Friday, July 7, 2017


The Sixth Extinction

I recently finished reading The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014, Picador Press of Henry Holt and Company under license from Pan Books Limited).  I was even more impressed by the book than I was by the interview of the author by Brad Plummer noted in my comments in a March 6, 2014 post -

, a post only accessed three times in the past three years, the same amount the immediately preceding post had during the same interval.

Kolbert does a remarkable job of presenting understandable and interesting accounts of extinctions, especially of the one humans are now causing, beginning with ice age humans.  I discuss the role of pre-Cambrian “origin of sex” being catalyzed by extinction events that may have been more numerous and violent than the six major extinctions recognized in subsequent eras.

She notes the current adoption of Anthropocene epoch as the beginning of a new era shaped by changes in the fossil record due to human activity.  The most notable change is the greatly increased rate of extinction of species.  Maybe we should have an additional label of Plasticene, or something comparable, for the sedimentary inclusion of a marker of plastic bags and other debris with which we have littered and labeled our environment.

As an adjunct to her remarkable book, it might be worth noting the brief essay on Numbers of Species in the post noted above.  It precedes the one on the Origin of Sex in the same post.

Her account of the extinction of the Great Auk (chapter III, The Original Penguin) filled a void in my background about the bird but is typical of our heedless behavior in causing species extinctions.  The extinction affecting many frog species (chapter I, The Sixth Extinction) may have taken longer without our aide in spreading the causative microorganism.  Rainforest, bats, and other current problems are all very worth reading.

I was especially saddened by the update on the demise of corals.  The double whammy of acidification of the ocean and ocean warming make recovery or coral reef ecosystems very unlikely during our lifetime.  But her description of her visit to One Tree Island as well as Heron Island brought back memories of a week I spent on Heron Island sixty years ago.  The hazardous walking on “pie crust” which she describes is mostly just on the tips of staghorn coral that seem sheared off by their inability to grow above low tide level.

                      Heron Island "pie crust" in background at low tide

Although her background is as a writer, especially for The New Yorker, she consulted with many scientists and, I think, reflects quite accurately current views in a very understandable and interesting way.  Her book may have the impact of Silent Spring by Rachael Carson about fifty years ago.

Joseph Engemann     Kalamazoo, Michigan     July 7, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


GOD: About Face

On the preceding post, God Wrap Up, I expressed the view that I wouldn’t enumerate all the ways God has acted in my life.  Within twenty-four hours I was reading a reading designated for the day that made me reconsider that view.

Tobit and Tobiah

  In Tobit, chapter 12, Raphael says “Thank God!  Give him the praise and the glory.  Before all the living, acknowledge the many good things he has done for you, by blessing and extolling his name in song.  Honor and proclaim God’s deeds, and do not be slack in praising him.”

In a few posts, I have mentioned how things, usually considered adversities, worked to cause my mental development to go in various ways, such as a more contemplative way because of physical and health limitations, a disposition to eliminate early consideration of life options, and in general- take a haphazard approach to career development.

What Raphael, “one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord”, said to Tobit and his son, Tobiah, may not have been meant for me, but deserves consideration.

Possible Intercessions

I thought it was miraculous when I escaped a head-on crash as I foolishly tried to pass a string of closely grouped cars while returning from a ballgame by myself during my first or second year of high school.  There seemed to be no room to get back in line but I did so with no damage.  I didn’t even have a moment to ask for divine help.

During October of 1951 I was on a troop-ship, the Muir, when it encountered a hurricane in the North Atlantic.  The ship was over 700 feet long, but it was dwarfed by enormous swells that could well have broken it in two or turned it over.  I had plenty of time to ask for help and prepare for the end, for whatever reason, we emerged from the hurricane safely, thank you God.

Requests Answered

Our last child was born looking healthy, but within a few hours darkened and gasped for breath due the acute respiratory distress caused by hyaline membrane disease, a usually fatal disease at the time as we knew about it causing the death of President Kennedy’s infant son, Patrick.  An incubator with oxygen administration made some improvement in color but gasping continued.  Our pastor visited and talked with my greatly distressed wife and said he would go and say a prayer or bless the infant.  Within an hour he had departed and a nurse came down to tell her the baby was breathing normally.  We verified that and were thankful and greatly relieved.

A few years later my wife had a large and deep cut on her leg when a large glass bottle a clerk accidentally pushed off a counter hit a shelf and broke on the way to her leg.  The injury seemed to be healing normally but in a week or so it was becoming more painful and walking was difficult.  One day it seemed to be getting especially worse in soreness or pain, swelling, heat and redness.  I went upstairs to check on the kids but mostly to worry and think how impossible it would be for me to raise three kids by myself.  I was reminding God of the graces we were promised that accompanied the sacrament of matrimony.  Within ten minutes I was back downstairs with my wife and found that the redness was gone the temperature was normal.  She said she had been praying also when I went upstairs.  The symptoms were gone except for the scar which persists to this day.

Two similar instances a few years apart between 35 and 45 years ago when I was at my wit’s end trying figure out what to do about a problem I was having with my wife.  I went out to do some yard work and think about it.  I was tearfully explaining my problem to Jesus and offering my suffering in support of his.  I immediately calmed down and could no longer remember the problem.  It seemed like it meant he had suffered enough for both of us and didn’t need mine.  For whatever the reason, I was grateful.

Guidance or Answers?

God has a special role for each of us.  I began to see the way he had shaped my life after a half a century of life.  It is apparent now that the purpose of this blog is a step along the way.  It became much clearer when I took the 2007 discovery of my bone marrow disorder as an indication that I didn’t have much time to complete my intended evolution book to show scientists evolution and belief in God are not only compatible but desirable.  A version was completed in late 2009, about a year past the limit of time I thought my myelodysplasia would give me.  A bleeding problem cessation in early 2013 was followed by my beginning this blog due to my thinking it was God’s intercession or message for me to get busy and do it.

So now I have reached a point where it is time for me to pause and make some end of life preparations before they are left in a mess for our heirs.  If any energy is left after that I may blog haphazardly or work on adapting them to an internet book or more.

Joseph Engemann     Kalamazoo, Michigan      June 13, 2017

Friday, June 9, 2017



The title misses the fact God is the ultimate and infinite spiritual being not subject to wrapping up, a concept limited to things associated with the physical world.  But I think it is time to wrap up or otherwise treat and summarize my blog topics related to God.

As I write this, thinking about my twofold concern.  One, of helping scientists see that it is OK to believe in God, and two, helping believers to see that evolution is the way God created the living world’s diversity.  I was surprised by the fact that the two seemingly opposing views fit in my early, unpublished manuscript on creativity, “The Two-Way Street.”  Science and an understanding of causality can lead to a belief in God.  Belief in God as the mysterious creator should make the facts of nature serve as evidence of God.  The two polar opposite views are, or should be, compatible as well as comforting facts.

The things I was going to write have mostly been said before in my earlier posts.   Several of the ones in the post below are repeated in the list following.  Twenty-three posts (including several duplicates from this list) may be of interest  This post is about an observation that applies to having our mind primed for finding something; it could be a clue to finding God.  You have probably experienced something analogous when searching for pieces to assemble a jig-saw puzzle.  Five more September 2016 posts complete this topic.

This was intended to be a final post on this topic.  It may be.  But I think I have covered most items I wanted to present before I meet the inevitable end of my physical life on earth.  The more personal aspects of my relationship with God will be limited to things already said, perhaps in other words.  The miraculous interventions in my life do not pertain to the factual aspects of the evolution highlights discussed.  Supernatural claims for personal miracles are not presented because natural causes are possible for most of them although timing and other factors make me think otherwise.

The facts of my life are available and possible evidence that the things I have discovered are unlikely results of my almost aimless path.  For that, for family, for relatives and friends, and for a life in this great country, I thank God.  And I am almost penitent regarding posts where I have said unflattering things about Donald Trump; perhaps I’ll apologize to him if we both get to heaven.

I do not sign this with my emeritus status at a local institution because my professional training and experience do not qualify me to write about spiritual matters.  So you are in the same boat with me, children of God, both of us intended for eternal life.  Let's hope we make it,

Joseph Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan     June 9, 2017

Wednesday, May 31, 2017



I intended to write one or more posts for publication after I am gone.  But the timing of that is so uncertain, as well as the uncertainty of my heirs publishing them considering the chaotic state things may be in at that time, it seemed to be sensible to do so now.  The posts of this blog do not have as much documentation as is typical of most scientific literature, a fact that tends to make it viewed as possible fake news.  But new ideas are difficult to publish in scientific journals protected by editors and reviewers indoctrinated in old ideas regardless of their validity.  Also, truly new findings are not likely to have much closely related literature supporting the topic.


Much of what I have written is based on data in legitimate scientific journals.  But in the most important ideas I have posted I have little original data of my own.  For example, the important role of the pogonophorans in main-stream evolution was discovered by analysis of other people’s research, especially by indicating to me the first step of showing the extreme longevity of deep sea species. [see June 13, 2014 post, EVOLUTION AND THE OLDEST ANIMAL].

Because my peers have missed this step, they have been unable to see how the error in molecular dating has led to the non-sense descriptions of Ecdysozoa and Lophotrochozoa.  [my post of May 31, 2013 provides documentation of this fact].  Extreme longevity can make a group almost unchanged in molecular data to the common ancestor of widely divergent groups so molecular ancestral trees miss accurate determination of relationships.

Finding the missing link role of the little known pogonophorans

My own research on isopod crustaceans helped me understand the principles involved in the pogonophorans bridging the embryological gap between the two main lines of advanced animals. [see my post of June 24, 2013, “The protostome-deuterostome link”].  Comparable embryological observations are likely found for the same phenomena in other groups, but finding it out myself made it more useful.  The embryological evidence was a minor, but satisfying, part of showing the discarded annelid theory of chordate origin should not have been discarded, but just revised.  [many posts of this blog document that fact,  for example, see the last five posts of June 2013]

Annelids, arthropods, and mollusks

Level of organization, systems, and a peculiar arrangement of cells (the annelid cross) had been evidence of the closeness of annelids, arthropods, and mollusks.  Annelids are usually accepted as the oldest of the three groups.  The discovery of Neopilina and the fossil, Acaenoplax, [ see August 3, 2013 post, Evolution of Mollusks ] helped solidify the annelid origin of mollusks.  The annelid ancestry of arthropods is generally accepted.

Cnidaria: nematocyst origin

The gross structural organizational comparison suggesting a poriferan-cnidarian-flatworm sequence in those three phyla is given possible support by the connection of a spicule-nematocyst-rhabdite sequence suggested in the post “Nematocyst Origin” [ April 18, 2015 ].

Other subjects treated may provide better understanding of the factors acting in evolution by natural selection.  Posts on macromolecules (5/2/2014), extinctions (3/6/2014), sperm whales (8/29/2013 and 11/4/2013), body cavities (2/27/2015) may help understanding of evolutionary processes. [The last topic includes misleading placement of pseudocoelomates between those having no body cavity and those with advanced body cavities.  They are an offshoot, possibly of a common ancestor, but not a known link to advanced coelomates.]

The basis for my evolution judgments

I hope that my evolutionary findings are not viewed as anything other than good scientific thinking- data driven analysis of cause and effect.  When the evidence became overwhelming for the missing link role of the pogonophorans, I probably felt no need for a rigorous search for alternative explanations when I knew existing views were incomplete or erroneous.  So, my hope that this blog would help scientists know that they can at the same time believe in God is not a factor supporting my view of evolution other than, like Darwin, I believe it is a grand view of creation to believe that evolution by means of natural selection was and is God’ idea.

Joseph Engemann      Emeritus Professor of Biology,   Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 31, 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017


First Communion

The night before the recent First Communion of my youngest grandchild I paused to read and think about its place in our spiritual development.  I was impressed by a meditation or account entitled “Celebrate the Covenant” in the 2017 Easter Issue of The Word Among Us.  I suspect all my grandchildren are more advanced in their understanding of such matters than I was at their age.


Like you, I undoubtedly had heard about Abraham’s, Moses’, and Christ’s covenants. In my case, it started and never progressed to great understanding.  But I see the early covenants as foreshadowing the final covenant God established with his people through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Whether the early traditions are history or stories is not of great concern, they shape and tell the story of our relationship with God.  After his resurrection, Jesus even (Luke, 24) enlightened Cleopas and another disciple about how his life was fulfilling the words of the prophets.

Many times, Jesus made reference to his sacrificial role in the final covenant as well as his role in sustaining us (John , 6), for example – “I am the bread of life”, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.”  He is the “Good Shepard” and the “Lamb of God”.


Christ made it clear for the apostles they were to consecrate bread and wine into his body and blood in commemoration of his sacrifice of his body and blood.  Many Christians view communion bread and wine as symbolic recognition of his command.  By coming together, they derive the benefit Jesus noted – “where two or more are gathered together in my name there am I also.”

Most devout Catholics recognize the “real presence” of Jesus in the consecrated or transubstantiated bread and wine of Holy Communion.  For them, it is a moment of special closeness to God.  Adoration chapels provide opportunities for related close moments of scripture reading, reflection, and inspiration in the presence of Jesus.

My December 27, 2014 post, [  ] “Konnersreuth”, tells some of the story of the stigmatic, Teresa Neumann, who subsisted for many years on a daily communion wafer.  Even after a careful week or more investigation where both believing and non-believing nurses monitored her activities and verified the claim, a doubting journalist denied the truth of her means of survival.


John 15 has the command of Jesus to his disciples “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”  Also, “This I command you: love one another.”

Joseph G. Engemann     Kalamazoo, Michigan     May 22, 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017


Fair Taxation

Evolution beats revolution in sensible advances in government and policy as well as leading to success in the natural world.  But as the pinnacle, or dominant species, we have greater obligation to be fair to all, including the natural world.  But today, I want to talk about taxes.

What is a fair tax for the rich?

Flat tax enthusiasts may be right that it would bring in more taxes if loopholes were closed.  But I contend that the wealthy have and will benefit more than proportionately as compared to those in lower tax brackets.  Taxes paid to build and maintain infrastructure, services and defense support the activities and property of companies and wealthy so much that their taxes are a real bargain.  This consideration makes it reasonable to tax annual income above ten million dollars at a rate of 50% or higher.  Executives of companies not paying income taxes or dividends should be taxed if their pay and bonuses exceed 100 times the median full time equivalent salary for the company.

The source of wealth deserves consideration in setting rates.  Fairly gotten wealth should not be penalized, although capital gains exceeding the rate of inflation should be taxable for those of high net worth.  Inflation is sometimes viewed as a tax on the rich, although it can be more devastating to those who have difficulty allocating money to savings.

Many high-income people deserve their pay.  That includes many in the entertainment industries, founders of companies, unusually competent managers.  But sources of exorbitant pay based on overcharging customers, underpaying workers, abusing patent and copyright protection, disproportionate legal fees, and other gimmicks should be highly taxed.

Questionable ethical practices such as skimming assets of corporations and sweetheart deals prior to sale or bankruptcy should not have tax evasive loopholes.

Many of the wealthiest individuals in the country not only deserve most of their pay, but they are also generous in philanthropic activities.  Kudos to Warren Buffet for encouraging other billionaires to pledge half their wealth to good causes.  Many of those are worthwhile causes but the money might do as much or more good if put toward reduction of the national debt.

How do social programs for others benefit the taxpayer?

Government sponsored health coverage for all benefits those able to pay for their own coverage by enabling cost effective programs.  But major benefits are: removing the incentive for expensive hospital emergency rooms to be used by charity cases, with costs recouped from others by higher charges, when a clinic visit would have provided adequate care more efficiently; giving greater leverage for health care facilities to negotiate sensible prices for drugs; possibly better distribution of medical facilities; better opportunities for remote consulting and other inefficiencies such as record keeping using the internet; relieving companies of much of the cost of providing health care for employees thus making them more competitive in international trade; improving the health of the poor thus reducing cost of welfare programs.

Most taxpayers would benefit.  Even the ones paying the most taxes would find that ending deficits by paying sufficient taxes would reduce loss of wealth from inflation.  Free education through college for everyone would improve productivity by having more prepared for a better job and, if they don’t get a better job, not be fettered by massive student det.  The overall effect would be an improvement in the economy at all levels.

Capitalism would benefit, especially small business.  Investment results would improve for those stockholders robbed by inflated rewards for top administrators.   Do the CEO’s of the large pharmaceutical firms all deserve annual pay exceeding fourteen million dollars each?  Am I picking on the pharmaceutical industry- no, they are just the tip of the iceberg visible by data shown in the latest AARP Bulletin.  Finance, energy, and health care industries are also among those wielding undue influence with Congress and distorting true capitalism.

Just remember, I’m a grumpy old man that may have it all wrong after looking at too many drug adds for the umpteenth time that are interrupting my favorite TV shows.  You may have a president with the same problem.  But think about it - who gets the benefit and should pay the most for roads, national defense, and other government functions - the indigent sleeping in a dumpster or a billionaire?

Joe Engemann   Kalamazoo, Michigan    May 15, 2017

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


The accusations that Trump fired Comey because -

- Comey felt nauseous for impacting the election over emails, is he a Clinton fan?
- the FBI was getting subpoenas for a Russian collusion investigation that might trap him.
- it was the first time he had the chance with the new Deputy Attorney General's support.
- the news was leaked so it could first be found on TV on the West Coast by Comey when he was addressing FBI agents there.
- its part of his "your fired" mentality.

are all irrelevant.  I saw on TV how Comey towered at least six inches above the president.  How could any self-respecting alpha male let such a thing go on in potential future meetings?

Just had to break away from the news and get that off my chest.

Joe Engemann     Kalamazoo, Michigan    May 9, 2017