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January 11, 2004

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Religion in the News

'Allegory' Job 'Favorite Book in the New Testament,' Says Howard Dean
Presidential candidate having some trouble talking about religion. Compiled by Ted Olsen.

Dean Changes Tack on Religion Comments
Doesn't ask WWJD, he says, but he did think about religion when signing civil unions bill as governor. Compiled by Ted Olsen

No, Really! People Actually Believe This Religion Stuff, Says NYT's Kristof. Really!
Plus: A very good NYT piece on the Episcopal Church rift, Orthodox Christmas, religion in prison, and other stories from online sources around the world. Compiled by Ted Olsen.

Star Christian Reporter Quits USA Today After Investigation
and many other stories from online sources around the world. Compiled by Ted Olsen.

Definition of 'Jew' confronts Israel Thousands of Ethiopian Jews who were pressured to convert to Christianity are waiting to move to Israel (The Christian Science Monitor). See

Kidnappers Release Two Christian Relief Volunteers in Colombia
Ransom demand paid for evangelical lawyer and businessman. By David Miller, Compass Direct.

Christian History Corner: Top Ten Stories of 2003 … with a Church History Twist
Here is our review of "the Christian history that made the stories that made the news." By Chris Armstrong.

The Most-Read Articles of 2003
Christianity Today's online readers were interested in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the best Christian places to work, and Bono's anti-AIDS crusade.

Why not one Bible for all?
The ESV may have the potential to become the universal choice (Associated Press).

Science in the News


Religion, Geology Collide at the Grand Canyon
In the park's stores is a book saying the chasm is due to the biblical flood. It's a hot seller but a source of controversy among scientists, staff. (Los Angeles Times). See also

Scientists seek place for God while embracing reason
Debates about the origins of the physical world and the life on it tend to generate the most controversy -- and publicity -- in science and religion debates. But in quiet ways, the search for common ground has moved beyond haggles over cosmology and evolution into other fields (The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.).

The New Creationism and Its Threat to Science Literacy and Education.
The most publicly contentious issue in science—the teaching of evolution— illustrates the point: About half of those surveyed by NSF do not believe humans evolved from earlier species, and two-thirds think that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools. But there is some good news: Acceptance of human evolution inched into the majority for the first time (53 percent). Moreover, according to a poll by People for the American Way (, a substantial majority (83 percent) think that evolution should be taught and that it is not incompatible with a belief in God (70 percent).

A Conversation with Paleontologist Kevin Padian.
Why do so many people find it difficult to reconcile evolution with their religious beliefs? One thing that scares a lot of people is the notion of randomness. They fear that if the processes that shape the evolution are “random,” there’s no purpose or direction to life. Both those statements are wrong--first of all, because that’s not what “random” means in science and, second, because I think you can find purpose and direction in the evolution of life, just not a religious one. This is really the fault of scientists for using common words in specialized ways and not explaining them very well to the public. We need to take the rap for this misunderstanding. Randomness in evolution, or in science in general, is just a statistical term. It means that we can’t individuate specific cases in advance. We may know that six out of a thousand fruitflies in every generation will have a particular mutation, but we can’t say which six. That’s what we mean when we say that this stuff is random. And mutations themselves are not random changes. They are changes in the genetic material--the genetic material does certain things but not other things. We know, for example, that a duck’s head is not going to suddenly appear on a horse. In fact, Darwin’s great idea was natural selection, which is the very opposite of randomness. Think of it this way: Were our students selected to get into Berkeley, or did they just get in at random?

Positive Mitochondrial Mutations?
The genetic adaptation to cold is still carried by many Northern Europeans, East Asians and American Indians, most of whose ancestors once lived in Siberia. But it is absent from peoples native to Africa, a difference that the California team, led by Dr. Douglas C. Wallace of the University of California, Irvine, suggest could contribute to the greater burden of certain diseases in the African-American population.


Raising the anchor.
A wooden anchor from Roman times that may have belonged to King Herod's royal yacht was discovered three weeks ago in the Dead Sea by archaeologist Gideon Hadas of Kibbutz Ein Gedi.

Tourists flock to the historical Latin America sites that some LDS scholars say are described in The Book of Mormon.
In 1979, a group of researchers established the Foundation for Ancient Religion and Mormon Studies, known as FARMS. In 1997, FARMS became an official part of LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University, with one of its mandates being to study the cultural, linguistic and archaeological milieu of Mesoamerica.     Until the past few decades, many Latter-day Saints thought Book of Mormon peoples roamed from one end of the Americas to the other, winding up in an apocalyptic battle in New York state near where Smith lived. Now FARMS scholars seem convinced most of the events were limited to Central America, primarily Guatemala and Mexico.

Archeologists find ancient cemetery in Egypt. Cairo
Polish and Egyptian archeologists have unearthed an ancient cemetery containing the 4,000-year-old tomb of a royal official, Egypt's antiquities officials announced Wednesday. Culture Minister Farouk Hosni said the necropolis near the pyramids of Saqqara, about 25 kilometres south of Cairo, contained the tomb of Ny-Ankh-Nefetem, identified in hieroglyphic writing as the god's servant of the pyramids of kings Unas and Teti, who ruled successively from 2375 to 2291 B.C.

Subway excavations in Naples turn up ancient Roman ship, amphorae. NAPLES (AP)
Italian archeologists have discovered a Roman ship and hundreds of amphorae dating to the second century during excavation works for a new subway in the southern city of Naples.

'Viking Village' Hopes Cruelly Dashed. LONDON (Reuters)
Archaeologists were excited to find what they thought was the first evidence of ninth century Viking settlement in Scotland. Only when the area was completely excavated and materials analyzed did the horrible truth dawn -- the stones were nothing more significant than a 1940s sunken patio.


Mars Horizon - NASA

Mars Rover Spirit. See the latest photos at

NASA Spacecraft Makes Great Catch..Heads for Touchdown. Pasadena - Jan 05, 2004
Team Stardust, NASA's first dedicated sample return mission to a comet, passed a huge milestone Friday by successfully navigating through the particle and gas-laden coma around comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt-2").

Movie Offers Insights In To Workings of Mysterious Microquasars. Socorro - Jan 07, 2004
Astronomers have made a 42-day movie showing unprecedented detail of the inner workings of a strange star system that has puzzled scientists for more than two decades. Their work is providing new insights that are changing scientists' understanding of the enigmatic stellar pairs known as microquasars.

Suns Of All Ages Possess Comets, Maybe Planets. Atlanta - Jan 07, 2004
In early 2003, Comet Kudo-Fujikawa (C/2002 X5) zipped past the Sun at a distance half that of Mercury's orbit. Astronomers Matthew Povich and John Raymond (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and colleagues studied Kudo-Fujikawa during its close passage. Today at the 203rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Atlanta, they announced that they observed the comet puffing out huge amounts of carbon, one of the key elements for life. The comet also emitted large amounts of water vapor as the Sun's heat baked its outer surface.

Magnetars, The Most Magnetic Stars Known, More Common Than Previously Thought.
Observations of explosions from an ultra-powerful magnetic neutron star playing hide-and-seek with astronomers suggest that these exotic objects called magnetars -- capable of stripping a credit card clean 100,000 miles away -- are far more common than previously thought.

Astronomers See Era Of Rapid Galaxy Formation; New Findings Pose A Challenge For Cold Dark Matter Theory.
"The universe is always more complicated than our cosmological theories would have it," says Nigel Sharp, program officer for extra-galactic astronomy and cosmology at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Witness a collection of new and recently announced discoveries that, taken together, suggest a considerably more active and fastmoving epoch of galaxy formation in the early universe than prevailing theories had called for.

Chandra Locates Mother Lode Of Planetary Ore In Colliding Galaxies.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered rich deposits of neon, magnesium, and silicon in a pair of colliding galaxies known as The Antennae. When the clouds in which these elements are present cool, an exceptionally high number of stars with planets should form. These results may foreshadow the fate of the Milky Way and its future collision with the Andromeda Galaxy.

Old Equation May Shed New Light On Planet Formation.
New work with an old equation may help scientists calculate the thickness of ice covering the oceans on Jupiter's moon Europa and ultimately provide insight into planet formation. Planetary bodies, such as the Earth and its moon, exert such gravitational force on one another that tides occur, not just in the oceans, but also in bodies of the planets themselves. The surfaces of planets actually rise and fall slightly as they orbit one another.

Bush Could Announce New Manned Space Missions To Moon And Mars. Washington (AFP) Jan 09, 2004
President George W. Bush is ready to announce new goals for the US space program next week, that could include manned missions to the Moon and beyond, US government officials said late Thursday.


Stem-cell 'secret of youth' found
A humble marine snail has helped scientists to unravel the signals that keep stem cells young.

Prion proteins may store memories
Study hints at vital job for two-faced proteins.

'Drugs don't work' admission triggers news response
A newspaper report in which Allen Roses, Senior VP, Genetics Research at GlaxoSmithKline, admitted that most prescription drugs do not work for most people, triggered an incredible response worldwide.

Drug Discovery News Review of 2003.

Herbal medicine boom threatens plants
Natural remedies have become so popular that many wild plants are now being harvested to the point of extinction, say botanists.

Systematic genome-wide screens of gene function
High-throughput genome-wide screens offer many advantages over traditional approaches, not least of which is speed. Such systematic functional screens have been successfully carried out in yeast, but are becoming feasible in higher organisms, including human cells. Anne E. Carpenter & David M. Sabatini

Earth Science

Endurance Of Plants Under Quartz Rocks Possible Model For Life On Early Earth. Durham - Jan 06, 2004
Microscopic Mojave Desert plants growing on the underside of translucent quartz pebbles can endure both chilly and near-boiling temperatures, scavenge nitrogen from the air, and utilize the equivalent of nighttime moonlight levels for photosynthesis, a new study reports. The plants, which receive enough light through the pebbles to support photosynthesis, could offer a model for how plants first colonized land, as well as how they might have evolved on Mars, said the scientists who performed the study.


War - genetics (7 Jan)
Research into the aggressive behaviour of male chimpanzees, our closest biological ally, suggests that the urge to go to war is in our DNA and that only women can stop it, says Sanjida O'Connell.

Research Reveals Brain Has Biological Mechanism To Block Unwanted Memories.
For the first time, researchers at Stanford University and the University of Oregon have shown that a biological mechanism exists in the human brain to block unwanted memories. The findings, to be published Jan. 9 in the journal Science, reinforce Sigmund Freud's controversial century-old thesis about the existence of voluntary memory suppression.