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May 11, 2003

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Religion in the News

Babylon upon a Hill? Religious thinkers debate how America should use its unrivaled influence. Reviewed by Douglas LeBlanc. See

Do Prolife and Profamily Groups Care About AIDS in Africa? Several groups that made a lot of noise before Thursday's vote are now silent. Another is still disparaging the bill even though it got all it asked for. Compiled by Ted Olsen. See

Religious Pundits Weigh in on Bill Bennett's Gambling. See

Campbell interrupted Blair as he spoke of his faith: 'We don't do God' | Tony Blair's most senior advisers have intervened to prevent him discussing his faith in public, according to two new profiles of the Prime Minister (The Daily Telegraph, London). See

Was Evangelical Summit About Islam--or About Franklin Graham? Evangelical leaders call for tempered speech on Islam. Yesterday, about 40 or 50 evangelical leaders got together to criticize evangelist Franklin Graham. Or so it would seem from media reports. See

New Leader at Focus on the Family. Dobson turns to an old friend to stabilize his organization. By Tony Carnes. See

The God of War. God seems to sanction raw violence in the Old Testament. Does his character change in the New Testament? Answered by Tremper Longman III. See

The Dick Staub Interview: Winning People, Not Arguments. John Stackhouse discusses the evangelistic need for humble apologetics. See

Church arsenic poisoning a bizarre event for Maine. Someone has poisoned members at a tiny Maine church. That's disturbing to many who normally would think such a place was among the safest on Earth (Editorial, Portland Press Herald) See

Buffy and the Meaning of Life. Buffy the Vampire Slayer finally gets some respect. Too bad the life is slowly ebbing out of the show. By Jeremy Lott. See

'Matrix' world is all-consuming in mythology, mysticism | The film was really an amalgam of religious faiths disguised as an action flick (USA Today). See also  The Gospel according to Neo | Theologians and pop-culture experts see 'The Matrix' as a phenomenon shaping public opinion about religion (The Christian Science Monitor). See

Religious colleges walk a fine line | Colleges with a religious affiliation often must struggle to balance academic freedom with the potentially conflicting values of religion (The Philadelphia Inquirer). See

Finding common ground | Students research the world's belief systems to find their similarities (Honolulu Star-Bulletin). See

Missing the Rupture. How two groups address the real issues behind church splits. By Christine Scheller. See

Church buildings are born again as offices, restaurants
As membership falls, houses of worship find salvation in the business world.
In the final ceremony at the New Hope United Methodist Church, the Rev. Joseph DiPaolo walked out of the 125-year-old church carrying a cross. They had just completed a deconsecration ceremony, removing the sacredness, making it just another building to be sold. See

Telemarketers lose at Supreme Court | The outcome of the case has implications for every nonprofit group that engages in fundraising (Family News in Focus). See

Poll: 'Secularists' are mostly young | Most live on West Coast and are liberal, according to Gallup research (Religion News Service). See

Christian Satirical Website a Blessing to Some, 'Sick Joke' to Others. Founder of Lark News says satire is important in any community or subculture. By Todd Hertz. See

The Word of God, written by committee | Adam Nicolson's book takes on the daunting task of explaining the process behind the creation of the King James Bible (The New York Times). See

Science in the News


Reasons To Believe's 2003 Conference: Who is the Designer? June 26-28th 2003 at SeaCoast Grace Church in Cypress, CA. Questions addressed: "Does the created realm adequately support a search for the Designer?" "If so, does the evidence point to the personal God of the Bible, or to the god(s) of other world religions, or somewhere else altogether?" "How can I gain the wisdom to examine the evidence and draw sound conclusions?" "How can I most effectively discuss and defend my conclusions among those who disagree?" See

New Recipes For Prebiotic Cook Up. San Diego - May 09, 2003 - Scripps Professor Revisits the Miller Experiment and the Origin of Life Fiftieth anniversary of famous experiment commemorated with June 10 public symposium In the fall of 1952, Stanley Miller, now a chemistry professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), began simulating primitive earthly conditions in an experiment that produced the basic building blocks of life. See

Anthrax Genome Spills Its Deadly Secrets. Mutations in just a few genes can turn a benign dirt bacterium into the deadly form of anthrax that was used to kill five people in the fall of 2001, researchers report. Scientists compared the deadly pathogen's genetic makeup with those of its two closest, and less dangerous, relatives. The findings should help elucidate how virulence evolved and help researchers mount a better defense against the potential bioterror agent. See

Without Enzyme Catalyst, Slowest Known Biological Reaction Takes 1 Trillion Years. Chapel Hill - May 07, 2003 - All biological reactions within human cells depend on enzymes. Their power as catalysts enables biological reactions to occur usually in milliseconds. But how slowly would these reactions proceed spontaneously, in the absence of enzymes - minutes, hours, days? And why even pose the question? See or

Artificial life experiments show how complex functions can evolve
If the evolution of complex organisms were a road trip, then the simple country drives are what get you there. And sometimes even potholes along the way are important. See

Fact v faith | Creationists cannot ignore scientific truth (Editorial, The Guardian, London). See,3604,949500,00.html


Setting of Ancient Gilgamesh Legend Found? May 6, 2003 — The setting of the world's first great work of literature lies buried beneath the Iraqi desert, according to German archaeologists. See

'Garden of Eden' devastated under Saddam | In the purported Garden of Eden, lifeless trees stand amid trash, patches of dry grass and salt-encrusted mud—the remnants of once-lush marshlands (Associated Press). See

Bone (box) of contention: The James Ossuary | Did this limestone box—the focus of heated controversy—once hold the bones of Jesus' brother? (Skeptical Inquirer). See

Star-gazers pinpoint the hour Jesus died | Liviu Mircea and Tiberiu Oproiu from the Astronomic Observatory Institute in Cluj, Romania, said yesterday that research carried out using a computer program checked against Bible references showed that Christ died at 3pm on Friday, April 3, 33 AD, and rose again on Sunday, April 5 at 4 a.m. (The Herald, Glasgow). See also

Preserving Samaritan speech | The Samaritans, arguably the people with the best press in the New Testament, have a big problem: not only have they shrunk to a miniscule community, but their language is threatened with extinction (UPI). See

Egyptian Mummy's Life, Death Revealed. May 5, 2003 — High-tech analysis of a mummy, nicknamed "Cleo," is shedding light on the life and burial of the middle class woman inside the wrappings who lived 2,000 years ago in Egypt. See

Humans Did in the Mastodons. Megafauna died from big kill, not big chill. See


Starry View: Image reveals galaxy's violent past. The most detailed visible-light picture ever taken of the heavens reveals that the nearby Andromeda galaxy has had a much more violent history than our own Milky Way has. See

Tank-Inspired Robot Set To Hunt Microbes On Mars: London (AFP) May 02, 2003 - Scientists in Britain have designed a tank-inspired robot set to hunt microbes on Mars and and establish whether human colonies could survive in the hostile environment of the Red Planet. Researchers say they turned to military-inspired caterpillar tracks which change shape as they roll over obstacles. The 40,000-euro (45,000 dollars) research at Kingston University near London, funded by the European Space Agency, is aimed at getting the robot to Mars by 2011. See

NASA Orders New Mars Airplane Prototype. Manassas - May 07, 2003 - Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. has received an order from the NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., for a full-scale prototype of a proposed Mars airplane. The aircraft is being built as part of the Mars Scout Aerial Regional-Scale Environmental Survey (ARES) project of which Dr. Joel S. Levine is the Principal Investigator. See

Russia, US Agree To Explore Mars Together. Moscow (AFP) May 05, 2003 - Russia and the United States have agreed to launch a joint programme of Mars exploration, officials said here Monday after talks between the heads of the US and Russian space agencies. The two countries "have agreed to begin joint exploration of Mars and carry out joint unmanned interplanetary station flight programmes," said Sergei Gorbunov, spokesman for Russia's Rosaviakosmos space agency. See

Explaining Thirty Years Of Fudge. Sacramento - May 06, 2003 - After decades of NASA officials and its congressional supporters asserting on the public record that the shuttle can do this and that for X amount of money, the whole sordid truth is starting to come out as veterans of the manned space program give evidence to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board about what really happened decades ago when the key decisions were made. See

Panel Links Wing Seal, Shuttle Crash. May 6, 2003 — The Columbia shuttle disaster was probably caused by a seal that broke between protective tiles on the left wing, according to preliminary results from the official inquiry announced Tuesday. See

Meteorites: Catch a falling star
A fireball illuminated the European sky on an April evening last year, was captured on film and found to be a 1.75-kg meteorite. See also

May's Total Lunar Eclipse
For almost an hour on the night of May 15–16, the full Moon will turn dim and fiery orange. See


Test Blunders May Lead to Needless Abortions: April 30, 2003 — Blunders in genetic tests for cystic fibrosis have prompted many pregnant women in the United States to undergo risky foetal tests or abort a foetus that may have been healthy, New Scientist says. The problem lies with doctors who order the wrong tests and counsellors who misinterpret the results but also with companies, some of which may be breaching ethics guidelines, it says. See

Fundamental Breakthrough In Biology Could Aid Understanding Of Cancer. Corvallis - May 6, 2003 - Researchers have made a fundamental advance in the understanding of cell biology that helps to explain how cells in higher organisms, including humans, send out signals that control cell division, cell death and other key functions. See

Scientists Observe Nanosize Microtubules Across Plant Cells. Stanford - May 6, 2003 - A study in the journal Science is offering new insights into a long-standing mystery about plant growth. The scientists who conducted the experiment say their results could open new avenues of research for developing more effective herbicides and pharmaceuticals. See

'Superglue virus' wipes out brain tumours
The virus can destroy malignant gliomas, the deadliest form of brain cancer, a study in mice has shown. Human trials could begin next year. See

Lifespan - genetics (7 May) - Researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS) have discovered that a gene in yeast is a key regulator of lifespan. The gene, PNC1, is the first that has been shown to respond specifically to environmental factors known to affect lifespan in many organisms. See

Earth Science

Why is the South Pole colder than the North Pole? Robert Bindschadler, a senior fellow and glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, explains. See

Mapping The Greenland Ice Sheets. Wallops Island - May 09, 2003 - The ice sheet covering Greenland is expansive. Beyond the northern reaches of the Atlantic Ocean, Greenland is the largest island in the world and has the second largest mass of frozen fresh water on Earth. The ice and snow, covering 85 percent of the island, may provide important clues on global climate change. See

Photosynthesis In The Abyss. Moffett Field - May 07, 2003 - Deep-sea hydrothermal vents, with their black smokers, six-foot red tube worms and strange pale crabs and clams have become common features of biology textbooks, mainstream magazines, newspapers and TV nature shows. See

Winging South: Finally, a fly fossil from Antarctica. A tiny fossil collected about 500 kilometers from the South Pole indicates that Antarctica was once home to a type of fly that scientists long thought had never inhabited the now-icy, almost insectfree continent. See

The Fires Below: Burning coal sculpts landscapes worldwide. Underground coal fires sculpt the landscape on many scales and in many ways, some transient and some long-lasting. See

Fossilized Fish Act As Ancient Thermometer
Fossilized fish bones may help scientists to reconstruct the temperatures of 65 million years ago, according to a paper in this week's Nature, co-authored by colleagues representing three generations of researchers. See

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. See

Extinction of Cloudina and Namacalathus at the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary in Oman. The cause of the Cambrian radiation has long been debated. With the publication of the paper by Amthor and colleagues, it seems likely that this evolutionary radiation was immediately preceded by a wave of extinction of terminal Proterozoic calcified metazoans. This supports early suggestions for extinction based on evidence for the demise of soft-bodied Ediacaran animals. This new evidence for extinction helps fuel the old model that flattening of ecosystems during times of stress creates opportunities for new adaptive strategies, expressed in this case as the Cambrian radiation. See

Meteorites rained on Earth after massive asteroid breakup
Using fossil meteorites and ancient limestone unearthed throughout southern Sweden, marine geologists at Rice University have discovered that a colossal collision in the asteroid belt some 500 million years ago led to intense meteorite strikes over the Earth's surface. The research, which appears in this week's issue of Science magazine, is based upon an analysis of extraterrestrial minerals and fossils found in limestone that formed from sea bottom sediments about 480 million years ago. See

Evidence for potassium as misisng 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. See


Lab tests tenets' limits
If the fundamental constants of physics change, they do so too slowly for us to detect. After years of careful bench-top experiments, two groups of physicists have put limits on just how constant nature's constants really are1,2. Until now, physicists had to look to the stars to set their boundaries. Everything in the Universe seems to be predicated on a handful of numbers: the fundamental constants. These numbers determine, for instance, the strength of gravity and electromagnetism, and the mass of the subatomic particles. They mean that atoms are stable, stars shine, and life is possible. If the fundamental constants were just a little different, the Universe might never have amounted to more than a formless morass of matter and energy. Nonetheless, over the past few years, scientists have begun to wonder whether these constants have really been the same since time and space began about 13 billion years ago. After all, current theories that attempt to reconcile relativity with quantum mechanics - one of the outstanding challenges of modern physics - predict that the fundamental constants might, perhaps even must, vary over time. See 

New subatomic particle found
Mysterious quark blend hints at what holds atoms together. Researchers have stumbled across a new subatomic particle. The mysterious body is causing theorists to rethink their ideas about the strong force, which binds subatomic particles together into atoms. Dubbed 'Ds (2317)', the new-found particle is probably an unusual configuration of quarks - the entities that, in trios, form protons and neutrons. It could be one quark orbiting another, or perhaps a sort of molecule of four quarks. See

Cornell Team Turn To Plasma For X-Ray Fusion System. Ithaca - May 07, 2003 - Cornell University is leading a newly formed international consortium of six universities and institutes collaborating on high-energy density plasma research, with the aim of developing a promising fusion power source. See


Free will(8 May) - Now that the human genome - the sum of all our genes - has been decoded, does it appear that a person's destiny is fixed for all time in the letters of his or her DNA? See

Neuroscience (8 May) - Neuroscience is now big business, with discoveries coming thick and fast. The time to worry about the future of our brains is now, says Steven Rose. See,13228,951057,00.html

Violent song lyrics increase aggression
Songs loaded with violent imagery do increase aggressive thoughts and emotions, new research shows. See

Blowing Off Self-Esteem. Psychologists debunk the notion that high self-regard leads to high performance. See

Schizophrenia - genetics (7 May) - Studies of a gene that affects how efficiently the brain's frontal lobes process information are revealing some untidy consequences of a tiny variation in its molecular structure and how it may increase susceptibility to schizophrenia. People with a common version of the gene associated with more efficient working memory and frontal lobe information processing may pay a penalty in adverse responses to amphetamine, in heightened anxiety and sensitivity to pain. Yet, another common version may slightly bias the brain toward a pattern of neurochemical activity associated with psychosis, report researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). See

Schizophrenia (6 May) - Auditory hallucinations are a hallmark of schizophrenia: 50 percent to 75 percent of the 2.8 million Americans who suffer from the illness hear voices that are not there. See

Bipolar disorder (6 May) - A study by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center indicates that people with bipolar disorder may suffer progressive brain damage. See


House Approves Nanotechnology Bill. Washington - May 08, 2003 - The House of Representatives made a large commitment May 8 to a tiny technology that could have a big impact in Silicon Valley and throughout the U.S. economy in years to come. See