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December 28, 2003

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Top Religious Books of 2003

Books & Culture Corner: The Top Ten Books of 2003
Plus: The Worst Book of the Year, more good reading, digital books, and a little Christmas music.
By John Wilson.

Key Discoveries in 2003 Concerning Bible and Science


Radiometric dating of the Siloam Tunnel, Jerusalem
I think the key news story concerning the Bible was the dating of the Siloam Tunnel to the time of Hezekiah. This is the first time a Biblical event has been confirmed by an outside independent scientific source. It seemed strange that liberals and fundamentalists ignored this story. Liberals thought that the tunnel must have been dug much later in time (2nd Century BC) calling into question the accuracy of the Bible. Fundamentalists on the other hand do not want to admit to the accuracy of radiometric dating. Nature (425) 9/11/03 p.169.

Tel Rehov excavations near Beit She'an support biblical account of David and Solomon
The findings, reached through carbon dating by scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, have particular significance to the running debate among archeologists about the authenticity of the biblical account of the two kings, and the period and extent of their reign (The Jerusalem Post). See also Israel Finkelstein and others contend that the Solomonic gates and structures are not from the time of Solomon, but 100 years later. New carbon dating shows that these are indeed from the time of Solomon.

Hoax's Exposed
The Jehoash tablet and James Ossuary inscriptions are declared to be forgeries.
See Final Reports on the Yehoash Inscription and James Ossuary from the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

Biblical archaeology aims for context.
Scholars search for clues to substantiate scriptural references to Jesus' life. By Bill Broadway / Washington Post.


Science's Breakthrough Of The Year: Illumination Of The Dark, Expanding Universe
In 2003, new evidence cemented the bizarre idea that the universe is made mostly of mysterious "dark matter," being stretched apart by an unknown force called "dark energy." This set of discoveries claims top honors as the Breakthrough of the Year, named by Science and its publisher, AAAS, the nonprofit science society.
This discovery gives more evidence to the Big Bang theory and the expansion of the universe which most young-earth creationists deny.

Recycling keeps planets' rings going
Give and take with moons means debris halos can last forever.
Young-earth creationists should no longer use planet rings as evidence for a young solar system.

The Strange Case Of The Missing Moon's Magnetism
A 30-year-old riddle over the Moon's lost magnetism may finally be answered, scientists report on Thursday in Nature, the British science weekly.

Solar storms trip magnetic flip
Sun sloughs magnetic field, leaving a reversed one in its place. 24 November 2003. "Every 11 years or so, the solar magnetic field reverses, and the poles switch places. The last switch happened in 1999."
Some young-earth creationists like Hovind deny magnetic reversals.

Firestorm Of Star Birth Seen In A Local Galaxy. Baltimore - Dec 08, 2003
This festively colorful nebula, called NGC 604, is one of the largest known seething cauldrons of star birth in a nearby galaxy. NGC 604 is similar to familiar star-birth regions in our Milky Way galaxy, such as the Orion Nebula, but it is vastly larger in extent and contains many more recently formed stars.
According to some young-earth creationists, stars do not evolve.


New Genomic Data Helps Resolve Biology's Tree Of Life. Madison - Oct 23, 2003
For more than a century, biologists have been working to assign plants, animals and microbes their respective places on the tree of life. More recently, by comparing DNA sequences from a few genes per species, scientists have been trying to construct a grand tree of life that accurately portrays the course of life on Earth, and shows how all organisms are related, one to another.

Nature Web Focus: Human Chromosomes
Papers presented here serve as the definitive historical record for the sequences and analyses of human chromosomes - the ultimate results of the Human Genome Project.


"Arguments we think creationists should NOT use"  by Answers in Genesis . I am glad that Answers in Genesis is willing to take a stand against these frivolous arguments.

Maintaining Creationist Integrity
There is a big verbal battle between Ken Ham of AIG and Kent Hovind of CSE.

Getting the lies out of creationism: Unleashing the Storm
Answers in Genesis critique of Dennis Peterson's new book: Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation.

How Good Are Those Young-Earth Arguments?
A Close Look at Dr. Hovind's List of Young-Earth Arguments and Other Claims by Dave E. Matson. This is a great point by point rebuttal of Hovind's arguments.

The GISP2 Ice Core: Ultimate Proof that Noah's Flood Was Not Global
by Paul Seely in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation) December 2003 issue pages 252-260. Not yet available online. Paul also explains the Lost Squadron argument that Kent Hovind loves to cite. Their web site is at

Genome scan shows human-chimp differences
Variations hint at how our lifestyle is reflected in our genes.

Research Sheds New Light On Process Of Evolution.
For more than a century, scientists have concluded that a species evolves or adapts by going through an infinite number of small genetic changes over a long period of time. However, a team of researchers, including a Michigan State University plant biologist, has provided some new evidence that an alternate theory is actually at work, one in which the process begins with several large mutations before settling down into a series of smaller ones. The research is published in the Nov. 12 issue of the journal Nature.

Coral reveals ancient origins of human genes.
A study of coral suggests that ancient members of the animal kingdom slithered through the Precambrian mud with a hefty cache of genes in common with humans. Surprisingly, many of these genes are not shared with creatures such as flies and worms, even though these animals evolved millions of years after coral. This calls into question some studies that use these model organisms to unravel the evolution of the human genome.

Earth Science

Geologists Discover New Class Of Spreading Ridge On Sea Bottom. Washington - Nov 27, 2003
Scientists have discovered a new "ultra-slow" class of ocean ridge involved in seafloor spreading in the remote regions of the far south Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the sea floor beneath the Arctic icecap. This is bad news for young-earth creationists, like Hovind who do not believe in plate tectonics.

200 Years Later, Geologist Completes Lewis And Clark Readings (November 14, 2003)
Virtual explorer Robert Criss, Ph.D., professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has teamed up with Lewis and Clark to provide the oldest determinations of the magnetic declination of America's interior.

Evidence for potassium as missing heat source in planetary cores
There's a small problem with Earth's magnetic field: It should not have existed, as Earth's rock record indicates it has, for the past 3.5 billion years. Now, radioactive potassium has emerged as a possible factor in its longevity.

Oldest ever ice core promises climate revelations
The continuous Antarctic ice core dates back at least 750,000 years - it may even cover the Earth's last magnetic reversal.

Attack of the Rock-Eating Microbes!
Some bacteria break down minerals, while others make them. Geologists who examine mineral transformations increasingly see bacteria at work, leading the scientists to conclude that if microbes aren't driving the underlying chemical reactions, at least they're taking advantage of the energy that's released.

Grand Canyon born on East coast
Uranium-dating reveals origin of western US sandstone. Traditionally, geologists have looked at a sandstone's grain types to discern its rocky parentage. Other clues, such as which way the wind or water that deposited the grains was flowing, pointed them in the right direction. So Dickinson and Gehrels instead scrutinized grains of zircon, a uranium-bearing mineral, in the sandstones. As soon as zircon crystallizes from molten magma, its radioactive uranium begins to decay into lead. The amount of lead in a zircon grain therefore reveals when it formed. These ages can then be matched to zircon ages from different mountain ranges. Half of the Grand Canyon samples were formed either around 1.2 billion years ago or around 500 million years ago. These ages match granite in the Appalachian Mountains. Only a quarter of the grains came from the Ancestral Rockies; the rest hark from the interior of Canada. Nature 16 September 2003.

40Ar/39Ar geochronology of the Eocene Green River Formation, Wyoming.
The deposits of Eocene Lake Gosiute that constitute the Green River Formation of Wyoming contain numerous tuff beds that represent isochronous, correlatable stratigraphic markers.

Geologists' periodic table designed
Clever graph shows how Earth's chemicals are linked.


The Future of String Theory
A Conversation with Brian Greene String theory used to get everyone all tied up in knots. Even its practitioners fretted about how complicated it was, while other physicists mocked its lack of experimental predictions. Scientists could scarcely communicate just why string theory was so exciting--why it could fulfill Einstein's dream of the ultimate unified theory, how it could give insight into such deep questions as why the universe exists at all. But in the mid-1990s the theory started to click together conceptually. It made some testable, if qualified, predictions. Few people can take more credit for demystifying string theory than Brian Greene, a Columbia University physics professor and a major contributor to the theory.

The Elegant Universe Of Brian Greene. Moffett Field - Oct 29, 2003
Brian Greene, Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Columbia University, is one of the world's leading string theorists. String theories are considered by many as the natural successor to Einstein's cosmological quest for a Unified Field Theory, or what has become known as the 'theory of everything', providing a united framework for combining all the known natural forces (weak and strong nuclear forces, electromagnetism and gravity).

Physicists Stop Polarized Light, Create Bit Of Quantum Memory Rubidium (October 30, 2003)
In a University of Nebraska-Lincoln laboratory earlier this year a team led by UNL physicist Herman Batelaan captured polarized light in a cell containing a vapor of atoms of the metal rubidium. Many young-earth creationists take articles like this to prove that light is slowing down. Light still travels at the same speed in a vacuum.

A test of general relativity using radio links with the Cassini spacecraft Nature September 23, 2003
p.374 B. BERTOTTI, L. IESS & P. TORTORA. Many young-earth creationists still deny general relativity when there have been many tests to show that it is valid.

SPEED OF GRAVITY AND LIGHT EQUAL: Einstein's theory of general relativity passes quasar test.


Agnostic studies God and the brain By Melissa Dribben
One of the most interesting areas is the new field of neurotheology. We have a God part of our brain that causes spiritual experiences. Is the ultimate cause God, or just the result of evolutionary survival? 

Mutant Gene Linked To Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Analysis of DNA samples from patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and related illnesses suggests that these neuropsychiatric disorders affecting mood and behavior are associated with an uncommon mutant, malfunctioning gene that leads to faulty transporter function and regulation. I am concerned about Christian counseling that denies the biological bases of many mental illnesses. Just confessing yours sins and repenting will not heal mental illnesses. Taking drugs to help a mental illness can be very helpful, not sinful.

Genes point to schizophrenia cells
Faulty cells, not chemistry, may underpin brain disorder. See also a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, University of Cambridge and the Stanley Medical Research Institute appears to offer the first hard evidence that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, severe psychoses that affect 2 percent of the population, may have similar genetic roots. See

Social Behavior Among Monkeys May Be More Nature Than Nurture (December 4, 2003)
An unusual experiment with monkeys who were switched between mothers shortly after birth has demonstrated the importance of nature over nurture in behavior. Nature vs. nurture is always a hot topic of debate.

Study: Opposites Should Attract Nov. 21, 2003
Genetic and field studies on the personality of birds, which researchers suggest could reflect on the behavior of humans and other animals, reveal that mates with opposing personalities produce offspring with higher survival rates.

Do Angry People Live Longer? FRIDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDayNews)
If you're mad and you show it, you might just live longer than those who simply seethe, new findings from an ongoing study of elderly priests and nuns show. Researchers report those who failed to vent their spleens were twice as likely to die over a five-year study period.

Happiness helps fight off colds
Squirting cold virus up the noses of volunteers reveals that people with more positive emotions are three times less likely to get sick.

"Wishful thinking"?
To some, male infidelity is evolutionary. A fierce debate about whether jealousy, lust and attraction are hardwired in the brain or are the products of culture and upbringing has recently been ignited by the growing influence of a school of psychology that sees the hidden hand of evolution in everyday life.

Other Picks for the top discoveries of 2003

Hugh Ross at Reasons to Believe: Top 10 Discoveries of 2003.

Science News of the Year 2003.
A review of important scientific achievements reported in Science News during the year 2003.