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Is Intelligent Design A Theory?

If I have some reservations about Darwinism as a good theory, what can we say about intelligent design? Let me first try to describe it. Intelligent Design theory says that there are too many interdependent parts in metabolism for these changes to evolve gradually. They call this irreducible complexity, and it’s pretty easy to imagine. A half an axle, half of a cell phone, are not half as useful as a whole one, they are entirely worthless. Intelligent Design advocates point to a great number of complex processes in life, from cellular motors to oxygen exchange in hemoglobin, and say that these things cannot develop incrementally. A cellular motor that barely works, or a hemoglobin that doesn’t exchange oxygen, is worse than nothing. It confers no evolutionary advantage and in some cases will kill you altogether. How do you get all this complicated machinery to develop gradually, in stepwise fashion?

A lot of these things have to work together, and very well, or they don’t work at all, and the organism ends up dead. So how do you suddenly “evolve” all of that stuff at once? The suggestion is, you can’t. And while Intelligent Design theory concedes that species do adapt in response to natural selection, the most important parts are too important, and too complex, to evolve gradually and randomly. The implication is (and this is very much an implication; rarely do they come out and say it) , those key parts were not evolved, they were designed. And then, depending on how much you credit some of their statements, ID advocates either leave it there, or they mean to say this proves the existence of a Creator.

The biggest problem with this formulation is it isn’t even a theory. Read more »

1 Nephi 14:3 and Punctuation

Punctuation is important.  The Book of Mormon uses dashes/hyphens quite a bit and the choice of an em dash versus an en dash makes a significant difference in how a particular passage may be read, pronounced and understood.

One particular construction in 1 Nephi Chapter 14:3 effectively demonstrates the difference and we should be careful how we read this verse out loud in the home or at church.

1 Nephi 14:3
And that great pit, which hath been digged for them by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell—yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God; not the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end.

The Lost Keys

Maybe you were thinking this was some deep analogy or historical treatise on the Priesthood keys. Nope, just a story about some lost car/house keys and the never ending search. I flew from Boston to Newark on Monday this past week. When I returned at around 11PM, I walked out to my car and I could not find my keys anywhere. I had to take a cab home that night. Luckily (I guess), I was flying out the next day to Washington DC so I could bring my wifes keys and retrieve the car.

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Not your ordinary grounds crew poetry

Hey a new anthology of BYU Grounds Crew poetry came across my desk this week, and I thought I’d review it for the blog. I must confess I haven’t always been a huge fan of Grounds Crew Poetry; sometimes it’s just too angry for me. I mean, I understand no one’s making a million dollars working for grounds crew at BYU, and that it’s an awesome responsibility keeping the grounds as neat and tidy as they are. But still, I thought last year’s anthology Grounds Crew Poetry: A Voice of Oppression was taking it a bit too far. Dedicated to capturing the “irreducible varieties of a life of labor lived by the often forgotten or ignored landscape maintenancers amongst us,” the tone of the poems was openly provocative, such as in the following:
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Bloggernacle Knows Best

What, if anything, has improved in your Church or religious practice because of reading the Bloggernacle? Read more »

Is Darwinian Evolution [Just] A Theory?

You’ll hear some opponents of Darwinian evolution say this sometimes, and it makes me laugh. If Darwinian evolution is merely a theory, that is small comfort. After all, gravity is “just” a theory, but for all that, gravity can mess with you pretty bad when you take a stroll off a third-floor balcony.

My beef with Darwinian evolution isn’t that it’s “just” a theory. It’s that it’s become more than a theory for some. A good theory, according to Karl Popper, should be falsifiable. Yet if we concede (unlike the Creationists) that the Earth is older than 6,000 years, that species can be created and go extinct at times other than the creation and the flood, and that species themselves can change over time and adapt to their environments, then can we still be absolutely sure that the only mechanism of species creation and change is Darwinian natural selection? How would we know if other mechanisms are operating sometimes?

All too often, Darwinian evolution functions as a heuristic, or a rule of thumb, rather than as a theory. A theory should help us make predictions, and certainly Darwinian evolution makes plenty of predictions. But most often, Darwinian evolution seems to preordain its own conclusion and then the “proof” is actually sought to show how natural selection produced the observed result.

As an example, let us consider how the leopard got its spots. Read more »

Mardi Gras

Today is Mardi Gras, otherwise celebrated as Pancake Day (note the BIG difference in celebrations between the Carnival-throwing French-speakers and the bread-eating English speakers). So heat up those gridles, head to IHOP for free pancakes, or make yourself a King Cake (FYI: the requisite little plastic babies can be bought in the baby shower/wedding aisle at Wal-Mart).
Mardi Gras float
If we were a Lent celebrating people, what would you give up?

Eeny Meeny Miny Mo…Pick a Missionary by the toe

Last night, 2 sister missionaries knocked on my door. I had seen them at Church, but they wanted to meet everyone in the ward. They are newly assigned. And I realized something: I am ALWAYS happy to have sister missionaries assigned to my ward.

If I had to choose, I would rather have Sisters working in my ward than Elders.

What about you? Why?

[I would have done this as a poll so people don’t have to identify themselves, but I have been trying to figure out how to embed a poll here for a year and have entirely failed. Sorry.]

Support for Darwinian Evolution in LDS Scriptures

This month is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. I thought it would be interesting to post some thoughts about Darwin and what he has spawned, but I’ll break it up into smaller posts. The first question I’d like to consider is, do the scriptures provide any support for his theory, or does it truly deserve the fierce objections some (though not all) LDS people have directed at him? I will list here four areas where I think the scriptures support Darwinian evolution.

Before we start I do need to briefly describe the theory of Darwinian evolution. It is meant to describe how different species get created. It says that due to limited resources, disease, predation, only certain individuals survive to reproduce the next set of offspring. Various random variations happen which, if they improve that individual’s ability to survive to reproduction, will then also get passed on. (Darwin had no idea how; we had to wait until Watson & Crick discovered the structure of DNA.) Species adapt in order to best exploit the available resources locally. When Darwin described it as “the survival of the fittest” he meant “fit” in the same way your clothes fit. He didn’t mean necessarily the survival of the strongest or smartest or fastest, but the survival of the individuals who were best adapted to their immediate environment would be most likely to survive–and sometimes being weak, slow, and dumb is an advantage.

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One is the Loneliest Number

Brother X is a pretty good guy: he served a mission, married, served his country, multiplied and replenished the earth, became a teacher and a reservist, sent kids on missions and off to be married. You get the idea–you’d probably be happy to have him as your home teacher or neighbor.

Last year, though, he did something that surprised some people. Read more »

Temple Dedication Advertising: Yay or Nay?

I’ve seen this sign placed at parking lot exit locations for two of the three parking lots used by those attending the Draper Temple dedication.  Personally I find them to be as tasteless as the food at Guadalahonky’s.  Of course this is the establishment that for years put up “I get gas at Guad’s” billboards on I-15, so it isn’t as if they have a track record of tastefulness.
Guadalahonky Sign

A Brief Thought on Belief and Chickens

On my mission in Belgium, Brussels I was transferred to Metz in the Moselle/Lorraine area of France. We began teaching a very bright recent convert the integration lessons. She had a very strong testimony and made a wonderful point that has stuck with me over the years. “Everyone says they believe but that they don’t practice. That makes no sense. It’s like saying, ‘I raise chickens but I don’t give them anything to eat.'”

So: Have you fed your chickens today? Read more »

Octuplet Mom Getting Death Threats???

Whatever one may think of the Octuplet mom from California, I am amazed that people (ok sadly not surprised though) would have so much hate that they would issue death threats – see the Larry King interview with her ex-PR representative.

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My New Least Favorite Primary Song

“The Family Is Of God” is my least favorite primary song now. We are learning it for the 2009 Sacrament Meeting Presentation. When we started to learn it, I really liked the first verse, but the second and third verses make me want to puke.

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Cramming for Childbirth

Circa 1988: I have my first experience with seriously procrastinated homework and end up doing my math problems by flashlight long after I’m supposed to be asleep.

June 1996: I decide to audition for high school graduation speaker and find myself writing my speech during 6th period journalism, about 20 minutes before the try-outs.

March 2003: Determined to graduate with Honors from BYU but hopelessly far behind on my Great Works requirements, I marathon through about 12 hours in the Lee Library basement computer lab, “reminding” myself (via Wikipedia) of the plots, characters, themes, and criticism of about 50 novels, plays, operas, and films.

June 2005: Fifteen minutes away from defending my master’s thesis, I copy and paste a hodge-podge of relevant quotations, dates, and events into a handout to give to my committee—the handout that is supposed to serve as the overall outline for my presentation. The handout may be (but probably isn’t) spell-checked before I print it off and sprint down the hall to my advisor’s office.

February 17, 2009: At 39.9 weeks pregnant, I turn my back on the disorganized nursery, dirty dishes, and unanswered mail and decide that this is the perfect time to recommence my blogging activity.

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Be My Valentine

Since we cannot mention the holidays that are actually meaningful to our students in public schools anymore, we make a big deal out of the ones left over: Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, and (St.) Valentine’s Day. We even made up our own, Hundreds Day, which marks the one hundredth day of school in the school year.

So today, all the kids will come to school armed with their obligatory Valentines to distribute to those in their class. Read more »

Happy V-Day – My Favorite Chocolate

What is your favorite chocolate? For me it depends on the situation. I must admit that sometimes M&Ms are just a nice treat, particularly the peanut ones, if I am just needed a quick snack. However, if I want some quality chocolate that just melts in my mouth with a plethora of wonderful flavors, there is nothing like a Lindt truffle – oh the peanut butter or mint ones are to die for if they are just a little warm! I really enjoy them after dinner – perhaps like some people enjoy wine. What is your favorite chocolate?


Today, without trying, I became a better person.
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Funniest Movie Prayer Poll

The other night my three-year-old expressed thanks in his prayer for the movies Air Bud and Space Jam. I think there are prayers about movies that can be funny, but are movie prayers funny? Are attempts to make prayers humorous in movies sacrilegious? I’ve narrowed the field down to two prayers for your consideration. Greg Focker’s prayer in Meet the Parents, and Ricky Bobby’s prayer in Taledega Nights. Text and video links are included. Please vote below. Nominations for other movie prayers are welcome. Read more »

Guilt Trip Down Memory Lane

When I was seven, I learned that I had been born into the worst generation of Church-going youth ever. While I personally was downright angelic, my peers included two Tamaras, each red-headed and firery, and some twin boys: Asher and Simeon. Our church building was short on rooms so our class met in a largish room with a few other classes, one each in a corner; of course, the set-up was ideal for distractions, coupled with kids who had sat through 2 hours of meetings and were generally the age of goofy. And one Sunday, we broke the teacher. Read more »

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