Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merry & Happy

I know I'm early with the holiday greeting, but I'm late everywhere else. I had this idea that when I started working on my book, the blog would coordinate beautifully with what I would be doing. Well, I was wrong.

For one thing, December always seems the busiest month of our year. It even vies with the summer months which always go by so swiftly. And for another, my research includes time-consuming reading and is not at the writing stage yet. Perhaps by 2010 it will start falling into more of a rhythm of reading and writing.

Thinking back over the blog, I expected from the start to write about varied subjects, not just Intelligent Design Theory (ID). It took me a long while to get to those topics, and when I did I found myself distracted and wanting to return to ID. I've surprised myself that my main focus continues to be ID. So, I'm basically planning to keep to ID and related subjects from now on. (Maybe in this case I'll change. Well, I won't try to predict 5 years down the road.)

So, have a great holiday season and I will see you back here in the year 2010! Imagine that!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bad Climate

There was a hacking of the Climatic Research Unit in November that has got the world looking. If the e-mails and other recent circumstances surrounding them truly represent the involved scientists--there and at other eminent research facilities--these people have a disregard for truth and actually plot against anyone who disagrees with them.

I have not previously commented about the climate-change controversies. I think we must be concerned about pollution, although some forms of it are worse than others. However at Uncommon Descent, William Dembski's blog, it has been an ongoing topic. Many there feel the scientific evidence for global warming has been lacking. They notice in climate scientists an attitude similar to that held by Darwinians--that there can be no questioning of their theories. In the climate case, the cost to humanity is in the trillions of dollars, not to mention time and effort wasted if the warming is not even true (apparently some data is showing global cooling).

It is unfortunate that all those who want to promote the Intelligent Design concept seem to be victims of similar mindsets concerning Darwinian evolution. There may be no questioning, and if the data do not fit Darwinian evolution, the data is ignored. The same holds for the mindset of the media. They promote the Darwinian agenda, and hold back the facts that obviously refute it. This is one reason why the Internet and independent agencies are so important.
Image link here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New ID Link

I've found another ID blog that discusses the latest breakthroughs in physiology research. It is Darwin's God by Cornelius Hunter, and I will put it on my links in the right column.

Perhaps the ID people sound a little repetitive. That can be good, as I've said before (ha ha). For most people, complex science does not stick the first time. When I am confronted with something I've never seen and/or don't understand, I take in as much as I can. I let my brain play with it, and usually some questions come to mind. Often there will be terms I've never heard. What does this word mean? There are wonderful tools on the Internet for finding out. Though Wikipedia may not be 100% accurate, the language is fairly understandable and it has links to other terms, so you can keep following it until you connect with something you can relate to. It also has pictures in many of its entries, a big help when it comes to DNA, RNA, proteins, etc. When you have a chance to look for further and more accurate information, there's the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which even provides a section with textbooks of biology, microbiology, statistical evaluations, etc. Then there's always your local library, with real people called reference librarians who are happy to help you.

You may even want to go to a talk or take a class about Intelligent Design Theory. The more experts there are in the field, the more of these that will be available. They can help you learn the facts of science that you don't normally hear from regular scientists, especially as they are quoted in the media. Some facts just don't come to light in our culture and you have to dig for them.

Intelligent Design Theory is controversial, and people should become informed about controversial issues. Don't be afraid of facts. You don't have to take a test each time you try to learn something new. The world is fascinating, and the more you learn, the more you will want to know.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Wrong Dance

In a previous post, I talked about the Supreme Court decision concerning a slave named Dred Scott. It is known as Dred Scott v. Sandford from 1857. Scott claimed:

his presence and residence in free territories required his emancipation. Scott's lawyers argued the same for Scott's wife, and further claimed that Eliza Scott's birth on a steamboat between a free state and a free territory had made her free upon birth.
Scott lost and the results can be read at the Wikipedia link above. Among them is the ruling that African-Americans could not ever be considered US citizens (since overruled by the 14th Amendment).

The ruling in this case is so bad that at first it deflects consideration of the argument. Scott's lawyers worked within the confines of the mindset of the day. Laws allowing slavery in some states were accepted, and in others they were not. The argument "danced" around these laws. The thinking was that because Scott resided in free territories for a time, he should be emancipated.

But this argument was wrong. Scott should have been freed from slavery because no one should have been a slave in the first place.

I think the same can be said for the situation in US classrooms and the way the theory of evolution is handled. We are making the wrong arguments and dancing the wrong dance. Though atheists may have their rights in the classroom, so do believers. No child should be made to answer to a government institution against his or her religious beliefs. The Intelligent Design movement tries to dance around the rules against teaching creationism in the classroom by saying it is OK to teach evolution as the working theory but we should be allowed to look at the weaknesses of it. Instead they should demand that Darwinian Evolution Theory not be forced upon children at all.

Though many scientists want Darwinian evolution to be their working theory, that does not mean they should enforce it upon others. Some scientific theories impinge on the religious beliefs of others. American scientists and educators may not want to trouble themselves with thinking of others, but they live in a country with many different kinds of religions and they need to face that fact. There are soldiers willing to die for the right of freedom in this country, and many of these soldiers have beliefs that are contrary to philosophical materialists. When one thinks of the toll taken by the efforts to correct the scourge of slavery, it is asking little of educators to make the effort to teach scientific methods in a way that does not impinge on individual beliefs. For believers, science is the study of designed entities.

The ID people should realize that for a believer, design doesn't have to be proven. It is already understood that God made everything. Science itself can be defined as the study of designed, created entities. Science is how we learn about these entities.

A Creationist is someone who believes God created the world--not just someone who thinks He did it exactly 10,000 years ago. It is time to claim back the word "Creationist" for all believers and to unite for what is right.

Of course, Creationists need to respect the rights of others. There has got to be some way we can work this out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oceana Fund-Raiser

My husband and I have only once gone to a Craft Fair to try to sell books. It was a long time ago and held at a Catholic Church yearly dinner. Tom had made wooden toys, which sold fairly well. As I remember, the book sales did not go as well. The good news is that our local history museum has been a dependable source for book sales for my local historian husband. He wrote a novel set in our town in the olden days of the lumbering era, called Sawdust Fires.

I'm not a historian, although I appreciate history much more after being married to Tom. I set my fictional books in the present. My most recent, Unto Others, is in Orchard County, Michigan. This is a fictional name for Oceana County, which is just north of the one in which we live. (Unto Others is the book on the right in the picture.)

I worked in Oceana County for a time, and I found it a very beautiful place. It is on the shores of Lake Michigan, and has dune-filled beaches. It also has orchards further inland which are protected by the Lake in the spring (the trees are kept from budding too early and freezing by the lake water effect).

The towns of Oceana County are small, and the opportunities for selling my book there are rather few. Still, I'd like to give people a chance to buy a mystery book set in their own countryside (though all the names are fictional and not meant to portray any real persons). Then I found out about a Craft Fair that is going to be held at the Oceana Medical Care Facility, at 701 East Main Street. A map for the place can be seen here.

The contact person told me they had 300 people come last year. I have already reserved a spot for myself. I have always enjoyed going to the town and I look forward to my second Craft Fair sales experience. I'll be there November 20th, between 7:00 am (for early birds!) and 3:00 pm. Since that is next Friday, I'll leave this post up for another week to advertise. If you are anywhere near Hart at that time, come on over!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Anniversary Flowers

It is an anniversary year for Charles Darwin. He was born 200 years ago this past February, and November is the 150th year since his book, Origin of Species, was published.

It is an anniversary year for me, too, although in a very different vein. I had wandered away from my childhood religion, Christianity, until January 1989.

I had been influenced by the atheism of the scientific scene, not just at my college but in the culture. In these mindsets, Darwin has played a great part. He sought to explain all of life by material, natural means, excluding all necessity for God. Also, I went through some personal traumatic experiences and did not believe a God would allow that much pain.

But, I was miserable without God, too. Atheism surely gave no comfort. And, though Christianity didn't always make sense, atheism made less sense.

I then met my future husband. He is a wonderful man and brought me to his Catholic Church. It exuded a warmth and acceptance I had not experienced before. This was also true at a Christian organization with which I volunteered and eventually became employed for a time. I came back to my original faith, which I appreciated at a different level than I did as a child. I realized that pain need not be permanent. It can be healed through God's love. Pain teaches us the divisions between good and evil and helps us appreciate that on the other hand, life itself is a wonderful blessing.

I have one Christmas cactus which has coral-color flowers and I like it very much. But I also wanted one with pink flowers, though I didn't want to spend the money. Then last Christmas my mother gave me a little one someone had given to her. It had about 3 branches and no flowers. I said I'd like it and have been looking forward to seeing the color. I thought I'd have to wait until Christmas to find out.

But now both my Christmas cactuses are blooming early this year! And the little one is pink!

Christmas cactuses are like anniversary flowers. They are special in that they bloom at the time of wonderful celebration every year--the time of our Savior's birth. And I celebrate the year, twenty years ago, when I returned to the Lord through faith in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Learn from Mistakes

Recently I wrote about Fr. Robert Spitzer, a priest and physicist who is trying to bring science and religion together. He was in a conference at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in Denver, CO, reported by the Catholic News Agency here. The point in my previous post was that not everyone believes in God even though they know the science.

But, Fr. Spitzer makes a different point which is just as important. Not everyone knows the science. One should at least have the chance to make up one's own mind about whether DNA, proteins, the cell, life itself could have come about by chance, and that is not happening. Amazingly in this day and age, science is being censored.

I had a very nice presentation last week about Intelligent Design Theory to about 50 persons. These people heard privileged information. They heard the numbers for the improbabilities of the origins of life. They heard what high school and even college students don't. And even Christian college students don't hear the facts though they point to God!

These students will have to seek out their own facts. And they can find them. The internet will have them. There are books (also censored!) that have them. The latest, bound to be great book about them is Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell. This is very readable for anyone who has the desire and patience to try to learn.

Many Christians the scientific community do not seem to want to admit that God may have created life directly. They are embarrassed by the history of the Galileo affair, where the Church denied for centuries the centrality of the Sun in our Solar System. They forget that the ancient scientific community put the Earth in the center just as well as the Church. The Church reacted against this scientific novelty as well as their own ideas of doctrine.

The Church, which includes all Christians, must learn from mistakes, not inhibit learning. To stifle facts is to deny that reason and faith go hand in hand.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Catholic Snippets 091025

It’s time again for Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival. This is a group of Catholic bloggers who list links each week at RAnn’s blog, This That and the Other Thing to direct you to their latest writings. (If you take this link to RAnn, you may have to scroll down until you see "Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival.")

I’m posting once a week now, usually early on Tuesday. This week’s topic:

If you are visiting from RAnn, you can see my entire blog, including the entries above, by hitting the “home” link at the bottom of this post. You can get back to RAnn at any point by clicking “Catholic Sunday Snippets” under LINKS in the right column.

Thanks a lot for joining me. Happy blogging!


Image credit: free-clipart.net .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Once a Week

It has been over one and one half years since I started this blog. I had a lot on my mind and I laid it out twice a week since then with only a few weeks off here and there for vacation. I took a week off last week and I am now going to "downsize" to one post per week on Tuesdays.

The experience has been fun and very much a learning one. I appreciate professional writers much more than I did. I feel I've written many of my posts in haste, and did not express them as clearly as I should have. I now know some of the challenges of putting ideas forth and getting facts right. Even with only two posts a week, I put in a lot of time for research. Yet I think my own posts give new ideas and fresh outlooks.

Blogging is a very important tool in our world now for the regular guy to be able to express him/her-self, previously often rejected by commercial publishers who think primarily of the bottom line. Ironically, it's the thinking of profit that motivates these publishers to market sucessfully, which I don't. So the limitations in blogging are not so much from expression but of being heard by more than a few people. But I know from the comments I've received that I've had the opportunity to share, and I'm very happy for that.

Now I'd like to use some of the research I've been doing for a book on Intelligent Design Theory. Though I'll probably use some of the things I've already written, it will be in a more organized, compact form. Though I've self-published a few fiction books I've written, I'd like to submit this one to a commercial publisher. I know I could not distribute any book like this very widely on my own. I know it's hard to get published in the industry, but it doesn't happen if you don't try.

Blogging is a wonderful way to express frustrations and offer suggestions that might make a difference. I am thankful for the opportunity and hope to continue. Once a week, that is, one week at a time.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Moore's Capitalism

We went and saw Michael Moore's new movie, Capitalism: A Love Story, over the weekend. His website is here and gives quite a bit of news about the movie. The main premise is that most of Americans (99%) have been robbed by the richest Americans (1%). This, he portrays, has been mostly by corporate greed and not only evasion of taxes by the wealthy but by theft of taxpayer money through last year's government bailout.

Moore is probably right about many things, but as an AP article relates, he could have improved his movie by giving a wider, more nuanced picture. For one thing, he wants Americans to protest and even rebel against financial institutions, but a great many Americans are tied to these, not only through corporate America in employment but in their retirement funds. An estimated 50 million have 401(k)'s. In some ways, they want these companies to gain, gain, gain. How can they rebel?

Another example of a simplified idea is that of people being "hypnotized" into believing that Capitalism is good. The hypnotizers are the rich who have made it, making the others think it is OK because they themselves may someday be rich. But Moore claims the rich never intended to share. This strikes one as a conspiracy theory, and Capitalism in actuality seems much more individualistic. Moore is correct in pointing unashamedly to the sin of greed (he even interviews priests). But anyone who lusts for money and the power it gives them has the same problem. The rich are only the ones who actually made it (although perhaps have unique skills which should be used for the greater good).

At least Moore is willing to bring these problems into the open. Americans have been victimized, there is no doubt. The pictures of blighted neighborhoods are very sad, and one wonders how we could have sunk so low. And yet, laborers have struggled throughout history, being slaves, serfs, peasants, and eventually workers at the whims of industrialists known as robber barons, such as John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. Greed seems to be a sad part of human nature.

Moore does make a point about our attitudes concerning Capitalism. Too many people, and as far as I can tell this includes many Christians, hold this economic system so important that they put it before God's ways, or at least appear that way. Certain TV money talk-show hosts come to mind as an example. Christ has said we can't serve both God and money (see Matthew 6 at USCCB). Thus, I think, we get to the deeper nature of what is wrong. The bigger priority is not in rebelling to get a bigger piece of the pie, but in making God's way first in our lives.

I won't be posting next week because I have to prepare for a speaking engagement concerning Intelligent Design Theory. I've also just started volunteering again for English as a Second Language, and that will involve preparation and meeting time. That's the beauty of a blog--we can make our own rules. Hope to meet you here again in a few weeks!

Image from http://www.free-clipart.net/ .

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Proof of God

I've been writing about the progress of science and how it has replaced some of the ideas of the ancient philosophers. Yet the Church believes God is accessible to humans through reason. That is still true, but I think science is changing the details of how He is found through reason. Aristotle thought the universe was eternal. Now there is evidence of a Big Bang, which means there was a beginning to the universe. Aristotle promoted the idea of spontaneous generation, in which living things continually arise from non-living. Louis Pasteur in the 1800's proved that life now comes only from other life.

Our new findings of cell complexity and specificity point to a Creator. Anyone who knows the details of the cell and the vast numbers involved in the improbability that it would form by chance should surely recognize that only an intelligence could make such a thing.

A recent article from the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports a conference at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in Denver, CO. Fr. Robert Spitzer brings the latest in cosmology to religious people to show how science and theology can fit together. He speaks about the amazing fine-tuning of the universe, and how in many ways it may not have formed the way it has.

Yet, at the bottom of the CNA article about Fr. Spitzer are comments which various persons have left, and they show that these commenters do not accept what Fr. Spitzer is saying. They give alternate theories which include infinite universes, so that ours is nothing special. They mock the priest's reasoning. This mindset is common in our day and is very telling. The point I have been trying to make in the last few posts is that proof of God in scientific terms does not get to the very bottom of belief. The Apostle Paul wrote of the problems even in his day,

Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse;
for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.

From: Romans 1, USCCB webpage of NAB.

The people to whom Paul refers made false idols from wood and stone and worshipped them. In our day the falsehood is in a mindset that puts materialism as the base of being and scientific research as the only answer to life's questions. Yet Paul's words are as true today as they were then when it comes to the rejection of God by some people. It is interesting that Paul states in verse 21, "although they knew Him." We may think that disbelief comes from not knowing, but Paul does not think so. There is something else going on, and the word "vain" describes their reasoning. Eventually, their minds were darkened, and things went downhill from there.

As I said in a previous post, faith is a gift from God. It is a precious gift, and I believe He gives Christians important roles in the process of bringing more persons to Himself. Some people have come to faith by perceiving the wonders of nature, and that is fine. But I don't think the wonders of nature are going to convince everyone. In that case, Christians can pray for unbelievers and share what Christ has done for us in our lives and our hearts. God has many facets, and we should try to learn more about them ourselves as we help others understand.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Classical Greek

The Greeks are considered the fountain of Western thought. They believed, even before Socrates, that all things were composed of Four Elements: Air, Water, Fire and Earth. Aristotle added a fifth essence called Aether (pronounced ether), which he thought made up the heavenly realms. Actually, the Eastern philosophers came up with systems not so different from this and can be compared here (right column).

As early as the Middle Ages people started experimenting with various substances. Around the year 800, a Middle Eastern alchemist known as Geber (Latinized version of Jabir) discovered the separate elements of sulfur and mercury. In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev presented a table of known elements which showed they have certain repeating properties. This "Periodic Table" is still used to classify elements. It starts with Hydrogen, which has one proton and one electron, and as of June 2009 includes 117 elements. Other elements include carbon, nitrogen and oxygen.

Therefore, we have a replacement of Aristotle's elements with those we know today through scientific research. I've also read that Aristotle believed one could discover science through logic, not experiment. The example I read a long time ago was that he proclaimed how many teeth a horse has without looking into the horse's mouth. Later someone actually counted them and found Aristotle was wrong. I don't have a reference for this story and it may be a fable, but it does illustrate the general idea.

Though Aristotle knew about magnetism, Hans Christian Orsted in 1820 realized magnetism could be generated by an electrical charge flowing through wire. This eventually led, through others, to the understanding of electromagnetic radiation. This energy is one of the basic forces of the universe, along with gravity and the strong and weak nuclear forces. The understanding of natural physical forces has replaced, in the opinion of many, the understanding of causes as Aristotle described it in his theory of Universals. (A universal is a quality which exists in itself that is seen in physical things, for example, "red-ness" of red things and "human-ness" of humans.) Aristotle said there were "Potentials" of existence which a First Mover would have had to put in motion in order to get something to exist in matter and form.

There is an interesting article on "Theodicy" on the New Advent website in their 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia. This older version of the encyclopedia can be very helpful in historical matters and general definitions. Theodicy is the attempt to prove God through natural means. The link if you'd like to read it yourself is here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Can Man Understand?

Can the human being really understand God? The verse from the Bible that comes to mind is from Isaiah, Chapter 55 (NAB at USCCB):
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.
This is not to say we shouldn't try to understand God in some way. It is not right to shrug our shoulders and say that if we can't know Him we might as well move on to some other interest (science, for example). We have to juggle a little, and not let a concept either dominate us or be immediately rejected. Pope John Paul II wrote a very interesting encyclical called Fides et Ratio. He describes the interaction between faith and reason, and it is well worth reading.

I've been reading Church history about the reaction of the magisterium concerning evolutionary theory. Though I started in Darwin's time, the relation of science and philosophy to Christianity actually goes much further back and I'm becoming increasingly aware of its relevance to my interests. So I'll just give a very general overview here.

When philosophy began in the West, some 600 years before Christ, it was an attempt to understand things in terms of reason, not mysticism or mythology. It therefore included the study of nature which we now consider science. The first Greek philosopher was Thales of Miletus who lived around 600 BC. The famous Greek philosophers followed in this order: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, who died in 322 BC. Aristotle worked out a "Natural Philosophy" in which the natural world was defined in terms of movement (in rather complicated interactions of place and time) .

Greek philosophy became known to scholars throughout the ancient world. It did not take very long after Christianity spread for someone to try to combine the understanding of Christ with this Greek thought. Frederick Copleston, in A History of Philosophy, Vol. 2, lists Marcianus Aristides as one of the first to do so in about 140 AD. Then came Justin Martyr who used philosophy even more openly, and Clement of Alexandria, a scholar who lived in Alexandria, Egypt between 150 and 215 AD. He headed a school for teaching Christian theologians known as the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Pope John Paul considered St. Augustine, who elaborated on Plato's philosophy about 400 AD, to be the first to truly produce the "first great synthesis of philosophy and theology" (Fides et Ratio, sec. 40).

St. Thomas Aquinas combined Aristotle with Christian understanding in the 13th Century. Others disagreed with their speculations, and there has been wrangling throughout history on the importance of reason in contrast with faith. In particular, a monk named William of Ockham placed more emphasis on faith than intellect in order to know God (as I understand it). Ockham, though, seems these days to have the reputation of cutting away faith altogether in favor of science, in which case he is misunderstood. He was concerned that Aquinas, in his effort to incorporate what Aristotle called Universals, limited the free will of God. (Universals were supposedly essences of things which existed outside physical things, such as "red-ness" for all things that look red.) If God could only create according to Universals, Ockham felt He would be limited in choice.

Well, philosophers and theologians have wrangled for centuries about God and our relationship to Him and how we understand Him. Of course, with the scientific revolution, people have wondered more and more if we could "cut away" God altogether and be left with nothing but the material world. Many indeed have done just that in their personal worldviews. But now biology is showing that some things cannot be explained by the laws of physics and chemistry, at least as we know them now.

Many think that physics and chemistry will never be able to explain the codes of DNA, and how the DNA is arranged in ways that resemble the computer systems created by human intelligence. Many, however, believe scientific research will eventually be able to explain everything.

This, in a very condensed version, is where we stand now.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Catholic Sunday Snippets 090927

It’s time again for Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival. This is a group of Catholic bloggers who list links each week at RAnn’s blog, This That and the Other Thing to direct you to their latest writings. (If you take this link to RAnn, you may have to scroll down until you see "Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival.")

I usually post early on Tuesday and Friday. This week my entries include:

Tuesday -- Philosophy, science and faith. Sounds complicated, but I try to make it understandable (at least as well as I understand it myself).

Friday -- More of faith and philosophy.

If you are visiting from RAnn, you can see my entire blog, including both entries above, by hitting the “home” link at the bottom of this post. You can get back to RAnn at any point by clicking “Catholic Sunday Snippets” under LINKS in the right column.

Thanks a lot for joining me. Happy blogging!


Image credit: free-clipart.net .

Friday, September 25, 2009

Faith OR Reason?

I talked in the last post about Catholic philosophy and modern science. When persons claim that faith has more to do with belief than reason, they are often accused of being "fideists." Some people seem to claim (in so many words) that if you have faith in God without studying philosophy, your belief is not adequate. That claim in itself is unreasonable.

People come to God in many ways. There are masses of faithful who live and die never having studied philosophy. These people can have as real a relationship with God as professors. Yet, others take the journey to God by means of reason. They may not have an emotional conversion experience, yet they convert all the same. There is a sense, though, in which the stress on philosophy can lessen the importance of relationship, and that is a mistake. We need some balance of both heart and head.

Faith is a mystery, a word which probably makes philosophy professors shudder. Yet the Bible gives us some beautiful passages about it to get us on track. One is Ephesians 2:8 (taken from the USCCB webpage of the New American Bible):

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
it is not from works, so no one may boast.

This means, for one thing, we need to get rid of all pride in order to believe well. God gave us intellect, and we are to use it. But we are so susceptible to making pronouncements that put us above others, we must be very careful. The focus is always on God Himself.

Another verse is from John 6:29:
So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the
works of God?"
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."

These verses may seem contradictory, but I don't think they are. God teaches us by varying the approach. Unfortunately, we grab onto one idea or the other, then fight about it with others. I think the passages when contemplated together may mean that our work is at least in part reason because everyone thinks, but while you think, don't forget mystery. To give examples, if you simply as a child accepted Jesus as soon as your parents or priest told you about Him, perhaps it was because you trusted these authority figures, and perhaps an element of faith which is beyond our understanding also had a part. In fact, that part may be a factor in the learned professor's conversion though s/he is unaware of it. Yet to follow historical philosophical thought, to question and reach your own conclusion that God exists is certainly a help in strengthening that faith.

Modern science does not completely understand consciousness, even though they have learned much about the brain. My belief is that neither consciousness nor the soul will ever be understood completely by human beings. There will always be mystery, and for that reason we need faith.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Philosophy 101

They say life is what you do when you are planning something else. That happens with blogs, also. I had started reading about the history of the Church response to evolutionary theory and wanted to post about it, but got sidetracked. I hope to get to that subject, but while reading one of my favorite Intelligent Design (ID) websites, I read a post by Michael Egnor on Evolution News and Views relating to philosophy.

Now, my expertise in philosophy is at the 101 level, but a lot of philosophy has been flying around in evolutionary circles, and I'm sure not everyone who speaks about it is an expert. So, I'll give my own opinion.

I won't go into the details of Michael Egnor's post, but he recommends a book about philosophy which addresses the New Atheist arguments. The book is The Last Superstition, by Edward Feser. The New Atheists are people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett who are contemporary authors with various backgrounds. They argue that today's science has replaced religion and traditional religious (Catholic) philosophy such as that of St. Thomas Aquinas, who built his own system on that of Aristotle (the Greek philosopher).

The main point of Feser's book, to make a sweeping generalization, is that Aristotle worked out a philosophy that claimed to prove that change can happen in this world, but ultimately depends on an Unchanged Changer. And Aquinas built on Aristotle's work. as can be found in his five proofs of God, one of which depends on an Unmoved Mover.

Feser explains that today's scientific mindset tries to ignore Aristotle's metaphysics (which investigates the properties of reality), and yet unconsciously uses it. For example, the New Atheists tell us that scientific experiment is the only way to understand reality, yet they take for granted the reasoning behind experimentation--that one thing is caused by another. In other words, they are missing a certain concept in their understanding. They take an alternative philosophy in which there are no Universals in the sense Aristotle means. (Universals are essences of things that occur in the world, for example, "red-ness" for things that are red and "human-ness" for humans.)

Feser makes very interesting arguments, but I have thought in my limited study of philosophy that he and other philosophers like him are also missing at least one fundamental concept. They talk about Aristotle's philosophy of change, where there has to be, by logic, something (or someone) that is First and causes change. But a person would still have believe that there is a source of change other than physical energy and matter to get to that point.

The equation above is for Gibbs free energy and it is important because it is used to calculate physical / chemical change. It comes to us courtesy of J.W. Gibbs, who is pictured at top right and lived from 1839-1903. The triangle is the symbol I learned in high school to designate change (the Greek letter delta). The G is called Gibbs free energy, the H is enthalpy, or the tendency of things to change from a higher state of energy to lower (such as water falls from a higher to lower state in a waterfall). T is temperature and S is entropy--the tendency of things to become more disordered. When you plug in the values for each situation you evaluate, you can tell whether a physical change, such as a chemical reaction, will happen or not (if Gibbs free energy is negative, it will happen).

If I understand Feser correctly, he would say it is a Prime Mover that causes change, at least the first in a long line. If we don't accept that, our reasoning is faulty. But I think that most scientists, especially materialistic ones (those who think the world consists only of matter and energy which are interchangeable through Einstein's equation E=mc^2), would look at the Gibbs equation and say it explains what causes change. This can go all the way back to the Big Bang (BB), that explosion being caused by a great concentration of energy, and even before the BB. To them, there is nothing sacred in the BB as far as the formation of the universe goes. It could be that energy forces and mass continue to alternate in various proportions endlessly (and in fact, this is what they think). Both Aristotle the philosopher and Gibbs the scientist assumed that change comes from a cause.

One either believes our universe is made of only mass and energy, or one believes there is a God. Feser does a good job in showing the ridiculous logical consequences of a materialistic mindset, but I don't think he fully gets to the bottom of what causes it. Though the materialist's reason may be faulty on some level, in my opinion the deeper problem is lack of faith.

Faith is a mystery, and I will talk more about it (I hope) next post.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Catholic Sunday Snippets 090920

It’s time again for Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival. This is a group of Catholic bloggers who list links each week at RAnn’s blog, This That and the Other Thing to direct you to their latest writings. (If you take this link to RAnn, you may have to scroll down until you see "Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival.")

I usually post early on Tuesday and Friday. This week my entries include:

Tuesday -- A new movie is out about the Cambrian Explosion, a point in the fossil record where many animals appear fully formed.

Friday -- A new look for my blog!

If you are visiting from RAnn, you can see my entire blog, including both entries above, by hitting the “home” link at the bottom of this post. You can get back to RAnn at any point by clicking “Catholic Sunday Snippets” under LINKS in the right column.

Thanks a lot for joining me. Happy blogging!


Image credit: free-clipart.net .

Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Look

Well, I made the plunge and changed the look of my blog. It's still the same template, but has a little color. I hope it's still readable enough. I like white as a background, but if the color is light enough you can still read the print pretty well. I formatted the type for this entry to make it just a little darker than the regular type but will probably mostly use the regular.

I took a picture from our city's bike trail along Muskegon Lake. This lake empties into Lake Michigan through a channel, and the bike trail follows it on the south side the whole way from the east end to the Great Lake (you can see the Muskegon Lake from the trail about half the time). They just completed this trail a few years ago. You can take another branch of the trail and go east about 25 miles. Michigan has quite a few bike trails along old rail-road beds that are beautiful to see.

Since I've been spending time with my blog layout, I won't get into any subject too deeply today. (I went through ALL the templates, then came back to the first, just a different color. Plus, I had to crop the picture a few times to get it right.) I've been reading some history on the Church magisterium and their reactions to the scientific community concerning evolution. It's quite interesting and I hope to write about it next week.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cambrian Explosion

There is a new video out from Illustra Media, the same people who made Unraveling the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet. It is called Darwin's Dilemma and is about the Cambrian Explosion, a geological period in which many original forms of animals appeared fully formed in the fossil record. I've never copied a video to my blog, and I don't know 1) how to do it and 2) whether it is within the Upload Terms of Google to do it with commercial previews. So, I'll just show you the above picture which is on their website and link to the video here, where you can see the trailer for Darwin's Dilemma.

The Cambrian Explosion, when so many full-fledged animals without intermediates started appearing, is estimated at about 530 million years ago. When you compare the graphs of what Darwin expected for fossil development and what has actually been found, it looks like these graphs from the Veritas Forum:

Darwin predicted a gradual appearance of simple forms in the fossil record which would diversify and become more complex (graph on left). Instead, you have the abrupt appearance of many complex forms at one time (right).

I look forward to seeing this film. I haven't seen Illustra Media's other films since I felt I've read a great deal concerning their subjects, but this one is a little different because it contains information about fossils over the entire Earth. I know something about fossils, but could use more education on them. What I've heard about this film makes me look forward to seeing it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Catholic Sunday Snippets 090913

It’s time again for Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival. This is a group of Catholic bloggers who list links each week at RAnn’s blog, This That and the Other Thing to direct you to their latest writings. (If you take this link to RAnn, you may have to scroll down until you see "Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival.")

I usually post early on Tuesday and Friday. This week my entries include:

Tuesday -- A miracle on our block.

Friday -- New pictures of Hubble Space Telescope.

If you are visiting from RAnn, you can see my entire blog, including both entries above, by hitting the “home” link at the bottom of this post. You can get back to RAnn at any point by clicking “Catholic Sunday Snippets” under LINKS in the right column.

Thanks a lot for joining me. Happy blogging!


Image credit: http://www.free-clipart.net

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hubble Renewed

Psalm 19 (1-3)

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

2 Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they display knowledge.

3 There is no speech or language

where their voice is not heard.

New pictures have been released from the refurbished Hubble Space Telescope. There are many things that are amazing about God's Creation, but one we can't miss is His immense range. He has made atoms and stars, He conceived of electrons and galaxies.

The observable universe is about 10^25 miles long (a 1 with 25 zero's).

There are about 10^23 atoms (a 1 with 23 zero's after it) in a chemical mole. (A mole has mass approximately equal to the substance's molecular/atomic weight in grams, for example, less than 1/2 ounce of Carbon.)

And here we are, right in the middle of it all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Miracles Happen!

We had some excitement this week on our block. A news truck was across the street on Friday, and later our neighbor came and told us that several of them had gone fishing to our near-by lake the evening before and had taken the kids with them (the neighbors have two grown children living with them along with their grand kids.) They had a one-year-old girl strapped in a stroller with them on a wooden dock. Then a two-year-old pushed the stroller into the water. The stroller sank about 10 feet. The men there tried to dive for the stroller and couldn't get to it. One of the women immediately called 911 and the firemen came within a few minutes. One of the firemen dove for the child and was able to bring her up. They used CPR and then took her to a children's hospital.

When our neighbor came Friday afternoon, he said the baby was probably under for about 10 minutes. He came again in the evening and said she had water in the lungs. But they were able to bring her home Saturday, and she looked just fine! She was walking and wasn't even on any medication! Isn't that amazing?

I know they talk about suspended animation when someone is submerged in cold water, but this sure looks like a miracle to me!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Catholic Sunday Snippets 090906

It’s time again for Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival. This is a group of Catholic bloggers who list links each week at RAnn’s blog, This That and the Other Thing to direct you to their latest writings. (If you take this link to RAnn, you may have to scroll down until you see "Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival.")

I usually post early on Tuesday and Friday. This week my entries include:

Tuesday -- Francis Collins was named head of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) which has done work that discredits Darwin's theory of evolution.

Friday -- President Manuel Zelaya was forcibly ousted from Honduras a few weeks ago.

If you are visiting from RAnn, you can see my entire blog, including both entries above, by hitting the “home” link at the bottom of this post. You can get back to RAnn at any point by clicking “Catholic Sunday Snippets” under LINKS in the right column.

Thanks a lot for joining me. Happy blogging!


Image credit: http://www.free-clipart.net

Friday, September 4, 2009

Honduras Coup

There was a coup in Honduras a few weeks ago that is still playing out. President Manuel Zalaya was escorted from his presidential residence and out of the country. The Organization of American States (OAS) unanimously condemned the coup. (Not everyone is calling it a coup, but what else is it when a president is forcibly removed from the country?)

Zalaya was a rich land-owner and when he first came to office was supportive of his kind. But eventually he changed his outlook, and he became more concerned of the needs of the poor.

The per capita income of Honduras is estimated to be $2600 (from Encyclopedia of the Nations, Honduras). This is $50 per week, but is an average, so the higher incomes would push this down even more for the poor. When we were in El Salvador five years ago, workers were trying to get $2.00 a day wages. I imagine there are Hondurans working for $1.00 a day.

Zelaya was trying to get the popular opinion on whether to change the law concerning presidential term limits. The referendum was up for vote the day he was removed from the country. The persons involved said the referendum was illegal, but it was only a popular opinion poll, at least for the moment. I don't know the in's and out's of Honduran law, but it seems the best way to change a law in a democracy is to let the people decide.

There have been varying reports of the local Catholic response to the coup. Some priests have supported him and are undergoing harassment, as told here at the Catholic News Service. The Honduran bishops, headed by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, seemed to back the coup, also reported by CNS. They claim an increase in class hatred since Zelaya came to office.

When Christ said, "The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me" (Matt. 26:11 NAB), he sure had that right. One wonders how on Earth we haven't figured out how to share yet. But of course, this is the result of sin on all sides.

In struggling with this problem, the Church has declared a "Preferential Option for the Poor." John Paul II said:
While an examination of conscience can be disconcerting, it may also be invigorating. Pope Paul VI offered some insights: "It is not just a question of eliminating hunger and reducing poverty. It is not just a question of fighting wretched conditions, though this is an urgent and necessary task. It involves building a human community where everyone can live truly human lives, free from discrimination. . . . free from servitude to others or to natural forces which they cannot yet control satisfactorily. . . . Each person must examine his or her conscience, which sounds a new call in our times" (quoted here at the USCCB website).
The whole of our individualistic attitudes must change in order to be molded into community. Unfortunately, being realistic, not everyone is willing to do this. The Christian community of Acts 4 is sadly beyond our reach when considering all living persons, many of whom are not even Christians or just nominally so. The question is, where do real Christians (the ones who seriously try to follow Jesus Christ) go from here?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Koonin and Collins

Eugene Koonin is a senior investigator at NCBI, the National Center for Biotechnology Information. NCBI is under the National Institutes of Health at Bethesda, MD. Koonin's main research area is genomics. He heads a research group there that has been analyzing genes and comparing them between species.

It is interesting that Francis Collins, highlighted in my last post, has become the head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), under which NCBI operates. He was appointed to the post by President Obama in July and confirmed this month. This is the very place that work has been done in disproving Collins' hypothesis of naturalistic, materialist evolution.

Once scientists knew how to evaluate the contents of the gene, as Collins did with humans, researchers worked on various species to determine their specific makeups. The genes are made of molecules which make various patterns. The molecules of DNA are all the same between different species but the patterns are all different . (Pictures of the molecules can be seen here.) There are many species in our world--some estimate 50 million or so. These are subdivided from larger groups, such as animals and plants.

The researchers used organism species from various subgroups to compare genes. Even within bacteria, there are various subgroups and species. Then there is another large group of one-celled organisms called Archaea (are-KEY-ah). These were thought to be relatives of bacteria, but are so different as to now form their own domain. Within Archaea there are subgroups and species also.

The researchers have found amazing results. These are reported by Koonin and Yuri Wolf in a paper which I have linked with before called, "Genomics of Bacteria and Archaea," published in Nucleic Acids Research in October 2008 (online). All the species are showing unique genes. The majority of their genes are shared with only one or a few other species. There is no smooth increase from simple to complex, as Darwin predicted.

Some wonder, with so many species in the world and so few (comparatively) checked, whether the others will fill in "gaps." There are several reasons not to expect this. For one, Koonin states in the paper that their selection is across enough diversity that the sample is enough to talk about general principles of genetics.

A second reason is that mathematically, the random motion of molecules and rate of chance switches of DNA molecules within an organism do not jive with the diversity of the findings. The proteins which DNA produces do not match enough between organisms to agree with neo-Darwinism.

The Earth cannot have supported over 10^50 (that's 10 to the 50th power) organisms in the approximately 3.5 billion years of biological life. We know that because of the volume of water on the Earth. That is a limit in which random mutation would have to work to get from one species to another with smooth, small steps predicted in evolution. With the diversity of genes now found, the gap could not be filled with neo-Darwinian, chance changes. The probabilities are just too low.

A third reason to think the gaps will not be filled is that even higher organisms are found to have unique genes. There is reason to believe unique genes will continue to be discovered as more species are sequenced.

I wonder how Francis Collins, who insists on materialistic evolution, will handle the results of the very organization of which he is now in charge. Collins accepts the Anthropic Principle, which in at least one of its versions states the universe is fine-tuned in order for life to exist. Yet we need a Biologic Anthropic Principle to state that the complexity of the cell can only be explained by a supernatural designer and creator. I hope someday Collins realizes this need.

Yuri Wolf, co-author of the paper mentioned here, is a member of Koonin's research group at NCBI.

Image links: Koonin ; Wolf .

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Catholic Sunday Snippets 090830

It’s time again for Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival. This is a group of Catholic bloggers who list links each week at RAnn’s blog, This That and the Other Thing to direct you to their latest writings. (If you take this link to RAnn, you may have to scroll down until you see "Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival.")

I usually post early on Tuesday and Friday. This week my entries are about 2 men named Francis:

Tuesday -- Francis Bacon, originator of the modern scientific method.

Friday -- Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and recently named head of NIH.

If you are visiting from RAnn, you can see my entire blog, including both entries above, by hitting the “home” link at the bottom of this post. You can get back to RAnn at any point by clicking “Catholic Sunday Snippets” under LINKS in the right column.

Thanks a lot for joining me. Happy blogging!


Image credit: http://www.free-clipart.net

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nature's Abilities

In my last post I had a picture of Francis Bacon, the originator of our modern scientific method. Now I have another Francis, Dr. Collins, who led the Genome Project which made known the entire makeup of human genes. He is an esteemed scientist and deserves a great deal of credit for making the human genome available to all persons. In contrast, several companies were trying to discover the makeup at the same time and wanted to get commercial patents for it! (This is unimaginable and yet they wanted to own the human genome!)

Dr. Collins also did work on disease related to genes, and made significant contributions in this way. He is a Christian, and has written a book about his conversion called The Language of God. It is hard to go up against what he says, and yet no one is perfect. The Intelligent Design community is at odds with him because he believes that biological life and evolution occurred entirely without direct supervision from God. At the same time he thinks the universe, with its fine-tuning, is the result of God's handiwork. The term for people who believe in evolution with God in the background is "Theistic Evolutionist."

One might ask, why quibble? Well, hopefully these differences are not enough to set Christian upon Christian. But there are a few problems. First, the people like Collins who believe God did not touch biology supernaturally end up acting as if it is already proven He didn't. It is not.

Secondly, they teach children as if it is already proven He didn't. That is wrong both morally and in a scientific sense. Science is about evaluating what we know and interpreting it correctly. Morally, they convince children in a dishonest way what they want them to believe instead of telling them the truth.

Third, Theistic Evolutionists deride those who have other ideas. Instead of having both views as possibilities, they exclude the one they don't like. It is all right to have a hypothesis, such as neo-Darwinian materialistic evolution, but unless it is proven, you need to make room for other hypotheses. These people don't. They are disdainful of ID advocates because they fear that ID will destroy incentive to learn more. That is wrong and unfair. Research will continue as long as man has curiosity, which will be always.

It is only fair that ID people should allow for the materialistic view. It is not a matter here of what you think is scientifically correct. It is a matter of respect for other people's opinions and beliefs. If educators want to teach children materialistic evolution, they should teach ID right alongside it. Right now, the facts point to, if not already prove, Intelligent Design of biological life and evolution. (To see some of these facts, go through my ID posts under "Topics at Blog" in the right column.) Then, for believers, it would follow that God supernaturally intervened.

At one discussion about evolution that I attended, a man said he likes to enjoy the creativity of nature. I've seen that sentiment at the BioLogos Foundation website established by Francis Collins. They look at the cell's complexity and imagine nature to have made it. To me, that is like a man who goes away to work during the day, and his wife cleans, buys groceries, does laundry, takes care of the kids. Then she makes a meal that is on the table when the husband returns. He says, "Isn't nature wonderful, that it can put this meal on the table and take care of all the household needs?" Or even, "Honey, I know you somehow had a hand in this, but isn't nature impressive?"

Does God feel unappreciated? Perhaps no more than people whose work is ignored.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cultural Intelligentsia

On this past Weekend Edition at NPR, I was listening to Scott Simon interviewing a Jesuit author, James Martin, S.J. Martin is the culture editor at America magazine and has written about humor as it relates to religious persons. I won't go into a lot of detail of the conversation. (The transcript of the interview is here.) However, at one point Martin and Simon were discussing prejudice against Catholics, and Simon used the term, "popular intelligencia culture" to describe the mindset of the people who feel free to make derogatory statements against Catholics. (Wikipedia spells it Intelligentsia. The term signifies the social group of intellectuals and those related, such as teachers.)

In another website, Evolution News and Views, Michael Egnor describes the people at the New York Times who fired Ben Stein because of his support of Intelligent Design and others like them. He uses the term "scientific materialism" to demonstrate the idea of the modern understanding of reason. Persons who hold this especially claim that science has replaced religion and to believe in God is to be ignorant. And they make no effort to respect any other point of view.

I am interested in these terms, because I think they describe a whole group with a certain mode of thinking. Perhaps the terms can be further developed, but I think the idea is clear enough.

Now, what does that have to do with Francis Bacon, who is pictured here? He lived in England from 1561-1626 and was the scientist and philosopher who introduced the modern scientific methodology. However, his own method of induction and experimentation for science should not be interpreted as making God obsolete. It is very interesting to note that Bacon himself believed in God. From Wikipedia (link above) you can read:
Regarding faith, in De augmentis, he writes that "the more discordant, therefore, and incredible, the divine mystery is, the more honour is shown to God in believing it, and the nobler is the victory of faith." He writes in "The Essays: Of Atheism" that "a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion."
Bacon was right about needing a new approach to the development of science compared with that of the Middle Ages. He said:
"Men have sought to make a world from their own conception and to draw from their own minds all the material which they employed, but if, instead of doing so, they had consulted experience and observation, they would have the facts and not opinions to reason about, and might have ultimately arrived at the knowledge of the laws which govern the material world."

Bacon was fighting the notion at that time that magic and/or alchemy could produce gold out of any other material. What is ironic is that people today have replaced their pre-conceived notions in a way that is just as wrong as it was in the middle ages. To assume that biology has developed by blind material forces alone keeps a person from being open-minded enough to evaluate facts correctly. At this time, there are no physical or chemical laws which can explain the existence of biological life. Those are the facts. But the opinions, that God does not exist and therefore could not have any supernatural hand in biology, keep some away from the possibility of true knowledge.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Catholic Sunday Snippets

It’s time again for Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival. This is a group of Catholic bloggers who list links each week at RAnn’s blog, This That and the Other Thing to direct you to their latest writings. (If you take this link to RAnn, you may have to scroll down until you see "Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival.")

I usually post early on Tuesday and Friday. This week my entries include:

Tuesday -- My 2 cents on health care reform.

Friday -- Ben Stein is fired from the NY Times because of his support of Intelligent Design.

If you are visiting from RAnn, you can see my entire blog, including both entries above, by hitting the “home” link at the bottom of this post. You can get back to RAnn at any point by clicking “Catholic Sunday Snippets” under LINKS in the right column.

Thanks a lot for joining me. Happy blogging!


Image credit: http://www.free-clipart.net

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ben Stein Removed

Ben Stein was recently let go from the New York Times as a columnist. He credits several reasons. One was his tendency to criticize Obama policies. The other was his role in the pro-Intelligent Design movie, Expelled. At the American Spectator he says:
Expelled was a plea for open discussion of the possibility that life might have started with an Intelligent Designer. This idea, that freedom of academic discussion on an issue as to which there is avid scientific disagreement has value, seems obvious to me. But it drives the atheists and neo-Darwinists crazy and they responded viciously.
See article here.

This is the type of hostility there is in the cultural wars. I saw a Gallup poll recently that said only 14% of Americans believe that God had nothing to do with evolution. The rest believe He either created us directly or guided the process. But, as I thought at the time I saw the poll, those 14% have an inordinate grip of power over education and media.

That is our challenge.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Bensteinol.jpg , work of US gov.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Catholic Sunday Snippets

It’s time again for Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival. This is a group of Catholic bloggers who list links each week at RAnn’s blog, This That and the Other Thing to direct you to their latest writings. (If you take this link to RAnn, you may have to scroll down until you see "Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival.")

I usually post early on Tuesday and Friday. This week my entries include:

Tuesday -- A Vatican-based survey of religious sisters in US is under way.

Friday -- Drifting back to Intelligent Design Theory.

If you are visiting from RAnn, you can see my entire blog, including both entries above, by hitting the “home” link at the bottom of this post. You can get back to RAnn at any point by clicking “Catholic Sunday Snippets” under LINKS in the right column.

Thanks a lot for joining me. Happy blogging!
Image credit: http://www.free-clipart.net/

Friday, August 14, 2009

Design Drifting

After a few months of taking a vacation from Intelligent Design Theory (ID), I feel myself drifting back. This spring I needed some time away from ID. I was a little burned out and felt I was at the point where further study would take on a higher degree of technical knowledge, such as computer programming. But, I slowly learn more as I read more, and I'm resolved to enjoy it as I go and not expect myself to ever comprehend it all. I don't think any human ever can, or even all of us put together, which says much for the genius of our God.

I've just read Stephen Meyer's new book, Signature in the Cell. I knew this would be a much-discussed book, so I couldn't leave it alone. I gave a review of it here. He talked quite a bit about Information Theory, since that is what is being used to evaluate DNA and its products. I had read about Information Theory a long time ago, with the writings of Hubert Yockey, a physicist who evaluated proteins in that way. But it was a new concept for me then and I was still more interested in the continual amazing discoveries in biology. Now as I see more papers coming out on Information Theory as it relates to biology, I'd like to learn more about it.

The person considered the founder of this discipline is Claude Shannon. He is a fascinating person and you can read about him here at Wikipedia. I was surprised to learn he was born in Michigan. He went to University of Michigan and then on to MIT. His master's degree paper is considered one of the most important in history. It sets up the theoretical basis for the digital computer.

And yet, this is not the total of Shannon's work. Information theory is above and beyond that which he worked out in his master's paper. It relates information to uncertainty, which in turn relates to probabilities. It works with communication channels and the sending of information over electrical systems.

I did well in high school and college math classes, but I studied biology before the days that this kind of mathematical application to genetics was widely known or taught. Fortunately, my husband is a retired engineer and has been a big help in my efforts. However, after I started Shannon's seminal article, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication," from the Bell System Technical Journal, V27, July and Oct. 1948, I realized lot of it is over my head. I read it anyway. Roger Penrose, an award-winning mathematical physicist, has said we should read through mathematics even if we don't understand it, because we can still get a feel for what's going on. I did that with two of Penrose's books and learned quite a bit about quantum physics even though there was much I did not get.

And so I'll be reading more about ID and of course commenting sometimes about it here. It is too fascinating to ignore, that is for sure.

Image credit: statue of Claude Shannon at University of Michigan campus, from flickr by hyperboreal, some rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sisters Surveyed

There is a Vatican-ordered review of American Catholic women religious going on now. Catholic News Service reports that a questionnaire has been given to religious orders to describe their activities. One general question concerns the doctrine and teaching of women religious.

One factor in this questioning is the demand of women to be ordained. There are some outspoken nuns who speak about ordination. The clash is inevitable for those women who think it is wrong that there is no ordination of women in the Catholic Church. But clouding this subject is whether women religious are staying on track with other doctrine.

Unfortunately in my experience, in writings and teachings, many religious women are drifting off, often to universalism where it doesn't matter in their opinion what people believe. To them, God loves everyone, and everyone will get to heaven. How we would get along with those who never repented, I don't know. (Though I can't know their hearts at their ends, I give Hitler and Stalin as possible examples.) However, I find this mindset to be true with writings of male religious also. And I'm sure there are many religious women who are deeply committed to orthodox Christianity. I don't want to go onto details of this now, but I write of these themes in my book, Unto Others. (My book is a mystery and so I hope entertaining, but takes on themes of today's Catholic Church and life in general.)

In the frustration of being treated as second-hand Church members, some women may get off the track altogether. However, being treated unfairly is not an excuse to leave the Christian faith. For one, we expect hardships in this life.

Even more importantly, we find dignity for women emanating from the Scripture. For example, there is "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female" (Galatians 3:28, NIV). We are all equal in Christ.

Concerning the issue of "Jew or Gentile," the original Apostles already knew (after some discussion and visions) that Christ's sacrifice was made for all, and that any person can accept the salvation He gives.

The slavery issue took longer to sort out. Even Popes were divided. While some condemned it, others didn't. Among the facts given in Wikipedia under Christianity and Slavery:

The papacy itself increasingly hardened its attitude. The 7th century Pope Martin I condemned unjust slavery, but in doing so implicitly suggested that he believed a just slavery to exist. In the early thirteenth century, official support for slavery and the slave trade was incorporated into Canon Law, by Pope Gregory IX[80][81], who had also introduced the Inquisition, trials for witchcraft, and the judicial presumption of guilt (rather than presumption of innocence). Roughly a century later, Gregory's namesake, Pope Gregory XI, excommunicated the Florentines and ordered them to be enslaved if captured[82].

In 1917, one hundred and ten years after the official abolition of the slave trade in most of the rest of the world, the Papacy finally abolished the Canon Law support for the slave trade.
Today we finally know how wrong slavery is. Why is the "male-female" problem so stubborn?

I have written about prejudice in the last few posts. Prejudice is subtle and though I think it is a temptation, it is often one we are not even aware we have given into. There are all kinds of reasons not to be fair. A person needs prayer and deep soul-searching to come to the right place.

Yes, Christ chose 12 Apostles, but He also had many women helping him. Women were with Christ at the cross and He first appeared to women when He arose from the dead. Would Jesus deny women the dignity of being ordained Deacons? I really doubt it. Would He ask that any other sacrament of the church be given to men and not women? No.

Slaves and others fought for the end of slavery. Though it may be a divisive issue with the Church, we must do what is right. Women are speaking out because we must, but we must not stray from the Truth. We pray for all eyes and hearts to be opened.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Catholic Sunday Snippets 20090809

It’s time again for Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival. This is a group of Catholic bloggers who list links each week to direct you to their latest writings at RAnn’s blog, This That and the Other Thing. (If you take this link there, you may have to scroll down until you see "Sunday Snippets—A Catholic Carnival.")

I usually post early on Tuesday and Friday. This week my entries were both continuations of the discussion about Supreme Court Judges and human nature. Click links for:



Thanks a lot for joining me. You can get back to RAnn at any point by clicking “Catholic Sunday Snippets” under LINKS in the right column.

To see my entire blog, including both entries above, hit the “home” link at the bottom of this post.

Happy blogging!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Twists and Turns

Since I've been on the subject of Courts and Judges, I would like to say a few more things about them. First, congratulations to Sonia Sotomayor for being confirmed as the first Hispanic person on the Supreme Court of the United States.

In the last post I quoted from the Supreme Court decision concerning Dred Scott which I will repeat here (in parentheses).

(A classic case is the Dred Scott decision which I discussed in a previous post. The court refused to grant Scott, an African-American, freedom from slavery for which he had sued in 1857. You can read the Wikipedia account here. One of the conclusions of the Supreme Court in the case, called Scott v. Sandford, was:

Any person descended from black Africans, whether slave or free, is not a citizen of the United States, according to the Declaration of Independence.
Obviously, this is an interpretation of the Declaration of Independence which today we know is outright wrong. Yet here it is in a decision by the US Supreme Court. Needless to say, it did not stand the test of time.)

To claim that this decision is from the Declaration of Independence is quite a stretch. There are probably experts on these things that follow the thinking of the judges involved. However, it must have taken some major twisting on their part to get this conclusion from
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
And consider the case of Roe v. Wade, which you can read about here. Several Supreme Court justices interpreted the Constitution by saying a woman has a right to abortion because of privacy. That's like saying a husband has a right to kill his wife (or vice versa) if it is in the privacy of their own home. Thoughts take twists and turns when they are made to justify one's own agenda.

There may be many motivations for the Roe v. Wade decision. The judges may have sympathy for women who do not have the means to support a child, or were coerced into sex, etc. But though it is certainly praiseworthy to have sympathy, there are more factors in finding the answer to what is best.

It is interesting that the Declaration of Independence speaks of the Creator. The Creator does give us rights. The Creator can, if we seek Him, give us right judgment.

Unfortunately, it makes others nervous when Christians seek God's help. It is a common thing for the Christian to ask God's guidance. We want to do what is best. We pray and then do the best we can. We hope God will be helping us along.