There seems to be a mistake people make about the way that BYU science departments function and should be taught. There is a myth spreading through dark corners of the internet that BYU should keep religion and science separate the way secular universities do. It takes a strange and perverted form in the voices found among those benighted dogmatists who guard the boarders of pure doctrine, as they perceive it. They claim because science is to held as suspicious or inimical to faith that scientists should not try to reconcile conflicts between the two. Actually at BYU we have been instructed, à la Brigham Young, to, “not even teach the mathematics tables without the Spirit of the Lord.” In fact, each year, two questions appear on the forms that students evaluate faculty on for each class every semester:
Has your testimony been strengthened?
And how well did the instructor integrate the gospel in the subject?
(For all my classes my rates are 7 to 7.4 out of 8, with the university and department average ranging form 6.2-6.6, so I am significantly above average! Who’da thunk it.)
Continue reading How I teach the ways of science at the Y
Scientific literacy is falling in America. Part of the reason is that its value is being under-appreciated by a larger and larger segment of the population. Suspicions about evolution and climate change have created an atmosphere where two of science’s most strongly supported investigations are dismissed. To do that, you have to dismiss science itself. Really. Continue reading Those who are suspicious of science are missing part of the restoration
Spoilers. Lots of them. If you plan to see this movie don’t read this post. Really. This is a movie worth seening if you like riotous movies and are willing to forgive of lots of trip-ups that really don’t make sense. I’m a fan of lots of Scifi TV and have grown tolerant of wacky writers running roughshod over both commonsense and basic science. The film is stunningly filmed, exciting, and wonderfully acted. In particular, Noomi Rapace, even without her Dragon Tattoos, was nearly perfect. So worth seeing, if you are willing to set aside much.
Continue reading Prometheus: A biologist’s review (Spoilers aplenty)
It is fun to watch an actual scientific controversy unfold. The fake ones like climate change denial or intelligent design, which are orchestrated for political purposes or reasons of ideology, draw scientists in because the public has been cajoled into buying bad (or non-) science by modern hucksters and charlatans. Not really fun or interesting, but necessary I suppose. No, the real deal, the full blown genuine real scientific argument is so much more exciting. Not only do you get the full of drama of the faked stuff: personality, egos, careers be made and broken, insults, posturing, and all the accoutrements of human disagreement. But you get the stuff of science: data analysis and reanalysis, experiments and field studies, new theory and new looks at old theory, and battles fought where science is done—in the peer reviewed literature. And you don’t know how its going to end! It’s not clear who is going to win. And what the outcome will hinge on is not who pays for the most advertising, or which side owns a news corp. But on the facts mam’ nothing but the facts. Continue reading Watch a real scientific controversy
Suppose your friend came to you and said that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Suppose he said that he had seen 100 doctors and using best medical practices 98 had told them that he should start treatment immediately. Further, suppose that the 98 say that it is not too late to intervene, but time is critical. Suppose that the 98 come from all over the world and represent a number of specialties and disciplines and have come to the conclusion that he has cancer from multiple tests, procedures and such. Then suppose that your friend tells you that he’s decided not to get treatment because the doctors have not reached a consensus. That 2% still believe that he doesn’t have cancer, and given its cost it would be better until we have more data before deciding on whether to treat his cancer—and the costs will be substantial. Once treatment starts he may have to give up his job, it will drain his life savings, and he will undergo significant pain and discomfort. Nothing in his life will likely be the same. The question is, is your friend acting rationally? What’s the best thing for your friend to do? Is there an argument that he is not getting treatment because he really wants to believe he can avoid the unpleasantness he must face? Or is the evidence really as insufficient as your friend argues. What would you advise? Continue reading Unmasking some of the ‘Conspiring men’
My existential horror novella was released today in multiple formats: Hardback, paper back, digital, kindle etc. What is existential horror? Well . . . read the book and you’ll see (I more or less invented the term, because it’s very difficult to describe). Here’s the book’s website.
Read the reviews in the review tab . . . → Read More: A Short Stay in Hell Launches
Recently Naomi Oreskes historian of science and author of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming talked at at the Kennedy Center as part of a special series of talks sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and BYU’s Environmental Ethics Initiative (which I’m . . . → Read More: Naomi Oreskes’s talk on ‘Merchants of Doubt’ at BYU
It looks like the zombie apocalypse has started. We have seen its effect in the insect world for many years—from fungi that drive ants to the highest plant available, so that its head can explode in a shower of fungal spores that ride the wind to their next anty victim, to amoebae that make insects freeze in place at the top of blade of grass so they can more likely be consumed by their preferred bovine host. Continue reading But Bishop! My Cat’s Parasite Made Me Do it!
Is this future possible in a Mormon context?