Wednesday, December 21, 2016


I pray for a blessed and joyful Christmas for all. May your New Year be filled with hope through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Commission for Women

Good news about the "Study Commission of the Women’s Deaconate" that Pope Francis talked about back in May (post in my blog about it HERE). The Pope has instituted it with a 12-member group, half of whom are women, plus the leader of the group, Jesuit Secretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer. You can read more about it and see the members HERE and HERE.

The really good news in my opinion is that Phyllis Zagano is one of the members. She has done much studying and written books on the subject of women deacons in the Catholic Church. Her books include Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church; and Women Deacons? Essays with Answers. Her short Amazon biography is HERE.

Deaconesses are mentioned in the Bible. In 1 Timothy 3:11 (NIV), as St. Paul gives instructions to deacons in general, he singles out women deacons:
 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
I won’t add a lot more, since there are enough links here for one post. I’m sure we will hear more as the commission gets going. I hope they don’t take too long until they come to a conclusion—one which Phyllis Zagano has already studied and found that there were indeed women deacons in the Church in the past and should be now.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Undeniable by Axe

I just read the book by Dr. Douglas Axe, Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed. Dr. Axe is a biology researcher who started in engineering and went on to study the working molecules of our cells, especially proteins. There are book reviews at Amazon, of course, which you can link to HERE. But I’d like to mention a few things about it myself because even though it is written for the non-scientist it might still stand more explanation.

The Intelligent Design (ID) movement will celebrate its 20 year anniversary this August, and Dr. Axe is among its advocates. ID advocates claim that design can be detected in biology by using strictly scientific methods. However, for the scientist working in research who talks about biological design, there is awkwardness among his/her colleagues which can lead to total exclusion. Though Dr. Axe worked at extremely prestigious institutions such as Cal Tech and Cambridge, he was intimidated and even ostracized when he shared his new ideas.

Dr. Axe doubted the scientific consensus of his day that said that proteins are easily made by chance. Proteins are specific molecules that do specific jobs in the basic unit of our bodies, the cells. Axe believed they have to be very fine-tuned in order to fold into the shapes they need to be to carry out their work. One of the best parts of this book is that Dr. Axe has drawings and descriptions of proteins. These molecules have to be seen to be appreciated and the more the general population is aware of these structures, the better. I was especially happy he described the proteins of photosynthesis, since this is one of the most crucial processes of life because it converts light energy to food. The machinery for photosynthesis would have had to be in organisms from the beginning.

Good a job as he did, the book could have been even better with more of a description of the structures of the sub-units of protein, called amino acids and the atoms which make them. Since the book had pictures anyway, this would have been a worthwhile description to give people more of a grounding of where the proteins fall in the nature of things. So, I’d like to fill in a little.

We’ll start with a protein complex Dr. Axe does describe, a molecular machine of photosynthesis called Photosystem I. This takes in photons from the sun and eventually fixes carbon into the building blocks of the cell. Keep in mind this is only one of several molecule complexes needed for photosynthesis to occur. These in turn set up molecular products and electrochemical gradients the cell needs for building the vast array of machinery it has.

Dr. Axe shows different parts of Photosystem I in his book, although the pictures there are in black and white. I have a color picture here from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (citations at bottom of image--click for larger view). Dr. Axe tells us there are 417 parts to the Photosystem I complex (many are used more than once). In this first stunning picture, different parts are marked with different colors. Not all the parts are proteins, so they are not all marked with colors.

The next image here is a chart of all the amino acids needed to make up just one protein of the 417 parts of Photosystem I. This analysis is from a cyanobacterium, a single-celled organism. The abbreviations are for the 20 different amino acids, which we will get to next. The information is from Uniprot, linked HERE.

Then, I have a picture of an amino acid here with the atoms of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen (the abbreviations may be the same for amino acids but are known because of context). In this example is the amino acid valine (pronounced way lean). The amino acids are partly all the same (on the top in this picture) where they combine to make a protein chain and differ (on the bottom) in their “side-chains.” These side-chains give the proteins different structures to do different jobs. The amino acids have an average of almost 20 atoms each.

Then in my last image I show the perspective of the first three images and what it takes to make up just one of the parts of Photosystem I (in the top circle) with the 755 amino acid abbreviations listed. Valine is marked by a V in each space it appears. This piece would have about 14,000 atoms—all in specific order so the larger machine can work as it should.

In the book, Dr. Axe spent a lot of time describing the possible number of images in a pixel grid using the three basic colors and all their intensities in order to describe the huge “search space” to get one specific image out of all the possibilities. It is similar to saying that we “try” a certain amount of times putting different combinations together to get what we want.

The structures for photosynthesis are amazing in the number of their amino acids and other molecules which combine for the work of photosynthesis. It would take a tremendous amount of chemical reaction “tries” to get the right atoms in the right positions under random conditions. Dr. Axe gave the idea of how large the search space is for specific proteins. We are talking about one in 10 to the power of 74 (10^74), which is a one with 74 zeroes after it, for a proteins of 150 amino acids. In a comparison, this is less than one atom in all the atoms in our galaxy. Even with the large amount of atoms to work with and even in an old Earth, we can consider the random combinations of atoms to be insufficient to put together the structures needed for photosynthesis. And it could not have happened piecemeal, because you need the whole system for photosynthesis to work.

Lastly, I want to say that in his book Dr. Axe takes a diversion from the regular ID advocates and names God as the Designer. Others in the ID world say they are only looking at the science of biology, and conclude it is designed without naming the designer. I am wondering how the other advocates will handle this conclusion, since their critics have always accused them of being Creationists underneath all the claims of science-only. But I am glad he did it, because I think all ID advocates should be up front about who they think the Designer is.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Science in US Schools

There is a very interesting article at Answers in Genesis about the history of teaching creationism and evolution in US schools. Answers in Genesis is a group associated with the teaching of Special Creationism, the belief that God created humans and animals directly in a supernatural way. The article tells about certain judgments in the courts that have turned teaching in classrooms toward evolution and away from creationism: .

One important trial in 2005 was in Harrisburg PA over whether a textbook could have a disclaimer that introduced Intelligent Design Theory in the Dover School District. It ended in favor of the evolutionists: .

There had been a fight in Texas in 2013 over the science textbook to be used in the classroom, and the evolutionists won so that their textbook was chosen. That link is here at Evolution News and Views (an Intelligent Design website) to give details of the story: .

The American Association for the Advancement of Science claims:

AAAS has played a prominent role in responding to efforts in Kansas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere to weaken or compromise the teaching of evolution in public school science classrooms. .

These are among the major happenings in our schools that have directed public science teaching toward evolution, although the fights continue in the states to introduce and/or follow bills for academic freedom. For example: .

Though many people believe evolution is the answer to our existence, many have other beliefs. There should be a way for facts to be examined in the classroom in an equitable way.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Human Value

Every day I check out the topics going on in the Catholic Answers Forums (CAF). The link to the home page of CAF is here: ,

At CAF I often gravitate toward discussions about abortion. My book, Biotech Swirl, is about experimentation of human life from the embryo through the fetus and even into adult human beings. It is also about how human life can be cheapened when viewed from certain perspectives. In my opinion this is too often from the sterile worldview of scientists. Of course other factors are at play, such as the unwillingness of women to go through with a pregnancy for various reasons. But where do the women get the idea that the fetus is not really human? It can be rationalized in various ways, but these days the culture of science feeds into this idea. It is ironic, because you would think they would recognize the embryo is human. But instead they want to dissect and manipulate the embryo and/or fetus either for other people who are patients (already born paying customers), or for potential parents who want perfect children, as in in-vitro-fertilization clinics.

A part of my book explains some things about the biology of our bodies, especially at the cellular level. That may seem out of place, but it is meant to show how amazing are our bodies and that we are indeed wondrously made. Cells are the basic unit of biology, and their detail can show how valuable we are. Everyone needs to be treated as precious, including embryos and fetuses. The question is, how do we get everyone to see this value?

Well, we all have our ways to work for the Lord and there are many good people working right now in Right to Life offices and other forms of the movement. I’ve tried to contribute by writing Biotech Swirl, to blog on the magnificence of our biological makeup, and to make occasional comments on CAF. I don’t know how long my part of the effort is to continue along this vein. It depends on where I discern God is calling me. I try to do my best each day wherever that way leads.

Soul on Fire

For the past few years, I've had a music video at Christmas. I didn't do it this past Christmas--I guess I didn't have time to look very far. But now, Third Day, my favorite contemporary Christian band, has come up with another hit, Soul on Fire. It also features All Sons and Daughters. I like the music quite well, although the lyrics are for those who may feel they have drifted from God. It talks about coming back to God after wandering away from Him. I don't feel I've left God since I came back a long time ago--maybe the song reminds me of that time. For any of you reading this, perhaps you feel closer to God some times more than others. In any case, I'll put this video in my blog on this last day of June. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mary Magdalene

In this post I mostly want to give you a link to a story about the change from what is called a "Memorial Day" of Mary Magdalene to a higher honor of "Feast Day" for her in the Catholic Church. Apparently Pope Francis requested this, and it is very fitting. As the story at the link relates, the Virgin Mary had been the only woman honored by a Feast Day, while the male Apostles and some other men were given this tribute. Since St. Thomas Aquinas (13th Century), Mary Magdalene has been known as the “Apostle to the Apostles” because she had seen the Risen Lord first and was commissioned by Him to tell the Apostles of His Resurrection. .

It was said we should treat Mary Magdalene as a paradigm. That is what many women have been trying to do: to follow the Lord as completely as they can. Some women feel they are being called by God to service as Deacons, but Church leadership denies that call. It is heavy-handed of these leaders to think they know how God is calling all individuals. Pope Francis said in his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, Section 37:
We [Church leadership] also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them. .

Though Pope Francis was referring to married couples in his Exhortation, his statement applies to leadership and laypersons in general.

A letter just came out from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Church in which the interaction between Church hierarchy and particular movements of the laity are discussed. It says the Bishops should not squash the charisms of the laypersons in which they feel moved by God for certain works in the Church. On the other hand, the laypersons are supposed to respect the hierarchy in what they do. The link for this article is here:  .

It takes wise leaders to get the right balance and that is about impossible except with God's help. Discernment should be done together, not separately.

Perhaps as Church leaders realize Mary Magdalene is deserving of a Feast Day, they will recognize women are deserving of being heard.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Supernatural Creation

I believe that Creation has had direct supernatural intervention (called Special Creation), both at the beginning of life and along the way from simple organisms to human beings. I don’t know if the “days” mentioned in Genesis 1-2 lasted 24 hours or were long ages, but I believe there was a direct supernatural element in the formation of humans.

So why do I believe this? I have a tendency to think of biology. With biology there are vast numbers to consider. The first in this vein is the number of our cells, the basic unit of biology. I’ve seen estimates that humans have about 10 to 100 trillion cells, all working together. How big is a trillion? A trillion is one million (already a big number) times one thousand times another thousand. So take all that times 10 to 100 and you have the number of cells of an adult human being. We’ll say 50 trillion as a rounded number for discussion. More information on the cell is here: .

These 50 trillion cells all start with one cell from union of a sperm (from the male) and an egg (from the female) that meet through sexual intercourse. Now this first cell is already a wonder. It contains molecules inside—made of atoms which combine in specific ways. A central molecule is DNA, which is in the form of a code to make other molecules. DNA looks like a ladder twisted along its long axis and the steps or rungs are composed of smaller molecules that follow a precise order. Parts of the DNA are known as "genes." More information and pictures of DNA are here: .

At specific times, these rungs separate in the middle and are copied for the code in order to make other working molecules and more cells. The rungs of the ladder, more officially known as “bases,” in the human number 3.2 billion in each cell. Yet the average cell is only about 10 to 100 microns long. This equals about 1/250th to 1/2500th of an inch long.

So 3.2 billion DNA bases (the rungs) are active in almost all new cells that come from the division of the first cell and the next and the next etc. The DNA has to be copied in the right way for differentiation into the right kind of cells as they come about during the divisions. The cell products have the effect of making the right cells for eyes, ears, nose, bones, muscles, inner organs, skin, and everything else that makes our physical bodies.

The organization of the growing human in the womb, baby, child and adult must be regulated by genes which are made up by the DNA. Some regulation comes from the DNA and some from the egg cell to form the body orientation.

All the while, cells need to be able to use food to make the right kind of energy for them to keep growing and dividing. As mentioned before, the DNA has genes, and these make proteins that do the work of the cell, such as copying DNA.

These are among the facts that make me believe humans needed direct supernatural intervention to be formed. I hope you will consider these numbers too. Don’t let others tell you they would be easy to come about. Neo-Darwinian evolution involves chance—just atoms that happen to come together with no guidance. Though evolutionists invoke natural selection of the fittest, there has to be something from which to select if you are to have neo-Darwinian evolution at all.

I don't believe the original DNA sequences needed for life came about by chance. I don't think we'd have the tiniest cell, much less a human, if it were not for the direct intervention of God.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Creationists and IDists v. BioLogos

This post is a little complicated, but it is important concerning the "evolution wars," and I've edited a few times to make it as clear as I can. To start, BioLogos is a group of people who are committed to Theistic Evolution (TE). TE is the premise that animals and humans developed by evolution helped along by God. This help could come directly, such as if He intervened in the genes of an embryo to be therefore born slightly different than its parents. Many people believe this, but it does have the problem of people coming from animals. Or, in the version pushed by BioLogos, God could have acted in a Divine Hands-off manner (also known as Deism). This scenario supposes that God somehow caused evolution to happen in a pre-planned way that would LOOK to us as random.

There are several problems with this Deism view. One problem is that it correlates exactly with any secular or atheist’s view of evolution, what we call neo-Darwinian evolution. Secularists look at evolution as random (the random genetic mutation element means the basis of evolution is random even though there is a non-random element called selection). Another problem with this view is that there is a logical fallacy in saying life looks like it was brought about in a random way because biological structures do NOT LOOK random. Our bodies have trillions of cells working together to give us life. A cell is a basic unit of biology. Proteins, which are the working molecules of the cell, are very specifically constructed for what they do. The DNA inside the cell acts as a code to make the proteins, and therefore must also be very specific. These molecules do not look random.

So we have a group of people (BioLogos), many of whom are scientists, who tell us God somehow created animals and plants and people, but we are supposed to go by the book of all secularist and atheist scientists. In contrast there are other groups of people who are actively questioning the secular view and secular-like TE view put forth by BioLogos. One group of Intelligent Design advocates is called the Discovery Institute. These people are dedicated to make the facts known about proteins and other biological structures and claim these structures were designed. They are using scientific methods, such as information theory, to try to prove what they are saying. Other groups are Special Creationists (believing in direct supernatural creation by God), such as Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research. These also have scientists in their ranks and are using their websites to argue their cases.

Since BioLogos backs atheistic outlooks on creation and evolution, the arguments of the Discovery Institute and Creationists are directed against both Biologos and atheists. On the Discovery Institute’s newsletter website and his own, Dr. Cornelius Hunter is showing why the BioLogos arguments of Dr. Dennis Venema are wrong. In the links below there are articles that point out faults and also go to other references which cover enlightening insights of several ongoing arguments. Though Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates are accused of being anti-science, the irony is that in matters of biological complexity they are more precisely scientific than BioLogos. . .

So a major problem with BioLogos is though they say they want to show how science and religion can be reconciled, they promote both a non-religious and non-scientific (illogical) view of evolution. They imply that God is not really needed because evolution is random anyway, and that if you want to believe in God, you still better believe in non-divine-type evolution.

The person who started BioLogos, Dr. Francis Collins, a self-professed Christian, has been instrumental in the present legal status of using human embryos in scientific research. Though the BioLogos people profess to be Christian, neo-Darwinian evolution has been the only option until recently (see The Third Way of Evolution) for atheists. Casey Luskin, who worked for Discovery Institute for many years, has published a paper called Darwin's Poisoned Tree in the Trinity Law Review about the relationship between the teaching of evolution and atheism. You can find the paper at this link: .

It is not unusual for Christians to be right about some things and wrong about others. This is part of growth and learning. BioLogos Christians are wrong to push their random evolution agenda. Somehow they are blinded, perhaps by some imagined promise of scientific discovery, to the amazing design in biology that is obviously seen by others as supernatural creation. Refer to Romans 1:20 in resisting intimidation by scientists who tell you we came about by chance:
Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse. (USCCB, NABRE).

Thursday, May 12, 2016


The Pope made world-wide news Thursday by announcing he would set up a commission to study women deacons in the Catholic Church. What a historic move! His decision came about after an international meeting with consecrated women and International Union of Superiors General. An article about the circumstances is here at the Crux website: .

The women had written questions for the Pope (4 main topics) which more or less asked why women still do not have a say in the Church and why we are barred from being deacons. The questions can be read here: .

I am excited for a few reasons. I have said before that women should be deacons. They should be ordained as deacons. Married men are ordained as permanent deacons, and if the Church leadership insists on only male priests, women can at least be permanent deacons. It is just not right for the Church to have seven sacraments for men and six for women. Another reason they should be named deacons is that many do the work of deacons anyway. But men can be ordained and women not. It is just plain discrimination. I know many will say there are reasons to keep women out, but there were reasons to keep African-Americans out of seminaries at one time, including the belief they were not totally human. History does not look kindly there.

Of course, the question of who will be on the commission is next. Obviously, if the members are all conservative bishops, women will not have a chance. The pope has been fairly astute about these things. He has been placing more progressive persons in critical roles. However, the current prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, is conservative. Perhaps the Pope hides behind him a bit. After a previous commission’s look into the female diaconate, Muller made a statement along the lines that women will feel discriminated against if they are allowed to be deacons but not priests or bishops. .

Apparently the consecrated women who asked the Pope to become deaconesses do not have that problem. Nor do many others. Here's a link to the organization called Catholic Women Deacons: .

The Internet is buzzing, including the website I follow, Catholic Answers Forums. The conversation on this topic starts here: .

We will be hearing much, much more about this topic. As I predicted earlier on this blog (link here), it is a subject that will not go away.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Smallest Cell

This headline and link are from the Washington Post. The article describes the smallest cell to which the scientists were able to reduce, and it turns out it is twice as big as they thought it would be:

This man-made cell has the smallest genome ever — but a third of its genes are a mystery: .

The news is from J. Craig Venter Institute. They had previously been known for putting together a synthetic combination of DNA which survived in a cell and was capable of reproduction. Link here: .

DNA is the molecule that forms our genes. These are used for coding proteins, which do the work of our cells. Cells are the basic unit of biology. DNA is also needed for reproduction, to pass the information to offspring. Humans have trillions of cells, and most of them contain their own set of DNA. Some organisms, like bacteria, have only one cell, but still need DNA to make protein and for reproduction. As you have probably seen, but if you want you can see in the picture in the link below, DNA looks like a twisted ladder. Each step of the ladder has a smaller molecule that acts, in sequence with the other steps, as a code for the protein so it can be made correctly. There are 4 types of steps which are called bases and in bacteria it takes about 1000 bases per gene. And as the WP article points out, “to build a DNA code that will support life, you need to be pretty much error-free.”

Picture from : .

Scientists have been trying to determine what is the least number of genes a single cell, such as a bacterium, can have and still stay alive. This is not a fully-functional cell in the sense it would have to be given nutrients that it could not produce itself. Scientists had thought the number would be in the vicinity of 250, but have found, at least in this approach, that more genes are needed than they thought. They came up with 473. (There are 32% they don’t know their function.) The organism needs over 531,000 base pairs in order for it to function (in Press Release here).

An abstract of the new scientific paper is here: .

Eugene Koonin, the director of comparative genetics at NIH, estimated a fully functional cell would need about 1000 genes. These would be fully self-functional, not needing supplements fed to them. At 1000 bases per gene, that would be one million bases in exact order. The article which contains his estimate can be found here: .

What are the chances that even half of that, an exact sequence of 500,000 bases, could have randomly come together to start life, composing a complete genome which codes for life processes (even if there were nutrients in the environment) such as breakdown of sugar to make the structures of the proteins, reproduction and other functions, and organize all of it in tiny cells? This could not have happened by chance even in billions of years.

Praise God for His Creation.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Amoris Laetitia

I just finished reading Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on marriage and the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). The access to the .pdf file is here. It is a culmination of two years of Vatican-sponsored meetings and input concerning the family. With the explosion of the number of divorces, there has been an increasing pressure from liberals (progressives) to change the Church’s response to those who have divorced and remarried. This is especially because these persons are not allowed to partake of the Eucharist in the mass. The divorced complained that a repentant murderer can receive communion while they can’t. On the conservative (traditionalist) side, marriage is held as a metaphor for Christ’s relationship to His church, and therefore indissoluble. One of my own interests is from the viewpoint of how women are treated by the Church, and I was pleasantly surprised to see some understanding.

Pope Francis agrees to the Christ-Church-marriage comparison, but with the understanding that people are not as perfect as Christ and therefore their marriages will not be perfect. The pope continues to hold up a good marriage as a difficult but attainable goal, worthy of all its efforts. Yet he asks for the mercy of those who interact with married couples and for the divorced and re-married Catholics who feel ostracized by not being allowed communion. The pope maintains these people are not excommunicated and should not be made to feel as such. To conservatives who don’t want change, any thought of giving them communion is a liberal viewpoint that they fear will lead to a downhill slide of the entire institution of marriage.

I found some of the most refreshing sentences in the whole exhortation Amoris Laetitia to be in Sections 36 and 37. In 36, Pope Francis comments on the overbearing emphasis of Church leaders on procreation that made Catholicism seem more about having the maximum amount of children instead of focusing on the divinity of Jesus Christ. Of course having children is important, but I don't think every married person is called to parenthood. And unfortunately not all children come to believe in God. But we are all called to worship and evangelize the nations for Jesus Christ. Section 36 has this sentence:
Then too, we often present marriage in such a way that its unitive meaning, its call to grow in love and its ideal of mutual assistance are overshadowed by an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation.
Then, speaking of clergy, in 37 Pope Francis wrote: 
We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are ca­pable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.
How important this is in contrast to the effort to control people.

Another section I like is 54, which speaks of women’s rights. It says emancipation of women is not to be blamed for all the woes of marriage. The pope writes:
If certain forms of feminism have arisen which we must consider inadequate, we must nonetheless see in the women’s movement the working of the Spirit for a clearer recognition of the dignity and rights of women.
Thank goodness. Let us hope this is a dawn finally of a new worldview about women. I’m not saying women always will make the right decisions or discern correctly, but I believe we can be as capable as men of doing so.

It remains to be seen what will actually happen in response to the paper. The Germans have been chafing at the bit to make changes, as are progressive groups of priests in Ireland and the US. But the tensions persist because there are plenty of conservatives up in arms. One is a cannon lawyer, Cardinal Raymond Burke. He wrote an article in the conservative National Catholic Register about Amoris Laetitia, (link here) basically saying that bishops and priests don’t really have to follow it. Conservative bloggers are complaining, as seen in this post with links to others (Rorate Caeli here).

Pope Francis, though he says he encourages dialogue, has in turn had some pretty harsh words for conservatives (article here). The tensions are simmering and though it is rather fascinating to watch, it is not good for the Church to be mired in disagreements. When Catholics, leaders or lay, are so diverse, we need to pray for discernment. I’ve found, though, that persons can be so tied to one worldview, they can’t imagine any other having merits. This is a block to listening to other people.

However, what happens when different people are convinced the Holy Spirit is leading each of them but in different ways? Then we obviously have a problem of understanding exactly how the Holy Spirit leads and what He is leading toward. It may be that we need to consider what each other is saying and seek God’s will in mutual prayer. Hopefully we can all improve in discernment together.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Discernment's Center

Why is it wrong for a Christian to claim that everyone is a child of God? After all, we believe one God (in the form of a Trinity of the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit) created the universe and ultimately all humans. What many seem to be missing is that even though we are all created in God’s image, He gives a specific path for acceptance as His children. And this power is given through faith in the Son. Jesus Christ, Who came to the world, lived a perfect life, died and rose for our sins. God wants us to recognize that we sin and that our salvation comes through Christ. And God wants us to tell this to everyone we can--not to leave others in ignorance of Him.

In the Bible, John 1:12 (NABRE) says we are allowed to be children of God if we believe in the Word, Jesus Christ:
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name…
In my opinion, this viewpoint can be seen only one way.

There are those who think God will accept everyone. Though we might think that persons who never heard of Christ may be allowed into His kingdom, we must remember that if we have heard of Him we have to evaluate our own faith. If you believe it doesn’t matter what religion other persons are, your own faith and therefore discernment are in trouble. Those who have the opportunity to know Jesus and shrug Him off as one of many choices are worse off than those who have never heard of Him. It is God’s business to decide who comes into His kingdom; it is our job to recognize that for those who do fully know about Him, belief in Christ is the only way to heaven.

This subject relates to another: many people want to see world peace, which we think of as certainly a worthy cause. Especially for those affected by war, it may seem of primary importance. Yet some Christians hold the importance of Earthly peace so high that their worldview seems to put it even above the centrality of Christianity. Here again we have the idea put forth that all religions have the same God, all are children of God. But if you believe Christianity as the only True answer, worldly peace is secondary to evangelization. We must carry the message so all can know Christ, even if it means worldly tensions.

As a Jesuit, Pope Francis claims to seek discernment. Discernment is a method by which a person determines his or her vocation, and also a life-long quest to seek God’s will. The Jesuits are a religious order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. In 1522-1524 Ignatius wrote recommendations for spiritual discernment in his book, The Spiritual Exercises. Through this, the members make great effort to tune themselves toward discernment of God’s will.

However, it has been shown that sometimes those who believe they are experts of God’s will have been wrong in their discernment. For example, this article (link HERE) from the New York Times describes the treatment of human slaves by Jesuits who ran Georgetown University in the 1800’s. They owned slaves and then sold these humans to plantation owners of the deeper South in order to financially save the school. Though slavery was legal at the time, it should not have been considered a moral choice by the Jesuits—those who claimed to know the will of the Lord. Even though the Bible mentions slavery, St. Paul was advising those who had to endure it due to outside influences, not endorsing it as a Christian institution. And the end--a solvent school--did not justify the means. Often when we are confronted with challenges, God will come through if we go to Him and wait for Him. They did not have to own or sell slaves.

Of course, we can't read their minds and as the article shows, some of the Jesuits did know that slavery was wrong but did not have the power to follow their consciences. Was the president of the university somehow deviated from the centrality of Christ alone? The secular Enlightenment was to eventually effect many so-called Christians in disbelieving Christ's miracles and even His divinity, reducing Him to a sage. Perhaps that worldview was already affecting the Jesuit academia. And Christ centered-ness is just the first step to proper efforts in discernment. Also we can have problems with pride or stubbornness which keeps us from considering other points of view.

Pope Francis seems to want Christianity both ways. He speaks of the need for only Christ for salvation (example HERE) but at other times telling everyone that we are all children of God, we all have the same God, or similar phrases (example HERE). He holds world peace very highly and wants to see all people get along. But this is simply not the same as putting Christ at the center. The view that it does not matter what you believe is called “Indifferentism” and at least sometimes seems to be held by the pope as well as many other Catholics.

Why is it central to being a Christian to believe in Christ for our Salvation? God gives us free will, and all humans have fallen short of perfection except for Christ. Our own sins should bring us to humility when we recognize them. The Father is just as well as merciful and imperfection of sins would keep the sinner ostracized from God's presence. The Father has chosen belief in Christ to be our doorway to Him. As stated above, Christ lived a perfect life and then died for our sins. Jesus should be given the credit for that, just as we want to be credited for our own achievements. But I believe some Catholics, as other Christians, are too casual about sins, the need for Christ for one’s redemption, and about faith in Him in order to go to heaven.

I believe that in order to have right discernment, the central starting point is belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Then we can be guided by God to wisdom in other areas. When we really believe this, our love for others should lead us to tell them about Christ, what He did for us, and that we all need to repent and believe that He, and only He, is our Savior.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

God's Not Dead 2

I went to see the movie God’s Not Dead 2 (GND2). I don’t want to be a spoiler, so I won’t write out the whole plot. But I will tell you that it was about a high school teacher who was sued by the ACLU for answering a question about Jesus Christ, using Scripture, in class. The website and trailer for the movie is HERE.

If you saw the first God’s Not Dead (GND) movie, you will recognize similarities. GND was about a student who was maligned by a college professor because he would not deny God in the classroom. So both movies are about perceived oppression of Christians in academic settings.

Though some may not believe Christians are being oppressed in our country, the credits of the movie show there can be a price to pay when people stand up for what they believe. One real life example I will give is the backlash of the exposé done by David Daleiden against Planned Parenthood. He secretly filmed PP employees talking cold-bloodedly about selling body parts of fetuses, among other shocking images. But it was Daleiden who was indicted in Texas for his undercover credentials and recently raided by California DOJ officers who confiscated his computers and videos (link of article HERE).

Daleiden's example can be linked with academia because the parts of fetuses go to trained researchers either at universities or in commercial settings. The academic worldview is very often the antithesis of Christianity, even though the medical disciplines do have a noble goal of curing people. They say they are about science and reason and not the "superstitious" religious beliefs. Perhaps that is what justifies their actions in their own minds, and the lines may not always be as clearly drawn as the GND2 movie implies. But cures can be found in other ways and it is imperative that everyone realize the humanity of those who are being killed.

Now, you might say Daleiden was breaking the law in his underground investigation. But  consider that a pastor in GND2 says we are in a spiritual war. Non-Christians often see a statement like this as way too overblown. Christians may not always realize where the war is taking place. But the pastor is right, and the people who made the movie, among many others, are in the middle of the battle. When the laws can be unjust, spiritual warriors do not always follow the laws.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Protein Levels

Proteins do much of the work of the cell, the basic biological unit. Proteins are made of subunits called amino acids, which in turn are made of atoms.

There are thousands of different kinds of proteins. I have posted previously about a set of proteins that work together, called ATP Synthase (ATPS, pronounced ATP sin-thase). The set acts together in this energy production machine. All organisms have ATPS (with the exception of viruses which are parasites and so benefit from ATPS indirectly).

Though I have pictures of ATPS elsewhere, I am putting this picture in my blog because it shows in one view the detail from three levels. The one on the upper left is the whole machine, a picture by David Goodsell at the link HERE. The next in line is the makeup of the amino acids in just one part of the machine (represented by their single letter symbols), which can be found at a protein database Uniprot HERE. As you can see, it is made up of 460 amino acids which have to be in correct order for the ATPS machine to work. (The database number here is for humans, but E. coli have the same number and the reference is P0ABB4). The next is a picture of the atomic arrangement of one amino acid (atoms are represented by their own separate letters).

If you are interested, you can see in a video at the link HERE how ATPS operates when protons flow through it because of an electrochemical gradient. The video lasts less than 4 minutes. The molecule that it makes is called ATP, or adenosine triphosphate (ah-den-oh-seen try-phosphate). This molecule is used to make proteins and DNA among other uses. Here is a picture of it:

Beyond the ATPS, other molecules are needed to set up the proton gradient that makes it work (seen at the same link HERE).

Some proteins can handle a few changes of amino acids, but some positions can't be changed or the protein will not work.

These proteins did not come about by chance, even in billions of years.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is very much in the news and on Internet chatter. The BLM group asserts that black people are treated differently by police than whites. I’d like to share on my blog a similar comment about BLM to what I made on the Catholic Answers Forums website.

Some people are very unhappy with the BLM movement, equating it with bad behavior of blacks against police. Others sympathize with the blacks and believe their complaints that they are treated differently than whites by officers. Who is right? I don't believe we are getting to the bottom of racial divides.

Many people take for granted that the black race came from non-humans in Africa and then groups of individuals came North and evolved further into the white race. I have read a scientific paper from a major journal (Science, abstract here) where a group of black people are assumed to be less evolved than whites in order to determine the mode of evolution of biological molecules (further information about the research here). It seems there is no other way to say it but that some whites believe they are more evolved than blacks. Would that not cause some very bad feelings among the blacks? Would the Black Lives Matter’s group have some reason to believe they are treated in a different manner, such as in this history of Planned Parenthood eugenics? It could be that blacks and whites both are affected in their behaviors by this common mindset, perhaps subconsciously but in some cases blatantly.

However, if a person believes in direct supernatural creation of humans by God, s/he has no question of who is most evolved: no human is significantly different from any other human.

I treat these themes, among others, in my book, Biotech Swirl. I encourage you to read this FREE BOOK which you can reach at the link HERE or clicking on the picture of the book in the right column. Download it and/or read it online. Literature often helps us think about these issues and I hope this book may do so for you.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

First Matters

On his recent visit to Mexico, Pope Francis made a symbolic gesture at a memorial for persons who cross the border into the US, many of whom do it illegally. On the way back home, the Pope held a press conference in the plane (link here). One reporter asked him about the US presidential candidate Donald Trump and his stand on building a wall to keep immigrants out. The Pope responded, “I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”

The statement by the Pope was, unsurprisingly, greeted by Trump with defensiveness. The Republican candidate for president responded, “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful” (link here). A little later, Trump was more conciliatory, saying the Pope was unaware of the drug and other problems on the border (link here).

I have been to Mexico a few times and to El Salvador and have seen some very bad living conditions. The poor are exposed to the elements and to those who would prey upon them. They may not even have a door for a secure lock, or may lack solid walls for windows.

But I want to move on to another point that comes from this short clash between Pope Francis and Donald Trump. That is, what it takes to be a Christian. The Pope has said some things about that lately that bother me though I can’t say I’m completely surprised. That is because those who are so intently focused on the poor often seem to veer off the straight and narrow of Christian beliefs. They look at the rest of the world and say to themselves that God wouldn’t send all these people to hell just because they don’t believe. So they set aside the prime necessity of believing in and evangelizing to the world about Jesus Christ.

The Pope always picks a subject for prayer intention for the month. In January, the first video made for a prayer intention was about inter-faith dialogue (link here). Pope Francis seems to minimize the differences between the faiths and says right out that “There is only one certainty we have for all. We are all Children of God.”

But this is not what the Bible says. In John, Chapter 1, it states that only those who believe in the Word made flesh (Jesus Christ) are to be called Children of God. (John 1: 12, NABRE):
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name…
I’d like to see some changes in the Church. I’d like barrier contraception to be accepted, since right now it is regarded as evil on the basis of women having no intellect and being good only for reproduction (Thomas Aquinas). I’d like to see women become deacons of the church since the sacrament is denied to them and I don’t believe that is right. There are many Catholics who are progressive concerning changes about women and immigrants. I’d like to see conservatives more interested in these things, and maybe there are more who are so than I realize. I don’t understand why traditional Catholics who are loyal to the doctrine of the Church are often also heavy-handed about any change in women’s status and seem aloof to the problems of immigrants. There must be Catholics out there who hold to the supremacy of Jesus Christ and yet can see some need for change in other areas. After all, Christ wanted us to be compassionate to our neighbors. (It's interesting by the way that the extremes are labeled "left" and "right" which suggests each of them veering off from the "straight and narrow.")

BUT FIRST we must believe that Christ died for our sins and gives everlasting life with Him in that way. This is a serious matter and something to hold onto no matter what Pope Francis wants us to pray for and no matter what lesser changes in the Catholic Church we might like to see.

BY FAR the most important aspect of the Catholic Church is for every Christian to assume that belief in Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary for heaven and proceed in that manner. This includes telling others as well as we can about Jesus Christ and that He died for our sins and we need to believe in Him if we want everlasting life with Him.

Whatever else we do we must first be well-anchored in our faith.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Year of Mercy

The Zika virus is a threat to anyone bitten by the mosquito that carries it. It is especially worrisome to women (and therefore couples) who are pregnant or may be trying to become pregnant. Doctors have also found that having sex may cause transmission of the virus (link HERE).

Governments, including the US, are warning about the virus and in that vein are suggesting the use of barrier contraceptives.

Of course, this raises the hackles of anyone who thinks that contraception is an intrinsic evil. There can be no exceptions to the rule. But these persons ideas are formed by Natural Law, in turn formed by celibate males. Look, for example, at St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the major players in the direction of thought on this subject. In his greatest book, Summa Theologica, the question is asked whether women should have even been made in the first generation of things, since she is so inferior. In Part I, Question 92, Article 1, Aquinas replies:

I answer that, It was necessary for woman to be made, as the Scripture says, as a "helper" to man; not, indeed, as a helpmate in other works, as some say, since man can be more efficiently helped by another man in other works; but as a helper in the work of generation… But man [as opposed to woman] is yet further ordered to a still nobler vital action, and that is intellectual operation. Therefore there was greater reason for the distinction of these two forces in man; so that the female should be produced separately from the male; although they are carnally united for generation. Therefore directly after the formation of woman, it was said: "And they shall be two in one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).

In other words, women are good for reproduction and nothing else. Whereas I find myself thinking that God gave me a brain just for the very reason of thinking. And I imagine other women are able to think also. Well, you get my point.

It is certainly appropriate for the Church Leaders to give guidelines in some things and make definitive pronouncements in others, but they need to discern which is which. We all need to learn more discernment. (If we all knew exactly what God wanted we wouldn’t have all these different denominations.)

If the Catholic Church learned to talk with women who take contraceptives instead of hurling the words “intrinsically evil” at them, they may learn a few things. The Church leaders want women to have as many children as possible, while the women may be hearing a different calling from God. And we might all come to an understanding that barrier contraception is a lot more like NFP than abortifacient contraception. Perhaps we could come to more of a resolution than having most Catholic women either hiding their actions or leaving the Church.

Let us remember that Mary, mother of Jesus, was called directly (through an angel) by God. He did not consult with her religious leaders or her parents or even her husband to be. And she answered God directly (through an angel). She did not consult with her religious leaders or her parents or her husband to be. And though the Church insists she was the perfect mother, it also insists she never had sex with her husband nor produced more than one child.

It has been declared the Year of Mercy by Pope Francis. Let the couple seek God's will, which will be what is best for them. To the Church, teach discernment instead of dictating. It is time to be merciful indeed.

Friday, January 29, 2016


On Jan 28, Pope Francis met with a group from Italy concerned with bioethics (link HERE). He calls for the respect for human dignity from conception to natural death. In US bioethics, the “bio” part is clear but the “ethics” not so much.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has a webpage for their Department of Bioethics (link HERE). However, they also have a webpage for their Human Stem Cell Research (link HERE). Dr. Francis Collins, director of NIH, has promoted human embryonic research. He has made presentations to members of congress (link HERE). Previous protections for embryos were reversed by Barack Obama in 2009, affecting funding for NIH research (link HERE).

Dr. Collins also founded Biologos (link HERE). This organization announces itself on its website by saying, “Biologos Invites the Church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.” Now, this statement could have quit right after “biblical faith,” or have said that the understanding comes through physics or through biology, but how does it continue? The group presents an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.

Is there a link between believing in random evolution and accepting research on human embryonic stem cells and fetuses? I hope I am not insulting the reader, but I believe I see this connection. Perhaps complete randomness implies a slight lowering of human value, enough of a lowering that humans in the womb are expendable. If you do not agree, let me know. But please think it over first.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Orphan Genes

Scientists started comparing whole genome sequences of various species in the 1990’s. Genes that are only found in one or very closely related species are called unique, de novo, ORFan or orphan genes. The amazing thing is that the more they compare species, the more unique genes they find. These genes make up from 10-20% of each organism’s whole set (percentages given by Dr. Ann Gauger here). These unique genes are so different from each other that the chance they could have come from an evolutionary sequence is vanishingly small. This is, for one reason, because there could have been no more than 10^50 organisms on Earth so far even if the Earth is very old. The unique genes are statistically so far apart that even this many organisms are not enough to sort through the various possibilities.  (And only one in about 10^65 proteins is functional. So the sorting of proteins for functional ones makes evolution by chance look pretty much impossible.) In contrast, if all genes (and corresponding proteins) were closely related and in obvious sequence in species, Darwin would have been proven right.

Eugene Koonin is Senior Investigator of comparative genomics at National Center for Biotechnology Information (a division of NIH) and has written many articles. So he is on the front lines of comparative genomics. He and Yuri Wolf wrote an article in 2008 called Genomics of bacteria and archaea: emerging dynamic view of the prokaryotic world. They found there were some proteins common to many species of bacteria and archaea (one-celled organisms different from bacteria). But what surprised them was the vast amount of variety between species and the unique genes. Koonin has become part of a movement to find other explanations for evolution instead of neo-Darwinism called the Third Way of Evolution. The "evolution" part is because he is committed to evolution. But these findings of comparative genomics also support direct creation of species.

An article by J. Muller et. al. called, eggNOG v2.0 compares various species. In the diagram you can see species names in the middle with radiating lines that go out to colors of the graph. The green and orange represent genes which are related, but the outer gray areas are orphan genes which do not match other species.

A more recent article has reinforced these findings. The researcher Jorge Ruiz-Orera and his group were looking for unique human and chimpanzee genes and found them. Their author summary starts:
For the past 20 years scientists have puzzled over a strange-yet-ubiquitous genomic phenomenon; in every genome there are sets of genes which are unique to that particular species i.e. lacking homologues in any other species.
Homologues are related genes. As stated above, these unique genes cannot be explained by the supposed machines of evolution: mutation and selection. The complete published paper can be found online at PLOS Genetics here:

On a related subject, a problem in the past was that in comparing genes, scientists used genes they already had to see if they were in the other organisms. This left sequences that did not match out of the loop of potential genes. However, they have begun to use other criteria, such as start and stop sequences, to now identify more non-matching areas that look like genes. This is promising to show even more unique genes.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Conscience and Religion

We cannot read the minds of people of other religions. When addressing one or another, we might wonder what their consciences are telling them about their sins. This understanding that everyone sins is crucial to Christianity. Jesus Christ, Son of God, came to us to atone for our sins. He lived without sin and died in our place so we humans would be acceptable to God and therefore able to live in heaven with Him (God being in the form of Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Jesus told us that if a person believes in Him, s/he will be saved. He didn’t say it doesn’t matter what you believe.

Yet we have people around us who do not believe in any religion or believe in a different religion and seem to not be bothered by their conscience. Others believe they might have done evil but think their own religion answers to it, such as Karma in Buddhism. And there are others who do believe in Christ that don’t seem to feel urgency to spread the word about Christ.

Christians believe it is the Holy Spirit who convicts people of sin. Jesus says in John 16:7-8 (NABRE):
7 But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate [Holy Spirit] will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation…
I think that most people have a conscience whispering somewhere in their brains. The Catholic Church respects the free conscience of persons, which can be seen in this section of the Catholic Catechism on conscience in making moral decisions (Moral Conscience Section of the Catholic Catechism, link is HERE):
1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters."
I do think humans are made for the Truth, although sin and fallen nature get in the way. In this Truth is the desire to do good. Certainly when a person does wrong, a healthy conscience makes him/her uncomfortable. But what about faith? The same section listed above:
1787 Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law.
1788 To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts.
(More on conscience is found in the Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom, linked HERE).

As it says there we should seek the Holy Spirit and His gifts, some of which are right judgment, understanding, knowledge, courage, wisdom, reverence and awe and wonder in His presence. Even for those who are not familiar with Christianity, they can seek Him by praying that He come to them. The Holy Spirit then draws them to the true God. For them, it can be the start of an overwhelmingly lovely relationship.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Catholic Answers Forums

I have been posting on Catholic Answers Forums (CAF) a little bit and I thought I’d put some of the issues I follow there on my blog here. If you want to check out CAF, you can click the link HERE.

We’ve been having an interesting time talking with people from various faiths. Buddhists and Hindus among others have had input on our board. I’ve been in a discussion that’s been going on for a while that is called “3000 gods but only yours exists.” Apparently someone had an atheist friend say that to them in a sarcastic way and the person asked for ideas of what to answer back. The thread is still going after 16 pages of 15 comments each but the original poster is probably long gone by now. Anyway you can get to the thread by clicking HERE if you are interested in seeing it.

One issue brought up was whether you have to be a Christian to go to heaven (at least our idea of it). This is a contentious issue even among Christians. The Vatican II document Lumen Gentium addresses this. However, this document was a source of confusion and even today we have liberals and conservatives arguing over it. It mentions Jews and Muslims as being related to the people of God. And yet it warns us that in the end:
But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature", the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (Link is HERE.)
Concerning the confusion, in 1999 Josef Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, wrote a Declaration called Dominus Iesus. In Section 5 he states:
5. As a remedy for this relativistic mentality, which is becoming ever more common, it is necessary above all to reassert the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ. In fact, it must be firmly believed that, in the mystery of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), the full revelation of divine truth is given: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him” (Mt 11:27); “No one has ever seen God; God the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has revealed him” (Jn 1:18); “For in Christ the whole fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9-10). (Link is HERE.)
It is our obligation as Christians to proceed under the understanding that Christ is absolutely necessary for our entrance into heaven. How He will judge others of different faiths is His business. Our job is to witness to Christ in every way possible, including the effects of His presence, along with the Father and Holy Spirit, in our lives.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

One Post at a Time

It’s been quite some time since I’ve added a post to my blog. I seemed at a crossroad when I finished my book, Biotech Swirl, and didn’t know if I wanted to keep writing the blog. Though it might not seem like a monumental decision, I felt I’ve had to pray about it. My husband’s health is not that good and I might have to drop the blog again if I get too busy in care-taking.

I'm not sure I’ve had any profound insights from my prayers except that I realized I am living one day at a time, so perhaps I should just approach my blog one post at a time. I kept updating the last post so I might as well write new ones. I had been doing regular monthly posts for a while but now I will just write when I feel moved to do so and see how it goes. If you are reading this, thanks for your patience while I get myself together.

I'm still going to Catholic Answers Forums and sometimes post there. You can get to it by clicking here if you are interested (or perhaps you already are familiar with it). They have a lot of good discussions there and I think the website is very well done. In fact, it was in reading the discussions there that my fingers started to itch to write again.