Koran Required Reading. The University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill is requiring all incoming freshmen to read a book titled Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations by Michael Sells. The book takes selected passages that Muslims believe are the earliest revelations received by the prophet Mohammed from God and promotes them. TV talk show host Bill O'Reilly compared this to requiring the reading of Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler in 1941. The thing that is rather incredible about this development is that over the past 20 years nearly all state universities (including UNC) have opposed the teaching of the Bible on campus. Comparative religion classes were said to be enough, and these classes were mostly destructive critiques of the Bible. The problem with this book is that it ignores commands in the Koran that justify killing people who disagree with Mohammed's claims, and focuses on the positive teachings which the Koran presents. We would suggest if one is going to enlighten people about the teachings of the Koran, that the whole book needs to be examined, including those passages that bin Laden and his ilk are using to justify September 11.

Tool Use Definition in Trouble Again. Over the 35 years that we have been engaged in this program of work, we have seen the question of tool use become more and more of a problem for archaeologists and anthropologists. There was a time when tool use was considered to be peculiar to man, and then Jane Goodall lived with the chimpanzees and saw that they also used tools. We now know that tool use is also present in some birds. On August 9, 2002, in USA Today, page 2A, there was an article that brought a new issue to the forefront. No one had ever seen a bird make a tool. What had been seen were birds using sticks to get insects out of holes in trees, and carrying rocks to drop on other birds eggs to break them. A new study at the Behavioral Ecology Research group at Oxford has reported that crows can actually make tools. What the researchers did was put some food at the bottom of a tube. They then gave crows some straight wires and some wires that had a hook at the end to snag the food. When no wires with hooks on the end were available, the crows would take a straight wire and bend it with their beaks to produce a hook like the ones they had been using. Clearly the ability to make tools is not a valid defining characteristic of the ancestors of man. The Bible says nothing about this controversy, and defines man in terms of his spiritual make-up in the image of God. It is obvious that brain size and the ability to do things with tools are inferior criteria to define man.

Judges 9 and Watermelons. It is interesting to see the lengths that people will go to as they attempt to discredit the Bible. Also interesting is how believers find ways to respond. Over the past several years, there have been scholars who have suggested that Judges 9:50-57 could not possibly be true. The passage says that a woman in Thebez was standing on top of a tower and threw an "upper millstone" that crushed the head of Abimelech. Skeptics have said that a woman would not have the strength to lug a millstone to the top of a tower to throw it. Two professors have researched this problem. The two women--Denise Herr and Mary Boyd first showed that there are three types of millstones. Lower millstones weighed some 300 pounds and obviously were not used. Upper millstones came in 27-pound varieties, and there was a home-sized stone that weighed nine pounds. Deuteronomy 24:6 makes reference to such stones. What Herr and Boyd did was to carry the stone up and throw it at a watermelon to show that the biblical account was indeed very possible for a woman to do. I would add that there are some women who are strong enough to out-lift any man in a project like this, and the Bible does seem to indicate that this was an exceptional woman. Herr and Boyd point out that this situation is an "all-too-typical example of biblical scholars endorsing skepticism without knowing enough archaeology."

-Reference: AP Release by Richard Ostling, July 18, 2002.

More Cloning Problems. The media tends to carry on quite a bit when a new animal is cloned. We now have cloned sheep, cows, mice, goats, pigs, a cat, and rabbits--all of these have made the television news broadcasts and newspapers. What has not made the news media is the fact that only 1 in 100 cloned embryos develops normally in the womb, and that many of these die immediately after birth. Those who do survive have problems with obesity, liver failure, joint problems, and many other malfunctions. New studies indicate that this is happening because of malfunctioning genes. Research at the University of Connecticut at Storrs has shown that the cloning process apparently fails to reprogram the donor cell nucleus to act like that of an ordinarily-fertilized egg. At the University of Pennsylvania, studies have shown that over 90% of cloned mouse embryos have a critical gene called Oct4 which is misplaced or malfunctions. It is looking more and more like cloning may be incredibly harder to do than anyone visualized when the first successes were reported.

--Reference: Discover, August 2002, page 11.

New Theory on Exodus. One of the areas where skeptics like to point fingers at the Bible is on the story of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt. Many scholars have pointed out that there is no record of the Israelites being held as slaves in Egypt and no evidence of the crossing of the Red Sea. It is no surprise that the Egyptians would not tell us about the Israelites. We do not hear much about Viet Nam from the government in the United States. Things that are an unpleasant part of your history you do not do a lot of talking about--for better or for worse. The question of a lack of evidence for the crossing of the Red Sea is another matter. A new documentary titled The Exodus Revealed is now available offering some new ideas about the Exodus. Swedish archaeologist Lennart Moller has been doing research in the Red Sea Gulf of Aqaba, and it is his work that this new documentary is based on. Your local Christian bookstore can get a copy for you.

Chimpanzee Wife Beaters. One of the questions that always comes up when one considers the origin of man is the question of where violence comes from. Over the years, atheists have suggested that religion is the cause of war and violence in mankind. John Lennon's famous song Imagine summarized the view when he said in his lyric "Imagine there is no Heaven.nothing to kill or die for.and no religion too." Many writers have pointed out that animals use violence for brief times in securing mates, eating prey, and marking off territory; but that over all within their group there is no violence. Man, on the other hand, has wars and strife that are over things that animals could care less about, and which have nothing to do with survival. The idea is that these struggles of man are over religious and political control issues; and without religion and politics, the world would be a better place in which to live. A book titled The Octopus and the Orangutan by Eugene Linden and followup studies to its content have changed this picture. Researchers have now seen chimpanzees using clubs to bring pain to one another in a situation that does not have anything to do with mating or territory. The chimps bringing the pain use clubs in such a way that they hurt, but do not bring permanent injury--such as holding the club half way up its length. Chimps are capable of killing one another by biting or throwing rocks, and these behaviors have been seen in the old. This is a more restrained action obviously designed to hurt other chimps--usually of the opposite sex--but not to kill; or injure them. This study follows on another study several months ago that documented rape in the chimpanzee community.

Some researchers have suggested that chimps saw people doing this and copied what the humans did, but there has not been that much contact between the chimps being studied and humans. What it shows is that violence and mistreatment have nothing to do with religion, but are a part of the natural world. Whether this happens in all animal groupings or not remains to be seen, but it is a new find that will have significant impact on our understandings of behavior in the animal kingdom.

--Reference: Time, August 19, 2002, page 56-57.

Sahelanthropus tchadensis. In the ongoing research on hominoid evolution, new finds seem to come about on a monthly basis. The name in our title translates as Sahel hominoid from Chad and is claimed to be seven million years old. What excites anthropologists is that the specimen shows some characteristics that seem to be human and some that seem to be apelike. Time magazine titled their article on the find as "Father of Us All." Newsweek titled theirs "All in the Family." First of all, we need to understand that what has been found is a skull. The snout does not protrude as much as a chimp, the canines are shorter than a chimp, and the eyebrow ridge is more man-like than it is chimp-like. What the media has not emphasized is that the brain is chimp-sized and that whether it could walk erect or not cannot be answered. This new skull really complicates all human theories about hominoid evolution, but it also may be an oddity and not typical of the ape forms that lived at the time.

We would like to point out that as has been the case in the past, this new find is not of biblical consequence. The Bible defines man in terms of his having been created in the image of God. It is man's spiritual makeup that defines man, not what his physical body looks like or what characteristics his ancestors might have had. Certain anthropological theories may be proven or disproven by continued research into this specimen, but it has no consequences for the biblical account.

--References: Time, July 22, 2002, page 40-47, Newsweek, July 22, 2002, page 46-49, and Science News, July 13, 2002, page 19.

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