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January 4, 2003

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Religion in the News

Top Ten Religious News Stories, 2002
The events, people, and ideas of the past year that have or will significantly shape evangelical life, thought, or mission. By Christianity Today editors. See

Books of the Year
The top ten. (OK--make that twelve.) By John Wilson
The book I was happiest to see this year is Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children's Literature (Crossway), by Elizabeth Wilson, a substantially revised edition of a book which was first published in 1987.

The Most-Read Articles of 2002
Christianity Today's online readers wanted to know about
Islam, pop culture, and forgiveness. See

Muslim extremist kills three, injures one in attack on Southern Baptist hospital
Yemeni authorities have arrested Abed Abdel Razzak Kamel (also referred to as Ali Abdulrazzak al-Kamel), a self-described Islamic jihadist from the province of Damar, for killing three American missionaries at the Jibla Baptist Hospital (map). See 

More universities say InterVarsity must allow non-Christian leaders
Less than two weeks ago, Weblog noted that Harvard University was withholding a grant to the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship because the group required that its leaders be Christians. Such a policy, the school's Undergraduate Council said, violated anti-discrimination policies. At the time, Weblog said the case was odd. It's already time to rescind that. Papers today report that Rutgers University and the University of North Carolina have also taken steps to remove official recognition and funding from their InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapters for the same reason—only Christians may lead the Christian organization. See 

Teen appeals group's decision to oust him | Darrell Lambert was expelled from the Boy Scouts of America after he refused to declare a belief in God (Associated Press) See 

Vatican to Open secret pre-WWII files | The archives will, however, be available only to scholars who must make a formal request (Reuters). See 

Salvation Army: We don't want lottery bucks
Last week, the winner of the $314 million Powerball lottery promised to tithe his winnings, rekindling the debate over whether churches should accept gambling money. This week, the Salvation Army of Naples, Florida, made its costly stand on the issue by rejecting $100,000 from a local man who won $14.3 million in the state Lotto. 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. 

Scientific American: The Top Science Stories of 2002 

Scientists Sequence Genomes of Malarial Parasite and Mosquito:Malaria continues to plague the world's population, particularly inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa, where it kills at least one person every 30 seconds. Efforts to eradicate the disease in the 1950s and 1960s met with failure, and current control measures such as antimalarial drugs are swiftly losing their potency. Now researchers have sequenced the genetic codes of the most deadly malarial parasite and a mosquito that carries it.

Mouse Genome Sequenced: In the name of science, researchers have fashioned numerous kinds of mice: fat, thin, hairless, or afflicted with a particular disease, to name a few. The first draft sequence of the mouse genome should make the tiny rodents even more helpful for future research into a variety of diseases.

Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation's Polarization Detected at Last: Although it was discovered less than 40 years ago, the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation has been around a lot longer than that. A relic from the early days of the Universe more than 14 billion years ago, the CMB is the oldest radiation on record. Current cosmological models posit that the CMB should be slightly polarized but this property has never been observed--until now.

Astronomers Discover Icy World Far Past Pluto: Astronomers have discovered the largest object in the solar system since Pluto was identified more than 70 years ago. The object, dubbed Quaoar (pronounced "kwa-whar") by its discoverers, is approximately half Pluto's size and nearly four billion miles away from Earth.

Meet the Oldest Member of the Human Family: After more than a decade of digging, researchers working in Chad have made the fossil discovery of a lifetime: a nearly complete skull said to belong to the oldest and most primitive member of the human family yet known. Nicknamed Toumaļ—or "hope of life" in the local Goran language—it belongs to an entirely new genus and species of hominid, Sahelanthropus tchadensis. And at almost seven million years old, it has taken scientists several crucial steps closer to the point in time at which humans and chimpanzees diverged. Yet as is the case for most spectacular finds, this one raises as many questions, if not more, than it answers.

New Findings Fan Debate over Origin of Vinland Map: Ever since it surfaced in 1957, the Vinland Map has been controversial. Some experts purport that it was drawn in the 15th century and that it chronicles the Vikings' travels to the New World, prior to Christopher Columbus's 1492 journey. Others argue that it is instead the work of a 20th-century counterfeiter. The results of two new studies are adding further fuel to the debate.

Chinese Fossil May Be Mother of All Placental Mammals: Researchers have unearthed the fossilized remains of what may be the mother of all placental mammals, so-named for the placenta that nourishes their young during gestation. The 125-million-year-old specimen is the earliest and most primitive known representative of the placental group, to which the vast majority of living mammals--humans among them--belong.

Scientists Spin Spidery Silk: Few things appear as delicate as a spider's web, each gossamer strand one-tenth the width of a human hair. Yet pound for pound, the sturdiest spider silks are stronger than steel and stretchier than nylon. With such remarkable properties, it's no wonder that researchers have made numerous attempts to synthesize spider silk for industrial and medical applications. (Efforts to farm the arachnids have failed as a result of their territorial nature.) Indeed, in the words of one scientist, this goal has long stood as the "Holy Grail of material science."

Physicists Create a New State of Matter: Cool a gas of rubidium atoms to one-hundred-millionth of a degree above absolute zero or less and something strange happens. The atoms lose their individuality and merge into a single quantum state, forming what is known as a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). In this condensate atoms flow without friction, endowing the ultracold gas with the property of superfluidity. Scientists have known that much since 1995. Now new research has taken that work one step further, revealing a surprising BEC behavior. It appears that under certain conditions, the condensate undergoes a reversible quantum phase transition, switching from a superfluid to a patterned fluid—a new type of matter.


John Grogan | Sneaking faith into science class
Ding! Ding! Ding! Hark! The Grogan Bull Meter rings again! And in the sleepy burg of Phoenixville, no less. What has set off my finely tuned cow-patty sensor? Why, it's the local school board's campaign to guarantee students the freedom to question accepted scientific knowledge. See

Professors argue intelligent design | Phoenixville, PA Area School District recently added new language to its mission statement that permits science teachers to discuss theories of intelligent design alongside evolution (The Phoenix, Phoenixville, Penn.). See 

Scientists have sequenced the sea squirt: This latest genome promises insights into how animals develop, and how those with backbones evolved from those without. Sea squirts (Ciona intestinalis) are among our closest spineless relatives. Their hearts and nervous systems, for example, are like simple version of ours. The animal has about 16,000 genes, half as many as most vertebrates. We share about 80% of these. But where humans or mice have families of many similar genes, such as for the immune system, the sea squirt typically has just one for each function. "Vertebrates increased their complexity by having multiple genes," says Dan Rokhsar of the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California, where much of the sequencing work was done. The squirt's simple genetics will help us to understand how and when genes switch each other on and off, he says. See 

Evolution's Logic of Credulity: An Unfettered Response to Allen Orr
William A. Dembski
Rather than a book review per se, this article is a review of a book review! The link takes you to  Dembski's full response to Allen Orr's critical review of his book, No Free Lunch. See

Sequencing the chimpanzee genome: insights into human evolution and disease Maynard V. Olson & Ajit Varki. See 

UC Riverside Study Suggests Placentas Can Evolve In 750,000 Years Or Less; Guppy-Like Fish Help Fill In The Gaps In The Evolution Of Complex Organs: RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Dec. 20, 2002 -- Evolutionary biologists have long been intrigued by how natural selection -- the process in nature by which the organisms best suited to their environment are the ones most likely to survive and leave descendants -- gradually creates a complex organ such as the eye, heart, or kidney. Now UC Riverside biologists, David Reznick and Mark Springer, along with Mariana Mateos, research associate at the University of Arizona, present in the journal Science a model system for studying the evolution of complex organs. They focus on the placenta (the organ that provides nutrients for the fetus and eliminates its waste products) in the fish genus, arguing that placentas serve as a good stand-in for complex organs whose histories have eluded evolutionary biologists. See 

Darwinian literary criticism - For many years, literary study has been divided among various arcane philosophies, from deconstruction to postcolonialism. The next hot theory comes not from France or Slovenia but from American laboratories -- by way of evolutionary theorists like E. O. Wilson and Steven Pinker. See 

Darwin's Religious Odyssey: by William E. Phipps review by Eric Wargo. See 


Associates for Biblical Research: There is an incomplete collection of back issues available on the ABR website, at, though Internet links from old articles may have expired.

Ancient Hebrew Research Center
This is a site dedicated to the Hebrew Language. See

History, Archaeology and Jesus - Paul L. Maier
Hard evidence from the ancient world dramatically supports the New Testament record on Jesus. See

Scientists Diagnose First Case of Tuberculosis in Iron Age Man: Independent (12/12/02). See 

Scholar Develops New System For Overlooked Wares Of Ancient Greece: Up until now, a small minority of pottery from the earliest Mycenaean civilization has gotten nearly all of the attention. Work by University of Cincinnati doctoral candidate Jeffrey L. Kramer is changing that. See 

Dutch archeologists excited over discovery of ruined Roman watchtowers along the old Rhine. See 


Black Crunch jams Universal cycle: The Universe is not as bouncy as some think, say two physicists. If a Big Crunch follows the Big Bang, it may get stuck that way for ever. See 

Jupiter's Moon, Io Spews Salt: The Jupiter satellite Io, one of the most volcanic bodies in the Solar System, has an atmosphere laced with salt, disgorged by its fiery eruptions, a French-led team of astronomers reported Thursday. See 

Dark Energy Dominates the Universe: HANOVER, NH - A Dartmouth researcher is building a case for a "dark energy"-dominated universe. Dark energy, the mysterious energy with unusual anti-gravitational properties, has been the subject of great debate among cosmologists. See 


Biology's chernobyl | If Rael is for real, it will set back scientific progress (Matt Ridley, The Wall Street Journal). See 

Audio Response to ClonAid Birth Announcement
by Reasons to Believe. See 

Research Finds Life 1000 Feet Beneath Ocean Floor: CORVALLIS, Ore. – 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 once more expands the realm of seemingly hostile or remote environments in which living organisms can apparently thrive. See 

Stem and Cancer Cells have something in Common: The same protein may control the proliferation of stem cells and cancer cells, according to a new study. The finding will help researchers understand how both types of cell can divide indefinitely. But it also highlights concerns that stem cell transplants could run the risk of seeding cancers. The discovery should help scientists manipulate stem cells to give an unlimited source for use in medicine. See 

Living Tissue Made to Order: Forget stitches, staples and glue - surgeons of the future could be closing incisions instantly with high-speed jets of living cells, according to research presented at the Materials Research Society meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, earlier this month. See 

The Brain reaction to Anorexia: Three-quarters of the anorexic and bulimic women studied by Serguei Fetissov of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm carry blood antibodies targeted against appetite centres in the brain, he finds. Just 16% of those without eating disorders have such antibodies. The antibodies may stop nerves responding to hormones that control hunger, Fetissov says, and so contribute to eating problems. If the idea proves to be correct, suppressing the aberrant molecules might treat the disease; diagnosis could also be improved on the basis of the presence of the antibodies. See 

Cocaine Harms Brain's "Pleasure Center," Addict Study Finds; Drug Attacks The Very Cells That Allow Users To Feel Its Effects: ANN ARBOR, MI – New research results strongly suggest that cocaine bites the hand that feeds it, in essence, by harming or even killing the very brain cells that trigger the "high" that cocaine users feel. See