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News to Note, December 5, 2009

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

on December 5, 2009
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No news like old news, catastrophe at work, simple is as simple does, and more!

1. No News Like Old News

Is there life on Mars? Some of this week’s biggest “news” is also this week’s oldest news.

A quarter of a century ago, a team of scientists discovered a meteorite in the Allan Hills of Antarctica that was given the name ALH 84001. Its origin was identified as Mars, the story being that an asteroid had hit Mars, breaking off the fragment and hurtling it into space some 16 million years ago. Eventually the fragment was captured by Earth’s gravity and landed in Antarctica 13,000 years ago, the story goes.

2. Catastrophe at Work

It’s not only creationists who point to the role of catastrophic events in shaping earth’s geologic history. A new study sheds light on how Britain was separated from the rest of Europe by a “super-river.”

3. Simple is as Simple Does

It could be “the most thorough study ever of a single organism,” and what is the unsurprising conclusion? “[E]ven the simplest creatures are more complex than scientists suspected,” reports Wired’s Brandon Keim.

4. Jigsaw Puzzle Challenge

Reassembling half-billion-year-old fossils from bone fragments: a task so complicated that only computers can handle it?

5. Vegetarian Ants

Most ants are carnivorous, yet some are herbivorous. But how do the herbivorous species get the nutrients they need?

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • For years, News to Note has reported on stem cell research that does not use embryonic stem cells—which require the destruction of a viable human embryo. But despite the promise of this research, U.S. regulators have approved thirteen new lines of embryonic stem cells in response to President Barack Obama’s easing of restrictions on federal funding for new embryonic stem cell lines. According to the BBC, nearly one hundred more lines could be approved next year as well.
  • BBC News offers another report lauding the intelligence of ravens (crows), who have been observed to hunt as a pack. Ornithologists in Israel have watched two ravens block the escape route of a lizard while others attacked it, then all sharing in the spoils. This shows that “they must have some understanding of what each other is thinking, and be able to realise that by cooperating, they will share in the reward . . . they must also have an understanding of how [the lizard] will likely react.”
  • Last week we told you about the formerly “comatose” Rom Houben who, neurologist Steven Laureys discovered, was actually conscious. In fairness, this week we offer a rebuttal to the story by “Bad Science” columnist Benjamin Radford. He writes, “Houben’s injuries have left him unable to move his limbs, and therefore he ‘wrote’ the words with the help of an assistant who guided his fingers to a specially-made keyboard. Was she helping him type, or typing for him?” Although Radford does not dispute Houben’s (very partial) recovery (and, thus, our point about euthanasia remains), he wisely encourages cautious thinking.
  • How’s this for bizarre: according to the Daily Mail, Bulgarian government scientists claim to be in contact with aliens. “Aliens are currently all around us, and are watching us all the time,” said Lachezar Filipov, reportedly the deputy director of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences’ Space Research Institute. Filipov’s team is said to be studying crop circles, “which they believe answer questions beamed into outer space.”
  • Is a “Wiki”-like system the best way to produce a Bible translation? Apparently the principals of Conservapedia’s Conservative Bible Project think so. We are troubled, however, by the idea of a Bible translation editable by anyone, especially one predicated on such political ideas as that the Bible should “Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning” (one of the ten guidelines of the Conservative Bible Project). Likewise, the idea of “prefer[ring] conciseness over liberal wordiness” (guideline ten) and its accompanying definition suggest the founders of the project want to apply the word “liberal” to anything they perceive as unlikable. Without attacking the founders’ intentions, we believe the Word of God should not be subject to ongoing re-translation on an Internet forum by individuals who may have no training whatsoever in the languages the earliest Bible texts.
  • Answer this: what is the evolutionary incentive for humans to save “special” carnivores? In an evolutionary world, would there be any reason other than self-interest to save another species?

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Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, FOX News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch all the latest News to Know, why not take a look to see what you’ve missed?

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