Sunday, June 24, 2007

Fredricksons' Garden

Behold our garden. It is small, but we like it.

I realize the picture quality isn't that great, but I think you get the idea.

This is what our garden looked like around the beginning of May. The four plants are roma tomato plants we bought from the local farmers market and transplanted shortly before this picture. The picture is from the southeast looking northwest. You can also see two of our trees in the background, one of which is flowering.
We are using a method of gardening called “square-foot gardening” where you don’t plant in rows so much but think of your garden three dimensionally. We are growing peas and pole beans up strings and putting plants that don’t need so much sun in the shade of tall plants, like tomatoes. I don’t know all the details of the philosophy – Katie found it in some book.

So here are our tomato plants as of two weeks ago. We’re pretty excited. They are even bigger now. I expect about 120 to 150 tomatoes.

Here is the south corner of our garden two weeks ago. We have some mixed salad-type plants growing in the front and on the left side. We already harvested the ones on the left right before this picture. You can also see some carrots, kale, swiss chard, green peppers, and the one in the back right is a tomatillo plant.

Here are the north (back) and east (front) corners of our garden. In both cases we have zucchini in the middle. The back ones are surrounded by radishes with cucumbers and green pole beans in the back. The front ones are surrounded by spinach and green onions (both of which we have harvested). Down the right side we have sugar snap peas.

Just in the last two weeks we’ve harvested some more salad and green onions and also some radishes and peas. We’re also growing basil, oregano, parsley, lavender, rosemary, dill and cilantro elsewhere around our yard.

This is a picture of Elizabeth we took yesterday, just for fun.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Little Jack

We had our Baby!

He was born Tuesday, June 19th at 2:37pm. He was the same length as Grace was, 20 inches, but weighed a whole pound more (8 lbs, 2 oz). He and Alison are doing great, both are getting a decent night sleep thanks to her grandma being here, and Grace is really excited about her baby brother. Here are some pictures!


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Evolution: Anathema to Mormons?

When Randy and his wife visited this past week, he reminded me that I promised an evolution post a while back. I had actually already written one, a long one, about a month ago, but I didn't like how it ended up, so I never posted it. Here's my second attempt.

With this post, I will not attempt a thorough scientific explanation of evolution, but rather reasons on why you can accept evolution as fact (all of it), and still believe the core doctrines of the church. I'll just state here that the question of whether the theory of organic evolution is true or not is about as silly as the question of whether Newton's theory of gravity is correct. Things fall. Species evolve. Done and done. If you don't accept it you haven't studied it enough. You might say about Newton's theory: "But didn't Eintein prove him wrong with the theory of relativity?" No, he did not- all Einstein did to Newton's theory was to show that it indeed WAS correct in situations where objects are traveling far slower than the speed of light. In fact, Einstein's theory reduces exactly to Newton's theory in the low velocity limit. Einstein expanded upon Newton, and in the future there will be experiments that expand upon evolution, but never prove it wrong- we're past that point already. The likelihood of evolution being proven wrong is about as likely as someone proving that mass actually repels other mass rather than attract it.

As I said, I don't want to get into all the whys and hows of how evolution works, but to talk about how you can accept it and still believe that God created the universe and the earth, and that Christ is still the Savior of it (ie, the important parts of the gospel)

Before we get into what the scriptures say, the first major obstacles to accepting evolution for any Latter-Day Saint are past and current statements by church leaders. We currently have several apostles that openly reject organic evolution, Elders Packer and Nelson probably chief among them (at least they have been the most vocal about it). I've read other, more oblique hints of objection from others such as the whole first presidency, and a few other apostles. Prominent former leaders who ardently objected to it include just about every church president from Joseph F. Smith onward, as well as Elder McConkie, who perhaps has had the most dramatic effect on current opinion in the church about it due to his Mormon Doctrine and The Seven Deadly Heresies, a BYU devotional talk. While I disagree with many of the points Elder McConkie makes in that talk, it is a valuable resource that coherently lays out the reasoning behind "orthodox" Mormon opposition to evolution. Here is part of what he says:

These are questions to which all of us should find answers. Every person must choose for himself what he will believe. I recommend that all of you study and ponder and pray and seek light and knowledge in these and in all fields.

I believe that the atonement of Christ is the great and eternal foundation upon which revealed religion rests. I believe that no man can be saved unless he believes that our Lord's atoning sacrifice brings immortality to all and eternal life to those who believe and obey, and no man can believe in the atonement unless he accepts both the divine sonship of Christ and the fall of Adam.

My reasoning causes me to conclude that if death has always prevailed in the world, then there was no fall of Adam that brought death to all forms of life; that if Adam did not fall, there is no need for an atonement; that if there was no atonement, there is no salvation, no resurrection, and no eternal life; and that if there was no atonement, there is nothing in all of the glorious promises that the Lord has given us. I believe that the Fall affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself, and that the Atonement affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself.

I like how he emphasizes that belief in this particular area of doctrine is completely up to the individual (just like any doctrine, really), but what I disagree with is the false dichotomy he sets up between belief in the atonement, and acceptance of evolution. His rhetorical strategy is to suggest that since evolution teaches that death existed before the fall (ie, 4000 B.C.), then the fall could not have happened (at 4000 B.C.), and therefore there was no need for an atonement. All I would say to this is that the biblical and even the temple descriptions of the garden of Eden and the fall are highly symbolic. Did they really eat a piece of fruit that caused their bodies (and the bodies of every other species) to degenerate? Was Eve's body really created from Adam's rib? We need to be very careful not to treat a religious document thousands of years old and having passed through the shaky hands of many scribes as a science textbook.

What is important in the story of the fall is that we are cut off from God because of our sins, and that we need a Savior to intercede for us. Physical death comes on all automatically so Christ will resurrect all automatically. Spiritual death comes on us because of our sins, so Christ will cover those sins that are repented of and save those who follow him. None of these truths require the odd belief that death came into the world around 4000 B.C. If no death existed before the fall, could Adam and Eve eat anything? You might say they were vegetarians, but plant life, alive, and can die, so did the fall only affect animal life? Too many mental gymnastics are required to make that rather (with apologies to Elder McConkie) archaic view of the fall work even on its own internal logic, and nearly impossible when viewed with even rudimentary knowledge of science.

A better way is to follow the injunction of Jesus: "Render to Caeser the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's". Lets leave science to the scientists, and the doctrines of salvation to the prophets. This might mean that when a prophet comes along and makes a statement about something in the physical world, we can smile and nod and then go about what we were doing since they were not called as prophets to expound upon science, but to call us to repentence. Often, they are flat out wrong, but this does not undermine their "prophethood". Even prophets are entitled to incorrect opinions. When a prophet speaks about Christ and salvation, I listen. When they talk about science, I tune out. In fact, there is danger in supposing that everything that falls from the lips of a prophet is inspired. There is also danger in thinking that if they are wrong on issues of science, then they might also be wrong on issues of salvation. The Brethren have realized this more and more, and now make far fewer statements about things not really pertaining to our salvation so as to not distract from the "important things".

So what happened at the fall? Modern scripture is quite clear that God created all things spiritually before he created them physically (see Moses 3-4), so I see no reason why the whole garden experience couldn't have been entirely spiritual. Adam and Eve were given choices. They chose knowledge of good and evil, and mortality. God then sent them down to the physical Earth where he had been in the process of creating their bodies from the dust of the earth (literally) for millions of years. Thus Adam fell physically from the presence of God, bringing physical death to us all. Does this mean they had human-like ape parents? Maybe. Does it really matter? I know creationists huff and puff and get all blue in the face talking about how ridiculous the idea is that we came from apes, but I really don't see how it belittles us to say that God used natural tools and processes to create our physical bodies.

Anyway, I'll pause there and see if there are differing or concurring opinions. To summarize my point, I say that the idea that evolution is in direct opposition to the concept of the fall is false (what I perceive as most members' main beef with evolution), even if many church leaders disagree. To justify going against a church leader, I say that we need to listen to them when they talk about the Savior and how to follow him and get back to heaven, but when they start opining on natural phenomenon like the origins of the human body, that is when we can smile and nod and move on (and not publicly denounce them- thats bad). Does that show too much chutzpah on my end?


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Nick in the News (or, Nick Touts Self)

I just wanted to vainly point out that if you google my name (in quotes) along with the word "thermoacoustic", that there are several news articles that have my name in them. (it helps to click on the "show similar results" button) Hurray for me!


Journalism's Overused Terms

I've noticed a few terms that journalists seem to be excessively fond of using lately.

They are:
perfect storm

Sometimes journalists overuse terms just as kind of a personal quirk. In that sense they are no different from the rest of us. (I once saw a weather report where the forecaster used the phrase "rough go of it" literally a dozen times in a three minute forecast.) However, these terms seem to me to have been used to exhaustion (my exhaustion anyway). It seems like it is similar to other problems that journalists have had in the past, like exaggerating the story by using words with more impact (massacre, bloodbath, etc.) in an attempt to capture interest.
Part of my problem with these particular words is that they have a tendency to be not precisely understood by readers, if not even by the writers. This is in fact partially a result of the overuse - writers (intentionally or not) find places to use the word where it doesn't quite communicate the idea at hand. In other words, the very overuse of the terms hinders a reader with limited vocabulary, like me, to figure out what the words mean from context.
Maybe I shouldn't pick on journalists. Some similarly overused and under-understood examples in the business world come to mind (e.g. audacious, organic growth). Journalists just happen to be on my mind.
Does anyone else get the same feeling about these (or other) terms?