Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival 6

I am cross-linking with RAnn's blog, This That and the Other Thing, for Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival in which she lists links to individual posts from other Catholic blogs. This week's post from my own blog is a list from the US Bishops' statement concerning economic principles.

On her blog, RAnn reads and reviews religion-related books, both fiction and non-fiction and sometimes fills us in on her personal life. Her blog home is here and in the right column under "Catholic Sunday Snippets." If you have come from there, and to anyone else for that matter, welcome to my blog! You can visit (or return to) the weekly Sunday Snippets post of RAnn's blog here. She lists links to individual posts from other Catholic blogs.

Feel free to look around my blog. If you are visiting from the Catholic Carnival, hit the "Home" link at the bottom of this post to get to the main blog. If you are interested in Intelligent Design Theory, click the ID link in the right column under "Topics."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Economic Principles


My husband and I will be visiting with relatives for the next two weeks, so I won't be posting. Feel free to look around my blog. If you are visiting from the Catholic Carnival, hit the "Home" link at the bottom of this post to get to the main blog. If you are interested in Intelligent Design Theory, click the ID link in the right column under "Topics."

Recently I've talked briefly about problems with US health care and immigration reform. I thought I'd add here a bishop's statement, "A Catholic Framework for Economic Life" that is on the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website. It's found through links from their economic teaching page. They used various sources to write this list of principles, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and their pastoral letter of 1986, Economic Justice for All.

Here is the introduction and list:
As followers of Jesus Christ and participants in a powerful economy, Catholics in the United States are called to work for greater economic justice in the face of persistent poverty, growing income-gaps, and increasing discussion of economic issues in the United States and around the world. We urge Catholics to use the following ethical framework for economic life as principles for reflection, criteria for judgment and directions for action. These principles are drawn directly from Catholic teaching on economic life.

1. The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy.
2. All economic life should be shaped by moral principles. Economic choices and institutions must be judged by how they protect or undermine the life and dignity of the human person, support the family and serve the common good.
3. A fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are faring.
4. All people have a right to life and to secure the basic necessities of life (e.g., food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, safe environment, economic security.)
5. All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions as well as to organize and join unions or other associations.
6. All people, to the extent they are able, have a corresponding duty to work, a responsibility to provide the needs of their families and an obligation to contribute to the broader society.
7. In economic life, free markets have both cleat advantages and limits; government has essential responsibilities and limitations; voluntary groups have irreplaceable roles, but cannot substitute for the proper working of the market and the just policies of the state.
8. Society has a moral obligation, including governmental action where necessary, to assure opportunity, meet basic human needs, and pursue justice in economic life.
9. Workers, owners, managers, stockholders and consumers are moral agents in economic life. By our choices, initiative, creativity and investment, we enhance or diminish economic opportunity, community life and social justice.
10. The global economy has moral dimensions and human consequences. Decisions on investment, trade, aid and development should protect human life and promote human rights, especially for those most in need wherever they might live on this globe.

It is not a perfect world, and not everyone will live by these guidelines. But Catholics are a significant part of the population and can have a real impact on others. Of course, many already try to follow these principles. Let us pray for wisdom and right judgment in our economic affairs.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival 5

Time again for Sunday Snippets. I am linking to RAnn's blog for Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival in which she lists links to individual posts from other Catholic blogs. On her blog, This That and the Other Thing, she reads and reviews religion-related books, both fiction and non-fiction and sometimes fills us in on her personal life. Her blog is here and the connection to the most recent Sunday Snippets is here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bishops on Immigration


Catholic News Service reported that the Bishops of North and Central America are calling for a regional migration summit. They want govenrments of the region to "assess the causes of migration and to work out a regional plan for cooperation on migration and development." They see this as a "pivotal moment" with "no time to waste."

The bishops had met in early June in Guatemala for a meeting on migration issues. They put out a statement which described "the combination of political opportunities created by the change in the White House and urgency fed by the global economic crisis and the increased role of organized crime in human trafficking." These groups "help" migrants to cross the border and find work, often under deplorable conditions. The smugglers, traffickers and drug cartels, often intimately related, are responsible for increased crime in the Southwestern US. Phoenix has become known for vast increases in kidnapping crimes, often related to these criminal groups.

There is great impact also on the family situations of those who migrate. Often families are separated because one or a few family members leave to work while others stay behind.

Often in the US, immigrants are treated as the source of many assorted ills. While it is true that some cross illegally, the bishops "are saddened when in our own communities migrants are not welcomed as brothers and sisters in our own faith as members of our Catholic family," they wrote. "We must insist that in the church, 'no one is a stranger.'"

The bishops said, "The church recognizes that all the goods of the earth belong to all people."

They called for "humane policies based on moral and ethical principles."

A list of attendees and signers of the statement are at the article link above.

Among all the things for which we pray, it is important to add those who are in desparate living conditions and find no alternative but to go to a place where they are able to work and earn money. This is among the many problems we need to work on in our country, especially in attitudes of wealth and what each individual deserves, no matter how hard they may work.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Healthy Attitudes

There is a Catholic Health Association conference going on from June 7-9 in New Orleans as reported by Catholic News Service. The speaker, Franciscan Br. Daniel Sulmasy, talked about the need of patients to feel a loving environment from individual health care givers.

The current health care mess in the United States is of great concern to us all. In a perfect world, there would be no illness in the first place. But short of that, in an almost perfect world there would be no doctors out for only the money and prestige.

I practiced veterinary medicine for 11 years, and I know how hard a job that is. It's got to be a lot harder for human doctors with the responsibility they carry. Yet money and material possessions are not the compensation that will make up for the hardships. It is doing what you have the gift for and want and love to do.

I got into vet medicine because I wanted to be a writer but knew that wouldn't pay the bills, at least to begin with. I was smart and got good grades in school, and I loved horses and other animals. While in undergrad, I came to know students who were totally dedicated to medicine and knew that was what they wanted for their life's work. I also knew people who got better grades who were in it for the big money. The competition for places at both med and vet schools is so intense that the differences are minute. Yet often the better grades (top of the list) got into vet school. Some of the dedicated ones kept trying when they didn't get in the first time. Some eventually got in, some didn't.

Now, these are not the only combinations that students come in. Some with the best grades are very selfless, but I wonder the proportion of those who become doctors for money instead of true care for others. And there is a more subtle force at work in which there is an understanding that these professional jobs will bring high pay. It overrides the notion that doctors are earning their pay mostly from sick persons who already are at a disadvantage. Sure, there is prevention, but it has not yet made enough headway to override the percentage of healthy to ill patients. I think the fact that some people are on insurance and some not also muddies the waters.

Perhaps if there is less compensation to doctors, the selfless ones would surface. Though you may think those with the lesser grades would be worse doctors, we are not talking huge margins in intelligence. And especially with common sense, the less brainy often have the edge. From what I've experienced, I'd rather have a compassionate doctor than a rich one.

Money is a huge factor in medicine because the demand is so much greater than the supply. It is a long haul through medical school. Fortunately things are now being done like training physician's assistants. Perhaps in those people we will find those who are dedicated to the sick and not to overindulgence. And of course I have not touched upon nurses, many of whom are wonderful people. We Americans are blessed to have the quality of all the people who research, teach and practice medicine. But, as the Pope has warned, there is all too often a material bent to our ventures which can deplete the love which Br. Sulmasy seeks.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival 4

Time again for Sunday Snippets. I am linking to RAnn's blog for Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival in which she lists links to individual posts from other Catholic blogs. On her blog, This That and the Other Thing, she reads and reviews religion-related books, both fiction and non-fiction and sometimes fills us in on her personal life. Her blog is here and the connection to the most recent Sunday Snippets is here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Unique Genes


A very important research paper was published October 2008 by Eugene Koonin and Yuri Wolf of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). I already discussed it back in February (here) when I was writing a series about biological origins. It is called, "Genomics of bacteria and archaea: the emerging dynamic view of the prokaryotic world," from Nucleic Acids Research, 36:21, pp 6688-6719.

The paper reports on the gene make-ups of bacteria and archaea. Archaea are a group of organisms that were thought to be bacteria until the 1970's, but were found too different to group in the same category.

The reason this paper and the research it reflects is so important is that as the researchers determine the specific gene sequences in more and more organisms, they are finding a pattern. First, there is a small core of genes that appears almost unchanged in most of the organisms (what they call "highly conserved"). Second, there is a larger amount of genes that are "moderately common." And last but not least, is a huge amount of genes that appear in one or just a few organisms (are "narrowly distributed"). However, these statistics should not be confused with the gene make-up in a particular organism. There you will find the small core of common genes, a larger set of moderately common genes, and a smaller set of unique genes (the unique genes are a larger group of genes but a smaller percentage in each individual organism).

The graph above is from the article. It is called a self-organizing map or SOM. It shows the spaces between groups of genes, called COGs (Clusters of Orthologous Groups). The "Orthologous" in that name means "coming from a common ancestor." The spaces between the isolated clusters shows that there is no progressive, Darwinian relationship between these organisms. They are all unique in certain ways. And the gene groups themselves each had to become functional on their own--they did not inherit them from other groups in a Darwinian way. This makes the origin of life much more difficult to support by Darwinian theory.

The authors of the paper and many other scientists want to quickly claim that a new phenomenon, Horizontal (or Lateral) Gene Transfer, can explain these new findings. HGT is the transfer of genes between organisms. But they are wrong to suppose that HGT can handle the vastly improbable odds of the existence of all these unique functional genes any more than gene mutation could have. First of all, you have to have functional genes before they can be transferred. I have touched upon HGT here. As the information about biological life increases, I hope that more and more people realize the immensity of these discoveries.

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I am now finished, for at least a while, with Intelligent Design Theory. There are surely more things I could say, but I've covered a lot. If you are interested, please see my ID link in the right column and read the past posts. I am not an expert, although I have a bachelor's degree in animal science and have been able to learn a lot on my own. I feel I can introduce the subject to others, but at this point I don't have the inclination to delve into the advanced mathematics and chemistry of the subject. I don't want to spend all my time trying to master new fields of study like biological computing and genetic algorithms. I hope the next generation will enjoy the adventure of learning more and more about God's world.

And yet, as I move onto other things, I can't give up ID completely. The physiology of biological life is startling, and each time I look at a new "Molecule of the Month" at the RCSB Protein Data Bank web site, I am amazed. I give you these links for your own pursuit of knowledge of biological structures. They show wonderful pictures and describe them in understandable language. I'm also adding a link on the right column to Molecules of the Month at RCSB (Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics).

We praise God for His awesome, beautiful Creation.

Update 1/20/2013: My interest in Intelligent Design Theory has changed to what is called "Special Creationism," the belief that God created species, including humans, separately and directly.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival 3

Time again for Sunday Snippets. I am linking to RAnn's blog for Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival in which she lists links to individual posts from other Catholic blogs. On her blog, This That and the Other Thing, she reads and reviews religion-related books, both fiction and non-fiction and sometimes fills us in on her personal life. Her blog is here and the connection to the most recent Sunday Snippets is here.

Writing

In last Tuesday's post, I indicated I'm on the verge of a change in my life. I especially feel I've done what I can with Intelligent Design Theory, at least to this point. I started studying it in earnest at the beginning of 2006. I had just received a Certificate of Theology from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI in December 2005.

At that time I wanted to continue studying theology, and one of my professors told me I was ready for a Master's Degree. I pursued his suggestion, and looked into available programs at colleges such as Notre Dame. But nothing fit into my interest concerning the relationship between theology and science. I liked Intelligent Design Theory because I thought, and still think, it best fits the facts (although the theology needs work). I had taken animal science at college and got a veterinary degree and felt I could understand the scientific aspects. I therefore set off on a self-taught Master's. I had the encouragement of another faculty member, even though his philosophy differed from mine. He suggested reading from theology and philosophy which I followed. I also read many scientific research papers, often those mentioned in Intelligent Design-related websites. And of course I researched my own questions and found many answers.

I was able to present my findings to a few groups. Also, I was rejected by others whom I approached. (See the movie Expelled to get an idea of the experience.) And I spent a lot of hours on this blog presenting the case and pictures to compliment it.

And so, I feel I have earned my self-taught Master's, and perhaps a bit of extra credit toward a Ph.D. But I feel satisfied that I have done my best considering my circumstances. I could go on to learn more in this subject of interest, but I don't feel I want to devote all my time to it anymore. Yet I'll always benefit from the knowledge I've gained and will still be happy to teach others if they ask.

As for writing, the title of my post, I have always wanted to be a writer but am not very prolific. In some ways the career of writer has always seemed a little scary to me. There's no guaranteed paycheck for many of us. Yet as I look back, I've started the career and have stuck with it, and somehow have survived this far (by God's grace, I know). I have written two fictional books, two booklets and this blog. Actually, the experience at Aquinas gave me more confidence, since my papers were graded very favorably. I want to always use my writing in some way toward evangelization and edification. Though I haven't "hit it big," I feel I've made a positive impact in this way on some people's lives, and that is what counts.

For now, I am glad to be a writer. But who knows what the future brings? I am more deeply and fundamentally a Christian. I want that to come through no matter what I do.