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.