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May 4, 2003

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Religion in the News

President delivers remarks on the National Day of Prayer (White House, audio | video).

Supreme Court turns away Kentucky's Ten Commandments case
The Supreme Court yesterday rejected without comment Kentucky's appeal of a ruling forbidding a large granite display of the Ten Commandments on the Capitol grounds. See

Prolife organizations rally members against AIDS—and House's AIDS bill
"Fighting AIDS on a global scale is a massive and complicated undertaking, yet this cause is rooted in the simplest of moral duties," President George W. Bush said Tuesday (text | audio | video). "When we see this kind of preventable suffering, when we see a plague leaving graves and orphans across a continent, we must act. When we see the wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not, America will not pass to the other side of the road." See

What's the Difference Between Shi'ah and Sunni? With a history of persecution and belief in martyrdom, the Shi'ite Muslim majority in Iraq may be more receptive to Christianity. See By Todd Hertz. See

Relief aid: Onward, Christian soldiers—to Iraq | The International Bible Society has already sent 10,000 booklets created for Iraqis to the Mideast (Newsweek). See

If Iraqi Shiite majority wants clerics, let them | If the United States intervenes to quash the desire of the Iraqi people for an Islamic government, won't we simply be trading one form of tyranny for another? (Cathleen Falsani, Chicago Sun-Times). See

Some Gen Xers skeptical of organized religion | Only 28 percent of Americans age 18-34 attend church, compared to 51 percent of those 55 or older, according to a poll done by the Barna Research Group (The Greenville [S.C.] News). See

The shock and awe of church as a fun mall | These generals aren't going after their target with MOABs ("Mother of All Bombs") but with MOACs ("Mall of America Churches"). (Darryl E. Owens, Orlando Sentinel). See,0,3614944.column?coll=orl%2Dhome%2Dheadlines 

Former atheist tells why he believes now. Lee Strobel, a former investigative and legal reporter for the Chicago Tribune who wrote "The Case for Christ" and "The Case for Faith," spoke to about 1,200 people Saturday afternoon at University United Methodist Church (San Antonio Express-News). See

How to Spot Atheists and Report Them to the FBI. See

Science in the News


Molecular biology: Complicity of gene and pseudogene
JEANNIE T. LEE. 01 May 2003
Nature 423 , 26 - 28 (2003)
'Pseudogenes' are produced from functional genes during evolution, and are thought to be simply molecular fossils. The unexpected discovery of a biological function for one pseudogene challenges that popular belief.
Pseudogenes are defective copies of functional genes that have accumulated to an impressive number during mammalian evolution 1. Dysfunctional in the sense that they cannot be used as a template for producing a protein, pseudogenes are in fact nearly as abundant as functional genes 2,3. Why have mammals allowed their accumulation on so large a scale? One proposed answer is that, although pseudogenes are often cast as evolutionary relics and a nuisance to genomic analysis, the processes by which they arise are needed to create whole gene families 4, such as those involved in immunity and smell. But are pseudogenes themselves merely by-products of this process? Or do the apparent evolutionary pressures to retain them hint at some hidden biological function? For one particular pseudogene, the latter seems to be true: elsewhere in this issue ( page 91 ), Hirotsune and colleagues 5report the unprecedented finding that the Makorin 1-p1 pseudogene performs a specific biological task. See"/html (must be a member).

Geologists Raise Questions About Controversial Theory Of Species Survival. Syracuse - Apr 30, 2003 - A recent study by a team of Syracuse University geologists has punched holes in a relatively new theory of species evolution called coordinated stasis; the theories involved are based on findings from fossil-bearing rocks that underlie Central New York. The SU study was published in "Geology," the premier journal of the Geological Society of America. See

Creationists planning to open six new schools. The organization behind a state-funded secondary school that has been criticized for promoting biblical creationism is to open two inner-city academies and is in talks that would bring seven schools under its control (The Times, London). See,,2-661633,00.html

Dawkins attacks 'educational debauchery' of creationist schools. The organisation criticised for promoting creationism in state education has admitted that anti-evolutionary theories will be taught in its new schools. See,5500,945524,00.html

Chimps expose humanness
Preliminary genome comparison points to primate individuality. (Nature)

New evidence that fish feel pain
The first conclusive evidence of pain perception in fish is said to have been found by UK scientists. See

One Fig, One Wasp? Not Always!
Contrary to prevailing wisdom concerning one of the most famous textbook examples of a tightly co-evolved mutualism, not every fig species is pollinated by its own unique wasp species. In this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Drude Molbo, postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and collaborators report that two genetically distinct species of wasps are present in at least half of the fig species surveyed. See

Religion versus science might be all in the mind By stimulating the cerebral region presumed to control notions of self, Michael Persinger has been able to induce in hundreds of subjects a "sensed presence" only the subjects themselves are aware of (The Sydney Morning Herald). See

Templeton's turn An award that tries to reconcile science and religion (John J. Miller, The Wall Street Journal). See


Gilgamesh tomb believed found. Archaeologists in Iraq believe they may have found the lost tomb of King Gilgamesh - the subject of the oldest "book" in history. The Epic Of Gilgamesh - written by a Middle Eastern scholar 2,500 years before the birth of Christ - commemorated the life of the ruler of the city of Uruk, from which Iraq gets its name. Now, a German-led expedition has discovered what is thought to be the entire city of Uruk - including, where the Euphrates once flowed, the last resting place of its famous King.  See

Scholars link Jesus to ancient burial box | The Brother of Jesus: The Dramatic Story & Meaning of the First Archaeological Link to Jesus & His Family delivers a fascinating scientific detective drama loaded with theological implications and provides the general reader an insider view of this esoteric process (The Denver Post). See,1413,36~28~1348844,00.html

Egypt High Priests' Tombs Uncovered. April 27, 2003 — Archaeologists from the French Archaeological Institute in Cairo (IFAO) have unearthed an Egyptian necropolis filled with over 4,000-year-old rock-cut tombs, shedding new light over the quest for the missing pharaoh Userkare, according to a new documentary. Located at Tabbet al-Guesh, near the pyramids of Saqqara about 15 miles south of Cairo, the necropolis contains tombs of high-ranking officials from Egypt's Old Kingdom, which lasted from 2400 BC-2100 B.C. See

Search for the Lost City of Nubia. Anderson has her sights set on a place and time about 2,000 years ago when a civilization known as Nubia flourished here, Dangeil, Sudan . A huge temple was surrounded by a thriving city at the juncture of trade routes; it was inhabited by strong warriors known by the Romans as "the pupil smiters." See

Exploring Lewis and Clark's legacy
Stories of Lewis and Clark usually start out west, where the explorers paddled up the Missouri River in 1804 to explore the Louisiana Purchase and find an easy water route to the Pacific Ocean. See


Russian capsule lands Two U.S. astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut it carried had been delayed by the Columbia tragedy.
Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut returned to Earth from the international space station today in a cramped Russian capsule, getting home the only way they could after the Columbia space shuttle disaster. They became the first NASA astronauts to land in a foreign spacecraft in a foreign land. See

Galaxy Evolution Explorer Looks Back In Time. Pasadena - Apr 28, 2003 - NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) will carry a telescope into Earth orbit that will observe a million galaxies, across 10 billion years of cosmic history, to help astronomers determine when the stars we see today had their origins. See

New Tech Will Put The Scope Smaller Exo Planets. Schoemakerstraat - Apr 28, 2003 - Scientists and engineers at Astrium Space Friedrichshafen and TNO TPD's space division in Delft have taken an important step in tracking down small planets outside our solar system. See

A Star With Two North Poles. Huntsville - Apr 28, 2003 - Sometimes the Sun's magnetic field goes haywire, and the effects are felt throughout the solar system. Three years ago, something weird happened to the Sun. Normally, our star, like Earth itself, has a north and a south magnetic pole. But for nearly a month beginning in March 2000, the Sun's south magnetic pole faded, and a north pole emerged to take its place. The Sun had two north poles. See

Finding The Ashes Of The First Stars. Paris - Apr 30, 2003 - Recent observations with the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that the first stars formed as little as 200 million years after the Big Bang. This is much earlier than previously thought. See

In Search Of The Missing Universe. Boulby - Apr 30, 2003 - The Universe around us is not what it appears. The stars make up less than 1% of its mass; all the gas clouds and other objects, less than 5%. This visible matter is mere flotsam on a sea of unknown material - so called 'Dark Matter' - a descriptor which mainly serves as an expression of our great ignorance of its nature. See


Scientists Discover Gene Linked to Most Lethal Form of Skin Cancer. The incidence of the most aggressive form of skin cancer, melanoma, has doubled over the last 20 years in the U.S. Because malignant melanoma is generally unresponsive to chemotherapy, scientists are particularly interested in figuring out how it progresses and developing new means of treatment. Researchers have now identified a gene that causes melanoma in mice. In humans, the same gene is involved in a third of melanoma cases. See

The price of genius Isaac Newton suffered a nervous breakdown at the age of 50. Throughout his life he was taciturn, had few friends and was often so engrossed in his work that he forgot to eat. Albert Einstein repeated sentences obsessively until he was seven years old, became a notoriously confusing lecturer and was generally acknowledged to be a difficult person. Both men were certainly geniuses, but did they also have something else in common? Simon Baron-Cohen has assessed the personality traits of both men, and believes they may have shown signs of Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. See

Regular fasting seems to improve health Scientists are now planning a study to see if fasting, which seems to benefit mice, will be good for people too (Associated Press). See

Aging (1 May) - Scientists may have discovered why the brain's higher information-processing center slows down in old age, affecting everything from language, to vision, to motor skills. The findings may also point toward drugs for reversing the process. See

Earth Science

Vegetation Essential To Balancing Climate Models. Boston - Apr 30, 2003 - Climate change 6,000 years ago in Sahara desert explained by MIT scientists Just as vegetables are essential to balancing the human diet, the inclusion of vegetation may be equally essential to balancing Earth's climate models. See

Demand For Wood May Lead To Forest Growth, Not Decline, Study Says
Under the right economic conditions, a growing demand for forest products that accompanies development may lead to an increase – not a decline – in forest cover, according to a new study by researchers at Brown University and Harvard University. Policies that focus on reducing paper demand may not necessarily increase forestation. See

A new trigger for Ice Age retreat
About 14,600 years ago, a huge pulse of freshwater drained from continental ice sheets into the world’s oceans. Over 500 years, a discharge equivalent to five Amazon Rivers raised sea level by 20 meters — marking one of the most dramatic chapters in Earth’s episodic climb out of the last Ice Age. Traditionally, paleoclimatologists have thought that the meltwater came from the Laurentide Ice Sheet, responding to an abrupt warming of the northern hemisphere called the Bolling-Allerod. Last year, geophysicist Peter Clark from Oregon State University and colleagues proposed that the meltwater actually came from Antarctica. The calving and melting of a massive portion of Antarctica better explained the observed pattern of sea-level rise, they argued in Science (Geotimes, June 2002). See


Physicists have found a new subatomic particle, named Ds (2317). It will help them better understand the building blocks of matter. The particle consists of an unusual combination of more fundamental particles - quarks. Two quarks form Ds (2317) and, curiously, its properties are not what theory predicted. See

WIMPS. In theory WIMPS - or weakly interacting massive particles - could solve two of physics' biggest headaches. They could identify the Universe's elusive dark matter and unify the laws of quantum physics and general relativity into the long sought-after theory of everything. If, that is, they actually exist. As their name suggests, WIMPs should be heavy enough to account for the 90% of our galaxy's mass that is invisible, as hinted at by other experiments. Yet they must be able to throw their weight around in the subtlest of ways otherwise we would have spotted them before. See


Stress can have an effect on our bodies, emotions, and behavior. While some people seem to thrive on stress, many of us suffer from its physiological effects. Find out how stressed you are at

A Shrink Gets Stretched. Why psychologist Larry Crabb believes spiritual direction should replace therapy. By Agnieszka Tennant. See

Why do humans pray? What happens in our brains when we meditate? Are we genetically programmed to look for the spiritual experience? These are questions that have driven American scientists to scan the brains of meditating monks and nuns at prayer - in the hope of understanding the link between the religious experience and the workings of the brain. See

Neuroscience - psychiatry (30 Apr) - Following the lead of many other researchers, Professor Ramachandran proposes a neurological and evolutionary approach to phenomena that were traditionally labelled "mental illness". See

Searching For Meaning In Life May Boost Immune System
Pursuing goals related to living a meaningful life may boost the activity of certain cells in the immune system, according to a small study of women who lost a relative to breast cancer. See