Thursday, November 17, 2016

Why is the Dog Happier???


St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that good signifies “perfect being” and evil signifies “the privation of perfect being”1, so when a thing lacks a perfection it ought to have, we perceive the deficiency as an evil. When something is just how it ought to be we call this “good”.

The dog is happy living in the present moment, just being with “the pack”, even if the pack consists of only the dog and his master. This is “perfection” for the mind of a dog. The human is besieged with worldly thoughts; he is not content just being in the present moment. Being a child of God made in the image and likeness of God does not satisfy, even if this “Good News” is made clear to him as a Christian. The intellect dimmed by original and personal sin is obsessed with earthly thoughts and is easily distracted from the source of true happiness. This is an evil or a “privation of perfection” for the human mind.

We could speak of our lives in terms of two aspects, secular and spiritual. Our secular side refers to all the practical and worldly things we deal with and learn about to help us function in our communities, homes, and jobs. We need to pay attention to secular things. The spiritual side is about the Good, the Beautiful and the True and the meaning behind it all. If we get these last things right, the rest of life falls into place. Our spiritual life needs to be foremost in our mind.

Where do your idle thoughts go? What would happen if you put God at the absolute center of your thoughts? What we think ultimately translates to what we do. Since the intellect informs the will, we would end up doing the will of God. We would experience peace, become centered and "detached". Our spinning mind would no longer control us; no longer exhaust us.

In the end only one thing is necessary. It is the “one thing” spoken of at the house of Mary & Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Martha might think that she or Mary could love God above all other things and at the same time be constantly preoccupied with worldly things, but Jesus made it clear that she could not do both perfectly; imperfectly she could, but not perfectly.

It is the nature of the secular life to begin and end in our lifetime. Not so, however, of the spiritual life; it begins in this life, but lasts without end. The best is truly yet to come. As the Lord said to Martha, it is the part that shall never be taken away; because that perfect moment of being which can begin for us here will last without end in heaven.

“God wants us to live in the moment because we can only sanctify the present moment. We can’t change the past or control the future. The chance to do good or bad resides in the right here, right now.”2


  1. St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas’s Shorter Summa (Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2002), p. 125.
  2. Karee Santos and Manuel Santos, The Four Keys To Everlasting Love (Ave Maria Press, 2016), e-book, p. 15.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Data Died on Election Night

No, not this Data…

I’m talking about polling data.

The previous post on this blog predicted that Trump would lose at about the same margin as Mitt Romney did in 2012, even though the candidates and the race itself were very different. No matter what electoral map you looked at in recent weeks, it was not reasonable to think that a blue state would magically turn red or a red state would magically turn blue. Even if Trump picked up one or two blue leaning states, he still would have needed all or most of the toss up states, which may have been about ten states depending on when you looked and with what map. If a toss-up is truly a toss-up, then it’s like flipping a coin. Flip a coin 10 times in a row and see if you get something like 8-10 heads. It’s possible, but actually try it and see if it happens. I’ll bet good money that it won’t.

If the polling data is wrong, then a prediction that flows from said data must obey the universal law of “garbage in, garbage out”. There was obviously a large group of people more interested in just voting for Trump than being polled about it. I suspect a lot of pollsters will be eating crow in the days to come with plenty of beaks and feathers to spare.

But can Trump make America great again? Depends on how we define greatness and what we are comparing it to. Maybe the economy will get better and the border will be less porous and maybe other nations and peoples around the world will “fear” us more, but is this true greatness?

Doing God’s will on Earth is what the Kingdom of God on Earth is all about and thus what greatness is all about. So what are the ways in which we do not do the will of God on Earth? Most dissent from Catholic teaching involves something to do with human sexuality and I’m afraid many of our newly elected or re-elected leaders care little about such things or all the data that surrounds them. Maybe these issues are seen as nothing to do with politics, but deep down they must know that politics and life are joined at the hip.

Abortion, homosexuality, contraception, fornication, marriage, divorce and remarriage all have an aspect of sexuality to them. Consequently, many, if not most, of the ills in our society can be traced back to these points of sexual confusion or dissension. What is the data surrounding all the unwanted pregnancies and the resulting increase in poverty and single parent homes? How about the number of unborn children being killed and that will be killed in the future? Think of the impact from broken homes due to divorce? Ignorance and dissent about the true purpose of sex also brings us pornography, sexual addictions, molestation, sexually-transmitted diseases and marriage confusion. The amount of emotional pain due to fornication is probably not considered by most as something that will impact the rest of the culture in any significant way, but think of the huge number of people bonding and breaking up with different sexual partners over and over again and how this impacts their character? How then, does their character impact everyone else around them?
The only way to make America great again, or great at all, is to actualize the prayer we say at every Mass. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So as the dust settles on this particular election cycle, let’s continue to pray for that.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Decision 2016 - How Well Do You Make Decisions?

Imagine you had to make the following two decisions simultaneously (and you had no moral objection to gambling).

Decision #1:
Choice A: Sure gain of $240
Choice B: 25% chance to gain $1000 and 75% chance to gain nothing

Decision #2:
Choice C: Sure loss of $750
Choice D: 75% chance to lose $1000 and 25% chance to lose nothing



If you are like most people, you’d probably choose A and then D. No one in their right mind would pick C under any circumstances, right? Without a doctorate in statistics, but with some slow and effortful thinking, we can reason through the following if we focus on “the big picture”…

What do the following decisions taken together really mean?
Choice A and D = 25% chance to win $240 and 75% chance to lose $760
Choice B and C = 25% chance to win $250 and 75% chance to lose $750
(If you doubt it, go back and study it for a while)

Including choice C (a sure loss of $750) with choice B is a better gamble.1
I know...it's hard to believe.
The above is an example of a situation that is easily under analyzed by the average person, but over analyzing can lead to bad decisions as well. I think the current presidential election is an example of something currently being over analyzed. With all the talk of tax returns, an pneumonia and even the current president’s origin of birth, we easily get lost in the arcane details. How can we look at the big picture of a complex situation without be sidetracked by all the obscure and often irrelevant data?

The decisions about gambling shown above can be looked at objectively; decisions about elections get much more subjective, but here’s a way to look at it using a simplified version of a process we use where I work called Decision Analysis—except that it’s done in terms of Faith and Reason. First, some clarity on what’s most important…

-       What is important?
-       Reality is important.

-       What is Catholicism?
-       A universal way of seeing reality; a way of seeing in which we can best respond to the world around us.


Now, what are the specific ways in which government acts or has acted to undermine this reality (policy or law contrary to the Catholic faith)? What are the trends?

Please Note: What follows is just an example. You can make your own list of issues and follow each step using your own input, but be specific. Things like “Life Issues”, “Social Justice”, “Religious Liberty” and even "Temperament" are too general.

Step 1: List specific issues (as many as you want)
  • Euthanasia
  • Abortion
  • Torture
  • Marriage definition
  • Unjust war
  • HSS Mandate

Step 2: Think of the current impact of each issue and its potential trend
Issue
Impact
Euthanasia
Legal in 4 states, trend increasing
Abortion
>1 million babies killed per year (U.S.) and continuing unabated
Torture
Currently no reports of the gov. torturing people. Those in favor could reinstate it
Marriage Definition
Adds to sexual confusion/sin. Discrimination increasing for those holding a traditional marriage view
Unjust War
Dealing with world-wide aftermath. Those in favor could start a new war
HSS Mandate
Law suits taking time & money. Catholic Institutions closing or being punished. Higher cost to government to fill the gap.

Step 3: Find the most serious issue and give it a 10 (there can be more than one 10). Compare others to it and assign numbered weights by comparing to the 10. Remember that this is only an example.
Issue
Impact
Weight
Euthanasia
Legal in 4 states, trend increasing
7
Abortion
>1 million babies killed per year (U.S.) and continuing unabated
10
Torture
Currently no reports of the gov. torturing people. Those in favor could reinstate it
3
Marriage Definition
Adds to sexual confusion/sin. Discrimination increasing for those holding a traditional marriage view
8
Unjust War
Dealing with world-wide aftermath. Those in favor could start a new war
6
HSS Mandate
Law suits taking time & money. Catholic Institutions forced to close or be punished. Higher cost to government to fill the gap.
7

Step 4: Compare candidates. Score the best candidate for each issue with a 10. Note that 10 does not mean “perfect” and there can be more than one 10. Score remaining candidates (0–10) relative to the 10. Multiply score x weight and add the weighted scores.
Issue
Weight
Democrat
Republican
Libertarian
Green
Euthanasia
7
6
6x7=42
10
10x7=70
2
2x7=14
5
5x7=35
Abortion
10
2
2x10=20
10
10x10=100
6
6x10=60
4
4x10=40
Torture
3
10
10x3=30
0
0x3=0
9
9x3=27
10
10x3=30
Marriage Definition
8
2
2x8=16
10
10x8=80
5
5x8=40
2
2x8=16
Unjust War
6
7
7x6=42
2
2x6=12
10
10x6=60
7
7x6=42
HSS Mandate
7
5
5x7=35
8
8x7=56
10
10x7=70
4
4x7=28

Weighted Score
185
318
271
191
Please Note: At this point in the election cycle, carefully analyzing a third party candidate is like analyzing a fantasy…interesting, but basically a waste of time.

Step 5: Asses risk. Look at the candidate with the highest weighted score and ask, “If he/she was elected what could go wrong?” Are we willing to accept the risk(s) to gain the benefit of this choice? If yes, pick it. If not, repeat for the next best candidate.

Now, this is all very interesting, but let’s not kid ourselves; people won’t do this. Thinking is very hard and we are very lazy, so we make quick decisions based on intuition like choosing A and D in the gambling example above.

I try not to make decisions based solely on intuition, but I will make a prediction. I predict the Republican running for president will lose and at about the same margin as the 2012 election (332 to 206 electoral votes). But Donald Trump and Mitt Romney are so vastly different in how they present themselves; what makes me think the result will be about the same?

I think the “God Demographics” of society are changing. What do I mean by God demographics? As a society moves further and further from God, it must naturally gravitate more and more toward sin (we won’t stay still). If sin is the root of all unhappiness, then more sin means more dissatisfaction with life. If we are moving away from God, we must find another “savior” to liberate us from what is wrong so we can finally be happy.

In general terms (there are plenty of exceptions I'm sure), I think the portions of the electorate who are satisfied with life want less government involvement, fewer taxes, less regulation, etc. They tend to lean Republican. Those dissatisfied look to government as the ultimate source to make things right, just, fair, etc. They tend to lean Democrat. Other political parties never seem to gain ground either way. The current Republican presidential candidate is certainly not your typical candidate, but I think the pattern in God Demographics mentioned above will “Trump” everything else. We’ll see.

For those looking for a simpler analysis, I heard this on the Dennis Prager radio show not too long ago...
  • Door #1 says "Man Eating Lion."
  • Door #2 says "Perhaps Man Eating Lion."
Which do you choose?
We await your decision.
I'll take Door #2
BTW,

Trump = Door #2







1. Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011) p. 334.


Friday, September 23, 2016

My Book is Now Available!

Buy the book based on the blog!!! It’s Faith with Good Reason and it’s now available on Amazon Books. CLICK HERE!

I’m pleased that the release date is September 23, the feast day of St Pio of Pietrelcina. In case you are not familiar, St. Pio was a Capuchin Friar in Italy that had the stigmata. The wounds of Christ were on his body for 50 years. He died in 1968, so this is not something far removed from our own day and age. When I was a teen, I saw a secular documentary about St. Pio (then Padre Pio) and it was the first time I saw religion as not just "talk"; there was something physical happening and it stuck in the back of my mind. It was the first time I saw a clear connection between physical reality and spiritual reality—the visible and the invisible—which has a lot to do with the book.

Book Description:
“This book is a practical look at faith, reason and problem solving for dealing with the common realities we face, navigating the gaps between what we know and what we don’t—for all things visible and invisible. Thinking means linking ideas. Analytical problem solving is about finding “truth” objectively, regardless of feelings, strong opinions, past experiences or intuition; finding truth even when empirical evidence is lacking or impossible to obtain. No one sees reality in its entirety, yet people firmly believe things they can’t prove. We use base premises to judge things, whether consciously or subconsciously. Like any good problem solving situation, it’s important to drill down to the base premises of our thinking and then ascertain where they come from and how reasonable they are when pressed under deliberate questioning.”

It’s ideal for those who…
  • Appreciate rational thinking, but do not appreciate Catholicism or religion in general.
  • Were baptized and raised Catholic, but had no real connection between faith and everyday life.
  • Might struggle between choosing “Catholic” and “none” when faced with a survey question about religious preference
  • Lead with their head, making reasonable and responsible decisions about how to live and what to believe based on certain rationales rather than emotion.
  • Are neither gullible nor cynical.
  • Do not jump to conclusions, but advance cautiously from one step of reasoning to the next.
Foreword written by Stacy A. Trasancos, PhD. Author of Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science & Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki; also, professor of Science in the Light of Faith at Holy Apostles College & Seminary.


INTERESTING SIDE NOTE:
A significant amount of the royalties will be donated to these fine gentlemen in the mountains of Wyoming to help build their new monastery.


Enjoy Faith with Good Reason!!!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Contemplating the Particles of Faith

I recently had the opportunity to review a new book before its release. The book is called Particles of Faith by Stacy A. Trasancos; it’s an ideal stocking stuffer (and it’s not too early to think about stocking stuffers) for the college student who just left home for the very first time to study the sciences, and perhaps, stopped going to church for the very first time as well. Many struggle with how to reconcile faith and science. This book will show you how science can only be properly understood in the light of faith.

The author is a Catholic scientist herself, so who better to write on the topic. Read it and learn all about…

  • The chasm that faces every scientist
  • How scientists know very much about very little
  • The “System of Wills” and the interlocking system of reality
  • The Battleship of Scientism: Can you trust a ship that does not know where it is going or where it came from?
  • How the story of evolution is itself evolving
  • How to answer that question that annoys so many, especially in a big election year. “When does human life begin?”
  • How leaves on a tree, flapping mindlessly in the wind, helped bring a scientist to faith
This book reminded me a lot of something mentioned a few times on this blog called “The Weak Eye”1. It’s an allegory I often elaborate on from lay apologist Frank Sheed. It goes like this…

We have two physical eyes. There are also “two eyes” when looking at life; a secular eye and a spiritual eye. Our secular eye can refer to not only our bodily senses, but also all the practical things we study and learn about to help us function in our communities, homes, and jobs. This would include all the sciences as well. The spiritual eye is about how we all ponder things like the Good, the Beautiful, the True and the meaning behind it all. This eye is focused on spiritual reality. Many Catholics end up with a weak spiritual eye simply because they don’t know or exercise their faith.

What happens if we have one weak eye? There is lack of focus; we cannot see reality clearly. This can explain how those who are highly trained and educated in science can lack spiritual common sense. We can even be educated out of our faith as the secular eye gets stronger and stronger, while the spiritual eye is ignored and grows weaker and weaker. No exercise.

Once we find that reality seems unclear, what can we do? We can either close the weak eye and forget it entirely or exercise it and build its strength. But how? Think of a child that has a condition sometimes called “lazy eye”2. A doctor might recommend a way for the weak eye to start working harder. If this isn’t done, there is a good chance one eye will always be weaker than the other eye. As a result, the brain favors the stronger eye. The weaker eye tends to wander. Eventually, the brain may ignore the signals received from the weaker eye. One eye will always be blurry, one always sharp.

It’s the same thing in the spiritual life as the author alludes to in her book. She began to follow what the Church teaches (as an act of the will) by attending Mass, praying daily, consciously pursuing virtue and avoiding sin, all of which gave her spiritual eye the opportunity for exercise. If we don’t do these things, we will always favor the secular eye due to poor vision in the other spiritual eye. The weaker eye will tend to wander (spiritual wandering). Eventually, you may ignore the signals received from the weaker eye. One eye will always be blurry, one always sharp. “Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (Mt 13:9)

In terms of proof, the author tested the principles of the faith in the laboratory of her life and found them to be true, but in the end aren’t all proofs like a glass of water?

“You can purify that water and set it down in all the fine crystal you want, but you cannot force a person to drink it.”
—Stacy Transancos
Particles of Faith, page 69

Released date Oct. 10th

1.     Frank Sheed, Theology for Beginners (Cincinnati: Servant Books, 1981) p. 185.

2.     Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic [Website], “Diseases and Conditions Lazy eye (amblyopia) Definition” (3 July 2013), Site address: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lazy-eye/basics/definition/con-20029771