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May 16, 2004

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Religion in the News

Rounding Up the Few Christian Voices on the Iraq Prison Scandal
Sojourners says Rumsfeld should go, World says he should stay, and Christian Peacemaker Teams says there's a bigger story untold. Compiled by Ted Olsen.

Jim Dobson's New Political Organization
Plus: Christian organizations blame porn for abuse at Abu Ghraib. Compiled by Ted Olsen.

Bishop Bans Pro-choice Voters from Communion
Votes may be considered sin if cast for politicians who support abortions. By Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service.

Indian Churches Hail the Defeat of Hindu-Nationalist Government
"Vote consciously" campaign urged Christian voters to elect secular political parties. By Anto Akkara ENI, with CT staff.

Double-entry Accountability
Two financial watchdogs are better than one. A Christianity Today editorial.

Christianity Today, Sister Magazines Win 32 EPA Awards
Profile of Tony Campolo earns first in Personality Article from the Evangelical Press Association. By Rob Moll.

The Dick Staub Interview: The Ascetic American Dream
The author of The Good Life: Genuine Christianity for the Middle Class talks about the wealth and the poverty of the American middle class.

The Gospel, Literally
A break-through film makes the Word visible. Reviewed by Ben Witherington III.

Christianity Today Book Awards 2004
We honor 22 titles that bring understanding to people, events, and ideas that shape evangelical life, thought, and mission.

Man of Contradictions
Martin Luther was a "God-obsessed seeker of certainty and assurance." Reviewed by Cindy Crosby.

Science in the News


Key Mayan City Discovered. May 6, 2004
An Italian archeologist said Tuesday he had uncovered ancient objects that show an unexplored site in Guatemala's Peten region to be one of the most significant preclassic Mayan cities ever found. "I think Cival was one of the largest cities of the Preclassic Maya, maybe housing 10,000 people at its peak," the archeologist from Nashville's Vanderbilt University said at a news conference.

An exhibit of Native American petroglyphs has opened quietly in the Columbia River Gorge, featuring 43 boulders that had been overshadowed by the Dalles Dam. See Petroglyphs.

Troy's Fallen! Movie Review of Troy.


How Mars got its rust
The intense heat inside the early Earth was enough to convert a lot of iron oxide into molten metallic iron, which seeped down into the planet to form a huge liquid core. Mars never achieved the temperatures needed for this process simply because it is smaller, they say. This left more iron oxide in the upper layers of the planet, which led to its distinctive russet hue and relatively puny iron core.

Mars’ Deep Faults And Disrupted Crater At Acheron Fossae. Paris (ESA) May 11, 2004
These images were taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express of the Acheron Fossae region, an area of intensive tectonic (continental 'plate') activity in the past.

The Universe, Seen Under The Gran Sasso Mountain, Seems To Be Older Than Expected
Some nuclear fusion reactions inside stars occur more slowly than we thought and, as a consequence, stars themselves, as well as galaxies and the entire universe are a bit older than expected.

Shuttle Or Not, Hubble Will Be Saved. Washington (UPI) May 10, 2004
Indications are growing that the aging Hubble Space Telescope will not be allowed to die -- even if the U.S. space shuttle fleet will not be used to save it. More and more, it appears that NASA -- or even an international consortium of some kind -- will deploy a robotic space mission sometime in the next few years to service or repair the telescope.

Two Architectures Chosen for Terrestrial Planet Finder. Pasadena - May 10, 2004
Included in the nation's new vision for space is a plan for NASA to "conduct advanced telescope searches for Earth-like planets and habitable environments around other stars." To meet this challenge, NASA has chosen to fly two separate missions with distinct and complementary architectures to achieve the goal of the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

XMM-Newton Detects X-Ray 'Solar Cycle' In Distant Star. Paris (ESA) May 10, 2004
For years, astronomers have wondered whether stars similar to the Sun go through periodic cycles of enhanced X-ray activity, like those often causing troubles to telephone and power lines here on Earth.


Nanobodies Herald A New Era In Cancer Therapy. Brussels (SPX) May 13, 2004
The vast majority of the current medicines for treating tumors - the so-called chemotherapeutics - are seldom specific. Indeed, because a chemotherapy treatment is not only toxic to cancer cells but to the body's normal cells as well, patients often experience severe side effects.

Gene therapy fights HIV in human tests
A new form of gene therapy slashes replication of the HIV virus in cells from people infected with drug-resistant strains.

Molecule cuts off fat's food supply
A magic bullet that destroys the blood vessels that feed fat tissue enables mice to lose a third of their body weight.


'Junk' DNA reveals vital role
Inscrutable genetic sequences seem indispensable. The segments, dubbed 'ultraconserved elements', lie in the large parts of the genome that do not code for any protein. Their presence adds to growing evidence that the importance of these areas, often dismissed as junk DNA, could be much more fundamental than anyone suspected.

Synthetic Life
A small but rapidly growing number of scientists have set out in recent years to buttress the foundation of genetic engineering with what they call synthetic biology. They are designing and building living systems that behave in predictable ways, that use interchangeable parts, and in some cases that operate with an expanded genetic code, which allows them to do things that no natural organism can.

Intelligent Design:
For the past several years I have been recommending the Icons of Evolution documentary, for the first step in understanding the problems with the reigning paradigm of Darwinism, followed by the equally impressive documentary Unlocking the Mystery of Life, for an introduction to the concepts of design and the scientists who are behind the movement. Once the multimedia introduction has been completed, I recommend they move on to the half dozen books by Dr. Phillip Johnson and then tackle his video debate at Stanford with Dr. William Provine of Cornell. But now I have a new favorite to go along with the first two documentaries above, and it comes from France. Voyage Inside the Cell is a 15-minute animated journey through the cell that leaves the viewer stunned with the amazing complexity and information content of the living cell.

New Book Release: By Design or By Chance? To view the table of contents or order By Design or By Chance, go to

Niall Shanks's God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design
Theory and Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross's Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design both received favorable reviews in Science (2004 May 7; 304: 825-6).

Mitochondrial DNA Mixes It Up
Evidence of DNA swapping may break the molecular clock. (Membership required)    

Heritage on the Vine
Jumping DNA turned ancestral grapes from black to white, then to red. (Membership required)    

ASA Conference:
The 2004 annual conference Neuroscience and the Image of God is fast approaching and I would like to share some exciting developments with you. Our featured plenary speakers will be psychologists Malcolm Jeeves, Warren Brown, Heather Looy  and neurophysiologist David Cechetto.

Earth Science

Solar wind to shield Earth during pole flip
A stream of solar wind will come to the planet's rescue during the next reversal of its magnetic poles, reveals a new study.

Oldest Hummingbird Found in Germany. May 7, 2004
Fossils of the world's oldest known modern hummingbird were unearthed in Germany, the first discovery of ancient skeletons of the tiny nectar-sucking bird outside the American continent, the journal Science said Thursday.

Early Arthropod Caught Shedding Skin. May 6, 2004
For the first time ever, paleontologists have caught one of the earliest animals in the act of doing something totally expected — shedding its skin. The molting animal was captured in a 505-million-year-old fossil of a bug-like arthropod sea creature call Marrella splendens, found in the Burgess Shale of the Canadian Rockies.

Penn Researchers Describe Newly Found Dinosaur Of The Montana Coastline. PHILADELPHIA
Through the cycads and gingkoes of the floodplains, not far from the Sundance Sea, strode the 50-foot-long Suuwassea, a plant-eating dinosaur with a whip-like tail and an anomalous second hole in its skull destined to puzzle paleontologists in 150 million years. According to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Suuwassea emilieae (pronounced SOO-oo-WAH-see-uh eh-MEE-LEE-aye) is a smaller relative of Diplodocus and Apatosaurus and is the first named sauropod dinosaur from the Jurassic of southern Montana.

Bugs go spelunking
Microbes carve huge caverns out of solid rock. Some of the world's largest and most spectacular caves were created by the tiniest builders imaginable, according to a team of US geologists. It is the microbes that are responsible for converting the carbonate rock into gypsum. Little by little, the bacterial waste has turned tiny fissures into caves big enough to walk through.

Evidence Of Meteor Impact Found Off Australian Coast. Arlington VA (SPX) May 14, 2004
An impact crater believed to be associated with the "Great Dying," the largest extinction event in the history of life on Earth, appears to be buried off the coast of Australia. NASA and the National Science Foundation funded the major research project headed by Luann Becker, a scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Satellites See Shadows Of Ancient Glaciers
People in the central and eastern United States and Canada are used to the idea that the land they live on -- its variety of hills, lakes and rivers -- are left over from the great mile-thick ice sheets that covered the area 18,000 years ago. They may, however, be surprised to learn that today, long after the glaciers melted, an international research team led by Northwestern University geologists using the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites can "see" the land moving -- up to half an inch per year in some places -- as the earth rebounds in response to the ice that once pushed the land down.

Satellite data confirms climate change
Global warming anomaly may succumb to microwave study.

Study Results May Resolve Long-Standing Global Warming Debate
Theoretically, if global warming is indeed happening, the troposphere should be heating up at least as fast as the earth's surface is. Yet temperature data obtained with devices called microwave sounding units over the past 25 years have consistently suggested little if any tropospheric warming. Some climate scientists have therefore argued that global warming models are flawed. New research indicates that the error lies not in the models, but rather in the temperature readings themselves.

Volcano near DR Congo-Rwanda border erupting since Saturday.


OUR UNIVERSE HAS A TOPOLOGY SCALE OF AT LEAST 24 Gpc, or about 75 billion light years, according to a new analysis of data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP).  What does this mean? Well, because of conceivable hall-of-mirrors effects of spacetime, the universe might be finite in size but give us mortals the illusion that it is infinite.  For example, the cosmos might be tiled with some repeating shape, around which light rays might wrap themselves over and over.

Physicists 'Entangle' Light, Pave Way To Atomic-Scale Measurements. Toronto (SPX) May 13, 2004
U of T physicists have developed a way to entangle photons which could ultimately lead to an extremely precise new measurement system. Their study appears in the May 13 issue of the journal Nature.

Yale Scientist Says Clues To String Theory May Be Visible In Big Bang Aftermath.
Scientists say that the fundamental forces of the Universe – gravity (defined by general relativity), electromagnetism, “weak” radioactive forces and “strong” nuclear forces (all defined by quantum theory) – were united in the high-energy flash of the Big Bang, when all matter and energy was confined within a sub-atomic scale. Although the Big Bang occurred nearly 14 billion years ago, its afterglow, the CMB, still blankets the entire universe and contains a fossilized record of the first moments of time. The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) studies the CMB and detects subtle temperature differences, within this largely uniform radiation, glowing at only 2.73 degrees Celsius above absolute zero. The uniformity is evidence of “inflation,” a period when the expansion of the Universe accelerated rapidly, around 10-33 seconds after the Big Bang. During inflation, the Universe grew from an atomic scale to a cosmic scale, increasing its size a hundred trillion trillion times over. The energy field that drove inflation, like all quantum fields, contained fluctuations. These fluctuations, locked into the cosmic microwave background like waves on a frozen pond, may contain evidence for string theory.