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January 25, 2003

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Religion in the News

Catching Up with a Dream
Evangelicals and race since the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. By Edward Gilbreath. See

Values survey finds odd bedfellows Atheists, Muslims, and Mormons led the list of groups viewed by Americans as the least like themselves in terms of basic beliefs and values (The Washington Post). See 

Government meeting invocations questioned, changed, and dropped
Judging by recent news stories, the next big battle regarding the relationship between church and state may be over invocations at local government meetings. See 

30 years after Roe v. Wade, new trends but the old debate The rate of abortions has come almost full circle, declining to its lowest level since 1974 (The New York Times). See 

The Abortion Wars: What most Christians don't know about the history of pro-life struggles. By Tim Stafford. See 

What Both Sides in the Abortion War Can Agree On: See 

As battered pastor leaves India, Hindus prepare to force out other missionaries
Joseph Cooper, who was beaten and stabbed by a Hindu mob near Thiruvanthapuram, India, has returned to the United States. But Hindu activists are still pursuing a criminal case against him for violating the terms of his tourist visa by preaching at a Protestant church meeting. See 

DuPage forest board settles, buys Christian group's land | Ending a five-year battle, Bill Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles has agreed to sell 50 acres of its property to the DuPage County Forest Preserve District (The Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs). See 

Basic help for digging out of debt | Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace: Revisited says that our inability to say "no" to stuff we don't need is a spiritual failing (USA Today). See 

The passion of Mel Gibson: His Jesus film is bloody, bold—and in Aramaic. Here's an exclusive look (Time). See,9171,1101030127-409570,00.html 

The Dick Staub Interview: Eddie Gibbs Reconsiders Gen X Churches: The author of Church Next and Fuller's professor of church growth says his views on church leadership have grown. See 

Armageddon fiction grips the U.S. | Fifty million Americans at the last count, are reading a series of novels which dramatise the 'end times' as fundamentalist Christians call them (Justin Webb, BBC). See 

The ultimate cost of discipleship | New documentary traces Dietrich Bonhoeffer's decision to join plot against Hitler (The Washington Post). See 

Books and Culture's Book of the Week: Encounters of the Gods
Christianity and Native American religion in early America. By Richard W. Pointer. See 

In God we trust to live healthier and longer Heathenism is apparently a health hazard, with research pointing to a link between religious conviction and longevity (The Sydney Morning Herald). See 

Science in the News


Discovery of 4-winged dinosaur is a shock
Fossil hunters in China have discovered what may be one of the weirdest prehistoric species ever seen - a four-winged dinosaur that apparently glided from tree to tree. For the first time, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of what looks like a four-winged dinosaur. The four 124-million- to 128-million-year-old fossils found in northeast China feature veined feathers on their front and rear legs as well as long, feathered tails. The 2 -foot-long animal, Microraptor gui, named in honor of Chinese paleontologist Gu Zhiwei, offers more evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs. It also adds to a theory that birds' ancestors glided from tree to tree before they flapped wings in flight. See also 

Human evolution: or Adam (21 Jan) - By analyzing DNA from people in all regions of the world, geneticist Spencer Wells has concluded that all humans alive today are descended from a single man who lived in Africa around 60,000 years ago. See 

Evolving Inventions Computer programs that function via Darwinian evolution are creating inventions that are novel and useful enough to be patented. See 

Universal truths (23 Jan) - Paul Davies says that scientific discovery does not make the cosmos seem increasingly pointless. See,12450,879894,00.html 


Expert says 'First Temple' find a fake | A stone tablet inscribed with biblical passages in ancient Phoenician script that sparked an archeological controversy last week is a forgery, an internationally renowned expert said Sunday (The Jerusalem Post). "After being sworn to secrecy, [Joseph Naveh] was sent a photograph of the object. Already in doubt then, Naveh said that he asked to see the tablet in person. Naveh said Sunday that the tablet was likely made in the last century." (Cost for whole article) See 

Archaeologists skeptical on authenticity of Temple tablet Cloudy origin of find casts doubt, as it did with James ossuary (Israel Insider). See 

Of biblical dimensions: A newly found tablet that is either a hoax or pivotal corroboration of the existence of the First Temple is pitting geologists against archeologists (The Jerusalem Post). (Must register) See 

Tablet could prove temple of Solomon really existed (The Daily Telegraph, London). See and,,3-546419,00.html also 

Ark of Covenant is in Jerusalem, and I will find it – archeologist | Israeli scholar tells Sackville audience hunt for relic is nothing like the movies (The Daily News, Halifax, N.S., Canada). See 

Does the 'James Ossuary' bring us closer to Jesus? Even if the provenance and historicity of the much celebrated James Ossuary could be confirmed as on some level being actually the bone box dedicated for the physical remains of James the brother of Jesus, the religious significance of such a finding has been rather precipitately assumed, than analytically engaged (Margaret M. Mitchell, Sightings). See 

Treasures From Icy Tombs
Biologist Gerry Kuzyk was hiking with his wife in the remote reaches of the Yukon when he caught the putrid scent of caribou dung wafting through the chill air. Then he saw it — the biggest pile of animal droppings he had ever seen, 8 feet high and stretching over half a mile of mountainside. The mystery was solved by lab analysis: The dung, the product of innumerable migrating caribou herds, had been frozen for thousands of years and only recently exposed by melting ice. Along with the dung, the scientists soon discovered an arsenal of Stone Age darts, arrows and spears. The artifacts are just part of a trove of ancient artifacts, animal carcasses and human remains being disgorged by vanishing glaciers and ice patches across the globe as the planet's temperature gradually increases. Arctic lupine seeds frozen for 10,000 years, for example, grew into healthy plants once they were removed from Ice Age lemming burrows. The ice holds a zoo of perfectly mummified animals: fish, wapiti, sheep, mountain goats, moose, voles and birds. See 

Archaeology (21 Jan) - The oldest image of a star pattern, that of the famous constellation of Orion, has been recognized on an ivory tablet some 32,500 years old. The tiny sliver of mammoth tusk contains a carving of a man-like figure with arms and legs outstretched in the same pose as the stars of Orion. See 

Prehistoric NW Indians Hunted Fur Seals Of Sustainable Basis
Archaeological evidence from prehistoric hunters in Washington and Alaska adds new fuel to the ongoing debate over the belief that humans have a propensity to over-exploit their natural resources, and also indicates that early Indians' harvest of northern fur seals was sustainable. See 


The Inconstant Sun
Huntsville - Jan 20, 2003 - Our Sun may seem an enduring, unwavering beacon in the sky, but in truth it has a "heartbeat" of sorts--a pulsation between dimmer and brighter phases so slow that it only "beats" 9 times each century! See

Vital Signs Of Life On Distant Worlds
Paris (ESA) Jan 20, 2003 - Detecting Earth-sized planets is hard enough but how does an astrobiologist decide which of them are inhabited? Scientists are now working to understand what signals life might give off into space, so that when they do detect Earth-like planets they know what to look for. See

Media Hype Alone Cannot Fuel The Space Program
Los Angeles - Jan 21, 2003 - It seems to be the week for excessive hype where space is concerned. Over the last few days, three separate stories about developments and problems in space exploration have made a considerable splash -- but on more detailed inspection, all three have been overblown. See

Shuttle Columbia Crew Turns To Soot, Calcium, Elves And Sprites
Cape Canaveral (AFP) Jan 21, 2003 - Astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on Tuesday turned their attention to experiments on weightlessness, calcium, soot, sprites and elves. NASA said the Columbia crew were performing experiments on the formation of soot, the propagation of calcium in the body, and observing elusive sprites and elves dancing on storm clouds. See

Electromagnetic Pulse Shockwaves As A result of Nuclear Pulse Propulsion
Tucson - Jan 22, 2003 - Throughout the course of history, many strange and unusual ideas have been discussed. Many of the strangest are in the attempt to fly. People have attempted to fly with devices as simple as a few boards with feathers attached to it, balloons filled with hot air, even specially shaped wings that miraculously allow one to fly. See

Astronomy: Feeding the first quasars 
Quasars, the oldest known objects in the Universe, are powered by gas falling into black holes at their centres. How black holes formed so early in time has been hard to explain, but a new model might have the answer. See 

Mars May Be Much Older Or Younger Than Thought: Buffalo - Jan 24, 2003 - Research by a University at Buffalo planetary geologist suggests that generally accepted estimates about the geologic age of surfaces on Mars -- which influence theories about its history and whether or not it once sustained life -- could be way off. See 

Shock Waves Through Solar Nebula May Explain Water-Rich Space Rocks: Tucson - Jan 24, 2003 - Shock waves through icy parts of the solar nebula could well be the mechanism that enriched meteorites with water -- water that some believe provided an otherwise dry Earth with oceans, according to a new study published in the current issue of Science (Jan. 24). See 

Isolated Star-forming Cloud Discovered In Intracluster Space
New observations by the Japanese 8-m Subaru telescope and the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) have now shown that massive stars can also form in isolation, far from the luminous parts of galaxies. During a most productive co-operation between astronomers working at these two world-class telescopes, a compact HII region has been discovered at the very boundary between the outer halo of a Virgo cluster galaxy and Virgo intracluster space. See 


Researchers Close in on Arthritis Vaccine: Jan. 16 — Australian scientists announced a breakthrough Thursday in efforts to develop a vaccine for the crippling disease rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers at the University of Queensland in eastern Australia said they identified how to reverse a process in which a body's auto-immune system attacks its own tissues, causing arthritis. "This is really the first time we have been able to specifically target the appropriate molecule in order to get the immune system to turn off after it has already started," scientist Ranjeny Thomas said. See 

Test-tube Babies May Suffer Genetic Flaw: Jan. 16 — Babies born through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) may be prey to a rare genetic disorder, according to a study published Thursday whose findings underscore the health perils from human cloning. See 

Scientists Find Rich Drug Resource in Deep Ocean Sediments
San Diego - Jan 20, 2003 - A group of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, have for the first time shown that sediments in the deep ocean are a significant biomedical resource for microbes that produce antibiotic molecules. See

Worm Genome Survey Reveals Fat-Regulating Genes: Scientists are one step closer to unraveling the genetic secrets behind why some people become obese and others stay effortlessly slim. Gary Ruvkun and Kaveh Ashrafi of Massachusetts General Hospital and their colleagues have surveyed an entire genome--that of the microscopic worm Caenorhabditis elegans--to identify the full panoply of genes involved in regulating fat storage. The work may help pinpoint breakdowns in communication between the brain and fat cells in a variety of animals. See 

Animal Study Demonstrates Carbon Monoxide May Help Heart Patients
Carbon monoxide, the toxic gas generally associated with auto exhaust or faulty heating systems, may have a protective role in preventing the development of dangerous arteriosclerotic lesions that can clog blood vessels following balloon angioplasty or aortic transplantation. See 

50 Years of DNA: See 

Earth Science

Discovery of 4-winged dinosaur is a shock
Fossil hunters in China have discovered what may be one of the weirdest prehistoric species ever seen - a four-winged dinosaur that apparently glided from tree to tree. For the first time, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of what looks like a four-winged dinosaur. The four 124-million- to 128-million-year-old fossils found in northeast China feature veined feathers on their front and rear legs as well as long, feathered tails. The 2 -foot-long animal, Microraptor gui, named in honor of Chinese paleontologist Gu Zhiwei, offers more evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs. It also adds to a theory that birds' ancestors glided from tree to tree before they flapped wings in flight. See also and 

Prehistoric Tusks Point To Earliest Fossil Evidence Of Differences Between Sexes
The large tusks of an animal that roamed Earth before the dinosaurs may provide the earliest evidence yet of male-female distinctions in land animals that existed millions of years ago, say University of Toronto scientists. See 

Longest Ice Cores Retrieved from Canadian Yukon
Orono - Jan 20, 2003 - In their quest to understand what drives the climate of North America, a team of American, Canadian and Japanese scientists is studying ice cores collected from the highest mountain range in Canada. Karl Kreutz of the University of Maine Institute for Quaternary and Climate Studies is a member of a group that collected an 1,100-foot deep core last summer in the St. Elias Mountains in the Yukon Territory. See

Long-Lost Records Confirm Rising Sea Level
Hobart - Jan 22, 2003 - The discovery of 160 year old records in the archives of the Royal Society, London, has given scientists further evidence that Australian sea levels are rising with an estimate of 16 centimeters since 1890. See

Stones Self-Organize into Circles: It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: stones arranging themselves into perfect circles or elaborate labyrinths. But the forces behind these mysterious patterns, which are commonly found in many polar and high alpine environments, are much more pedestrian--simple cyclic freezing and thawing of the surrounding ground. See 


NEUROBIOLOGY: Why? The Neuroscience of Suicide By Carol Ezzell: Brain chemistry might explain why some people impulsively choose to end their lives. See 

Playing with Fire-- Why People Engage in Risky Behavior: For a teenager, sneaking a beer is one thing; shooting up heroin is quite another. Missing a parentally imposed curfew is almost expected; disappearing for days is heart-wrenching. There is risk, and then there is risk. Figuring out what differentiates experimenting teenagers from delinquents and lifelong reckless hearts is not easy; behaviors typically stem from complex social, environmental, and biological interactions. Even defining risky conduct can be difficult. See 

Child Development (23 Jan) - Children growing up in single-parent families are twice as likely as their counterparts to develop serious psychiatric illnesses and addictions later in life, according to an important new study. See 

Neuroscience: Battle for your Brain. - Science is developing ways to boost intelligence, expand memory, and more. But will you be allowed to change your own mind? By Ronald Bailey. See 

Researchers Discover Anxiety And Aggression Gene In Mice; Opens New Door To Study Of Mood Disorders In Humans
Researchers report finding a gene that is essential for normal levels of anxiety and aggression. Calling it the Pet-1 gene, researchers at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Department of Neurosciences say that when this gene is removed or "knocked out" in a mouse, aggression and anxiety in adults are greatly elevated compared to a control mouse. See 


Ultrapowerful X-Rays Reveal How Beetles Really Breathe: Even the most up-to-date biology textbooks, if they address insect respiration, now need revision. With the help of a high-energy particle accelerator, researchers have documented insects breathing in a manner never before thought possible. Scientists have known for some time that insects breathe using a system of internal respiratory tubes called tracheae. Simple mechanisms like diffusion were thought to enable oxygen exchange. But the new work, carried out by a team of scientists from the Field Museum in Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, shows that in a number of species, respiration can also occur via a mechanism more akin to mammalian lung ventilation: the creatures were observed to pump their respiratory tubes much as humans expand and contract their lungs. See