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Author: Daniel

He likes philosophical discussion, moderately spicy food, and considers himself pretty good at foosball. He also promises to be your best friend if you subscribe to his blog.
Why We Chose Florida for Dental School Instead of Utah

Why We Chose Florida for Dental School Instead of Utah

Hey! It’s been¬†almost two months since I’ve written anything on here. I thought now would be a good time for a little life update.

First: Things are good. We’re alive. We’re happy. blah blah blah… ūüėČ

Second: I got accepted to two great dental schools; LECOM in Bradenton, Florida and the University of Utah in Salt Lake.

And here’s the crazy thing… We chose Florida! Wha?? Seriously, nobody could be¬†more surprised than Summer and I were when we realized that it was the right choice. I mean, for two¬†years the University of Utah was the goal. The top choice. It was relatively close to family, and we would get in-state tuition. It was a new school with small class sizes.

Logically, it made sense.

spock

When I was in the application process last summer, I applied to fourteen¬†schools. LECOM was actually at the bottom of my list simply because I didn’t know anything about it. I applied there¬†because I thought it looked cool, and I wanted to spread my net as wide as possible.

Well, it turns out the LECOM is an amazing dental school with an innovative curriculum that allows students to learn the same amount of science material without all of the traditional busy work — which leaves more time to spend with Summer and our little guy. It also has top-notch¬†pre-clinical and clinical programs.

Summer and I had lots of really good, long talks about both schools. The more we talked about it, the more we felt that Florida was where we were supposed to go. After praying about it, we felt even more sure.

So, whoa. Crazy.¬†Life takes some totally unexpected¬†turns sometimes — some good, some bad. We’re confident that this is a good one, and we’re excited to move in July.

Here are some pictures of Bradenton:

lakewoodranch

Lecom

sunset

mainstreet

bradenton city hall

aerial

siesta key beach

10 Reasons Mormons Can (and Should) Believe in Evolution

10 Reasons Mormons Can (and Should) Believe in Evolution

When I was a young warthog…

(Is the correct term wart-piglet?)

I¬†grew up loving the Bible — and still do. I learned the Adam and Eve story, the six-day creation, Noah’s flood, etc. It all made sense to me. These stories¬†just represented the way things were. And that was that.

I also really loved dinosaurs and wanted to be a paleontologist — but more on that later.

One day during my first year of high school, I was perusing my dad’s book collection. I came across a book on his shelf called¬†The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. (Gasp!) To be honest, I was kind of¬†shocked that my own father would even allow¬†such a heretical book in our house. Our own home!

How could he own such garbage?

evolution, charles darwin

Naturally, I confronted him about the book, and he simply said to me, “You know, son, Darwin makes a lot of really good points…”

What?!?

I mean, I knew my dad loved science… but not¬†that science! Evolution was “atheist” science, wasn’t it? And we were¬†not atheists, by golly! We were good, old-fashioned religious folk! We were people of principle, prayer, and gloriously¬†calorific potlucks.

One thing was for sure in my mind. We were not monkeys!

That same year in high school, I was enrolled in biology. My¬†teacher, “Mr. S,” taught¬†biology (including evolution) in our small town —¬†one of the many¬†devoutly anti-evolution towns that dot America. He did a fantastic¬†job. (I still remember him explaining how it made sense evolutionarily for near-sightedness to get passed down to future generations). I really liked the class, participated, did my homework and got an ‘A’…

But internally I still wasn’t sure I was ready to believe in something as “crazy” as evolution.

Turning Point: “The Lord’s University”

(Nobody at BYU actually calls it that.)

Seven years later, I had recently gotten home from the most gruelingly¬†fulfilling experience¬†of my life in the Dominican Republic as a missionary. On top of that, I had just gotten married to my long-time sweetheart. We were finally together… and at BYU¬†no less! Wow. Everything was perfect.

Cue BYU freshman biology class, BIO 130.

Evolution was the¬†last thing on my mind. I was still feeling just as non-monkeyish as ever (barring, of course, the bananas I loved to eat on the way to class). As the course began, things were going well. We learned about the basics: atoms, molecules, proteins, cells, organelles… I loved it. I was eating it all up just about as fast as my GMO bananas.

bananas
Genetic modification never tasted so good…

“Science is COOL!” I thought to myself in my ever-present, internal Bill Nye voice.

Soon, however, the topic of evolution came up. [scary music] It wasn’t just mentioned in passing or even taught for just a lecture or two — but emphasized. Every. Day. For the rest of the semester.

Thankfully, I was a little more open-minded by this point and decided to give it a chance.

I learned something essential that semester (and during the following years of school): It turns out that our entire understanding of biology rests on the platform of evolution. You simply cannot separate the two. Everything in biology and ecology practically screams evolution.

As I fell more and more in love with biology, my love for the beauty of evolution grew as well.

But, how do I reconcile my religion with science?

Below, I discuss 5 reasons why Mormons can believe in evolution. Then, 5 reasons why they (and everyone) should believe in evolution. Fun times!


Why Mormons CAN Believe in Evolution

Mormons beliefs are unique (some say weird), but this puts them in a unique position to accept evolution.

1: Acceptance of All Truth

Elder Russell M. Nelson (one of the highest ranking leaders of the LDS church) recently said:

“All truth is part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether truth comes from a scientific laboratory or by revelation from the Lord, it is compatible. All truth is part of the everlasting gospel. There is no conflict between science and religion. Conflict only arises from an incomplete knowledge of either science or religion, or both.”

Mic dropped. Maybe I’ll just end the post right here. ūüėČ

2: Belief in Deep Time

When scientists talk about speciation (the process of when two groups¬†of organisms who were originally the same species become so different they can no longer reproduce with each other and¬†thus become separate species), they are talking about a process¬†that literally takes hundreds of thousands or¬†millions of years to occur. When we look at the age of the earth itself, we’re looking at a planet that’s around four¬†billion years old. It’s unfavobml.. unfathov… It’s without fathom.

In 1980, the famous Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley was giving a university address entitled Before Adam, when he said the following:

“The Latter-day Saints are the only Bible-oriented people who have always been taught that things were happening long, long before Adam appeared on the scene. They have never appreciated just how revolutionary that idea is.”

In fact, LDS scripture says¬†that God has created innumerable planets, many of which have already “passed away” with age (Moses 1:35). That’s saying something.

evolution, milky way

Mormons believe that God has been at this for a long time. With so much time on His hands, why not set things in motion on a massive scale and allow evolution to run its course?

3. Perspective of Scripture

Mormons are unique (and often criticized) for their belief¬†that scripture is not the 100% inerrant word of God. They believe that scripture is inspired but comes through the filter of humans, and it’s given in a way that makes sense to mankind¬†at that specific time.

In the cases of scripture that simply recounts history, it’s the same as any history: It’s told from the perspective of the historian. Joseph Smith was a total radical for teaching things like this in the 1800s.

An example of perspective:

Noah says that the flood covered the entire earth. From his perspective this was the case. What were conditions like a thousand miles away? What about Australia? While still surrounded by flood water, he sent out a bird. The bird came back with a branch from a tree. Obviously Noah could only see a tiny fraction of the globe. But the bird saw dry ground when it went exploring.

Where else in scripture does it say “the earth” or “the entire face of the land”? All over the place! But we usually¬†consider it to be mean something fairly local. When scriptures say “the world”, it almost always means “society”. Why¬†then do we¬†not allow¬†those same phrases to be interpreted in a similar fashion¬†with Noah’s story?

The answer? Tradition. Plain and simple. And traditions aren’t always correct.

Now, let’s apply this to the creation story found in Genesis. If God wants His people to understand, He’s not going to go off on topics like the enzymatic properties of RNA or the fluid mosaic model of lipid membranes. He’s going to talk about things the Hebrews understand: plants, fish, insects, birds, large land animals, etc.

Scriptural accounts aren’t (and weren’t meant to be) science textbooks. They have more to do with the central doctrine than the central dogma.

It’s all about perspective.

4: Day ‚Ȇ Day

This ties closely with the perspective thing in number 3. In Genesis, it says that God created the earth in six days. However, Mormons have 3 other sources for the creation story: The Book of Moses, The Book of Abraham, and the temple endowment ceremony. All of these sources come at the story from a slightly different angle. These other three accounts also place way¬†more emphasis on periods of time¬†rather than strict 24 hour “days” in the traditional sense of the word.

For example, the Book of Abraham says things like “and it was the third time” instead of “the third day”. Or, “On the seventh time we will end our work”.

Abraham even says, “Now I, Abraham, saw that it was after the Lord‚Äôs time… [He], as yet,¬†had not appointed unto Adam his reckoning.” (Abr. 5:13). The whole 24 hour day thing comes more from¬†the traditional understanding of Genesis.

LDS scripture actually allows for lots of flexibility with regard to how long things were going on before Adam ever came onto the scene.

5. Garden of Eden, not Planet of Eden

There is an incorrect, yet ongoing belief that the Garden of Eden comprised the entire planet earth and that no living organism became mortal until Adam transgressed (aka, the fall). Again, this is tradition and is not supported in the actual text.evolution, earth from space

Hymns with lyrics like “The earth was once a garden place with all her glories common…” throw everyone off.

What the scriptures actually say is¬†that the garden was planted in a place¬†called Eden. Eden was obviously a region of some sort. The garden was only a part of Eden, which was only a¬†part of the whole earth.¬†Eventually, Adam and Eve got kicked out into “the lone and dreary world” — a place which apparently already existed. And, as we saw earlier, it’s very possible that it had already existed for a very, very long time…

My Opinion

I believe that Adam and Eve were, in fact, real people. Were they the very first human-like creatures ever? Probably not. I think the Garden of Eden story represents God establishing His covenant with His children.

In the same address, Nibley said:

‚ÄúDo not begrudge existence to creatures that looked like men long, long ago, nor deny them a place in God‚Äôs affection or even a right to exaltation‚ÄĒfor our scriptures allow them such.‚ÄĚ

Obviously, there are lots of varying opinions out there — which is what makes this such a fun topic!


Why Mormons SHOULD Believe in Evolution

THIENTH!! (“science” with a lisp… That’s how I say it in my head.)

This part should actually be labeled: “Why Everyone Should Believe in Evolution”. Again, there’s way more that can be written here, but these are just a few good ones.

1. Fossils

Remember how all of us who watched Jurassic Park wanted to paleontologists? (At recess, I actually was a dinosaur, but that’s a different story.)¬†Well, turns out dinosaur fossils are, like, super duper evolution, dinosaurs, fossilsold. How old? The newest ones that we can find are from 65 million years ago when they went extinct. They had lived for the 165 million years leading up to that point too.

But,¬†dinosaur bones are just a tiny fraction of all the fossils we’re finding around the world — many of which are waaaaaaaaaaay older than dinosaurs. The layers of rock in which these different types of species are found are consistent across the globe as well. It’s not like all the fossils were made all at once (like some try to say). If, for example, you find certain types of organisms in layer X of rock, you’re going to find those same types of organisms in layer X all around the world — with the layers above and below it¬†holding different¬†organisms all together.

2. Endosymbiosis

This one is fascinating to me!

Inside of every cell in your body are¬†smaller cell-looking things called¬†mitochondria. Mitochondria produce the majority of the cell’s energy in the form of the molecule ATP. At first glance, mitochondria seem like any other organelle (a tiny cellular organ). But not so! Mitochondria are eerily similar to bacteria.

When the earliest life shows up in the fossil record (around 3.6 billion years ago), we only have evolution, cellsprokaryotes (like bacteria). It isn’t until about 2 billion years ago that we start seeing eukaryotes — much larger, more complex cells that have tiny organs in them called organelles. You and I are made up of many billions of eukaryotic cells.

Where did these eukaryotic cells come from??

The theory is that around 2 billion years ago, a bacterium that could make ATP energy entered into a symbiotic relationship with a much larger cell. Essentially, the bigger cell engulfed the smaller one. The bacterium went on living and producing energy inside the larger cell. This larger cell took advantage of this new source of energy while providing a safe environment for the bacterium.

That bacterium was the ancestor of our mitochondria. The larger cell was the first eukaryote.

What’s the evidence for this?

  1. Mitochondria have a double membrane, just like bacteria. Our cells only have one membrane.
  2. Mitochondria have their own DNA that is completely separate from the DNA in the cell’s nucleus! Their DNA is¬†even circular in shape, which is totally indicative of bacterial DNA. The DNA molecules in our cells nuclei are linear, never circular.
  3. Even the sequences of mitochondrial DNA are extremely similar to those of modern-day bacterial DNA.
  4. Mitochondria divide by pinching¬†in half — which is the exact same process used by bacteria.
  5. All new mitochondria have to come from a parent mitochondria. If you remove all the mitochondria from a cell, the cell can’t make anymore of them!

Want more evidence of endosymbiosis? Want to learn other examples besides the mitochondria thing? Watch this awesome youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FQmAnmLZtE

3. Embryology

Fish, lizards, birds, squirrels, pigs, and humans (and anything else with a spinal chord) all have nearly identical embryos. They all have tails and gill slits. It’s only later in development that the embryos begin to be distinguishable between species. It goes beyond what I can say here, but here’s a video that explains some more:¬†https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAZmLYWEPGk

4. Vestigial Structures

Vestigial structures are those that appear in an organism that are not necessary for life but have¬†simply been passed down from an ancient ancestor. They are “vestiges” from the past. This is similar to embryology, but it has more to do with creatures after they are already born (or hatched).

Some examples:

  • Cave fish: These fish live in total darkness. They have eyes, but their eyes don’t work at all. This shows they had an ancestor that used eyes in¬†sunnier conditions.
  • Humans: Some people are born with tails. We all have the genes for tails. They are usually¬†turned off though.
  • Whales: Everyone knows these gentle giants have flippers, but did you know they have hind legs, too? Yup, beneath their streamline skin you will find full-on leg and feet bones. Pretty crazy huh? It makes sense that whale ancestors were land animals. If whales just started out in the water, why do they have lungs instead of gills?
  • Snakes: Along with whales, some snakes also have vestigial hind limbs. They have a pelvis, leg bones, and a claw that sometimes protrudes externally on each side. Snakes are just reptiles that developed a new form of transportation that worked better without clunky external limbs — but the bones still remain.

5. Evolution is Still Happening Right Now!

Every year, scientists and public health officials become more and more concerned with our growing problem of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic drugs that once killed bacteria are no longer having an effect. Some bacteria, are now resistant to all antibiotics — making them extremely dangerous.

The bacteria that survive antibiotic treatment are the ones who pass on their genes. They are literally evolving at super speed before our eyes!

In Conclusion

There is¬†soooo much more to be said about both of the topics I addressed (Mormon theology and evolution) that I simply can’t get to. But that’s a good thing! This should just be a starting place for discussion.


DISCUSSION

What do you like about evolution? Or do you totally hate it? Unsure? Have unanswered questions? What are your thoughts about religion and science?

Please share your thoughts about whatever you want in the comments below!

*I switched away from using Facebook comments for several reasons, but in so doing the old comments were deleted. The following is a screenshot, and you can find the new comment section below it.

Comments

Space to Stretch and Learn

Space to Stretch and Learn

Just a short Sunday thought.

A woman at Church this week shared and experience over the pulpit. She¬†thought for two weeks that she had miscarried. Obviously, she and her husband were devastated. One day in particular, as she was driving to work, she was crying bitterly and feeling worse than she ever had. While¬†wondering how she could even go on like this, she prayed¬†to God for comfort, and immediately a wave of indescribably happiness and “glee”, she called it, swept over her — almost to the point of laughing with joy. She was incredibly shocked at the power and immediacy of it all. Specific words came to her mind:¬†“Everything is¬†going to be okay”. Later that day, she found out from her doctor and sonographer that she was, in fact, still pregnant and that the baby was perfectly healthy.

So, yes. God¬†does intervene in our lives all the time — usually via guidance and comfort. And it can happen¬†in powerful ways! He even guides and comforts us when we think we don’t deserve His help.¬†I’m definitely grateful for that.

The tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.

However, God also wants¬†us to become the best versions of ourselves — and becoming something only comes through personal experience. Trial and error. I know that¬†I learn how to do something way better if I do it myself rather than just reading or hearing about it.

So, yeah, I guess we could just sit around in heaven (or church, for that matter) and talk about good, cool-sounding stuff. But until we actually do something, it’s all just fluff with¬†no substance — like cotton candy; It tastes good for a second, but then it’s gone.

Wouldn’t we all rather have substantial, meaningful lives? Yes. No cotton candy lives for us!

God is able to do His own work (2 Nephi 27:20), but He gives us the opportunity to be a part of it for our own additional benefit and personal improvement. Joining with Him in the work lets us live the gospel with substance and meaning.

So, (except for¬†things like the creation, guidance, comfort, the atonement, etc., etc.) God’s work is letting us do the work.

The Master knows which specific tasks will make each of us, His apprentices, grow to our full potentials and shine!

No, the Book of Abraham is Not a False Translation

No, the Book of Abraham is Not a False Translation

Of all the controversial topics related to Mormonism, the Book of Abraham is one of the most debated — and misunderstood. The goal of this post is to hopefully increase your understanding of this book of scripture and give an example of how recent scholarship can support its claim of ancient origins.

To lay some background info down, the next three paragraphs are from the essay on the Book of Abraham found on the LDS Church’s website (feel free to skim this next part if you’re already familiar with it):

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Simplify

Simplify

I’ve had to cut something out of my life recently because it was a huge source of stress and anxiety. If you are human, I’m sure you know the emotions. Chronic stress is not healthy, and it negatively affects so many aspects of your life.

The source of stress was actually a class that I was unable to keep up with because I kept missing tons¬†of the lectures due to frequent traveling for interviews. I’ve also been suffering from chronic fatigue (which I don’t understand yet, but I’m seeing a doctor about it in a few days). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve stressed plenty of times over classes. But this felt¬†different.

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Feeling the Burn

Feeling the Burn

Burn-out that is. Being a senior in college is tough. As a freshman, I thought being a senior would be hard because of the difficult classes. I guess that’s kind of true, but he hardest part for me is actually the feeling of burnout. Years of library and lecture add up, somehow. I’m not quite sure where in the mind or soul this weight accrues, but it does. (Shout out to all you burned out peeps out there)

I wrote a Haiku to illustrate the struggle:

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Racial Equality: Is it Bad to be White?

Racial Equality: Is it Bad to be White?

When I was younger, I was taught that all races were equal. I was taught that the substance of a person’s character had nothing to do with the color of their skin.

That was the 90’s and early 2000’s.

Today, however, I feel like the notion of all races being truly equal is under attack. Instead of promoting equality by “color-blindness”, the current¬†modus operandi is “white shaming”.

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Addiction Recovery

Addiction Recovery

Whether you are addicted yourself or you know someone who is suffering, addiction likely affects you on some level. Being addicted is like a long, agonizing rollercoaster that degrades your quality of life over a span of months, years, and sometimes decades. Each high is followed by a new low.

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What Are the Odds?

What Are the Odds?

I was stumped today — as I often am while taking tests in BYU’s testing center. The problem I was looking at didn’t seem as attractive as daydreaming at the moment, so I decided to lift my head up and stare out the window.

In the distance, beyond the swaying leafy trees, I saw the half-moon as it hung in orbit opposite the setting sun. I saw myself surrounded by a bunch of sentient beings looking a lot less stumped than myself as they hunched over their exams. Then, I thought: What are the odds?

What are the odds of me being on a planet that is perfectly conditioned and positioned to sustain life? What are the odds of such a planet even existing in the first place? What are the odds of me or anyone else being able to think and experience a small corner of the universe?

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The Largest Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon: A Masterpiece

The Largest Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon: A Masterpiece

The Book of Mormon is, in many ways, a complex book. Its origins¬†are complicated — as are the literarLargest Chiasmus in the Book of Mormony devices it employs.¬†One thing that is very interesting that can be found in the Book of Mormon is the presence of an ancient Hebraic form of poetry called chiasmus. This form of poetry was not known until decades after¬†the death of Joseph Smith. The basic structure of a chiasmus is that a passage will give a list of points in forward and then reverse order, with the turning point in the middle being essential to the message. In essence, it would look something like this:

A
B
C
C’
B’
A’

The Bible has several examples of chiasmus throughout the text – most of which do not go any longer than just a few points until reversing in the middle. Even the smallest of these examples are considered to be true Hebrew poetry.

However, ever since incredible examples of chiasmus have been discovered in the Book of Mormon, critics have been quick to disclaim them by pointing out that chiasmus can be found nearly everywhere Рincluding Dr. Seuss books. This blatant double standard against the Book of Mormon does not surprise me. And in my opinion, this quick dismissal fails for two basic reasons:

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