Thursday, May 27, 2010

Parents accuse BYU, Alpine district of socialist conspiracy,

Excerpts of  Parents accuse BYU, Alpine district of socialist conspiracy, Provo Daily Herald

Some local parents are leveling serious charges against Alpine School District and Brigham Young University.

Parents are saying district and university officials are participating in "a deliberate course of action to subvert the moral fabric of a society with the goal to eliminate the worship of deity and replace it with the worship of man."

These parents acknowledge their argument is both complex and far-reaching. If true, the charge means the school district is either wittingly or unwittingly part of a nationwide socialist movement. Parents say it is the manifestation of a specific warning given by LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson, who had named names in the warning. More on that in a moment.

Depending on your point of view, the parents may just be making much ado of nothing. Whatever you believe, concerned parents are asking other district parents to form their own opinion about whether the district is working to remove God from the classroom -- and history.


Oak Norton, one of the most outspoken critics of Alpine School District begins with the premise that truth can only be defined by God. He sees BYU and Alpine School District as part of a national conspiracy working to carefully teach the nation's children to believe that the United States government is based on the power of people, rather than the power of God.

This effort, he said, is guided by "the motives of those who are trying to change our language and remove the notion that we are a republic with natural rights bestowed upon us by God."

As proof of his accusations, Norton offers a detailed logic.

Emblazoned about 30 feet across one wall of the school district's headquarters is a plank of the district's motto: "Enculturating the Young into a Social and Political Democracy."  ... based on the Communist Manifesto.

....BYU's education department drew heavily on his book entitled 'The Moral Dimensions of Teaching.' One of Goodlad's 'moral dimensions is entitled 'enculturating the young into a social and political democracy,' which is the text and controversy surrounding Alpine School District's large plaque inside their teacher development center." .....

"Which of you believe the state has a right to your children and has interests that must be protected in the education of your child?" Norton told the Daily Herald. "Which of you believes it is up to the schools to educate your children because parents don't understand how to run a democracy? Which of you believe morals and knowledge are subjective?"


As proof that his alarm is more than just alarmism, Norton offers this quote from LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson: "I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. There is more than one reason why the Church is advising our youth to attend colleges close to their homes where institutes of religion are available. It gives the parents the opportunity to stay close to their children, and if they become alerted and informed, these parents can help expose the deceptions of men like Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, John Keynes and others. There are much worse things today that can happen to a child than not getting a full education."

"So is enculturating our young into a social and political democracy harmless?" Norton said. "Hardly."

The rebuttal

The Daily Herald provided both BYU and Alpine School District with the accusations of Norton and other parents and asked both the university and the district to respond.

"The teacher preparation programs at Brigham Young University strive to prepare educators who act with moral integrity and possess social and academic competence," said Richard Young, dean of the BYU David O. McKay School of Education.

"The quotes displayed represent the core mission of the David O. McKay School of Education. Among these quotes we read: 'The teaching of religion in public schools is prohibited, but the teaching of character and citizenship is required.' On another occasion President McKay stated, 'It is well for educators everywhere when teaching the young to have in mind the three C's as well as the three R's mentioned so proverbially. By the three 'C's' I mean character, conduct, citizenship.'

What it means

Coming along with the broader questions ... is a heated discussion of the meaning of a single phrase -- the last four words of the district's mission statement: "Enculturating the Young into a Social and Political Democracy."

This phrase has sent chills through many parents.

Read the full article for a detailed understanding of the arguments

Battle lines over BoM geography

Excerpts of The fight over Book of Mormon geography by Michael De Groote, Mormon Times

The subject attracts highly trained archaeologists and scholars and informed —

But something is rotten in Zarahemla — wherever it may be.

In the middle of what could be a fun and intellectually exciting pursuit similar to archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann's famous search for the lost city of Troy, there are accusations of disloyalty tantamount to apostasy.

In one corner is the more-established idea of a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon. This theory places the events of the book in a limited geographic setting that is about the same size as ancient Israel. The location is in southern Mexico and Guatemala. The person most often associated with this theory is John L. Sorenson, a retired professor of anthropology at BYU, and the author of "An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon" and a series of articles on Book of Mormon geography that ran in the Ensign magazine in September and October 1984. A new book, tentatively titled "Mormon's Codex," is in the process of being published.

In the other corner is the challenger, a new theory that places Book of Mormon events in a North American "heartland" setting. Like the Mesoamerican theory, it also is limited in area — but not quite as limited. Its symbolic head is Rod L. Meldrum and, more recently, Bruce H. Porter. Meldrum and Porter are the co-authors of the book "Prophecies and Promises," which promotes the heartland setting.

It wouldn't be hard to predict that some friction might come about from competing theories — that healthy sparring would occur with arguments and counter-arguments. But it has gone beyond that.

The source of the animosity comes from the heartland theory's mantra: "Joseph knew."

Joseph Smith made several statements that can be interpreted to have geographic implications. Proponents of a North American setting see these statements as authoritative and based in revelation. Mesoamerican theorists think that Joseph Smith's ideas about geography expanded over time and included approval of at least some connection to Central America.

To the heartlander, Joseph's knowledge about Book of Mormon locations is seen as proof of his divine calling and a testament to his being the chosen translator/expert of the book. Joseph didn't just know; he knew everything. This position, however, leaves little room for other opinions — or for charity.

"The way I look at Joseph Smith's statements is that he either knew or he didn't know. If he knew, he knew by revelation. And if he didn't know, you've got to ask yourself why he said the things that he said," Porter said. "If he didn't know, was he trying to show off? If he really didn't know, why was he telling people?

"My feeling is that Joseph Smith did not lie," Porter said.

If you don't agree with this line of reasoning, by implication, you think that Joseph lied.

"My authority is Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon," Porter said. "Most of your Mesoamerican theorists, their authority is John Sorenson and Matthew Roper. They picked those as their authority at the neglect of Joseph Smith."

Matthew P. Roper, a research scholar at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute Of Religious Scholarship, naturally doesn't like this characterization. "They seem to be trying to elevate a question of lesser importance, Book of Mormon geography, to the level of the doctrines of the church," Roper said. "And even though they give lip service to things like they know the church has not given an official position, they turn around and say, 'All these people are dismissing Joseph Smith.' "

It is somewhat ironic that believing that Joseph did not "know" also supports Joseph as a prophet. The more Joseph's assumptions about Book of Mormon geography prove to be wrong, the greater a testimony that he did not write the book himself. "We assume," Roper said, "that since Joseph Smith was the translator of the Book of Mormon, and that it was translated by the gift and power of God, that he would know everything about the book that an author would. I would submit that the two are not the same thing. I could translate the 'Wars of Caesar' and not know anything about ancient Gaul or the different tribes."

When Meldrum's theories first became popularized through firesides and a DVD he produced, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) took notice and responded with gusto.

"The way he said things, they attack that more than they attack the evidence that he presented," Porter said.

Scott Gordon, president of FAIR, would not disagree. "We view this as a steadying-of-the-ark issue. We really don't care where he picks for his theory on where the Book of Mormon can take place," Gordon said. "What we care about that he is implying that the church is not following the teachings of Joseph Smith. Which means the church leadership, the prophet — everything is not following. And we think that is a very, very dangerous position."

"They are getting really worried because they are seeing this is becoming a movement. That's their words," Meldrum said. "They are just saying it's a movement because they are getting a lot of flak from people who are seeing the DVD and the information and thinking, 'You know what, this makes a lot of sense.' "

But supporters also see the heartland theory as an inspired movement that will transform the LDS Church: "(V)ery few people out there fully grasp the magnitude of this movement and the powerful influence that it is having and the sweeping nature of its message," wrote one prominent supporter. "It will sweep the church and most LDS will not even understand what happened until it's past. … Time is our friend."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A brief history of 'Mormon Doctrine'

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One of the most influential Latter-day Saint books of the past fifty years has been discontinued.  The popular Mormon Doctrine by late apostle Bruce R. McConkie will not go through another printing.  
Mormon Doctrine has been a popular encyclopedic reference defining a wide range of Latter-day Saint doctrines with hundreds of thousands of copies printed.  While not an official publication of the church, it became very influential among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, going through 40 printings.
Last year Deseret Book decided to end future printings, citing low sales.  In December it was reported that references to Mormon Doctrine and other older works had been removed from the new LDS Gospel Principles manual.  This spring the remaining copies sold out and copies are no longer available in bookstores around Utah.
Beginnings of  Mormon Doctrine
Much of the energies of church leaders in the late 1800s and early 1900s were spent on issues surrounding persecution over polygamy and statehood.  Once these issues were resolved, some church leaders turned their attention toward Mormon theology.  Numerous statements by 19th century church leaders had not yet been synthesized into a coherent, organized manner and there was no source one could consult to determine what constituted LDS doctrine.
Authors such as B. H. Roberts, John A. Widstoe, and James E. Talmage wrote systematic works on LDS theology.  Also involved in this effort, Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith compiled 'The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith' in 1939 and in 1954-58 published the three-volume 'Doctrines of Salvation.'
In June, 1958, his son-in-law Bruce R. McConkie surprised church leaders by publishing 'Mormon Doctrine: A Compendium of the Gospel.'  Trained as a lawyer and a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Elder McConkie had not been assigned to write the book, nor sought permission from church leaders. 
Elder McConkie saw it as "the first major attempt to digest, explain, and analyze all of the important doctrines of the kingdom."  Church leaders liked the concept of such a work, but were concerned about its harsh tone and errors, thinking it "most unfortunate that it has received such wide circulation."
Three years earlier the First Presidency had stopped the publication of Elder McConkie's book "Sound Doctrine" as they had decades earlier with B. H. Roberts' theological work "The Truth, The Way, The Life."
Church president David O McKay's combed through the book attaching hundreds of notes to its pages, and asked two apostles to investigate the book further.   "I asked them if they would together go over Elder Bruce R. McConkie's book, Mormon Doctrine and make a list of the corrections that should be made preparatory to his sending out an addendum to all members of the church who have purchased his book."
After a lengthy investigation, Elders Mark E. Peterson and Marion G. Romney reported their findings to President McKay and his counselors.  President McKay's office journal noted:
They submitted their report upon their examination of the book Mormon Doctrine by Elder Bruce McConkie.  These brethren reported that the manuscript of the book Mormon Doctrine had not been read by the reading committee, that President [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and father-in-law of Bruce R. McConkie] Joseph Fielding Smith did not know anything about it until it was published."
Not only were they unhappy with a book seeking to declare church doctrine without their consent, but the committee took issue with strong anti-evolutionary and anti-Catholic statements, as well as the harsh tone and controversial interpretations of some doctrines and practices.  President McKay had been contacted by the Catholic bishop in Salt Lake City about his displeasure with the book.
Elder McConkie was called in to meet with the First Presidency.  Declining to be seated, he was informed of their decision not to allow a second edition which he was preparing.  He responded, "I am amenable to whatever you Brethren want.  I will do exactly what you want."  Elder Henry D. Moyle noted "I've never seen a man in the Church in my experience that took our criticism - and it was more than criticism - but he took it better than anyone I ever saw."
Unused copies of the book were recalled and inventories destroyed. But the book continued to cause concern.  For example, the next month, President McKay tried to alleviate concerns that the church was against evolution.  Other criticisms of the book included: that playing face cards was apostasy and rebellion; that birth control was rebellion against God; that capital punishment should be the penalty for sex crimes.
Six years later, Bruce R. McConkie published an approved, revised version of Mormon Doctrine with most of the 1067 identified problems corrected. 
President McKay's biographer Greg Prince noted:
McKay, age ninety-two and in failing health, did not take the matter up with his counselors or the Quorum of the Twelve. Rather, he said that "should the book be re-published at this time," McConkie would be responsible for it and "that it will not be a Church publication." Three days after meeting with McKay, McConkie wrote in a memo to Clare Middlemiss, McKay's secretary, "President McKay indicated that the book should be republished at this time."
Elder McConkie's son Joseph Fielding McConkie noted "On July 5, 1966, President McKay invited Elder McConkie into his office and gave approval for the book to be reprinted if appropriate changes were made and approved. Elder Spencer W. Kimball was assigned to be Elder McConkie’s mentor in making those changes."
Elder Kimball had a list of about 50 concerns affecting 56 pages of text.  Elder McConkie softened the tone, excluded items not pertinent to a discussion of LDS Doctrine, and added about eighty pages of new material.  No doctrinal changes were made.
The book would go on to become a best seller among Latter-day Saints, proving to be a useful, approved resource for doctrinal information. 
In 1972 he filled a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles created by the death of his father-in-law, then president of the church.  That same year a committee was organized to create a unified version of the LDS scriptures.  Elder McConkie was later appointed to the Scriptures Publications Committee and a new version of the scriptures was released in 1979, including a bible dictionary that borrowed from 'Mormon Doctrine.'
In 1978, President Spencer W. Kimball announced a revelation allowing black men the priesthood.  Of this Elder McConkie said, "There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things ... Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation." 
The next year he modified Mormon Doctrine creating the third and last edition.  He removed doctrinal statements that justified banning black men and women from full church fellowship.
The end of Mormon Doctrine
Some have suggested Mormon Doctrine was discontinued because the church's doctrinal emphasis has shifted, and that the church would prefer to de-emphasize some of the more edgy items penned fifty years earlier before church correlation existed.  While the 2nd and 3rd editions softened and corrected the text, remnants of uncomfortable items remained that are not found in church curriculum produced today.
Others regret the classic and handy volume will no longer be available, as it has continued to be relied on heavily by Mormons and church educators.  Joseph Fielding McConkie reflected it was a "time-honored classics of Mormon literature. Few books can match it in endurance or number of copies sold. Perhaps few books, except the scriptures, can match it in the frequency with which it has been quoted in talks and lessons by those seeking to teach gospel principles."
Latter-day Saint sociologist Armand Mauss noted that for members of the LDS Church, Mormon Doctrine "is considered authoritative, if not definitive, and easily ranks alongside the older Articles of Faith [by James E. Talmage] in its importance."
The book became one of the most influential LDS books of the 20th century.  Even out of print, Mormon Doctrine will remain an LDS classic.
For more info:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Man creates new species of life

Excerpts of Scientists create synthetic cell, version 1.0 by Tim Hornyak, cnet news

Scanning electron micrograph of M. mycoides JCVI-syn1.0.(Credit: J. Craig Venter Institute)

Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have created a synthetic cell that can survive and reproduce itself according to an artificial DNA sequence, promising designer genomes with which researchers can produce sophisticated artificial organisms.

The team of 25 researchers took Mycoplasma capricolum bacteria and completely rewrote its genetic code of more than 1 million base pairs of DNA. The data was sequenced as chemical DNA fragments and sewn together using yeast and E. coli bacteria.

The synthetic genome was transplanted into empty Mycoplasma mycoides bacteria, which were transformed into a new species. The creature's software-like name, JCVI-syn1.0, reflects its status as the first of its kind.

To prove the genome is synthetic and to assert their ownership, the scientists even "watermarked" it by forming encoded words with the alphabet of genes and proteins. They included three quotations, among them a line from "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" by James Joyce: "To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life." They also added a URL and e-mail address to allow researchers who decode the words to notify the institute.

Although the cell is primitive and lacks its own membrane, the techniques developed to create it promise groundbreaking advances in gene engineering and the rise of designer genomes. The achievement also raises ethical questions, not only about the creation of artificial life but the legitimacy of patenting it.

Scientists who were not involved in the study are cautioning that the new species is not a truly synthetic life form because its genome was put into an existing cell. But they are also hailing the results. Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, biologist Richard Ebright of Rutgers University called it "a turning point in the relationship between man and nature."

New CEO of Deseret News

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that Clark Gilbert will become the new Chief Executive of the Deseret News, helping them accelerate their online site, and reinventing the printed paper.

He is the  president and CEO of Deseret Digital Media, which oversees,,, and

Death of Mormon Doctrine

Excerpts of The Death of McConkie's Mormon Doctrine by Bored in Vernal, Mormon Matters
An announcement was made which signals the end of an era.  It was reported that Bruce R. McConkie's
Mormon Doctrine will no longer be published by the Church, and that it will not be sold by Deseret Book.  One viewer stated, "Why? For tighter correlative control, because of the book's embarrassing clarity, and because of some controversial assertions in the book."  He also said that the publisher asserted the book was withdrawn because of poor sales.

Sandra Tanner was interviewed on the 5:30 segment of the news, with her collection of every edition of McConkie's book.  She provided me with her view of the decision:

I believe the main reason McConkie's "Mormon Doctrine" was taken out of print was due to its candid discussion of LDS doctrines that the church is now trying to hide. Such teachings as God once being a man, his wife–Heavenly Mother, and Jesus being the literal, physical son of God are just a few of the doctrines that are being minimized in current manuals. If the LDS Church felt "Mormon Doctrine" presented a faulty compilation of their doctrines, why haven't they issued an authorized compendium of their beliefs? Mormons often say to me, "That's not official doctrine" as though there was some place to look up the official teachings. Where is the official systematic theology of Mormonism?

References to McConkie's work were taken out of the Gospel Principles manual when it was reissued this year for use in Priesthood and Relief Society classes.  Now it seems it is being further phased out.  It is only surprising that this has not been done before, since Mormon Doctrine has not enjoyed the support of every member of the highest Church Councils over the years.

The [KUTV] story is at Connect2Utah.
Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Conservative LDS votes for AZ Immigration law hurting missionary effort

Excerpts of Arizona immigration law fallout harms LDS Church outreach , Arizona Republic

José Corral was seriously con
sidering joining the Mormon Church.

Then, Corral said, he found out that state Sen. Russell Pearce, a Republican from Mesa and sponsor of Arizona's tough new immigration law, is a member of the church. Corral said he told the missionaries to stop coming because he considers the law to be anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic.

The law, which makes it a state crime to be in the country without proper immigration papers, has tarnished the Mormon Church's image among many Latinos, a huge group the church is aggressively trying to attract.

Pearce, a devout Mormon, has been the driving force behind virtually every bill introduced in recent years aimed at clamping down on illegal immigrants. Mormon officials say Pearce does not speak for the church, which has not taken a stance on Arizona's law or the issue of immigration.

Still, it has put the church on the defensive.

"They say, 'Why would we want to hear anything from a religion that would do this to the Hispanic community?' " said [Bishop] Smith, who emphasized that he was speaking for himself, not the church. "It's a great disconnect because on one hand the missionaries are out there preaching brotherly love, kindness, charity, tolerance, faith, hope, etc., and then they see on TV a quote-unquote Mormon pushing this legislation that makes them not only . . . terrified but terrorized."

Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the LDS headquarters in Salt Lake City, said in an e-mail that elected officials who are Mormons do not represent the position of the church. She said the church has also not taken a position on immigration, which is "clearly the province of government."

"However, Church leaders have urged compassion and careful reflection when addressing immigration issues affecting millions of people," she said in the e-mail.

Read the entire article here.

LDS woman named 'Mother of the Year'

Excerpts of National Mother of the Year named, by Marianne Holman, LDS Church News

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the American Mothers, Inc., an interfaith, nonprofit organization that recognizes and promotes the important role of motherhood in society. The organization focuses on involvement in educational programs and community outreach and chooses two representatives — one Mother of the Year and one Young Mother of the Year — from each state.

[Dianne] Callister was chosen as the state representative for California, and later as the national Mother of the Year during the annual conference that was held in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City on May 1. The location is where the first award was given in 1935 to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tea Party Upsets Utah Mormon Political Tradition

Excerpts of Tea Party Gets a Victory in Utah, Upsets Mormon Tradition by Joanna Brooks, Religious Dispatches

The Tea Party has major traction among conservative Mormons who believe in the divine origins of the U.S. Constitution, the virtues of "free market" capitalism, the immorality of socialism and who revere Mormon Tea Party heroes like Mormon media heavyweight Glenn Beck and Mormon anti-communist writer Cleon Skousen (1913 – 2006).

What is startling about Bennett's ouster is that it may mark a break in the Utah Mormon tradition of electing to political office older, wealthy Mormon men with deep social, business, and familial connections to the institutional leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

Senator Bob Bennett, Utah's 76-year-old "junior senator," is the son of Senator Wallace F. Bennett (1898 – 1993), the grandson of Mormon Church president Heber J. Grant (1856 – 1945), and a descendent of the storied Wells-Bennett-Grant family line that includes Mormon apostles, governors, legislators, and mayors. His wife, Joyce McKay, is a granddaughter of Mormon Church president David O. McKay (1873 – 1970).  

Not even a 2009 book defending the Book of Mormon published by LDS Church-owned Deseret Book company nor an endorsement from Mitt Romney, another wealthy Mormon with a deep and storied Mormon pedigree, could save Bennett.  
Read the entire article here.

Mormon who defied Hitler dies in Utah

Excerpts of Mormon who defied Hitler dies in Utah By Brandon Loomis, Salt Lake Tribune
He and two fellow German church members paid for spreading the word against the Nazis.

Karl Schnibbe was young and, he later would say, felt immortal in 1941, when he and two other Mormon lads denounced Adolf Hitler in leaflets they distributed by night around the working-class section of Hamburg.

Busted by the Gestapo and sent to torturous prison camps -- first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets -- Schnibbe lived to age 86 before dying Sunday from complications of Parkinson's disease in Salt Lake City, the community he adopted after World War II.

His friend and pamphlet ringleader, Helmuth Huebener, was beheaded in 1942 at age 17. His other collaborator, Rudolph Wobbe, also immigrated to -- and died -- in Utah.

Schnibbe retold the horrors and courage of their ordeal to Orem filmmaker Matthew Whitaker for a PBS documentary that frequently airs on KBYU. Later this year, Whitaker will retell it Hollywood-style in a feature film starring Haley Joel Osment as Huebener and Max von Sydow as the Nazi judge who sentenced the boys. The film, "Truth and Treason," is planned for release in fall 2011.

Huebener listened to British radio -- banned in Germany under threat of death -- and enlisted Schnibbe and Wobbe to wage a propaganda war telling Germans how they saw the war. Early versions were postcard-size with slogans such as "Hitler is a murderer," Keele said, and the boys moved about at night tacking them to bulletin boards, leaving them in phone booths and slipping them into pockets at opera-house cloak rooms. They kept it up through much of 1941, with the later leaflets describing the hopelessness of the German war effort based on the Third Reich's lack of oil, fights on multiple fronts and America's imminent entry.

A work colleague who Keele believes Huebener tried to recruit to the effort ratted out the trio. Huebener got death. Wobbe was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp. And Schnibbe  got five years.

In all, he spent seven years in forced labor and emerged weighing less than 100 pounds and with poor night vision from malnutrition.

Tens of thousands of Mormons lived in Nazi Germany, Keele said, and they covered the political spectrum. Many of the boys' church mates kept their heads down even if they opposed the regime, he said, and their branch president was a Nazi Party member.

When they were caught, Keele added, the Gestapo started coming around to church meetings to "find out what was the deal with this American sect -- did they want to overthrow the government or what?" Ultimately, the secret police were satisfied the boys acted alone.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Inborn Morality

Excerpts of The Moral Life of Babies by  Paul Bloom, New York Times

Not long ago, a team of researchers watched a 1-year-old boy take justice into his own hands. The boy had just seen a puppet show in which one puppet played with a ball while interacting with two other puppets ... At this point, the toddler was asked to take a treat away from one puppet. Like most children in this situation, the boy took it from the pile of the "naughty" one. But this punishment wasn't enough — he then leaned over and smacked the puppet in the head.

The mental life of young humans not only is an interesting topic in its own right; it also raises — and can help answer — fundamental questions of philosophy and psychology, including how biological evolution and cultural experience conspire to shape human nature. In graduate school, I studied early language development and later moved on to fairly traditional topics in cognitive development, like how we come to understand the minds of other people — what they know, want and experience.

A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. With the help of well-designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life. Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone.


Provo least fun city in the nation?

By Andrew Adams, KSL

PROVO -- There are fun things to do in Provo, right? Go to the movies. Go to the mall. Go out to dinner. Hike in Rock Canyon. Boat at Utah Lake.

One publication apparently decided there is nothing fun about Provo at all. rated the most fun and least fun cities. Provo was rated "least fun," lumped at the bottom with hot, dry places like Bakersfield and Modesto, Calif., and with cities with large water towers, like McAllen, Texas.

Provo Mayor John Curtis disputes the ranking.

"We'll show them what fun is," Curtis told KSL Newsradio Friday morning. "You won't wake up with a hangover and you'll still have your money in your wallet."

An explanation on the Portfolio website of how the rankings are compiled says the study's authors compiled federal statistics about businesses, and cities were graded on the volume and concentration of those businesses. Casinos, restaurants and golf courses were among the establishments taken into account.

The authors then grouped the results into categories of fun - shopping, food and drink, culture, popular entertainment, gambling and high-impact and low-impact sports. The better scores apparently went to cities that rated better in a wide variety of categories.

Curtis is now trying to sway the authors that Provo really isn't that bad.

"We're all convinced in Provo that it's a great place to live and we also think it's fun," Curtis said. "Matter of fact, we're preparing an invitation to the authors of this study to come to Provo and have fun with us."

New York ranks as the most fun city in the survey.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Modern humans, meet the relatives: Neanderthals.

Excerpts of Neanderthals and humans interbred, fossils indicate by Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
Modern humans, meet the relatives: Neanderthals.

It turns out, based on a new fossil analysis out Thursday, that people of European and Asian descent inherited a small amount, an average 1% to 4% of their genes, from the extinct species.

Humans and Neanderthals likely interbred 50,000 to 80,000 years ago in the Near East, concludes the international genetics team's pair of studies in the new issue of the journal Science.  The finding splits the difference in a long-running scholarly debate over whether people are solely African in origin, or spring from "multiregional" interbreeding of early human species.

"This paper shows that the right theory is 'Mostly Out of Africa,' " says population geneticist Henry Harpending of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

The study is based on samples from three bones from Neanderthal skeletons that were 38,000 to 45,000 years old, compared with the gene maps of five modern humans from different parts of the world.

Stocky, thick-browed and heavy-boned, the Neanderthals last shared a common ancestor with the African precursors to modern humans about 500,000 years ago. The Neanderthals populated the Near East and Europe until they vanished from the fossil record about 30,000 years ago. The gene maps produced by the DNA analysis of the bones found Neanderthal genes scattered randomly among non-Africans, Paabo says, indicating they don't account for any racial differences between modern-day Africans and anyone else. Also, the study finds no sign of human genes intruding into the Neanderthal lineage.

"From the fossil record, we might have supposed that any interbreeding would have taken place about 100,000 years ago, so this is a bit unexpected," says paleontologist Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Prehistoric humans and Neanderthals shared roughly the same tools and lifestyle at this time, whereas by about 60,000 years ago, modern-looking humans had better tools and made decorations indicating cultures far different than Neanderthals.

The studies also revealed a few dozen genes altered in humans since they genetically diverged from Neanderthals; some related to skull and brain development. But overall, "they were not very genetically distinct from us," Paabo says.

Deseret News: white, male and Mormon

Excerpts of Media Matters: Deseret News, Now Gentile Free by Josh Loftin, City Weekly
At the end of this week, the Deseret News will have an entirely white, male and Mormon editing staff for their news desk. The last remaining non-Mormon editor, Brice Wallace, will return to working as a business reporter and former business editor and current assignment editor Greg Kratz will take over the business team.

Just over a year ago the seven-person editing corps on City Desk -- the department where the news and business reporters work -- included two women and four non-Mormons. (Disclaimer: I was one of those non-Mormon editors, but not one of the women editors).

When asked about it Wednesday City Editor Tad Walch cringed and said that he hopes the current lack of diversity changes soon. So, at least, words are being spoken that suggest diversity is desired. But actions, in this case, probably speak louder. After all, having an editing staff of faithful Mormons is closer to Editor-in-Chief Joe Cannon's "More Mormon" utopia.

To be fair, all of the editors at the Deseret News are experienced editors ... well, all of the editors outside of Joe Cannon. They are good journalists with solid ethical foundations, and their religious affiliation does not lessen their skills. But it cannot be ignored that they are all of one faith, one gender and one skin color. It sets a tone for the rest of the staff, and reinforces the perception -- publicly and, more and more, within the newspaper -- that it is a newspaper by faithful Mormons and for faithful Mormons.