Z. Hess, Ph.D.
First published on the EternalCore Conference website (Join us this coming Friday and Saturday, March 29-30 in Salt Lake City for a gathering to explore a “God-Centric Mental Health” – what that looks like, and what it could mean for those suffering).
Note: Suicide is an inherently difficult topic – especially for those families who have been impacted by this tragedy. It’s precisely the enormous pain of suicide that arguably calls for a wide-ranging discussion of anything that could potentially help reduce the numbers. The purpose of this article is to raise one possibility not widely considered – partly because it involves an intervention largely embraced as central to solving the problem. This article does not constitute medical advice and should not be used to guide individual care decisions. No changes to any medication regimen should be made without supervision from a physician – especially since research confirms that dosage changes are one of the times where risk for suicidality is heightened. I believe that everyone is doing the best they can to solve this societal problem, and that we need to make sure there is space in our public discussion for all possibilities (including unpopular ones) so we can make more progress. All feedback will be appreciated.
Like so many others, I’ve lost loved ones to suicide. The heartbreak this causes for so many families has prompted enormous prevention efforts and a wonderful new Church website dedicated to helping raise awareness.
The most obvious question that comes up is why? What was it that led this individual…to that? Although there will always be some uncertainty involved in this profound heartbreak, thousands of studies documenting various risk factors for suicide make it clear that no single cause is responsible, as much as hundreds of overlapping contributors.
As suicides keep rising, another “why” question arises: Why have the numbers been going up? This brings up other conversations about social media and the opioid epidemic, along with other unique cultural and economic factors that have shifted markedly in the last decade or two. Shifting views on sexuality have also been rightly discussed as potentially playing a role in growing distress, although there are substantial disagreements about how to make sense of that influence.
The why question we’re not talking about. There’s a third “why” question that is far less obvious and rarely discussed: Why do these numbers continue to rise, even when we are doing so much to decrease them?
Continue reading →
Why the Hobby Lobby Decision is a Victory for People of Faith and for Society
Guest Post by Daniel Ortner
The recent Hobby Lobby decision has been widely praised in the conservative media and greeted with deep alarm among the left. Yet, in reality the decision was a modest one that will likely have almost no impact on the employees of Hobby Lobby or Conestoga Wood. Indeed, the most likely outcome is that the government simply offers to religiously motivated for-profits the same accommodation that they are currently offering churches and religiously affiliated hospitals whereby upon certification of a religious objection, the health insurance providers cover contraception at no cost to the employer or employee.
So why is this case nevertheless a big deal? Why should members of the LDS Church and other people of faith celebrate the ruling? The threshold question in this case was whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which congress passed in the early 90’s to protect religious people of conscience applies to religiously motivated for-profit companies as well as churches and other people of conscience.
In other words, the key question is whether individuals who form for-profit entities lose the ability to assert religious freedom claims under the RFRA. For the dissent, because “an individual separates herself from the entity and escapes personal responsibility for the entity’s obligations,” by incorporation, that individual cannot argue that a government requirement violates his/her individual conscience. In other words, because the law removes personal liability from most business decisions, the dissent suggests that an individual should be expected to compartmentalize or separate his faith and his business activities.
Continue reading →
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27)
Steven Peck (aka StevenP from BCC) is a BYU biology professor that has written about religion and evolution. One of his articles (based on the views of Henri Bergson) on his website (split into three parts: part 1, part 2, I couldn’t find part 3) was about how the process of evolution often causes certain forms of life to arise just by virtue of the fact that the evolutionary process must solve certain problems.
For example, the eye has evolved in relatively the same manner multiple times on entirely independent lines of organisms. And it is not mere coincidence that fish and whales get confused a lot. Despite being completely different species all together, the similar forces of evolution forced them to look quite similar.
Is it possible that there is some similar type of what we might call ‘directed evolution’ going on with humans? Here, the evidence is thin at best, but let’s play around and have a little fun with hypotheses: Continue reading →
In a previous post I talked about Roger Penrose’s seven (depending on how you count them) SUPERB theories of science. Now I’d like to give you an alternative view that I think is equally fascinating, though it takes a completely different path.
David Deutsch, being a Popperian Epistemologist (i.e. Epistemology is the theory of how we gain knowledge), believes that what makes a theory one of our best theories is not its range and accuracy, but instead how much it explains. Based on these criteria, Deutsch believes our four deepest theories of science are the following:
- Quantum Mechanics
- Biological Natural Selection
- Popper’s Theory of Knowledge (Epistemology)
- Computational Theory
In fact, Deutsch believes that these four strands are the start of what he calls “a theory of everything.” Continue reading →
In my last two posts on Computational Theory, I first explained the Church-Turing Thesis which can be summarized as the idea that all (full-featured) computers are equivalent. I then went on to summarize some Computational Theory principles we can study and research once we assume that the Church-Turing Thesis is true. This research is primarily based around the limits of what a Turing Machine can do or how fast it can perform.
In this post I’m going to explore some of the philosophical ramifications of the Church-Turing Thesis, if it were to actually hold true. And at least so far (with one interesting exception) it has held true. Though in the end, I suspect many readers will feel they need to ultimately reject the Turing Thesis. But even if it does ultimately prove false, the very fact that it holds true in every case we know how to currently devise still makes it an useful scientific principle, for now. Continue reading →