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March 14, 2004

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New! - Honest to Genesis by Margaret Gary Towne. Honest to Genesis integrates the Biblical creation accounts with modern evolutionary theory. There is no need for conflict between Genesis and Genetics. She also exposes the problems with the young-earth creationist arguments. Cost is $24.95 plus $2 for shipping. See the Books section of our Products page.

Religion in the News

Bush highlights record in talk to evangelical Christians.
President Bush told evangelical Christians what they wanted to hear Thursday, ticking off highlights of his "compassionate conservative" agenda, from halting late-term abortions to banning gay marriage. (USA Today).

The New York Times Examines a Tech School for Conservative Politics
Patrick Henry College is still small and unaccredited, but is becoming increasingly prominent in Washington. Compiled by Ted Olsen.

Status report: Faith-based initiative breaks ten-figure mark
Despite Congress's refusal to guarantee faith-based organizations can compete for federal funds, President Bush's faith-based initiative has shows results through executive branch efforts, according to a Washington Post article today.

Study challenges benefits of US virginity crusade
A policy of abstinence-only  education for American teenagers, endorsed by Church groups and the White House, has almost no effect on the prevalence of transmitted diseases (STD), according to a new study. (AFP).

Vatican appoints its first female theologians
The Roman Catholic Church has quietly taken a step forward for women's equality, naming the first female theologians as Vatican consultants, and promptly denied the appointments had anything to do with their gender (Reuters).

His dark classroom materials
The leader of the Church of England has called for one of the most powerful atheist tracts in modern literature to be used as part of pupils' religious education (The Western Mail, Wales).

House votes, 391-22, to raise broadcasters' fines for indecency
Saying much of the public is fed up with indecent television and radio programming, members of the House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to increase penalties on broadcasters and performers who violate federal standards. (New York Times).

An edgy show about God 
'Joan of Arcadia' becomes unlikely hit (CNN).

Forget Your Bliss
The success of The Purpose-Driven Life reveals a cultural opportunity. A Christianity Today editorial.

The Dick Staub Interview: Heidi Neumark Transfigures the Bronx for some Breathing Space
After spending 20 years as pastor of a church in the Bronx, Heidi Neumark realized that sometimes people just need some room to breathe.

Christian History Corner: Rediscovering the Language Jesus Spoke
Millions of Americans have spent two hours listening to the characters in Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ speaking in an exotic, unfamiliar tongue. Yet not all find Aramaic so alien. By Steven Gertz.

Science in the News

Scientists behaving badly
Journal editors reveal researchers' wicked ways. 4 March 2004.


Israeli scientists: Retest the Joash tablet
The debate over the authenticity of the James ossuary may have cooled, but another archaeological debate that many observers thought settled has reignited.When Israel's Antiquities Authority called the James Ossuary inscription a forgery, it also called the Jehoash Tablet a fake. The tablet, which contains wording very similar to 2 Kings 12, is reportedly owned by Oded Golan, who also owns the James Ossuary.While Biblical Archaeology Review has defended the James Ossuary, it has been more antagonistic to the Jehoash (Joash) Tablet, calling it a fake months before the IAA's assessment. Now the magazine has changed its position, publishing an article suggesting that the inscription may be authentic after all."What do we really know about the Hebrew of official royal inscriptions of Judah in the ninth to eighth centuries B.C.E.? The answer is rather simple: not much," writes University of California at, San Diego historian David Noel Freedman. "To say, therefore, that the language of the Jehoash inscription is inconsistent with what we would expect of such a royal inscription from the time of Jehoash is to assert an authority that is not merely audacious, but imaginative. … for the moment, we must conclude with a Scottish verdict: not proven. The verdict at this time is in effect a non-verdict. We simply don't know with any reasonable certainty whether it is a fake or authentic." "Four leading scientists" agree, and are calling for a new examination of the tablet, according to the Tel Aviv newspaper Ha'aretz.

Animals into the ark two by two? Not if you believe the BBC
The Biblical story of Noah's ark is a "great myth", devoid of any scientific or historical credibility according to a new BBC program about the great flood (The Daily Telegraph, London).

PBS has passion for religious documentaries.
PBS has struck a deal to produce two three-hour documentaries based on author Bruce Feiler's best sellers "Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses" and "Abraham: A Journey Through the Heart of Three Faiths" (The Hollywood Reporter).

Roman treasure found in pond dig.
A man unearthed a priceless hoard of 20,000 Roman coins as he dug a new fishpond in his back garden. Experts say the money may date from the 4th Century and could be the biggest find of its kind in Britain.


Volcanic Rock In Mars' Gusev Crater Hints At Past Water. Pasadena - Mar 05, 2004
NASA's Spirit has found hints of a water history in a rock at Mars' Gusev Crater, but it is a very different type of rock than those in which NASA's Opportunity found clues to a wet past on the opposite side of the planet.

A NASA snow job, or just a lot of flakes?
Mars images reveal oddities - on Earth.  Forget about ancient traces of water on Mars. There's a little white bunny up there. And stone tools. And dinosaur fossils. Plants, art, even letters of the alphabet.

The Art Of Deep Space. Baltimore - Mar 08, 2004
"Starry Night", Vincent van Gogh's famous painting, is renowned for its bold whorls of light sweeping across a raging night sky. Although this image of the heavens came only from the artist's restless imagination, a new picture from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope bears remarkable similarities to the van Gogh work, complete with never-before-seen spirals of dust swirling across trillions of kilometres of interstellar space.

VLT Smashes the Record of the Farthest Known Galaxy. Paris - Mar 08, 2004
Using the ISAAC near-infrared instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope, and the magnification effect of a gravitational lens, a team of French and Swiss astronomers has found several faint galaxies believed to be the most remote known.

Hubble Looks Ultra Deep And Finds 10,000 Galaxies! Baltimore - Mar 09, 2004
Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute today unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), the million-second-long exposure reveals the first galaxies to emerge from the so-called "dark ages," the time shortly after the big bang when the first stars reheated the cold, dark universe. The new image should offer new insights into what types of objects reheated the universe long ago.

Enigmatic X-Ray Sources May Point To New Class Of Black Holes. Boston - Mar 08, 2004
Mysterious, powerful X-ray sources found in nearby galaxies may represent a new class of objects, according to data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. These sources, which are not as hot as typical neutron-star or black-hole X-ray sources, could be a large new population of black holes with masses several hundred times that of the sun.

X-Rays From Saturn Pose Puzzles Huntsville - Mar 09, 2004
The first clear detection of X-rays from the giant, gaseous planet Saturn has been made with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra's image shows that the X-rays are concentrated near Saturn's equator, a surprising result since Jupiter's X-ray emission is mainly concentrated near the poles. Existing theories cannot easily explain the intensity or distribution of Saturn's X-rays.

Silicate Stardust Found In A Meteorite St. Louis  - Mar 08, 2004
Ann Nguyen chose a risky project for her graduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis. A university team had already sifted through 100,000 grains from a meteorite to look for a particular type of stardust -- without success.

Messenger Ships To The Cape Laurel - Mar 10, 2004
NASA's Messenger spacecraft left home in Maryland today for Cape Canaveral, Fla., site of its scheduled May 11 launch toward Mercury and the first study of that planet from orbit.

German Real Estate Investors Tell Bush To Keep Off Our Moon Rock Berlin (AFP) Mar 11, 2004
More than 60 worried owners of lunar real estate have written to the White House warning Bush not to let astronauts soil their property. The "land parcels" were bought from Dennis Hope, a US entrepreneur who claims he secured legal ownership of the moon and most other bodies in the solar system 20 years ago by exploiting a loophole in the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty.

Did Comet Trigger Great Chicago Fire?  March 5, 2004
Perhaps it was not Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over a lantern that sparked the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed the downtown area and claimed 300 lives. New research lends credence to an alternative explanation: The fire, along with less-publicized and even more deadly blazes the same night in upstate Wisconsin and Michigan, was the result of a comet fragment crashing into Earth's atmosphere.

NASA Creates Portrait Of Life And Death In The Universe.
In a small galaxy lies a luminous cloud of gas and dust, called a nebula, which houses a family of newborn stars. If not for the death of a massive star millions of years ago, this stellar nursery never would have formed.

Enigma Of Uranus Solved At Last Paris (AFP) - Mar 10, 2004
Uranus has puzzled scientists ever since the probe Voyager 2 did a flyby in 1986 and found that its magnetic field appeared to break the planetary rulebook. The evidence from Earth, Jupiter and Saturn determined that a planet's magnetic field should be like that of a bar magnet, with a north and south pole that runs roughly along the sphere's rotational axis.


New artificial blood shows promise.
Numerous past attempts to develop synthetic blood have failed because doctors got the basic science wrong, claim researchers.

Heart therapy raises hopes and concerns
Experimental treatment with blood stem cells causes complications.

Fat cells boost blood vessel growth
Could liposuction left-overs help repair hearts?

Loss Of Smell Linked To Key Protein In Alzheimer's Disease
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have linked smell loss in mice with excessive levels of a key protein associated with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Smell loss is well documented as one of the early and first clinical signs of such diseases.

Nutrient during pregnancy 'super-charges' brain.
Extra choline boosts the brains of offspring by making crucial areas bigger and faster, suggests a rat study.

Dogma on mammals' eggs scrambled
Biologists have insisted for years that female mammals, including women, only have the eggs they are born with - not any more.


A New Branch Of Primitive Humans Reported Found In Ethiopia. Cleveland - Mar 05, 2004
Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, member of a scientific team working in the Middle Awash valley of the Afar Region in Ethiopia, and his colleagues have found dental evidence that elevates the hominid subspecies Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba to its own species, Ardipithecus kadabba. This new species, dating between 5.54 and 5.77 million years old, is the oldest member of the genus Ardipithecus. See also Fossil Human Teeth Fan Diversity Debate.

Group of Ohio Scientists Endorses Lesson Plan to Critically Analyze Evolution
By: Staff Discovery Institute March 8, 2004. See also Ohio School Board OKs Evolution Lesson.

Sure, genomes contain more than just genes: they also hold instructions about where in our body and when in our lives to make each protein. But what if our DNA also contained information that made mutation more likely in some parts of the genome and less likely in others? Such a genome would have the potential to influence its own evolution, protecting essential DNA sequences in some places while elsewhere unleashing genetic variations that could explore evolutionary possibilities. Perhaps it is time to rethink the role that chance plays in evolution.

Online Reading Discussion Group: "Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe"
by Simon Conway Morris. Join ISCID from March 15th through May 23rd for an online discussion of the latest book by Cambridge palaeobiologist, Simon Conway Morris. In "Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe" Morris argues both that evolution is constrained and that its outcome is very close to being inevitable (rather than wholly contingent, as is often assumed). To defend this position, Morris catalogues a large number of evolutionary solutions that have been arrived at independently in various organisms. These evolutionary convergences make up the meat of Morris' contention that evolution may indeed have a direction.

Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science
Messiah College is very pleased to announce that The Metanexus Institute of Philadelphia has awarded us a matching grant to help us create a new organization: the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science, under the direction of Dr. Edward B. ("Ted") Davis, Professor of the History of Science.

Intelligent Design Conference
Highlands, North Carolina this June 24-26.

Earth Science

Will The World Just Chill Out. Huntsville - Mar 08, 2004
Global warming could plunge North America and Western Europe into a deep freeze, possibly within only a few decades. That's the paradoxical scenario gaining credibility among many climate scientists.

Climate Has History Of Fast Changes. Boulder (UPI) Mar 09, 2004
Those who think global climate change requires many years to unfold might want to take note of other worldwide temperature alterations in the past 15,000 years, which occurred, in geological terms, quick as a flash.

A World Ruled By Fungi. Stockholm - Mar 08, 2004
The catastrophe that extinguished the dinosaurs and other animal species, 65 million years ago also brought dramatic changes to the vegetation. In a study presented in latest issue of the journal Science, the paleontologists Vivi Vajda from the University of Lund, Sweden and Stephen McLoughlin from the Queensland University of Technology, Australia have described what happened to the vegetation month by month. They depict a world in darkness where the fungi had taken over.

New Evidence Suggests Early Oceans Bereft Of Oxygen For Eons Arlington - Mar 10, 2004
As two rovers scour Mars for signs of water and the precursors of life, geochemists have uncovered evidence that Earth's ancient oceans were much different from today's.

New Web Site For Biogeoscience Community Announced. Washington - Mar 08, 2004
The emerging field of biogeoscience will soon have a new home on the World Wide Web. In January 2004 the Geological Society of America was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop and maintain a Web site dedicated to furthering this rapidly evolving scientific discipline.


The master switch
A brain circuit long considered a no-go area could be the key to a new class of molecule that will revolutionise the treatment of mental illness - including many intractable or poorly treated diseases such as schizophrenia, epilepsy, addiction, anxiety and chronic pain. The compounds, being developed by almost every major pharmaceutical company, are based on glutamate, the brain’s primary neurotransmitter. Glutamate signalling is so pervasive in the brain that interfering with it usually leads to horrendous side effects. But researchers have found promising ways to control it selectively for the first time, so there is now a real prospect of taking control of the brain’s master switch.

Criminals follow laws of statistics
Stopping first crimes is the best way to halt criminality. 3 March 2004.

USC Study Finds Faulty Wiring In Psychopaths.
Psychopaths have physical abnormalities in two key brain structures responsible for functions ranging from fear detection to information processing, a USC clinical neuroscientist has found in two studies that suggest a neuro-developmental basis to the disorder.