Category: Science

God and Science

The conflict between science and religion is generally overstated. But it is certainly true that science is the matrix that most people of our day — believers or not — use as the basis for understanding the natural world we live in. Atheists and agnostics stop there; believers add a supplemental layer of faith to their view of the universe that includes a doctrine or idea of God and that reflects a view or theory of how God acts (or doesn’t act) in the natural world. So does science strengthen our faith or threaten it? Is it easier or tougher to be a believer in the age of modern science than, say, the time of Hellenistic philosophy and paganism or the early modern era of demonology and witch-hunts? This general question of achieving faith while living in the age of modern science is the subject of physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne’s book Belief in God in the Age of Science.…

Writings in the Stone

Picture 18

Some years ago I sat in a Gospel Doctrine class taught by a physician. I mention his profession because I think it matters, as he took the opportunity to deviate from the lesson and condemn in the strongest terms the theory of evolution. He labeled it a satanic concept, one that we must avoid, one that destroys faith. I took a deep breath and then spoke up. I pointed out the numerous statements and scriptures supporting learning from the best books, and pointed to Brigham Young’s statement that Mormonism embraces all truth. It wasn’t the most uplifting class. I might have handled it better. It created a tension between us that never really dissipated. And I made a mental note to seek medical care from someone that actually puts stock in the foundational theory of modern biology. (This wasn’t anything personal, it couldn’t have been. He is an OB/GYN, and I am decidedly male, so it really didn’t matter in…

The Downstream Principle of Language

I’m posting this at Times and Seasons as follow-up to a three-part series I wrote here a couple years back (see here, here and here). I’ve cross-posted it over at A Motley Vision’s companion blog Wilderness Interface Zone. September 17th marked the two-year anniversary of the closing of Crossfire Canyon (real name: Recapture Canyon) to off-highway vehicular (OHV) travel. Since then, the canyon has become an even more volatile epicenter of rhetorical and legal power struggles over land use policy. Private citizens, environmental and off-road advocacy groups, and the federal government have all entered dogs in the fight.

January 1 of the year 40

Happy Moonlanding Day! When I was a youth, I read a science fiction book in which dates in the future were figured from the day that Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, apparently because the date had such significance in the history of man.

Four sources of the Apocalypse

With the past two months, I have read — for various reasons — four different novels laying out apocalyptic events within the United States. Here are the novels, in the order I read (or re-read) them, and with the reasons why I read them: — Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (1977): a comet fragments and strikes the Earth in numerous places, collapsing much of world civilization, including the United States. I’ve read this several times before; I saw it cited on a blog (Samizdata) in a discussion on “the best end-of-the-world novels”  and decided to dig it out and read it again.

Spooky action at a distance

I am a total NPR dork. I would LOVE to have Carl Kasell’s voice on my answering machine; when I was in middle school, I felt betrayed when I learned that Lake Woebegone wasn’t a real place; and I admit that I joined Ira Flatow’s Science Friday Facebook group (“for those who love Science Friday. Or Ira Flatow.”). In fact, all my scientific knowledge pretty much comes from either Science Friday or the SciFi channel. That’s essentially my disclaimer before I jump into a discussion of quantum mechanics: my knowledge of quantum entanglement is limited to how much Ira Flatow could fit into a 22 minute segment. In other words, nowhere near enough knowledge to respond to the inevitable cries of exasperation by the all the quantum physicists who regularly read T&S…

Nature and Cities

I often find walking in nature a spiritual experience, for want of a better term. Growing up, I think that I found my testimony in part by tramping through the Wasatch Mountains and watching thunder storms roll across the Great Salt Lake. Today, I am likely to have real moments of reverence and gratitude to the divine while watching mist play across the still waters of the James River in the early morning or enjoying the power of a big Atlantic storm slamming into my bit of the world. I realize that there are some real dangers with identifying God too closely with anything as randomly and — at times — wantonly destructive as weather and nature, but as an aesthetic matter such experiences are an important part of my religious life. Oddly, I have never had a similar reaction to a city.

Mormons, Politics, and Morality

Some of the thoughts of a commenter on my last post, got me thinking about Mormons, politics, and morality. My observation is that the issues that set off moral alarm bells for most Mormons are those that deal with issues relating to what I would consider “freedom to sin” or “prohibitions of obvious sins.”

Changing Conceptions of Zion

The Mormon conception of Zion has changed dramatically over the past century. Today’s members of the church are likely to define “Zion” as wherever the members of the church are: LDS homes, congregations, and stakes. While the conception of Zion in the 19th century may have included these elements, these Saints were determined to literally be Zion communities

Meet Your Inner Fish

I recently read Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion Year History of the Human Body (Pantheon Books, 2008) by Neil Shubin, a paleotologist and professor of anatomy at the University of Chicago. By coincidence, Jared at LDS Science Review had posted the same book in his “Currently Reading” list. Here is our conversation about this interesting book.

A Walk into the Moon

I hope some of you grabbed your moon glasses and stepped outside to have a look at how that full moon lights up the world. Thirty thousand miles closer than usual and thirty percent brighter, tonight this lesser light has a chance to really shine.

Crossfire Canyon: A study in conflict, part three

See Part Two posted 9/27. On September 22nd, I rose early and hiked into Crossfire. Afterward, I stopped at the local market and ran into a women I’d seen at the BLM’s open house, one of the most vocal SPEAR members present that night. We greeted each other and she demanded to know who I was and what my interest in the canyon was. “Are you one of those tree-huggers or something else?” she asked.

Crossfire Canyon: A study in conflict, part one

Crossfire Canyon is not the canyon’s real name. Following the trend in nature writing, I have refrained from providing any obvious identifying names or details. Otherwise, this three-part series describes actual events and conversations. Mormons in Utah, especially in southern Utah, often find their concepts of stewardship put to the test when predominantly non-Mormon environmental groups act to preserve resources they perceive Mormons (or any others) are abusing under their stewardship ethic or are allowing to be abused.

Guilting the Lily

In the Preface to New Genesis: A Mormon Reader on Land and Community, the editors cite an unidentified 1991 report that places each of the thirty largest Christian denominations in one of five categories based on their environmental stances.

Story Time!

The day before the cliff swallows return to traditional nesting sites in canyons near where I live in southern Utah, the sky hangs quiet, with only a few ravens, hawks, and eagles spiraling through. The next day, whoosh! Swallows arrive reeling in their folklorico like revelers at an unseen party spilling onto a quiet street.

Field Notes #4

It is the destiny of mint to be crushed. –Waverley Lewis Root June 12, 2007 Rained most of the night. Morning’s cool and sweet. Good day to venture into a canyon. Because the storm has left behind puffy white seeds that could blossom suddenly into rain, I replace my extra water bottle with a rain poncho. In honor of the sky, scrubbed to a deep, shining blue, I wear my turquoise tee shirt. Usually I wear a white one with sleeves, but I like to wear this color when I hike. Weather permitting, I do.

Field Notes #2

We might use language in our attempts to set boundaries, but language contains in microcosmic acts the macrocosmic thrust toward new form. November 4, 2006 The trail into the canyon is rougher at November’s threshold; run-off from recent storms took the same trail to the canyon’s main water course that I must take.

Quothing the Raven

Some weeks ago a friend (an archaeologist and therefore a man of science) and I were discussing a nature writer who was coming to town to promote his latest book. I asked my friend if he liked this writer’s work. He said he did. I said that I did, too, and that I thought this writer one of the better nature writers out there. My friend agreed then added, “Although I wonder if a lot of them aren’t actually writing fiction.”

Field Notes #1

Remember the silence around Pueblo Alto in Chaco, so heavy you felt blanketed by its snows, and the desert landscape spread out below, unmoving for miles? That was silence. Not even a breeze singing on the stones. June 8, 2006 Hiked in the rain this morning.

Sweat

All winter I plotted how to improve the garden, my first focal point for exercising “good stewardship” over the acre plus we moved to a year and a half ago. Last year’s garden had gone all right. I loved every minute in it, especially the time spent with animals, like Woodhouses’ toads and cliff swallows, which helped keep the garden in good order. But I got a late start and the harvest fell short. This year, I pushed to start my tomatoes on time along with other herbs and veggies that don’t mind sprouting indoors. I schemed how to improve our red, clayey soil. I saved money to hire a local man to till our ground.

Tomorrow morning, at 2 AM

Once a year, after enduring a grueling six hours of church in one day, I lay down to sleep knowing that during the wee hours of the night I will be robbed of one whole hour. It is time to forever abolish Daylight Saving Time.