Biology vs. Chemistry Showdown: It’s a Draw!

As we wrap up the summer sessions, get a break to soak in the last bits of summer, and start the new fall semester at the very end of this very month, I have gotten down to the nitty-gritty of requirements to fulfill not only Montco Community College needs but also those of the general education courses at my intended university, West Chester, in the US state of Pennsylvania.  As I get my associate degree from Montco in 2019, we hope to move forward and strive for a bachelor at West Chester.

So, as for my undergraduate major, I was trying to think would biology or chemistry would be the better option.  I share a fairly equal passion for them, so that made the decision “Even Stevens,” and I thought it would be great to double major in those!  After all, there’s overlap, for both majors share both introductory chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and Calculus I (which is already complete).  As with most colleges, physics can be done with or without calculus, but the chemistry major requires the former; the biology major can go either way.  I must also take Calculus II for this.  Biology also requires statistics, which I hope can be done at Montco.

So let’s discuss the merits of both fields.

Chemistry
Chemistry is the “central science.”  Everything else, perhaps physics aside, depends on it.  However, physics, especially quantum mechanics, does provide the basis for certain chemical reactions, and a key area of chemistry, physical chemistry, elaborates on those affairs.  But that’s for another post, which of course (if I do one as such) would be after I get the degree!

College curricula on chemistry are quite regimented, with only a few electives.  Despite that strict sequence, chemistry itself is quite understated, and it takes faith to understand how the microscopic atoms and molecules change to form new visible and tangible substances out of former ones.

This “faith,” mind you, can be construed in two ways.  For the irreligious, it is only the awareness of the differences between the conspicuous and inconspicuous.  But, for a Christian believer like me, chemicals, their properties, and thereby their reaction patterns receive their identity because God created the organization of matter and how it should act.  Remember, no scientific principles are perfect since God left that business up to us (Gen 1:28), and the exact truth may be God’s secret and thereby totally alien to our human understanding (Deut 29:29), so science and faith, pun intended, are really a match made in heaven.

Biology
As wonderful as chemistry is, biology is icing on its cake.  Organisms (yes, including you) are undercover chemists themselves (even humans who don’t know jack about chemistry), thus all flora and fauna unwittingly keep themselves alive through their biochemical reactions performed in their cells.  As we all know, plants and their cousins use photosynthesis to give food to themselves and consumers.  And every single reaction in an organism has its own catalyst, known as an enzyme.  And there is that thin line between life and non-life, which starts at the cell level.   Very fascinating.

Some biological branches fascinate me more than others.  Physiology is probably the most exciting of all, for it’s where all the action is!  I also like ecology and genetics quite a bit (the latter involves some math to keep the mind sharp).  Duller areas include anatomy/morphology (mere dissection and memorization of regions of organisms’ bodies) and systematics (comparing and contrasting organisms for identification).  Biology, unlike chemistry, is typically a cafeteria science, so that you can take a generous potpourri of such courses unless you opt for a certain track that regiments your choices.  As for me, I’d rather head to that cafeteria by taking the general lineup.

Alas, evolution rules the biological academic realm.  Instead of a common creator (God), you have a common ancestor (which is undefined).  While thorough coverage and debate on evolution/creation are beyond the scope of this post, I will say professors teach evolution early on, which is an irrational theory as it is, use it as a keystone for everything else in the curriculum.  So serious Bible-believers who work in and/or study biology and other sciences must constantly “fight back” the evolutionary pressure in their own minds while simultaneously learning those same concepts as one who embraces evolution.  After all, scientists with PhDs who are creationists (yep, they exist) must do the same thing, both as a student previously and a scientist presently.

So, why Biology and Chemistry?
As a matter of opinion, other natural sciences, like physics, astronomy, and the earth sciences (i.e., geology, oceanography, and meteorology), while decidedly interesting, are less intensely so than biology and chemistry.  Yet chemistry and even biology tie in with them, so I’ll be ready in case I wish to study something of such later on informally or perhaps even formally.

Conclusion:  Trust God for the Future
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  (Prov 3:5,6 ESV)

After college, whether I go to graduate school, straight to a career, or even change undergraduate majors, I currently leave it in God’s sovereign hands.  And no, West Chester isn’t even a guarantee!  As a Reformed (Presbyterian) Christian, I believe God is sovereign and we are to rest in his divine providence.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is God’s gift, the “present!”

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Leave Our Mitochondria Alone!

The very things that run your body may easily become stolen property.

This cunning biotechnology scheme, known as mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), currently only legal in the UK, is absolutely out of bounds. Even though you’re not messing with the “majority” (nuclear) DNA, genes are genes, and this mitochondrial “minority” DNA needs to stay put.

These genes are, of course, designed to make cell energy possible. (A brief reminder from HS biology: mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, and supply energy to the cells using oxygen and nutrients, which is the very reason we eat and breathe.) And what good is a organism without energy anyway?

Indeed, when mitochondrial DNA is mutated, can lead to such ailments as blindness and seizures. But putting a foreign mitochondrion into a cell, whether it is truly genetically engineering or not, is still playing God, like much of biology is now.

Details can be found in the above article, and I have some supplemental info from my own keen understanding of Biology! Between the head of the sperm and its tail, there is a middle axis of mitochondria. However, the nucleus is contained strictly in the head of the sperm cell. (I read this in McGraw-Hill’s Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, an excellent work on STEM topics.) The female egg cell is a more typically structured cell, so it is more likely to pass its mitochondria to the next generation. But even if the offspring is disabled due to a faulty mitochondrial genome, it is God’s will.

Let’s eliminate eugenics!

Jigsaw Geography

Jigsaw Geography
In December 2017, I completed an old puzzle obtained from a thrift store, mapping things out, literally.

Geography is hard to define accurately yet concisely.  Of course, maps are at its very heart.  But making maps is the business of cartographers.  Likewise geologists, not geographers, study the earth proper, and thus is a whole different domain with its own specialization.  Yet another field, demography, concerns populations and their statistically detailed properties.  For example, this is important for a country’s census.  “Geography” could merely mean how close things are from one another.  However you define it, people at least conceptually know it means.

The puzzle, has some neat odds and ends, perhaps due to its age.  That gets interesting.  This map depicts various defunct state borders (or lack thereof!). Among those are the Soviet Union (USSR), Czechoslovakia, East & West Germany, Yugoslavia, and yes, Korea!  Given that, the undivided Korea attests to this map being designed (but probably not made) before 1950.

Moreover, within continents, it was regionally divided (and beyond).  You can see historical changes in this when compared against maps of older or newer publication.

And, if you know (at least the basics of) geology, throw that info in there.  The Pacific “ring of fire,” along its shores, allows heavy duty mountainous activity, including volcanic forms.  Among these mountain ranges and belts (i.e., compounds of ranges) include the Andes of South America, some smaller ranges in Mexico/Central America, the Rockies of the US and Canada, etc. And their windward slopes, which catch the ocean’s moisture, are far more fertile than the opposite slope, or the leeward.

Farewell VCRs

I’m actually glad VCRs are near extinction. And I share several reasons why.

1). They were bitter enough in their early days.

In 1975, Japanese electronics mogul Sony introduced one of the two major formats of VCRs, known as Betamax or simply “Beta.” The next year, a rival Japanese company, JVC, came out with the VHS format, which had longer tape length but allegedly inferior presentation quality. For over a decade after, these two VCR platforms fought in a “format war!” There were sundry reasons for the defeat of the “better” Beta in the mid to late 80s, but the victorious VHS remained a staple for the rest of the century.

2). They take TV out of the moment.

So, if you owned a VHS (or Beta) unit, you would have your own copy of a show, movie, sports event, etc.

Now, if you watched it, isn’t that enough? You got the plot, so you can simply move on.

For example, I watched every episode of a sitcom, WKRP in Cincinnati (which happened to air in the throes of the Format War!). And having experienced the episode, even if memories of it are fading, that’s enough. Using a DVD, I also will treat a similar classic, Welcome Back, Kotter, as a once and done thing.

We can cherish positive memories all we want, but we must also experience the time we are in. God did, after all, give us a memory.

3) Copyright and Piracy

Copyright is the right held by a creator of intellectual property (i.e., his/her works of writing, art, music, etc.) to allow use at his or her discretion. Trademarks are an excellent example, yet they can very easily get in the wrong hands. Remember the last time applying Scotch tape, had a Kodak moment, or ate a Spam sandwich? These are all cliched trademarks, and the third has a second, not so tasty meaning in email inboxes (need I say more?). In parts of the American South, all soft drinks are generically “Cokes.”

Now, when you have a VHS tape that you have recorded off the TV, it is likely that, say, a thrift store, will deny sale of such. Televised sports events will sprinkle warnings against recording the event, without obtaining consent by the applicable league (and who wants to bother doing that?)

Piracy, or the distribution (typically with profit but not always) of copies of another’s intellectual property, has both moral and legal consequences. Morally, you are breaking the 8th commandment (stealing), because this property isn’t really yours. And while prison and fines for such crimes usually slip by, God put our governments in place and by obeying them, we glorify Him.

All those in favor of putting videotapes behind them, say aye!

Sweden, Think Twice About The Refugees

Sweden is apparently not “Swedish” enough for these Mideastern refugees from Iraq and Syria. While Sweden is known for its peaceful, progressive attitude toward foreigners, they are not assilimilating them as they would. They feel less Swedish than the ethnic Swedes, which makes perfect sense.So maybe Sweden is being counterintuitive. IMHO, these Islamic, Mideastern jihadists are better off uprooting from Sweden and heading either back home or elsewhere in Europe. Because Sweden, like almost all European countries, has a long history of its identity as a ethnic nation, not a “melting pot” like the US. Here in the USA, we lump most European peoples as simply whites.Yet assimilation is inevitable, so it is what it is. (Even if you love the beautiful blonde women of the ethnic Swedish population.). The teachings of genetics tell us that dark dominates fair, though the fair can pop out sometimes in later generations.

But for Americans, this shows a good example of why we emphasize legal immigration procedures.

See why world news matters? in my country of the USA, the news media stresses domestic matters. We need more global awareness. Thank you, BBC!

Mr. Rogers, Neighbor Extraordinaire

Mr. Rogers, while a Presbyterian minister, didn’t discuss religious topics on his show, but he invited kids across the country to be their “neighbor.” Yet if you can subtly observe, Christians like Rogers are actually engaging in Jesus’ Great Commission! Mr. Rogers showed a robust example of kindness and typical Christian love nationwide over the airwaves without descent into proselytism. And this “neighbor” concept may be derived from the very parable of the Good Samaritan, when Jesus defined as one who shows mercy to another, regardless of religion, etc.A link to some of his best achievements. Rogers ended his show in 2001 and died in 2004.Rest In Peace, neighbor.

Serving My Town with God’s Gift of Food

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.  (James 2:26 ESV)
In my town of Pottstown, Pennsylvania (United States), several churches are networked in a “Community Meal” program. One of the sites, First Presbyterian, is sponsored by Kiwanis. Today I shared in the rewarding joy of serving people who may not be looking for anything gourmet, but just nourishing and modestly enjoyable. Among them are some of the poor of Pottstown, and a few of them perhaps homeless. Whatever their socioeconomic status, that would not be that relevant, and indeed none of my business.  My role in the Community Meal is to serve, period.
 
Now on to the nitty-gritty.  I arrived at 3:45 pm, started preparing the meal with fellow Kiwanians in my club, and then by 5pm, the meal started and the guests were welcomed.      We wore red hats with the words “Community Meal.”  The pastor said the grace.  I served an option of a chicken breast or one or two pork chops, placing the pork or chicken on their plate in my jolly and whimsical way (e.g., chicken or pork…okay pork, and a one, and a two…my pleasure, enjoy!).  Or, if they opted for chicken, they may ask for a certain piece, and I am delighted to honor their request.  Neighboring me was one serving vegetables, namely whole potatoes, string beans, and carrots.
When all attendants were served, the volunteers (in this case, me and the other Kiwanians) could finally eat the leftovers.  Since I don’t like bone-in chicken breast, all I ate was white potatoes (mediocre) and bread and butter (much tastier).  Other tasty perks were a piece of cake (the literal dessert food, not the idiom), plus icing from both the chocolate and vanilla cakes. Talk about some sweet rewards!
Kiwanis International is a global civic service club with a special focus on children.  While adults obviously also reap their benefits (and this Community Meal is doubtless one of them), remember, all adults are “ex-children” and what you do for children will impact what their do later in life.
And as a Christian, I believe volunteering is a wonderful way to express love for your neighbor.