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March 28, 2004

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Religion in the News

One nation, enriched by biblical wisdom
Understanding what the phrase "one nation under God" might mean is not proselytizing; it's citizenship (David Brooks, The New York Times).

Atheist Dad in 'Under God' Case Literally Applauded, But Likely to Lose
Supreme Court justices will probably overturn ruling, but maybe without addressing Pledge issues. Compiled by Ted Olsen.

Pope declares feeding tube removal immoral
Pope John Paul II said Saturday the removal of feeding tubes from people in vegetative states was immoral, and that no judgment on their quality of life could justify such "euthanasia by omission" (Associated Press).

Court case poses challenge to Scientology tax break
A trial is to begin in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning to determine whether a Jewish couple can deduct the cost of religious education for their five children, a tax benefit they say the federal government has granted to members of just one religion, the Church of Scientology (The New York Times).

Suit pits church, former member
Scientology seeks $10 million for breach of contract (San Francisco Chronicle).

Lost in America
Arab Christians in the U.S. have a rich heritage and a shaky future. By Elesha Coffman.

A Copt at College
An Egyptian Christian talks about college and church in America.

Muslims reject Carey's 'anti-Islam' speech
In a speech at the Gregorian University in Rome last night, Lord Carey of Clifton said that Islam was inflexible and authoritarian, and Islamic countries were backward and underachieving (The Times, London).

An inspired strategy
Is religion a tonic for kids? You better believe it, say teens and scholars (The Washington Post).

Students' tale of cult 'evil'
The fuming families of three Bay State students are considering legal action against Wheaton College, claiming the school failed to protect their children from an ``evil'' cult leader who they say lured them into an isolated vortex of ritualistic torture (Boston Herald).

New Testament translated to sign language
After 23 years of work by some 60 people, a ministry group for the deaf has finished translating the entire New Testament into American Sign Language (Associated Press).

The smart money is on God, says odds-maker
In The Probability of God: A Simple Calculation That Proves the Ultimate Truth, Stephen Unwin uses an actual mathematical theorem to determine the probability that there is a God (The Salt Lake Tribune).

Dr. Seuss — theologian?
James Kemp's favorite theological work? Horton Hatches the Egg. (Religion News Service).

The Dick Staub Interview: Steve Wilkens Loves Bad Christians and Pagans
The author of Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans believes Christians can learn a lot from skeptics and non-Christians.

Books & Culture's Books of the Week: Mistakes Were Made
Four of the Seven Deadly Sins, as seen from a contemporary vantage point. Reviewed by Abram Van Engen. 

Science in the News

American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) spring 2004 meeting is at Eastern University on April 17th.  Prof. David Unander will be speaking on the genetics of race and our Christian responsibility to bring peace and reconciliation to our world. RSVP by April 16th to

Web debate: Access to the scientific literature
The Internet is profoundly changing how scientists work and publish. Click here for our free focus on the issues that are shaping the publishing horizon, updated weekly. This weeks debate includes articles by co-founder of the Public Library of Science, and Sciences Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy.


An ivory pomegranate inscribed with the words "Belonging to the Temple of Yahweh, holy to the priests" and displayed at the Israel Museum is a fake according to information received by Israel Antiquities Authority investigators. The investigation into suspected forged antiquities began following the discovery of the item known as the "Yehoash Inscription." Subsequently dozens of forged items have been discovered. The investigators maintain that at the center of the ring is the collector Oded Golan, the owner of the "James Ossuary" and the "Yehoash Inscription." Golan rejects all accusations, but the investigators say that they have many items that originated with the suspect and were sold through intermediaries.

7,400-year-old jar gives clue to phoenix-worshipping history.
A 7,400-year-old pottery jar stamped with the design of two flying phoenixes has been excavated recently in central China's Hunan Province, helping archaeologists unveil the secret of the "birth" of the sacred bird.

Bones hint at first use of fire.
Tests show that 1.5-million-year-old bones from Swartkrans Cave, South Africa, had been heated to high temperatures, possibly making them the first evidence of fire use by humans.


Opportunity Finds Evidence Of Ocean Shoreline. Pasadena - Mar 23, 2004
NASA today released details on news findings on Mars that point to the first strong evidence that a sea once covered part of Mars in the Meridiani Planum area where Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is currently exploring. See also March 23 news conference, Major Mars Finding Via Real Player at  - (60 mins)

Martian Spiral Mystery At Poles Explained. Tucson AZ - Mar 26, 2004
The spiral troughs of Mars' polar ice caps have been called the most enigmatic landforms in the solar system. The deep canyons spiraling out from the Red Planet's North and South poles cover hundreds of miles. No other planet has such structures.

A Star Is Born: Celestial Beacon Sheds New Light On Stellar Nursery. Mauna Kea HI - Mar 25, 2004
A timely discovery by American amateur astronomer Jay McNeil, followed immediately by observations at the Gemini Observatory, has provided a rare glimpse into the slow, yet violent birth of a star about 1,500 light-years away. The resulting findings reveal some of the strongest stellar winds ever detected around an embryonic Sun-like star.

Io's Lava Lakes Like Early Earth? Buffalo - Mar 22, 2004
Investigations into lava lakes on the surface of Io, the intensely volcanic moon that orbits Jupiter, may provide clues to what Earth looked like in its earliest phases, according to researchers at the University at Buffalo and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Spaceguard Redux, Put to Test. Moffett Field - Mar 22, 2004
A small near-Earth asteroid (NEA), discovered Monday night by the NASA-funded LINEAR asteroid survey, made the closest approach to Earth ever recorded. There was no danger of a collision with the Earth during this encounter. Largely as a result of a Congressional mandate, NASA established a "Spaceguard" program with a goal of finding 90 percent of all the near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) larger than 1 kilometer in diameter by the end of 2008.

Galactic Highway Of WIMPs May Solve Cosmic Mystery Yet. Salt Lake City - Mar 23, 2004
Debris from a gobbled-up galaxy could be 'smoking gun' for dark matter WIMPs speeding at 670,000 mph on a "highway" in space may be raining onto Earth – a phenomenon that might prove the existence of "dark matter" that makes up most our galaxy and one-fourth of the universe, says a study co-authored by a University of Utah physicist. See  also Dark matter could be light.

Lunar Mountain With Permanent Sun Good Site For Base. Houston (UPI) March 19, 2004
Scientists have discovered a mountain on the moon where the sun never sets, which might become the site of a U.S. moonbase.

Living Off The "Land" Critical To Long Term Moon, Mars Habitation. Huntsville AL - Mar 24, 2004
Sludge. That's what most people think of when they envision the gray, powdery soil — called regolith — covering the airless surface of the Moon. Not Dr. Mike Duke. He sees gold.

Moon And Planets Gather Round. Huntsville - Mar 22, 2004
Every few years or so, something wonderful happens: all five naked-eye planets appear in the evening sky at the same time. You can walk outside after dinner, and without any kind of telescope, see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter.


Building The Whole Cell From Pieces: Researchers Tackle The Cell Jigsaw Puzzle
Scientists have taken a significant leap forward in understanding the complex ways that molecules work together in cells.

Scientists Crack Genome Sequence Of A Major Parasitic Pathogen
University of Minnesota researchers have completed sequencing the genome of an intestinal parasite that affects healthy humans and animals and that can be fatal to those with compromised immune systems, such as AIDS patients.

St. Jude shows how disorderliness in some proteins lets them interact with a diversity of molecules.
Discovery of the sequence of events in the binding of p27 to a protein complex is a model for explaining how 30 to 40 percent of the body’s proteins exploit their flexibility in order to do different tasks in the cell.

Early Vitamin E Supplements Stem Development Of Hallmark Alzheimer's Symptoms In Mice
Vitamin E, a well-known antioxidant, has been used to treat Alzheimer's disease, but with mixed results, especially in patients with advanced symptoms. A risk factor for Alzheimer's is oxidative stress, a clinical condition characterized by an excessive production of reactive chemicals in the brain, which can damage important regions of this organ.

Liquid lens mimics human eye
Fluid device could find its way into pocket-sized gadgets. 19 March 2004. 


Bite makes way for brain.
A pile of evidence from disparate disciplines indicates that a single change in a single gene—MYH16—may be responsible for significant morphologic differences between humans and other primates, including possibly the three-fold increase in brain size that set the earliest species of Homo apart from their kin. This is the first protein disparity between humans and chimps that can be correlated to drastic anatomical changes seen in the fossil record, according to a group of University of Pennsylvania researchers who published a letter in the March 25 issue of Nature. See  Original summary article: Myosin gene mutation correlates with anatomical changes in the human lineage: Nature 428 p. 415 HANSELL H. STEDMAN et al.

NIST-led Research De-Mystifies Origins Of 'Junk' DNA. Washington - Mar 26, 2004
A debate over the origins of what is sometimes called "junk" DNA has been settled by research involving scientists at the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology (CARB) and a collaborator, who developed rigorous proof that these mysterious sections were added to DNA "late" in the evolution of life on earth--after the formation of modern-sized genes, which contain instructions for making proteins.

Bird flu vaccination could lead to new strains
Asian countries will be carrying out an uncontrolled experiment in viral evolution that could ultimately lead to a human pandemic.

The Panda's Thumb is a new, collectively authored blog (short for "web log") devoted, in its words, "to explaining the theory of evolution, critiquing the claims of the anti-evolution movement, and defending the integrity of science and science education in America and around the world."

Skeptic vs creationist: ‘The Great Genesis Debate’ of 2003.

Earth Science

Patagonian Ice Dam Studied From Space Cracks Open. Paris - Mar 22, 2004
A spectacle unseen for 16 years occurred in Patagonia this week: a natural dam of blue ice gave way to crushing lake waters trapped behind it, finally breaking apart.

A World Ruled By Fungi.
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.


The Christian philosopher Saint Augustine described two types of evil. "Natural evil" is what happens when a volcano erupts or a storm strikes, while "moral evil" includes all the dreadful things that humans knowingly do to each other. Over the past decade, neuroscientists have found that the brains of impulsive murderers and psychopaths are fundamentally different from those of "normal" people. Those differences extend even to their ability to make choices--to exercise free will. Sean Spence, a British psychologist, asks how we should deal with these findings. For some people, should we move the boundary between what is moral and natural evil?

Parental Support Has Lifelong Benefits MONDAY, March 22 (HealthDayNews)
Abundant parental support during childhood leads to better mental and physical health throughout adulthood, a new study finds. Conversely, a lack of love is associated with depression and chronic health problems, says Benjamin A. Shaw.


Envisat Fishes Up Facts Behind Chilean Giant Squid Invasion. Paris (ESA) Mar 23, 2004
Masses of large ocean-going squid have inundated the shores of Southern Chile, alarming local fishermen who fear these carnivorous invaders could threaten fish stocks. Envisat has helped account for their otherwise mysterious arrival.

There Be Dragons: New Deep-sea Predator Species Discovered. FT. PIERCE, Fla.
Dr. Tracey Sutton, a fish ecologist at the HARBOR BRANCH Oceanographic Institution in Ft. Pierce, Fla., has discovered a new species in a bizarre and elusive family of deep-sea predatory fish known collectively as dragonfish. The find, reported in the current issue of the journal Copeia, is the first new dragonfish species discovered in more than a decade.