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October 26, 2003

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Religion in the News

New Afghan constitution juggles Koran and Democracy
The question now facing Afghans is: how to devise a constitution that combines the country's deep-rooted Islamic traditions and its aspirations for democracy? (New York Times).

The Truth About Samaritan's Purse in Iraq
This past summer, pundits predicted that Iraqis would resent Franklin Graham's ministry. What really happened when the workers showed up? By Kevin Begos.

"Under God"
The history of a phrase (James Piereson, The Weekly Standard).

We Live What We Believe
Luke Timothy Johnson talks about the importance of the creed—even for non-creedal Christians.
Interviewed by David Neff.

Evangelical society will decide whether to oust two members
Several hundred evangelical scholars will decide whether to expel two members of the Evangelical Theological Society as heretics for their embrace of open theism. (

This is our heaven - or hell
For the great religions, this world matters more than the next (Karen Armstrong, The Guardian, London).

John Paul II's Canonization Cannon
Why and how this pope has made over 470 saints. By Steven Gertz.

Investing as Love
Gary Moore's biblical approach to financial management. Reviewed by Cindy Crosby.

Thinking to Change Lives
Robert Louis Wilken explores early Christian thought. Reviewed by Cindy Crosby.

Science in the News

ASA Meeteing: You are cordially invited to join ASA members and friends for the 7th meeting of the Eastern Pennsylvania Section of the American Scientific Affiliation.  Topic: Days of Creation: Why Christians disagree over the meanings of Genesis and modern science. We will be meeting at Eastern College in Saint Davids, PA on Saturday November 8, 2003 starting at 1:30 PM until 4:45 PM. Cost:  $10.00 (students and spouses free) RSVP by November 6th Alan McCarrick Pannelists are Paul Humber, David Wilcox, Robert Newman, Stephen Meyers, and Frank Roberts. Campus directions and map:


The mystery of the missing links
It is becoming fashionable to question Darwinism, but few people understand either the arguments for evolution or the arguments against it (Mary Wakefield, The Spectator, U.K.).

Clays May Have Aided Formation of Primordial Cells. Chevy Chase - Oct 24, 2003
Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers have discovered that clays may have been the catalysts that spurred the spontaneous assembly of fatty acids into the small sacs that ultimately evolved into the first living cells.

Adaptive Mutation Is Common In E. Coli, Say Indiana University Researchers
The quickening of genetic mutation rates in bacteria may not only happen when the microorganisms find themselves in strange and stressful circumstances. Biologists Patricia Foster and Jill Layton found that as E. coli cells begin to starve, the bacteria quadruple their expression of DNA Polymerase IV (Pol IV), a mutation-causing enzyme that is notoriously bad at copying DNA accurately. The culprit, the scientists discovered, is sigma-38, a stress protein that appears to activate expression of the Pol IV gene.

Determining Distances to Astronomical Objects.
Astronomers can measure distances to objects in the universe whose light took thousands, millions, or even billions of years for their light to reach us. This has obvious implications for those who believe the universe is under ten-thousand years old. This article explains how scientists measure distances to various types of astronomical objects and how young-earth creationists deal with large astronomical distances.

By: Seth Cooper, Discovery Institute. October 20, 2003.

Oxford University's Richard Dawkins wrote to Skilton House Ministries' Paul Humber last spring concerning the Oxford Union Debate that he had participated in against creationists.  Dr. Dawkins wrote "Durant also records (which I had forgotten) that Maynard Smith and I won the debate by 198 votes to 15."  These numbers, however, were/are seriously flawed.  The true numbers were 198 to 115 (or possibly 198 to 150).  If you would like to receive a copy of the published paper concerning these exchanges in pdf format, write to


The Battleground: Who Destroyed Megiddo? Was It David or Shishak?
Timothy P. Harrison - The answer depends on one key stratum, and our understanding of the United Monarchy hinges on whether it was the Israelite king or the Egyptian pharaoh.

Strata, King Hezekiah Did Build the Tunnel.
Scientific Tests Substantiate Biblical Account.

Digging out the truth of Exodus
Trenches could be the first physical evidence for the Bible story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt (U.S. News & World Report).

Did Thera's explosion doom Minoan Crete?
The eruption of the Thera in the Aegean 3,000 years ago may have been more violent than previously thought. If so, it might have attributed to the decline of Minoan Crete, a theory deemed far-fetched in the 1980s. Some scholars see this eruption as the cause of the plagues of Egypt and the Exodus.

Is this where Jesus bathed?
A shopkeeper running a small souvenir business in Nazareth has made a sensational discovery that could dramatically rewrite the history of Christianity (The Guardian, London).

Studies in Epigraphy, Iconography, History and Archaeology in Honor of Shlomo Moussaieff.
Edited by Robert Deutsch.

Secret of mummification revealed!
German scientists have tracked down a preservative used in ancient Egypt to an extract of cedar. Chemists from Tuebingen University and the Munich-based Doerner-Institut replicated an ancient treatment of cedar wood and found it contained a preservative chemical called guaiacol. The team then tested the chemicals found in the cedar derivative on fresh pig ribs. They found it had an extremely high anti-bacterial effect without damaging body tissue. The findings, published in the science journal Nature, will surprise Egyptologists who had thought the embalming oil was extracted from juniper rather than cedar. The team also tested juniper extracts but found they did not contain the guaiacol preservatives. Weser said that, despite ancient mentions of "cedar-juice," scholars believed juniper to be the source because of similar Greek names and some mummies being found clutching juniper berries. The team extracted the cedar oil using a method mentioned in a work by Pliny the Elder, a Roman encyclopaedist who wrote of an embalming ointment called "cedrium."

Stunning Fossils Reveal First Humans to Leave Africa
In an age of spacecraft and deep-sea submersibles, we take it for granted that humans are intrepid explorers. Yet from an evolutionary perspective, the propensity to colonize is one of the distinguishing characteristics of our kind: no other primate has ever ranged so far and wide. Stunning finds in the Republic of Georgia are upending long-standing ideas about the first hominids who journeyed out of Africa, marking the start of global colonization.

Archeological and anthropological contradictions in the Book of Mormon has been updated and rewritten. In addition to the new research, the page contains many graphics that depict the true nature of ancient cultures in the Americas. Archeological/Anthropological Problems in the Book of Mormon also DNA Evidence and Molecular Genetics Disprove the Book of Mormon by Rich Deem and Testing the Creation Model of the LDS Church.

Did Scandinavians Beat Columbus to America Twice?
Archeologists have already established that Viking explorers beat Christopher Columbus to America by about 500 years, but experts in Sweden now hope to determine whether another group of Scandinavians landed in the New World in 1362, 130 years before Columbus. A 200-pound rune stone, a block of stone featuring symbolic engravings common during the Viking era, has been sent from the United States to Sweden's Museum of National Antiquities to establish whether it really dates from 1362, as its markings claim, or is just a hoax. If confirmed as an authentic relic, the so-called Kensington stone would prove that another wave of explorers, more than 300 years after the Vikings, made it to the American continent before Columbus did in 1492.

Early Evidence Of Fire Found Oct. 17, 2003
Construction work to build a relief road for a British village has revealed one of the earliest evidences of fire in Europe, British archaeologists announced. Charcoal deposits that might date back between 250,000 and 300,000 years ago, were discovered in Harnham, a village one mile south of Salisbury on South Wiltshire's Chalklands, England.


The Missing Link In Planet Formation. Pasadena - Oct 21, 2003
Just as anthropologists sought "the missing link" between apes and humans, astronomers are embarking on a quest for a missing link in planetary evolution. Only instead of dusty fields and worn shovels, their laboratory is the universe, and their tool of choice is NASA's new Space Infrared Telescope Facility.

Integral Space Telescope Discovers Hidden Black Holes. Paris - Oct 20, 2003
Integral, ESA's powerful gamma-ray space telescope, has discovered what seems to be a new class of astronomical objects. These are binary systems, probably including a black hole or a neutron star, embedded in a thick cocoon of cold gas. They have remained invisible so far to all other telescopes. Integral was launched exactly one year ago today to study the most energetic phenomena in the universe.

Green Mineral Suggests Mars Has Been Bone Dry For A Billion Years. Tempe - Oct 24, 2003
The presence of a common green mineral on Mars suggests that the red planet could have been cold and dry since the mineral has been exposed, which may be more than a billion years according to new research appearing in the Oct. 24 edition of Science.

Large Asteroid Is Two Orbiting Objects
An asteroid that has eluded astronomers for decades turns out to be an unusual pair of objects traveling together in space. The asteroid Hermes was rediscovered last week after being lost for 66 years. Now Jean-Luc Margot, a researcher in UCLA's department of Earth and space sciences, has determined that the asteroid is, in fact, two objects orbiting each other. The two objects together would cover an area approximately the size of Disneyland.

Sun Erupts With Intense Activity. Boulder - Oct 24, 2003
Forecasters at the NOAA Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo., observed two dynamic areas of the sun, one of which has produced a coronal mass ejection, or CME, Wednesday morning at 3 a.m. EDT that appears to be Earth-directed. The forecasters are predicting a strong geomagnetic storm, G-3 on the NOAA Space Weather Scales, that should reach Earth on Friday, October 24.


U-M Scientists Find Genetic 'Fountain Of Youth' For Adult Stem Cells (October 23, 2003)
Scientists at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have identified a gene that controls the amazing ability of adult stem cells to self-renew, or make new copies of themselves, throughout life.

Scaffold May Help Stem Cells Grow into Organs
Organ transplantation saves the lives of 63 people each day, on average. Unfortunately, another 16 lives are lost because the demand for organs outstrips supply. Scientists hope to one day solve this problem by manufacturing replacement parts through tissue engineering. In a small step toward this goal, researchers report a new approach to creating three-dimensional samples of human tissue.

Preliminary Study Finds Stem Cells In Blood Restore Damaged Heart Muscle (October 21, 2003)
Based on promising animal data, researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center say that cells taken from a patient's own blood may one day be able to repair heart tissue that has been damaged.

New Class Of Antibiotics Stops Pathogens In Their Genetic Tracks
Researchers have found that a promising new class of antibacterial chemicals inhibits one of the most fundamental processes of life – a cell's ability to express genetic material. Knowing exactly how these chemicals keep bacterial cells in check can help scientists make more effective antibiotics.

Re-engineered Blood Vessels Show Promise For Bypass Surgery, Grafts, UMHS Researchers Find (October 23, 2003)
Surgeons at the University of Michigan Health System report that they have been able to strip tiny blood vessels from rats and re-engineer them to be more effective when implanted in a new animal. The findings could benefit people who have already had vascular bypass surgery and need new blood vessels for subsequent procedures.

UBC Researcher Discovers 'Control Room' That Regulates Immune Responses (October 23, 2003)
The approximately 50 million people in the U.S. who suffer from autoimmune diseases like HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis, may soon be able to control their immune responses, thanks to a breakthrough discovery by a researcher at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Earth Science

Mutant Pollen Clue To Ancient Fallout. Oct. 17, 2003
Conifer tree pollen from 250 million years ago show the same mutations as those of modern pines hit by fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, a new study has found. The prehistoric mutations probably occurred after gas and dust from massive volcanic eruptions damaged Earth's ozone layer, resulting in a torrent of damaging ultra-violet radiation from the sun.

Recent Warming Of Arctic May Affect Worldwide Climate. Greenbelt - Oct 24, 2003
Recently observed change in Arctic temperatures and sea ice cover may be a harbinger of global climate changes to come, according to a recent NASA study. Satellite data -- the unique view from space -- are allowing researchers to more clearly see Arctic changes and develop an improved understanding of the possible effect on climate worldwide.

Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along: Dinosaur buoyancy may explain odd tracks.
New lab experiments and computer analyses may explain how some of the heftiest four-legged dinosaurs ever to walk on Earth could have left trackways that include the imprints of only their front feet.


Mutant Gene Linked To Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Analysis of DNA samples from patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and related illnesses suggests that these neuropsychiatric disorders affecting mood and behavior are associated with an uncommon mutant, malfunctioning gene that leads to faulty transporter function and regulation.

Brain May 'Hard-Wire' Before Birth (October 22, 2003)
Refuting 30 years of scientific theory that solely credits hormones for brain development, UCLA scientists have identified 54 genes that may explain the different organization of male and female brains.

Computer games can treat phobias
Customised versions of the popular PC games Half-Life and Unreal Tournament are a cheap and effective therapy.


Putting Liquids on "Pause" Huntsville - Oct 17, 2003
High-performance golf clubs. Ultra-sharp knives. Superior fiber optics for telecommunications. Tough, lightweight materials for future spacecraft. What do all these things have in common? They can all be made using "undercooled" liquids: molten materials that are cooled below the normal freezing point yet, through special handling, are kept in a liquid state.

Scientists Seize Golden Business Opportunity: New Material Could Save Electronics Industry Millions (October 23, 2003)
Scientists have created a new material which could save the electronics industry millions of pounds each year and could also be more effective. Several attempts have been made over the last twenty years to make gold nitride but now a researcher at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne has solved the puzzle.

Let Water Power Your Cell Phone? University Of Alberta Engineering Researchers Discover New Source Of Electricity (October 20, 2003)
A team of researchers in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alberta (U of A) has discovered a new way of generating electricity from flowing water. It may soon be possible to never have to charge up a cellular phone again instead, the phone could be fitted with a battery that uses pressurized water.


Peacock's Beauty Secrets Revealed
The spectacular sight of a peacock's tail has made the animal synonymous with vanity. Researchers knew that the brilliant colors result from so-called structural coloration--that is, the interaction of light with features of the feathers--instead of pigmentation, but the precise mechanism of color production was unknown. A new report unveils the creature's beauty secrets.

Extinct Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) May Live Again. Oct. 21, 2003
From its vault in Sydney's Australian Museum, a pickled Tasmanian tiger pup has brought the prospect of reviving an extinct species to the verge of reality, bringing mixed reactions of wonder and terror.