Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blogging on Stem Cells


There's been alot of blogging on stem cell research lately and I like Happy Catholic's comments on the subject and what she put together. I'm not a pro at any of this, I just want to put in my thoughts. I think I would summarize the argument with these premises:


  1. Embryonic Stem cell research is parts farming and is killing a human being. (Honestly that's what it is. Anyone who has seen the movie "The Island" knows what I'm talking about).

  2. Killing others to make us more comfortable is wrong.

  3. It hasn't worked, other research (ex.- adult stem cells) has worked. Spend the money where it has the most benefit.

The premise that I have seen argued against most often seems to be #2, only it is usually presented as "I don't want to deal with such and such a disease, this research helps to stop the suffering, therefore it is necessary." The argument is based on the premises that:



  1. Suffering should be stopped

  2. Embryonic stem cell research could cure many forms of suffering

  3. Therefore, we should have embryonic stem cell research

First of all, the first premise assumes that all suffering is bad. To argue this point, the supporter says for example "We know that it gets hot in Texas. We have decided to take action against the heat by creating air conditioning and cooling the hot Texas air. Living in the heat is suffering, it was good to change the situation, therefore overcoming suffering is good. Embryonic stem cell research could possibly stop suffering therefore, based on our earlier logic we can conclude that it is good."


This is not the case however because we can also say that "Exercise causes pain. Pain is suffering, but exercise makes us better physically, therefore suffering is good." Of course suffering comes in different degrees and alzheimers disease is a greater type of suffering than exercise but, perhaps the gain from the greater suffering of alzheimers is more important than that of exercise, except it is in a way not as obvious, such as in a spiritual fashion. One could even argue that suffering from the Texas heat is good because it reminds us that there is a heavenly place (even as close to heaven as aggieland is!) to look forward to where the a/c is always on! We can see that suffering can be both good and bad. There must be then a decision necessary to decide what is good suffering and what is bad suffering, but most importantly we have shown that the first premise is not always correct and so we have cast doubt on the pro-embryonic stem cell argument.


The second premise, that embryonic stem cell research could cure many forms of suffering, cannot be denied. However, neither can you say that leaches could not possibly cure a head ache, as unlikely as it is. My point is this, the possibility is there but the chances are somewhat slim compared to other potential treatments. We have plenty of evidence other stem cell types work, adult stem cells, and stem cells from umbilical cords to name two. Even liberal sources like PBS couldn't deny this. This article "Conflicting Research" is titled in such a way as to give the impression that non-embryonic stem cell research won't work, but as you read the article you realize that the data collected from experimentation using adult stem cells is vastly superior to anything gained from embryonic stem cell research. I use tylenol on my head aches, not leaches.


The conclusion then, that we should have embryonic stem cell research is not conclusive and it is rather doubtful at this point that embryonic stem cell research can do anything that other moral forms of treatment can't do better, cheaper and faster.


I think the biggest problem with all these ESCR arguments is that they tend to assume the lifelessness of an embryo, or that taking the life of an embryo is okay given the empathy the arguer assumes we should have for the suffering of another. If we don't support killing embryos for their possible cure, then we are called heartless by the media.


This really touches the same source of error as the abortion baby-killers. Life for us should be comfortable, so take whatever measures necessary to secure our comfort. I think if you took a poll (I haven't looked for any) looking at the percentage of the population that supports abortion and that percentage which supports ESCR you would find them to be roughly the same, heck it would be the same exact group of people. You can see this group when you look at Blue America (which incidently is why we need to get out the Republican pro-life vote this November). The assumptions come because we've lost sight of God in our country. To quote Dostoyevski like yesterday “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.” This is never "permissable" in an argument concerning politics of course because the "separation of church and state" is invoked. If we leave our beliefs at the door however, where will we get?


Back to the stem cell argument, I've seen new attempts to make it look better like in THIS article. The article claims that they can now get stems cells from embryos without killing the embryos. What they try to pass off a little slyly is that:



"The first new method still subjects a human embryo to a small risk, and the
second involves deliberately creating an embryo with a disabled version of a
gene that is crucial to normal development, reported the Washington Post."

I hope everyone will see through this little effort at pushing on with ESCR.


Well, that's my two cents worth on the subject. I think I got a little roamy there for a while so please correct me if I got my arguments confusing.

Hallowmas


I thought Wikipedia's article on All Saint's day was pretty interesting. You can get there from HERE. My wife doesn't really like Halloween much because she feels the "evil" side has gotten out of hand. I think our culture has really brought out evil on ASD (to shorten All Saints Day) but the last couple of years the columnists at Catholic exchange have written some great ideas on taking Halloween back. I wish I could find them to link but alas... (here is this years article, pretty good one I think). Anyway, I enjoy Halloween. I loved trick-or-treating as a kid and sometimes I still wish I could dress up as a superhero (no comments needed on that ash:)). I think its important to try to let kids enjoy it and make some memories. I don't have kids yet so I can't say that I know that I'm right, but I feel like we should do what parents are always asked to do and teach our kids what Halloween is really about and then take them out to have a good time on this HOLYday (and get some superhigh blood sugar!). Anyway, don't forget Wednesday is a Holy day of obligation so don't miss mass, remember to pray for the souls in Purgatory, and ask the saints to pray for us that we can celebrate their special day with a desire to be like them!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Athiest Morals


My sister mentioned the other day in a com box that she wondered how people who don't believe in God live their lives. I think different Athiests would answer a little differently from person to person. But I think the basic idea I have read is that some atheists believe that morals are a precondition that exists in humans. They believe it is empathy based and that criminals or psychopaths just don't have any empathy. They believe they must follow their own conscience to what they believe is good and that's that. Don't judge them, its their belief. This is where the roots of relativism come from in our society. If we separate God from our everyday lives thinking that He offends others we live in a godless world where we must make our own right and wrong, yours might be different then mine but that's okay because its our rights to think differently.


The problem with that is obvious I think. In a society that can't settle on a basis for its own rules, it can't be ruled and I think this tends to expose something in atheist thought. Cardinal John Henry Newman had an argument that brought out the fault of the atheist relativistic thought. If you ask an atheist what he thinks of someone who disregards a religious moral law the peson is likely to say thats just fine. He may even go so far as to praise the person for going "beyond the traditional boundaries of false theism." But ask an atheist what they think of a person who disregards their own conscience and you will get a very different answer. "No, never you can't disregard your conscience." Why? If your conscience is not formed by God but only from the formation of your upbringing then it is the same as if your parents told you what to think is it not? That is not your conscience, it is the conscience programmed into you. What if its societies ever changing influence? How much the worse that it was formed not only by two people but by the masses? It is not your conscience at all but the belief of society and how can it then be relative to itself? Is it not then the product of what the atheist says it is okay to rebel against? So why worry about the right of conscience? Why is conscience so important if not shaped by God?


I think the only correct atheist answer is written by the Catholic Russian writer Fyoder Dostoyevsky. He says (to paraphrase) that if God does not exist, I can do whatever I want. There is no reason to worry about right or wrong. You won't like me? So what I don't like you either. Its not good for society? To hell with society, I don't care about it either, only me. If there are no eternal repercussions, and there is nothing after this, then the only sin is not to take advantage of everything for myself.


There are moral atheists. I think I've even heard of a group called atheists for Jesus because they are "proponents of the golden rule." I think however that they're kind of dumb. Its one thing to deny the existence of God, another to give yourself unecessary rules while not thinking there are any discernable consequences of breaking them. I think I'll end with a Dostoyevski quote that fits the moral atheist:



"Talking nonsense is man's only privilege that distinguishes him
from all other organisms."
(_Crime_and_Punishment_ 3.1)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The problem with money

I think it's worth some time to talk a little about money and its place in our society. For all you liberal anti-capitalists out there, that's not where I'm going with this. Money is not bad. I will say again, MONEY IS NOT BAD. The problem with money is this, while we own money, money tends to own us. Its the same problem as with any other material thing with the exception that this material thing allows us to get other material things. I'm sure all Christians are saying right now "But what about the rich young man in Matthews gospel?" Well I would suggest that Jesus isn't condemning him because of his possesions but showing a point about materialism and how it can hurt.

The gospel reading is Matt 19:16-26

"[16] And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I
do, to have eternal life?" [17] And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about
what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the
commandments." [18] He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not
kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear
false witness, [19] Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your
neighbor as yourself." [20] The young man said to him, "All these I have
observed; what do I still lack?" [21] Jesus said to him, "If you would be
perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have
treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." [22] When the young man heard this he
went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. [23]
And Jesus said to
his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the
kingdom of heaven. [24] Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through
the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." [25] When
the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be
saved?" [26] But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is
impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Notice that the rich man asks "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" and Jesus replies (please ignore the Yoda sounding translation) "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." Jesus tells him to keep the commandments hmmm... Next the young man tells him that "All these I have observed..."

Now what has Jesus required of this man for eternal life? Keep the commandments. Next the young man says "what do I still lack?" and Jesus replies "If you would be perfect (emphasis mine), go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

Let's summarize this so far:
1) Jesus in this situation requires the keeping of the commandments for eternal life
2) The young man has done it, not worried about that anymore, so he wants to know what else he can do
3) Jesus says that to be perfect he should sell all he has

They key to enterpretting why this makes him perfect comes next- "When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful (again emphasis mine); for he had great possessions."
The key is that he couldn't give up what he had in order to reach perfection because of his attachment to it. Jesus asks for him to sacrifice his possesions because He knows how high he places them, above God.

With this in light consider the following: Is money the root of all evil, or is human imperfection (in this case the disordered attachment to material things) the root of all evil? We must conclude that it is our own disordered attachments. Material things, money included, are not inherently evil. They are things given by God for our use and enjoyment. They were given to us and we "have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth (Gen 1:26)."

There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel.We are disordered but God reached out in human form, Jesus, to give us his unbounded grace so that we might overome our disordered attachments through Him. Jesus, because of the stain of original sin says "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And we like the apostles ask "Who then can be saved?" Thank God that "Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Money certainly does not give meaning to our lives, but it is only a material thing and so neither does it remove meaning from our lives. I am not good with money, and I am too attached to material things. But this means that I have to look for the Light of the World in my darkness to save me.

"With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reno balloon race

My family and I used to live and Reno. I saw this video on youtube.com and thought it'd be fun to watch. Its a good video of the balloons getting ready and taking off.

North Korea



Its hard to believe everything that's happening in Korea right now. I spent a year there from March of 2002 until March of 2003 and I thought it was a beautiful place with wonderful people. Just looking at the picture here you can tell that the South Korea is ahead of the North in technology, I think if you could take a picture of the spirit of the country it would look a little like this too.

The people of South Korea take great pride in their country, and I can't imagine how they feel knowing that their brothers in the north just keep threatening them and pushing away all possible help.

We used to talk alot about the stability of Kim Jong Il's regime and how long we thought it would stay in power. Alot of years have been estimated, some have past and some haven't, and it seems that Kim Jong Il knows he's teetering and is just trying to stay afloat. He's always stayed one wave ahead of the one to turn him over. He's always made the moves to just scrape by and keep power, and that says something. He's only worried about staying in power.

The problem I see is that he finally got nukes. I think we could have blown away his facilities and he would have only threatened retaliation but he wouldn't have done anything as long as he stayed in power. Its always been about him staying in power. Now...well, he knows we have a bulls eye on him and that if we come after him he has a bigger stick to wave around than before. Will we do anything? I think President Bush knows we have to, and steps have already been taken to apply economic pressure on him. I think sanctions may pull him in some. All the aid that has been sent to the people of North Korea was always taken away by the government and directed at the military (the world's largest standing army by the way). Now, they have nothing to feed their army and they'll have to make a concession. I've heard people say that the North would attack then and it would be the most casualty producing war ever. However, the fact of the matter is, its about stability. Tell Kimmy he can stay in power, but the UN (I'd rather say us but we have to let him save some face) must have DIRECT supervision of ALL military facilities as well as people THERE, ON THE GROUND at those facilities.

I don't see Kim Jong Il ever using the stick he picked up, I think he'll just keep waving it. He knows if he swings it he'll join the dead dictators society and that's the last thing he wants. For us, even though regime change is what we want, we have to know it will come in time. With direct oversight, even by the corrupt UN, we can send the food to the people and take the Bomb from his arsenal. I think that needs to be the ultimate goal, but by absolutely, possitively no means can we allow things to stay where they are. We can link NK to Libya and Iran in missile technology, who knows if they're also helping with Irans nuke program. Dr. Khan might not be Irans only helper. And if Iran has nukes then so does every Israel hating and western hating terrorist group out there. That is unacceptable.

Now if only it was as easy to do it as to say it...

Monday, October 23, 2006

God's Exists


I had a thought today to present an argument for God's existence that I heard listening to Dr. Peter Kreeft. Its called the argument from desire. Dr. Kreeft's website is HERE.

The argument is based on the fact that we have two types of desires, one is natural, or innate, and the other is artificial, or externally conditioned. A natural desire for example is being hungry. I am hungry so I desire food. I am thirsty I desire a drink. An artificial desire is a desire for something not necessary for existence such as, hey that sure is a cool sweater, I desire that sweater.

When we talk about our natural, or innate, desires we have the understanding that we all have the same desires. We all get hungry, we all get thirsty and so forth. In addition to the fact that we are all hungry, we understand that there is such a thing as food which will fulfill our desire. There is such a thing as water (or Gatorade if you're Payton Manning) which will satisfy your thirst. As Dr. Kreeft explains,

"Now there are differences between these two kinds of desires. We do not, for
example, for the most part, recognize corresponding states of deprivation for
the second, the artificial, desires, as we do for the first. There is no word
like "Ozlessness" parallel to "sleeplessness." But more importantly, the natural
desires come from within, from our nature, while the artificial ones come from
without, from society, advertising or fiction. This second difference is the
reason for a third difference: the natural desires are found in all of us, but
the artificial ones vary from person to person."
The existence of a natural desire requires that something exists which can satisfy it; food and water satisfy natural desires of hunger and thirst. However there is no requirement upon the existence of something which can satisfy an artificial desire. The mustang exists, the ability for me to fly (sadly) does not exist.

There is a desire within us that nothing in time on earth can satisfy. No person, or thing can satisfy this desire. You could say that, for all time, mankind has desired to have something he cannot grasp. Even an atheist cannot say that he is fully satisfied with what he owns or with the people he is surrounded by. Dr. Kreeft makes the point this way:
"The second premise requires only honest introspection. If someone defies it and
says, 'I am perfectly happy playing with mud pies, or sports cars, or money, or
sex, or power,' we can only ask, 'Are you, really?' But we can only appeal, we
cannot compel. And we can refer such a person to the nearly universal testimony
of human history in all its great literature. Even the atheist Jean-Paul Sartre
admitted that "there comes a time when one asks, even of Shakespeare, even of
Beethoven, 'Is that all there is?'"
If this is the case, there must be something "more than time, earth or creatures which can satisfy this desire." That something "'is what people call God' and 'life with God forever.'"

This argument does nothing to prove that this God is exactly the God of the bible or of Catholic belief, but it does say something about God that allows us to continue to search for Him and find out what kind of God he is.
"The conclusion of the argument is not that everything the Bible tells us about
God and life with God is really so. What it proves is an unknown X, but an
unknown whose direction, so to speak, is known. This X is more: more beauty,
more desirability, more awesomeness, more joy. This X is to great beauty as, for
example, great beauty is to small beauty or to a mixture of beauty and ugliness.
And the same is true of other perfections. "


To finish up, we can find God as St. Paul tells us in Romans Ch1:19 "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. " We can provide arguments from our very selves to prove that God exists, and just as inmportantly from our desire for that we cannot grasp we know that St. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians (2:9) was right when he spoke of God saying "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him..."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Aggies Win in OT


The Fightin' Texas Aggies beat the OSU Cowboys in overtime 34-33 with a blocked extra point. Great game, gig 'em ags. The recap is HERE . I can't believe they didn't televise this, it would have gone down as an ESPN instant classic.

Friday, October 20, 2006

BTHO Oklahoma State!

What Aggie football is all about!

">

Cold Weather in Texas

We had a northern come in the other day and dropped the temperature the low 50's/ high 40's. That's pretty cold for us this time of year. Its rained a ton over the last week or so, and had some gorgeous days in between fronts. All the weather made me think of the old Chris Farley SNL skit "El Nino." Enjoy.


The Reason For Our Hope

Yesterday I read Catholic Exchanges interview with Fr. Larry of the website www.TheReasonForOurHope.org . I was impressed by his energy and the his use of the internet as a medium for his ministry. Not that the internet hasn't been used for a while in the spreading of the gospel, but it seems that Fr. Larry is trying to use the internet to push forward all kinds of media with a specific goal in mind. After watching his video
(video= http://www.thereasonforourhope.org/homemovie.html)
on the site I tended to notice that the way in which he's trying to reach folks is very similar to the way that Protestants normally tend to. By that I mean he's asking first and foremost "Do you know Jesus?" This is definetly a valid question, and I think sometimes I do exactly as Fr. Larry mentions and I seek more about theological knowledge than I seek to grow closer to Christ. We forget I think that our faith requires us to grow in both knowledge and in our relationship to Jesus.

Amy and I were discussing a while back about different methods of reaching people for Christ, and we happened to discuss the method Fr. Larry is using. I think his method is trying first to reach out in an emotional way. He speaks often about letting go, and at other times mentioning that he likes speakers to use humor. As he said in his interview, using humor is akin to "a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down." I think he has a point, but as Amy and I discussed I think this method falls short of really getting to the person. I am reminded of the seeds dropped on different ground and this method I find sort of like the seed that landed in rocky soil and never established its roots. Of course that's without having seen how Fr. Larry moves forward in his next stages so he may move to grow stronger roots very quickly. I am very hopeful for his ministry and I support it wholeheartedly.

I would like however, to ask what types of ministry you think are the most effective. When I participated in Young Life (http://www.younglife.org/) in high school, they aimed at using alot of pop culture and peer influences as a hook which was very effective. It was really a great program that introduced alot of people to Christ. At the same time, I saw a number of people who never really took root and instead just continued going because they were sort of "insiders." None-the-less I think it is a great ministry and I miss my participating in it very much.

There is another type of ministry that I've seen in action that I think really grows roots. I helped with a group in New Braunfels, TX called the St. Michael's Squadron. Rather than use emotion or pop culture, they go straight to the point, they start with prayer, they talk about spirituality, and they end with prayer. There is some music, but rather than contemporary music they use traditional Catholic hymns. They do have their fun time too, but it's put in perspective to the time they spend focused on the spiritual. You should see the roots these high schoolers are growing! It's just amazing. The group is led by a contemplative religeous order called "The Mission of Divine Mercy." Their link is :
http://www.missionofdivinemercy.com/

I've heard of a group called The Dead Theologians society which seems to be a mix of the two methods. I haven't seen any member groups in action but I'm anxious to. There site is here:
http://deadtheologianssociety.com/index.asp?Content=Home

In my opinion, the groups that go straight to the heart of the matter do better at creating good Christians/Catholics for life, or so it seems. I think the pop-culture/emotional groups do attract and create some though, I know plenty of good products of these groups. Amy thought that some people just weren't on the level of the straight foward groups and needed to be hooked in first and then grow to that level which is a very valid point.

So, if you have an opinion, let it be known! Please!

Aggies movin' on up!



The ags are finally ranked again. That's exciting news. The link to the AP Top 25 is here:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/rankings?pollId=1

I hope they can finish the season somewhere in there.

White and Nerdy

I think this is just hilarious. Its my new going to take a test theme song. Amy doesnt think its so funny, but I think she's just jealous of my skills.




Also here's the chopped and screwed version (some bad words on the video part as this was done by a t-shirt shop).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2P5li_KmTLo

Chemistry Videos


Check out the exciting videos I've been watching all week in prep for my chem test on Friday. I hope you love them as much as I do.


They are actually quite helpful.


First Post







As a first post I'd like to put out a funny idea I had today. I've been studying for a chemistry test and I like to take breaks frequently and do anything other than what I'm studying. Well I happened to wonder about how people answer the question "What is the most important thing we should know in life?" I thought of the most common answer I recieve: "What the meaning of life is."

As I thought about it, that answer brought up the idea that "the meaning of life" can be thought of as both objectively subjective, and subjectively objective (also, the number "42" came to mind). A contradiction perhaps? Not in the context I have in mind.

In order to answer the question about the meaning of life, you must answer what is really a more important question, that is "Does God exist?" It is a more important question because it affects what the a person's view is in regards to life's meaning. It is sort of like a 1st cause/ 2nd cause. With that in mind, first I'll explain what I think about the meaning of life being subjectively objective.

The question about the meaning of life can be subjective based on our beliefs about the existence of God. For example, an athiest does not believe in God and therefore the meaning of life must be nothing, which in his opinion is objective truth. Of course his opinion is subjective in that he does not believe in God, and that gives consequence to his responce about life's meaning.
In the same way, a Christian may respond that the meaning of life is living by way of the will of God in order to achieve entrance to heaven and see God face-to-face.
Both of these views create and answer to the meaning of life which are subjective to the answerer (is that a word?).

On the other hand, the answer is obectively subjective because no matter what the beliefs of a person are, the truth is still the truth regardless. The truth is objective, it doesn't change from person to person. In that case the meaning of life is subjective to the truth which is an objective fact. For example, if God exists, and Catholicism holds true, then the meaning of life is such as the catholic church proclaims regardless of the beliefs of the athiest or buddhist or otherwise. The claim of the church is then objective fact and the meaning of life is subjective to the claims of the church.

Again, this means that the most important question in the world today is "Does God exists?" After answering that question you must then seek out to answer another question, "If God exists, what does that entail for me?" and other questions which arise from those answers and so on.

All in all, my point was just to say that what I thought was an apparent contradiction instead led me to think about all that. Take or leave it I guess. Any thoughts on this would great.