Sunday, December 30, 2012

Conversion for All

On Nov. 12, 2012, Cardinal Timothy Dolan gave a presidential address to the General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). This was shortly after the US presidential election, and was uncharacteristically humble for the cardinal. The link above is worth reading, although it takes him a little while to get to the point. When he does, you find that he talks about conversion and penance. One would not be surprised if he meant for the people who voted for Obama, an action he and his fellow bishops heartily tried to prevent. But he actually meant first and foremost for bishops themselves.

One may cynically wonder if he had a victory speech prepared with entirely different substance if Romney had won. Though we may wish he spoke more plainly about his motivations for the need for conversion and penance, I think we all know what he meant. The half-year since their last meeting had brought court convictions for Msgr. Lynn in Philadelphia and Bishop Finn in St. Louis for the concealment of various forms of child sexual abuse. Along with the trials came media reminders of the failures of many, many other cardinals and bishops, including Popes.

If Dolan doesn’t know of the animosity many people feel against the Church leadership, he doesn’t deserve to be president of the USCCB. It seems this speech shows he gets it, at least in one form. Now if the words actually translate into action, we might all be a little happier. Penance is one thing, but conversion means the courage to change. Our strength is in the Lord  (cf. Psalms 118:14), and we all need to pray fervently for it.

Many people have written about the need for accountability for Catholic bishops, such as defrocking and even excommunication. But a deeper question exists: why are there so few consequences? We can’t say there are none, since in the case of the Legionaries of Christ, the leader, Marcial Maciel, was so horrendously guilty he was finally taken from his post by Pope Benedict XVI. However, even this took a long, long time after years of his accusers being ignored. But most bishops who passed pedophile priests onto unsuspecting parishes and still hide some of their identities go on with their lives and their jobs while other Catholics are excommunicated for things like promoting women priests.

Though Cardinal Dolan may have had certain things in mind when he talked about penance for bishops, he may himself not understand the deeper reasons for this inability to deal with the problem. Well, of course, we would not be wrong to say it is because of their sin. But perhaps a little more analysis would be helpful toward conversion.

Though I usually like to separate different issues to analyze them, there are some things in common with several themes here: the dismal behavior of bishops in the child abuse case; the desire of bishops to stop abortion (I generalize but believe most bishops want to stop abortion); and their rejection of women in true equality (and by true equality I mean not just nominal or “equal but different”).  The commonality is the way we think about these things, whether we listen to other persons problems and ideas, and what we do about them.

In the abortion issue, the bishops want the potentially aborting woman to consider the life within her and not reject it. This woman has her reasons for aborting, which she thinks are valid: she does not think the fetus is yet a human; she can’t afford it; she is afraid of what relatives will do if they find she is pregnant. However, none of these reasons are valid according to the bishops. They would object in some way: the fetus is a real human; help is available; the family may accept her anyway. Furthermore, they expect these potentially aborting women to listen to their answers.

However, in the case of treating women equally, they have all kinds of reasons why ordination and leadership should not be inclusive: the 12 disciples were men; Christ was a man; Christ is the bridegroom. But there are also objections to these arguments: 12 men represented the old ways of the law of the 12 tribes of Israel, and when Christ arose from the dead he showed Himself to women first and told them to proclaim his resurrection to others; Christ was human and so are women; if only men can represent Christ as the bridegroom as priests, then only women (the brides) should be in the pews.

When Cardinal Dolan asks for conversion of bishops, one hopes he refers, at the least, to the child sexual abuse crisis of the Church. It is good to see some sign of acknowledgement, but the bishops should know better than most that there must be changes in action if conversion is true. This is not just about going to the confessional and a fellow bishop telling them their sins are forgiven. If they expect to be satisfied with that, they are not converted.  They need to think about why they are doing these things and what needs to change for good.

These three issues relate to each group having their mindsets for doing things and whether they can listen to others.  There are differences in how we think about issues and how some things may be right and wrong in each group.  If bishops expect Catholic women who plan to undergo abortion to listen to them (and perhaps even influence non-Catholic women), they should think about whether they themselves accept women as equal or reject them and their ideas. They could start by reviewing their reasons why they keep women in the out-group, and evaluate if these ideas are true theology, or man-made rationalizations which sit among the genuine doctrine.

Perhaps the American political election brought the situation home to Dolan. He finally started, however tenuously, what needs to be done. The question is, how far will he and other bishops go? Because their conversion journeys will be very long and painful for them if they are to be done right.  May we all realize that true conversion is worth the pain, and may we have the courage to do it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Peace Amidst Horror

In the wakes of Super Storm Sandy and the Sandy Hook Slaughter, most writers probably feel compelled to write something about them, no matter how inadequate. My sincere prayers and hopes for recovery go to sufferers from these and other disasters, both natural and human-wrought.

Since the Newtown, Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary School killings on Dec. 14, there is already the usual talk about gun control. People are very upset and maybe something will change. But people were similarly shocked about the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. We’ve had the same type of occasions since then. We are still arguing about the availability of firearms.

It is human to want to manage events, and in some cases we succeed. We want to make schools and workplaces, not to mention homes, totally secure. Very few can stomach the way the young kids died in the school. We work to do our best in the physical sense so that no one has to endure that kind of end.

But there are those situations which will be beyond our control. We must also work on our attitudes, including coming to grips with the fact that there will be an end to all our lives as we know them sooner or later.

Many are concerned about the Mayan Calendar and the implied end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012, but some people didn’t even make it that long. There are those who are worried about an international economic collapse and are arming themselves, but that doesn’t guarantee survival. You can buy high-powered weapons for self-protection, as did the mother of the Sandy Hook gunman. Her son used her expensive equipment to kill her in her own home and himself in the school.

Christians believe there will be a Second Coming which will end the age as we know it. Though Christ told us not to put a date on this event, it is important to be ready for it in a spiritual sense. Many of us have heard sermons to that effect. But then we go off and seemingly forget how soon the end can come for any of us personally. Each of us should learn now how to follow our consciences and use proper spiritual discernment to determine which of our ongoing plans should be pursued and which forgotten.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School killings and other disasters have shown us that even little children need to know that there is life after death, and there is only one way to have a good one. That is through Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came to save us from our sins. He asks us to believe in Him. This is the spiritual work we each must do, so that the attitude we have will help our actions fall in line with what is important. Once we have the right mindset, we are to help others find it too.

Enjoy the music in the video, by Third Day. Listen to the lyrics. And please, no matter what your circumstances, have a blessed Christmas.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gain Application Probability

Statistics are being used in the arguments about biological origin and evolution. Advocates of Intelligent Design Theory (ID) are prominent among those attempting to link probabilities of events with mathematical proofs of biological information but they are not the only ones. This post, though dated 12/5/12, is an update (8/27/13) and a new compendium, called Biological Information: New Perspectives, was just released and can be read online here.  The book is an overview of the work being done to align biology with information theory which uses probabilities in trying to understand biological systems. Its authors are both ID and non-ID advocates. 

I have a new theory that I present here, but like all new theories, it needs some more work.  In fact, I've come back to re-write this post several times and instead of re-writing it another time, I'm going to eventually post about it again. But, if you are so-inclined, read on.  Then catch up with a newer post called GAP Theory that should appear Nov. 2013.

Mathematics can be applied to reality. Probabilities in thermodynamics and chemistry predict quantities and actions of energy and mass. They exist and behave in a certain way that can be measured.  But human judgment and mathematics are two different things. People rely on their own judgments about many subjects without being experts in probability theory.

It's pretty hard to imagine converting all of nature into strict mathematical terms.  Evaluating a pattern is done by humans and therefore has subjective elements.  Perhaps Information Theory does and will reveal certain hidden secrets about biology.  But I doubt if even chaos theory could give all the answers.

Some examples might be helpful.  A straightforward one goes like this:  someone "blindly" picks all red balls from a bag which contains equal numbers of red and black.  After about 20 times a pattern emerges that is different from the expected 1:1 ratio.  One might suspect the red and black balls have unique surface features which allow discrimination.  Maybe the red surface is more sticky.  But in another example, consider a different type of situation. For a while my husband and I went to the store and they didn’t have any fresh grapefruit. The produce people could not answer our questions of why they were not there, so I looked on the Internet to understand. I found that some of the Southern US produce had been damaged by storms, and Mexico had droughts that affected their exports. What was the probability that a grapefruit would be available by the next time we went to the store? Wouldn't even the experts in distribution have trouble being precise due to the unpredictability of long-range weather? Even though they have their formulas, in certain circumstances they still incorporate judgments.  It is of a different nature than pulling balls from a bag at a particular place and time. 

Included in human judgment is the sense that the extreme complexity of  biology is improbable and not random. (Some would argue here that neo-Darwinian evolution is not random due to “natural selection of the fittest,” but nature needs something worth-while to select first, which is claimed to come from random mutation.)   And yet there exist many things with very low probability, including every hand you get in a card game.  This is where critics come in and say low probability doesn't prove design. Design advocates then refer to "specificity," meaning that specific molecules are needed to perform biological tasks and that the exact combinations of these molecules are extremely improbable.

Specificity implies different values placed on equally probable outcomes. As in the grapefruit example above, I don't think we can always know exact probabilities.  And yet the concept of probabilities still might give us some insight to whether nature itself could have come up with biological function and complexity. In some cases, an evaluation of probability can affect how a person judges an event.  I'd like to talk about putting value on similar probability outcomes.  I'll call it “Gain Application Probability” (GAP).

If you have only one second to toss a coin and it takes 1 second to toss it, you will either get heads or tails (no edge landings or double half-second flips allowed). Each outcome has a probability of one half, and one of the possibilities will occur. In this example, nothing is special about either unless one outcome is assigned to a prize. If a football team calls heads and the coin lands heads, they get to choose whether they receive the ball now or later. If I say I’ll give you a hundred dollars if it lands heads, you will perceive the difference in the outcome.

Now we move on to a dice. You have only one second and it takes one second to throw. I’ll give you a prize (say, 100 dollars) if you get a 1, but not on any other number. Each outcome has one chance in six, but there is still a difference in what happens if the number 1 comes up as compared to the others. The award or denial of the prize is in a related way a measure of the outcome.

Then we take a full deck of cards. We shuffle them fairly and put them face-down on a table. You have only one second and it takes a second to draw the top card. I tell you I’ll give you a prize if the top card that you draw is an Ace of Diamonds. But now you only have one chance in 52 that the card will be the Ace of Diamonds. Is this different than tossing a coin and getting a prize if you get heads? Which would you pick to take your chances?

While we’re talking of cards, it is true that each combination in a game hand has the same probability.  But with a good grouping according to the rules of the game you are playing, you can win the hand. You might win money if there is a pot. You therefore gain with the good combination (if you play it well) more than with the bad.

Amino Acids are molecules that make up the various proteins. They have 20 different forms in our bodies and their various properties make their different combinations unique. The chances for one amino acid combination to occur might be the same as another, but if only one in 10^70 will help to break down a food molecule to produce biological energy while the others in that number don't do anything biologically active, then to me that one protein is different from the rest. If there is function for the few molecules among so many, I would apply a value of gain to those which can carry out biological tasks.

These examples demonstrate, in my term given above, Gain Application Probability. To say there is no difference between certain low probability events is to ignore the possible results. We can deliberately attach an extra benefit to an outcome or we may observe a benefit which comes naturally. We can evaluate events of low probabilities in relation to the gains they bring.

I think we can reasonably say that some improbable outcomes have more value than others. And the lower the probability and the more we gain, the greater the value. One might also be able to apply loss and neutrality to probabilities (LAP and NAP). After all, there is a losing side to a football coin toss, and many improbable events have no appreciable effect. And I suppose that zero times GAP is ZAP.

You might say Gain Application Probability is as subjective as other biological information theories (if you are a critic of these theories).  But I’m not claiming to entirely eliminate chance. I don’t even want to quantify the values of gain and loss. I think there is worth in acknowledging that values can be applied differently for different probabilistic events even when they have similar probabilities. And some outcomes are so valuable that our human judgment can take over to tell us they did not happen by chance.  So it is with functional biological materials made from combinations of molecules.

The value put upon the probability outcomes is a dimension above the science of nature.  When you have faith, you can still be scientific and yet not get bogged down by needing all-encompassing mathematical and scientific proofs.  Faith is given to us as a gift (Ephesians 2, NABRE Bible).  This is a mystery which transcends our understanding.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Work and Visits

On my blog I have commented about Creationism and Intelligent Design as well as a variety of other subjects. I’m also writing a book, and had been working in a part-time job. So for a while the blog was left to simmer, with a few posts at very long intervals. Well, the place I was working closed, and I have a little more time. I’ve enjoyed writing so much since the job closed that I’m going to try to continue. This means finishing my book and trying to get it published, as well as working on the next books down the line when the first is complete. Therefore I’m still busy, and probably still won’t write that much here. But I think about what I’d like to say and hope to do a little more blogging again.

I used to comment on a few other websites, but I think I need to concentrate on my own writing since I have trouble getting it done. I’m sorry I don’t visit others, and realize that’s probably why I don’t get much traffic here. I’m not on Facebook at all—if I hardly have the time here, I’d never have it for there. I know there are those out there who like to comment on other sites as well as those who have their own and I imagine much of that happens on Facebook. Still, there are those who use the regular old Internet, and anyone who visits and wants to comment here is welcome.

This blog has been an on-again off-again affair and will probably continue to be. But it is nice to have a little more freedom to work on it, at least for now. I hope you may find my occasional posts interesting and just want to repeat (as I’ve said in previous posts) that I’m glad to be here and to have you visit.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanks at Thanksgiving

There have been newspaper columnists and now are bloggers who list the things they have been thankful for.  I’d like to list some of the things I’m thankful for at Thanksgiving.

I’m thankful for a great and glorious Lord who is such a genius that He could create the world and all that is in it.  If not for Him, we wouldn’t have life at all.  When I think of what He had to know in order to make us, most of it is above my head.  But I’m thankful He has allowed me to understand and have access to read about some of the new discoveries of His creation.  I enjoy them so much.  Biology is absolutely wondrous.

I’m thankful for our house, which is not big or fancy but is homey and warm in the cold weather.   I pray for those who are displaced by the storms or having economic problems, that they will be restored soon. 

I’m thankful for my laptop computer and the Internet.  They both boggle my mind as far as how they work but I’m sure glad they do.  The ability to connect to the world in this way is so much fun.  What would I do on winter nights without them?  (Or winter mornings—I’m usually up by 5:00 am.)  Although cable TV is also a connection to the world, there is just something special about the web.  I guess it's more hands-on and personal.  I pray that Christian communicators may use it to spread the Word of Truth to all.

I’m thankful for doctors and researchers who try to treat disease, not just to make a living but to help others.  I pray for cures for the many ill people who still need them.

I’m thankful for my family and friends.  I’m thankful for our church family, and I pray we may all love and appreciate each other as the years go by. 

I know I haven’t listed everything, but perhaps I’ll be here next year to list more.  Just like the others, whom I am thankful for.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanks to Veterans

Today is Veterans Day and I thank all veterans for the sacrifices they have made for all of us.

I've been reading the Book of John in the Bible and just today came to the verses in Chapter 15 where Christ said:

11. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  12. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  13. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  14. You are my friends if you do what I command you.  15.  I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.  16.  It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.  17. This I command you: love one another.
From: USCCB Books of Bible website, John 15, the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE).
A soldier often faces immediate death and must come to terms with it.  Though I've never been in the armed forces, I'm sure that is a difficult task.  But we will all die eventually, barring the Second Coming before that.  In the meantime we can give ourselves to each other in the way we spend our time and act on what we believe is important.

I pray the Lord help us to love each other as we should.  To do this, many emphasize charity in material ways.  But we also love others by telling them about God and how He has given us physical life through His creation and gives eternal life through belief in His son, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Evolutionese and lncRNA

The ENCODE research that I have written about in the last two posts said that 80% of the DNA in our cells is functional.  By that they meant that it is copied and so has biochemical activity.  However, some evolutionists still resisted accepting the functionality of all that DNA by denying that this copying was really purposeful. Previously, only about 1-2% was understood to be the active part of genes, and the rest of DNA believed to be just a broken-down relic of millions of years of evolution.

Now, research by a commercial lab has been published which has discovered that some of this extra DNA which was formerly called "Junk" is necessary for regulating RNA translation into protein.  DNA is copied into RNA, and more and more types of RNA are being found.  Not only does RNA get directly translated into proteins which are the work-molecules of the body, other types of RNA can either stimulate or stop the protein production.  Among them are long, non-coding RNA (lncRNA) which does not code for proteins directly (as does messenger RNA) but is part of a regulatory system.  It is further described at Discovery Institute Evolution News and Views here if you are interested.  Here is also a link to the story in Science Daily which is worthwhile.

It is quite ironic that a group of evolutionists are fighting this new knowledge, since the scientists in the ENCODE report do not give up on materialistic, naturalistic evolution themselves.  There is an abstract of the report by MIT scientists Ward and Kellis about the findings and how they relate to evolution here.  The first sentence reads:
Although only 5% of the human genome is conserved across mammals, a substantially larger portion is biochemically active, raising the question of whether the additional elements evolve neutrally or confer a lineage-specific fitness advantage.
This is Evolutionese for insisting that the possibility of materialistic, naturalistic evolution by chance mutation and natural selection still exists.  I speak Evolutionese about as well as I speak Spanish.  I've studied both quite a bit and can pick up pieces of meaning.  I can read the languages, but they don't always make sense to me.  In Spanish, though, the translation problems are my fault.  In Evolutionese, there always seems to be an attempt at obfuscation.  [The Freedictionary definition of obfuscate, just so I don't commit the same mistake, is 1. To make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand.] 

To digress a bit, just once I'd like to see a paper come out and talk about the findings and their evolutionary implications in English.  Though most sciences have their own jargon, many people are concerned about the teaching of evolution in the classroom.  Especially now that materialistic evolution has been proven wrong, scientists' statements on this topic should be made plain.

I got the Ward and Kellis article and read it.  I would have really liked to understand their work, but I didn't.  Many people yell when they speak to foreigners, assuming they will then understand them.  I'll try it.  "ARE YOU SAYING ONLY 5% OF THE HUMAN GENOME IS THE SAME AS OTHER ANIMALS BUT AT LEAST 80% IS ACTIVE AND THE ENCODE SCIENTISTS ARE SAYING IT MIGHT TURN OUT TO BE 100%?  I HAVEN'T HEARD MUCH ABOUT THAT IN THE PRESS. SO WHERE DID ALL THE UNRELATED, FUNCTIONAL DNA COME FROM?"


Well, I know that the Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution never had a chance in the first place before we even found out that DNA is all functional.  The probabilities of getting functional proteins by chance have been known since the 1990's at least to have been astronomically small even if organisms had billions of years to give it a try.  Not all proteins are closely related, and only 1 in less than an estimated trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion is functional (1 in 10^63 by the research of Reidhaar-Olsen and Sauer back then on average-length proteins.)  The chance mutations coming from the reproduction of organisms from one generation to the next were supposed to take place in the part of the gene not used by the organism, only to take over when forming something functional, but the numbers did not add up. It is estimated the Earth could have supported less than 10^50 organisms in the supposed billions of years it has been habitable.  So all those organisms couldn't have produced enough changes to get one functional protein operating in time to be selected for better fitness than the ones already working.  But with all of DNA having a function, very little sifting power is left.  Gauger and Axe have done some great research in showing the problems of molecular evolution.

And now Ward and Kellis wonder about a lineage-specific fitness advantage?  "AY?  SAY WHAT?" I ask.  "ARE YOU PROPOSING THESE GENES ARE WHAT MAKE HUMANS WHO THEY ARE?"

I'll finally go back to the point of why evolutionists are fighting about the functionality of DNA:  they KNOW what a fully functional DNA molecule means.  All we heard from the press after the first comparative genome projects was how DNA genes in humans matched 98% of monkeys. At the time, they thought the rest of the DNA was worthless.  Everyone in that camp was crowing that evolution was now a fact.  But the 98% similarity was just the protein-coding part, only about 1-2% of the whole length of the DNA in each cell. They know that if DNA proves fully functional, it doesn't matter what scientists say with their Evolutionese.  It won't matter how they mix words together.  We will all be able to really understand what that means: materialistic, naturalistic evolution is impossible.  And fully functional DNA is already proving, from the ENCODE project and the work on long, non-coding RNA's, to be true.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

More Than Millions

The National Human Genome Research Institute, under the National Institute of Health, located in Bethesda, MD, announced the results the latest 5-year project in a continuing study of human DNA. The press release of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, or ENCODE, project states in part:

During the new study, researchers linked more than 80 percent of the human genome sequence to a specific biological function and mapped more than 4 million regulatory regions where proteins specifically interact with the DNA. These findings represent a significant advance in understanding the precise and complex controls over the expression of genetic information within a cell. The findings bring into much sharper focus the continually active genome in which proteins routinely turn genes on and off using sites that are sometimes at great distances from the genes themselves. They also identify where chemical modifications of DNA influence gene expression and where various functional forms of RNA, a form of nucleic acid related to DNA, help regulate the whole system.

Though I don’t want to overload you with numbers, I assume you can easily imagine winning a million dollar lottery. Take a million times a little more than 3 thousand and that is about how many DNA units carry on their work in our body’s cells: over 3 billion. Take a million times 75 million and that is approximately how many cells we humans each have: 75 trillion. Almost all of these cells contain the full 3 billion complement of DNA with the functions identified by this ENCODE project. Among other things, they have found that various, specific sets of switches are active depending which cell type is studied.

Before this latest part of the project was released, we were under the impression by an initial study, called the Human Genome Project, that there were only about 20,000 genes comprising about 1-2% of the DNA code. There were inklings that other things were going on, but by and large scientists thought that the rest of the DNA, which was called “junk,” was accumulated from millions of years of evolution and basically worthless. However, they were getting practically nowhere in understanding how some genetic diseases and even cancerous tumors come about. Now they are seeing that these previously unknown switches have a great deal to do with the actions of DNA and small mistakes in their functions can cause big problems.

This false prediction of evolutionary theory is no joke. It cost precious time and kept monies from being available to learn more about the rest of the DNA. Fortunately, scientific curiosity prevailed. After the Human Genome Project, the first ENCODE endeavor included looking at just 1% of the rest of DNA. The scientists found activity for the small molecules that were made from DNA but not translated into protein. These, therefore, were useful products from parts of the non-gene-producing DNA. Surprised by this study, scientists desired to know more and procured the necessary money and manpower needed (both considerable). The results of the ENCODE research were published in over 30 papers in several scientific journals in early September, 2012. Numerous other journal articles have already been spawned from the basic research.

Sadly, the scientists still refer to evolution. Though evolution has many definitions, the one accepted in modern scientific terms is the one that refers to totally materialistic, naturalistic, random formation of life, both originally and in developing speciation. It relies only on the laws of chemistry and physics to bring about the first creature known as the common ancestor and develop diversity from it. There has been no discussion of which I’m aware in all the scientific articles of any other possibility.

Let me be the first to tell you, then, that the latest ENCODE results prove that materialistic, naturalistic evolution is impossible. Scientists already knew that active parts of DNA were too valuable to change much. Mutations are usually bad for the metabolism of the organism. That’s why they focused on the “junk” as available to change “neutrally,” part of their “neutral theory of molecular evolution.” Though this already was doubtful to anyone who understood probabilities, the theory should have been scrapped for sure in 1990, when two MIT scientists published a paper about their tests on what proportion of the combinations of amino acids, components of proteins, would be found functional. They gave the astounding number of 1 in 10 to the 63rd power (written 10^63). 10^63 is a 1 with 63 zeroes following. A trillion is a million times a million, or 10^12. You would find less than 1 functional protein in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion of them. A billion years would be a drop in the bucket to form even 3 useful proteins, much less for them to find each other. A free-living organism is estimated to need 1000 self-producing proteins to survive.

It was then that every headline should have shouted: Discovery Brings End to Darwin’s Theory! Of course, one study could be wrong. But since then, similar results have been produced many times. And now the ENCODE project has shown that the “junk” is not available for mutational experimentation and re-arrangement anyway. The non-gene part of the DNA, now being called “dark matter,” is projected to be found almost 100% functional by the time more experiments evaluate even more types of cells.

But the headlines never seem to come that announce even the possibility that blind physical forces are not the whole story of life. And scientists and the media wonder why people don’t trust them. Even before these revelations, many persons thought there could have been evolution over eons directed by God as well as those who believe in a young Earth. I know from studying genes that though I am amazed by the discoveries of technology, it is unlikely I will get the whole truth from modern scientific journals and the media. I hope that though the jargon and numbers may be difficult, people will realize they can understand what the research reveals. It’s worth more to them than a million dollars.

Friday, September 7, 2012

ENCODE: DNA Junkless

ENCODE is a project that has been studying DNA since the Human Genome Project (HGP) laid out the entire sequence for humans. They have just published results in Nature Journal of Science  about their latest discoveries on what the DNA in the areas between genes does.  They have found at least 80% of DNA to be functional, from a previous estimate of 5% to 10% (a pretty big miss).  Before, many scientists insisted that most of DNA was junk, accumulated through totally random mutation of genes.  Francis Collins himself, leader of the HGP, used junk DNA as an example of materialistic biological evolution. I'm generalizing by putting all scientists in a lump, but let's face it, we don't see many supporting creationism or intelligent design theory.  However, though they are saying one thing, they must be thinking another, since they sunk about $200 million into the study.  Why study junk?  Because more and more small studies supported evidence that non-protein-coding areas had to do with gene regulation.  They could no longer ignore it.  They may even find that 100% of DNA is functional when they further improve their ability to detect activity. 

Reporting of these findings has been in major media outlets, including the NY Times.  Many more papers of the discoveries will be published in science journals over time.  A good first synopsis of the findings is at Evolution News and Views.

Most evolutionists want you to believe evolution is totally materialistic, without any Divine guiding hand.  This affects our school textbooks and even what they want parents teaching their children.  Researchers now think there are 4 million switches in DNA for gene regulation to form parts of the body and get it to work.  Billions of years sounds like a lot of time, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the probability of all this coming together by chance.  Changing one's mind can be very difficult, but on the other side is an amazing world of wonder. 

One down-side to this research is that human embryonic stem cells have been used for it and are continuing to be used for further discovery.  If there are other ways to learn about these things I would challenge scientists to use their ingenuity to find them. That is a discussion the whole country (and world) need to go into.

Even without the use of human embryonic stem cells, we are seeing more of the complexity of DNA and the cell.  May more and more of us praise the Lord for his wondrous, amazing works.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Happy Summer or Winter

Hi there.  Hope you are having a nice summer (those of you in the northern hemisphere).  I wish a nice winter to the folks down under (not just Australia). 

Thought I'd let you know I added two files for printing out the booklets, Heaven's Passport and Creation Science for Biology.  You can access them in the link "booklet printing" below the pictures on the right column.  I wasn't getting the right margins for the booklets when I printed them out, so I made .pdf files with page setups for mirror margins to give less margin on the outside and more on the inside. 

I still feel these are good booklets for edification and evangelization.  I see them as a way to approach and teach people about the subjects on a casual basis.  But I know that compared to professionally done publications, they are not of the highest quality.  And I've come to the limit of marketing my own books.  That is why I've decided that as far as do-it-yourself publishing goes, posts in my blog are my only plan.  The book and booklets that are available here now will stay as far as I know, but no more will appear on my own efforts.

I'm still working on my book, and if that would by some miracle get published, perhaps I can also get some of my other work professionally produced.  Although I have enjoyed type-setting and the various processes involved in completing a project, it is too time-consuming to continue.  If I want to write, that's what I must now concentrate on, even if I write 100 unpublished books (not that I'll ever approach that number).  I've been known to change my mind (constantly), but this decision is something I'd like to stick with.  Though it's hard to discern God's will, time eventually tells.  I'm determined to continue writing if He allows.  I do hope, whether published or not, that once in a while I have some available time to blog.

Enough of me.  I've got to get to work.  Look for my books in the stores, but if they aren't there, come back to my blog.  I'll try to keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Penance Peace

I went to a reconciliation, formerly known as penance, service last evening for our area deanery. I did not look forward to going, and apparently I'm not the only one who feels that way in general. The priest who gave the homily (who I think was Fr. Thomas Brown at Sacred Heart) said most people put this service on par with going to the dentist. The thought of spilling the beans about yourself to another person, known as confession, is not pleasant.

And yet before I even got to the confessional, I felt a greater peace than I have in a long time. The priest talked of a God who loves us enough to keep himself on a cross until he died, and that was powerful. Often in Lent I think of Christ's journey to the cross, but last night I focused on what it took for Him to stay there. He could have easily shown the people who mocked Him that He was indeed the son of God and could come off. They would have been proven wrong in an amazing way.

But Christ kept His focus on the long-run, just as He had His whole life. He put aside the majesty and splendor He could have had in the short-run. He saw not only the people in front of Him, but all mankind. He gave us all a chance at future life with Himself and the Father and Holy Spirit.

When someone like myself becomes wrapped up in news stories of political fighting and even fighting within the Church, one can get angry and accusatory. But we pay a price in all that when we lose our own peace and best focus. I was really glad I went to the penance service to start concentrating where I should--on Christ's life, death, and resurrection to His present life where we can meet and know Him.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I just found out about a movie which theorizes that the abortion industry even today is an extension of the eugenics movement. It's called Maafa 21 and you can get to the website here, and see it on Youtube here. The term "eugenics" was coined by Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. In the 1860's, he applied Darwin's theory, in which survival of the fittest supposedly brought about all evolution to superior beings, to humans. He believed the Caucasian race was superior to any others. What is more, others started getting on the bandwagon and pushed for population control, warning against feeble-mindedness and inability to rise above poverty. Only intelligent, talented people were to marry each other and produce a better and better race. The movie documents many articles written by famous eugenicists of their day. The creators of the movie ask why the percentage of minorities stay the same. Are people of color being encouraged to keep their numbers down?

The scientists in the past believed the Negroid races were inferior to the white because of evolution. Many believed that the African came from the ape and the white person from the African. And even as recently as 2007, James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, seemed to assume the same, considering remarks he made. He was quoted in The Times of London as suggesting that, overall, people of African descent are not as intelligent as people of European descent (as reported by NY Times here).

The eugenics movement is now being linked to the abortion industry in the United States. The claim the movie Maafa 21 makes is that the mass sterilization that became prevalent in the early 1900's is still at work today, though it might not be "forced" as it was early in the movement (a good article about forced sterilization is here at George Mason University's History News Network). This quote comes from the GMU link:

Even the United States Supreme Court endorsed aspects of eugenics. In its infamous 1927 decision, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…. Three generations of imbeciles are enough." This decision opened the floodgates for thousands to be coercively sterilized or otherwise persecuted as subhuman. Years later, the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials quoted Holmes' words in their own defense.

This article also claims that only after eugenics became well-established in the US did it become part of the Nazi psuedo-scientific justification for genocide. It is interesting that the movie Expelled (Youtube trailer here) made the same connection to Darwin's theory, eugenics, and the Nazi's. Expelled exposed the current prejudice in academia against any theories which oppose Darwinian evolution.

I have not seen the entire Maafa 21 movie yet, just the first few sections. I hope to watch the whole thing eventually. And I think we must be careful in blaming abortion on this one factor alone. Statistics show a large proportion of non-white women have abortions. But there are things going on other than elite eugenicists doing clandestine operations to sterilize women as was the case before (as late as the 1970's in states such as North and South Carolina). Let us not forget the culture has changed so that sex is a constant temptation for young people who do not then want the ensuing responsibility. Also, sex crimes and even human slavery are increasingly parts of our abortion problem.

In fact, one thing the narrators of the Maafa 21 movie have not addressed is the apparent lack of responsibility related to unmarried, teenage pregnancy. I’m sure this factor, with its link to poverty, is a concern for many liberals. There is not always a sinister motive for those who approve of abortion, and in fact these persons can sincerely desire the welfare of African-Americans. They want the females to have more freedom to continue education and have a secure job before they have children. They want the children to be in a home with higher income and better chances for them to make it as well. This is why some African-Americans also see abortion as a freedom of choice issue. The narrators do themselves no favors when they mention welfare in a way that seems like an entitlement that African-Americans are owed. That is not likely to win a lot of sympathy in these days of huge national debt.

However, the movie makes some good points. I think many liberals have never even thought of the angle of genocide or been informed of it. As the movie points out, the press avoids this side of the argument against abortion. Not everyone believes a fetus is a full human being, which muddies the issue.

It does not hurt to examine the mindset of those who set up abortion clinics in poor and usually minority-race neighborhoods. Are they really there for the good of the people involved? Do they want to encourage responsibility or do they want to help people run away from it? Can human life be equated with money and the economy?

The creators of the Maafa 21 movie would contend that, just like latter-day eugenicists, those advocating abortion don't want more of the minority around. I understand the desire to see others be responsible with their own lives and those of their children. But though life without responsibility can be very tough, responsibility has no chance at all without life.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Re-Evangelization All Over Again

In one of the recent newsletters of Our Sunday Visitor (Jan. 15, 2012), a column by Msgr. Francis Mannion (pg. 19) answered questions about the reality of hell. Now, he believes there is one. But he also says that anyone who has loved or been loved will not end up there. He said he heard this idea "about 1970" and has believed it since then.

It doesn't surprise me this idea circulated in the 70's. All you need is love, right? This has been a pervasive idea among Christians. Of course love is a wonderful reality, an amazing characteristic of our Divine God. But we must also remember that Jesus Christ came to Earth for our redemption because of our sins. He is our true hero, for He overcame a terrible ordeal to win the victory. And he asks us to believe in Him so we may have everlasting life with Him (John, 3:16).

The idea that all religions are the same is called "Indifferentism." Evangelicals kept free of this ideology for a while, but mainstream Protestants and many Catholics subscribe to the idea that one spiritual path is as good as another. Some theologians subscribe to "Universalism," in which we are all acceptable. A part of this group may say this is due to Christ's redemptive act which included everyone, but some would not even go so far as to say we needed Him, but that God simply loves all of us and we are all just on different journeys to the great universal oneness of love we will all eventually experience. However, indifferentism is not new and was mentioned by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832. He quoted St. Augustine from an even earlier time (born 354 AD): “The branch has the same form when it has been cut off from the vine; but of what profit is the form, if it does not live from the root?” (20. St. Augustine, in psalm. contra part. Donat.)

A Church document called "Nostra Aetate" (proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in 1965) says though there may be some parts of truth in all religions, the whole Truth culminates in Jesus Christ. If you know Him, there is no reason to follow another religion. To me, Christianity is a combination of being able to read the Truth in the Scripture and experiencing it with Christ.

Love is a wonderful thing, but many people have loved some people and hated others. Criminals have loved. Did past tyrants and dictators love their children? Probably, at least to some degree. Are they prepared for or worthy of heaven? Remember, heaven is perfect.

There must be a way we are able to be righteous in heaven, and we are told how that can be. In Romans 3 (NAB), The Apostle Paul tells us no one can be justified in God's sight by observing the law (see verses 19 and 20), and this means we cannot act morally enough on our own. The next verses tell us: 21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; 23all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI have called for a re-evangelization of the Church. I went through a time of doubt and even disbelief myself, influenced by these kinds of theology I have mentioned. Yet it is really worth thinking about the afterlife. The more I read the Bible and prayed, the more I believed you really do have to believe in Jesus Christ, that He was God, and that He came to save us from our sins to enter heaven. God the Father made Him the center of our lives and our hope, and He truly is.

People say a good God would not let people who never heard of Him go to hell. It is God's business how to handle that and should not be used as some excuse to not believe. Christians have faith that God is just, and things would not come out right if there was no justice. But He is also merciful. Each human being who has heard about Christ and has the opportunity to learn must work on their own soul to believe. Hopefully, they will come to do so, and then can help others do the same. The idea that we don't need to believe in Christ to get to heaven, which in my opinion is implied by Msgr. Mannion, is the very reason we need evangelization and re-evangelization.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why Not Drop Out

I had been reading selections from various Christian blogs for a while, mostly linked from the New Advent home page. New Advent seems to have some process for going through various blogs and and giving choices from about 30-40 posts, some of which are new and some that have been there a few days. I didn't usually read more than 2 or 3 in a day, but I often read the comments for the blogs. (Although now I am getting more into writing my book again, so I will probably not do it as much anymore.)

Many commenters ask how people can still be Catholic, with all the problems we have had. Many times this refers to the sexual predator crisis, but also has hit upon prejudice against women and other problems. In the last month, more scandal has broken. Reuters reports that a highly-placed Vatican official was transferred out of the Vatican to become an ambassador in Washington because he was allegedly trying to clean up corruption. Supposedly contracts were given out of cronyism instead of the best bid. It is also rumored that a right-hand-man of the Pope is trying to manipulate the number of Italian Cardinals so that another Italian will be voted in as the Pope in the next election. Does this sound like the leaders really care about the flock?

It's not really surprising that people ask why we put up with it. Actually, many don't, and leave the Church. Look at Europe--a great many have left. In Latin America, many are going to Protestant denominations. The problem is, there are human failures that come through in other denominations also. We believe the Roman Catholic Church was the first Church, starting with the Apostle Peter in Rome. And compared to some of the past popes, we're actually probably not doing so badly at the moment (I'm not referring to the popes right at the beginning but for example right before the Reformation when they were trying to sell passes to heaven).

Remember, much love and care comes in the name of Catholicism. We have had hospitals, missions, schools, all meant to help people and improve their lives. These are usually unsung, everyday commitments to follow Christ as well as we can.

Still, to try to hide the bad is to make things worse, as is easily demonstrated by the predator priest fiasco. Many who belong to the Church believe that evil does exist. And evil is very bad indeed. It does not affect only those Church members who have been accused in the news or people who have landed in jail. It can get its hands on any of us. It delights in embarrassing the faithful. It makes every effort to do harm in the worst possible of ways. People can point and shake their heads at how awful things are with the Church. But if they don't recognize sin within themselves, they are the ones who are the worse for it. Because then they don't seek help. If they would think about it a little more deeply, they would realize that the evil they see means that evil exists. We are back with one of the reasons to be in the Church in the first place.

Those in the Church to seek help can find it. Christ died for our sins, and we can go to Him, and only Him, to find redemption.

It is true that while in this life we need to keep trying with all our effort, including prayer, to stay on the right path. Unfortunately, we have trouble with that. We are human, and evil doesn't quit. It keeps trying to get us to the wrong road. It is too often successful. But there is no where like the Church to remind us, when we enter it and kneel within, that something very important is at stake. Then we pray for strength to go on.

Not everyone is in the Church for the right reason. They may have been born into it and decided they want to stay for power, social reasons, pressure from family or whatever. But those who sense God's presence know how overwhelmingly greater He is than any trouble that comes. They know Christ's gift to us of everlasting life, if we only believe in Him (John, 3:16), overcomes any evil we face now.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

IC--Irreducibly Connected

The Indiana Senate passed a bill, SB 89, to allow the instruction of Creationism into the classroom. The Discovery Institute, which is the foremost think tank for Intelligent Design Theory (sometimes known as ID), condemns the bill as bad science and bad education. They think evolution should be taught, but also that persons should be allowed to bring up flaws in the theory. The Creation in question is probably that called Young Earth Creationism, in which some people believe God created the Earth around 6 to 14 thousand years ago.

I disagree with the Discovery Institute. I think we should have long ago come to the realization there are irreconcilable differences between Americans when it comes to our various religions (or lack thereof) and science.

Though the Discovery Institute has been the victim of abuse by the leaders of today's scientific community, they are willing to heap abuse on an even more vilified group, the Young Earth Creationists. They may not intend to be demeaning, and perhaps are even trying to help. But they are not very farsighted if this is the plan.

Our country is based on freedom of religion. We are getting far afield, acting as though we believe it was founded on scientific political correctness. Please remember, not all scientific theories are right. Albert Einstein at one time believed the universe had been eternal, without a beginning. He even fudged a calculation to make his math fit his theory. But he was proven wrong by astronomers, primarily Edwin Hubble, who confirmed that the Universe is expanding and therefore had a beginning, now called the Big Bang. Why is this a lesson that never seems to sink in?

If the Discovery Institute had been around when Einstein theorized the Universe was infinite, are they saying children had to be taught that's the way it is because Albert Einstein said so? This is when the children's believed the Universe had not been infinite, but they would be faced by authority figures who taught something against their own faith. And then later Einstein was proven wrong. Are we to say evolution is right, except it's OK to question it? The people at the Design Institute are themselves pandering to the politically correct scientific culture. If evolution is only one of various theories, it should be presented as such and the beliefs of others should be acknowledged from the start.

Though I talk here of whether a theory is correct, it is a separate but even more important matter that some Americans believe it is correct. As long as the religion of the person includes creationism, it is a matter of freedom of religion. Catholic bishops are recently incensed over an attempt by the government to impose insurance rulings on Church institutions. They say it goes against religious freedom. But where are they when the government has walked all over other denominations in demanding that evolution and only evolution be taught in the nation's public schools?

The Discovery Institute often presents the argument that the Supreme Court has already decided that Creationism is to be kept from the classroom. But there are hundreds of thousands of people marching every year in Washington DC to reverse the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade in which abortion has been made legal. Writers from the Discovery Institute grouse regularly over the decision of US District Judge John Jones in the Dover, PA, trial but hold as unchangeable the Supreme Court decision. Maybe they have their reasons in their own agendas. They regularly talk about the Old Earth and fossils of millions of years old. Perhaps they are unwilling to stretch their abilities in order to consider others with different points of view, such as Young Earth Creationists.

"Irreducible complexity" is a phrase coined by one of Intelligent Design's proponents, Michael Behe. It is time to recognize that many people's belief systems are irreducibly connected to science. Faith forms our biology theories as it forms our laws and political systems. Some unabashedly start right from their Sacred Text and go from there. This is something the laws must reconcile, and not just collapse under the pressure of anti-religion groups who claim this teaching would be unconstitutional. The government enforces anti-religious views on students in the classroom--those whose mothers are unable to home-school them, that is. This is a large part of our population which is treated thus.

I know that to bring Creation Science into the classroom would be messy. People don't like it when they have to cope with other people's conceptions of truth. For example, those who believe in evolution don't want to think about design. But who are the intelligent ones? The persons who can understand only one point of view, or those who can see a variety of possibilities? Isn't that what scientific exploration is about?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Contraception vs. Abortion

The US bishops are fighting a mandate right now by the government to make them allow for contraceptives in their employee's insurance coverage. That is about preventive health care and I don't want to address that issue here. Plenty of others are--it is all over the news. But I am concerned about the whole attitude of the magisteria about contraception which feeds into this battle.

I'd like to say a little about barrier contraception, which would include the condom, diaphragm and perhaps both together, Natural Family Planning (NFP) type of birth control which is the one and only the Church approves, and abortive type contraceptives.

The NFP is apparently as effective as many other forms of birth control when used correctly. NFP does not use barriers or pills, but counts on female cycles, with daily checks of temperature and other physiology. However, it absolutely requires abstinence at certain times in a woman's monthly cycle, such as perhaps, if a woman is irregular, on one’s honeymoon.

Artificial contraceptives are supposedly the reason for sex outside of marriage. Does it occur to anyone that NFP could be used outside of marriage? It’s like the often heard, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Human beings are the ones that sin, not the birth control method. Yet I truly doubt if NFP is used much outside marriage, even though it would be virtually without cost. That might give us an idea of its convenience.

Studies have come out that say about 98% of Catholic sexually active women use contraceptives other than NFP. At my church and at a class at my college, the people who taught NFP had at least 5 children. They perhaps wanted large families, but I'd rather be taught by a couple who was married 30 years and had zero or one child that they could confirm they planned for. People are busy these days, and perfection, as you need with the NFP method, can be hard to come by.

There are issues for the Church Magisterium to legitimately decide, but in my opinion they could be doing a better role in leadership here. They have allowed that some family planning is OK (hence the NFP). Still, their tone is begrudging, and elsewhere the teachings give the impression of pressure to keep having children whether you can cope with them or not.

If bishops would go back to the drawing board and make more of a distinction between barrier contraceptives and abortive ones, they would show their understanding toward women who find NFP an unwieldy choice. These are the very women who spend hours of their time working for the Church institutions in question, such as hospitals and universities, yet are supposed to also let every sexual encounter be an occasion for another huge responsibility. Perhaps both women and men faithful would more seriously consider the bishop's teachings in the Church's fight against abortion if the authority felt greater sensitivity toward their flocks. Yes, children are wonderful, and many couples deeply want as many as they can naturally have. But some couples have limits, and those limits seem to be remembered one minute and forgotten the next. The women especially are judged when they are different than others. Some women do not feel the call to bear many children and it seems as unfair to pressure them to have them as it would be to pressure those who want children to not have them. I realize there are complications when it comes to unnatural methods of either prevention or inducement of pregnancy and we need to discuss them. But if modern science is used to prevent miscarriage, then I think it is not unreasonable it should be allowed for prevention of pregnancy.

The Church does not force individuals to become priests (although at one time that may have been true). Young men are asked to discern their calling directly from God, not from the bishops. So it should be recognized about all of us. It is not logical for us to think that even the bishops know each gift for every person in their diocese and how they may best be used.

More than to careers or parenthood, God calls all Christians to be evangelists. Many feel they evangelize by a "regular" job or by guiding their children, but there are other paths. The Church may be concerned about the number of souls being born, but these days, children born to Catholics do not automatically become Christians. They must be directly evangelized, and more and more, re-evangelized. The culture has led many away from faith, and it takes effort on all our parts to work against that tide. Some women may become evangelists in a way other than physical parenthood, and not just in convents. Though God's command to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply, priests and nuns do not feel compelled to do so. There are other considerations, and I believe decisions about reproduction for a married couple are similarly nuanced.

Unfortunately, the contraceptives are often defended by groups that desire abortion also. These persons, both male and female, I believe have similar tunnel vision but in a different direction. The Church has said life begins at conception, and I agree. The profound dignity the Lord gives to life is worthy of our greatest respect. We are in deep trouble not only in our country, but more importantly in our Church. It is vital to be concerned whether contraceptives actually prevent conception or abort a fertilized egg. There are disagreements what the pill does in this regard. With all our modern science, we should be able to find out whether abortion may occur. If any pill causes abortion, it should not be used by Christians. But we must remember we have a pluralistic society and not everyone agrees when life starts. Some Christians do not even think abortion is termination of human life, and so it is important to convince people that life begins at conception, such as they do with ultrasounds on fetuses, rather than denigrate aborters.

I am not talking about a political-type compromise of contraception vs. abortion. However, if this were a political issue it would be obvious that this is the answer: barrier contraception is acceptable, abortion isn’t. But we are talking about getting to what is right, and I think the same answer applies. We use modern science to make medicines such as we use to prevent miscarriage, and the Church has recognized there can be a limit to resources so that family planning is necessary. To deny that barrier contraception is acceptable is to risk, or should I say continue, insensitivity to people's real lives. There may be many root causes for Christian women who either use contraceptives or have abortions. I've certainly seen a broad spectrum of speculation on why it is happening, and we need to communicate with each other within our faith. The Church took way too long to change its attitude over slavery. It took (and is still taking) the leadership way too long to take action against sexual predators. And it is taking way too long for the leadership to treat women equally.

The diaphragm is not as convenient as the pill, but perhaps if women demanded better methods of barrier contraceptives, they would come about. Yes, there may be some extramarital sex with contraceptives, but my guess is that most of the large percentages of sexually active Catholic women who use contraceptives are trying to deal with the many demands made upon them and the challenges they want to meet successfully. Modern science has brought about contraceptives as they are now. In my opinion, by saying women can't use them at all and that every sex act must be open to reproduction, the Church tried to mandate behavior in a way that drove many women away from the Church itself rather than help them cope with real life. We must be respectful of all life. The divide between what bishops are saying and millions of Catholic women are doing does not go unnoticed by the general public. That is a detriment to our unity and witness, both of which are critical to evangelization.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Joe Paterno, 1926-2012

Now that former Penn State coach Joe Paterno passed away (1-22-2012), I want to add a few thoughts to the ones I've given right after the scandal at Penn State broke out in November of last year (see links to my posts in the Sunday Snippets post here). This involved sexual molestation charges against a former assistant coach who was still using Penn State facilities but had resigned several years earlier. A witness told Joe about it, who then told his boss, the athletic director. However, nothing happened for nine years, and when the details finally broke in the media, the public was furious. In the end, the University president, the athletic director and Joe Paterno were all fired from their jobs.

Many think Joe was treated badly by the University Board, citing all the good he had done, not only in winning football games, but contributing money and encouraging education. But others agreed with the Board's actions.

Paterno had offered to retire at the end of the season. At the time, I felt Paterno should be fired, but after thinking about it, perhaps the board should have come to him. They might have said, retire immediately, not at the end of the season, and we won't fire you. The transition would not have been perfect, but it might have acknowledged all the good Joe had done in the past. No one would have forgotten why Joe left when he did.

Paterno himself had said about the scandal that he wished he had done more. In his last interview, he said he didn't know what to do about the situation. I believe that, and hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. Life can be complicated, and often we try to get away with things by ignoring them. Sometimes that works (we don't get in immediate trouble, that is), and sometimes it doesn't. Unfortunately, other people may be getting hurt by our inaction. I am thinking beyond the case at Penn State. Don't many of us ignore hunger in other countries and even our own? What about earthquake victims who still don't have homes? We might say it is too overwhelming and we can't fix everything. Even when we give, it is still not enough. Yet how much do we accumulate for ourselves that we don't really need?

The main point is that people can be very highly regarded, and even for good reason. They may raise a great deal of funds for good causes, and influence young people for good. Yet they are not perfect. No person on Earth, no matter how great his or her acts, has been perfect except One. Joe couldn't earn his way to heaven, nor can I. Romans 3:27 says, What occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? No, rather on the principle of faith. (New American Bible, USCCB website).

We have been redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ so that if we believe in Him, we may enter His kingdom. That puts us on the same field, but we're not just playing a game.

Friday, January 20, 2012

New Secretary General

On the Vatican News, there was an announcement about a new Secretary-General for the Southern African Bishop's Conference. Her name is Sister Hermenegild Makoro. She talked about all the work women do for the church and how the bishops there have seen it and recognized it. It is very good to know they have appreciated the work of women in the Church and are showing it in a significant way.

Sister Makoro said she thinks there are two other women Secretary-Generals of Bishop's Conferences: one in the Nordic countries and another in New Zealand. Though three in the world is not a lot, it is a high post and we can only hope there will be more on the way.

Now I'm one of those Catholics who think we should not restrict priests to men. I know it is supposed to be for theological reasons. But is it possible some theology, like some science, is rationalized? (For the rationalization of multi-universe theory by scientists, see my previous post about Stephen Hawking's birthday.)

I have read that the understanding by some theologians of the choice of 12 men for apostles was that it symbolized the 12 tribes of Israel. Isn't there possible symbolism in that before the grave, the 12 men who stood for the tribes of Israel also represented the Law God gave to Moses?

But after the grave, when Jesus arose from the dead, He showed Himself first to women. Before, there was the Law, and Israel considered itself the only people of God. But after Christ's victory, all humanity could potentially be part of God's kingdom. As Paul told us, we could not overcome sin with the Law: 19 Now we know that what the law says is addressed to those under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world stand accountable to God, 20 since no human being will be justified in his sight by observing the law; for through the law comes consciousness of sin. (Romans 3:19,20, New American Bible, Revised Edition from the USSCB website). It is through Christ we are saved. Paul summarizes in 1 Corinthians 15: 57 But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (NAB).

Maybe I rationalize theology too. I can not help but think men want to keep power-making decisions to themselves. But in equality theology, men and women would have equal stature and work together, and in fact be servants of each other, as Christ has said we should. In fact, He has said that if we want to lead, we should serve.

Yet I do think there have been sincere wishes to see the people of Church produce souls for God, meaning, in effect, women stay home and have children. I want to always put Christ first, and to hold evangelization ahead of women issues in the Church. But we must all strive to live as Christ wants us, and we continue to need to sort out what that entails. We must remember that these days, children born to Catholics do not automatically become believers in God. And of course, we want to bring those who were not born in the Church to come to know Jesus. Our popes have called for a New Evangelization and all of us need to work together for the greater cause. Perhaps some women are meant to be full-time evangelists, and not only as nuns. We should have the freedom to follow what we discern as our call. It seems that is between the individual and God.

In Galatians 3, 26-28, Paul says, 26 For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (NAB).

It took Christians a while to realize persons did not have to be Jewish to be Christian. It took a longer time for them to come to grips with the fact that slavery was wrong. Christ told us to follow Him. How should women be treated?

Sister Hermenegild Makoro was already doing the work of the Church. I'm sure she is a humble and worthy servant, and I am so glad the bishops there have recognized that. May we all recognize each other's worth in our efforts to bring Christ to the world.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Stephen Hawking's Birthday

The physicist Stephen Hawking celebrated his 70th birthday on January 8, 2012. It was a momentous occasion, since he has a disease with which many who have it do not live to this age. He is a distinguished professor and scientist, and his party was more of a symposium by other noted physicists. He wasn’t even there, but had a recording played of his thoughts. Then, as these scientists presented their discoveries, they brought him conclusions which he did not want to hear as noted in “Why physicists can’t avoid a creation event” (New Scientist, January 11, 2012).

Physicists are known to change their minds from meeting to meeting, and the implications of the presenters are bound to be eventually argued. But whatever happens in the future, this was a milestone in the thinking of scientists who either believed or wanted to believe a multi-universe was inevitable, including Stephen Hawking. I understand he said as much on a recent PBS show about the universe (Stephen Hawking's Universe), although I admit I did not see the show.

The reason many physicists want to think or say this is true is because they know the chance for life starting by natural means in this universe are so enormously improbable that multi-verses were their only explanation. If there were infinite universes, at least one could come up with the necessary combinations of molecules to form life.

But now several scientists have published papers that analyze the various means by which multi-verses could exist or come about. A good description is here at Uncommon Descent. All of them need a beginning. According to this new view, there is no infinite universe or multi-verse.

It is significant that one of the physicists present was Alan Guth, well known for his inflationary theory of the universe in which the Big Bang was followed by a period of extremely large inflation. For years, he had been trying to calculate the probability of production of multi-verses from quantum fluctuations. But how can you use probability to figure something that destroys the significance of probability? He was listed as an author on one of the papers which now admits that the universe had a beginning.

Many of our disciplines, including quantum physics, thermodynamics and chemistry (mass action law) rely on probabilities. Max Planck discovered quantum physics by using the probability of energy radiating from various wavelengths of light. If probabilities mean nothing in this universe, then science itself is out the window.

Many are concerned that if we think of life and the universe as created, it will stop science. That is faulty logic. There are many things to be discovered about biology, the Earth, and stars. The more the better! There are enough things to give us awe for the rest of our days, and much work needed to dispel disease, hunger and war. This is plenty to fulfill our scientific quests. But it is not quite enough to fulfill our hearts. Where that emptiness has been, some persons let fear of the lack of total knowledge take over. They don’t realize belief and love of God is the only way to give them true contentment in this life.

There are other reasons for the denial of creation. It goes hand in hand with the denial of God's existence. Many humans stubbornly cling to the desire to be their own rulers, refusing to answer to a higher power. This is not new or restricted to scientists. It's just that scientists as a whole seem to be able to guide culture, especially these days, to accept their conclusions. Scientists must be right, right?

No, Stephen Hawking, a very smart and famous physicist, is being challenged by other very smart physicists. The lesson for others is to not let scientists as a group fool you into thinking they know it all. They often speculate in the way they want things to go, then call it fact.

Think now about origin of life and evolution.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hope for Unity

I said in my last post I would blog on Sunday mornings and talk about some of the things I thinking about putting in the book I am writing. But I remember my husband saying a long time ago that it is better not to talk too much about your writing--just write or it won't get done. I will try to take his advice, but that leaves other topics I am not putting in my book, at least for the time being.

I said I would talk about things that make me angry. After thinking about it, I realized that was not probably a good way of putting it, so I'm not waiting for Sunday to type a correction. The word "angry" itself starts a feeling of alienation which is the opposite of what I want to do. I want to help others see the love and truth of God, and the non-believing world is often sceptical about Christ because of the bad behavior of Christians. It seems it is not a good approach to tell them all they are doing wrong, or at least telling them in an aggressive way. I realize Christians can't completely overlook what we think is sinful, but we can try to be consistently loving. This will of course be a challenge for me, and I assume is for most of us.

John Paul II among others have said it is not only necessary to evangelize, but to re-evangelize. This means we need to help Catholics and other Christians to regain the zeal for Christ. Then there is the case of people who are very zealous about religion but have different ideas of it than we do. Therefore, there are many different kinds of people out there we should reach out to for a meeting of minds. Many of us would love to see Christian unity. To my surprise, I found Pope Benedict XVI just began the annual week for prayer for Christian Unity.

It's amazing how emotional we can get when we simply disagree with someone. They might not be physically threatening, yet their thinking in a certain way sets us off. But perhaps we perceive they do threaten us in our livelihoods, as in class struggles, or personal freedom, as in certain Church laws. I've talked about my thoughts on God's creative power, and I would like to cover other things as well. Though I don't like to argue, believe it or not, I think we should deal with diverse controversial topics such as evolution, contraception and women's' ordination. With all these subjects, I'd much rather discuss and try to get to the best answer than to be disdained or feel the same against someone else. We don't want the disagreements splitting us apart. Perhaps it is naive to hope for resolutions, but isn't that what all our writing and speaking is about? We express our views and I hope listen to others.

We have our work ahead of us to understand as well as promote Christianity. I will pray and continually try to increase my love of Christ and fellow humans within myself.