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September 20, 2005

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Religion in the News

Hurricane Weblog: Where Is God in the Chaos?
The theodicy questions change as human depravity rears its ugly head in New Orleans. By Rob Moll.

God Behind Barbed Wire
How a Nazi-soldier-turned-theologian found hope. By Philip Yancey.

How to Win Friends and Influence Culture
A prominent Jewish human-rights activist praises—and pointedly counsels—evangelicals. By Michael Horowitz.

Roe v. Roberts
If you're a conservative looking for a return to the good old days, you'll be disappointed with Roberts (Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post).

The New Monasticism
A fresh crop of Christian communities is blossoming in blighted urban settings all over America. By Rob Moll. 

The Holy and the Ivy
Intellectual skepticism persists in the Ivy League. Thankfully, so does a vibrant Christian faith. By Collin Hansen.

Calvary Chapel school sues University of California system
Calvary Chapel churches sure are making a lot of headlines this month. The latest is the Long Beach Press Telegram's report that Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta is suing the University of California system, alleging free speech and religious freedom violations.

Leader's Death Unsettles Nation
Can peace process work without the strong-arm Garang? By J. Carter Johnson, with Sue Sprenkle.

Abolishing Abstinence
Can we be good without God? The question seems somehow abstract, a topic for Atlantic Monthly cover stories and college seminars more than practical applications. So here's another question: Can we keep our pants on? by Ted Olsen.

Focus on the Family's newest focus is on AFA
Focus on the Family has called on its millions of followers to contact the White House with their concerns about new Air Force religious guidelines and urge President Bush to "restore the right to religious expression" (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

Robertson apologizes for Chavez remarks
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson apologized Wednesday for calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, only hours after he denied saying Chavez should be killed (Associated Press)

'They're not afraid to rock'
Christian bands gain secular appeal, aim to play as hard as they preach (Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D.).

Faithful and true?
The paradoxical state of Christian colleges (World).

Was seminary obligated to report graduate's molestation history?
One week after settling a lawsuit brought by the victim of one of its former students, Dallas Theological Seminary officials will go to court Monday to face another of that student's victims.

Faithful must root out evil from scriptures
The claim of exclusivity — my truth is the only truth — is the principal culprit that triggers most of the violence in holy books and the jealous nature of their god. We must strike that spurious claim and others like it from all belief systems. Ridding religion of exclusivity means a radical reinterpretation of some of the central tenets of religious belief (Steve Gushee, Palm Beach Post).

A future without religion
Sam Harris's best selling book The End of Faith, Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason launches a major assault on organized religion and points to it as the source of many of the problems of the world today (Amsterdam Forum, Radio Netherlands).

Living on the Edge
Trapped on the side of a cliff, I had to reexamine the way I was living my life. by Kathleen Kolar.

Science in the News

Interviews: American Scientific Affiliation Meeting 2005 Messiah College, PA.

Most scientific papers are probably wrong
Most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis. Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50% chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true (New Scientist)


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.

The latest on the David's Palace debate:
A debate of biblical proportions
View image of archaeologist and ruins
King David's Palace Is Found, Archaeologist Says (free registration required)

New finds at the “Cave of John the Baptist” and the Pool of Shiloah (NT Pool of Siloam)
"Monumental rock-hewn water system" found during an eight-week dig at a cave in Ein Kerem, which is regarded as the traditional birthplace of John the Baptist. Also, sections of the earliest phase of the Shiloah Pool, mentioned in Nehemiah 3:15, are being uncovered. See also Two recent excavations uncover ancient water systems.

2005 excavation results at Tel Kabri
Site is possibly the Rehov of Joshua 19:28.

Shroud of Turin Conference
Scientists, religious scholars to present Shroud of Turin findings in Dallas, September 8-11. Is image a hoax or visible projection of Christ’s resurrection?

Philistine city of Gath being excavated
New evidence regarding the bitter end of Gath, the largest and most important Philistine city, was recently unearthed at a dig at Tel Zafit near the Masmia intersection in the Lachish region.

Summary of recent excavations in Israel
Commentary on work at Pool of Siloam, palace of David, Gath, and Hazor.

Mysterious Temple Mt. artifact evokes `Da Vinci Code'
Cross-shaped bronze pendant shows Holy Grail lying on a crown of thorns (Haaretz, Tel Aviv) 

Organic bath saves paper from decay
Scavenging copper from ancient inks stops archives falling apart.

Enthusiast uses Google to reveal Roman ruins
Google Earth programme leads to remains of ancient villa.

Secrets of the Pharaohs' Physicians Revealed
It is the oldest surgical text yet discovered. And along with a host of artifacts, it will be the centerpiece of The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt, a major exhibit set to open Sept. 13 at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Dark matter highlights extra dimensions
Three new 'directions' could explain astronomical puzzle.

Comet Impact Unearths More Questions
Among the surprising results, which are detailed in this week's issue of the journal Science, is the first evidence that comets may hold more than remnants of the solar system's formation. Tempel 1, at least, shows a geologic history, with what looks like impact craters on its surface, as well as layers of rock, origin unknown.

Space 2005
More than a thousand of the biggest movers and shakers in spaceflight have gathered in Long Beach, California, to discuss how to get back to the Moon, defend space and replace NASA's shuttle.

Dragon Storms And Tiger Stripes: Scientists Stunned By New Saturn Data Cambridge, England (AFP) Sep 05 2005
New data sent back by the Cassini space probe has left scientists beguiled by Saturn's seething clouds of gas, the beauty and unexpected turbulence of its rings and the diversity of its moons, a conference heard on Monday.

Asteroids Caused The Early Inner Solar System Cataclysm
"When we derived the projectile sizes from the cratering record using scaling laws, the ancient and more recent projectile sizes matched the ancient and younger asteroid populations smack on," Strom said. "It's an astonishing fit."

NASA Research Finds Green Sand Crystals (Olivine) Are In Comet Tempel 1 

New Mexico's Governor To Announce Launch Of New Commercial Spaceport Hartford CT (SPX) Sep 07, 2005
New Mexico's Governor, Bill Richardson, will announce Wednesday in Santa Fe the inaugural launch in a series of space launches to occur at the State's new Southwest Regional Spaceport.

Aerobot aims for Titan
Robotic plane could survey alien moons or Amazon rain forest.

Cosmic 'cigar' spins at astonishing pace
Pluto's neighbour has a very unexpected shape.

Astronomers spot most distant explosion ever
Ancient burst shines light on junior Universe.

Space cycle makes artificial gravity
Astronauts set to benefit from exercise revolution.

The question of the universe's origins has fascinated people for millennia, and ours is the first generation of humans to have a scientific answer, explains Martin Rees.


Exercise Helps Reduce Pain In Old Age
People who exercise regularly experience 25% less muscle and joint pain in their old age than people who are less active.

Chicken Eggs Made to Produce Human Antibodies
For the past 50 years or so, chicken eggs have played a vital role in producing the flu vaccine. Now scientists report another application for the breakfast staple: manufacturing fully functional human monoclonal antibodies, molecules that mimic the immune system to fight specific invaders.

Gene defects plague stem-cell lines
Cancerous mutations threaten therapeutic future for cells.

Mouse stem cells heal sheep hearts
Future therapy for heart attacks gets a boost.

Breakthrough In Micro-device Fabrication Combines Biology And Synthetic Chemistry
Nanostructured micro-devices may be mass produced at a lower cost, and with a wider variety of shapes and compositions than ever before, for dramatic improvements in device performance.

Large-scale Computer Simulations Reveal New Insights Into Antibiotic Resistance
Large-scale computer simulations have pinpointed a tiny change in molecular structure that could account for drug resistance in Streptomices pneumoniae, the organism that causes childhood pneumonia 


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.

MOTHER Of All Life
Every living thing on Earth - from humans to bacteria, from bluebells to blue whales - is thought to be descended from one single entity, a sort of primitive cell floating around in the primordial soup 3 or 4 billion years ago. So what did it look like? How did it live, and where? Named the "last universal common ancestor", or LUCA for short, it has left no known fossil remains, nor any other physical clues to its identity. For a long time, questions about LUCA were thought beyond the reach of science. But now LUCA could be about to enjoy a resurrection.

Life's Origins Were Easier Than Was Thought
An international team of scientists, leaded by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona researchers, has discovered that RNA early molecules were much more resistant than was thought until now. According to the conclusions of the study, they may have developed enough to contain around 100 genes, which is considered to be the minimum quantity required for the most basic forms of primitive life, similar to the bacteria we have today. The research was published in Nature Genetics.

ID Versus Creationism
The grassroots activists and scientific theorists don't see eye to eye. Compiled by Rob Moll and Ted Olsen

Ending the debate?
Edmond author hopes book will 'marry' science, religion (Edmond Sun, Canada)

'Intelligent design' and faith-based science
The people who are being seduced into thinking that there is a debate and that students should hear all sides are not giving adequate attention to the motives of the groups and institutions which have bought and paid for the popularization of their ideology (John C. Mohawk, Indian Country Today)

Darwinism On Trial In Kansas Topeka, Kan. (UPI) Sep 06, 2005
Kansas is reportedly ready to approve teaching standards requiring Darwin's theory of evolution be challenged in the classroom. See

New school year, new battle over evolution
Is intelligent design science or religion? That's the question a U.S. district court judge in Harrisburg will consider starting Sept. 26, and Dover voters will weigh Nov. 4 (USA Today)

A natural selection: intelligent design
As a critique of science, intelligent design could have a place in the classroom too — but not as an alternative to the theory of evolution. Rather, good biology teachers could use issues raised by the intelligent design movement to help their classes better understand Darwinism. (Edward J. Larson, Los Angeles Times

Intelligent debate according to Ernie
Up until recently I thought "intelligent design" had something to do with the arrangement of parking spaces in the basement of large buildings. It took my cat to straighten me out (Al Martinez, Los Angeles Times)

To read Dawkins and Coyne's "One Side Can be Wrong."

To read Dennett's "Show Me the Science."

Intelligent donation?
Why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave more than $10 million to the Discovery Institute, champions of "intelligent design" (

Evolution by natural selection is the only workable theory ever proposed that is capable of explaining life. And Richard Dawkins argues that it does so brilliantly.

Stressed Cells Spark DNA Repair Missteps And Speed Evolution (September 16, 2005)
When Dr. Susan Rosenberg, professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, first published her finding that the mutation rate increased in bacteria stressed by starvation, sometimes resulting in a rare change that benefited the bacteria, it was controversial. 

Earth Science

Japanese Explorer Finds Evidence Of 'Robinson Crusoe's' Island Home (September 20, 2005)
On a remote, wooded island 470 miles off the coast of Chile, Japanese explorer Daisuke Takahashi believes he has found the location of the hut where Scottish privateer Alexander Selkirk, who likely inspired the Daniel Defoe classic "Robinson Crusoe," lived during the four years and four months he was marooned on the island 300 years ago.

Plate tectonics is the underpinning of our living, moving planet. Earth, like life, has evolved, and the plates provide the language of that evolution, just as genes speak for the evolution of organisms.

Why should we care about climate change? Because its impact could pose an unprecedented challenge to human society. If we don't react, war, pestilence and famine will follow close behind.

Morphology Of Fossil Salamanders Reflects Climate Change (September 19, 2005)
A fossil record of the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) shows population-wide changes in body size and morphology in response to climate change over the last 3,000 years.

Researchers Find That Carbon Dioxide Does Not Boost Forest Growth
Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, have been on the upswing over the last century. How the earth's plant life, particularly trees, will react to the change remains unclear. Some researchers have proposed, however, that the rising concentrations will spur plant growth and thus allow them to store additional amounts of carbon dioxide, thereby mitigating the atmospheric increase to some degree. Now a report disputes this claim. A four-year study of a forest in Switzerland indicates that additional carbon dioxide does not boost tree growth.

Dinosaur big as a plane ruled sky
Scientists knew from fossils that the pterosaur, which roamed land and seas all over the world for hundreds of millions of years, had a wingspan of up to ten metres. Now analysis of fossilised footprints and bone fragments has confirmed some specimens were almost twice as big, with wingspans of 18 metres, making them as big as a medium-sized commercial aircraft.

Skull Study Sheds Light On Dinosaur Diversity (September 16, 2005)
With their long necks and tails, sauropod dinosaurs -- famous as the Sinclair gasoline logo and Fred Flintstone's gravel pit tractor -- are easy to recognize, in part because they all seem to look alike.


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.

New Catalyst Produces Hydrogen from Water
The promise of a hydrogen economy, which would lessen dependence on nonrenewable energy sources such as fossil fuels, hinges on the ability to produce and store large amounts of the clean-burning element. New results from experiments on a novel catalyst suggest that it can be used to coax hydrogen from water without the need for severe reaction conditions.


Brain Serotonin Could Link Anxiety, Anorexia
Women with a certain type of anorexia nervosa show altered serotonin activity in their brains, a finding doctors believe could link the eating disorder to anxiety levels.

Battle in the brain predicts risky behaviour
Pleasure and anxiety centres decide when a safe bet beats a dicey one.

NIMH Study To Guide Treatment Choices For Schizophrenia
A large study for the first time provides detailed information comparing the effectiveness and side effects of five medications -- both new and older medications -- that are currently used.