Engineering Vision

As the Juvenile Instructor has also noted, we’ve received an invitation in the inbox:

The Claremont School of Religion, the LDS Council on Mormon Studies and the Mormon Scholars Foundation are pleased to present: “Parallels and Convergences: Mormon Thought and Engineering Vision,” a conference featuring keynote speaker Terryl Givens and a panel of LDS engineers.

This would seem an immensely interesting conference. I am not aware of this technologically-oriented perspective ever being explored in a conference before. Very exciting. Details are as follows:

Keynote Lecture by Terryl Givens: Friday, 6 March 2009 at 8pm
Conference: Saturday, 7 March 2009 10am-5pm, Albrecht Auditorium in Stauffer Hall, Claremont Graduate University
925 North Dartmouth Avenue, Claremont

Claremont is in California.

Additional information:

The conference seeks to expand the discussion of Latter-day Saint perspectives on the attributes of God and the potential of man by examining the possible resonance between Mormon and engineering thought. In Mormon thought, God is the architect of the Creation and the engineer of our bodies and spirits. Man, on the other hand, is believed to be capable of growing to become like God. The conference’s governing question is: Where does engineering fit in the convergence of these two realms?

A panel of LDS engineers will discuss topics that include materialism, free will, models of spirit matter, quantified morality, spiritual underpinnings for a space program, the New God Argument, God as a perfect engineer, technical interpretation of Mormon physiology, transhumanism, Gaia and the paradisiacal Earth, and technical advancement leading into the millennium.


  1. p.s. sorry guys who already commented on this and we lost your comments.

  2. I think there will probably be some discussion about the goals and ends of engineering – heal the sick, feed the poor, bring water to the masses, faster family search, etc.

    I hope, however, that there’s some discussion of means.

    How does an engineer behave? Is there a spirit of “I’m aiming for an optimal design, even when only me and my God will ever see it?” A great many technical geeks (think Slashdotters) worry about design issues, but cutting corners is rampant in any engineering organization. Are the engineering decisions that someone makes inspired by their faith? Is there a Mormon way to design systems?

    I know that for instance, MLS is designed with worldwide simplicity, flexibility, and language support, over “functionality”. Is this an ends-driven or means-driven decision (on its face, it’s ends-driven, but I wonder if there’s a larger meaning here).

    BYU’s CS program used to offer an Ethics and Computers in Society class, where we debated certain computational ethical situations and social issues. The lines between professional ethics and “gospel-inspired” behavior were frequently blurred.

  3. If God is the “architect” of creation and the “engineer of our bodies and spirits” then why doesn’t this conference include architects as well. The mindset of these two professions couldn’t be more different and I think it would be an interesting discussion. I know some folks who have degrees and work experience in both fields but it is usually difficult to maintain focused interest in both since they operate in such different manners.

  4. John Mansfield says:

    Nothing about irrigation?!? Maybe that comes under the paradisiacal Earth and technical advancement leading into the millennium.


    Bring your own Mountain Dew and bandwidth to the conference.

    Repeat, Bring your own Mountain Dew and bandwidth to the conference.

  6. John Mansfield says:

    If this conference had been scheduled two weeks earlier, it could have been part of National Engineers’ Week. Maybe it’s better this way; the engineering happiness stretches out more.

  7. Steve Evans says:

    Every week is engineers’ week.

  8. I would be interested to know what percentage of the participants are from academia and what percentage are actually working engineers.

    As a multiple degreed engineer, who has spent their most of their career in the field, this comes off as pretty hokey.

    I looked up Terryl Givens CV and his degrees are in Literature and Intellectual History (which I am almost proud to admit I had to confirm the implied definition). What topics does his keynote lecture cover?

    I have a hard time imagining how being an engineer would provide anything more than tangential special knowledge of any of the mentioned topics.

    The fact that so many of the topics mentioned are fringe/wannabe-protoscience just aggravates my skepticism. A D&D session with an academic seal of approval.

    My engineering analysis, a feel good nerd session with a net present value of 0.

  9. MAC – Your comment is exactly what I mean by the difference between architects and engineers. You guys are sooooo into the logic and reason of things and not enough into imagining what might be possible.

  10. I can think of at least a couple of things illuminated by engineering:

    1) Many people insist on a single truth.(Just look thorough the many posts on this site.)
    I’ve seen both Sun and SGI demo their virtual reality goggles which create virtual 3D worlds where you can interact with objects. Surely God can do this too.
    There is certainly no reason why one person has to experience the same reality as the next. I think of the JS quote “that which is right under one circumstance…is wrong in another…” (I’m not saying this interpretation of that quote is correct.)

    2) Many people denigrate things they can’t prove.
    The sophisticated Scientists that I’ve met realize that concepts of proof such as “double blind studies” and “repeatability” are of limited utility. Many phenomenon are not repeatable and many are not measurable in any meaningful way. We simply have very primitive measuring tools. It could be very useful to help people understand the constraints of “proof”.

    Anyway, I would enjoy seeing both those subjects explored in the context of Mormon understanding.

  11. One of the participants is an architect. There are both academics and practicing engineers on the panel, including NASA folks.

  12. . . . and, believe it or not, one of the practicing engineers on the panel is even an expert on irrigation (nod to John’s comment #4)!

  13. MAC, what you describe is a classic problem. Non-scientists want and need to understand what it is scientists do, but scientists like doing stuff, not talking about it. If you had to look up Terryl Givens, then clearly you are missing some essential knowledge for participating in the proposed conversation, just as, as you say, the non-scientists or theoreticians who are participating are missing the essential knowledge of applied engineering principles in which you are an expert.

    There are two possibilities: you can pronounce the conference hokey and I can be snide about the syntax of your comment, or we could be patient with each other’s deficiencies and try to learn something.

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