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January 12, 2003

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Religion in the News

Poll finds confidence in religion is down
The clergy abuse scandals of the Roman Catholic Church appear to have dragged the public's confidence in organized religion to its lowest level in six decades, according to a George H. Gallup International Institute poll released this week. See 

Seven centuries later, Knights Templar still looking for Holy Grail
A group of Knights Templar—yes, they still exist centuries after the Crusades—are using ultrasound and thermal imaging to seek the Holy Grail in the vaults beneath the 15th-century Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh, Scotland. "We know many of the Knights are buried in the grounds and there are many references to buried vaults, which we hope this project will finally uncover," John Ritchie, Grand Herald and spokesman for the Knights Templar, told the London Independent. "The machine we are using is the most sophisticated anywhere and is capable of taking readings from the ground up to a mile deep without disturbing any of the land.…Rosslyn is an amazing building. It is a book in stone but, because the symbolism which is written into the chapel is in a medieval language, we haven't even cracked the introduction page yet." Legends place several other lost relics in the chapel's vaults, including early copies of the gospels and even  the Ark of the Covenant. See 

Who Are the Raelians? A UFO sect that runs a space amusement park and hosts  conferences now claims it has cloned humans. But why? By Todd Hertz. See 

U.S. Appeals Court: Procter & Gamble wasn't defamed by Satanism rumors
Amway Corp. is pleased that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit claiming the company spread rumors linking rival Procter & Gamble to Satanism. See 

Death Watch: One of the world's earliest Christian cultures totters on the edge of extinction. By Thomas C. Oden. See 

Vatican warning on danger of 'online confession' | Warns that "ill-intentioned people such as hackers" may intercept confessions for purposes such as blackmail (The Times, London). See,,3-538079,00.html 

From Oratorios to Elvis: Pop culture has been coming to a church near you for hundreds of years. By Chris Armstrong. See 

Elvis-impersonating preacher rocks Canada | In the Christ the King Graceland Independent Anglican Church of Canada, "Rockin' Reverend" Dorian Baxter presides with the sideburns and singing of Elvis Presley to attract the wayward to Jesus Christ (Associated Press). See 

Jesus 'healed using cannabis' | So says an article in High Times magazine (The Guardian, London). See,3604,869273,00.html 

Iraq's cultural capital. Iraq is home to some of the most important landmarks of the Judeo-Christian tradition (The New York Times Magazine). See 

Have the Anabaptists won?
Has the pacifist wing of the Reformation finally won out—after nearly 500 years of dissent over the issue of justifiable war, asks UPI religion editor Uwe Siemon-Netto. It sure seems that way. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Calvinists are all using such pacifistic language over the looming war in Iraq that they sound more like Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish than they have in their historical affirmations of just-war theory. See 

Tony Campolo: Point of life is not to get more stuff | Americans are sacrificing family, intimacy to get more material goods (The Holland [Mich.] Sentinel). See 

Evangelist Billy Graham schedules mission at San Diego stadium despite frail health | "To be honest, I never expected to continue receiving invitations into my 80s," he says (Associated Press). See 

Religions oppose cloning | The Raelian movement may or may not prove it produced the first cloned human, but the sect can already claim another distinction: It is virtually the only religious group that says this type of reproduction is a good idea (Associated Press). See 

Science in the News

Wagner Institute Free Courses see 

1. Expeditions in Paleontology taught by William Gallagher meets at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in their auditorium from 10 to 11:30 AM on Saturdays beginning on February 1st to April 5th, 2003. Come in at the 19th Street Exit. 

2. Wildflowers in Fairmount Park taught by Alfred Schuyler at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (100 N. 20th Street) in Philadelphia. Starts Monday March 31st at 6:30 PM through April, 2003. Must pre-register for this class. Call 215-763-6529.

3. Families of Flowering Plants taught by Karen Snetselaar at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (100 N. 20th Street) in Philadelphia. Starts at 6:30 PM on January 21st through February, 2003. Must pre-register for this class. Call 215-763-6529.

4. Bioterrorism taught by Mary Davis at the Independence Branch Library located at 18 South 7th Street. Starts at 6:30 PM on January 22nd through March 5, 2003. 

Top Science Stories of 2002. From cloning to neutrinos, our panel of science journalists will run down the science news of the year in review. We'll also challenge them to peek into their crystal balls and give us a look ahead at what they think might be big stories in the coming year. Audio at 


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. See

Confirmation of the Big Bang. Hugh Ross explains the latest discovering of polarized light confirming the Big Bang. Audio at 

Intelligent Design: In an attempt to prove that the universe was intelligently designed, religion has lately been fidgeting with the fine-tuning digits of the cosmos. The John Templeton Foundation even grants cash prizes for such "progress in religion." Last year mathematical physicist and Anglican priest John C. Polkinghorne, recognized because he "has invigorated the search for interface between science and religion," was given $1 million for his "treatment of theology as a natural science." In 2000 physicist Freeman Dyson took home a $945,000 prize for such works as his 1979 book, Disturbing the Universe. See 

Cobb issues evolution guidelines to teachers | Four months after Cobb County schools opened the door to considering "disputed views" of evolution, the district essentially told teachers Wednesday to handle the topic as they always have (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). See 


Archaeology Online: Armchair archaeologists can witness a dig at an ancient Egyptian temple from the comfort of their home computers. Throughout January, a Johns Hopkins team will chronicle its excavation with daily progress reports and photographs posted on the World Wide Web. The team's Web site, "Hopkins in Egypt Today," is expected to have daily updates starting about Jan. 2. See 

Anthropology: He did not know it yet, but in his hands he held the almost perfectly preserved skull of the most ancient human being ever found in Europe - 1.8 million years old. More extraordinary still, it was about to throw into question all accepted theories about the migration of our ancestors out of Africa. See 

Excalibur, the rock that may mark a new dawn for man: 
Paleontologists claim 350,000-year-old find in Spanish cave pushes back boundary of early human evolution. See,3604,871235,00.html 

Human genetics (9 Dec) - For centuries, explorers and anthropologists have wondered why the people of the Andaman Islands were so fierce and isolated. New genetic research gives a glimpse at how the Andamanese are different from other people, at least biologically. See,1282,56756,00.html 

Statue of Ramses's wife discovered near Cairo
A 100-ton statue of a wife of pharaoh Ramses II, was discovered near Cairo, Egypt's Culture Minister Faruq Hosni told reporters Thursday. The three-meter (ten-feet) rose granite statue "is believed to belong either to queen Merit Amen or queen Nefertary," both wives of Ramses II who reigned in Egypt from 1304 to 1237 BC, he said. "It is the biggest ever found in northern Egypt," he added. See 

Egypt's Forgotten Treasures
style="FONT-SIZE: 12px; COLOR: #000000; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">An exclusive look at Cairo's Egyptian Museum's centennial exhibition includes stunning antiquities on display for the first time ever. See photos, a map, and more. See 


Ring of stars found at Milky Way's edge
A newly discovered giant ring of stars on the outskirts of the Milky Way could be evidence of our galaxy's violent birth, astronomers said yesterday. See 

Milky Way Black Hole Said Explosive: Jan. 7 — The black hole at the core of the Milky Way galaxy is subject to frequent outbursts and a history of occasional large explosions, astronomers reported Monday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. Astronomers used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to perform the longest X-ray look yet at the supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A*, in the constellation of Sagittarius. See 

Co2 Flows Could Carve Mars Gullies: Melbourne - Jan 06, 2003 - An Australian geologist has identified what could be the first ever active flow of fluids through gullies on Mars. University of Melbourne geologist, Dr Nick Hoffman, identified recent gully and channel development near the polar regions of Mars from images taken by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. But contrary to the majority of scientific opinion which suggests that such features were carved by liquid water, Hoffman says the flow is most likely frozen carbon dioxide. See 

Universe Grows Younger By The Eon: Cleveland - Jan 09, 2003 - Cosmologists from Case Western Reserve University and Dartmouth College have continued efforts to refine the age of the universe by using new information from a variety of sources to calculate a new lower age limit that is 1.2 billion years higher than previous age limits. See 

First Neptune Trojan Discovered: Tucson - Jan 09, 2003 - Astronomers have discovered a small body orbiting the Sun at the distance of Neptune whose orbit makes it the first known member of a long-sought population of objects known as Neptune Trojans. See 

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. See 

Moon's Early History May Have Been Interrupted By Big Burp: Berkeley - Jan 10, 2003 - Using a state-of-the-art computer model of the lunar interior, geophysicists at the University of California, Berkeley, have shown that a mighty burp early in the moon's history could account for some of its geologic mysteries. See 

Speed Of Gravity Measured: Charlottesville - Jan 09, 2003 - Taking advantage of a rare cosmic alignment, scientists have made the first measurement of the speed at which the force of gravity propagates, giving a numerical value to one of the last unmeasured fundamental constants of physics. See 

Farthest Known Planet Opens the Door For Finding New Earths: Seattle - Jan 10, 2003 - WA-Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, MA, announced Monday that they have detected the most distant extrasolar planet (OGLE-TR-56b) ever found in the constellation Sagittarius using a new method that could lead to the discovery of Earth-like worlds around nearby stars. See 

Extrasolar Meteors Hint At Distant Planet Formation: Toronto - Jan 10, 2003 - University of Toronto astronomers say that detecting microscopic meteors from other solar systems could provide clues about the formation of planets like Earth. Dust streams from our sun's stellar neighbours consist of tiny grains of pulverized rock ejected from a disk of dust and debris that commonly surrounds young stars, says Canadian scientist Joseph Weingartner. See 

Hubble Allows Glimpse Of End Of Dark Ages Of Universe: WASHINGTON (AFP) Jan 10, 2003 - The Hubble space telescope has allowed astronomers to see the end of the universe's "Dark Ages," the cosmic era less than a billion years after the Big Bang when the universe consisted of dark matter and hot gas. See 

Scientists Catch Their First Elusive "Dark" Gamma-Ray Burst: Greenbelt - Jan 10, 2003 - For the first time, scientists -- racing the clock -- have snapped a photo of an unusual type of gamma-ray-burst event one minute after the explosion. They captured a particularly fast-fading type of "dark" burst, which comprises about half of all gamma-ray bursts. See 


Second cloned baby born, group claims
Clonaid, the company that claims to have produced the first human clone, said yesterday that a second cloned baby had been born to a Dutch lesbian couple. See 

Cloning claim sounds familiar
For all the speed with which science was progressing, virtually no one had thought it would happen so soon. Yet there it was in huge block letters on the front page of the New York Post: The world's first human clone had been born. See 

Vampire bat's bite may hold clue to new stroke medicine
A substance in the saliva of vampire bats could prove to be a potent new treatment for strokes, an Australian scientist says. "When the vampire bat bites its victim, it secretes this powerful clot-dissolving substance so that the victim's blood will keep flowing, allowing the bat to feed," said Dr. Robert Medcalf of the Monash University department of medicine at Box Hill Hospital in Victoria, Australia. See 

Chromosome Linked to Alzheimer's Unravelled: Jan. 1 — An international consortium of scientists say they have decrypted a chromosome linked to a broad range of disorders, including a particulary brutal form of Alzheimer's that can strike people in their 30s. Chromosome 14 — the fourth chromosome to be fully sequenced — comprises 87,410,661 base pairs, which are the "rungs" that make up the ladder of DNA, the chemical recipe for making a human being. See 

Food For Thought: Cells Dine On Their Own Brains To Stay Fit And Trim
Eating your own brain may not sound like a sensible approach to prolonging your life, but researchers at the University of Rochester have discovered that some single-celled organisms essentially do just that to keep themselves healthy. The findings are published in this month's issue of Molecular Biology of the Cell. See 

Herbs: A unique web-based resource about herbs, botanicals, and other products has been launched to provide medical practitioners, as well as the general public, access to comprehensive information about these products. See 

Earth Science

New Evidence Reshapes Grand Canyon Theory: Jan. 2 — Millions of years ago, a gigantic dam made of lava turned the Grand Canyon into a grand lake — or so went the tale until recently, when some Arizona geologists discovered that the lake wasn't so grand after all. Geologist Darrell Kaufman and his colleagues at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff say that upriver evidence long thought to support the existence of an enormous ancient lake could just as well have been caused by run-off pooling behind rockslides or other much more modest natural dams. See 

Huge, Ancient Ocean Predator Found: Dec. 31 — German palaeontologists have identified the first complete skeleton of what's thought to be the largest predator of all time, according to a report in the German magazine Der Spiegel. Named the Monster of Aramberri after the Mexican area where its bones were found, the creature was eight times heavier than Tyrannosaurus rex and terrorized Jurassic ocean life about 165 to 150 million years ago. See 

Ancient Elephant Graveyard Opens Near Rome: Jan. 2 — A Pompeii for elephants, an Italian site packed with the remains of Middle Pleistocene stuck-in-the-mud pachyderms, has just opened to the public after a 17-year excavation. Situated 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) northeast of Rome, La Polledrara di Cecanibbio is a sort of a fossilized prehistoric zoo. The bones — more than 10,000 of them — emerged from the hardened earth of a 900-square-meter area (ca. 9,700 square feet) belonging to an ancient riverbed. See 

"Mummified" Dinosaur Discovered In Montana
Leonardo, a mummified, 77-million-year-old duck-billed dinosaur was only about three or four years old when he died, but he's proving to be a bonanza for paleontologists today. His fossilized skeleton is covered in soft tissue—skin, scales, muscle, foot pads—and even his last meal is in his stomach. The actual tissue has decayed over the millennia, and has been replaced by minerals. What's left for scientists to study is a fossil of a dinosaur mummy. This is one of National Geographic's top 10 stories of 2002. Full story and photo gallery at 

Finding Life Away From Earth Will Be Tough Task, Says Noted Paleontologist
Earth's most ancient fossils are hard to find. Some scientists think a few of the earliest fossils might still be preserved in Earth rocks blasted to the moon by an asteroid or meteor. Others believe much of the evidence has been erased forever by the constant heat and pressure of plate tectonics. See 

Tree-Ring Study Reveals Long History Of El Nino: Moffett Field - Jan 6, 2003 - El Nino is not a new weather phenomenon, according to a recent NASA study that looks 750 years into the past using tree-ring records. See 

Life on Earth Is Feeling the Heat: A variety of species, from frogs to flowering plants, have demonstrated changed behavior in response to increasing world temperatures over the last few decades. Two new studies indicate that these changes are not isolated events, but instead represent a worldwide pattern, or "fingerprint," of global warming. See 


Freud's Comeback: "Couching Tiger" (11 Jan) - The followers of Freud are making a major comeback in the land of the hidden dragon. Mao dismissed psychiatry as 'a phony science' that is '90 per cent useless,' but his edict has been lifted. 

Psychiatric disorders: The chicken or the egg? 

Afterlife: Cognition and culture (26 Nov) - A new study by a University of Arkansas psychologist proposes that beliefs about the afterlife may amount to more than a cultural construct. They may in fact have a biological basis - arising from the human brain's unique ability to comprehend the mental states of other people. See 


National Geographic's top 10 stories: See 

New Snake Footage Uncoils Mystery of Flying Serpents
Watch out—there's a snake flying through the air! No, it's not a paranoid hallucination. Along the west coast of India and in parts of Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka, some snakes slither through the jungle, bite with venom, and glide from tree to tree. Full story, photo gallery, and video at 

Life Is Confusing For Two-Headed Snakes
The two-headed monsters of myth may have a basis in reality. Two-headed snakes are rare but not unheard of, and one recently found in Spain is giving scientists an opportunity to study how the anomaly affects their ability to hunt and mate. See 

Shark Gives "Virgin Birth" in Detroit
A female white spotted bamboo shark at the Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit surprised zookeepers in July by giving birth to two babies. Why the surprise? It was a virgin birth: She hadn't been near a male for six years. See 

Research Finds Life 1,000 Feet Beneath Ocean Floor: Corvallis - Jan 10, 2003 - A new study has discovered an abundance of microbial life deep beneath the ocean floor in ancient basalt that forms part of the Earth's crust, in research that continues to expand the realm of seemingly hostile or remote environments in which living organisms can apparently thrive. See