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Top Stories of 2004

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Religion in the News

In my college class in philosophy, Antony Flew was required reading. His writings tempted me to doubt the very existence of God. So I was shocked to learn that he now believes in God. Interview with him at Atheist Becomes Deist. See also Sorry, says atheist-in-chief, I do believe in God after all  and Famous Atheist Now Believes in God.

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, 10 Years Later
Historian Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind has arguably shaped the evangelical world (or at least its institutions) more than any other book published in the last decade. In the October issue of First Things, Noll looks at what has changed and what remains in his critique: "The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind." (First Things has devoted much space to discussing the book over the years.) 

DNA research and Mormon scholars changing basic beliefs
Plant geneticist Simon Southerton was a Mormon bishop in Brisbane, Australia when he woke up the morning of Aug. 3, 1998 to the shattering conclusion that his knowledge of science made it impossible for him to believe any longer in the Book of Mormon. Two years later he started writing Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church, published by Signature Books.By Patty Henetz, Associated Press SALT LAKE CITY.

Da Vinci Code Debunked?
The best-seller's author says its shocking twist is true. Humbug, say historians who've analyzed the evidence.

Science in the News

Scientists get their own Google
New search engine ranks papers by importance, and finds the free versions. See


Biblical Archaeology

Bible texts on silver amulets dated to First Temple period
U.S. and Israeli researchers claim to have discovered proof that the Five Books of Moses were in existence during the First Temple period. (Ha'aretz, Israel) In a scholarly report published this month, the research team concluded that the improved reading of the inscriptions confirmed their greater antiquity. The script, the team wrote, is indeed from the period just before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar and the subsequent exile of Israelites in Babylon.

Scholars Debate ''The Cave of John the Baptist''
Archaeologists say they found the cave where John baptized many of his followers; Scholars keep a critical yet hopeful eye on the discoveries. See also John the Baptist’s cave: speculation & sensation and Bring Me the Stead of John the Baptist? 


Hobbit-Like Human Ancestor Found in Asia October 27, 2004
Scientists have found skeletons of a human species that grew no larger than a three-year-old modern child. The species lived with pygmy elephants and giant lizards on a remote island in Indonesia.

Ancient African Skull Fills Gap, Fuels Debate
Remains of the hominids that lived in Africa between a million and half a million years ago are frustratingly rare in the fossil record. Bones from this time period have been recovered in Europe and Asia, but the paucity of finds from Africa has prevented a full understanding of just what members of the species Homo erectus looked like. A new discovery is helping to fill the fossil gap.


Spirit Finds Water-Signature Pasadena CA (JPL) Dec 17, 2004
Scientists have identified a water-signature mineral called goethite in bedrock that the NASA's Mars rover Spirit examined in the "Columbia Hills," one of the mission's surest indicators yet for a wet history on Spirit's side of Mars.

ESA's Huygens Probe Set To Detach From Cassini Orbiter Pasadena CA (SPX) Dec 22, 2004
The highlights of the first year of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn can be broken into two chapters: first, the arrival of the Cassini orbiter at Saturn in June, and second, the release of the Huygens probe on Dec. 24, 2004, on a path toward Titan.

SpaceShipOne Wins Ten-Million-Dollar X Prize October 4, 2004
SpaceShipOne, the world's first privately built manned spacecraft, completed its third round-trip journey to space today, laying claim to the ten-million-dollar (U.S.) Ansari X Prize. 


In search of the 'God gene'
Dr. Dean Hamer, a molecular geneticist, argues persuasively that genes predispose humans to believe that "spirituality is one of our basic human inheritances," and that, indeed, there is a specific individual gene associated with faith (The New York Times). The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes.

Scientists working on ways to deny death
Cambridge University biogerontologist Dr. Aubrey de Grey reckons "we have a 50-50 chance of developing a human rejuvenation therapy that works" (David Yount, Scripps Howard News Service).

Cracking The Genomic Code: Gene Decoding Revealed At Atomic Level
A recent finding by a North Carolina State University biochemist advances the fundamental biology of how genetic information, encoded in DNA, is decoded for the production of proteins. 


Creating Creationism by Ron Numbers
The roots of the modern creationist moverment started with Ellen G. White's vision of creation. Ellen White founded the 7th day Adventists. Her vision of the solar system is way off. Ron Numbers writes about the history of the label creationist which may surprise you.

Was Darwin wrong?
No. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming says National Geographic's cover story. 

Research points to new theory driving evolutionary changes
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have used canine DNA to identify a genetic mutation mechanism they believe is responsible for rapid evolutionary changes in the physical appearance of many species.

 Earth Science

Day After Tomorrow Movie: Could Ice Age Occur Overnight? May 18, 2004
To environmentalists, there is more than a kernel of truth in the catastrophic scenarios depicted in the upcoming summer flick The Day After Tomorrow. Some activists hope the movie, in which global warming leads to a new ice age, will spark debate about the environmental damage the Earth is suffering.

Possible Answer To Earth's Magnetic Field Reversal Arlington VA - Apr 08, 2004
Earth's magnetic field reverses every few thousand years at low latitudes and every 10,000 years at high latitudes, a geologist funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) has concluded. Brad Clement of Florida International University published his findings in this week's issue of the journal Nature. The results are a major step forward in scientists' understanding of how Earth's magnetic field works.

Bacteria Discovered In 4,000 Feet Of Rock Fuels Mars Comparison. Corvallis - Jan 01, 2004
A team of scientists has discovered bacteria in a hole drilled more than 4,000 feet deep in volcanic rock on the island of Hawaii near Hilo, in an environment they say could be analogous to conditions on Mars and other planets.


Scientists Successfully Observe Elusive Neutrino Oscillation. Irvine CA (SPX) Jul 08, 2004
A new analysis of atmospheric neutrino data by a team of international scientists has shown for the first time the distinctive pattern of neutrino oscillation that has eluded researchers until now. Standard Model Upended With Discovery Of Neutrino Oscillation, Mass

As World Turns It Drags Time And Space With It Baltimore MD (SPX) Oct 22, 2004
An international team of NASA and university researchers has found the first direct evidence the Earth is dragging space and time around itself as it rotates. The researchers believe they have measured the effect, first predicted in 1918 by using Einstein's theory of general relativity, by precisely observing shifts in the orbits of two Earth-orbiting laser-ranging satellites. See also Relativity tested on a shoestring budget.

Dark Matter And Dark Energy May Be Different Aspects Of Single Force. Nashville TN (SPX) Jul 02, 2004
In the last few decades, scientists have discovered that there is a lot more to the universe than meets the eye: the cosmos appears to be filled with not just one, but two invisible constituents - dark matter and dark energy - whose existence has been proposed based solely on their gravitational effects on ordinary matter and energy.


Single gene removes gender differences in mice brains
Significant structural differences in male and female brains may result from selective cell death orchestrated by just one gene.

New Views On Mind-Body Connection
Studies into placebo effect and empathy suggest how the brain encodes subjective experience.

Researchers Make Promiscuous Animals Monogamous By Manipulating Genes. ATLANTA
Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University and Atlanta's Center for Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN) have found transferring a single gene, the vasopressin receptor, into the brain's reward center makes a promiscuous male meadow vole monogamous. This finding, which appears in the June 17 issue of Nature, may help better explain the neurobiology of romantic love as well as disorders of the ability to form social bonds, such as autism. In addition, the finding supports previous research linking social bond formation with drug addiction, also associated with the reward center of the brain.


Nanoelectronics in 15 years New York (UPI) Dec 21, 2004
In order to keep computers advancing in power as they have for decades, a new U.S. research initiative partnering industry, academia and government has now launched to hunt in nanotechnology - science and engineering on a molecular scale - for a successor to today's dominant chipmaking method.


Up from the deep: World's oceans yield thousands of new species.

Threat of Extinction Plagues More Than 15,000 Species
The annual report card on the state of the planet's species contains some sobering statistics. According to this year's Red List of Threatened Species, compiled by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), a total of 15,589 species are currently at risk for extinction, with more than 3,330 new threatened plants and animals added to the roll since last year. As it stands now, one in three amphibians, one in four mammals and one in eight birds stand to disappear permanently.