"Good God, woman, I used my thumb!"

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Darwinian Speciation

The Hardy-Weinberg definition of evolution, part of the modern synthesis of evolutionary biology and genetics, is a change in gene frequency over time. There are 4 forces which produce this evolution: natural selection, drift, mutation, and migration. Forces of nature, such as a particular genotype, weed out different genes through natural selection.

A population has a trait expressed by two alleles, R and T. Let's say a disease strikes the population and more strongly affects individuals with the T allele. Because of this, 100% of RR individuals survive to reproduce, 65% of RT individuals survive to reproduce, and 25% of TT individuals survive to reproduce. Over multiple generations, there is a high probability that the T allele will be lost from the population, meaning all the population would be RR. So the entire population evolves by shifting to a particular trait, but is still the same species. This is convergent evolution.

On the contrary, rare occurances such as genetic drift, mutation, or migration, could cause divergent evolution. So lets say 1 in 50,000 alleles mutates. Now let's say 1 in 10 (a liberal estimate) is actually a positive mutation. This new allele is W. So in an individual or two we see RW. Now, for divergent evolution to occur, this W must be able to defend against natural forces and have a higher survival rate than the RR gene. Over a LONG time, this W allele takes over, just like the R allele did. This same process happens in the majority of the genes of a species population and now, the idea is, it is a whole new species.

Final questions:
Is it really a new species, or just an extreme case of the same species? At what point would we claim it as a completely new species? There appears to be no defendable place. This cuts at the heart of Darwin's ideas, for he said that everyone knows what a species is but we can't really define it, almost as if we recognize the species in as much as it participates in the form of the species. But I digress.

My point is that evolution, however unlikely, is pretty awesome, if it works. There are too many "ifs" and random chances for it to mesh with the world around us. Basically, evolution is chaos in an ordered world. The idea of an ordered universe descended from chaos through chaos doesn't make much sense. So it appears that either there is something ordering evolution or the theory is not true. I maintain that through the seeming chaos, God directs the "undirected" causes of evolution (drift, mutation, migration). [Insert Aquinas' fifth way to prove the existence of God] Through the same unnoticable direction by which God hold the universe in existence, He also unnoticibly directs the forces of evolution.

Basically, I hold to the most evolutionist side of the intelligent design camp.

Catholic Pants

I just want to let everyone know that I have ascended (or been assumed, I guess) to the next level of Catholicism. I went to mass this morning and, afterwards, noticed a tear in the left knee of my jeans. It was not there before mass so my hypothesis is that the hole was caused by constant wear and tear from kneeling during mass. I will cherish these jeans eternally.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Quote of the Day!

Dublin, Ireland is celebrating the 100th birthday of Samuel Beckett, author of such nihilistic plays as Waiting for Godot and Endgame. The below is an excerpt from a Yahoo! news item:

[Samuel] Beckett has even been lauded by the Irish republic's answer to royalty - U2 lead singer Bono. "I'm a fan," Bono said at the festival's Dublin Castle launch, revealing that he'd once given Beckett a copy of U2's 1985 album, "The Unforgettable Fire." Bono said he often did not understand Beckett's work, "but I have enjoyed not knowing. He blew my mind, that is all I can say."

Ignorance is strength...

For what it's worth, I have enjoyed Beckett's plays, although I diagree with him on practically everything.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Irrationality of Athiesm

This is from our friend Ben. He has something to say.

How many times have we been treated to atheistic commentary on religion as a "disease"? How many times have atheists in the media described religion as "irrational" and "anti-intellectual" and "evil"? Again and again, this crowd asserts the non-existence of God and proclaims the status of humans as "intelligent animals." Well, some appear to be more intelligent than others, and here's one reason why:

If these people truly had the courage of their convictions, then they would cease lambasting religion, because they would realize that religion is a behavior. We "intelligent animals" display many behaviors, and without God as a cause, all of our behaviors must be analyzed in the
same fashion as all animal behaviors - natural responses to the pressures of the environment.

Raccoons wash their food; badgers don't. Bowerbirds build complex nests; cuckoos don't. I go to Church; Richard Dawkins doesn't. To the atheist and strict Darwinist, behaviors carry no moral component. I don't happen to reproduce by laying eggs inside the body of another creature, nor do I kill my mate at some point in our courtship ritual - but if I did, to the atheist, such a behavior should be neither right nor wrong. It would simply exist, a natural response of animals to the pressure imposed upon them by the randomly produced environment.

So why do some atheists object so strongly to the practice of religion? Might they just as reasonably object to the dances of bees and songs of birds? I think so. It is because we do not always immediately understand the natural purpose of animal behavior that it exists as a field of study. If the lion is observed killing lion cubs, behaviorists relying on strict Darwinism do not call the lion "evil", and if several lions display the same behavior, the Darwinists do not presume it is a case of mass delusion affecting these lions. Instead, they study the behavior to find its natural cause and purpose. For certain they do not object to the behavior itself. Consider an op-ed piece written to decry infanticide among lions. Non-sensical, eh?

When human behavior is the topic, however, all such objectivity is lost. People who claim to believe in a universe governed by random chance in which the natural world of both physiologies and behaviors arises through the action of this randomness - these same people now attach a moral dimension to behaviors, if they are human. Certain things are "good" or "bad", "right" or "wrong", despite the obvious fact that if human beings are mere animals, the products of evolution, our behaviors are no more right nor wrong than the behaviors of any other organism.

Consider, if you will, the war between the red ant and the black ant. Would we think it odd if the Darwinistic biologist took sides? Of course. Why then, do we not find it terribly odd if the biologist chooses sides in a human war? To him, both are natural, the competition between organisms for resources-or at least, they should be. It seems to me that it is atheists, especially those who are constantly invoking Darwin, who are often irrational when they comment on human activites, especially religion. For someone who professes to believe in the random origins and complete lack of meaning of the universe and life to simultaneously judge some human behaviors "right" or "wrong" seems to me to be the height of hypocrisy.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's A Hard Knox Life...

Ronald Knox is so cool. On Saturday, I picked up a 1000-page collection of "Pastoral and Occasional Sermons" which cover everything from the Sermon on the Mount and meditations on the Cross of Christ to seasonal sermons, sermons on the feasts of various English martyrs, and panegyrics following the deaths of GK Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

An excerpt from his homily "What Bishops are For", given on September 8, 1955, the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, at the installation Mass of J.D. Scanlan as Bishop of Motherwell.

Aram was the father of Aminidab, Aminidab of Naasson, Naasson of Salmon. -Mt 1:4

A somewhat uninspiring text, you will complain, taken from a somewhat uninspiring gospel. Here are we, gathered in this cathedral town, so beautifully named after Our Lady's well; it is Our Lady's birthday, and we are giving her a birthday present by presenting a bishop to her vacant See. And as we listen to the deacon's chant, proclaiming the words of life, what rewards us? Forty-odd names from the Old Testament, mostly people we have never heard of. Could not the liturgy have offered a more resonant challenge to our devotion?

That is only a surface view. If we stand back from the picture, forget the details and try to capture the general effect,, we shall see what a gracious effect it is; this dull genealogy bears witness that our Lord was truly Man. All very well for St. John to start his Gospel, "At the beginning of time the Word already was"; but if that had been the whole truth there would have been no Incarnation, and no redemption. No, St. Matthew insists, when our Lord came to Earth, he came as a member of a human family;...

And no let us notice another consideration which arises out of this prosaic list of names. I mean, its continuity. This genealogical table runs right across the expanse of human history, like a majestic river that nourishes, and is nourished by, the plain. And just as such a river will pass through alternations of scenery, now between frowning hills and now across flat marshy levels, so this most important pedigree in all history has its ups and downs, its alternations. ...

And there is a third point to notice, before we finish our meditation on these olpening verses of Matthew. The unimportant people get their mention quite as much as the important ones. David and Solomon and Zorobabel, they re all just items in the catalogue, there is no thumb-nail biography to tell us who they were and what they did. They stand side by side with Aram and Aminidab and Naasson and Salmon, mere nobodies as far as history is concerned. As if almighty God were determined to show that it didn't matter for his purposes whether the people he chose to be our Lord's ancestors were men of fine natural abilities, men of commanding personality, or not. ... [H]e picks on just anybody, and makes him into the kind of instrument he wants them to be. ...

Have I forgotten that we are enthroning a bishop? ... No, all that I've been saying has a relevance and importance of its own, if we are to understand what bishops are like, and what bishops are for. ... May we just take those three points in reverse order...and see how they apply to the office of the episcopte? "By arms, by force, nothing canst thou; my spirit is all, says the Lord of hosts"; a bishop is and will be what God makes him; that and nothing else. He is, above all, a link in a chain; he is part of the universal episcopate, and part, therefore, of the Church's continuity. And he is our father in God. ...

A lovely Scriptural introduction to a wonderful sermon on what a bishop is. Having read only a few of Knox's commanding sermons (if he delivered them with even half the force of his writing, he would have been amazing to listen to), I already think he should be required study in all homiletics classes. What a joy to read; I only wish I could have heard him in person.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Fullness of Truth

I was recently at the Fullness of Truth Conference in Corpus Christi. I can only say that it was amazing. Fr. Corapi spoke about the current spiritual war going on all over the world. He spoke as always very bluntly and with a style only he has. Fr. Pacwa gave some amazing talks on Mary and the Eucharist. He spoke about Mary recieving the Eucharist in the early days of the Church. The thought of our Lady recieving into her what she once carried in her womb was amazing and an image i had never really concidered. I was able to spend an evening with Fr. Pacwa and in the course of one dinner was completely taken aback by him. He really is an inpirational speaker and homilist. There were other speakers there as well, Stephen Ray, Rosalind Moss, and Carl Orson were some of the speakers I had the pleasure of listening to. I hope if you haven't been to the Fullness of Truth Conference you go. I know there will be a summer conference in San Antonio.

Monday, April 03, 2006

One Year Anniversary

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of Pope John Paul II death. May he intercede for us while we struggle on our journey toward the Heavenly Jerusalem.