Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Year of Mercy

The Zika virus is a threat to anyone bitten by the mosquito that carries it. It is especially worrisome to women (and therefore couples) who are pregnant or may be trying to become pregnant. Doctors have also found that having sex may cause transmission of the virus (link HERE).

Governments, including the US, are warning about the virus and in that vein are suggesting the use of barrier contraceptives.

Of course, this raises the hackles of anyone who thinks that contraception is an intrinsic evil. There can be no exceptions to the rule. But these persons ideas are formed by Natural Law, in turn formed by celibate males. Look, for example, at St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the major players in the direction of thought on this subject. In his greatest book, Summa Theologica, the question is asked whether women should have even been made in the first generation of things, since she is so inferior. In Part I, Question 92, Article 1, Aquinas replies:

I answer that, It was necessary for woman to be made, as the Scripture says, as a "helper" to man; not, indeed, as a helpmate in other works, as some say, since man can be more efficiently helped by another man in other works; but as a helper in the work of generation… But man [as opposed to woman] is yet further ordered to a still nobler vital action, and that is intellectual operation. Therefore there was greater reason for the distinction of these two forces in man; so that the female should be produced separately from the male; although they are carnally united for generation. Therefore directly after the formation of woman, it was said: "And they shall be two in one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).

In other words, women are good for reproduction and nothing else. Whereas I find myself thinking that God gave me a brain just for the very reason of thinking. And I imagine other women are able to think also. Well, you get my point.

It is certainly appropriate for the Church Leaders to give guidelines in some things and make definitive pronouncements in others, but they need to discern which is which. We all need to learn more discernment. (If we all knew exactly what God wanted we wouldn’t have all these different denominations.)

If the Catholic Church learned to talk with women who take contraceptives instead of hurling the words “intrinsically evil” at them, they may learn a few things. The Church leaders want women to have as many children as possible, while the women may be hearing a different calling from God. And we might all come to an understanding that barrier contraception is a lot more like NFP than abortifacient contraception. Perhaps we could come to more of a resolution than having most Catholic women either hiding their actions or leaving the Church.

Let us remember that Mary, mother of Jesus, was called directly (through an angel) by God. He did not consult with her religious leaders or her parents or even her husband to be. And she answered God directly (through an angel). She did not consult with her religious leaders or her parents or her husband to be. And though the Church insists she was the perfect mother, it also insists she never had sex with her husband nor produced more than one child.

It has been declared the Year of Mercy by Pope Francis. Let the couple seek God's will, which will be what is best for them. To the Church, teach discernment instead of dictating. It is time to be merciful indeed.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Bioethics

On Jan 28, Pope Francis met with a group from Italy concerned with bioethics (link HERE). He calls for the respect for human dignity from conception to natural death. In US bioethics, the “bio” part is clear but the “ethics” not so much.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has a webpage for their Department of Bioethics (link HERE). However, they also have a webpage for their Human Stem Cell Research (link HERE). Dr. Francis Collins, director of NIH, has promoted human embryonic research. He has made presentations to members of congress (link HERE). Previous protections for embryos were reversed by Barack Obama in 2009, affecting funding for NIH research (link HERE).

Dr. Collins also founded Biologos (link HERE). This organization announces itself on its website by saying, “Biologos Invites the Church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.” Now, this statement could have quit right after “biblical faith,” or have said that the understanding comes through physics or through biology, but how does it continue? The group presents an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.

Is there a link between believing in random evolution and accepting research on human embryonic stem cells and fetuses? I hope I am not insulting the reader, but I believe I see this connection. Perhaps complete randomness implies a slight lowering of human value, enough of a lowering that humans in the womb are expendable. If you do not agree, let me know. But please think it over first.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Orphan Genes

Scientists started comparing whole genome sequences of various species in the 1990’s. Genes that are only found in one or very closely related species are called unique, de novo, ORFan or orphan genes. The amazing thing is that the more they compare species, the more unique genes they find. These genes make up from 10-20% of each organism’s whole set (percentages given by Dr. Ann Gauger here). These unique genes are so different from each other that the chance they could have come from an evolutionary sequence is vanishingly small. This is, for one reason, because there could have been no more than 10^50 organisms on Earth so far even if the Earth is very old. The unique genes are statistically so far apart that even this many organisms are not enough to sort through the various possibilities.  (And only one in about 10^65 proteins is functional. So the sorting of proteins for functional ones makes evolution by chance look pretty much impossible.) In contrast, if all genes (and corresponding proteins) were closely related and in obvious sequence in species, Darwin would have been proven right.

Eugene Koonin is Senior Investigator of comparative genomics at National Center for Biotechnology Information (a division of NIH) and has written many articles. So he is on the front lines of comparative genomics. He and Yuri Wolf wrote an article in 2008 called Genomics of bacteria and archaea: emerging dynamic view of the prokaryotic world. They found there were some proteins common to many species of bacteria and archaea (one-celled organisms different from bacteria). But what surprised them was the vast amount of variety between species and the unique genes. Koonin has become part of a movement to find other explanations for evolution instead of neo-Darwinism called the Third Way of Evolution. The "evolution" part is because he is committed to evolution. But these findings of comparative genomics also support direct creation of species.

An article by J. Muller et. al. called, eggNOG v2.0 compares various species. In the diagram you can see species names in the middle with radiating lines that go out to colors of the graph. The green and orange represent genes which are related, but the outer gray areas are orphan genes which do not match other species.  

On a related subject, a problem in the past was that in comparing genes, scientists used genes they already had to see if they were in the other organisms. This left sequences that did not match out of the loop of potential genes. However, they have begun to use other criteria, such as start and stop sequences, to now identify more non-matching areas that look like genes. This is promising to show even more unique genes.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Conscience and Religion

We cannot read the minds of people of other religions. When addressing one or another, we might wonder what their consciences are telling them about their sins. This understanding that everyone sins is crucial to Christianity. Jesus Christ, Son of God, came to us to atone for our sins. He lived without sin and died in our place so we humans would be acceptable to God and therefore able to live in heaven with Him (God being in the form of Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Jesus told us that if a person believes in Him, s/he will be saved. He didn’t say it doesn’t matter what you believe.

Yet we have people around us who do not believe in any religion or believe in a different religion and seem to not be bothered by their conscience. Others believe they might have done evil but think their own religion answers to it, such as Karma in Buddhism. And there are others who do believe in Christ that don’t seem to feel urgency to spread the word about Christ.

Christians believe it is the Holy Spirit who convicts people of sin. Jesus says in John 16:7-8 (NABRE):
7 But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate [Holy Spirit] will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation…
I think that most people have a conscience whispering somewhere in their brains. The Catholic Church respects the free conscience of persons, which can be seen in this section of the Catholic Catechism on conscience in making moral decisions (Moral Conscience Section of the Catholic Catechism, link is HERE):
1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters."
I do think humans are made for the Truth, although sin and fallen nature get in the way. In this Truth is the desire to do good. Certainly when a person does wrong, a healthy conscience makes him/her uncomfortable. But what about faith? The same section listed above:
1787 Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law.
1788 To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts.
(More on conscience is found in the Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom, linked HERE).

As it says there we should seek the Holy Spirit and His gifts, some of which are right judgment, understanding, knowledge, courage, wisdom, reverence and awe and wonder in His presence. Even for those who are not familiar with Christianity, they can seek Him by praying that He come to them. The Holy Spirit then draws them to the true God. For them, it can be the start of an overwhelmingly lovely relationship.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Catholic Answers Forums

I have been posting on Catholic Answers Forums (CAF) a little bit and I thought I’d put some of the issues I follow there on my blog here. If you want to check out CAF, you can click the link HERE.

We’ve been having an interesting time talking with people from various faiths. Buddhists and Hindus among others have had input on our board. I’ve been in a discussion that’s been going on for a while that is called “3000 gods but only yours exists.” Apparently someone had an atheist friend say that to them in a sarcastic way and the person asked for ideas of what to answer back. The thread is still going after 16 pages of 15 comments each but the original poster is probably long gone by now. Anyway you can get to the thread by clicking HERE if you are interested in seeing it.

One issue brought up was whether you have to be a Christian to go to heaven (at least our idea of it). This is a contentious issue even among Christians. The Vatican II document Lumen Gentium addresses this. However, this document was a source of confusion and even today we have liberals and conservatives arguing over it. It mentions Jews and Muslims as being related to the people of God. And yet it warns us that in the end:
But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature", the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (Link is HERE.)
Concerning the confusion, in 1999 Josef Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, wrote a Declaration called Dominus Iesus. In Section 5 he states:
5. As a remedy for this relativistic mentality, which is becoming ever more common, it is necessary above all to reassert the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ. In fact, it must be firmly believed that, in the mystery of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), the full revelation of divine truth is given: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him” (Mt 11:27); “No one has ever seen God; God the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has revealed him” (Jn 1:18); “For in Christ the whole fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9-10). (Link is HERE.)
It is our obligation as Christians to proceed under the understanding that Christ is absolutely necessary for our entrance into heaven. How He will judge others of different faiths is His business. Our job is to witness to Christ in every way possible, including the effects of His presence, along with the Father and Holy Spirit, in our lives.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

One Post at a Time

It’s been quite some time since I’ve added a post to my blog. I seemed at a crossroad when I finished my book, Biotech Swirl, and didn’t know if I wanted to keep writing the blog. Though it might not seem like a monumental decision, I felt I’ve had to pray about it. My husband’s health is not that good and I might have to drop the blog again if I get too busy in care-taking.

I'm not sure I’ve had any profound insights from my prayers except that I realized I am living one day at a time, so perhaps I should just approach my blog one post at a time. I kept updating the last post so I might as well write new ones. I had been doing regular monthly posts for a while but now I will just write when I feel moved to do so and see how it goes. If you are reading this, thanks for your patience while I get myself together.

I'm still going to Catholic Answers Forums and sometimes post there. You can get to it by clicking here if you are interested (or perhaps you already are familiar with it). They have a lot of good discussions there and I think the website is very well done. In fact, it was in reading the discussions there that my fingers started to itch to write again.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Praise the Lord

Welcome to my blog. I had written this on May 11: 
I think these blogs by my husband and I have run their course. We will not be making more posts but will have them available. My husband had quit posting in his blog a while ago due to bad health and is not taking comments. Thanks to all of you who have visited. I thank the Lord for the opportunity to have written mine and I praise Him for His love and creative power.
However, I updated on 6/15/2015 with this: 
I am re-thinking about closing my blog, womanatwell, but do not plan to post until at least the end of summer. However, my husband's blog, Muskegonmemories, will now be closed to posts and comments.
Thanks for your patience. I've been with this blog since 2008 and would miss it, but life has a way of getting ahead of us sometimes. Maybe I'll catch up by autumn. In the meantime, please help yourself to free e-books and the posts I've already done. Thanks much.

Also to note: The comments are open but moderated in this blog. Just go to any regular post to leave a comment.

9/3/15:
I thought it would be good to update my blog since I haven't had a post since one dated May 11. At that time I said I was planning to discontinue posting but to keep the blog online. The blog is still a source for  my books and a variety of subjects (see right column), including the amazing complexity of Creation. I thought I might resume in autumn, but for various reasons I don't plan to post on a regular basis any time soon.

What I have been able to do is to periodically check in on the Catholic Answers Forums and see what is being written there. I have even made a few comments when I have had the time under the name, womanatwell. The setup there is very well done, I think, and the people who comment cover a wide array of topics. My participation allows me to communicate with others and I use my blog as a reference link in some cases. I hope you will check it out at the link I have above on the Forums name.

I thank anyone reading this for visiting and may God bless you.