Category Archives: Fides et Ratio

A Little History of Thought: I am a Thomist. What is a Thomist?

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A Universal Church founded by the Creator of the Universe, must be just that, universal.  Even, at least, entertaining various systems of thought.  1Thess 5:21.

There were many practical questions to be answered after our Lord’s Ascension.  Anyone attending a Bible study for even just the first time, realizes quickly the same passage of scripture means varying things to different people.  And, what about the gaps, where scripture says nothing?  🙁  And, the canon wasn’t defined, completely, until at least the 4th century, the Gospel of John and Revelation, so beloved today, being some of the last included texts.

Even the determination of the canon was from a practical reason.  There were various and sordid apocryphal scrolls floating around the Mediterranean.   Which were the authentic ones?  Which were frauds?  Which heretical?  Which were to be believed?  To be adhered to?  Which should we read at Mass?  The Church had to define.

It is the Church, from the beginning, under the guidance of the Holy Spirt, which has authority over scripture, and not the reverse.  It has always been so.  Many of those apocryphal texts can still be sourced today.  There is no serious proposal to revise the traditional canon, that I have heard?  Holy Spirit must have gotten it right?

Truth is not determined by a majority.  Lack of gravity/weightlessness is not achieved by 51% consensus.  The apple still falls to the ground, even when floating is popular. “Truth cannot contradict truth.” -Pope Leo XIII.

In the encyclical Doctoris Angelici Pope Pius X cautioned that the teachings of the Church cannot be understood without the basic philosophical underpinnings of St Thomas Aquinas‘, the Angelic Doctor’s, major theses:

“The capital theses in the philosophy of St. Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the whole science of natural and divine things is based; if such principles are once removed or in any way impaired, it must necessarily follow that students of the sacred sciences will ultimately fail to perceive so much as the meaning of the words in which the dogmas of divine revelation are proposed by the magistracy of the Church.”

The Second Vatican Council described Thomas’s system as the “Perennial Philosophy”.

“The fact that Thomism is the philosophy of common sense is itself a matter of common sense.” – GK Chesterton, 1933.

Thomism is a philosophical school of thought following the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, especially as contained in his most famous summary work, Summa Theologica, the importance of which the Roman Catholic Church arguably regards as second only to the Bible.  Aquinas, arguably, moved the philosophy of the Church from Plato to Aristotle.  Thomas Aquinas’ brilliant mind coincided with Europe rediscovering Aristotle, not from Latin, but from Arabic.  The work of the philosopher had been lost to Europe in the “Dark Ages”, preserved in Middle Eastern civilization and then returned to Europe in the 13th century, on the doorstep of the Renaissance.

It was Aquinas’ burning desire to integrate Aristotelian philosophy into Christian Revelation.  If the Truth is the Truth, there should be no contradiction.  Truth cannot contradict truth.  We may misunderstand Revelation, we may need to deepen/refine our understanding, we may need to revisit our interpretation, in the light of truth, but it never contradicts.  Apparent inconsistencies are divine calls to go deeper.  Truth cannot contradict truth.  The Catholic imagination is not afraid of truth, whencever it proceeds, as Truth Incarnate came to Earth, to dwell with, and teach, and save us.

I think that’s all for now.  As principles become important, I’ll tease out some more Thomism, but for now, work with me.  You always do, faithful reader.  Have a little faith, no?  🙂  It’s heady, and complicated, and big words give me a headache!  🙂

Love,
Matthew

A Little History of Thought: Nominalism, “Ideas have consequences.” They do.

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We are creatures of conditioning and history.  All human beings are and ever were…with the exception of One, through His Divine nature.  This former part of this proposition is the antithesis of popular American thought.  American thought implies all ideas, let alone people, are equal.  It’s easier, much easier to think THAT.  🙁  We know the latter is factually untrue, other than politically, and it DOES make for delicious political philosophy.  Thank you, TJ!!!!  🙂  What of the former?

Americans, like the empires before them, in the vacuum of their success, all believed they were right; morally, especially, but in all other ways, too, due to their success; a circular, self-affirming logic.  For immediate relief, I propose a trip outside the country.  There is another world.  Really.  Trust me.  And, (gasp), they don’t think like us.   And, they don’t see the world the way we do.  Also, while abroad, catch some news on the BBC/Al Jazeera, and see what it is like to have a WORLD view.

If we dare to adjudicate the, as we perceive/see them, errors of our time, intellectual integrity requires we first critique our own biases and context for making such judgments.  Otherwise, our conclusions bear no merit whatsoever.

First, some terms, gentle reader, to whet the appetite and salt the fare:

Can you smell the skepticism?  The relativism?  Can you taste it?  It is in the wind, in the very air, that we breathe.  A little sulfurous, no?  Acrid?  🙂

“What is this thing?  Called Love?

Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors that shaped Modernism were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by the horror of World War I. Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and many modernists rejected religious belief.

Modernism, in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy, social organization, activities of daily life, and even the sciences, were becoming ill-fitted to their tasks and outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging fully industrialized world. The poet Ezra Pound’s 1934 injunction to “Make it new!” was the touchstone of the movement’s approach towards what it saw as the now obsolete culture of the past. In this spirit, its innovations, like the stream-of-consciousness novel, atonal (or pantonal) and twelve-tone music, quantum physics, genetics, neuron networks, set theory, analytic philosophy, the moving-picture show, divisionist painting and abstract art, all had precursors in the 19th century.

A notable characteristic of Modernism is self-consciousness, which often led to experiments with form, along with the use of techniques that drew attention to the processes and materials used in creating a painting, poem, building, etc.  Modernism explicitly rejected the ideology of realism and makes use of the works of the past by the employment of reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody.

Some commentators define Modernism as a mode of thinking—one or more philosophically defined characteristics, like self-consciousness or self-reference, that run across all the novelties in the arts and the disciplines.  More common, especially in the West, are those who see it as a socially progressive trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve and reshape their environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge, or technology. From this perspective, Modernism encouraged the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was ‘holding back’ progress, and replacing it with new ways of reaching the same end. Others focus on Modernism as an aesthetic introspection. This facilitates consideration of specific reactions to the use of technology in the First World War, and anti-technological and nihilistic aspects of the works of diverse thinkers and artists spanning the period from Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) to Samuel Beckett (1906–1989).

Postmodernism is a late-20th-century movement in the arts, architecture, and criticism that was a departure from modernism.  Postmodernism includes skeptical interpretations of culture, religon, literature, art, philosophy, history, economics, architecture, fiction, and literary criticism.

from http://nominalismdenounced.blogspot.com/ (Disclaimer:  I DO NOT concur with the author’s overall positions, nor, hardly, conclusions, however, he makes SOME points well to support his arguments. Romans 5:20.  Which I, in turn, use to make my own.  I do accept responsibility, in general, for what I have quoted below from the author’s article.  God help me, always.)

-by Joseph Andrew Settanni

“The advance of postmodernity, into the 21st century, has seen the full fruits of the results of the rabid pursuit of what had been regarded as modernity, often called the modern project, which includes abortion, artificial contraception, infanticide, euthanasia, sexually transmitted diseases, homosexuality, pornography, etc., meaning the vindication of human hubris.

The postmodern thrust is most clearly seen, therefore, in the expanding and intensifying worship of death, usually called the culture of death; the human race, denying the rights and existence of God, actively seeks self-extermination with its normally decreasing birthrates and increased sterility observed around the world; it is, thus, a manifestly manmade demographic nightmare nihilistically engulfing a much too willing humanity.

Of course, the cancerous roots of this profoundly spiritual crisis, meaning the nihilistic choosing of a completely intramundane-immanentist eschatology, go deep. What started as an intellectual tendency much earlier in the history of Western thought became first “codified” in philosophical terms by an aberrant English Franciscan Scholastic, William of Ockham or Occam (c. 1287–1347), with his subjectivist and relativist advocacy of nominalism, which, later in time, was also fairly called (appropriately enough) Occamism. And, as Richard M. Weaver had noted long ago, ideas have consequences.  (Ed. Ask the victims of the Nazis, the Communists, the Khmer Rouge, if they do, fair reader?)

Admittedly, nominalism, which ultimately leads to nihilism, is very epistemologically seductive and even most of its adherents rarely, if ever, become conscious of its supremely thoroughgoing hold upon them.

For instance, the needed denunciation of the gigantic religious/theological heresy of Modernism, by Pope St. Pius X, would have been impossible to truly comprehend (as to the precise reason for the condemnation’s vital need) without the prior success of the development of the important intellectual error known as nominalism in cognition, for there is no greater deception than self-deception…(Ed. nor none more rampant, gentle reader.)

The Matter Itself Defined

But, what is nominalism? Simply put, it is the explicit denial of there being any universals; the doctrine that general ideas or abstract concepts, meaning as being mere necessities of thought or conveniences of language, are simply names without any true corresponding reality and that, in fact, only particular objects exist; there are, therefore, no universal essences whatsoever.

The nominalist contends, e. g., that one can see an individual man, a human being, but there can be no universal term that talks about man as an abstract category as if it possessed any reality. Thus, an individual person has a human nature qua real being; but, the universality of a human nature qua nature of humanity does not philosophically exist. There are, as other examples, individual dogs or cats; there is, however, no universal “thing” that can be specified as dog or cat. Words such as liberty, freedom, truth, beauty, justice, etc. are said to be mere abstractions qua semantic devices having no true substance whatsoever.

The inherent and integral and unavoidable contradictions and conundrums, involved in such a bold contention, get rudely pushed aside in the subjective-relativist rush toward upholding the nominalist asseveration, meaning totally regardless of the actuality of the matters discussed. Objectivity and subjectivity, among other basic noetic results, get necessarily reversed within the scope of human understanding and comprehension, not surprisingly. It is, in short, Occam’s Razor gone mad.

Thus, ultimately, it is the extremely anomalous positing that metaphysics can exist without any reference to a metaphysical order (as if a river could be composed without any water); a once truly radical or extremist point of view that, today, is held to be completely normal. It is, therefore, as to its logical consequences, a world seeking to be entirely bereft of God and, finally, of sanity itself in the cause of pursuing nominalism to its final epistemological conclusion.

One can see, as with, e. g., Communism, how an ersatz religion (or the oddity of a secularist religion) qua ideology can induce people to murder millions of their fellow human beings, though not ever thinking that such slaughter is clearly indicative of insanity. If this can be understood, however, then the true meaning, implications, and ramifications of modernity are then revealed.

Objective knowledge, unfortunately, becomes difficult to grasp whenever Occamism operates on the human brain. And, further, objectivity itself has its very existence questioned when this kind of “logic” gets worked upon over time; both philosophy and political philosophy, as consequences, have become progressively corrupted as the centuries have passed such that, for the vast majority of people, nominalism has simply become an unrecognized pandemic attitude and accepted orientation of thought within all of modern civilization.

But, there are continuing philosophical problems left unresolved. How can, in fact, the particularity of a particular being, said to be human, be then held to be possible or plausible without a prior paradigmatic conception of what it is that gets properly defined as human, especially a human nature? How could, by extension, someone be said to possess a human nature without there being the definition of a nature that is applicable, by definition, to a human being and, thus, to all human beings who have ever lived or, of course, are alive now?

The moderate realism approach of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, along with most of Platonic thought, gets weirdly turned upside down and inside out in the effort to create an Occamist worldview where there are no universals imaginable (read: permitted). There were, as to the reductionist mentality involved, many consequences, as could be guessed, in the field of intellectual or political-intellectual history.

For instance, the 18th century Enlightenment’s deification of Reason witnessed a modern form of (liberal) tyranny (or insanity) then known as enlightened despotism; this fitted in well, in turn, with Rousseau’s contention, e. g., that men had to be forced to be free, which logically originated, of course, the concept of democratic despotism as a means of (insane) progressive liberation, of creating the New Eden on earth, Utopianism. (The logical end results, in their turn, lead to both Nazi death camps and Communist gulags in the 20th century, for the road to Utopia always takes the path toward necessary dehumanization, due to the ideological rationalization of murder on a grand scale.)

By the early 19th century, Jeremy Bentham, the father of utilitarianism, could gratuitously, meaning just passingly, dismiss all of Natural Law as being only “Nonsense on Stilts” in his aggressive efforts at the totalist (insane) rationalization of human life, culture, law, civilization, and society. Modernity, thus, vigorously so spreads philosophical/metaphysical ignorance and, therefore, continuously incapacitates the human mind from reasoning correctly about fundamental matters concerning the human condition and the consequences of the thoughts and actions of fallen creatures living in a fallen world; sin itself gets ignored, of course; rationality qua right reason gets wrongly confused with Rationalism, a form of ideological insanity…

Thus, e. g., Martin Luther, educated primarily by nominalist-inspired teachers of theology, was then supplied with many currents of reasoning that conformed easily toward the creation of Protestantism, the truest theological expression of nominalism ever fashioned or conceived by mortal man: sola Scriptura and sola fide. Someone can actually think of himself as being a good Protestant who, in effect, constitutes his own church and acts as his own pope, in the spirit of individualism writ large.

The metaphysical order qua Supreme Being becomes flexible and adaptable to the variable and various (read: Protestant) belief needs or values of diverse kinds or types of Christians. From the Catholic point of view, however, it was obviously blasphemous to the nth degree for the so-called Reformers to, thus, reform God; Protestant converts to Catholicism get the point. But, one ought to be able to plainly see how Protestantism blends in quite well with the flow and logic of modernity.

The Protestant Revolt was and necessarily remains, therefore, the vainglorious and forever dubious theological effort at (supposedly) achieving the reformation of the Lord. This is easily proven empirically in how dozens of sects had expanded into, first, hundreds and now continuingly thousands upon thousands of sects that continue to multiply; the so-called Reformation is endless because God must be made to conform to the dictates of a multiplicity of divergent and disputational consciences, which process displays the forever inherent and integral irrationality of Protestantism, of course…

What is meant? All the ideologies of modernity, meaning inclusive of Conservatism, Communism, Nazism, Fascism, Liberalism, Anarchism, Libertarianism, Feminism, etc. can be then traced through many kinds of philosophical attitudes such as materialism, hedonism, secularism, humanism, subjectivism, pragmatism, positivism, nihilism, reductionism, etc. back to their root or fundamental cause: Nominalism.

Unsurprisingly, every heresy attacking Catholicism can be drawn, either directly or indirectly, to the same source or, rather, mental contagion; and, moreover, the desacralized and neopagan West, without a doubt, is now intellectually and morally disarmed in the face of an increasingly militant and aggressive Islam. In turn, postmodernism in thought (deconstructionism, etc.) would be inconceivable without a prior modernism in cognition; both modernism and postmodernism, as popularly understood, are ultimately traceable to the germinal nominalist point of view…

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-by Br Thomas Davenport, OP

“At heart, Nominalism is an attempt to explain why we call a cat a cat. It’s not concerned with the etymology of the word “cat” but with why it is even possible to give a single name to all of these animals. The central claim of Nominalism is that only individual realities exist; there is only Fluffy and Garfield and Mittens, and each is completely singular and unique in its existence. Universals, like the word “cat,” are simply useful labels that we humans can apply to things that we perceive as being similar, but do not correspond to anything in reality. There is no such thing as cat nature that is really shared by each cat and gives a real basis for grouping them as a species. There is simply a name. Of course, this goes beyond felinology to all universals. Most troubling is that Nominalism claims there is no such thing as human nature, simply individual, unrelated human beings.

When considered from a theological perspective, Nominalism has a drastic effect on our relationship to God. Whatever order and structure we may observe in the world cannot be rooted in the real relationship between different types of things, because there are no types of things to relate.

Whatever order we find can only be rooted in God’s free choice. Thomists absolutely agree that God created and continues to maintain creation with absolute freedom, but they see the result of that freedom as an expression of God’s providential wisdom.

For the Nominalist, the majesty of the created order is not really a glimpse at God’s wisdom but simply of the way he wants things to be for the moment. In the moral order, if there is no such thing as human nature, there is no such thing as natural inclination towards happiness or natural law. There is no rational reason behind what makes a particular action good or bad; there is only God’s free choice.

William of Ockham, the founder of scholastic Nominalism, took this extreme Voluntarism, this overemphasis on God’s free will, so far as to claim, “God can command the created will to hate him,” and by that command, the hatred of God would be good. He saw this as possible not simply in this world. Rather, “just as hatred of God can be a good act in this world, so can it be in the next.”

Ockham never claimed that God had ever commanded this, and Ockham recognized a customary order in things. But he held on to the idea that there was no guarantee that this order would not completely change tomorrow.

As influential as Nominalism was in the 14th century and continues to be in various guises today, the phrase “anything can signify anything” isn’t really expressing medieval Nominalism. It is expressing a sort of New Nominalism* that we see in today’s culture, a sort of modern amalgamation of Nominalism and Voluntarism, but without even God as the ultimate arbiter.

There seems to be a growing trend that assumes not only that universals are merely names with no real significance, but even that the meaning of these names is entirely up to the free will of each individual. What it means to be a man or a woman is becoming something subjective and self-defined. Whether a slur is really a slur or a sign of affection is simply up to the one who uses it or who hears it.

Further, this personal Voluntarism ensures that no one need be bound by their past opinions on a word from one moment to the next. What was once, in the moment, a life-long vow “for better or for worse” might eventually become simply a nice turn of phrase, said on a day long ago but that never really meant anything…

While Nominalism tended to cut us off from God’s wisdom and the well-ordered plan of salvation, the New Nominalism introduces a sort of man-made Babel, cutting us off from one another and even from our very selves.

When words, including universals, lose their connection to an objective reality, we lose the ability to speak honestly about truth and goodness. While it may be true on some abstract level that “anything can signify anything,” only certain things actually signify the truth, only certain statements actually correspond to the reality they are conveying. Without trust in the reality underlying our words, the truth about ourselves and about God will always escape us, no matter how hard we will otherwise.”

Love,
Matthew

A Little History of Thought: What is Metaphysics?

Metaphysics

Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it, although the term is not easily, precisely defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:

  • What is ultimately there?
  • What is it like?

The metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, e.g., existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.

The purpose of this blog has always been to make some of the most important concepts in Christian thought as accessible as possible to as many English speakers as possible.  Therefore, the parsing further of this subject will prematurely end there, as far as delving further specifically into how Metaphysics goes.  You may, of course, indulge yourself into all that your whim and fancy desires.  Have fun!  Seriously, have a little fun, would ya?  (“Lord, spare me from somber saints!”-St Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church; 1 Tim 5:23) That is not to say there isn’t more to glean, but the goal is to keep it as simple as possible, and not get lost in the weeds.  That is all which is necessary for now.

I am an applied scientist.  Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as “natural philosophy”. It was not until the very recent 19th century when this categorization really began to change and the term “natural philosophy” gave way to “science”.  Hence, also why PhDs are Doctors of Philosophy on their subject matters, even though their area of focus is not philosophy and they may never, ever have gone near a philosophy course.  Get it?

Originally, the term “science” (Latin scientia) simply meant “knowledge”. The scientific method, however, transformed natural philosophy into an empirical activity deriving from experiment unlike the rest of philosophy.  The inventor of the scientific method was a 13th century English Catholic bishop.  By the end of the 18th century, it had begun to be called “science” to distinguish it from philosophy.

Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence.

Warm & fuzzy, right?  🙂

Love,
Matthew

Fides et Ratio: Math & God, or The Axioms of Faith

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“Math is the poetry of God.  Everything in existence, everything, can be described by math.  We may not understand the mathematics to do so at this time, but we know it can be, must be so.” -MPM

-by Br Humbert Kilanowski, OP, (Br Humbert earned a PhD in Mathematics from Ohio State prior to entering the Order.)

“One of the greatest joys that I have found in my religious life as a Dominican friar has been the opportunity to use my previous studies in mathematics to talk about matters of the Catholic faith; grace does perfect nature, after all. So, when I was assigned to work at an all-girls’ high school for ministry this year (a task made less daunting by the Dominican Sisters who run the school), I jumped at the chance to give guest lectures in one of the math classes, among other pastoral activities. While explaining to the geometry class one day the differences and similarities between axioms and theorems, I found an opportunity to draw a parallel, as it were, to the logic of belief.

It is often the case that geometry is the first class in which students are introduced to the method of mathematical proof. Beginning from principles (axioms and postulates), the students devise logical arguments to demonstrate that the desired conclusions are true, and the same type of demonstration occurs in theology as well. While a theorem of geometry is proven in this way, an axiom (from the Greek axios, “worthy”) is proposed to us as worthy of belief, without having been proven.

While a high school textbook would include more axioms (also known as postulates), the first systematic textbook on geometry was built on only five axioms. This book is the Elements of Euclid, who lived in Alexandria in the third century before Christ. The first four axioms are facts that appear intuitively obvious, such as “Two points determine a line,” and they show how to use a straightedge and compass, the two tools used by ancient Greek geometers.

The fifth axiom, however, is not so obvious, and it is often expressed in geometry textbooks as the “Parallel Postulate”: Given a line and a point not on it, there exists a unique line through that point parallel to the given line. No one before Euclid had identified this principle, but his whole system of geometry would break down without it. Other famous results, such as the Pythagorean Theorem for right triangles, or the fact that the angles in any triangle add up to 180 degrees, depend on this non-intuitive axiom. For centuries, mathematicians have tried, and failed, to prove this axiom using the other four. Others have devised alternative systems of geometry that neglect or even deny Euclid’s fifth axiom, which lead to radically different results, such as spherical geometry (where even parallel lines could meet, like lines of longitude at the North Pole) or hyperbolic geometry (where lines in a plane that are not parallel could never meet).

A similar phenomenon occurs in the realm of faith. Just as the geometry book gives some statements as postulates when they can in fact be proven (though with difficulty), the Catholic faith proposes some ideas for belief, such as the existence and uniqueness of God, that can also be demonstrated. These proofs rest on principles that are as self-evident as Euclid’s first four axioms; for example, St. Thomas begins his first proof for the existence of God, “It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion.” Yet the proof itself requires some knowledge of metaphysics, and it is easy to make mistakes in the argument; therefore, the Church proposes that we take the existence of God on faith, so that anyone can come to believe in Him.

Yet there are many statements of faith that are neither obvious, nor can they be proven. Take, for example, the Trinity, that the one God is three Persons; or the Incarnation, that God took on human nature in the person of Jesus Christ; or that this same Jesus rose from the dead. These articles, or axioms, of faith, can only be believed as true, if one is to study Christian theology, or more generally, to live the Christian life.

Some theologians have tried to prove these articles (a truly good God should become man to show forth His goodness, right?), but like the attempts to prove the Parallel Postulate, they fall short, as they cannot argue with certainty. Countless other thinkers have denied articles of faith because they are not self-evident and not subject to the standards of rational proof– but in doing so, they end up in a world even stranger than that of non-Euclidean geometry. By believing something contrary to the articles of faith, one could end up walking around in circles (like the spherical case) or diverging along any path imaginable (like the hyperbolic case), rather than living in an intellectual relationship with the living God who leads us on the straight-line path towards the infinity of eternal life.

Furthermore, while the last postulate that holds plane geometry together may come from the mind of Euclid, the axioms of faith can only be revealed by the God who loves us to the point that He communicates His inner life to us and calls us into His company. Because they are revealed by the God who loves us into being, these axioms, like the Trinity, Incarnation, and Resurrection, are truly worthy of our belief, and with God’s grace, we can take them on faith as the basis for living each day of our lives.”

Love,
Matthew

Doubt

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I just today had a friend, a fervent Catholic, albeit a recent convert, three years old a Catholic, although a mature man, convey to me he is enduring a serious “dark night”.

While I applaud all new entrants to the faith, there is, imho, a benefit to a lifelong practice.  Irish Catholic is somehow different than generic or modern Catholicism.  Sixteen hundred years of tribal practice/environment must affect?  Genetically, even?

In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor Frankel noted of his fellow prisoners in Auschwitz, it was not those oldest, most sick, most wearied, most hungered, most overworked, most abused who died in the night. No. It was those who gave up hope.

I wrote the following letter to my friend.

“Great saints experience great doubt.

In “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light,”…most of its pages reveal not the serene meditations of a Catholic sister confident in her belief, but the agonized words of a person confronting a terrifying period of darkness that lasted for decades.

“In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss,” she wrote in 1959, “of God not wanting me — of God not being God — of God not existing.” According to the book, this inner turmoil, known by only a handful of her closest colleagues, lasted until her death in 1997.

Faith is not a feeling. Love is more than a feeling.

St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic, labeled it the “dark night,” the time when a person feels completely abandoned by God, and which can lead even ardent believers to doubt God’s existence.

During her final illness, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the 19th-century French Carmelite nun who is now widely revered as “The Little Flower,” faced a similar trial, which seemed to center on doubts about whether anything awaited her after death. “If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into,” she said to the sisters in her convent.

In time, with the aid of the priest who acted as her spiritual director, Mother Teresa concluded that these painful experiences could help her identify not only with the abandonment that Jesus Christ felt during the crucifixion, but also with the abandonment that the poor faced daily. In this way she hoped to enter, in her words, the “dark holes” of the lives of the people with whom she worked. “If I ever become a saint,” she wrote, “I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ ”

There is no sin in admitting doubt.  Quite the contrary.  To not have doubt is not to struggle, some kind of worthless ersatz humanity, ersatz cross.  Not a real cross. Not a real God.  Not a real Jesus, Who really suffered and really died and had real agony in the Garden, whose sweat really (medically possible) became blood.  And,…Who really, REALLY lives!  There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday, or Happy Friday, as Mara likes to call it. 🙂

St Thomas the Apostle, pray for us!

Daily Offering (abbreviated): O my Jesus, through the immaculate heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day…

Love,
Matthew

Oct 9 – Robert Grosseteste, (1175-1273), Bishop of Lincoln, UK, Inventor of the Scientific Method

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-1896 stained glass

As an applied scientist, I have a passion for people of Faith & Science.  There is NO contradiction; quite to the contrary, I feel.  Those who believe there is are either intentionally confusing both, themselves, and others.  Or, they really demonstrate their ignorance of both subjects.

I have shared before Rev. Georges LeMaitre, Inventor of the Big Bang theory, (NOT the tv show), & St Albert the Great, OP.  Check out:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_scientists, &
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_Catholic_cleric%E2%80%93scientists

While not a beatus, Robert Grosseteste was a scientist.  He is considered the first mathematician and physicist of his age.

From about 1220 to 1235 he wrote a host of scientific treatises including:
     De sphera. An introductory text on astronomy.
     De luce. On the “metaphysics of light.” (which is the most original work of cosmogony in the Latin West)
     De accessu et recessu maris. On tides and tidal movements. (although some scholars dispute his authorship)
     De lineis, angulis et figuris. Mathematical reasoning in the natural sciences.
     De iride. On the rainbow.

He also wrote a number of commentaries on Aristotle, including one on Aristotle’s Physics, which has survived as a loose collection of notes or glosses on the text.  It has been argued that Grosseteste played a key role in the development of scientific method.

Grosseteste did introduce to the Latin West the notion of controlled experiment and related it to demonstrative science, as one among many ways of arriving at such knowledge.  Grosseteste was the first of the Scholastics to fully understand Aristotle’s vision of the dual path of scientific reasoning: generalizing from particular observations into a universal law, and then back again from universal laws to prediction of particulars.

Ink drawing of bishop

-13th century manuscript

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-Grosseteste chapel

The Riverside Church
January 19, 1936

My dear Dr. Einstein,

We have brought up the question: Do scientists pray? in our Sunday school class. It began by asking whether we could believe in both science and religion. We are writing to scientists and other important men, to try and have our own question answered.

We will feel greatly honored if you will answer our question: Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?

We are in the sixth grade, Miss Ellis’s class.

Respectfully yours,

Phyllis

January 24, 1936
Princeton, NJ

Dear Phyllis,

I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:

Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.

However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science.

But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

With cordial greetings,

your A. Einstein

Prayerfully & Scientifically yours,
Matthew

Doubt

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-by Br. Innocent Smith, OP

“In life and the life of faith, often times, we think of doubt as something unhelpful or distracting, as an impediment to greater faith; whereas, in terms of faith, doubt may be the catalyst to deeper faith, yet still, asking more and more profound questions of our faithful and talented teachers. In the 2010 On Heaven and Earth, a book-length dialogue between then Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) and Rabbi Skorka of Buenos Aires, our present Holy Father articulated a view of this matter:

“The great leaders of the people of God were men that left room for doubt. Going back to Moses, he is the most humble character that there was on Earth. Before God, no one else remained more humble, and he that wants to be a leader of the people of God has to give God His space; therefore to shrink, to recede into oneself with doubt, with the interior experiences of darkness, of not knowing what to do, all of that ultimately is very purifying.”

(Editor’s note:  this is NOT to be overwhelmed by fear and doubt; so many scripture passages, so little time; but rather to be honest regarding doubt’s existence in our lives of faith.  And, to admit, even, its helpful aspects towards holiness.  It wouldn’t be faith w/out doubt.  It would, rather, be certainty.  We are not called to certainty.  We are called to faith, a call involving greater humility than certainty.  As Christians, we are told over and over again to not fear.  We, therefore, do not fear doubt.  Our faith in Him allows us to look doubt “straight-in-the-eye”, and deal; entering more deeply into the great mystery of Redemption.  Recall, Catholicism has a very specific definition of the word “mystery”; when used in a Catholic sense, a mystery is not something which cannot be known, rather, it is a truth which can only be infinitely explored by human reason.)

In his recent biography of St. Francis of Assisi, for instance, Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., devotes ample attention to the doubts and crises that plagued St. Francis throughout his life. Far from detracting from Francis’s sanctity, Thompson suggests that an accurate understanding of the difficulties that Francis went through in deciding how to act are of tremendous importance for appreciating his life and witness:

“It is, I think, misleading to assimilate him to some stereotyped image of “holiness,” especially one that suggests that a “saint” never has crises of faith, is never angry or depressed, never passes judgments, and never becomes frustrated with himself or others. Francis’s very humanity makes him, I think, more impressive and challenging than a saint who embodied that (impossible) kind of holiness.”

Doubt can be a source not only of indecision but more profoundly of purification, for it forces us to consider more deeply the motivations and circumstances of the exercise of our freedom. Doubt is not something to be sought for its own sake, but when it comes we can make the most of the experience by entrusting ourselves to the Lord Who is able to make all things work together for the good for those who love Him.”

Love,
Matthew

Mar 25 – Solemnity of the Annunciation

V. Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.

R. Ecce Ancilla Domini. Fiat mihi secundum Verbum tuum.

annunciation-tanner
– “The Annunciation”, by Henry Ossawa Tanner

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-by Br. Raymund Snyder, O.P.

“Pope John Paul II chose to conclude his 1998 encyclical, Fides et Ratio, by comparing the discipline of philosophy to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He says that “between the vocation of the Blessed Virgin and the vocation of true philosophy there is a deep harmony.” At first glance this seems like a stretch. Why, in a document addressing the relationship between faith and reason, would he conclude with the Blessed Virgin Mary? Is this just a pious invocation?

In fact, John Paul’s comparison is not only well founded, but deeply fitting. He grounds it on two fundamental similarities, the first of which has to do with the notion of offering:

Just as the Virgin was called to offer herself entirely as human being and as woman that God’s Word might take flesh and come among us, so too philosophy is called to offer its rational and critical resources that theology, as the understanding of faith, may be fruitful and creative.

Mary offered herself up completely by embracing her divine maternity. In a similar way, philosophy is called to make a complete offering of all that it is. As the systematic investigation of truth by the use of human reason, it surrenders itself to theology, a discipline greater than itself. Using the language of the Annunciation, John Paul draws out the traditional analogy between Mary as the “handmaid of the Lord” and philosophy as the “handmaid of theology.” To reach its true goal, philosophy must make its own “fiat.”

Secondly, just as Mary is exalted as the result of her surrender, so too philosophy is elevated:

Just as in giving her assent to Gabriel’s word, Mary lost nothing of her true humanity and freedom, so too when philosophy heeds the summons of the Gospel’s truth its autonomy is in no way impaired. Indeed, it is then that philosophy sees all its enquiries rise to their highest expression.

Mary’s surrender to God did not diminish her in any way; rather, it allowed God to ennoble her. In an analogous way, the truth of the faith does not constrain or inhibit rational inquiry, but elevates it. This is an important point since there are many who think that faith threatens the project of philosophy, or of scientific inquiry in general. In reality, however, faith does not hinder the pursuit of philosophy any more than God hindered the life of Mary. Far from “tainting” human knowledge, “faith delivers reason from errors and protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds,” as the First Vatican Council affirmed.

To speak about the discipline of philosophy as such is to speak about individual persons engaged in a search for answers to the perennial questions of life. This search extends to all human beings insofar as they ask questions such as “Why do I exist?” and “What makes me happy?” As a model in our philosophical search, John Paul presents us with Mary, someone we may not have expected. To imitate her is to surrender our minds to God—and to do so with the confidence that they will be raised up.”

Blessed Annunciation!
Love,
Matthew

Nov 15 – St Albert the Great, O.P., (1206-1280), Doctor of the Church, Patron of Scientists & Engineers

stalbertthegreat

Kelly, Mara, and I have found our new parish home in St Albert the Great, O.P. of Sun Prairie, WI, stalberts.org; sister parish of Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary Parish also in Sun Prairie.  We have hopes Mara may attend Sacred Hearts School.  The fact I am a professional applied scientist and a former Dominican novice is not lost on me in this serendipitous coincidence.  The Midwestern Province of the Order of Preachers is dedicated to St Albert the Great, O.P.  We are happy and St Albert’s is a happy place of fellow pilgrims.

He was known as the “teacher of everything there is to know,” was a scientist long before the age of science, became the teacher and mentor of that other remarkable mind of his time, St. Thomas Aquinas.  St. Albert the Great was born in Lauingen on the Danube, near Ulm, Germany; his father was a military lord in the army of Emperor Frederick II. As a young man Albert studied at the University of Padua and there fell under the spell of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the Dominican who made the rounds of the universities of Europe drawing the best young men of the universities into the Dominicans.

After several teaching assignments in his order, he came in 1241 to the University of Paris, where he lectured in theology. While teaching in Paris, he was assigned by his order in 1248 to set up a house of studies for the order in Cologne. In Paris, he had gathered around him a small band of budding theologians, the chief of whom was Thomas Aquinas, who accompanied him to Cologne and became his greatest pupil.

In 1260, he was appointed bishop of Regensberg; when he resigned after three years, he was called to be an adviser to the pope and was sent on several diplomatic missions. In his latter years, he resided in Cologne, took part in the Council of Lyons in 1274, and in his old age traveled to Paris to defend the teaching of his student Thomas Aquinas.

It was in Cologne that his reputation as a scientist grew. He carried on experiments in chemistry and physics in his makeshift laboratory and built up a collection of plants, insects, and chemical compounds that gave substance to his reputation. When Cologne decided to build a new cathedral, he was consulted about the design. He was friend and adviser to popes, bishops, kings, and statesmen and made his own unique contribution to the learning of his age.

He died a very old man in Cologne on November 15,1280, and is buried in St. Andrea’s Church in that city. He was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931 by Pope Pius XI. His writings are remarkable for their exact scientific knowledge, and for that reason he has been made the patron saint of scientists.

St. Albert the Great, O.P., was convinced that all creation spoke of God and that the tiniest piece of scientific knowledge told us something about Him. Besides the Bible, God has given us the book of creation revealing His wisdom and power. In creation, Albert saw directly and undeniably the hand of God and His love of mankind.

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2004_Köln_Sarkophag_Albertus_Magnus

-Roman sarcophagus containing the relics of Albertus Magnus in the crypt of St. Andreas church in Cologne, Germany

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)
-Saint Albert the Great

“Do this in remembrance of me.” Two things should be noted here. The first is the command that we should use this sacrament, which is indicated when Jesus says, “Do this.” The second is that this sacrament commemorates the Lord’s going to death for our sake.

This sacrament is profitable because it grants remission of sins; it is most useful because it bestows the fullness of grace on us in this life. “The Father of spirits instructs us in what is useful for our sanctification.” And his sanctification is in Christ’s sacrifice, that is, when He offers Himself in this sacrament to the Father for our redemption to us for our use.

Christ could not have commanded anything more beneficial, for this sacrament is the Fruit of the Tree of Life. Anyone who receives this sacrament with the devotion of sincere faith will never taste death. “It is a Tree of Life for those who grasp it, and blessed is he who holds it fast. The man who feeds on Me shall live on account of Me.”

Nor could He have commanded anything more lovable, for this sacrament produces love and union. It is characteristic of the greatest love to give itself as food. “Had not the men of my text exclaimed: Who will feed us with his flesh to satisfy our hunger? as if to say: I have loved them and they have loved Me so much that I desire to be within them, and they wish to receive Me so that they may become My members. There is no more intimate or more natural means for them to be united to Me, and I to them.Nor could He have commanded anything which is more like eternal life. Eternal life flows from this sacrament because God with all sweetness pours Himself out upon the blessed.” – from a commentary by Saint Albert the Great on the Gospel of Luke

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Prayer to St Albert the Great, O.P.

Dear scientist and Doctor of the Church, natural science and sacred science were for you the same Truth.  For you, and for all Catholic scientists, these are never in opposition, but always in harmony – one beckoning deeper understanding of the other, drawing humankind more deeply into the infinitely knowable mystery of the Creator and His Word.

Though you had an encyclopedic knowledge, it never made you proud, for you regarded it as a gift of God. Inspire scientists, theoretical and applied, to use their gifts well in studying the wonders of creation, thus bettering the lot of the human race and rendering greater glory to God. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jan 6 – Rev. Gregor Mendel, OSA, (1822-1884), “Father of Modern Genetics”, Man of Science, Man of God

gregor_mendel

As a professional applied scientist and a man of faith, I often hear, even from fellow Catholics, “How can that be?”  I respond, “How can what be?”  “Faith & Science together…in the same person?…in the same mind?…How can that be?”  If they are a little educated, I will also get, “What about Galileo?”

There is no contradiction.  In all my professional training, almost all in public schools except for one master’s degree, and even then you could hardly tell that school was Catholic, as is the schizophrenia of “Catholic identity” in our (Catholic) higher ed, I have never encountered any scientific topic which contradicted my Catholic faith.  None.  In conjunction, in all my amateur study of the Catholic faith, I have never encountered any article of faith or doctrine which contradicted my scientific training.  None. Never. Ever.  Amen.

In fact, modern physics takes even the scientist’s breath away with awe.  Romans 11:33.

Dr. Stephen Hawking who recently appeared in the documentary Curiosity on the Discover Channel concluding, “God does not exist!”  It is embarrassing for all scientists, irregardless of specialty, with even the slightest training in the scientific method, when such a famous one of us reach’s a very public conclusion not based on science, but on bias and prejudice.  Not very scientific, doctor.  No, not very scientific, indeed.  I have since offered my services to the Discover Channel as an expert, especially if that is the level of science they care to offer.

Dr. Hawking’s conclusion was that God did not exist since nothing, including God, existed before the Big Bang, as first proposed by Msgr Georges LeMaitre.  The basis of Dr. Hawking’s conclusion is that nothing existed.  No matter or energy existed.  That fallaciously assumes God is matter or energy.  ?  Dr. Hawking, even a budding high school science student would not presume to assume the Almighty was relegated to the domain of matter or energy.  Convenient for a desired conclusion, but intellectually and scientifically bankrupt.

The Church has an expression for it:  Fides et Ratio = Faith and Reason.  There is no contradiction.  If one carefully studies the Galileo affair, one will quickly find both sides were answering a different question, how so many misunderstandings commence, and no one will defend Messr. Galileo’s tact.  Not even his daughter, Virginia, or by her religious name, Suor Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun of the San Mateo Convent, Arcetri, and some say his closest confidant and advisor, even scientifically.  She had his brains, no?  Messr. Galileo is especially untactful when he mocks in word and illustration as a simpleton and a fool the then pope, who up until the publishing of Galileo’s book had been his friend, benefactor, and supporter.  Not very politic, Messr. Galileo.  Not very politic.

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“Pea hybrids form germinal and pollen cells that in their composition correspond in equal numbers to all the constant forms resulting from the combination of traits united through fertilization.”

Gregor Johann Mendel was born on July 22, 1822 to peasant parents in a small agrarian town in Czechoslovakia. During his childhood he worked as a gardener, and as a young man attended the Olmutz Philosophical Institute.  From 1840 to 1843, he studied practical and theoretical philosophy as well as physics at the University of Olomouc Faculty of Philosophy.  In 1843 he entered an Augustinian monastery in Brunn, Czechoslovakia. Soon afterward, his natural interest in science and specifically hereditary science led him to start experiments with the pea plant.  Mendel’s attraction for scientific research was based on his love of nature in general. He was not only interested in plants, but also in meteorology and theories of evolution. However, it is his work with the pea plant that changed the world of science forever.

His beautifully designed experiments with pea plants were the first to focus on the numerical relationships among traits appearing in the progeny of hybrids.  His interpretation for this phenomenon was that material and unchanging hereditary “elements” undergo segregation and independent assortment.  These elements are then passed on unchanged (except in arrangement) to offspring thus yielding a very large, but finite number of possible variations.

Mendel often wondered how plants obtained atypical characteristics. On one of his frequent walks around the monastery, he found an atypical variety of an ornamental plant. He took it and planted it next to the typical variety. He grew their progeny side by side to see if there would be any approximation of the traits passed on to the next generation. This experiment was “designed to support or to illustrate Lamarck’s views concerning the influence of environment upon plants.”  He found that the plants’ respective offspring retained the essential traits of the parents, and therefore were not influenced by the environment. This simple test gave birth to the idea of heredity.

Overshadowing the creative brilliance of Mendel’s work is the fact that it was virtually ignored for 34 years. Only after the dramatic rediscovery of Mendel’s work in 1900 (16 years after Mendel’s death) was he rightfully recognized as the founder of genetics.

Why Peas?

Pisum sativum

Mendel was well aware that there were certain preconditions that had to be carefully established before commencing investigations into the inheritance of characteristics. The parental plants must be known to possess constant and differentiating characteristics.  To establish this condition, Mendel took an entire year to test “true breeding” (non-hybrid) family lines, each having constant characteristics.   The experimental plants also needed to produce flowers that would be easy to protect against foreign pollen.  The special shape of the flower of the Leguminosae family, with their enclosed styles, drew his attention.  On trying several from this family, he finally selected the garden pea plant (Pisum sativum) as being most ideal for his needs.  Mendel also picked the common garden pea plant because it can be grown in large numbers and its reproduction can be manipulated.  As with many other flowering plants, pea plants have both male and female reproductive organs.  As a result, they can either self-pollinate themselves or cross-pollinate with other plants. In his experiments, Mendel was able to selectively cross-pollinate purebred plants with particular traits and observe the outcome over many generations.  This was the basis for his conclusions about the nature of genetic inheritance.

Mendel observed seven pea plant traits that are easily recognized in one of two forms:

1.        Flower color: purple or white

2.        Flower position: axial or terminal

3.        Stem length: long or short

4.        Seed shape: round or wrinkled

5.        Seen color: yellow or green

6.        Pod shape: inflated or constricted

7.        Pod color: yellow or green


Mendel’s Law of Segregation

Mendel’s hypothesis essentially has four parts. The first part or “law” states that, “Alternative versions of genes account for variations in inherited characters.” In a nutshell, this is the concept of alleles. Alleles are different versions of genes that impart the same characteristic.  For example, each pea plant has two genes that control pea texture.  There are also two possible textures (smooth and wrinkled) and thus two different genes for texture.

The second law states that, “For each character trait (ie: height, color, texture etc.) an organism inherits two genes, one from each parent.”  This statement alludes to the fact that when somatic cells are produced from two gametes, one allele comes from the mother, one from the father. These alleles may be the same (true-breeding organisms), or different (hybrids).

The third law, in relation to the second, declares that, “If the two alleles differ, then one, the dominant allele, is fully expressed in the organism’s appearance; the other, the recessive allele, has no noticeable effect on the organism’s appearance.”

The fourth law states that, “The two genes for each character segregate during gamete production.”   This is the last part of Mendel’s generalization. This references meiosis when the chromosome count is changed from the diploid number to the haploid number. The genes are sorted into separate gametes, ensuring variation.  This sorting process depends on genetic “recombination.”  During this time, genes mix and match in a random and yet very specific way.  Genes for each trait only trade with genes of the same trait on the opposing strand of DNA so that all the traits are covered in the resulting offspring.  For example, color genes do not trade off with genes for texture.  Color genes only trade off with color genes from the opposing allelic sight as do texture genes and all other genes.  The result is that each gamete that is produced by the parent is uniquely different as far as the traits that it codes for from every other gamete that is produced.  For many creatures, this available statistical variation is so huge that in all probability, no two identical offspring will ever be produced even given trillions of years of time.

So, since a pea plant carries two genes, it can have both of its genes be the same.  Both genes could be “smooth” genes or they could both be “wrinkled” genes.  If both genes are the same, the resulting pea will of course be consistent.  However, what if the genes are different or “hybrid”?  One gene will then have “dominance” over the other “recessive” gene.  The dominant trait will then be expressed.  For example, if the smooth gene (A) is the dominant gene and the wrinkle gene (a) is the recessive gene, a plant with the “Aa” genotype will produce smooth peas.  Only an “aa” plant will produce wrinkled peas.  For instance, the pea flowers are either purple or white.  Intermediate colors do not appear in the offspring of these cross-pollinated plants.

The observation that there are inheritable traits that do not show up in intermediate forms was critically important because the leading theory in biology at the time was that inherited traits blend from generation to generation (Charles Darwin and most other cutting-edge scientists in the 19th century accepted this “blending theory.”).  Of course there are exceptions to this general rule.  Some genes are now known to be “incompletely dominant.”  In this situation, the “dominant gene has incomplete expression in the resulting phenotype causing a “mixed” phenotype.  For example, some plants have “incomplete dominant” color genes such as white and red flower genes.  A hybrid of this type of plant will produce pink flowers.  Other genes are known to be “co-dominant” where both alleles are equally expressed in the phenotype.  An example of co-dominant alleles is human blood typing.  If a person has both “A” and “B” genes, they will have an “AB” blood type.  Some traits are inherited through the combination of many genes acting together to produce a certain effect.  This type of inheritance is called “polygenetic.”  Examples of polygenetic inheritance are human height, skin color, and body form.  In all of these cases however, the genes (alleles) themselves remain unchanged.  They are transmitted from parent to offspring through a process of random genetic recombination that can be calculated statistically.  For example, the odds of a dominant trait being expressed over a recessive trait in a two-gene allelic system where both parents are hybrids are 3:1.  If only one parent is a hybrid and the other parent has both dominant alleles, then 100% of the offspring will express the dominant trait.  If one parent has both recessive alleles and the other parent is a hybrid, then the offspring will have a phenotypic ratio of 1:1.

Mendel’s Law of Independent Assortment

The most important principle of Mendel’s Law of Independent Assortment is that the emergence of one trait will not affect the emergence of another. For example, a pea plant’s inheritance of the ability to produce purple flowers instead of white ones does not make it more likely that it would also inherit the ability to produce yellow peas in contrast to green ones.  Mendel’s findings allowed other scientists to simplify the emergence of traits to mathematical probability (While mixing one trait always resulted in a 3:1 ratio between dominant and recessive phenotypes, his experiments with two traits showed 9:3:3:1 ratios).

Mendel was so successful largely thanks to his careful and nonpassionate use of the scientific method. Also, his choice of peas as a subject for his experiments was quite fortunate.  Peas have a relatively simple genetic structure and Mendel could always be in control of the plants’ breeding. When Mendel wanted to cross-pollinate a pea plant he needed only to remove the immature stamens of the plant. In this way he was always sure of each plants’ parents. Mendel made certain to start his experiments only with true breeding plants. He also only measured absolute characteristics such as color, shape, and texture of the offspring. His data was expressed numerically and subjected to statistical analysis. This method of data reporting and the large sampling size he used gave credibility to his data. He also had the foresight to look through several successive generations of his pea plants and record their variations. Without his careful attention to procedure and detail, Mendel’s work could not have had the same impact that it has made on the world of genetics.

Some of the “greatest minds”? of our generation comment on the importance of science education for our youth.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYuOKb3gO7E&feature=mr_meh&list=FLA5FfORE3_g_3bVcKeb4qVw&lf=plpp_video&playnext=0
Hey, how ‘bout that Internet thing?  Not bad, huh?  🙂

Scientifically yours,  Happy New Year!
Matthew