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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!
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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.

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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].
and,

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:

Tuesday

Friday

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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Striving for Perfection


I commented on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor in a recent post. I said it was inevitable that judges bring their own background and biases into the decisions they make. Whether the Supreme Court justices follow existing laws or use the constitution directly in making decisions, there can be mistakes made due to prejudice and human failings.

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.

And consider the case of Roe v. Wade, which you can read about here. The laws of the state in which lower court judgment was made were deemed inadequate by the court. Several Supreme Court justices then interpreted the Constitution in a way that many do not believe valid. They gave women the right to abort their pregnancies. This was in 1973.

In our day we believe ourselves enlightened. But prejudice can be subtle. People in the pre-Civil War days would not have believed themselves flawed in their judgments either. Some people today do not seem to realize their own prejudices. If Sotomayor is prejudice, two wrongs do not make a right. But I think she is at least aware that prejudice still exists, and that is where her "wise Latina woman" comments come from (where she compared her own experiences to those of a white male).

There are probably volumes of books on why prejudice exists. I believe it is a temptation which we fall into because it makes us feel superior and it often gives us an excuse to take away physical things from others. It is therefore at least in part a spiritual problem, and only Jesus Christ can truly set us straight when it comes to our souls.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Catholic Sunday Snippets 2009/08/02

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.

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

Tuesday -- Part 2 of my review of Pope Paul VI’s 1975 encyclical, Evangelii Nuntiandi.

Friday -- Reflections on a mass given for my husband’s high school reunion class.

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!