Monday, March 2, 2015

Personal Discernment

Discernment is known to be a spiritual exercise which is accompanied by fasting and prayer. Now that it is Lent, it is a good time to give up some worldly attractions, like extra food, and read the Bible and other spiritual literature. I’m re-reading the book by Ralph Martin, The Fulfillment of All Desire. He writes about the journey to holiness and goal of union with the Lord.

Martin chooses from the writings of seven Doctors of the Church, including St. John of the Cross, Catherine of Siena and Bernard of Clairvaux. These saints were known for the depth of their experiences with God. Martin elaborates on three stages of spiritual maturity: the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways.

Reading through the first time, I thought the book a little choppy, since Martin starts talking about one saint and then brings in the writings of others to support the point he is making at the time. But the reviews of his book on Amazon are stellar, and I thought I’d go through it again at a slower pace. I am finding that this does help in absorbing Martin’s explanations. The Amazon page, where you can get much more information, is here.

Our efforts to tell others about Jesus Christ are often seen by outsiders as tiresome. But the salvation He has offered us is toward a wondrous joy of a growing relationship with God. Among  the things Christians should do is to develop this love with the Lord, in conjunction with love for His people, and express these experiences to others.

May you have a blessed Lent and move along God’s path for you.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Getting Along

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was observed Jan. 18-25. The theme was taken from John 4, where Jesus Christ asked a Samaritan woman at a well for a drink of water. The theme was apparently suggested by Brazilians, who have the custom to offer water to strangers when they approach.

Pope Francis commented on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, encouraging personal encounters between Christians that emphasize listening to each other rather than expounding on “subtle theoretical discussions.” It’s an interesting point of view, and highlights the difficulty of religious relationships. Even within denominations we have problems. The Pope followed a similar line of thought with Catholic Bishops at the Synod of the Family last October. Francis told them to think about how to be better pastors and not try to prove to each other how smart they are. And, during a trip to the Philippines, also this past January, the Pope said that the leaders should listen to women, because they see things differently than men.

Reason is given by God, but so is wisdom. Catholic thinking can be hardened and cold when intellect refuses to encounter a variety of living human beings. Imagine the male leadership becoming so humble as to respect the spectrum of women’s feelings and opinions instead of insisting we all conform ourselves to a single mold of an imagined (by men) ideal. And yet didn’t God ask humility of us all?

It is the logic of natural law that men learn in universities that says that women can’t even think (Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 92, Article 1). It is no wonder women reject teachings particularly aimed at us. These rulings are based on a history of male prejudice against women throughout the ages, and within Christianity starting from the Fathers of the Church shortly after Christ left this Earth for Heaven. With non-abortive, barrier contraception as an example, Catholic leaders have consistently ignored female voices. However, perhaps there is some hope, as the problem of the Church's ostracism of women is being addressed with some insight at a Vatican meeting about women this month. Among the thoughts expressed is that Church leadership has indeed historically excluded women from decision-making, and perhaps not every complaint from women should be categorized as rampant feminism. Although this assembly has been widely criticized, it is at least a start.

It’s hard to imagine how Christians will unite between denominations when we can’t even get along within them. Then again, humans alone probably are unable to do it. We need to find how to connect with God’s grace when we face each other. Not only would that lead to agreement, it would awaken our spirits to the wonder of becoming a part of the Divine Nature. This promise is related to us in 2 Peter. To become spiritually complete is to reject false pride and arrogance. It is to live in community with love, harmony and acceptance.

What a witness of Christianity that would provide to the rest of the world.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Discern More Certainly

I've been talking about discernment the last few months, and I’d like to add a few more comments to the subject.

Many persons believe that they discern through the Holy Spirit. However, some of these people, including current members of the Church, don’t believe Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, but that one religion is as good as another and eventually we’ll all go to heaven. In the opinion of many Christians, this is not what Christ and His disciples taught.

Jesus Christ's mission on Earth included instruction about our sins, His atonement for them, and the clear message that belief in Him alone, as part of the Trinity including God the Father and Holy Spirit, is the only way to living in spiritual freedom with God in heaven. Jesus talked to the disciples about sending His Spirit after He was gone. Then, on the day of Pentecost as told in the Book of Acts, Chapter 2 (NIV), the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they could speak other languages. They came to understand Christ better because of the Holy Spirit.

Later in the Bible, St. Paul writes quite a bit about the Holy Spirit, for example in Romans 8 and the Book of Ephesians. He links the Holy Spirit very strongly with belief in Christ.

Women and men who don’t have this faith are logically and spiritually incomplete. God can direct us in times when we are on the wrong path, and He often does so to bring the lost to His kingdom. Yet I believe the best way by far for us to commune with His Spirit is to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. If your belief is incorrect, your discernment can be mistaken.

Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit: three persons of one essence. If you do not have proper relationship with one, you do not have proper relationship with the totality of God. If you think any religion is as good as another (the idea is called “Indifferentism”), you are susceptible to being wrong about the thoughts you are following. Even true believers may not be perfect in discerning the Holy Spirit, but a false set of mind will muddy an already difficult process.

I’ve talked about women having personal callings from God about what to do with their lives. I wanted to add these further thoughts about discernment, because I’ve read and heard a lot of what I consider wrong thinking about the faith itself from many Catholic women leaders, such as theologians and religious sisters. Much as I want to see progress in the Church for women, it should never happen at the expense of Truth. Women (and men) who are not truly Christian may well be following the wrong voices down the wrong path. Yet all persons who understand Christ’s true message can and should lead others to Him.

I'd like to repeat here an aspect of discernment that is important in many situations. In the Bible, Paul says we should agree with each other (1 Corinthians 1:10). This is very difficult for us. It seems we all have an opinion, and it is very natural to think our way is God’s way. So unless we have an open mind that God might want something different, it will be hard to listen for His direction.

Pope Francis has tried to tell those who are rigid in their opinions that we can be “surprised by God.” The hope is that, when we have conflict, God can bring us to fuller understanding and greater clarity. I believe God often uses life’s experiences in this way, and so it can take time. But if we persist with our hearts in the right place, it can be worth every bit of the wait.

And so our prayers for discernment together as Christians should continue whenever there is disagreement. And we must be sure to pray to the True Lord.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Discerning Women

video
My post for today is on the first Monday of the Month. I had been doing it on First Fridays, the day of devotion for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I’ve been attending mass on that day for a long time, but am planning a shift toward Monday devotion and will try to attend mass at least one Monday a month. Monday is devoted to the Holy Ghost and souls in Purgatory (you can see a list of devotions here). 

In my last post, I mentioned the Extraordinary Synod of the Family, called by Pope Francis and held in October. Pope Francis has called Catholic Bishops to give input about the family and work on the problems related to it. They are going to have another meeting next year in which there may be some revisions of the current status of teaching. The Pope is looking for input from the general Catholic membership also. Since the Pope and others have used the Holy Family as a model for families, I’d like to comment about that for my December post.

For a long time the Church leadership has insisted that all married couples seek to “develop a mentality of openness to life,” which to them means having a marriage in which every sexual act would potentially lead to children. Concerning the Holy Family, the Catholic Church holds that Mary was a virgin throughout her whole life and Jesus was her only child. In order for that to be true, Mary and Joseph had no sexual relations and apparently felt no compulsion to have more children.

Last month I talked about Christ saying that his true family are those who do God’s will. Ironically the example of the Holy Family, instead of backing the Magisterium's apparent interpretation, more clearly shows that God called Mary directly and personally (through an angel) to do His will. God did not consult first with Mary’s religious leaders, her parents, or even her husband-to-be. And Mary answered directly to God (through an angel) without first consulting with her religious leaders, her parents, or even her husband-to-be. She had to discern (I believe with God’s help) that the angel was a good one, since not all angels are. Mary didn’t know if, in her acceptance, Joseph would still marry her or if her parents would reject her or if the Jewish leaders would try to have her stoned. 

I don't understand how our Church leadership can be sincere in using Mary as an example to promote child-bearing. Of course, Jesus Christ was quite a child, but no amount of child-bearing could make another woman into Mary or another child equal to Christ.

John Paul II, in his Apostolic letter Mulieris dignitatem, also extensively cites Mary’s life. He says virginity and motherhood are complimentary, but it is a little hard to understand that in a practical way. He talks about consecrated virgins caring for others, such as the poor, which certainly is often the case. This is a form of mothering though it is not to biological children. However, perhaps a young woman does not feel the call to religious vocation but does discern that God calls her to be, for example, a doctor. Then she spends her youth in becoming educated and starts to practice. If she later falls in love with a man, she will probably discern that she still has that original calling to be a doctor. She then also needs to discern if this man is compatible as a life partner, and by “compatible” I mean someone who respects the woman in all her facets. Women and men both need to realize they first must seek God, then, if so inclined, seek a human partner.

Marriage is present in other religions, so to be married is not necessarily to evangelize for Christianity. Though lasting marriage is very important, it seems to be one aspect of Christ’s larger message. The priority of the Church is evangelization. The central point of Christianity is to believe Jesus Christ is one of the persons of the Trinity of God who came to Earth, lived a sinless life and died in atonement of the sins of humanity. We are also to proclaim such to others in the best way we can. It is vital for each of us to believe in Him and to continue to proclaim His divinity and inform persons that they also need to have this faith for the salvation of their souls and an everlasting life with God in heaven.

Most of us have long lives, and if a married Christian woman truly discerns that God is calling her to motherhood, the Church should support her and her family in every way they can. But if a married Catholic woman discerns that God is calling her to promote His kingdom using gifts other than motherhood, then the Church should also support her and her husband in every way they can. These women with other callings would indeed be wonderful assets to the Church’s mission. Not every career woman is selfishly out for herself in the way she is often portrayed. She might be giving to others in very important physical and spiritual ways. (And this is possible for married women without abortifacients, but NFP is just not sufficient. Women can be irregular and can't always plan for the wedding night.) The Church leadership is a long way off from this ideal of supporting women. This contributes greatly to the fact that American, European, and now Latin American women, and men along with them, have left the Church.

There was another conference on the family in November—this one ecumenical. Pope Francis said this about complementarities between spouses in a family, with a link to an article about the conference here at Vatican News:
The Holy Father began his address by dwelling on the word “complementarity”: “a precious word, with multiple meanings.” Although complementarity can refer “situations where one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other” it also means much more than that. Christians, he said, “find its deepest meaning in the first Letter to the Corinthians where Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that-just as the human body's members work together for the good of the whole-everyone's gifts can work together for the benefit of each.”
Complementarity, the Pope said, “is at the root of marriage and family.” Although there are tensions in families, the family also provides the framework in which those tensions can be resolved.” He said that complementarity should not be confused with a simplistic notion that “all the roles and relations of the sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.” Rather, “complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children.”
Pope Francis has been encouraging discernment. Of course we all need the right foundation. Then the Church leaders and members should learn when to discern together and when individuals should be trusted to discern God's will for themselves. We need to pray that we can listen to God as well as Mary, the mother of Jesus, did so many years ago.
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May you have a blessed Christmas. I hope you have time (3:44) to play the video at the top of the page. The song is "Joy." Music by Cindy Morgan, Lights by eShepherds of Light. I saw it  here at the Vimeo website.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Family Discernment

Pope Francis had called for an “Extraordinary Synod of Bishops,” which was held in October in Rome. The group discussed the family and its relationship with evangelization. At completion of their 2 week meeting, they issued a statement called, ‘Synod14-"Relatio Synodi" of the 3rd extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of bishops: "pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization" (5-19 October 2014), 18.10.2014.’ If you would like to read it, link here

The Synod has focused on the family as the male-female-child unit (nuclear family), but the whole Church is also sometimes referred to as a family (Church family). Though I’ve seen quite a few references to what Jesus Christ said about divorce, here I want to point to another quote concerning what He said about family.

In Matthew 12, verse 47 (NIV), Jesus Christ had been speaking to a crowd and someone told him that his mother and brothers were outside seeking him. The Lord asked,
“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
God’s will is something Christians strive to do in our imperfect way, and our efforts have many aspects. If we are Christians, our nuclear families are to be considered in the greater context of what it means to follow Christ. In doing this, we try to understand the meaning of Christ’s words with the help given to us by the writers of the Bible and Christian leaders. But if and when possible, we also try to connect with God in an interior way. We pray to Him, we think about Him, and this already is beginning to make that interior relationship. Then, some of us feel movements deep within that lead us to believe God may be present. They evoke emotions of awe or love or other spiritual dimensions. They seem to us beyond those felt every day, perhaps as a part of special events of life or even deeper and wider than these.

Catholic leaders encourage young people to seek their vocation, meaning to try to follow God’s will. They also mean it in another way, since “vocation” stands for a life in specific religious service. I’ve often read of priests, religious or deacons who felt they had followed God’s will in pursuing their vocation. This effort to hear God’s call is an interior communication with God.

Romance books always have scenes of persons starting to notice each other and becoming aware that they react in a different way to each other than to anyone else. As most people know, these feelings can be very vivid and energizing. And of course if thwarted, they can lead to heartbreak and great pain.

The Psalms in the Bible are a reminder of the communion King David had with the Lord, with emotions not exactly the same but comparable to the romance books. Often he expresses anguish, but also joy and awe at God’s creation. Many people have experienced a great joy when they have first become Christians. But after time, the going can get tough. Saints have talked about their “dark nights of the soul,” and so it can be a little like the human relationships we experience.

Christians in general experience difficult relationships among each other, easily demonstrated by the number of denominations we have and even the infighting inside each of these. And certainly we have problems relating to non-Christians.

All relationships can be joyous on one hand and terribly difficult on the other. How do we get to the right place in these relationships? I’d like to say I’ve figured it out, but my rapport with others can be as rocky as anyone else’s. Yet I do have an ideal that I try to follow in my life, and it has to do with discernment and prayer.

I know for Catholics, especially devote ones, that saying the Rosary is next to being in heaven. However, I’m a convert, and I don’t have the same connection to it that they do. I’m not saying they shouldn’t continue with it, but I personally prefer a prayer which expresses thanks, awe and supplications more specifically. I do this as my life rolls along, often praying for specific situations.

I’d like to see that happen in our Church families, with groups praying, discussing, and discerning together. Right now, we pray in the mass, which is good, but it sometimes feels like the prayers are done for us instead of including us. I’m not saying group prayer should be done in mass, but it should be part of the community beyond the prayers of mass and the small number of devout people who daily or weekly repeat the Rosary.

Now, I say this having experience with group prayer in other settings, and it takes a lot of commitment and patience. What can happen is that it can devolve into politics, with people praying for their party to win. Members would have to remember the Church is not the same as the state. Another problem is there can be almost as much repetition as with the Rosary, because people pray the same things over and over. This is not necessarily bad, but it is where other crucial elements come in: frank but civil discussion to express individual differences of opinion and evaluate progress toward agreement. The idea is not that everyone has to do everything one exact way, but that if we are disagreeing about serious subjects, we are not hearing God’s perfect will. (We thereby discern what subjects require further discernment.)

Group prayer should focus on listening to God and not to the individual desires of the members. That is where the discipline of discussion, prayer and discernment is distinguished from personal power-grabbing. When discussion reveals that members do not agree, they should go back to prayer and ask God for His guidance. Then, after a waiting period, there would be another discussion and if necessary the cycle repeated until agreement is reached.

And that is where it gets very tough, because many people, including priests and Church leaders, do not seem to understand the difference between what they want and what God wants. Any time anyone disagrees with them, they automatically assume they are right and the other is wrong. This is the very reason for the desperate need for discerning prayer in the Church family, as well as the male-female-child nuclear family.

Being the optimist, I think that prayer such as this is possible though it takes faith and great patience. In fact, it is a life-time commitment. We’ve heard the phrase, “Families that pray together, stay together.” If the people of the Church could pray together sincerely, specifically and with a heart to listen for God, we could communicate with the Lord and each other. Prayer would include praise and thanks but also supplication for spiritual, emotional, and physical needs, such as those which each family experiences. And on all levels we could seek solutions for problems and help against the temptations of separation experienced by Christians.

I hope to talk about the Holy Family next month. December seems like a good time to talk about family, since we focus on our Lord’s birth. May you have a blessed Thanksgiving and I’ll see you then.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Matter of Faith

This month a movie that comes out on October 17 and will be showing in Grand Rapids is “A Matter of Faith” which I’ll abbreviate MOF. In it, a young woman attends college and is influenced away from faith by her evolutionist biology professor. Her father becomes upset and ends up debating the professor.

I heard a producer of the film being interviewed on a Christian radio show I listen to on Saturday mornings, and I looked the movie up on the Internet. I found the website and played the trailer (at the link on the movie's name above). To my surprise, I saw the campus of one of my alma maters—Aquinas College in Grand Rapids! I did a search and found the producers, the Christiano brothers of Christiano Film Group, are from Grand Rapids and the production was headquartered at Cornerstone College which is located on the East Belt Line there. Scenes were indeed taken from Grand Rapids locations.

I attended Aquinas College for a certificate in theology, which I received after 18 credit hours. I had already earned a veterinary degree, but have been interested in theology and spirituality for a long time. Then, around the time I was going at Aquinas, I started reading the works of Intelligent Design (ID) advocates such as Michael Behe (Darwin’s Black Box), William Dembski  (Intelligent Design) and Phillip Johnson (Darwin on Trial). I already was convinced that biological life was not a product of totally natural evolution, but I enjoyed reading their works and learning more about the controversy.

I didn’t agree, though, with the Intelligent Design advocates in their approach to science. They wanted to prove design in a strictly scientific way, but I think that faith comes first. Of course, not everyone believes. But, IF a person believes in God, THEN s/he believes all things are Created and therefore all things are designed. You don’t prove design, you believe it. However, if you want to look at the scientific part of why totally natural evolution should not be considered feasible with the knowledge of natural laws as they are now, it’s as simple as this: the complexity of biology defies probabilities.

I wish I had bookmarked a conversation I saw recently, I’m pretty sure from Evolution News and Views, between an ID advocate and an evolutionist. I can’t find the article now, but the background is that, as scientists compare the proteins of different species, they try to match the sequences of their sub-units. If they match, the scientists say it proves that one species came from another. As I remember, the ID advocate, who wrote the article, asked how evolutionists feel that the low probability of matching protein sub-units in various species proves evolution whereas the overall probability of the proteins existing in the first place is much smaller by far. The evolutionist said something like: the comparison of proteins gives scientists frames of reference, but the origin has no frame of reference. Apparently chemistry, physics and mathematics don’t count as frames of reference when it comes to origin of life and new proteins along the way of species differentiation. Actually, the experimentally proven extreme rarity of functional proteins among all the combinations of their sub-units (amino acids) provides a very fundamental frame of reference. (The evolutionist also did not explain why the differences in proteins do not count in the determination of proof.)

The comparison of proteins can be accessed on the Internet in various databases. The UniRef database is from the UniProt consortium, which is a combination of particular European and American protein database providers. UniRef shows relationships between proteins in over 200,000 species, which NCBI describes here. This is about 10% of all formally described species. They identify each protein and give it a cluster identification, then compare proteins to different species. If the proteins are similar, they are put together in a category of "related clusters" or "cluster members." The charts on the database give the number of clusters that compare closely to others, along with the species names. And yet as of October 3, 2014, there are more than 7,750,000 single clusters of proteins that match less than 50% to other clusters out of a total of around 82,000,000 clusters.

I took one of the clusters and looked a little more closely at it. There were several species in this cluster, but the group for the "cluster" were still close cousins. The protein is called “histidine kinase” and it is in the organism "Halorubrum saccharovorum," part of a family of archaea (pronounced are-KEY-ah). Archaea are single-celled organisms that were first thought to be ancestors of bacteria, but were found to not be related once the genes could be sequenced (starting in the mid-nineties). So this particular protein structure is so far only found in one family of one type of organism. The protein is involved in sending molecular-level signals.

It can be hard to get an image of a specific protein since there are so many proteins--not all have been depicted. I apologize that I have not been able to find an image of this particular one, but think I am still able to demonstrate how different proteins can look and how different their structures are. The first image is from an Archaea species, Methanocaldococcus jannaschii, of a kinase that has histidine as an active site. The explanation of the protein is here.

The second image has a histidine kinase (ATPase) from a different species known as Thermotoga maritima. This is a bacteria instead of an archaea. When the sub-units (20 different amino acids) of the Halorubrum and Thermotoga proteins are compared, the identity is figured by the “Align” program in UniProt to be 14.2%. When I run the two proteins pictured here, from Methanocaldococcus and Thermotoga, against each other, the identity is less than 10%. And even the two Archaea proteins, from Halorubrum and Methanocaldococcus, matched only at 9.9% . You can run the Align yourself if you want by using the UniProt ID numbers of the proteins: Q9WZV7 for Thermotoga, Q60352 for Methanococcus, and M0E4M2 for Halorubrum. Though they have different lengths, all with hundreds of amino acids, the matches are very minimal for any of the sections.

(Some say that instead of individual amino acids, larger sections of various proteins might have randomly combined, and often you hear there is “horizontal transfer” from one species to another. But horizontal transfer depends on about 30 specific proteins, and besides the improbability of them forming in the first place, not all organisms can do this transfer. And once you get above single-celled organisms, the chances are even smaller because the transfer would have to involve the specific reproductive cells.)

Even though there is a big variety of molecules throughout living systems that do similar things, this doesn't mean every protein can do every job. Just like in factories, the thousands of specialized jobs need specialized tools to do them. Or think of cars, trains and planes. Each of them are used for transportation, but you don't use car parts for a train, and train parts do not have intermediates for plane parts. Each part is made specifically for its purpose. To take the analogy a little further, there are different kinds of cars, trains and planes, and though some parts may interchange among the various types of each, many can't.

In naming clusters, UniRef compares proteins and the manual says it looks for 80% match. However, in the UniProt "Align" section, the comparison of proteins described above shows you how well short fragments match. When you get very low matches, this minimizes the idea of functional sections from different proteins somehow finding each other, at least so far. It is becoming known that about 10% to 20% of proteins of every living organism are ORFans, or those which have statistically little to do with each other (see my booklet, Creation Biology). And millions of fragments would have to unite at the exact junctures to become functional within the limit of 10^50 organisms that could have existed in 4 billion years on Earth.

All Christians should consider themselves Creationists because, as it says in our creeds, we believe God made all things, visible and invisible. Unfortunately in today’s academic atmosphere, even Christian colleges are blocking the attempts by certain Creationists called Special Creationists to make their cases. Special Creationism is a belief that God made humans and “kinds” (similar to species) directly without long-term evolution. Many Fundamentalists are Young Earth Creationists, but one can be open-minded about the age of the Earth and still believe people were created directly, in a way that they did not stem from other species.

Even Theistic Creationists, who are supposed to believe that God intervened along the way of long-term evolution, don’t seem to want to talk about the supernatural part. Many from their main think tank at Biologos seem to insist that evolution is totally materialistic and at bottom a random process.

The situation is worse in secular colleges, where the mere mention of supernatural biological Creation by God brings condemnation. But it is a shame that the Christian universities are almost as bad. From the overall situation comes the movie MOF which, as said above, involves a college student who is being taught evolution by her biology professor. Her father is fearful she will lose her faith altogether which is why he debates the professor.

The MOF movie does not have the wide distribution of “God’s Not Dead,” but the movie conveys very real problems felt in the Catholic world. The Catholic philosophy of “Thomism” in which St. Thomas Aquinas, the great scholar of the 13th century set out to blend faith and reason, is very complex. But to address one point, I have heard it said in the name of Aquinas that God created the universe in a way that all things were laid out in order and that He would never contradict that natural order by intervening in a supernatural way once it was laid out.

A problem in Aquinas’ time was that the Greek philosophy had recently become available to European minds through its translation into Latin. And for one thing, there was an apparent conflict between this “Reason” and “Faith” over the source of the universe and its contents because the Greeks (such as Parmenides) had said “Nothing comes from nothing.” Christians believe that God made the Universe from nothing. So Aquinas held that though things are usually made from other things, there must be a “First Mover” and a “First Cause.” But he also specifically commented about the creation of humans.

In Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 92, Article 4, he says this in his answer (after laying out the contrary argument [objection] first, which is at the link here if you want to read it):
As was said above…the natural generation of every species is from some determinate matter. Now the matter whence man is naturally begotten is the human semen of man or woman.  Wherefore from any other matter an individual of the human species cannot naturally be generated.  Now God alone, the Author of nature, can produce an effect into existence outside the ordinary course of nature.  Therefore God alone could produce either a man from the slime of the earth, or a woman from the rib of man.
 In the next statement, Reply to Objection 1, Aquinas says: 
This argument is verified when an individual is begotten, by natural generation, from that which is like it in the same species.
 Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was causing problems for the Church, but there was philosophical upheaval before then. In 1879, Pope Leo XIII put out an encyclical called Aeterni Patris. He said that science is good, but it needs to be combined with faith, and used St. Thomas Aquinas as the ultimate model in the combination of the two.

I'll never know all the in's and out's of philosophy and theology. I do perceive we've gotten to the point where anyone who argues against neo-Darwinian theory is considered either an anti-science Fundamentalist or an anti-reason, anti-"form"ist. We are treated in a hostile manner by many Catholics as well as atheists. Well, the complexity of biology is showing that the Fundamentalists may just be right after all.

It is a little risky to speculate on what God would or wouldn’t do. Some think He’d never “trick” them by making genes “look like” they have mutated over time when they really hadn’t, such as they say is the case with Vitamin C gene. However, the Fundamentalists have long associated imperfect (fallen) nature to original sin. In fact, it would be contrary to our doctrine if nature were still perfect. But I’ve never heard this aspect discussed by the detractors.

We are left with the question of whether God created species or kinds in increments, with parents of different characteristics. Though Darwin claimed it was a slow process, in the intervening years we have found the difference in body make-ups between parent and child would have to be pretty big in some cases. Can the parent bug give birth to a fish-type child?  (I'm exaggerating, but only a little.) The body type comes from the egg as well as the DNA, so the egg would have to have major changes from within the parent. I’ve never heard any proposal of scientific-supernatural solutions for these problems from Theistic Evolutionists. Maybe I’ve just missed them, but I doubt it.

I used to accept that people come from apes, but I don’t anymore. People were made by God, and I think He did it directly and supernaturally and not by evolution. I am not saying God wouldn’t make people by evolution, because He does as He sees fit. But it’s just as logical to think He didn’t have a person born to an ape as that He did.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Probably--Not

Naturalistic evolutionists say that specific changes to the gene DNA would not be that difficult by evolution because once the gene has one beneficial change, the organism will out-reproduce others and then subsequent organisms in the gene pool will be more likely to come up with the right combination when other mutations occur. One change is supposed to build upon another. 

Perhaps one mutation in a particular protein will improve the fitness of the gene or the organism, even though research is showing that the more mutations, the more fitness declines.

Unfortunately, when the Darwinists describe evolution to the public, they are often mixing metaphors. One example they use is a string of nonsense letters which slowly changes to a readable sentence. The changes are supposed to play out in the DNA, where the mutations take place. This model leads to a lot of confusion. A very short word is pictured here to show an illustration of their model.

To give some background, inside our cells some areas of DNA are copied for the production of proteins (known as coding DNA), and some areas of DNA are not (known as non-coding). The coding areas must have very close to exact sequences of the sub-units, called "bases," in order to produce functional proteins. Previously, before the latest results of the Human Genome Project (ENCODE), it was thought that non-coding DNA was “junk” from millions of years of evolution, and could mutate freely in order to experimentally produce entirely new proteins. However, the ENCODE Project showed that these areas also have important functions, such as regulation and organization.

The evolutionists have been fighting the ENCODE results and still claim that accumulation of mutations in the DNA leads to selection of the fittest, so that the reproduction of organism with the better changes gives a bigger pool of the better genes. This is supposed to then mathematically reduce the number of “tries” for the gene to get it right and therefore the gene does not have to go through a completely random series of changes until it produces a functional protein.

The naturalistic evolutionists use the nonsense sentences to represent both coding and non-coding DNA at different levels. This mixing of metaphors is important since evolutionists use the computer simulations to make people believe that evolution is easy. They start with the nonsense sentence, and when a letter randomly becomes “right,” it sticks (in my short word illustration above, the “A” sticks once it appears). The computer programmer knows what letters should accumulate in order to get the end meaning and manipulates the letters to stay where s/he wants them. For many of these changes, the sentence is still nonsense. Only at the last few changes will you figure out what a sentence says. And in the word illustration, there is no reason that A should stick until the whole word "CAT" is present, with this functional word representing a functional gene.

At first they are saying the nonsense line of letters stands for individual sub-unit bases in the “junk,” non-coding DNA which can mutate freely. But as soon as one of the letters is right, the single letter stands for an entire set of coding DNA that is a workable, superior gene. This gene is supposed to be selected because it makes the organism more fit and that is how they justify the “sticking” of the letter. But a string of nonsense letters can NOT represent a gene that has to code for specific proteins because these gene sequences have to be fully functional in the very beginning of when protein’s biological function in the organism exists. And to make one letter stand for a whole gene that is selected because it improves the organism is to change the metaphor.

Evolutionists want you to think the working genes came about this way, but the nonsense letters can only simulate “junk” DNA that is not used by the organism and can therefore make “tries” for functional proteins with each mutation of the next generation. Nonsense DNA does not produce the functional proteins needed in life from the very beginning. The systems are things like photosynthesis, citrate cycle, carbon fixation, and glycolysis, to mention a few.  And if you start with a meaningful sentence and change letters by chance, you will see how quickly the sentence becomes unreadable and therefore represents a non-functional gene.

In journal articles and places like Wikipedia, those who insist on evolution often say something like: this or that system “is very ancient in evolution” or “was evolutionarily early.” Yes, they would have had to be early all right—like from the start. There are no partial enzymes here trying to work up step by step into working enzymes. And they did not come from previous systems and reform for these jobs, as so many evolutionists claim about functional proteins, because there were no previous systems.

The mixing of metaphors can confuse people when scientists write articles about the origin of life and how chemical reactions can take place in “natural” settings like oceans. It is true that different biological molecules don’t need a cell in order to combine with other molecules and either break or combine into something else. But for them to produce the right products, have the side-products removed, do it in the right time-span and concentration, there needs to be pretty much coordination. Otherwise, why would the cell bother to use so much energy to make the protein enzymes that are now found in all living things? And that they are fully present now means they must be accounted for.

The second image shows the process of one of the systems, glycolysis. This is the breakdown of glucose, which is made from the products of photosynthesis and is critical for the cell's energy. (I describe some specific proteins of photosynthesis in my booklet, Creation Biology.) Each step in the chain of events needs its own protein enzyme. The first enzyme in some bacteria is glucokinase (others use hexokinase as marked in the second image). Glucokinase is pictured in the third image. This protein has 355 amino acids in a Cyanobacteria species, supposedly one of the first organisms on Earth. That would require at least 1065 DNA sub-units (bases) in close to exact order (I say "close" because there are usually some substitutions tolerated). Since there are 4 subunits, the number of possible combinations for the 1065 DNA sub-units needed for the protein is 4^1065, which in more familiar base ten is about 10^640.

Many proteins and the counterpart DNA sub-unit sequences would have had to be there in close to exact order from the beginning. As I show in Creation Biology, even if all the atoms of the Earth were lined up in strings of bases, it would be vastly improbable for even a short protein to form.  Though it might be hard to believe at first, if you follow the numbers you can see that the beginning of life AND evolution by chance are virtually impossible by the natural laws we know now.

Evolutionists don’t seem to like Creationists using probabilities to disprove evolution. But they are the ones who insist the functionality comes by chance mutations of DNA, so they are the ones who introduce the concept of probability in the first place. The facts used here are from data given to us by the scientific discoveries already accomplished. Though our knowledge of science changes through the years, what the public needs is a clear picture of what the facts are telling us right now. The question is, why isn’t the public receiving it?