Church announces Twible will be used as headings for the LDS KJV Bible!

download (1) Well, not really. But they should.

Here at BCC we have issued few edicts. Certainly we have offered sage advice. Motherly wisdom and fatherly Knowsbestticisms. We have indeed cajoled. Pled. Perhaps even subtly tried to shame others into action. But now, I, under the authority granted me by the governing board (which has no idea what I’m up to), I am issuing an edict. I was going to offer a bull, like a papal bull, but a BCC bull. But I feared the jokes that would ensue about BCC bull and refrained. So to the edict. Go now one and all. Both high and low. Both blue and green. Both sour and sweet. And ride thee forth to procure a copy of BCC friend Jana Riess’ book, The Twible.

I recognize that some will be disinclined to follow edicts for edicts sake. To you stubborn souls I offer a modicum of reasons. The best reasons will be found by perusing the book itself. If you have followed Jana on twitter or Facebook than you know the hilarity of these bytes of wisdom as she offers up a tweet capturing the gist of each chapter of the bible. These are both funny and wise. Some forced me think more deeply about the text and made me see things in new ways. Others made me blow diet coke out of my nose.

So follow the edict or your good sense and go buy the book. I know what everyone on my list of good boys and girls is getting for Christmas. This. Go thou and do likewise.

The Great BCC Aphorism Contest!

foot-in-riverLike many of you are wont to do, one night I was curled up in a comfy chair reading Heraclitus and I came across his famous aphorism,

One cannot step twice into the same river . . .#91

(which actually I’ve done several times, so I’m not sure what he’s going on about). He had a few more that were not so famous, but equally memorable and aphoristic,

The way up and down is one in the same. #60

Very Zen. How about this one that left me fairly discouraged, but I’m nothing if not willing to recognize that, ‘If the shoe fits I need to face the music (wait, is that an aphorism too?)–Heraclitus writes,

Eyes and ears are bad witnesses for people who have barbarian souls. #107

Yawp! That hurt. [Read more...]

Death, the Fall, and Darwin: ‘That which is below is like that which is above’, Part 7 of 7

paintings_forest_artwork_fairytales_desktop_1920x1080_hd-wallpaper-781163In D&C 130 we learn:

2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.

Can we read that word ‘sociality’ a little more broadly? I would like to interpret it in an expansive way. A biological way. To look at levels of sociality matching the kinds of deep societies that make up every biological system—a  move that would make Hermes Trismegistus proud (the coiner of the aphorism, “Tis true without lying, certain & most true/That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below”). Sociality implies relationships among things, and in fact relationships among organisms and their environment is my area of study. We call it Ecology. [Read more...]

Death, the Fall, and Darwin: There are only imperfect triangles, Part 6 of 7

DSC05640Fasten your seat belts and hold on. The speculation coming may leave you with whiplash.

Take triangles. Most of us are tempted by the idea that there is some perfect realm where triangles in their formalwear are eking out an eternal existence being flawless and sitting beyond the ravages of time and circumstance.

Plato laid this out nicely with his sense that there was a world of perfect forms or ideas that stamped the shape of things that got instantiated in this world as particulars. The form of the ‘good’ or maybe ‘beauty’ stood as the form of the forms. This got taken as God. Existing up there (I’m pointing up) as the one pure being. Like the triangles, only rather than perfect sides, angles and such, he held all perfections including perfect being—sort of a really advanced trianglely sort of thing only better. And beyond time, where time is some ‘river’ that flows forward but which can be circumvented by this perfect being and who is its source rather than something embedded in it. Time is down here. With us. Not with him—the God of triangles. Oh and these perfect ideal formal triangles escape time too, just like all the Platonic forms. [Read more...]

Death, the Fall, and Darwin: On the innocence of hyenas, Part 5 of 7

In 2 Nephi 2, Jacob receives instruction from Lehi. In a metaphysical discussion he discusses aspects of spiritual reality, specifically the conditions necessary to establish righteousness. He says:

 11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

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Death, the Fall, and Darwin: The Only Absolute: There are no absolutes, Part 4 of 7

One more thing to do before we frame an evolutionary interpretation of the Fall—we must destroy absolutes. Absolutes seem antithetical to much of Mormon theology. Ideas such as embodiment, temporality, gendered deities, the agential nature of existence, the implications of emergence, and a god who weeps seem to be antithetical to the God of classic monothesism. Much of the neoplatonism upon which much of Christianity rests, relies on a set of absolutes that misdirect our Mormony gaze in ways that have allowed things like arguments from creation ex nihilo that structure many current creationist leanings to have crept into our creation narratives. Modern creationism seems to fly in the face of what we have discovered about the universe. [Read more...]

Death, the Fall, and Darwin: Emergence bubbling up, Part 3.5 of 7

bee hive utahA little more on Niche theory might be useful:

Niche theory introduces the possibility of emergence. Let me be careful with that word because it has come to mean many things to many people and tends to be a fraught concept. I am defining it in the sense of Mark Badau (Not Badiou mind you). Badau argues for three concepts of emergence. In all three types, the foundational concept of emergence is the idea that a property is emergent if it is a property that can be possessed by the macro scale, which cannot be possessed by the micro scale. The classic example of this is the property liquidity possessed by water in a bucket, but is not possessed by a single water molecule. He then breaks this down into three kinds of emergence, nominal, weak and strong. [Read more...]

Death, the Fall, and Darwin: Badiou Company and the Void, Part 3 of 7

DSC_4253In his book Being and Event, Badiou construes ontology to be based upon set theoretic elements, principally the void, the empty set which provides a foundation for all subsequent set manipulations. He focuses especially on the ‘belongs to’ operator, and the notion of set itself—a collection of elements. He sees being as such is multiple in the sense that it is not decomposable into a countable set (you can’t map a being into one-one relationship with the natural numbers), they can be element of a set or or as he calls it a ‘count-as-one’. His thought is rich and complex and I don’t want to explore it fully here, but I do want to tap into his notion of an event. [Read more...]

Death, the Fall, and Darwin: Roman Legions of Death, Part 2 of 7

Faulconer appleSo to begin. Assume that the story that science tells is tout court correct. That humans evolved from apelike ancestors and have existed as a species for roughly two-hundred thousand years and became behaviorally modern about fifty-thousand years ago. They have been living and dying for almost eight-thousand generations.

Dying. What do I mean by that? Actually, it can mean a lot of things. For example, it can mean the cessation of living. Scripturally it can also mean a number of things. Paul’s letter to Romans is a great place to start. No I take that back, Jim Faulconer’s book on Romans is a great place to start. Look at the attached photo It shows the index entries for ‘death’ in his book on Romans giving a short peek into the way Paul uses the word. [Read more...]

Death, the Fall, and Darwin: A More Harmonious Reading, Part 1 of 7

DSCN1646‘There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!’ snarled Voldemort.
‘You are quite wrong.’ said Dumbledore . . .

—————– Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. p. 718
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One of the key challenges in defining a post-Darwinian LDS theology is that of the Fall. The Fall is considered one of the foundational pillars of Mormon doctrine (as Bruce R. McConkie has often argued). This because the Fall is what provides the backdrop for the necessity of the Atonement, another foundational LDS doctrinal pillar. [Read more...]

Questions

What if the prophets are right and wickedness will cause the destruction of the last days? But what if it’s not indirect causation such that people are wicked therefore God looking down smites the Earth? What if the wickedness itself causes the destruction? What if the seas are heaving themselves beyond their bound** because the wicked are using up the resources of the Earth in wicked ways: selfish, unnecessary, greedy, used to adorn the flesh of a few, and to vaunt vanity? [Read more...]

New evidence of fossil origins

article-1234473-060777D70000044D-378_468x317I suppose that yesterday’s paper in Nature deserves to be more broadly known, because it has some implications for the faith/science debate. A brief outline is in order. Beardy Card’s lab at MIT has completed the most extensive dark matter (DM) analysis ever done. As we’ve learned dark matter (an unidentified form of matter) is found throughout the universe in great abundance. Dark matter detectors were pioneered by Card and this is the first analysis of the DM contained within our planet ever conducted. The results are stunning. In a news release Card says, “We are still reeling over this, but there can be little doubt that we’ve done the analysis correctly. It’s been confirmed in six independent labs and they are all reporting the same finding. [Read more...]

Science is so cool. You are part Neanderthal!

Q_and_PicardHow deeply I love studying the wonders of the universe. There was a report of a four billion light year across object! That’s 4,000,000,000 light years! Not miles. Lightyears! I watched a show on PBS last night that talked about the recent complete sequencing the the Neanderthal genome. A species near our own, but vastly different, and guess what? Unless you are from Africa, from one to four percent of your genome is Neanderthal! African populations missed this introgression. Now that’s genealogy! (If you don’t believe this, I would encourage you to become an activist demanding the release of all death row inmates convicted on DNA evidence. It’s of the same type.) [Read more...]

Trillim Cooks Emily Dickinson’s Black Cake

Well, the year is ending, and with it comes the end of my posting Trillim’s work on BCC, much to the sorrow of both of you reading them. I gave myself until the end of the year to post those I thought most amenable to separate short (ha ha) postings. I will go back to more regular posts (I’ve actually been on a bit of hiatus), with diatribes on Climate Change, Evolution, and Ecology as I sees her.

However the Trillim work continues and I hope a volume of selections from the Trillim Archives will appear in the near future. However, the other entries are far longer even than the longer postings I’ve provided. These will likely be removed should the Archive go to press, so read them soon. They may be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and a recent book can be found here.

The following was written shortly after her cruise to Rome in which she discovered what people-objects were, and prior to Trillim’s losing her right hand and her two year imprisonment in Southeast Asia. As always her life’s work has been to explore the connections between things: People, ecologies, and objects of all types large and small. This is one of my favorites because of the pictures that scholars found in an envelope tucked in her journal.
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Gilda Trillim on her ‘Melancholia’

After her return from the Soviet Union, Gilda seems to have fallen into depression. Her friend Babs Lake took her on an Atlantic Cruise that sailed from Boston to Rome to try and break her from its chains. During that time her spirits lifted significantly. She was reading Moby Dick at the time and this was found folded in her hardback copy of the book. It is a fascinating peep into the things she was thinking at the time and would later inform her fiction. It is believed by most Trilliam scholars that this was written about two days into the voyage. The adventures of Trillim can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and a recent book can be found here.
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Gilda Trillim and the freedom to trap muskrats

Conibear_model_220_body-gripping_trap,_set.After reading Jacob’s post Creation Out of Givenness I remembered something that Gilda Trillim had written (whose life on an alternative time line has been detailed on these pages). After scouring her archives I found this. I include it here, again not to be read (it’s nearly 6000 words, far too long for a blog post, so please, please, remember that this was not put up to be read, I think my fellow bloggers would be quite put out if I left the impression that these long excursions into nonsense were to be thought of as one of BCC’s high quality offerings. Even their patience has its limits.), but rather this is placed here to archive her adventures because in our universe she has not existed but should have. The adventures of Trillim can be found here, here, here, here, here, and a recent book can be found here.

Notes for Gilda’s Novel Muskrat Trap
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Gilda Trillim explores an animated world

A new letter from Gilda Trillim was discovered in an estate sale in Los Angeles, tucked in a copy of one of her books. I had to share it, even though I have little doubt that Gilda is wearing out her welcome in the Bloggernacle (she is certainly not to everyone’s taste). It’s long and I would not read it if I were you. I am placing these here mostly to assemble an archive that allows future Mormon ficstorians to discover her. Still this one opens interesting questions that are worth exploring.

Dear Babs,

I lost the second match and am out. I’m feeling a little blue and empty today. I can almost hear you telling me (in your musical lilting voice) to stop moping and turn to a good book. I will. I promise. Literature has always been my healing balm, the life preserver thrown onto the surface of my hurricanes, and you are right, or the you I imagine telling me to read anyway. I need to find a book that will take me out of this world and plant me in another. Such worlds I have no doubt are as real as this one. Just because it finds its existence principally in my head, does not mean that that astral plane is less real than this one. For all I know I may be a fictitious character in the head of another being who exists on another sphere of existence. I picture him now, a biology professor perhaps, living in the mountains of the west, struggling to make sense of my life as a character in one of his fictions, wondering who I am and how I have come to capture his imagination, the two of us moving in a dance of meaning across the worlds, worlds different in ontology and subjectivity, each of us imprinting on the other new realities and new ways of understanding what it means to be. Surely there is room for multiple realities each playing with and constructing things from the snippets of what reality we each can claim. Am I mad? Or is he? Who can say?
[Read more...]

A Call to Stewardship Conference at BYU

The Environmental Ethics Initiative at BYU is holding a conference with a stellar lineup of speakers, including Margaret Palmer, Professor at the University of Maryland in the Department of Entomology and in the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES); Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota; and J. Baird Callicott, University Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and formerly Regents Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Texas. [Read more...]

Gilda Trillim Studies Junk Drawer Ecology in Skjolden, Norway

My research into Trillim’s life can be found here, here, here, here, and a recent book can be found here. This letter was just donated to the Trillim Archives in Beijing. It was undated, but its authenticity is beyond reproach. Handwriting analysis, stable isotope analysis of paper and ink, and most compelling, a mention of the letter in a letter from Babs to her mother (referred to as “that crazy junk drawer letter) all confirm it is real. On a small grant from the Trillim Studies Foundation, I traveled to Skjolden and confirm that a small farmhouse, which was owned by a family named Vermeulen, once stood on the site up the valley from the town.

Dear Babs, [Read more...]

Gilda Trillim Paints an Apple Seed in the Urals

Possible picture of Gilda Trillim in the convent garden.

Trillim’s work continues to fascinate me. My research into her life can be found here, here, here and a recent book can be found here. Her impossible story continues to raise questions about whether she is real. Of course, she is real. She has been as historically validated as Helen of Troy or Don Quixote or any other figure from history.

A largely unknown piece of Gilda Trillim’s life was uncovered due to some remarkable detective work by Chinese scholar Yuan Mei. He has been relentless in pursuing information on the ‘lost year’ as it is known in Trillim studies. The story of his discovery is worth a book or even a novel in-and-of-itself as his researches have taken him from rural Idaho to the base of the Ural Mountains. [Read more...]

A letter to Babs Lake from Gilda Trillim shortly after the Uber Cup in 1957

I found the following fascinating letter in the Trillim Archives in Beijing during my last research trip there. Her speculations are perhaps a little too bold, but do seem to portend certain trends in Mormon Theology we see today. It was written to Babs Lake and dated May, 19 1957. It’s intriguing to me because she draws on the work of Henri Bergson, the French/Polish philosopher whose work has fascinated me for a number of years. Bergson would have been much more well-known in 1957 than he is today, but her tying his work to Mormon thought and theology reflects an extraordinarily deep understanding of contemporaneous evolutionary philosophy.
[Read more...]

My Turn on Earth

Some of Gilda Trillim’s papers at the archive

Continuing my research into the life and writing Gilda Trillim, I found the following theological poem in one of her high school notebooks. While the title appears to be tongue-in-cheek and added years after she wrote this, the rest seems like the kind of poetic theology that Adam Miller calls for. What’s astonishing is she seems to anticipate many current issues—like intelligent design creationism. While as a biologist I cannot speak to her poetics, her biology is really quite up to snuff and modern. The centrality in this work of a plan of salvation that draws on evolution seems to anticipate my own papers on the issue years ahead of their appearance (and let me be clear, I had not read Trillim prior to writing my Dialogue article or I certainly would have cited her).

I’m not really sure what this is. It seems to be a play of sorts? A hymn of praise in places? Poetry? It’s difficult to classify and outside of the writing Trillim usually does with her minimalist novels. There is a maudlin quality, typical of such reimaginings of the Preexistence, but nonetheless this seems to explore things like consciousness and free will in interesting, if ultimately facile ways. Here is her play (or whatever). [Read more...]

Grace and the Literature of Gilda Trillim

This Saturday the Association for Mormon Letters will have its annual meeting. In support of their work, I would like explore one of Mormon literature’s most important pioneers, although you are unlikely to have heard of her since, sadly, her reputation within the LDS community has largely fallen off. Also unfortunate is that interest in her among American literary critics as also waned since its peak in the late 70s. Still, there continues a steady stream of dissertations, theses, and papers discussing her work. Despite her star setting somewhat in the West, she yet has a large following in China, where a major retranslation of some of her best work was just released this week in Beijing. However, her largest influence continues to be found in Ethiopia where certain aspects of her work seem to speak to the Ethiopian Orthodox mind with more affinity than anywhere else in the world. It was in fact in Addis Ababa working on tsetse fly research that I first came upon the work of Gilda Trillim. [Read more...]

Some Thoughts on Icelandic Sea Captain Elder Arnfinnur Skáldskapur

I’ve not been big on history, but of late I’ve decided to take a page from some of my BCC comrades and try my hand at a bit of historical research.
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President Monson on the set of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit

BCC is pleased to be the first to bring you the exciting news that President Monson as been asked to play Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s new movie ‘The Hobbit.’ Because the previously slated actor had a contract dispute, President Monson has agreed to fill the role. Here in an exclusive interview are the details.

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Literalism as Gormenghast

The Marvin Peake’s book opens with the 77th Earl of Groan about to judge elaborate wooden carvings. The people that live outside the walls of the sprawling castle Gormenghast live for one purpose, to have their art chosen and placed in the Hall of the Bright Carvings. The carvers live in squalor. They are bitter and angry. Dark of mind and heart. However, they make art from the wood that grows in the surrounding area. The carvings are of such wonder and rarity that to see one is to fall in love with it. [Read more...]

The Perception of American Ignorance

New Scientist magazine earlier this month ran a special report called: “Unscientific America: A dangerous retreat from reason.” (If you are unfamiliar with the highly respected New Scientist it is a newsweekly for and by scientists, much like The Economist that examines stories, trends and analyses in science. It is published in Great Britain.) It opens, “As campaigning for the 2012 presidential election gets into full swing. US politics, especially on the right, appears to have entered a parallel universe where ignorance, denial and unreason trump facts, evidence and rationality.” It points out that while America was founded on enlightenment values it as fallen off the wagon (And while the dizzy argue about whether the founding fathers were Christian, there is no doubt that they were profoundly educated and versed in the best science, philosophy and theory available at the time). One doesn’t have to listen very far into the current political debates to see that America is in deep doo doo as its commitment to science slips further and further into an allegiance of the unenlightened and the uninformed.
[Read more...]

Expectations for the Celestial Kingdom

“I can feel so unsexy for someone so beautiful
So unloved for someone so fine
I can feel so boring for someone so interesting
So ignorant for someone of sound mind”

Alanis Morissette — Unsexy

While in graduate school, I fell into a dark place. I was doing everything badly. In every aspect of my life I was failing. I was a lousy father, a bad student, and a terrible Teacher’s Quorum Advisor, and a miserable employee. Our fourth son had just been born and we had taken out student loans to pay for the tyke, so I was overwhelmed by my sense that somehow God was frowning at me for going into debt although he was the one demanding not to put off having children for my education—the classic don’t eat of the fruit/multiply and replenish the earth contradiction. So there I was working full time (yes full time) for the EPA, going to school full time (yes full time), serving in a demanding church calling, and trying to be a good father to my four boys. And I was failing miserably at all of them. Still I struggled on. Until one day. [Read more...]

Natural Theology

The subheadings for fourteen RS/Priesthood/YM/YW lessons on God gleaned from Natural Theology

I. God is far too complex to understand. Too intricate. Too magnificent. Too cold and pitiless like the blank places between galaxies. Hotter than the nuclear engines of massive suns. Too far. Too close. Neither microscopes nor telescopes can contain, compress, nor bring Him near or drive him away. [Read more...]

The Darwin Seminar at BYU

This semester over thirty faculty members gathered for a reading group sponsored by the BYU Faculty Center. I led the group in its reading of Conor Cunningham’s book Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get It Wrong. Cunningham is a Catholic theologian at the University of Nottingham. The thesis of the book is that both the evangelical atheists (e.g., Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc.) are wrong in their attacks on faith and that their arguments are based on a caricature of religion that are largely incoherent. Conversely, he argues the Christian Fundamentalist creationists, including the cleverly-named, but silly, pseudoscience, Intelligent Design movement, is a religious and spiritual disaster. Cunningham argues that we can have a faithful religious embrace of evolutionary biology. In short, we can do both good science and good religion. BCC’s own BHodges gives a wonderful review of the book here so I won’t go too much more into the book, but instead focus on the seminar itself. I think it marks a historic moment at BYU and deserves a little attention. [Read more...]

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