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November 8, 2004

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Religion in the News

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.)

Values vote a powerful new force
A powerful political creature was born - or born again - on Tuesday: the values voter (The Denver Post). Also Evangelical Christians credited in Bush win and "Feeding a monster who has the party by its tail.

Kerry loses his faith
Catholic Kerry lost this week because he lost the Catholic vote (Paul Kengor, The American Spectator).

Separation of Church and Store
God bless Russell Shorto: In this week's New York Times Magazine cover story, "Faith at Work," you can tell that he's really, really trying to present a fair, understanding, even sympathetic portrait of marketplace ministry. Compiled by Ted Olsen.

Back to the Basics
Christian-Muslim violence requires a 'new' missions strategy: Forgiveness and love. By Obed Minchakpu in Jos.

Modern China rethinks Confucianism
The once-reviled teachings of the ancient Chinese sage and statesman Confucius have made a comeback and are being taught to some five million students across the country (The Straits Times, Singapore).

Can This Institution Be Saved?
A curious alliance of helping professionals is working to rebuild marriage in a culture of divorce. By Tim Stafford.

Overhaul for religious teaching
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority says pupils should study other faiths alongside Christianity to help foster understanding and respect (BBC).

Living with Fundamentalists
Spirit and Flesh documents life in a Baptist church. Reviewed by Cindy Crosby.

Science in the News


Mini Human Species Unearthed
In what is being hailed as one of the most spectacular paleoanthropological finds of the past century, researchers have unearthed the remains of a dwarf human species that survived on the Indonesian island of Flores until just 13,000 years ago. The discovery significantly extends the known range of physical variation in our genus, Homo, and reveals that H. sapiens shared the planet with other humans much more recently than previously believed. See also Little lady of Flores forces rethink of human evolution.

Rameses: Wrath of God or Man?
A new find in Egypt's Valley of Kings opens an investigation into what just might be a royal murder mystery, and probes the question: Did Egypt's greatest pharoah really refuse to let the Hebrews go? The show premieres December 5, but you can see a preview right now. View the Clip Using Windows Media.


Radar Image Shows Titan's Surface Live And In "Color" Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 08, 2004
Saturn's moon Titan shows a sharp contrast between its smooth and rough edges in this new false-color radar image. Titan's surface lies beneath a thick coat of hazy clouds, but Cassini's radar instrument can peer through to show finer surface features. Scientists have added color to emphasize finer details on Titan, as shown in the image.

Over The Martian Wall Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 08, 2004
All the scientific tools on NASA's two Mars Exploration Rovers are still working well, a full 10 months after Spirit's dramatic landing. The ones on Spirit are adding fresh evidence about the history of layered bedrock in a hill the rover is climbing.

Mars Express pictures action of glaciers.
The Mars Express spacecraft has returned stunning images of mountains and valleys that show signs of past volcanic activity, and suggest that glaciers once shaped the red planet's surface.

Possible Origin Of Cosmic Rays Revealed With Gamma Rays Wiltshire, UK (SPX) Nov 04, 2004
An international team of astronomers has produced the first ever image of an astronomical object using high energy gamma rays, helping to solve a 100 year old mystery - the origin of cosmic rays.

VLA Finds Black Hole Preceded Galaxy Bulge Socorro NM (SPX) Nov 09, 2004
Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope to study the most distant known quasar, have found a tantalizing clue that may answer a longstanding cosmic chicken-and-egg question: which came first, supermassive black holes or giant galaxies?

Cambridge Astronomers Take Hubble-Quality Images from the Ground Cambridge UK (SPX) Nov 02, 2004
University of Cambridge Astronomers have developed a new method for taking images of the universe from the ground that are almost free of atmospheric distortions.

Cassini Observations Show Dynamic Dance At Saturn Boulder CO (SPX) Nov 09, 2004
A University of Colorado at Boulder professor involved with the Cassini-Huygens mission is reporting an ever-changing vista at the frontiers of Saturn, featuring wayward moons, colliding meteoroids, rippling rings and flickering auroras.

Cosmic doomsday delayed
Universe won't end for 24 billion years... probably. 5 November 2004.

Chandra's Find Of Lonely Halo Raises Questions About Dark Matter Huntsville AL (SPX) Oct 28, 2004
- Dark matter continues to confound astronomers, as NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory demonstrated with the detection of an extensive envelope of dark matter around an isolated elliptical galaxy NGC 4555.

Stellar Survivor From 1572 A.D. Explosion Supports Supernova Theory
Paris (ESA) Oct 28, 2004 - An international team of astronomers is announcing today that they have identified the probable surviving companion star to a titanic supernova explosion witnessed in the year 1572 by the great Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and other astronomers of that era.

Sunspots more active than for 8000 years
The Sun has been more energetic in the last 70 years than it has for the previous 8000 - but it is not to blame for recent global warming.

Tree Rings Reveal Sunspot Record.
Until now, scientists could only study sunspot records back to 1610, when astronomers started keeping track of sunspots by direct observation. Now, thanks to a clever new method, the 400-year sunspot record can be extended back to the Ice Age.


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)

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)

Critics attack landmark decision on gene screening
A momentous decision that could lead in time to wholesale screening of embryos for diseases they may develop as adults was made in an undemocratic manner by an unelected authority behind closed doors, it was alleged yesterday (The Guardian, London)

Breathing with Hepatitis
According to the hygiene hypothesis, the soaring rates of asthma, hay fever, eczema and other allergies in the past two decades have resulted from the overly sanitized conditions of industrial countries. Because children are exposed to fewer bacteria and viruses, the theory goes, their immune systems tend to overreact to otherwise harmless substances such as pollen and dander. The hypothesis, however, fails to explain why some people are more susceptible than others or why those in dirty environments still develop asthma. But now a genetic study has pointed out a plausible mechanism for allergy development: it suggests that the hepatitis A virus, which thrives in polluted environments, may protect people from asthma.

Compound Slows Key Step in Alzheimer's
Small molecules make better drugs than large ones do, because they can more easily enter cells and gum up chosen chemically active sites. But their size makes it hard for them to stop larger molecules like proteins from interacting with one another, which is critical to many diseases. Now, borrowing a trick from soil bacteria, researchers have designed a small molecule that effectively forms a new drug on the spot by teaming up with a large protein that is common inside cells. The resulting complex binds to fragments of beta-amyloid protein and keeps them from sticking together to form the "plaques" that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

Mouse Study Upends Theory of Down Syndrome's Cause
Down syndrome affects about one in 700 babies born each year and is characterized by the presence of three copies of chromosome 21. In some rare cases, dubbed segmental trisomy, only a specific section of the chromosome is present in triplicate. As a result, many scientists studying the condition considered genes found in that region of the chromosome suspect in the disorder. But new findings indicate that the cause of the disease may be more complicated than that.

New 'Superaspirin' Prevents Colon Cancer in Mice. TUESDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDayNews)
An aspirin that is "thousands of times more powerful" than traditional forms of the drug but has no gastrointestinal side effects looks promising in animal studies, researchers say. The drug, called nitric oxide-donating aspirin, or nitroaspirin, appears to help prevent colon cancer in mice without raising the incidence of gastrointestinal bleeding, researchers reported Oct. 19 at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Seattle.


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

'What does it mean to be human?'
Anthropologist Desmond Morris suggested the discovery of a human "hobbit" on Flores would force many religions to examine their basic beliefs (BBC).

Darwin's Greatest Challenge Tackled: The Mystery Of Eye Evolution Heidelberg, Germany (SPX) Oct 29, 2004
When Darwin's skeptics attack his theory of evolution, they often focus on the eye. Darwin himself confessed that it was "absurd" to propose that the human eye evolved through spontaneous mutation and natural selection.

The Left-Handed Lobster Moffett Field CA (SPX) Nov 03, 2004
Genetics aren't the only triggers for the traits a species develops, according to findings from a University of Alberta professor. The research challenges the classical Darwinian theory of evolution as being the sole explanation for how new life forms arise.

Creationism and science clash at Grand Canyon bookstores
The universe formed billions of years ago, Earth formed billions of years later and the Grand Canyon was shaped by millions and millions of years of hydrology, chiefly the action of the Colorado River. Other ideas, however dearly held, are myths (The New York Times).

Trial date set in evolution textbook case
A trial date has been set for a lawsuit seeking to have Cobb County remove disclaimers about evolution from its science textbooks (Associated Press).

Wisconsin district to teach more than evolution.
School officials have revised the science curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism, prompting an outcry from more than 300 educators who urged that the decision be reversed.

Fish with cleft lip solves evolution riddle
Gap-toothed species shines light on nostril development. 3 November 2004.

Supernova debris found on Earth
Ancient explosion may have affected climate and, possibly, human evolution. 2 November 2004.

Spider webs untangle evolution
Similarity of construction shows 'convergent evolution' applies to behaviour. 1 November 2004.

The Weird Platypus: Oct. 25, 2004
An animal said to be the "world's weirdest" — the platypus — has just become a bit more unusual with a report that claims the mammal retains a distinctly birdlike gender chromosome. The finding, published in the current journal Nature, not only helps to explain why the platypus retains characteristics common to both mammals and birds, but it also suggests that the  chromosomes for these two diverse groups might have an evolutionary link.

Gene activity in human brain sets us apart from chimps SAN DIEGO
Humans and chimpanzees share 98.7 per cent of their DNA, but the human brain has about five times more genetic activity than would be predicted by evolution, researchers said.

Seventh-Dayers' Six-Day Creationism
In a society where young adherents often face challenges to their beliefs, the top world authorities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church have reaffirmed the faith's insistence that fidelity to the Bible requires belief in "a literal, recent, six-day creation," no matter what conventional science says (Associated Press).

Earth Science

Arctic Summer Ice To Melt This Century Oslo (AFP) Nov 02, 2004
The Arctic ice cover will completely disappear in summer by the end of this century unless carbon dioxide emissions are significantly reduced, according to a scientific study to be released next week.

Largest ever field of impact craters uncovered.
The discovery of the largest field of impact craters ever uncovered on Earth is the first evidence that the planet suffered simultaneous meteor impacts in the recent past. The field has gone unnoticed until now because it is partially buried beneath the sands of the Sahara desert in south-west Egypt.

'Fool's Gold' Delivers Perfect Fossils. Oct. 26, 2004
New troves of "fool's gold" and phosphate fossils showing soft parts and even embryos of animals are giving scientists the clearest window yet into the first explosion of animal life more than a half billion years ago.

New Astronomical Results Refine The Geological Time Scale Paris, France (SPX) Oct 26, 2004
A team led by Jacques Laskar from the Institut de Mecanique Celeste et de Calcul des Ephemerides (IMCCE) and the Paris Observatory has released new computational results for the long-term evolution of the orbital and rotational motion of the Earth.

Ecosystem Remodelling Among Vertebrates During Permian-Triassic Extinction Bristol, UK (SPX) Nov 04, 2004
The biggest mass extinction of all time happened 251 million years ago, at the Permian-Triassic boundary. Virtually all of life was wiped out, but the pattern of how life was killed off on land has been mysterious until now.

Is Shiva Another K-T Impact Zone From 65 Million Years Ago Moffett Field CA (SPX) Nov 04, 2004
According to the Earth Impact Database, there are two craters - the 180 kilometer-wide Chicxulub crater in Yucatan, Mexico and the much smaller Boltysh crater in eastern Ukraine - that date back to the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) extinction 65 million years ago.

Studying Slime Moffett Field (SPX) Nov 02, 2004
Penny Boston is one of the leaders of the SLIME team - that's Subsurface Life in Mineral Environments. She studies bizarre microorganisms that live, often under extreme conditions, in subterranean caves.

Tracking Ancient Earth's Oxygen Levels Provides Backdrop for Evolution Columbia MO (SPX) Nov 02, 2004
Geologists have long considered sulfate, a common salt dissolved in seawater, as the key to determining how and when life evolved. On the ancient Earth, acquiring enough ocean sulfate measurements to accurately define the ecological conditions during evolution has been a serious challenge.

Were Volcanoes The Crucible Of Life

Researchers Describe How Natural Nuclear Reactor Worked In Gabon St Louis MO (SPX) Nov 01, 2004
To operate a nuclear power plant like Three Mile Island, hundreds of highly trained employees must work in concert to generate power from safe fission, all the while containing dangerous nuclear wastes.


Scientists Zero In On Why Time Flows In One Direction
Chicago IL (SPX) Nov 02, 2004 - The big bang could be a normal event in the natural evolution of the universe that will happen repeatedly over incredibly vast time scales as the universe expands, empties out and cools off, according to two University of Chicago physicists.

Experiments Claim to See Einstein's "Frame Dragging"
By precisely calculating odd shifts in the orbit of Mercury, Einstein gained important support for his theory of general relativity, which posits that gravity arises because mass bends spacetime. By studying the orbits of two manmade satellites around Earth, scientists now say they have confirmed a much smaller effect predicted by the theory: namely, that mass drags spacetime with it as it rotates.


There's growing evidence that some mental illnesses may spread in an unexpected way by coughs and sneezes. p.40 (New Scientist, 11/6/2004)

New twist in gay gene debate. (New Scientist, 11/6/2004)