Mormon Creation Narratives and Creation by Evolution

I once heard it said when I was a young undergraduate that the creation accounts – particularly that of Abraham – fit very well with evolutionary accounts of creation. A casual read of Abraham seems to confirm this: earth, void; waters divided from earth; plants come up from the earth; fish and fowl; beasts of the earth; man. This sort of progression would make sense from an evolutionary perspective – creation evolves from simple to complex.

But add Moses’ account into the mix and things become a little dicier. Continue reading

Another Post about Evolution

This site has been quiet for some time and it makes me wonder if we’ve stopped “thinking in a marrow bone.” I haven’t stopped thinking, but I’m not sure if I’m doing much thinking that’s worth anything. So instead, I’d like to issue a challenge and have you do the thinking for me: someone help me understand why so many Mormons accept evolution whole cloth without settling some of the most crucial divisions between doctrine and Darwinian dogma?

Let me reveal my ignorance by talking about things I don’t understand.

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Conviction by Invitation

[This is a “reprint” of part 3 of a series I posted on my home blog, www.ldsphilosopher.com]

In a previous post, I presented Oakeshott’s view of rationality as the capacity to form interpretations of and responses to experience. In another post, I described ways in which the movie Contact provides an excellent example of this. In this post, I will explore a little deeper how Ellie’s experience in the movie illustrates Oakeshott’s point. I would recommend that those who haven’t read either of these two posts do so here: Rationality Redefined; Jodi Foster’s Empiricism in Contact.

Interpreting Experience

There were several ways to interpret Ellie’s reported experience. The committee chairman interpreted the entire experience as a delusion: Ellie, a young woman starved for contact with her long deceased father, created the experience in her mind to ease her loneliness and sorrow; the entire project was a hoax developed by an eccentric personality who had for a long time been influencing Ellie’s life and research.

Ellie, although she admitted that the chairman’s interpretation seemed more likely than her own, chose to interpret the experience as an interaction with an alien intelligence that wished to learn about the human race. She chose to interpret the experience this way because this Continue reading

In Defense of Elder Hafen: Brief Response to FMH

Elder Hafen recently gave (at an Evergreen conference) what I consider to be a wonderful speech concerning same-sex attraction and gay marriage. It is linked on the LDS Newsroom. This speech is probably the most well-balanced and well-informed article on same-sex marriage by an LDS general authority.

Then, to my dismay, I came across this post at FMH, in which ECS criticizes Hafen’s speech, in particular his use of references. But the FMH post itself is misleading and needs to be critiqued.

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Jodi Foster’s Empiricism in Contact

[This is a “reprint’ of part 2 of a series I posted on my home blog, www.ldsphilosopher.com]

One of my favorite movies is Contact, based on a novel written by Carl Sagan. One reason I like it is that it makes such important statements about how we come to know things. (Spoiler alert: Those who haven’t seen the movie and would not like the plot spoiled for them should not read this post.)

Ellie Arroway and her friend Palmer Joss discuss the meaning of religious experience.

One of my favorite movies is Contact, based on a novel written by Carl Sagan. One reason I like it is that it makes such important statements about how we come to know things. (Spoiler alert: Those who haven’t seen the movie and would not like the plot spoiled for them should not read this post.)

The movie is about a woman named Eleanor Arroway (Ellie, played by Jodi Foster), who is an astronomer working for the SETI program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). She scans the stars using radio telescopes, looking for radio signals from other planets that may be communications from intelligent life outside the solar system.

Traditional Empiricism

Ellie is an atheist (or at best, an agnostic); she does not find any compelling evidence to believe in God. She refuses to believe in anything unless it can be demonstrated to her scientifically. She does not feel that there is enough evidence to warrant belief in a Supreme Being.

Ellie befriends a man named Palmer Joss, who is a theologian and a humanitarian specialist who writes books about the lack of meaning in our lives. He finds it remarkable that despite an increased standard of living and incredible technology, we Continue reading

“Objective” Has to Go

I hear the word “objective” used fairly often. I’ve heard it at home, at the university, at work, and even at church on occasion. One thing I think we fail to appreciate is that this word can have several different meanings and that some of these meanings may convey more philosophical baggage than we might know.

Although there may be more ways to use the word, I’ve decided to deal specifically with two ways I hear the word “objective” used daily.

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The Restoration of All Things

Many of us compartmentalize our lives in a way that would seem strange to scholars of past centuries. We talk about our religious lives and our academic lives as though they were two separate things, divided in a way that protects one from the effects of an error in the other, as a bulkhead on a ship may protect other compartments from being flooded by water. However, this modern separation of our academic and spiritual life is a very recent development. I believe that the division between spiritual and secular knowledge is a false distinction, and, as Richard Williams has pointed out, found nowhere in scripture.1

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Why I Love the Theory of Evolution

If I exposed my ignorance the last time I discussed evolution, I am sure to do no better with this post. Since writing (not very well) about why I hate evolution, I’ve thought a lot about the reasons why I love evolution. I hope to adequately articulate one reason here. Continue reading

Vulcans and Wizards: Transcending Naturalism in Literature

Today, I would like to consider two different genres of fiction: fantasy and science fiction. The way in which I talk about them will probably be different than the way a literary expert would talk about them; I make no claims to any serious research in this post, but rather I would just like to share some personal thoughts I have had when comparing the two genres.

Today, we live in a world where it is assumed that everything that happens has a “scientific explanation.” This means more than that everything is explanable; it means that everything is understandable and accountable in terms of matter governed by mathematical laws. If anything out of the ordinary happens, we simply assume that it can be explained scientifically, even if we don’t exactly know how yet. This modern perspective is often called scientific naturalism. This perspective is intricately connected with determinism, which is the assumption that all events are predictable, if you know all of the antecedent circumstances. In other words, whatever happens, happens inevitably. Continue reading

Eliminating “Good Luck” from My Vocabulary

I was reading a book of Hugh Nibley’s once and I came across something I thought was interesting. I’ve since forgotten what it was that caught my interest, but I do remember reading something to this effect: men shouldn’t play games of chance because chance doesn’t exist. After thinking about this for a minute, I got past this idea that “men can’t play games of chance if chance doesn’t exist!” and moved on to the implications of what he was saying: if chance doesn’t exist, then flipping a coin to determine who gets home field before a softball game isn’t chance or luck. What if I had a say in whether the coin landed heads or tails? Continue reading

Allen Bergin: Encounters with B.F. Skinner, Carl Rogers, and Albert Ellis

The other day, Allen Bergin, a very influential LDS psychologist guest lectured in the History of Psychology graduate course I am taking at BYU. Bergin, probably more than any other individual, can be credited for opening up psychology to spiritual and religious phenomena, especially in psychotherapy.

There are a few very interesting “nuggets” of information, especially concerning Bergin’s encounters with some very famous psychologists, that I would like to report. Continue reading

Science is Not Based on Faith

I was intrigued by Joe’s recent post and the hubbub of comments that ensued, so I decided to weigh in on a tangent to the issues Joe and a number of commenters raised. The issue is this: In pointing out the unsecure footing of the scientific worldview, critics sometimes claim that scientists have faith in science just as religious persons have faith in God. Continue reading

Why I Hate the Theory of Evolution

A more appropriate title to this blog post would be “Why I hate that the public schools teach ‘creation’ by evolution and do not teach the Biblical account of creation,” but aside from being too wordy, I thought the inappropriate title might persuade more people to read this entry. After all, the second title might lead one to think that I’m in favor of creationism and who wants to hear another argument for creationism? Well, you’ll be happy to hear that I frankly don’t care for creationism (and for that matter, I don’t care much for intelligent design…or Ben Stein). But in spite of my apathy toward creationism, I am still greatly miffed by this country’s ridiculous replacement of one creation story (evolution) with another (the Biblical account). Continue reading

Emergence, Chaos and the Meaning of it All – Finding Significance in the Natural World, Part 1

[This is a re-post from my personal philosophy blog. Check out my blog HERE.]

There are many things which are simply difficult not just to understand but to know at all.

Though I tried my best and still did horribly in my biology class in community college, there was one concept that I gleaned which I’ve found myself thinking about as of late. The concept is “emergence” or “emergent properties.” In general, emergence has to do with a system giving rise to properties which are not directly traceable to the component parts of said system. On the physiological level, emergence refers to secondary traits emerging unpredictably from the combination of various primary traits. In genetics, the primary traits are those which can be deduced from genes, and the secondary, emergent traits are those which come about from the combination of several of the primary traits. Continue reading

W(h)ither Metaphysical Speculation

Our grand business undoubtedly is, not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” -Thomas Carlyle “Signs of the Times”

There has been an interesting conversation going on at New Cool Thang concerning the nature of God’s brain. Among the issues being discussed is whether God’s brain stores memory — or whether any brain stores memory at all. The idea that information is “stored” in the brain is very prevalent in Western culture and likely owes its origins to the advent of computer technology and theories of memory storage coming out of cognitive psychology. Continue reading

Isaiah vs. E.O. Wilson (a play)

A brief play from Wendell Berry’s Life is a Miracle:

Isaiah (finger in the air and somewhat oblivious of the historical superiority of the modern audience): The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as of the flower of the field.

Edward O. Wilson (somewhat impressed, but nevertheless determined to do his bit for “evolutionary progress”): But . . . but, sir! Are you aware of the existence of the electromagnetic spectrum?

CURTAIN

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