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November 21, 2004

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Religion in the News

Reaching the Light
A review of On Broken Legs: A Shattered Life, a Search for God, a Miracle That Met Me in a Cave in Assisi. Reviewed by Elissa Elliott.

Supreme Court considers case of conversion and death penalty
All eyes are on the Supreme Court this week, at least indirectly, and it's not even June. There's Rehnquist's cancer, internet rumors that Bush is considering Thomas as chief justice, debate on the influence Sen. Arlen Specter might have over nominations, speculation on whether Alberto Gonzalez is now out of the running … and even an actual court case—the federal government's request that the Supreme Court take up the case of Oregon's assisted suicide law. But yesterday, the justices considered another interesting case that has something to do with religion: Brown v. Payton. Weblog summarized this case back in May: It has to do with a California prosecutor's telling a jury not to consider murderer William Payton's conversion to Christianity when it sentenced him.

A home school smear
The Akron (Oh.) Beacon Journal has been running a series on home schooling that started out interesting. The theme is that there's little hard data on home schooling, whether you're talking about its growth, academic success, or other issues. But it quickly took some bad turns. "Some parents use laws as easy way to give up on education," said the headline for an article on truancy. Uh-oh. "Racists can use home schools to train youths," said another. Yikes! Today, it gets even worse: "Home schoolers may be no safer in their homes."

Dobson shifts power to focus on the politics
The child psychologist and influential voice of conservative moral values had a lot riding on the election of 2004. (The Denver Post)

Falwell to form 'Faith' coalition
Mathew Staver, president of the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, will be the vice chairman. The Rev. Jonathan Falwell, Mr. Falwell's second-oldest son, will be executive director. Tim LaHaye — co-author of the best-selling apocalyptic "Left Behind" fiction series — will be the board chairman. (The Washington Times)

The Chinese Church's Delicate Dance
A conversation with the head of the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement. By Mark Galli.

Lost Tribe Found?
Jewish group in India seeks return to Israel. By S. David.

New Bible translation returns to Hebrew roots
Biblical scholar Robert Alter's major new English translation of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible -- alternately called the Five Books of Moses, the Torah or Pentateuch -- has some critics manning the barricades while others are applauding his efforts to return the work to its original Hebrew meanings and majestic repetitions. (Reuters)

The Da Vinci codswallop
World's best-selling novel got its key facts wrong. (The Mirror, U.K.)

Couple arrested after church workers fear child sacrifice
A Farmington woman who allegedly said she wanted to "sacrifice" at least one of her children in a local church on Wednesday is scheduled to face child endangerment charges in court today, along with her boyfriend (The Union Leader, Manchester, N.H.)

Virgin Mary Sandwich Auction Draws Cheesy Spoofs.

Science in the News


US archeologist: Yadin finds are Temple artifacts.
In the hour-long NOVA documentary, airing on PBS stations on November 23, Richard Freund, director of the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford in Conneticut, challenges some of the groundbreaking ideas of famed soldier and archeologist Yigael Yadin. See also Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land.

Noah's Ark Quest Dead in Water -- Was It a Stunt?
In April businessman and Christian activist Daniel McGivern announced with great fanfare a planned summer expedition to Mount Ararat in Turkey. The project, he said, would prove that the fabled Noah's ark was buried there.  The choice of expedition leader—a Turkish academic named Ahmet Ali Arslan, who claims to have climbed Mount Ararat 50 times in 40 years—also raised a red flag with those familiar with previous expeditions. Arslan was involved in a 1993 documentary, aired on CBS television, which claimed to have found the ark. Some of the evidence presented in that documentary turned out to be a hoax, raising concerns about Arslan's testimony. 

Atlantis Buried Between Cyprus, Syria? Nov. 15, 2004
U.S. researcher Robert Sarmast claimed Sunday to have found proof that the mythical lost city of Atlantis actually existed and is located under the Mediterranean seabed between Cyprus and Syria. 

Ship from the time of David and Solomon?
One may have been discovered on Israel's Mediterranean coast - by a dog!

Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?
University of Chicago professor contends the scrolls were the product of many hands and represent a broad range of perspectives rather than just the thinking of a tight-knit religious group.

The story behind the dating of the silver scrolls
Background on the silver scrolls containing the priestly benediction. The second link includes a good photograph of the scrolls. See also A Benediction Revealed.

Summary of the finds at the Jordanian site of Deir Ain Abata
Deir Ain Abata ("Monastery of the Abbot's Spring") is a Byzantine monastery built at the traditional site of "Lot's cave" in the mountains near today's Ghor al-Safi, Biblical Zoar (see article in Bible and Spade, Summer 1999).

Queen of Sheba Exhibit at the Bowers Museum, Santa Ana CA
Exhibit examines the question of the historicity of the Queen of Sheba. See also Treasure fit for a queen.

3,500 year old Bronze Age Temple in Jordan. Madaba Plains Project.

King Tut Death Mystery To Be Probed. Nov. 15, 2004
The mummy of Tutankhamun will be CAT scanned in the attempt to uncover how the pharaoh died a teenager more than 3,000 years ago, Egypt's chief archaeologist announced.

Garbage betrays date of earliest village life
The occupants of the first permanent settlements were forced to develop a strategy for getting rid of rubbish.


Cassini Spots Possible Ice Volcano On Titan. Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 10, 2004
A strikingly bright feature that is consistent with an active geology has been seen in one of Cassini's first radar images of Saturn's moon Titan. There are many possibilities for what it is but one of the leading candidates is that it may be a 'cryovolcanic' flow or 'ice volcano'.

Titan has no breaking waves
The Cassini space probe discovers that the surface of Saturn's moon is not awash with liquid after all - ice or volcanism may prevail.

NASA Scramjet Sets a New Air-Speed Record. November 17, 2004
A NASA research jet sets a new air-speed record for air-breathing engines by traveling nearly 7,000 mph, or 10 times the speed of sound. After its release from beneath the larger craft's wing, a booster rocket ignited, sending the X-43A on its way.

New NASA-Japanese Telescope Images Uncharted Wavelengths. Greenbelt MD (SPX) Nov 10, 2004
Scientists using an experimental X-ray telescope suspended from a balloon have captured a unique picture of a pulsar shining in a form of light never before imaged in detail - that is, in high-energy "hard" X-rays. The observation marks a milestone in astronomical imaging.

Keck Zooms In On The Weird Weather Of Uranus. Louisville KY (SPX) Nov 11, 2004
Capitalizing on the incomparable optical capabilities of the Keck Telescope, scientists have gained an unprecedented look at the atmosphere of Uranus, providing new insight into some of the most enigmatic weather in the solar system.

Spitzer Sees Ice And Warm Glows In Dark And Dusty Places. Pasadena CA (SPX) Nov 10, 2004
Two new results from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope released Tuesday are helping astronomers better understand how stars form out of thick clouds of gas and dust, and how the molecules in those clouds ultimately become planets.

Journey Toward 'Burns Cliff Continues. Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 10, 2004
Opportunity's trek towards "Burns Cliff" continues. The journey has been much more difficult than anticipated. The rover has experienced drive slippage of up to 100 percent. The plan is to attempt a couple of sols of up-slope, switchback driving and then review options to get to Burns Cliff.

Theorists Tackle Mysterious Wake Of Baby Plane. Rochester NY (SPX) Nov 12, 2004
In June, researchers from the University of Rochester announced they had located a potential planet around another star so young that it defied theorists' explanations.

Taking A Cat Scan Of The Early Universe. Cambridge MA (SPX) Nov 09, 2004
A new technique that resembles CAT scans, known as tomography, is poised to revolutionize the study of the young universe and the end of the cosmic "dark ages."


Autism Linked to Brain Inflammation. TUESDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDayNews)
People with autism are prone to brain inflammation associated with immune system dysfunction, say researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Sick Kids Researchers Confirm That Cancer Stem Cells Initiate And Grow Brain Tumours
Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) and the University of Toronto (U of T) have confirmed that childhood and adult brain tumours originate from cancer stem cells and that these stem cells fuel and maintain tumour growth. This discovery has led to development of a mouse model for human brain tumours and opens the door for new therapeutic targets for the treatment of brain tumours.


Ancient Ape Discovered: Last Ape-Human Ancestor? November 18, 2004
In Spain scientists have discovered 13-million-year-old fossils of a new species of ape. The species may have been the last common ancestor of humans and all great apes living today.

Crucial Evolutionary Link Points To Origins Of Modern Cells. (November 11, 2004)
A team of researchers led by Rockefeller University's Michael P. Rout, Ph.D., have discovered a possible crucial evolutionary link between the simple cells that make up bacteria and the more complex cells that comprise animal and plant cells, including those of humans.

Pa. school district mandates "intelligent design" in curriculum
Last month, the Dover Area School District became the only one in the nation to specifically mandate the teaching of "intelligent design," which holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an unspecified higher power (Associated Press) also Pa. town puts Darwin on notice.

Creation theory gets boost
Schools should teach the biblical creation story alongside evolutionary theory, Family First chairman Peter Harris said yesterday (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

Evolution on trial
Ignorance of science hazardous to next generation (Editorial, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.)

In science, no such thing as 'just' a theory
In ordinary English, a theoretical idea is one that is not well-grounded in fact. But a scientific theory refers to a mental model that scientists develop that allows predictions that can be tested by experiments or observations. (Robert L. Dehaan, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Scientists defend school board's use of evolution disclaimer sticker
Calling evolution "a theory in crisis," more than two-dozen scientists have come to the defense of the Cobb County, Ga., Board of Education. The scientists, all Ph.D.'s, portray evolution as "a live and growing scientific controversy" (Fulton County Daily Report, Ga.)

Teaching policy unclear
Calls for lessons in theories other than evolution (Pioneer Press, Minn.)

Male Fish Producing Eggs in Potomac River
Near Washington, D.C., male bass are growing eggs—and it isn't normal. Clues point to estrogen-enhanced sewage.

ISCID is pleased to announce the latest issue of its online journal
Progress in Complexity, Information and Design.  The current issue features papers from
Royal Truman, Jonathan Wells, Paul Nelson and others. A variety of topics are addressed, including (1) computer simulations of Darwinian evolution, (2) irreducible complexity and (3) the application of intelligent design. PCID Volume 3.1, November 2004.

ID and the Future of Science: New ARN Video Series from the Biola Conference
A significant conference was held this past April at Biola University on ID and the Future of Science.  ARN is releasing 13 DVD lecture videos this month from that important event. See

Scientists Defend School Board's Use of Evolution Disclaimer Sticker
Calling evolution "a theory in crisis," more than two-dozen scientists have come to the defense of the Cobb County, Ga., Board of Education. The scientists, all Ph.D.'s, portray evolution as "a live and growing scientific controversy." 

Death before the Fall: Most Young earth creationists claim that there was no death before the fall of mankind in the garden of Eden. This doctrine is primarily tied to two passages - Genesis 1:29-30 in the Old Testament and Romans 5:12 in the New Testament. Out of context, without the consideration of the remainder of the Bible, the verses seem to support the doctrine. However, arguments in favor of this "biblical" doctrine reply primarily upon emotion (e.g., "millions of year of suffering and death"). This page cites over 60 biblical passages that support the Bible's claim that there was animal death, but no human death, before Adam's sin. No Death Before the Fall - A Young Earth Heresy.

Rogue finger gene got bats airborne
A single gene may explain the sudden appearance of thoroughly modern bats in the fossil record 50 million years ago.

Humans Were Born to Run, Fossil Study Suggests. November 17, 2004
The distinctive human body form—long legs, springy feet, short forearms, big buttocks—may have evolved to run, rather than walk, a new study says.

Evolution's "High Priest" Returns With New "Tale." November 15, 2004
National Geographic News interviews Darwinist Richard Dawkins on evolution and his latest book, The Ancestor's Tale

Emory Study Details Dolphin Brain Evolution For The First Time. (October 29, 2004)
The intelligence and cognitive capabilities of dolphins and their aquatic cousins have long fascinated the public and the scientific community.

Faith-based parks?
Creationists meet the Grand Canyon (Leon Jaroff, Time

Is the capacity for spirituality determined by brain chemistry?
Geneticist's book 'The God Gene' is disputed by scientists, embraced by some religious leaders (The Washington Post)

Earth Science

Notorious Asteroid Didn't Kill Dinosaurs. Nov. 16, 2004
Startling new evidence from boreholes drilled into the Chicxulub crater indicate that the great impact there happened hundreds of millennia too early to have been the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Who Laid The First Egg? Scientists Move A Step Closer To Linking Embryos Of Earth's First Animals To Adult Form. (November 5, 2004)
In 1998, Shuhai Xiao and colleagues reported finding thousands of 600 million year old embryo microfossils in the Neoproterozoic Doushantuo Formation, a fossil site near Weng'an, South China.

Not The End, But The Beginning Of The World As We Know It. University Park PA (SPX) Nov 10, 2004
Widespread volcanic activity, cyanobacteria and global glaciation may sound like the plot of a new, blockbuster disaster movie, but in reality, they are all events in the mystery surrounding the development of our oxygen-rich atmosphere, according to a Penn State geoscientist.

Sea Change: Skeletons Of Ancient Corals Different From Today's
A Johns Hopkins University graduate student may have solved a problem that has been baffling marine biologists and paleontologists for years: Why do coral reefs disappear from the fossil record during the beginning of the Cretaceous period -- 120 million years ago -- only to reappear after its end 35 million years ago?

Variety Couldn't Save The Dinosaurs. Kingston RI (SPX) Nov 19, 2004
When dinosaurs became extinct from the effects of a massive asteroid hitting Earth 65 million years ago, there were more varieties of the reptiles living than ever before, according to a new analysis of global fossil records.

Dinosaurs' 'bulletproof' armour revealed
Some dinosaurs' protective plates had a similar arrangement of fibres as seen in bulletproof fabrics, making them extremely tough.

Triassic reptiles had live young
Report in Nature of sauropterygians is first evidence of viviparity in the group.

Ancient Creature Fossilized By The Bacteria That Ate It. Denver CO (SPX) Nov 11, 2004
High in the mountains of Antarctica, Ohio State University geologists unearthed the fossil remains of a 180-million-year-old clam-like creature that was preserved in a very unusual way: by the ancient bacteria that devoured it.

Arctic Ice Cap Melt: A Boon For Shipping With New Northern Route. Reykjavik, Iceland (AFP) Nov 10, 2004
The melting of the Arctic ice cap could in the future open a new northern waterway, creating a shorter route for ships sailing between Europe and Asia and providing a safe haven from piracy and terrorism, experts say.

Antarctic Forests Reveal Ancient Trees
Geologists have discovered in Antarctica the remains of three ancient deciduous forests complete with fossils of fallen leafs scattered around the tree trunks. The clusters of petrified tree stumps were found upright in the original living positions they held during the Permian period.

New Findings From Arctic Coring Expedition Decipher Arctic Climate Puzzles. Bremen, Germany (SPX) Nov 18, 2004
Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) scientists from ten countries gathered over the last two weeks to analyze sediment cores taken from 430 meters beneath the Arctic Ocean seafloor.

Bees Challenge Dino-Killer Winter Theory. Nov. 10, 2004
Tropical honeybees and other warmth-loving insects are continuing to challenge the idea that a "nuclear winter" enshrouded the Earth for years after the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Vintage Wine Records Trace Climate Change to 1300s. November 17, 2004
A team of French scientists and historians is toasting centuries-old grape-harvest records for the insights they yield on past climate.


33-Year Hunt For Proof Of Spin Current Now Over- Spin Hall Effect Observed. Santa Barbara CA (SPX) Nov 12, 2004
In a paper published online Thursday in Science, a group of researchers led by David Awschalom, a professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, reports the observation of the spin Hall effect.

Shedding Light On A Microscopic World. Baton Rouge LA (SPX) Nov 19, 2004
An LSU scientist has achieved national recognition for her research on the shortest pulses of light ever created - pulses that could reveal important new information about some of nature's tiniest building blocks.

Experiment Confirms Existence Of New Electronic State In Superconductors
The existence of a new electronic state in superconductors, materials that can carry an electric current without resistance, has been confirmed experimentally according to research.

Unusual Material That Contracts When Heated Is Giving Up Its Secrets To Physicists
Most solids expand when heated, a familiar phenomenon with many practical implications. Among the rare exceptions to this rule, the compound zirconium tungstate stands out by virtue of the enormous temperature range over which it exhibits so-called "negative thermal expansion," contracting as it heats up and expanding as it cools, and because it does so uniformly in all directions.


Mouse Study Sheds Light on Nicotine's Addictive Power
More than four million people die from smoking-related causes each year, making nicotine addiction a leading cause of preventable mortality worldwide. But nicotine's highly addictive nature makes kicking the smoking habit very difficult. New research identifies brain receptors in mice that may help explain why it's so hard to quit, and help scientists develop new drugs to help smokers butt out.

Stress can make pregnant women miscarry
An overactive immune system can turn on the placenta, but extra doses of a female hormone may save the pregnancy.

Malnutrition In Early Years Leads To Low IQ And Later Antisocial Behavior, USC Study Finds
Malnutrition in the first few years of life leads to antisocial and aggressive behavior throughout childhood and late adolescence, according to a new University of Southern California study.


Futuristic Nano 'Smart' Yarns On The Horizon. Canberra, Australia (SPX) Nov 19, 2004
In a collaborative effort, scientists at CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology have achieved a major technological breakthrough that should soon lead to the production of futuristic strong, light and flexible 'smart' clothing materials.