On the popular TV show MythBusters, one of the hosts once said:
“Remember kids, the only difference between science and screwing around is writing it down.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSUMBBFjxrY)
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about keeping records, and this quote jumped to mind at one point. It got me thinking: If I’m not writing down what is going on with my life, then technically I’m just screwing around.
This next prompted me to think: then what am I testing? When results should I be recording? What experiment is being performed?
Alma talks about this in Alma 32, where he invites us to perform “an experiment”. In this experiment, he describes a seed (“the word”) being planted in our hearts. Except here, he gets it a bit wrong.
In a proper experiment, you want only a single variable. That way, as you observe results, you can confidently attribute them to the singular difference between that experiment and the control group. Unfortunately, Alma describes a bit of a shoddy experiment, because he’s under the impression that the variables are 1) the seed and 2) the fertility of our hearts. He describes the variable of the seed as “if it be a true seed”, and the variable of our hearts by saying “if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief”.
While Alma is describing an inappropriate setup for a proper experiment, he actually unwittingly gets it right. What is being tested here is not the seed. The seed, or the word, is unchanging. We know a priori that the seed is a good seed. What is being tested then is the fertility of our hearts. Or put more simply, whether we will choose to receive the seed or not.
This is the grand experiment; this is the thing we are sciencing: our agency. What will we choose? Will we choose to nurture the seed, so that it will grow and swell and put forth fruit? Or will we choose to neglect it and end up casting it out?
And if we perform these experiment, are we recording our results? Or are we just screwing around?