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August 10, 2003

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Religion in the News

Darkness in the Afternoon
Openly homosexual Episcopal priest cleared of misconduct, confirmed as bishop. Newly confirmed bishop-elect Gene Robinson's dark night of the soul lasted 24 hours as church officials considered last-minute allegations against him and then declared him innocent. See 

Moore's Ten Commandments ordered to be removed by August 20
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has two weeks to remove the 5,280-pound display of the Ten Commandments from the state judicial building rotunda. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, who last November ruled that the display was unconstitutional, made good yesterday on his promise to issue a 15-day removal order once the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Moore's appeal. See

Banished for being 'born again,' monarch dethroned  Why was the king's 13-year rulership terminated? At the centre of the crisis was the monarch's alleged disregard for tradition on the ground that he was a born-again Christian (Vanguard, Lagos, Nigeria). See

Looking at education, religiously Christian Educators Assn. celebrates 50th year at 34th annual convention at Hilton Glendale (News-Press, La Crescenta, Calif.). See

To be Catholic in America  A review of Peter Steinfels's A People Adrift (Kevin Starr, Los Angeles Times). See

Robertson's indefensible doctrine  It's high time for believers to repudiate "Christian nation" politics and the moral corruption it invites (Joseph Loconte). See

Lighter side of religion: Whatever their faith, readers poke some fun  A collection of religion jokes (The Tennessean, Nashville). See

The Dick Staub Interview: Why God Is like Jazz
Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, talks about why Christians need writers who honestly deal with their faults. See

Finding God in Small Groups
Tom Albin's doctoral research reveals why the Wesley's system worked so well. See

Magazine version of the Bible draws young female readers  I have never seen a Bible like Revolve, the name that Thomas Nelson Inc. has given to this magazine edition of the New Testament (David Crumm, Detroit Free Press). See

Church burns Bibles  And other tales of brotherly love (Bob Bankard,

Does The Da Vinci Code crack Leonardo?  The short answer is no. (The New York Times)

Symposiums to look at whether DNA refutes Book of Mormon. Murphy published an essay last year, based on DNA evidence, claiming that the Book of Mormon cannot be what the LDS Church claims it is -- a record of the American Indian descendants of Lehi, a Hebrew who migrated with his family to the New World in about 600 B.C. DNA samples taken from native tribes in south, central and north America have shown that their principal ancestors were from northeast Asia, not Israel -- a fact conceded by both sides in the debate. Murphy says, "It's possible for a small group to have not left a trace. But that's not what the Book of Mormon describes." The book describes a vast Nephite civilization, and its existence until the end of time is prophesied. Moreover, church leaders, including founder Joseph Smith, taught that Lamanites are the ancestors of native Americans. "There is sufficient evidence to draw a conclusion and that conclusion is that the Book of Mormon is not accurate historically," says Murphy. See

Books & Culture's Books of the Week: Looking for the 'I'
What happens to the self when the brain is injured or malformed?
Reviewed by Heather Looy. See

Science in the News


Cross-species Mating May Be Evolutionarily Important And Lead To Rapid Change, Say Indiana University Researchers
Like the snap of a clothespin, the sudden mixing of closely related species may occasionally provide the energy to impel rapid evolutionary change, according to a new report by researchers from Indiana University Bloomington and three other institutions. See

From Studies Of A Rare Human Mutation To New Approaches To Herbicides Or Antibiotics
In work on a key human enzyme, PBGS (porphobilinogen synthase), the laboratory of Fox Chase Cancer Center scientist Eileen K. Jaffe, Ph.D., has characterized a rare mutation that results in an unprecedented rearrangement of the enzyme's structure. The discovery provides a key into how tiny genetic changes can have a giant evolutionary impact and may even lead to the development of novel herbicides and antibacterial agents. See

Mouse intelligence measured
Rodent 'g' might reveal genes for intellect. See

Artificially evolved protein destroys nerve gas
Bacterial enzyme tweaked to dismember chemical-warfare agent. See

Search For Life Could Include Planets, Stars Unlike Ours
The search for life on other planets could soon extend to solar systems that are very different from our own, according to a new study by an Ohio State University astronomer and his colleagues. In fact, finding a terrestrial planet in such a solar system would offer unique scientific opportunities to test evolution, said Andrew Gould, professor of astronomy here. See

Creation/Evolution: NCSE are pleased to announce that five more issues of Creation/Evolution (21-25) are now available on the NCSE web site at  Some interesting articles:

The Legacy of Louis Leakey. For National Geographic Radio Expeditions, NPR's Christopher Joyce reports on the legacy of the Leakey family patriarch. See

A bioethicist's take on Genesis  As Leon R. Kass shows, Genesis finds both the pathos and the possibility of human life, for the world will not accommodate itself to desire and desire will demand more than the world can ever offer. The question is where humanity will seek its consolation and its satisfactions (The New York Times). See


Experts, dealer clash over James Ossuary's authenticity  Tempers flared over the question at the showing of a documentary about the case and a new interview dismissing an Israeli finding that led to the arrest of an antiquities dealer on suspicion of forging sacred artifacts (The Globe and Mail, Toronto). See

Geologists: James Ossuary Patina Faked. Avner Ayalon, determined that the patina covering both the letters and surface of the Jehoash Inscription, as well as the inscription on the James Ossuary, "could not have formed under natural climactic conditions...that prevailed in the Judea Mountains during the last 2000 years." Furthermore, the patina contained in the inscription on the James Ossuary is "significantly different from the oxygen isotopic composition in the surface patina of [the ossuary] and of patina of authentic ossuaries stored in [Jerusalem's] Rockefeller Museum." An internal GSI committee reviewed and approved Dr. Ayalon's conclusions. See

Ancient Roman Face Cream Found. July 29, 2003 — Archaeologists excavating a Roman temple on the south bank of the River Thames in London have discovered what might be the world's oldest cosmetic face cream, complete with the finger marks of the person who used it 2,000 years ago. See

Caligula: Historical accounts tell of the ancient Roman emperor Caligula's desire to be worshiped as a god and other megalomaniac claims so far out that modern historians have trouble believing them. Now archaeologists have uncovered foundations consistent with these accounts that show Caligula's palace connecting with the place of worship. One archaeologist stated, "We have the proof that the guy really was nuts." See,3604,1014329,00.html

Language - (7 Aug) - When did we start talking to each other and how long did it take us to become so good at it? In the absence of palaeo-cassette recorders or a time machine the problem might seem insoluble, but analysis of recent evidence suggests we may have started talking as early as 2.5m years ago. See,13228,1013222,00.html

New World Newcomers: Men's DNA supports recent settlement of the Americas. New data on genetic differences among the Y chromosomes of Asian and Native American men support the notion that people first reached the Americas less than 20,000 years ago. See

Archaeologists Unearth German Stonehenge. German experts on Thursday hailed Europe’s oldest astronomical observatory, discovered in Saxony-Anhalt last year, a “milestone in archaeological research” after the details of the sensational find were made public. The 3,600-year-old bronze Nebra disc is considered the oldest-known image of the cosmos. The 32-centimeter disc is decorated with gold leaf symbols that clearly represent the sun, moon and stars. A cluster of seven dots has been interpreted as the Pleiades constellation as it appeared 3,600 years ago. See,3367,1441_A_942824_1_A,00.html


Galactic dust storm enters Solar System
New data suggests the Sun's shifting magnetic field is set to focus a decade-long storm on the inner Solar System, including Earth. During the last decade, the magnetic field of the Sun acted like a shield, deflecting the electrically charged galactic dust away from the Solar System. However, the Sun's regular cycle of activity peaked in 2001. As expected, its magnetic field then flipped over, so that south became north and vice-versa. In this configuration, rather than deflecting the galactic dust, the magnetic field should actually channel the dust inwards. This pattern may have been repeated during previous solar cycles but it is only now that astronomers are beginning to have the data they need to prove it. See

NASA lander to target Martian north pole
Phoenix will dig into the soil at the frozen pole hoping to determine if it provides a viable habitat for life today, or did so in the past. See

Measuring The Shape Of An Exploding White Dwarf Star
Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working with colleagues at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the University of Texas at Austin, have established that the extraordinarily bright and remarkably similar astronomical "standard candles" known as Type Ia supernovae do not explode in a perfectly spherical manner. See


Enzyme may protect against Alzheimer's
Mouse dementia model hints that protein prevents brain degeneration. See

Novel Thyroid Hormone Treatment Could Help Shed Pounds. Some 31 million Americans are currently considered obese. Despite increasing public awareness of the problem, the number of people suffering from obesity is on the rise and scientists continue to search for safe and effective pharmaceutical treatments. To that end, the results of a new study could help. Researchers report the discovery of a chemical that selectively stimulates a thyroid hormone in animals without the deleterious side effects that similar therapies have. See

Jelly lenses could fix ageing eyes
Replacing the contents of the eye's lens with a soft polymer gel could allow millions of people to throw away their reading glasses. See

First Human Tests Under Way Of HIV Vaccine Pioneered At UNC
The world's first human test of a vaccine against the prevalent subtype of HIV in sub-Saharan African and Asia, where millions have the virus that causes AIDS, is now under way. See

Green Tea’s Cancer-fighting Allure Becomes More Potent
Green tea's ability to fight cancer is even more potent and varied than scientists suspected, say researchers who have discovered that chemicals in green tea shut down one of the key molecules that tobacco relies upon to cause cancer. It's a find that could help explain why people who drink green tea are less likely to develop cancer. See

Purdue Scientists Discover Why We're All Lefties Deep Down
It may be a right-handed world, but recent Purdue University research indicates that the first building blocks of life were lefties - and suggests why, on a molecular level, all living things remain southpaws to this day. See

Earth Science

Discoveries Made About Cellular Reaction Processes From Ancient Life
Researchers in Robert H. White's group at Virginia Tech are tracing the family tree of life on earth by tracing the biochemical mechanisms within the cell -- specifically those that are used in the formation of peptide bonds. See

Geological Tool Helps Scientists Map The Interior Of The Ocean
A new application of a decades-old technique to study Earth's interior is allowing scientists "see" the layers in the ocean, providing new insight on the structure of ocean currents, eddies and mixing processes. See

UC Riverside Study Shows Glaciers Once Existed Near Los Angeles
Small glaciers once existed in southernmost California, near Los Angeles, during the last glacial period (between ~22,000 and 11,000 years ago) and in the early part of the present interglacial (several thousand years ago). See


General relativity sinks submarine
Gravity solves paradox raised by Einstein's theory. According to the theory, objects travelling at close to the speed of light appear to get shorter when viewed by stationary observers. But from the viewpoint of those on the moving object, the observers - who are receding at close to the speed of light - appear shortened instead. Other dimensions remain the same. See


Suicide (4 Aug) - Psychiatrists agree now on a point that was long debated: Suicide can run in families. They do not know, however, how this risk is transferred from one family member to another -- whether it is ''learned'' behavior, passed on through a grim emotional ripple effect, or a genetic inheritance, as some scientists theorize. But new research published this week in the American Journal of Psychiatry prepares ground for a genetic search, suggesting that the trait that links high-suicide families is not simply mental illness, but mental illness combined with a more specific tendency to ''impulsive aggressiveness.'' See