Friday, November 28, 2008

Common Ground

I am not so naive as to think that the love and unity I urged in the last post comes easily, among Catholics and other Christians as with anyone else. We are humans and all have our faults.

I was at a seminar recently where the age of the Earth was discussed. This is a contentious issue for scientists and laypersons, mostly old- against young-Earthers. One person from the audience asked whether we can find common ground (paraphrased, my pun). The presenters indicated they respect those who learn the facts before arguing instead of relying on hearsay or unscientific sources.

I think there is an even more basic area from which Christians can start. We who believe want to do God's will. At some level, we want to be pleasing to God. That's our common goal and desire and it gives us a very important bond.

Unfortunately, things go downhill from there. When individuals think we know what God wants, each of us takes for granted that s/he is right and anyone disagreeing is wrong. This is where things get bogged in arguments.

It is still necessary to keep trying though the going may get very tough. We must remember our common ground and work toward several goals. One consists of sharing our knowledge so that all may benefit. Another goal, which includes the first but goes well beyond, is to discern what really is pleasing to God and to ask for the grace and strength to do it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Conflicts Within

We're having some major snow today (Monday) and I'm very glad my book, Unto Others, is printed and safely on the shelves of three local stores. Thursday is Thanksgiving and I hope all of you have a safe and blessed holiday. We are not going anywhere--I need some catch-up time from all the work I've been doing to finish, print and place my book. Then maybe we'll run down to Ohio in a few weeks to make a Thanksgiving-Christmas visit with my mother.

I am unfortunately reading about tensions between Catholics which have been flaring since the election of Barack Obama. Many Bishops are becoming more vocal about Obama's record on abortion, yet many Catholics voted for him. There are also tensions involved in the debates about Evolution vs. Intelligent Design Theories. Several of the major players are Catholic. Michael Behe and Kenneth Miller testified against each other in the trial in Dover, Pennsylvania. Behe believes that life is too complex to have come about in the small, naturalistic steps which neo-Darwinism claims. Miller believes nature's forces after the Big Bang are sufficient to have brought about life, even though it's "OK" if God made prior design for a universe which supports this life.

Arguments have deeper associations which cause us to make our stands. The bishops, of course, believe the embryo is a living human and therefore in need of legal protection as any human is. Some apparently do not see it that way, and are affected instead by the inhumanity of poverty and oppression. In the evolutionary debate, Miller fears we will stop trying to understand biology if we say, "God made it," whereas ID advocates say the evolutionists are not willing to correctly evaluate all the facts.

My book, Unto Others, does not address either abortion or evolution. But it does start with conflict within the Catholic Church. There are more areas of conflict with which we must grapple. Yet Paul in various places calls us to get along together. Perhaps at this time of year, it is good to recall the things for which we can be Thankful, which are many. Then, in prayer and joy of the Christmas season and the promise of a new year, we can work toward unity and love.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Unto Others

It's finally here! My fictional mystery novel is called Unto Others. Suspects abound in this exciting mystery! It would make a great Christmas gift, or fun winter reading for yourself. Or both!

The protagonist is Yesenia Rios Rivas. She came to the United States illegally when her home country, El Salvador, was fighting a Civil War. She endured many hard years before finding happiness as a custodian at Santa Rosa Catholic Church. But now, a person disappears and an investigation commences. She is worried that her status will be questioned.

Unto Others incorporates many issues that the United States and the Catholic Church are dealing with today. Some of the major themes are the need for immigration reform, political tensions between socialism and capitalism, and even women's ordination. And yet, these sweeping problems affect ordinary individuals who cope with their lives the best they can.

The book retails for $12.50. Three bookstores have graciously agreed to put it on their shelves. They are:

Michigan Church Supply, 360 Division St., Ste. 1B, Grand Rapids, MI (1-800-521-3440), which is in the newly renovated Cathedral Square Center.

Hage's Christian Supplies, 4949 Harvey, Muskegon MI (231-798-9824)

Oceana Pharmacy, 39 State Street, Hart, MI 49420

It can also be found at FaithWriters website and purchased for $5.00 as an e-book! Just click here to see a description and excerpt. They accept PayPal.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Symposium on Evolution

I watched some videos from the Evolution Symposium that was held this spring at Rockefeller University. I found it pretty interesting in the sense that the researchers are at a loss to interpret the findings of the last dozen years of genome sequencing and other scientific discoveries. What could be a victorious meeting for Darwinists from all our new knowledge is anything but, because the molecular make-up is not confirming materialistic, naturalistic evolution. The facts do not match their ideas of slowly evolving micro-organisms. They now say the microbes switched genes "rampantly," yet we know that organisms stay as true species throughout time. If the biologists would analyze the present situation objectively, they would say that total-natural evolution is falsified at this time. Falsification is a philosophical outlook advocated by Karl Popper which says that theories are scientific if you can devise experiments that show whether the theory is true or false. Instead, biologists these days do not allow Intelligent Design theory into the science classroom because "it can't be falsified." What does falsification matter if they won't recognize when it happens anyway?

Then I got to the lecture by Katherine Pollard about her group's research of human accelerated regions, or HARs. The information came out in 2006, but I was not aware of the details. If you know something about RNA and DNA, are interested in the question about evolution of humans from chimps and have a half-hour or so, please watch it at the above link. Or if you prefer, a full article of one of her papers and an abstract of another, (Katherine Pollard, et al., An RNA gene expressed during cortical development evolved rapidly in humans, Nature, August 16, 2006.) are at these links.

Pollard, Salama et al. did a study on sequences of genes which were detected as the same throughout many vertebrates, including chicken and mice, but different between chimps and humans. These areas could be better compared now since entire sequences have been completed in many organisms and they have more powerful computers to sift through all the data. They found several gene sections with significant changes. The changes in the gene sections, called bases, were far above expected in the normal mutation rates of genes that happen with each new generation. For example, while only .27 were expected, 18 happened in the HAR1 segment. The HAR stands for Human Accelerated Regions and the HAR1 codes for an RNA molecule, which you can see on the bottom right in the illustration below. RNA molecules can have either coding (for protein) and non-coding jobs. The most strikign thing is that the changes were all the same, from the T-A pairing to the C-G pairing (there are only 2 types of pairing on the DNA strand and all previously known mutations have occurred equally in both directions). The HAR1 is found to be active in human brain development in the embryo in critical times of its development.

One can not imagine the importance of this discovery. In one of the papers, an explanation was attempted. They said perhaps it is because the genes are at the end of the chromosome where recombination takes place. The C-G bonds are stronger than the T-A and so maybe they survive better. If that were the case, all organisms would have these bonds at the end of their chromosomes by now after millions and millions of years. A check on the rest of the genome showed that mutations are totally balanced except in these HAR regions (shown in the video). These genes were discovered for the very reason that they stayed the same for hundreds of millions of years and then changed dramatically over only a supposed time of 5 million years or so. That is the time from the proposed last common ancestor of the human and chimp. With only about 10^12 (Michael Behe) or no more than 10^17 (Fredric Nelson) individuals to work with, the number of combinations on the HAR1 (118 bases), much less the other HARs, would be very unlikely to produce the language, mental abilities and other improvements of the brain through random mutation and selection.

At the end of her presentation, Pollard said their findings lead to the conclusion that evolution researchers will have to seek other "directional forces" besides the ones they have previously believed would give the answers. In so many words, she says Darwinism, or neo-Darwinism, is not the answer for explaining the human body. However, this same pronouncement was made by mathematicians in a conference at the Wistar Institute in 1966, not long after the structures of DNA and proteins were understood. The question will be just how long evolutionists can ignore that these are not random processes.

Update 5:20 -- I'm now calling totally naturalistic, materialistic evolution "total-natural evolution."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blog Clog

Had some trouble logging into my blog today. I deleted cookies and cleared cache and I hope I cleared out the problems. And, I found the post I scheduled for today has the wrong date. So today's post will be a little short as I make sure my cookies and Java Script and all of that is cleared up for the future.

Might as well just make one remark about Penn State football. "Lamentable" is the word.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Congrats to Obama

It's early Wednesday morning and we congratulate Barack Obama on his historic presidential win. The scourges of slavery and prejudice have cause suffering beyond our capacity to imagine. Yet human beings overcome in amazing ways. Groups of people persevere with the help of God through generations and centuries.

That said, there are still many problems to overcome. The economic challenges and the wars will not automatically go away. And though African-Americans individuals feel a new freedom, they must remember that they are capable of their own mistakes. Some A-A's, along with many persons from other ethnic groups, support abortion. Catholic bishops have been quite vocal about the problem of abortion, and the results of this election will not stop them. There is a good article at Catholic Online to express the thoughts of many in this regard. Though the Democrats have taken what Catholics consider the wrong stand in this issue, more are realizing how the Republicans have let us down in many ways. Some are looking to make a movement toward a "new alliance" that supports all the right values.

Another important consideration is Obama's attitude about evolution. He has said he believes it happens, and does not seem interested in ID debates. But how informed is his opinion? Is he aware of all the data that points to areas where life has emerged without help from the physical laws? Does he know about the Cambrian Explosion where animal types appear without apparent ancestors? It looks like there will be challenging work ahead for the Intelligent Design movement to teach the facts, especially in the face of prejudice of a different sort.

Politics is a part of our lives, but I am very glad the election is over. It was getting to the point I couldn't watch the news any more. Now that we know who has won, we can think about the future and the stands that Obama has taken.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

PSU, Voting, Shopping

Texas Tech did it. They beat Texas. Quite a game, I hear. I went to bed at half-time. My husband Tom is a night person, I'm a morning person (got up at 3:30 this morning because of the time change). I went to Penn State (BS in Animal Science) and have been a fan through thick and thin. It's been pretty thin for the last few years so it is very nice to have a good team again. We would love to play in that championship game. Actually, I'm not as deeply into college football as my husband and mother, but since they like it so much it is a good pasttime. Tom graduated from Michigan and is a big football fan, so he's having a bad year. My mother has loved Penn State football ever since I went there, which is quite a few years ago.

It's voting day. I'm writing this Sunday and plan to be at the polls before they open since I think there will be long lines. Since I'm awake anyway I might as well go. It will be good practice for the Thanksgiving Day sales. I've been a competitive shopper for a few years now. I once went to stand in front of Best Buy at 4:00 am in a blizzard. That was for my projector. It was chaos in the store and I ended up in line behind a guy who had been there all night. So, it will be interesting to see what the voting lines are like. All indications are that a lot of people will turn out.