Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Lessons from Bees



This is a photo I took last week on my way home from church. (Click to enlarge.)

When I ponder the miracle of insect flight and the complex aerodynamics that have only recently begun to be understood by scientists, or the numerous brilliant structures of insect bodies (especially bees) that allow them to perform so many functions effectively, I can only respect the divine wisdom that enabled the marvels of life on this planet.

When I hear people say that this is all just an accident, with no intelligence behind it, it almost makes me, uh, break out in hives. (Not really - I'm just pollen your leg.)

12 comments:

ltbugaf said...

Long before I ever heard the term "irreducible complexity" I was puzzled by this. I understood that certain external forces can bring about a gradual change in a species: For instance, the tigers with better eyesight will survive while those with lesser eyesight will die out and stop passing on their genes. The birds will the longer beaks who can get at the bugs will survive while the short-beaked birds will die out and stop passing on their genes. But allthis presupposes that there are tigers and birds, and that they already have eyes and beaks and genes. How does even one portion of the tiger's body, such as the eye, develop out of a lengthy series of completely random and purposeless coincidences? Some cruder or less complex form of the eye seems to give no benefit to the organism, so why would it survive and beat out the organisms that don't have it?

I wondered about this, and I also wondered why the scientific descriptions of evolution so often include language that connotes a purpose: For example, I often read statements such as "These organisms developed a strategy to adapt to their new environment," or "The [animals] developed thicker coats in order to survive the harsh climate." This is thinking of evolution as having a PURPOSE of adaptation. But according to the scientists who so vehemently reject concepts such as "Intelligent Design" as a mere rehash of discredited mythology, there can be no purpose in evolution. There can be no purpose to anything in nature--it is all just a completely random and purposeless series of events.

I don't deny that there is randomness and purposelessness in life. But I don't believe that such random purposelessness is, or can be, the origin of all forms and varieties of life.

Perhaps the response is that, no matter how improbable it seems, it's the only answer since all other answers require the existence of a great and powerful, intelligent being whose existence can't be established by science. But shouldn't it be one of the basic tenets of science that not everything is known or knowable through scientific inquiry?

Schuyler said...

Unfortunately, the concept of intelligent design has become synonymous with creation of the earth in 6 - 24 hr days. Their claim is who would pollinate the flowers since bees came two days later...

These concepts are as far in deep right field as the evolutionist (pseudo-scientists in my opinion) are in deep left field. These extremes have taken science out of biology and intelligence out of intelligent design. If believers of intelligent design didn't force fit this idea into a literal interpretation of the Bible but instead focused on the scientific principle behind it, they would gain more mainstream acceptance for this theory.

Moses 6:63
And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.

Common sense and the scriptures dictate that there is a designer.

Dan the Man said...

Oh man, I've been doing a lot of reading about bees lately. For a really good read on bees, check out Hugh Nibley's "Lehi in the Wilderness and the World of the Jaredites," p184-9.

Natalie said...

Hi Jeff,

Just checking in, and must say, WOW, what a beautiful picture! Truly inspiring. You are very talented. Last week I was contacted by NBC to help them find a good Mormon family to follow around, and I was going to send them your way, but they wanted a Utah family, so I headed them in another direction, albeit a good one.

See, I don't hate Mormons, no matter WHAT people think. I know some really nasty Mormons I could have lined them up with....

Anyway, I read your posts about being a bishop, and I've long opined that it must be terribly hard to do this job. I would like to see the Church institute some major training for bishops, but of course, then they would have to back down on the claim that God is talking to them.

I'm sure that no matter what people thought, you did a good job as a bishop--the best you knew how.

Enough warm fuzzies. Back to being nasty and irreverent.

Natalie

ltbugaf said...

The Church does provide training to Bishops (though it may not be as extensive as you seem to want). Some of that training involves following the divine inspiration that comes with their priesthood keys and callings. I've seen that priesthood at work, and I've seen that inspiration at work, and I can tell you that both are very real. There's no reason to believe that training is inconsistent with belief in revelation.

Bookslinger said...

Am I correct in assuming that the more formal training that the church would provide for Bishops, there would be a corresponding increase in the church;s legal liability in regards to a bishop's actions?

ltbugaf said...

Actually, it's not at all clear that the church's liability would be reduced or that the bishops' liability would be reduced. Professionals have a special relationship with clients that gives them a duty under the law to perform their professional duties according to a standard of care. The standard of care is set by the overall accepted practices of the profession. The paradigm example is when a physician gives medical care. The care the doctor gives is supposed to be up to the standard of care set by other doctors. If the care is the kind that most reasonable and responsible doctors would give, then the doctor has not been professionally negligent. If the care departs from that standard, then the doctor has a violated a duty of due care. This method applies in other professions as well, such as psychology. If a professional psychologist does something that harms the patient, and that most trained psychologists wouldn't do, then the psychologist is liable. I'm not aware, though, of any standard of professional care for lay clergymen. Bishops give counsel as guided by the Spirit, and they may also rely on their own layman's sense. In addition, they should know when a person needs the care of a competent professional. For example, no responsible bishop would counsel a member with an illness to seek priesthood blessings but not see a physician. He would know that seeking medical care is appropriate. Likewise, he knows that there are times when psychological care or professional counseling are appropriate, in addition to guidance by the Spirit and the exercise of Priesthood power. There's a rather good article on this in the most recent edition of the Ensign.

ltbugaf said...

Well, Indy, I have to apologize for misreading your question. As you can see, my reply indicates that, in my opinion, yes--the training probably would result in an increase of liability, but only if the training puts bishops into the category of professionals such as psychologists or certified counselors.

Ryan said...

I live in PA, and the recent furor over I.D. here has provoked some serious thought about the whole evolution vs. creationism debate. In the end it comes down to the difference between science and philosophy. One excellent article I read for school has been a source of many insights for me as I look at all kinds of science vs. religion arguments: http://www.cof.orst.edu/cof/fs/gradprog/courses/radosevich/science.htm

A physicist, John Platt, got it published in Science in 1964, and it explains the scientific method very well. Basically, in order to be useful to science a hypothesis (claim) must describe and/or predict things about the world around us, which requires it to risk being proven false. Philosophies, on the other hand, are not subject to falsification because they don't make scientifically useful observations, and therefore cannot be theories.

In other words, theories (and the scientific method in general) are only concerned with the way things look -- it is unscientific to claim a theory represents "truth," the way things are, because it presumes too much -- that's what philosophy is for. It is entirely possible to make a religion of science, and people do it all the time, but personally I think the scientific method makes a lousy philosophy for "the way things are."

A side note: randomness is a negative property -- you can only prove something isn't random by finding a pattern. Saying something is random means either "I don't know the pattern behind it," or "I know the pattern behind it and don't care." Engineers use both definitions regularly to do a lot of fun and amazing things.

To tie this together, I no longer see a big conflict between evolution and creationism/I.D. The scientific method (a tool) has produced the theory of evolution (also a tool) for the benefit of scientists. There has to be some way to catalog the simultaneous diversity and similarity of life on earth! The leading theory (evolution) is based on a simplifying assumption of randomness that in no way excludes the presence of a pattern behind it all, and as a theory could be overturned any time by a better one.

BTW, I don't think either evolution or I.D. flies as a theory of the origin of species because I think the origin (as opposed to the cataloging) of species necessarily lies in the realm of philosophy. How would you really attempt falsify any hypothesis about how life arose on earth? Teach evolution in schools for what it is -- a useful scientific tool. It has its flaws, and it doesn't explain everything, but it's the best tool science has for the job. If there has to be a court battle, I think it should concern the constitutionality of people wielding evolution as a philosophical hammer against those who believe in a philosophy of creation. It's not logically sound to use science to attack a philosophy, or assert a philosophy as science. Unfortunately, the religion of science is firmly entrenched as the archetype of "secular teaching" so this is unlikely to ever happen.

One last comment: a mathematical concept that is conceptually very close to evolution is simulated annealing. It is a search method based on random (the "I don't care" kind) perturbations and is amazingly good at solving intractable problems in reasonable time. However, it fails miserably at certain kinds of "terrain" -- those where the landscape doesn't tell you anything about how close you are to the goal. It would be like searching for a well on the Great Plains, on foot: you want something below the water table, but the opening could be on top of a hill for all you know. Evolution is arguably a search through the space of possible creatures; the I.D. term for that hypothetical well -- something that can't be gradually searched for -- would be "irreducible complexity."

ltbugaf said...

I agree that evolution should be taught in schools for what it is--a useful tool. I also think there should be some room in science texts for the weaknesses and limitations of the method. Why can't we introduce the concept of irreducible complexity as a critique or criticism of the method? In other words, why don't we have some small section in the biology textbook that says, "Here are some ways in which evolutionary theory may seem weak" or "Here are some questions that the evolutionary construct doesn't seem to answer."

Jim Online said...

Wow nice image. You are either good with the camera or it is a very big bee.

Mormanity said...

Just noticed Natalie's comment. Wow, thank you! I enjoy an occasional warm-fuzzy, as a matter of fact. Now back to being harsh and self-righteous.

Best wishes!