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.

http://darwins-god.blogspot.com/2016/05/shared-errors-biologos-on-broken-genes.html .

http://darwins-god.blogspot.com/2016/06/biologos-broken-genes-and-urate-oxidase.html#comment-form .

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:

http://www.discovery.org/a/25273 .

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

Deaconess

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:

http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/05/12/pope-agrees-to-set-up-commission-to-study-women-deacons/ .

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:

http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/full-text-questions-francis-women-religious .

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.

https://zenit.org/articles/women-deacons-a-perspective-on-the-sacrament-of-orders/ .

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:

 http://catholicwomendeacons.org/ .

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

http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=1010543 .

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:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/03/24/the-creators-of-the-first-synthetic-life-made-a-cell-with-just-enough-genes-to-survive/ .

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:

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/329/5987/52 .

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 www.creationwiki.org :

http://www.creationwiki.org/Deoxyribonucleic_acid .

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:

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6280/aad6253 .

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:

http://nar.oxfordjournals.org/content/36/21/6688.full .

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.