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January 19, 2003

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Religion in the News

Return to Kabul
Shelter Now's Georg Taubmann talks about ministry and security in the former Taliban state.
An interview by Stan Guthrie. See 

Little Zag from Zig
With this salesman and Christian, what you see is what you get. Reviewed by Mark A. Kellner. See

Divided by Distrust
Kosovo's evangelicals take slow steps toward ethnic reconciliation. By Kristian Kahrs in Pristina and Belgrade. See 

Saving souls—and society | In That Old-Time Religion, D.G. Hart explores the change in the fortunes of evangelicals, taking up in particular their engagement with an increasingly secular society (Terry Eastland, The Wall Street Journal). See,,SB1042516959243047144,00.html?mod=opinion 

U.S. taking its case for war to Vatican | The U.S. ambassador to the Vatican will hold a forum in Rome to argue to Catholic Church officials that a pre-emptive strike in Iraq would be a "just war," a moral argument that the pope and U.S. bishops have rejected so far (The Washington Times). See 

Family values: ABC cable station changes channel on `traditional' morals | "The word 'family' has taken on a wonderful and extended meaning that goes beyond just people you're related to," says ABC Family President Angela Shapiro. "What we perceive as `family' today is more about relationships and can include people like co-workers or roommates." (Boston Herald). See 

Is God Exciting Enough?:  The author of Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment says that increased stimulation has caused a "deadness of soul." What can turn it around? By Todd Hertz. See 

Local Church Fights for Evangelical ID Card: Witness Lee group sues for $136 million over Harvest House cults article. By Mark A. Kellner in Anaheim, California. See 

Mormon Church put to DNA test: Instructor risks expulsion with his claim that Book of Mormon is racist (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). Murphy, 35-year-old chairman of the Edmonds Community College Anthropology Department, contends DNA analysis contradicts Book of Mormon claims that American Indians are descended from ancient heathen Israelites. See 

Would-be cloning journalist: "I am a good old-fashioned Christian"
Michael Guillen, the former ABC News science reporter who was going to test the RaŽlians' claim that they'd cloned a human, has been the brunt of a lot of media anger. When there was little to report after Clonaid's initial press conference, reporters cannibalized one of their own. He was portrayed as "flipped out," greedy, untrustworthy, a quackery-pusher, and too credulous of "pseudo-science." Last week, after Clonaid refused to allow DNA testing of the supposed clone, Guillen, who was already distancing himself from the story, suggested that it all might be "an elaborate hoax." But it may be too late. "The story could tarnish Guillen, a former Harvard professor who left ABC last fall after 14 years," USA Today earlier reported. "After ducking reporters for two weeks, Guillen is trying to salvage his reputation." As part of that, he talked to Beliefnet about his own beliefs and those of the RaŽlians. See 

Science in the News

Science, 20 December 2002: Breakthrough of the Year
nature science update: picks of the year
Discover Magazine's Top 10
Scientific American: The Top Science Stories of 2002
Popular Science | The Best of What's New
Science News of the Year 2002: Science News Online, Dec. 21, 2002
CBC News - Indepth: Year in Review 2002
Physics News Update

U.S.-born science grads: Endangered species?
In an advanced graduate physics class I am teaching, there are three students from China, two from Bulgaria, one from Thailand, one from Sri Lanka, and one American. Of all our graduate physics students, only one-third were born in the United States. See 

Why are so many visionaries ignored? This is a question which confronts fundamental issues about how science and discovery operate. See 


Expanding The Genetic Code: The World's First Artificial Organism: Lancaster - Jan 14, 2003 - From time immemorial, every living thing has shared the same basic set of building blocks -- 20 amino acids from which all proteins are made. That is, until now: A group of scientists say they have, for the first time, created an organism that can produce a 21st amino acid and incorporate it into proteins completely on its own. The research should help probe some of the central questions of evolutionary theory. See 

Phoenixville school chief on creationism issue
As superintendent of the Phoenixville Area School District, I want to state clearly that Phoenixville does not teach "creationism" or "intelligent design" alongside the teaching of evolution. See 

Columnist was off-base on evolution argument
In his Dec. 31 column on the issue of evolution, John Grogan refers to "accepted scientific knowledge" and seems outraged that anyone would question it. I would like to point out the difference between scientific knowledge and theory. Perhaps Mr. Souder, his 10th grade teacher, skipped that lesson. See 

'Intelligent design' believers, sect seek curriculum change | People who believe in "intelligent design" are trying to change the way science is taught in West Virginia's public schools. This time, they have an unlikely ally: the Raelian sect espoused by baby-cloner Brigitte Boisselier (The Charleston [W.V.] Gazette). See 

A presentation without arguments | Dembski disappoints (Mark Perakh, Skeptical Inquirer). See 

Walking sticks, just winging it: Insects' 're-evolution' challenges 'use it or lose it' assumption of evolutionary biology (The Washington Post) and Stick insects upset theory of evolution (The Daily Telegraph, London). See 

Editorial | A matter of gravity: Einstein predicted that if the universe behaved as he figured, gravity would travel at the speed of light. Most physicists agree, but it hasn't been easy to test that idea. At last week's meeting in Seattle of the American Astronomical Society, scientists announced the first huge-scale attempt to measure the "propagation speed of gravitational force" in the universe (not the speed of acceleration here on Earth - that's the familiar 32 feet per second). It's a big moment in the history of physics - make that history, period. Sergei Kopeikin of the University of Missouri at Columbia and Ed Fomalont of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory say the speed of gravity is indeed equal to that of light - give or take 20 percent. Kopeikin and Fomalont decided to track radiowaves from a quasar named J0842+1835 only 9 billion miles away. In September a once-a-decade alignment of planets brought Jupiter into a cool place in the night sky. As the radiowaves passed by, Jupiter's massive gravitational pull bent them a little. The scientists measured how, when, and how much. See 

Meat Role in Human Evolution Questioned : Jan. 14 — Tubers, scavenging, and women — this might have been the winning combination that spurred human evolution about 2 millions years ago, according to a provocative hypothesis by American anthropologists. Writing in the current issue of the Journal of Human Evolution, University of Utah anthropologist James O'Connell and colleagues challenge the conventional wisdom that meat, brought home by man the hunter and shared out, fueled the rise of early humans. See 

Microbial phylogenomics: Branching out
Has genomics overturned the family tree of microbial life? Thanks in part to often polarized debate, elements of a new synthesis are emerging. See Nature Full Text (HTML / PDF)

Evolution (15 Jan) - That enduring metaphor for the randomness of evolution, a blind watchmaker that works to no pattern or design, is being challenged by two European chemists. They say that the watchmaker may have been blind, but was guided and constrained by the changing chemistry of the environment, with many inevitable results. See 


Tablet may contain a biblical passage: JERUSALEM - Israeli geologists said yesterday they have examined a stone tablet detailing repair plans for the Jewish Temple of King Solomon that, if authenticated, would be a rare piece of physical evidence confirming biblical narrative. The find is about the size of a legal pad....The sandstone tablet has a 15-line inscription in ancient Hebrew that resembles descriptions in Kings II, 12:1-6, 11-17, said Israel's Geological Survey, which examined the artifact. The words refer to King Joash, who ruled the area 2,800 years ago. In it, the king tells priests to take ''holy money ... to buy quarry stones and timber and copper and labor to carry out the duty with faith.'' If the work is completed well, ''the Lord will protect his people with blessing,'' reads the last sentence of the inscription. See 

Ossuary hot topic at AAR/SBL meeting | Making the rounds of the various panels were biblical scholars Hershel Shanks and Ben Witherington III, who were scurrying to finish their book on the subject to meet a late December deadline (Publishers Weekly). See 


New Moons Found Around Neptune: Boston - Jan 14, 2003 - A team of astronomers led by Matthew Holman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and JJ Kavelaars (National Research Council of Canada) has discovered three previously unknown moons of Neptune. See 

WANDERING STAR DESTINED FOR DWARFDOM?: Astronomers catch young star firing from cosmic slingshot. See 

YOUNG UNIVERSE GETS BUSY: Astronomers see cosmic activity from 13 billion years ago. See 

CAMERA GETS DEEPEST VIEW OF UNIVERSE: Galaxy group helps Hubble look back in time. See 

Earth Likely Spared From One Form Of Cosmic Doom: Greenbelt - Jan 13, 2003 - We have one less thing to worry about. While the cosmic debris from a nearby massive star explosion, called a supernova, could destroy the Earth's protective ozone layer and cause mass extinction, such an explosion would have to be much closer than previously thought, new calculations show. See 

Explaining the Moon's Ancient Magnetism: These days, a compass on the moon doesn't do much because there is no magnetic field to entice its hands to move. But it may not have always been so. Analysis of rocks recovered during the Apollo missions has uncovered telltale signs of ancient lunar magnetism. A new computer model may help explain the magnetism mystery. See 

Older Universe: Jan. 9 — The universe is at least 1.2 billion years older than previously thought, say cosmologists who have extracted the older age from ancient stars on the fringes of our galaxy. Pushing back the minimum age of the universe from 10 billion to 11.2 billion years not only means revising lots of textbooks, but it bolsters theories that there is a strange force called "dark energy" out there accelerating the expansion of the universe, said Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University and Brian Chaboyer of Dartmouth College. See 


Catching up with autism
A major new government study has found a much higher prevalence of autism than studies done in the 1980s and early 1990s. The findings, though, still don't answer an important question: See 

Art Carey | Exercise lifted her from the pit of despair
When Dottie Drake was 47, she had a year that nearly pushed her to the brink. The second of her two children left home, making her an empty-nester. Her mother died. She had a breast-cancer scare. Menopause was setting in. Two weeks before Christmas, her husband ditched her for the proverbial New Cookie. And she lost her job. See 

New hope for Alzheimer's detection
Experimental new technology is opening a window on the living human brain, catching the first clear look at the mess Alzheimer's disease makes as it occurs. See 

Radiation-Resistant Organism Reveals Its Defense Strategies: Rehovot - Jan 13, 2003 - Weizmann Institute scientists have found what makes the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans the most radiation-resistant organism in the world: The microbe's DNA is packed tightly into a ring. The findings, published in the January 10 issue of Science, solve a mystery that has long engaged the scientific community. See 

Researchers Decipher Cause Of Parasite's Worldwide Spread
Research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reveals that a unique combination of genes inherited less than 10,000 years ago allows the parasite responsible for toxoplasmosis to infect virtually all warm-blooded animals. See 

Saint Louis University Researchers Make Breakthrough Towards Solving The Cause Of Cancer Development
A lab headed by a Saint Louis University researcher has made a major breakthrough that could lead to a better molecular understanding of cancer. Results published today in the Journal Molecular Cell by Ali Shilatifard, Ph.D., and colleagues show for the first time how a protein known to be involved in the development of cancer functions in normal cells. See 

Vitamins May Protect Against Heart Disease
A UCLA research team has discovered that a popular health supplement and antioxidant vitamins may help prevent atherosclerosis, or blockage of the blood vessels. The findings are reported in the Jan. 13 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See 

Top 10 Reasons Not to Quit Smoking: 

Earth Science

End Of The World Has Already Begun: Seattle - Jan 14, 2003 - In its 4.5 billion years, Earth has evolved from its hot, violent birth to the celebrated watery blue planet that stands out in pictures from space. But in a new book, two noted University of Washington astrobiologists say the planet already has begun the long process of devolving into a burned-out cinder, eventually to be swallowed by the sun. See 

Dinosaurs Experienced Climate Changes Before K-T Collision: University Park - Jan 15, 2003 - Climate change had little to do with the demise of the dinosaurs, but the last million years before their extinction had a complex pattern of warming and cooling events that are important to our understanding of the end of their reign, according to geologists. See 

New Study Suggests Missing Link That Explains How Dinosaurs Learned To Fly
Two-legged dinosaurs may have used their forelimbs as wing-like structures to propel themselves rapidly up steep inclines long before they took to the skies, reports a University of Montana researcher in the January 17 issue of the journal Science. The new theory adds a middle step that may link two current and opposing explanations for how reptiles evolved into flying birds. See 

Early Mammals Used Pelvic Bones To Trot, Study Finds
Scientists studying the earliest mammals have been stumped for centuries about the function of two pelvic bones found in the fossil record that most mammals don't have today. A study published in this week's issue of the journal Science suggests those bones were involved in locomotion and helped the animals become more mobile, a find that could help researchers pinpoint a key moment in the evolution of mammals. See 


PHYSICIST PROPOSES DEEPER LAYER OF REALITY: New theory takes the chance out of quantum mechanics. God does not play dice, but he might just as well do, a Dutch physicist is suggesting. Returning to Einstein's nagging doubts about quantum mechanics, Nobel laureate Gerard 't Hooft of Utrecht University has begun to outline a way in which its apparent play of chance might be underpinned by precise physical laws that describe the way the world works. See 

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

Gravity experiment sparks spat between physicists: See
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Optical atomic clocks: The times, they are a-changin'
More accurate timepieces could lead to better global positioning systems, insights into fundamental physics and a redefinition of the second. David Adam rates the runners in the race to build tomorrow's atomic clocks. See
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Time MagazineCover: Your Mind, Your Body See 
  Depression: Power of Mood    A Formula for Joy?
  Graphic: Stress's Toll
  Disorders: Through the Ages
  Remedies: What You Can Do
The Year in Medicine: A to Z
Special Report: Carbs vs. Fats 

Teen Drug Use Associated With Psychiatric Disorders Later In Life
Children who start to use alcohol, marijuana or other illicit drugs in their early teen years are more likely to experience psychiatric disorders, especially depression, in their late 20's. See 

Depression (15 Jan) - A persistent, long-lasting headache or an endlessly painful back may indicate something more serious than a bad week at the office. A new study finds that people who have major depression are more than twice as likely to have chronic pain when compared to people who have no symptoms of depression. This study could change how depression is diagnosed and treated, say Stanford School of Medicine researchers. See