Tuesday, September 15, 2015



It is refreshing that the legalism Christ decried in synagogue officials that seemed to have reappeared in the church hierarchy and almost made the pope a captive of the Curia may be lifted due to the efforts of Pope Francis.  His call for fresh input from clergy and laity for consideration in an upcoming Synod of Bishops will no doubt be answered with abundant contributions representing many viewpoints.  I appreciate his willingness to consider topics with wide input beyond the tunnel vision of others such as the view of Cardinal Schonborn noted in the post at http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2014/10/god-evolution-and-pope.html .

The problem of whether or not to ordain women was dealt with in the post - http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2014/11/god-women-priests.html - , but the implementation of bringing women in to the priesthood might be easier if the church was not so world encompassing, not only geographically, but culturally.

The environment

A post - http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2015/06/pope-francis-and-global-warming.html - dealt with climatic aspects of his recent encyclical..

In remarks related to environmentalism, and our role as caretakers of our world, he made a comment involving reproduction and rabbits that was not too well received.  But it is refreshing that he does not look at human reproduction as demanding large families.  The command in Genesis to "increase and multiply and fill the earth" has already been fulfilled.  In fact it is more than filled if a sustainable world is desired.  When the coffee cup is full, you don't need to keep pouring and overflow it.

In spite of such considerations, families should be the ones that determine their own family sizes.  Realistic knowledge of appropriate numbers could go a long way toward providing societal norms as a guide.  We don't need to have starvation, disease, and war as implements of population control.

Marriage and family

A post [ http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2014/04/evolution-and-marriage.html ] included comments suggesting the rights of those with alternative life-styles could be better served with legislation and/or judicial decisions providing contractual rights without calling it marriage and impinging on religious freedom.  In Matthew 10, Jesus talks about marriage and notes some are born, others develop, into states presumably incompatible with participating in a traditional marriage of bisexuals.

Christ made clear statements forbidding divorce.  But he also was generous in forgiving those failing in doing what was the ideal way.  It seems a reasonable approach would be to recognize that and extend forgiveness if a wrong has been done.  Blame would not have to be established.  Let all parties move on and act according to their consciences.

Birth control normally involves two people.  When they have conflicting view of what is acceptable, it would seem that a loving relationship could lead to compromise in some instances.  I don't see how abortion could be an acceptable compromise, although forgiveness is up to God.  But other forms may be of different degrees of errors in moral behavior.

A spectrum of behavior from virtual to sinful, or vice versa

The degrees of good or bad are not easily defined by clergy accustomed to thinking in terms of theological truth.  The previous pope railed against relativism.  But the circumstances may be part of the definition of an act.  Yes, there is an objective ideal that could be determined for an act involving morality.  But it would be much worse if it was done with relish, whereas there might be no moral fault if it was done to accommodate their families need in some way.  To sever your relationship with God, you need to know that what you are doing is a serious violation of God's law, and it must be done with full consent of the will.  It seems like that would take a very evil person to do such a thing.

A positive view of God

If you have a hard time realizing God made us and loves us, I encourage you to read a brief post - http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2013/06/god-and-people.html - and especially concentrate on the last two paragraphs.  It is worth reading even if you don't know the implications of John 3:16.  If you have an interest in how to find God, you might get an idea of how simple it is from reading the post - http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2014/05/finding-god.html

I don't expect Pope Francis will read this post.  If you get any inspiration from it and want to tell the pope, please pass it on.

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan   September 15, 2015

Monday, September 7, 2015



Understanding the story of animal evolution is very dependent on knowledge of invertebrates.  Vertebrates are recent (ok, the last half billion years), but very important, contributors to understanding the evolutionary history of animals.  Darwin mostly used vertebrate examples in explaining his understanding of natural selection, Darwin's finches being the primary example.  His studies of domestication of vertebrates also helped.   But he also contributed to our understanding of invertebrates such as coral reefs, barnacles, and earthworms.

What make invertebrate zoology so useful?

There are many species representing different parts of the evolutionary tree of life.  They provide steps along the transition from simple to complex structure and diversity.  As research subjects many of them have the advantages of
1 short life cycles
2 small size
Together it greatly simplifies getting adequate data in studying many phenomena.  It keeps costs down for care of subjects and allows varied approaches to be used in a short time.  The ethical problems of care of subject animals seems less, but should not be ignored.
3 abundant numbers are usually available in nature for field observation.
4 many extinct species have left fossils; their small size often providing intact fossils.

Examples of contributions of invertebrate zoologists

E. O. Wilson observed social behavior of ants and other insects and conceived the sub-discipline of ecology and/or animal behavior termed SOCIOBIOLOGY.

Paul Ehrlich developed his understanding of population ecology, in part, from his studies of lepidopterous insect populations, and applied it to his concerns for overpopulation by humans in an influential book, The Population Bomb.

Alfred Kinsey transferred from years of studying wasps to studies of human sexuality.

Libbie Hyman [ http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2015/03/abandoned-theories-and-libbie-hyman.html ] studied hydras and planarians and stayed mostly an invertebrate zoologist of great breadth.

Robert Pennak was my hero for his excellent book on aquatic invertebrates of the United States.  It has an excellent introductory discussion of the the transition of marine groups to fresh water.

Robert Barnes wrote an excellent invertebrate zoology text, especially in coverage of his specialty, polychaete worms.  If he had put insects and parasites in his first edition I would probably never have undertaken the revision of Hegner's invertebrate zoology text.  Meglitsch produced an impressive invertebrate zoology text that never received the recognition of Barnes' text which had largely been adopted by invertebrate zoologists.

A two volume text by Beklemishev (translated from the Russian) was a remarkable comparative anatomy of invertebrates.  Its value as a reference is somewhat marred by his belief that animals should be grouped according to the extent of their segmentation.

As invertebrate zoology becomes a minor part of biological education in today's universities, it is unlikely that it will attract authors to update the subject to the extent it was done in the past.  The digital age has made it unlikely that many will read the specialty journals and be exposed serendipitously to insights inspired by seemingly unconnected topics.  On the other hand, I have seen some weird results produced by search engines, so maybe there is hope.

Why did I become an invertebrate zoologist?

The reasons are somewhat lost in time.  But my first application for graduate school was to a botany department.  I had actually had more interest in invertebrates from using Hegner's Invertebrate Zoology text.  The variety was amazing, there were so many species, I thought maybe I could become the world's expert in some obscure group (I don't think I was very competitive).  I had been a little put off by the extreme need for grades motivating pre-Med student friends.  Plants were soon eliminated along with vertebrates due to sneezing and wheezing triggered by pollen and animal dander, factors seldom a problem with aquatic animals.

I had some vague notion that I might make some momentous discovery studying an obscure invertebrate.  I knew that was unrealistic.  Even so, dabbling in varied topics, I seem to be the only zoologist who realizes the abandoned annelid theory should be reinstated with modification to include the role of the pogonophorans as a central part of the theory.  The evidence that abyssal animals can live extremely long lives [ http://evolutioninsights.blogspot.com/2015/05/abyssal-ocean-environment-and-extreme.html ] and provide reason molecular phylogenies need reworking is something I hope to make others understand.

Joseph G. Engemann      Kalamazoo, Michigan     September 7, 2015