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December 7, 2005

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Top Stories of 2005

Religion in the News

Thinking Straighter
Why the world's most famous atheist now believes in God. By James A. Beverley.

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience
Why don't Christians live what they preach? By Ronald J. Sider. 

Exploring a Parallel Universe
Why does the word evangelical threaten so many people in our culture? by Philip Yancey. 

Islam's Culture War
Author says Muslims are troubled by our morals more than our politics. Reviewed by J. Dudley Woodberry

Breaking The Da Vinci Code
So the divine Jesus and infallible Word emerged out of a fourth-century power-play? Get real.

Christianity Today Book Awards 2005
From more than 300 nominations, these books represent the year's best. 

Science in the News

Science, 'frauds' trigger a decline in atheism
Godlessness is in trouble, according to a growing consensus among philosophers, intellectuals and scholars (UPI).


David’s palace in Jerusalem may have been found
A prominent Israeli archeologist claims to have uncovered the ancient palace of King David near the Old City of Jerusalem. See also King David's fabled palace: Is this it? and King David palace may have been found and A debate of biblical proportions and View image of archaeologist and ruins and King David's Palace Is Found, Archaeologist Says.

Ancient Church Found at Israeli Prison
The ruins of a church, which archaeologists say could be the oldest Christian church in Israel, were recently discovered on the grounds of that nation's Megiddo Prison.

French magazine claims to have proven that the Shroud of Turin is a “fake.”  & Father Brown Fakes the Shroud 


Lakefront Landing In Creme Brule, Titan Darmstadt, Germany (SPX) Jan 17, 2005
For the first time, humans have gotten a close-up look at Titan, the planet-sized moon. Huygens, scientists say, has landed in soil with the consistency of wet sand or clay.  First full mosaics of Titan’s surface. 

Deep Impact: sifting through the debris
When Deep Impact's washing-machine-sized probe slammed into comet Tempel 1 on 4 July, teams of astronomers watched using telescopes in space and around the world. Nature investigates what the images tell us so far about the comet's composition and history.

Scientists Discover Solar System's Tenth Planet -- Bigger Than Pluto
A planet larger than Pluto has been discovered in the outlying regions of the solar system. The planet was discovered using the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif. The planet is a typical member of the Kuiper belt, but its sheer size in relation to the nine known planets means that it can only be classified as a planet. 

Astronomers Obtain First Image Of Extra-Solar Planet Jena, Germany (SPX) Apr 06, 2005
German astronomers have obtained the first photograph of a planet beyond our solar system.


Cloning techniques to create stem cells
By any measure, 2005's biggest medical news came out of Hwang's lab--despite the subsequent scandal. The earliest bulletin was the announcement that Hwang and his 45-person team had become the first to using cloning techniques to create stem cells from human patients suffering from diseases such as diabetes and spinal-cord injury. Tissue derived from those cells could, in theory, be implanted in the pancreas or spine with little chance that the body would rejected it. If such experiments work, the same approach could be applied to other parts of the body, such as the brain or heart.

Is RNA inheritance possible?
Researchers find plant clues to a non-DNA pathway for genetic transmission (Laura M Hrastar)

Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy
Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing chimeras—a hybrid creature that's part human, part animal.


Young-Earth Creationist Helium Diffusion "Dates": Fallacies Based on Bad Assumptions and Questionable Data
Young-Earth creationists consider the helium diffusion studies of D. Russell Humphreys and others to be one of their greatest achievements in arguing for a 6,000 year old Earth. A geologist shows that these studies are extensively flawed and include: serious miscalculations in their data, sampling the wrong rock type, failing to eliminate possible contamination, using equations that are based on invalid assumptions and relying on questionable data.

"Polonium Haloes" Refuted: A Review of "Radioactive Halos in a Radio-Chronological and Cosmological Perspective" by Robert V. Gentry.
Professional geologist Tom Bailleul takes a second look at Gentry's claimed polonium haloes, arguing that there is no good evidence they are the result of polonium decay as opposed to any other radioactive isotope, or even that they are caused by radioactivity at all. Gentry is taken to task for selective use of evidence, faulty experiment design, mistakes in geology and physics, and unscientific principles of investigation and argument style. 

Chimp Genome--and First Fossils--Unveiled
Many animals, ranging from the rat to the puffer fish, have had their genome sequenced, and now humankind's closest living relative, the chimpanzee, has joined the group. The recent publication of a draft sequence of this primate's genome provides the most detailed look yet at the similarities, and differences, between humans and chimps.

UCSD Study Shows 'Junk' DNA Has Evolutionary Importance (October 20, 2005)
Genetic material derisively called "junk" DNA because it does not contain the instructions for protein-coding genes and appears to have little or no function is actually critically important to an organism's evolutionary survival, according to a study conducted by a biologist at UCSD. 

"Darwin's forgotten Defenders" by David Livingstone
He discusses a number of other influential evangelicals who saw no inherent conflict between evolution and the Christian faith. Another very important advocate of evolution was the theologian B.B. Warfield, who was a strong advocate of biblical inerrancy. See Darwin's Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought by David N. Livingstone also The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant S truggle to Come to Terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870-1900 by James R. Moore and Perspectives on an Evolving Creation by Keith B. Miller.  

NEW on DVD! Arguments Creationists Should NOT Use by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati.
In this candid presentation before an international conference of nearly 600 creationist speakers and writers, scientist Dr. Jonathan Sarfati reveals the out-of-date, faulty and downright “flaky evidences” that reputable creationists must avoid. In his trademark style, Sarfati challenges some of the most-loved arguments of modern creationists. Bottom line: hold “facts” loosely and focus intensely on God’s written Word as the absolute guide to evidence interpretations!

Latest Creation/Evolution News see 

Earth Science

Dino Blood Redux
Over a decade ago Mary Higby Schweitzer began her research career by announcing that she and professor Jack Horner had discovered evidence of blood residues in a Tyrannosaur rex femur. There followed many years of creationists' distortion of those findings which they presented as support for a young Earth that was debunked in Dino Blood and the Young Earth. In April of 2005, Schweitzer and Horner were again at the center of a media circus prompted by their announcement that this time they had discovered blood vessels and identifiable cells. The creationist reaction was immediate. This article reviews these new discoveries, their presentation in the popular media, and the sadly predictable creationist responses. 

Ice Core Extends Climate Record Back 650,000 Years
Researchers have recovered a nearly two-mile-long cylinder of ice from eastern Antarctica that contains a record of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane--two potent and ubiquitous greenhouse gases--spanning the last two glacial periods. Analysis of this core shows that current atmospheric concentrations of CO2--380 parts per million (ppm)--are 27 percent higher than the highest levels found in the last 650,000 years.

New Method Of Dating Oceanic Crust Is Most Accurate So Far (November 1, 2005)
A newly developed method that detects tiny bits of zircon in rock reliably predicts the age of ocean crust more than 99 percent of the time, making the technique the most accurate so far. 

A Cool Early Earth?
Our planet might not have spent its first half a billion years drenched in magma. Oceans, proto-continents and opportunities for life may have formed much earlier. By John W. Valley. 

Probing the Geodynamo
Studies of our planet's churning interior offer intriguing clues to why the earth's magnetic field occasionally flips and when the next reversal may begin.


Successful calculations about black holes and forces have given stunning indications that our present approach to the theory of everything is the right one, explains Lisa Randall.

Picking On Einstein Huntsville AL (SPX) Mar 29, 2005
This year marks the 100th anniversary of a revolution in our notions of space and time. Before 1905, when Albert Einstein published his theory of special relativity, most people believed that space and time were as Sir Isaac Newton described them back in the 17th century.

Fusion energy: Just around the corner
For 50 years, physicists have been promising that power from nuclear fusion is imminent. Now they are poised to build an experiment that could vindicate their views. But will the machine work? Geoff Brumfiel investigates. 


Family First
Dr. Phil’s new book Family First has one feature that sets it apart from the crowded shelves of family self-help books: his chapter on divorced and blended families. He has seen first hand that the official line we’ve been given about divorce and remarriage is misleading at best and down-right false at worst. The happy talk we have been given that “children of divorce do just fine” is simply untrue. Dr. Phil might help these struggling couples see that divorce won’t necessarily solve every problem they now face. As parents, they will still have to interact with each other, even after divorce. Sometimes, brand new problems emerge while old problems are simply transferred to a different arena. "Marriage is hard, but divorce is harder." Comments by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse. 

Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth
Boosting people's sense of self-worth has become a national preoccupation. Yet surprisingly, research shows that such efforts are of little value in fostering academic progress or preventing undesirable behavior.  

Genes contribute to religious inclination
Genes play a key role in long-term religious behaviour, a new twins study suggests, and the effects of a religious upbringing may fade with time.

What is . . . neurotheology?
Neurotheology is the scientific study of what happens to brain activity during religious or spiritual experiences. It is a recent development, made possible because of advances in brain-imaging. The idea is to use the latest tools available within psychology and neuroscience to detect which parts of the brain are active during spiritual experiences. (Times, London)

The Neurobiology of the Self
How does the brain's activity give rise to a constant sense of being oneself? Biologists are slowly teasing out an answer. 

Self Tests
A fascinating collection of tests that are as fun to share as they are to take.  


Species list reaches half-million mark
Researchers claim 'spectacular progress' towards logging all Earth's life.

Reference revolution
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales offers a whole new species of information online.