times was a retired policeman named Adolph Fuchs. He said that as a policeman his job had been “to do good to the good, and to do bad to the bad.” He liked me and my porteño companion, but he told us one afternoon that our mission was futile. People don’t change, can’t improve, and there was no point in trying to lead them to. We said that this philosophy was contrary to our beliefs; we believed in the atonement of Jesus Christ, and we believed in repentance. We were also both experienced missionaries, and had seen that despite all the ups and downs of the conversion process, some real changes do take hold.
Those conversations with Mr. Fuchs return to mind sometimes when I come upon a writer expounding on the centrality of evolution in the understanding of pretty much everything. Two years ago, there was much lamentation when Pew released a survey showing that only 22% of Mormons agree that evolution is the best explanation of the origins of human life. As Clark Goble pointed out at the time, the survey question as phrased was a poor one for sorting out opinions as to the correctness of evolution. Respondents would take into account other concepts that they may view as more important for arriving at a best explanation for life.
How much of an explanation of life does evolution provide? Evolution holds that an organism immutably is what it is as established by its genetic inheritance. The only influence we have on our children is the number of them that mature and the selection of the source from which the other half of their inheritance is drawn. We ourselves were a finished product before our first breath was drawn. Improvement and progression follow the maxim, “Breed the best with the best and forget about the rest.” As a principle explanation of life, it doesn’t seem to have much use for the gospel of repentance, nor much to say about most of life.
Fortunately, though many claim understanding evolution is central to understanding everything, eugenics is currently out of favor, though there is no telling what the fashions of future decades may bring. The Soviets had their own ideological conflicts with evolution. A determinative role for biological inheritance was incompatible with the perfectibility of New Soviet Man, and science had to testify of ideological tenets or be discarded. (Probabilistic quantum theory suffered similar disqualification.) Alma told Korihor “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it.” Within our capability to comprehend, I’m not sure if this is so. The number of true things with no significance to us is far vaster than we can take in.