I went into engineering because I used to believe that science had all the answers. I wanted a field of study with solid truths where nothing was ambiguous or subjective. I did not want opinions; I sought experimentally verifiable facts through which I thought I could finally see a clear picture of the world. I now have a clearer picture (not perfectly clear, but much clearer), but this clarity did not come through science—it came when I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I remember the first conference I presented research work in. I was still an undergraduate at the time, and saw the world through rose colored glasses. I imagined that the conference would be a place where everyone held the same noble ideals, held the pursuit of truth above all else, where cultural and political differences would be overcome through the common language of science. While reading through the research areas of the various groups who were there, to my delight I came across another group who were doing very similar work to my own. I was very excited to find someone else with parallel interests to run ideas past. After meeting with this group, my advisor pulled me aside. He told me they were doing similar work because they had stolen their research from us. He then proceeded to tell me who I should and should not talk to, and what I should and should not talk about. I was crushed. It was the moment where science went from being noble intellectuals pursuing truth, to being politicians pushing agendas and competing with each other in order to secure NIST/DOE grants.
The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. . . . When I was teaching engineering classes/labs at the Colorado School of Mines, we would assess the cognitive development of our students using the “Perry Model of Intellectual and Ethical Development.” Many are familiar with models used in determining various developmental stages in preschoolers and elementary students. Perhaps not as many people are familiar with the models that assess higher thinking patterns within college and grad school, and among post-grads and professionals. It turns out that there is no point where someone is “grown-up,” or where we must cease to advance in knowledge and maturity. Learning is a life-long process. I would like to briefly outline some of the higher stages in cognitive development, as I think they hold religious implications about the nature of our chosen faiths and beliefs.
Most freshmen entering college come in at the lowest Perry level—that of the dualist. When I was a freshman, I was a dualist too. Dualists view everything as being right or wrong, black or white, with no shades of grey. They believe that authority figures can be trusted and do not usually question the validity of what they are told. Students advance into higher levels as they come to recognize and accept uncertainty, and learn how to function in a world where facts don’t really exist. In the highest Perry level, “Students may come to acknowledge that choices require analysis and values. Knowledge, theories, and methods are imperfect and uncertain, thus personal choices require acknowledging personal responsibility that follows from personal values.” In other words, it all comes down to personal values. In an uncertain world, the most certain thing that we can follow is our own principles. The highest levels of cognitive development are achieved by those who are able to most closely follow their own conscience. I don’t know if the leaders in the LDS faith know about Perry levels, but they do know the importance of following our conscience, which is, in reality, the light of Christ.
Our conscience, and many other things in science, clearly point towards intelligent design. The existence of the physical laws, the fine-tuning of universal constants, and our ability to think and be self-aware are all dependent on information, intelligence, and sentient life. The universe is made up of two basic building blocks:
1. that which acts.
2. that which is acted upon.
Science and engineering do a pretty good job when dealing with the inanimate, with those things that are acted upon. Drop a ball of mass m from height h and defined restitution coefficient—and you can calculate what will happen, and perform repeatable experiments. Drop a living cat of mass m from height h and you can no longer calculate what will happen. There is something that resides in what lives, what acts, which is unpredictable because it is not confined to following Newton’s laws. There is no equation that can predict what someone’s life will turn out like, because we are made up of more than just matter and energy. We are endowed with a mind, a conscience, spirit, intelligence—call it what you will, but it exists. We can move, think, and act because it exists. Newton’s first law of motion states that “An object at rest will stay at rest until acted upon by an unbalanced external force.” What unbalanced force acted upon your body to make it rise up out of bed this morning? The rocks outside your front door did not get up this morning, they are still sitting in the same place they were last night. What makes you different than the rocks? We are not rocks; we are not puppets being pushed around by external forces. We are living sentient spiritual beings residing within physical bodies. We are more than just matter and energy. We are the children of a loving Heavenly Father.
I joined the LDS church after having a spiritual experience at one of their meetings. I went to the meeting in order to fulfill a requirement for a comparative religions class. I won’t describe the spiritual experience I had that day, nor experiences I have had since then. Some of those who read this know what I am talking about, and others of you have not yet experienced it. Those who grew up in the church and are used to it probably do not understand what a shock it is to the rest of us—to learn that God is real, that His Son really did come to Earth, and that He can and does communicate with those on Earth. In closing let me share the following quote:
“Major discoveries are not like the discovery of America, where the general nature of the discovered object is already known. Rather, they are like recognizing that one has been dreaming.” – Paul Feyerabend
I bear my testimony, that I know God is real, that He sent His Son to Earth for us, that He is the Father of our spirits, that we are spiritual beings who chose to come to Earth in order to learn and grow. I know that the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament, and the New Testament contain revelations from God, and I believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things. I encourage all to search the scriptures, ponder, and pray with an open mind and heart, that we might all more clearly see reality. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Jamie has a Ph.D. in Engineering Systems and a B.S. in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. She has worked at Hazen Research in the pyrometallurgy and gold ore labs, and was a graduate research assistant in the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Jamie has taught statics, thermodynamics, circuits, materials testing, and data acquisition labs at the Colorado School of Mines in the Mining and Engineering departments. She is currently taking a sabbatical from academia in order to experience motherhood. Her hobbies include hiking, jogging, teaching piano, freelance writing, and volunteer work.
Stable Configuration of Binary Mixtures in a Horizontal Rotating Cylinder: Axial Migration of Granular Particles, Masami Nakagawa, Jamie Moss (Turner). Powders & Grains 1997 Behringer & Jenkins (eds) © 1997 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 8843 May 18-23, pp.495-498
Boundary Effects on the Angle of Repose in Rotating Cylinders, C. Dury, G. Ristow, J. Moss (Turner), and M. Nakagawa. Physical Review E , Vol 57 N4 1998 p4491-4497
Segregation of Granular Particles in a Nearly Packed Rotating Cylinder: A New Insight For Axial Segregation, 1998, M. Nakagawa, J. Moss (Turner), and S. Altobelli. Physics of Dry Granular Media, H.J.Herrmann, J.P.Hovi, S. Luding (eds) pg. 703-710
Particle Mixing in a Nearly-Filled Horizontal Cylinder through Phase Inversion, Jamie L. Turner and Masami Nakagawa. Powder Technology 113 (2000) 119-123
Grain Boundary Motion in Particulate Material J. L. Turner, M. Nakagawa, M.T.Lusk; 4th International Conference on Micromechanics of Granular Media: Powders and Grains 2001, Sendai, Japan, 21-25 May 2001
-Solid state grain boundary motion modeled with molecular dynamics/discrete element computer simulations. Vibrating bed particulate experiments used to verify accuracy of simulations. The influence of grain boundaries on force and velocity distributions studied. Kinetics of curvature driven grain shrinkage and solidification disorder-order phase transformations researched.
-Discrete element simulations of shock wave propagation through three-dimensional disordered particulate material. Theoretical model derived that successfully predicts shock wave velocity as a function of initial system conditions. This research is being used by Los Alamos National Laboratory to understand compression waves in heterogeneous materials.
-Bulk materials handling experiments and simulations of ball mills, kilns, and mixers. Radial and axial segregation patterns identified in a rotating cylinder. Process using alternating rotation speeds identified for use in producing homogeneous mixtures in a rotating cylinder.
-Replacement bone material created through self-propagating high-temperature synthesis (SHS) of powdered titaniumdiboride. Lightweight, strong, porous material produced through exothermic reaction of constituents. Final product analyzed for pore size distribution, and ratio of open to closed pores.
For the Perry Level chart, see:
For the Colorado School of Mines, see:
On the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos National Laboratories, see:
On Hazen Research, see:
For Jamie’s freelance stuff, see:
Jamie’s Mormon.org profile appears at:
Posted September 2010