Thursday, February 21, 2013

Muscle and More

Though I have often come back to the topics of biology and Special Creation here, I don’t intend to have a teaching blog about cell biology or genetics. Websites dedicated to teaching various disciplines abound on the Internet, not to mention school courses that are available. I have wanted to be another voice speaking about the design of biology and how I believe God created us. But I would rather write generally about this topic than specifically for the most part, and also address other concerns.

The posts I have made about biology are mostly for adults, although I believe children could appreciate them. It is adults who determine what is taught to children, and I want parents to think about how biology and evolution are presented in the schools. But some of the other themes I have written about are disturbing. I guess we are used to encountering bad interspersed with the good in our lives, but my blog wouldn’t succeed that way as a consistent lesson in Creationism. So I want to give you some references for other websites which do teach it, so you can continue to learn specifically about this subject.

I just found a Catholic Creationist site for the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation. It looks like there is plenty there to read, including this summary of theistic evolution.

Though Answers in Genesis is a Young Earth Creationist website, it gives insight as to how the Earth shows evidence of Divine Creation. It can be a reference point for many of your questions, since it is well organized and addresses geology and cosmology as well as biology. You may be surprised how much information is available that opposes the mainstream science “party line.”

Another website where you can appreciate biology is Creation Wiki. The portal to biology would be a good place to start. A good subject to then look up would be Cell Biology. They have links you can follow to other subjects.  Creation Wiki doesn’t have as many entries as some other encyclopedias, so you may have to look further for more detail. But that should be true for any research you do. Different references can be complimentary and the more you search and read, the more you learn.

There is a website called creation.com which is an international ministry for the promotion of Creationism. They are involved in an interesting campaign called “Question Evolution.” I hope they will make inroads against the enforced teaching of totally materialistic, naturalistic evolution.

I also found a site with some interesting videos of biology, DNAtube . Unfortunately, as with many scientific biology sites, you have to step around evolutionist talk.

It’s kind of amazing how much biologists and other scientists protest Creationism. If Darwinian evolution is as much a fact as they say, it should be easily apparent. However, the opposite is more like it. Fabulous designs are everywhere, and it is an exercise in futility to try to explain cell biology as random globs of molecules.

Though others may want to suppress Creationists and have tried to do so in many ways, we still have the freedom to observe and describe biology as it really is. I wish you happy hunting and learning.

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All the above said, I’d still like to show you another wonderful biological design. In a recent post I talked about the tiny bio-machines that produce energy for our body. The small molecule that carries this energy to other chemical reactions is called adenosine triphosphate (ah-DEN-oh-seen try-FAHS-fate). The commonly used nickname is ATP. The mechanism for muscle contraction is one of the many uses for ATP. Our muscles have muscle cells with muscle proteins inside. These have technical names, which you can learn if you are inclined. But you don’t have to know their labels to see the way they operate. An explanation of muscle is at the Wikipedia website here and the link to the picture is here.



Two types of proteins form strands that interact to pull and release so the muscle can move. One of these strands has a lever at the end which can flip when ATP combines with it. When the energy from ATP is released, the remaining part is called ADP (adenosine diphosphate). The “tri-” and “di-” before the phosphate indicate a section of the molecule was removed when energy was given off. ADP has to be eventually turned back into ATP by the mechanism given in the other post.

Here is a video of the process from DNAtube:



Amazing to think of all this going on whenever we move our muscles.

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Addendum: I have made some changes to my “Related Links” in the right column. I am sorry for any inconvenience, since a past reference to a link there may now be obsolete. I put the links on the right for convenience for some common biological terms and a few other miscellaneous sites.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A New Day

What a difference a week makes. Pope Benedict XVI resigned. He had said all along he doesn’t think someone who is unable to do the job should stay, and I am glad for that. In these days of advanced technology, people often live longer but don’t necessarily retain competence. I don’t know if traditionalists would agree, but I hope they appreciate this is better than having years of waiting for another leader.

Some may dread change, but others look forward to it with cautious hope. Though some Catholics seem willing to ignore the child sex abuse crisis in the Church, may I remind them that we need to protect the vulnerable as well as hold up the faith. It should be possible to do both. No matter how one may dislike media, they have reported much that was true. In fact, it has been victims, their lawyers and the media who have informed us of secret policies of the Church. These have included hiding the identity of predator priests and passing them on to unsuspecting parishes and communities.

How can people accept child sexual abuse and endangerment from leaders of our Church? Catholic leaders should collectively know about evil and how important it is to overcome. Many Catholics don’t even believe in hell anymore. Does this kind of behavior deserve heaven? Christ died for our sins, but one of the first calls of His ministry was to repent (cf. Matthew 4:17 NABRE). When we sincerely are sorry, we also must try to do better!

It is not hard to suppose that the Christian Church is a favored target for evil. How better to turn people away from the Lord than to drag Christians into sinfulness? If you have read some of my posts, you know I’m interested in science. These days many scientists, including social scientists, don’t believe in the spiritual categories of good and evil. According to them, we have just evolved, there is no God. But from what I’ve read, some of the same people still define bad behavior in general terms of “hurting others.” This isn’t terribly logical, since one can’t define bad behavior without using the concepts of good and evil. How does their definition make it evil? If there is no good or evil, then hurting people is a neutral activity. Actually, in Darwinian terms, hurting others probably increases one’s own chance for survival.

It is a real shame that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI both got caught up in duplicity concerning sex abuse. It is a shame because they both also seemed to understand the Truth of Jesus Christ and His salvation for those who believe, and the importance of evangelization. Though many Catholic theologians might tell us otherwise, this is critical for Christians to know. The tendency now is to believe that anyone can get to heaven, a theology called “Universalism,” which is a side-effect of wishful thinking on the part of certain “intellectuals.” Ralph Martin has written a book about this problem, Will Many be Saved?  Martin goes into the details about two theologians who promoted this worldview and how their influence affected the faith of many.  He says they ignored a vital part of the Vatican II document concerning those who have never heard of Christ (Lumen Gentium, entire Section 16). Missions are still as important as ever, but now even many Christians are missing the point.

It is very easy to despair of change when the leadership seems so uninterested in what the followers think. Yet if we read Cyprian Davis’ book, The History of Black Catholics in the United States , we can be inspired by African American persistence in the face of demeaning prejudice by US Catholic clergy. Actually, the hierarchy in Rome was on the side of helping the descendants of slaves who pleaded their case to them. There was still much resistance, but eventually things changed for the better. However, the Protestants had already made great progress and many African Americans had joined them by the time the Catholics here saw the light.

In a way, we can be glad the hidden sins of our leadership are being exposed because that is the first step in fixing the problem. But the leaders are still without satisfactory solutions and we need to get this straightened out. No more secrets! No more ignoring bishops who have hidden sexual predators or have known about it!

But if leaders follow through as they should, do you know what that will do? It will create even more shortages than we already have with only celibate male priests and bishops. After all these sex scandals, I don’t want to hear about the beauty of celibate male priesthood or how priests don't have time for families. Celibacy may be a wonderful way of life for some, but celibacy is not necessary in order to serve the church. One example from the fourth century is St. Hilary of Poitiers who was made bishop. Even though he was married with a child, he had the time to fight a great heresy, Arianism. Admittedly, he was exiled and did a lot of studying and writing then. Perhaps we can look at that as a sabbatical.  But he also continued the battle and wrote hymns when restored to his office.

I feel sometimes like the leadership of the Catholic Church would rather provide obstacles to the Lord for the faithful than give us a helping hand. We need a forthright, just Church for our spiritual health and in order to evangelize. I sincerely hope the leaders humbly ask the Lord to protect all Christians from evil and pray that He teach us and help us to do our part for the good.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Present Day

On January 21, 2013, files from the Los Angeles Catholic Diocese were released to the public proving that Cardinal Roger Mahony and another bishop protected priests who sexually abused children. More files have been and will be available to the public in the next few weeks. The current leader, Archbishop Jose Gomez, posted a letter by which he relieved Mahony of certain duties he was still performing though he is now considered retired.

A Vatican spokesperson declined to answer several media inquiries about the matter. As quoted by John Allen, a Catholic news reporter, the Vatican needs time to “better understand the situation .”

This revelation of records happened only because the Los Angeles Diocese was sued and made to reveal them. Mahony’s lawyers have been fighting for years to keep them hidden.

I would be happy to think there is an attempt by Archbishop Gomez to bring about accountability for Catholic bishops. But we have gone through this in Boston 11 years ago. The most egregious enabler of predator priests there, Bernard Law, was not even allowed to resign by Pope John Paul II until a group of Boston priests signed their names to a letter insisting on it. Then the pope assigned Law to a cushy job in Rome as the head of a church there.

Fr. Thomas Doyle, a priest who has been working on the crisis for many years, wrote a short history of the Church’s ongoing battle with the problem of sexual deviation by priests. It is worth reading. The problem has apparently been known for centuries. One of the most troubling aspects is the “Secret of the Holy Office” in section 21b. It threatens anyone who does not keep the abuse secret with excommunication. Though the Los Angeles bishops and priests in question were doing their fowl deeds in the 1980’s, the Church was to this day still trying to hide it. The crisis continues in other places as well.

The scandal in the Catholic Church concerning sexual abuse against children by priests was addressed by George Weigel in The Courage to be Catholic . The book came out immediately after the 2002 revelations of widespread abuse in the US. Though staunchly orthodox, Weigel was surprisingly open about the horror of the predator priest situation and the potential damage it would bring to the Church.

Weigel says in the book that the crisis is the lack of fidelity because of laxity after Vatican II and rebellion to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical against contraception, Humanae Vitae. Though he briefly acknowledged problems in the past, Weigel claims it is worse now because after Vatican II, priests were not taught that they are supposed to be changed when they are ordained. The theology of the Church is that priests become “in persona Christi,” Latin for the idea that when priests are ordained, they are permanently changed somehow either into the person of Christ or an extension of Him. This point has been made in Church teachings such as the 1935 Pius XI encyclical, Ad Catholici Sacerdotii (section 12), where the priest is said to be “another Christ,” and “a continuation of Christ.” And, of course, bishops are themselves ordained.

As I understand the thinking behind this, the priest becomes thus in order to properly present Christ’s body at the mass. And as an extension of Christ, who was a man, the priest must also be a man. This is also supposed to carry through the priest’s entire ministry. This encyclical mentions that he might lapse into “errors and disgraces” through human frailty.

But Christ is fully human yet he did not sin. There is a disconnect here already. Pius XI said that there are special divine graces to help the ordained priest “if only he will faithfully comply.” Unfortunately, that is a big “if.” It seems we have to depend upon the will of individual priests. Desire for goodness is not completely taught in school—it is an inner movement of the soul of the person. Mahony said that he wasn’t taught in his graduate courses that sexual abuse of children hurt them. Yet as a bishop he knew the police would be after the priests if he reported the abuse. Wouldn’t that give him a hint? How can the Vatican not understand this situation? If we can’t expect Christ-like behavior from all priests and bishops, do we need to re-think “in the person of Christ” theology?

According to Weigel, priests didn’t really know they were representing Christ because they weren’t taught right in seminary. Personally, I’ve never heard of a Catholic who doesn’t know that one of the main reasons women can’t be priests is because the men become “in persona Christi” at ordination. I can’t imagine priests don’t know about it, Vatican II or not. For Bishops, he says they don’t believe what they are taught. So priests aren’t taught and bishops don’t believe what they are taught? Though Weigel may have been correct about a number of things in the book, I think his solution does not adequately take into account the reality of the situation.

Like Weigel, Pope John Paul II said the problem is a lack of fidelity of the bishops. I assume the pope considered himself faithful. John Paul was about as conservative as Catholics get. And yet John Paul became a big part of this whole problem when he placed Bernard Law in a church at Rome and left him on various councils. This was extremely hurtful to many Catholics, especially since Law never seemed very sorry unless I missed something. No matter what John Paul said, his actions spoke louder. And his actions said bishops can do just about anything without having to pay.

Also, John Paul ignored for a long time the accusers of Marcial Maciel, the deceased priest who was the founder of the Legion of Christ. Maciel molested seminarians and had children with several women. Before Maciel was finally exiled by Benedict XVI in 2006, John Paul and George Weigel had both defended the priest. That’s because Maciel was one of the so-called “faithful.” In other words, he was a supposedly conservative Catholic who was expected to know that priests are changed at ordination "in persona Christi," the exact solution that Weigel claims will end this problem. Maciel went to seminary before Vatican II, as did many, many others who have sinned in this way.

I suspect that the reason many priests don’t believe they are “another Christ” is because of their own sins even after ordination. It puts a heavy load on them to be perfect. Though some seem to handle it by trying their best, there are those even at the top who surely haven’t acted in the person of Christ.

Catholics have done a lot of good in the world such as teaching, healing and helping the poor. But it is distressing when any of us behave badly. The ages have seen this before. Popes and bishops have done terrible things, including owning slaves and defending slavery, living in debauchery, having people killed and even heresy. It is no wonder those outside the religion have negative opinions of us, to put it mildly.

Christians who are baptized are supposed to change from their sinful nature. In the Bible, St. Paul said:
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians, 5:17, NABRE).
Unfortunately, Christians have proven that we are not perfect, including priests and bishops.

Even St. Paul, the very one who said we change in Christ, had trouble:
For what I am doing I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15, NASB)
Sin and evil are very much present in our day. It is not wrong, and in fact is our only hope, to keep the faith. As I read more about the predator priest problem, I see some bishops and priests have tried to solve it. But other bishops have behaved in a horrible way, moving the abusing priests around and hiding their identities from parishes and communities. The work is far from done and we all need the real Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, to show us the way.

As I watch in disappointment at the behavior of many bishops and the Pope concerning the child sexual abuse problem, I pray that the Church be cleansed. I also pray for Christians to be straightened, sanctified and unified so we may be pleasing to our Lord.