Live Blogging Gill on Global Warming

Today the Utah Valley Sierra Forum will host BYU climatologist Richard Gill at the Provo Library. The talk is called ‘Global Warming: Fact or Fiction?

I will be live blogging this event at 7:00 PM MST so be ready for a good discussion. (If for some reason I can’t get internet access, I’ll post my notes later that evening.)

Ok, we are live. (Note I’m not going to pay attention to spelling or grammar in the interest of keeping the experience going!)

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The Future Robot Mission to Wyoming

With the end of Battlestar Galactica fresh on our minds, it’s a good time to reassess the place of robots in Mormonism. [Read more…]

Irreducible Complexity Power

So in the late Middle Ages there was this twisted group of clerics (and entire underworld of them it turns out) who wanted information from God. But they felt the Deity was being a little cagey about dispensing with his almighty power and wisdom, so they put on their thinking caps and pondered, ‘How can we get God’s knowledge when he won’t tell us any of the really useful info we want to know?” Well, they came up with a creative albeit malevolent solution that didn’t even involve God. Ask demons! [Read more…]

On the Improbability of Miracles

Last week a friend of mine’s daughter went through the temple for the first time. These are not ordinary friends. These are the kind of deep friends who you’ve been through a lot with. Friends who know your deepest secrets. The kind of friends that would stay back and help push your wagon out of the mud despite everyone else having gone on, leaving you to the arrows and elements. Friends who you know will always be there for you, and you for them. [Read more…]

The Archeology of my Bookcase

If you want to endear yourself to me when you come over to my house for the first time, notice and peruse my living room bookcase. My real bookcases are downstairs in my basement, but the two you see as you enter my door are a convocation of carefully chosen books designed to reveal things about me. [Read more…]

Why BIV would totally have slept with with JS. Polyandry Part II

I remember as an undergraduate walking to school with a friend. He was fairly newly married, and I was yet to have found ‘the one.’ Apparently, he was fresh from an argument with his wife. I pointed out that at least he had one. He dismissed my idealistic view of marriage and complained that that was not the way it was. He said that he could not wait to get to heaven where he would have several wives so that when one was being contrary [Read more…]

I refuse to believe that polyandry was practiced in Nauvoo: Part I

So seeing all the fuss about Nauvoo polygamy, I thought to myself, history schmistory, let’s talk biology. Biologists know plenty of titillating facts about reproductive strategies—including polygamy and polyandry! However, watch out, biologists tend to be ribald and earthy in these descriptions so if you tend towards reserved euphemisms in your discussions about what the ‘stork brings’ and the ‘nether parts’ of the body stop reading now. You are duly warned that I will splash some rather unsettling biology across the page. [Read more…]

Four Minutes of Meaning

In Terry Eagleton’s new addition to Oxford’s, A Very Short Introduction series, The Meaning of Life, he adds a footnote to the following sentence, “Many of the readers of this book, however, are likely to be as skeptical of the phrase ‘the meaning of life’ as they are of Santa Claus. It seems a quaint sort of notion, at once homespun and portentous, fit for satirical muling by the Monty Python team.” [Read more…]

Picard and Bergson on Christmas

There is a scene in the movie Star Trek Generations in which Picard the captain of the Enterprise finds himself in the most wonderful Christmas celebration ever depicted in film. It blows It’s a Wonderful Life‘s final scene out of the water. Light snow is falling outside, and a cozy fire is seen on the hearth. [Read more…]

No food before the meal: The fable of the powerful kitchen witch.

Once there lived a powerful witch. Everyone knew that by a wave of her birch wand she could do just about anything. Everyone also knew she was a very good witch. She would never lie and was always honest with her dealings with her sister witches. She was as ethical as could be and lived by president Kimball’s teaching that a lie was any communication sent to deceive. She never lied. [Read more…]

It’s Raining Men: Celestial Demographics (again)

A couple of disclaimers about this post. First, the following estimations are just extra-fancy back-of-the-envelope calculations. They have not been subject to peer review and should not be taken as a rigorous analysis. I can tell you now the analysis is as full of mistakes as my text is spelling errors and I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to find them both. The post is meant more along the lines of “Wow: Here is something to think about.” Also, I published this for 8 hours in August and several people pointed out that this had all been done before by the Committee on Celestial Demographics in Dialogue. My numbers, methods, and sources are a little different than theirs. Why am I publishing this now? Peer pressure.

I was reading on BCC about a questionnaire given at the FAIR conference that said that the number one worry of church members is celestial polygamy. Now there are lots of things to worry about (like Global Warming) [Read more…]

Thank our lucky stars

I was wandering around some of the less frequented halls of UN building here in Vienna and discovered a moon rock. It was sitting in an obscure wing that I’d never before visited, on a pedestal encased in a hefty clear resin pyramid. The rock was about as big as my eleven year old daughter’s fist—Sparkly black with a barnacle-like gray ball of stony colored rock protruding from one side of the darker crystalline matrix. [Read more…]

Office training

At the UN, where I’m doing my sabbatical right now, it’s much the same everyday. First, we plot how to get blue-helmeted peacekeeping troops in La Verkin (which as you know declared itself a UN-Free Zone) and then toast the election of Obama and the coming new world order.

Seriously, it’s the office training that I enjoy. I suppose anywhere you work you have to go through some orientation on how to handle the day-to-day problems that might crop up during an average workday. [Read more…]

Trails of a Bad Spellor

Picture a small boy. A pleasant lad, standing in sixth grade against a classroom wall. His classmates are lined shoulder to shoulder, faces forward, anticipation and determination gracing their eager faces. A list of words is proffered down the line, one to each child who, in turn, must spell back the word in clearly enunciated English. The words are easy at first. In the first pass none are expected to be asked to sit down. The first group of words are part of the ‘confidence building’ round. But as the first-round word reaches our young man, he stammers a bit, trying hard, but it is to no avail. He can’t spell it. He is asked to sit. He sits alone for four more passes through every child in the line before [Read more…]

Evolutionist / Creationist Smackdown!

Now that the election is over it’s time to turn to other things like EVOOOOOOLUTION MAINIA. So it’s time to go head to head in a blog spectacular heavyweight smack-down! In this corner, the post on evolution at mormonsandscience—Hardcore rabid anti-evolutionists. In the other corner, Dave Bailey’s post at the Mormon Organon, where the enlightened pro-evolution theists boldly proclaim the truth. In this first round I take on: [Read more…]

Forgive my optimism

It’s not like I’ve not been to Czechoslovakia before. Back when I was serving in the US Cavalry (and despite what my kids think I did not ride a horse and rescue settlers) we would sometimes get out of our small fast cavalry tanks and patrol the Czech boarder on foot, following old snow-covered footpaths through cold, fog enshrouded forests. We would occasionally pass white stone boarder markers, in size about six inches square and standing a little less than knee high, which marked the boundary between West Germany and Czechoslovakia. At one of these markers while my sergeant wasn’t looking I stuck my foot inside the border. [Read more…]

No death before the rye

The ‘Galileo affair’ is often replayed as a morality tale about irrational religion vs. enlightenment science. The truth is that it was a little more complex than that. Galileo was a firm believer in God. He was a good Catholic in fact. He believed the church was true. However, he ran afoul of the Pope in some, well, not to put too fine a point on it, ways that he should have seen coming. [Read more…]

How Willow helped me teach my sons the ‘facts of life’

I found the following at a website for a Magazine called New Moon Girls. It is written by and for girls age 8 to 14 and this was in a section called “Ask a Girl.

    Dear Ask a Girl,
    I’m 13 and I think I’m bisexual. I’ve liked boys before, but now I have a crush on a girl. This girl keeps me awake at night and I can’t seem to keep myself from thinking about what others would say if I asked her out. I know she supports homosexuality, and so does my family. I adore her so much it hurts sometimes! I would really like to ask her to be my girlfriend, but I am so worried about what she’ll say or do. This has been going on for two months and the headaches and stomachaches are getting worse! HELP!
    Claire, 13

You can imagine my reaction! This was for preteen girls! And you are correct if you guessed I immediately pulled out [Read more…]

Astrid grills a phone-missionary about evolution

The following is a dialogue my friend Astrid sent me between herself and a Missionary (both names changed) manning the church’s live chat at

    Astrid: Do you believe in Evolution?

    Charles: hi, how are you

    Astrid: do you believe in Evolution?

    Astrid: is anyone there? [Read more…]

Should we teach our children that God is our mechanic?

Read the following Matt and Mandy from the Aug 2008 Friend. Between the penultimate panel and the last one what happened? Here are some possibilities. Let’s assume that the car is not running for a mechanical reason and that there is a physical cause for its not starting. What are the possibilities in the missing panel? Let’s consider three: [Read more…]

Some things too sacred to share

Too sacred to share. I’ve been thinking about that for a few days as I readied a post on my faith-science blog that for a long time fell into the category for me. I changed my mind. There was some discomfort with it because we run across the words ‘too sacred to share”, but I’m not sure what they mean. Here are a couple of uses I pulled up on a search on the Church’s web site: [Read more…]

The Dead Thing in My Can of Tuna

Guest Blogger, Steven Peck is an associate professor and evolutionary ecologist at BYU who blogs on issues of science and faith at the Mormon Organon. He is currently doing a year sabbatical with the United Nations in Vienna, Austria working on African tsetse fly population ecology.

After class one day, I guiltily grabbed one of those over-packaged lunches so indispensable for those in a hurry to gulp down something quickly. This one was canned tuna salad and crackers. I felt guilty at the amount of unnecessary material piling up as I squirreled through the packaging to find my meal. [Read more…]

Steadying the Ark

My two weeks of guest blogging is about over. I wanted to thank you all for invigorating discussion and thought that you have spurred me to during this time. I want to thank Steve Evans for inviting me to join you. I’ve had a good time.

So for my last blog consider this scripture: [Read more…]

Testing God

Let’s go back to robots (as all theological discussions ultimately must). In Dan Simmon’s SciFi masterpiece, Hyperion, one of the main characters Sol has a reoccurring dream in which he hands over his daughter (who has been aging backwards due to Merlin’s disease) to a spatial and temporal shifting mechanical creature called the Shrike. [Read more…]

The Accidental Backpacker

There is no universal recipe for living.
Carl Jung, p. 300 D. Bair

I was feeling very burned out. My classes had been demanding. I was working on three research projects and none of them were going as planned and I was plagued with setbacks and frustrations. I needed some time off. For a long time I had wanted to climb Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii. [Read more…]

Sunday School lesson 2048–Uncorrelated

The Scriptures contain all truths necessary for our salvation. And while what they contain is all true, they do not claim to be the only source of truth. For example, they say very little about such things as evolution, the Schrödinger Equations for quantum mechanics, or Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, or even how to bake a tempting devil’s food cake. We are therefore left to sort out many truths on our own. Nowhere is this challenge more apparent than in the scripture’s silence on the status of robots. Of course much of Ezekiel can be read profitably as a prophecy on the rise of robots in the last days. However, their status in the eternal scheme of things is murky at best. Therefore we are left to other sources of truth to explore the nature of robot consciousness, robot ethics and the use of robots in home and visiting teaching. And as far as I can tell these topics will not be soon covered in our auxiliary lessons (this despite my repeated calls to Church Correlation that we spend a year using Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Roger Heinlein in Sunday School). Nevertheless, in anticipation of our church education becoming more interested in these important matters, I’ve prepared a set of lessons on robots for use in our Sunday Schools. Here is an example: [Read more…]

Towards a Mormon Darwinism

Many theologians have become interested in the implications of Darwinism for Christianity and religion in general. Within our church the debates about evolution have often been centered on figuring out just what the church’s position on evolution actually is. It’s confused because there are abundant negative statements by general authorities, including church presidents, who believed that evolution has its roots in the devil himself. Darwinism in this view is completely incompatible with Mormonism. These debates, I believe, have distracted us from thinking deeply about the implications of Darwinism for our unique and powerful teachings. [Read more…]

The Parable of the Peccary

Steven L. Peck is an Associate Professor in the Biology Department at Brigham Young University where he teaches the History and Philosophy of Biology. He blogs on issues of Science and Faith at ‘The Mormon Organon’ ( Nothing he says should ever be taken seriously by anyone, anywhere, at anytime. He is a long time fan of BCC and is thrilled to be a guest blogger for the next couple of weeks, (although he fears they may regret this invitation).

Right now we are all situated in a life. We stand in relation to many things: other people, hierarchies of social power, natural and ecological processes, familial relationships, economic connections with people in a global economy, etc. On top of that we have a historical context that places us in a certain place and time and embeds us in both a cultural setting and a pile of accidental ways of doing things and manipulating the world around us. These things allow us to live biologically and find meaning in the things we do. We also stand in relation to ourselves. This is a weird thing to say I suppose, and I’ve decided to spend my two weeks over here at BCC exploring some aspects of what I mean by this through the use of parables, robots, poetry and prose. (My sense is that while we have done a good job as Mormons of using parables we have vastly underused robots and their metaphors.) [Read more…]