MATTHEW SHEPHARD INCIDENT CONTINUES. Most of us remember a terrible incident in Wyoming in 1998 in which a young gay man named Matthew Shephard was brutally murdered. The media has portrayed this incident as an example of where homophobia leads people, and NBC even insinuated that groups like Focus on the Family were responsible for Shephard's murder because they oppose homosexual marriage. Now it turns out that the murderers were robbing Shephard to support a drug habit, and their lawyer claimed that Shephard had propositioned them so that he could get sympathy from the jury. This does not change the horror of the crime, but it does show that the media tends to do poor investigating and interpret the news instead of reporting it.

--Reference: Citizen, February 2005, page 9.

MEDIA BIAS ON STEM CELL RESEARCH. Another media problem surrounds stem cell work. Carrie Gordon Earll who is the Senior Policy Analyst for Bioethics reports that there are many cases where patients are being helped by adult stem cell therapies, but that the media refuses to report them because they do not have the emotional value of embryonic stem cell work. Examples are Keon Penn who was cured of sickle cell anemia by umbilical cord stem cells, and two cases where women paralyzed from accidents have regained muscle control and are walking with stem cells taken from their own nasal cavities. Another case is the curing of leukemia with stem cells from her own daughter's umbilical cord. With $25 million spent on embryonic stem cell research by the federal government in 2003, one has to wonder why the progress in adult stem cell work cannot get some favorable publicity.

Source: South Bend Tribune, November 4, 2005, page B4 and Citizen, January 2005, page 28.

CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM GETS TANGLED. For 250 years taxonomists have used a classification system for living things which was invented by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus. The system was based upon the understanding of living things at the time; and as evolutionary theory has changed, the system has changed. I can remember when the tree shrew, which was considered an insectivore at the time, was changed to be a primate because it fit the current evolutionary theory on the origin of man better. Many scientists are now suggesting that a classification system based on similarities without regard to evolutionary theory should be adopted. Several candidates are out there--Cladistic Taxonomy was popular for a while, and now the current theory is Phylocode. It is interesting to watch how the evidence gets the biologists closer and closer to the biblical term kind which is a very broad term and avoids much of the problem of modern classification. There are four kinds of flesh, the flesh of fish, the flesh of birds, the flesh of beasts, and the flesh of man (1 Corinthians 15:39).

--Reference: Discover, April 2005, page 47.

MORE TSUNAMI STORIES. We have mentioned several interesting facts about the horrible number of deaths that resulted from the tsunami near Indonesia. One is a study of an Andaman aboriginal group of 500 people who had no deaths due to the tsunami. It turns out that the Andamanese had as a part of their instructions from their ancestors "when the earth shakes, the sea will rise up on the to the hills or get in a boat and go far out to sea." They grabbed their children, baskets, bows and arrows and ran for the hills, surviving the catastrophe. We have pointed out that what happened was not a surprise to the people who lived there, but it was the tourists and other developers from the outside that catalyzed an awful catastrophe out of a natural process that regularly affects that part of the world.

--Reference: Scientific American, March 2005, page 20.

JAMES BURIAL BOX ENDS IN TRIAL. We have reported on a number of archeological finds of interest to Christians and atheists over the years. One of the finds we have mentioned is a burial box with the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." Claims and counter claims have flown on this subject, with Biblical Archaeology Review and Hershel Shanks, its editor, being in the middle of all of it. Israel has now accused five men, including some well-known antiquities dealers of operating a sophisticated forgery ring. The James Burial Box is just one of several objects that are claimed to be have produced by forgers. An ivory pomegranate from Solomon's temple is also claimed to be a forgery. The tragedy of all of this is that it is now more difficult than ever to decide what is valid and what is not because modern techniques make forgery a very advanced science. We will let you know when we see anything about how the trial turns out and what objects are seen to be valid.

--Reference: AP Release, March 3, 2005, by Richard Ostling.

FLORES MAN A GENETIC DISORDER? In September 2003, a group of anthropologists found the skeleton of a four-foot-tall hominin with a very small brain size which had tools and physical features that were definitely human. The find made the news because it was so small and would be difficult to fit into most models of human history. The top Indonesian scientist involved in the project named Teuku Jacob is now maintaining that the specimens are pygmy Homo sapiens afflicted with microcephaly, a genetic disorder that causes small, abnormally shaped skulls. Jacob maintains these specimens are related to pygmies discovered in the area near the cave. The point is that the small size may not be of any meaning at all in interpretations of man's history. We would like to point out that questions like this have no biblical ramifications since the Bible's definition of man has to do with his makup in the image of God--his soul. What that soul is housed in does not make any difference to the biblical account.

--Reference: Discover, March 2005, page 17.

ABORTION NUMBERS DROP. Since 1990 the number of abortions in the United States has dropped from 1.4 million a year to 853,000 in 2001 with the rate changing from 344 abortions for every live birth to 246. Everyone is claiming credit for these numbers, but even one death of a child is too many. The fact of the matter is that there is change even as the battle between pro-life and pro-choice goes on. Perhaps the only ultimate answer that is possible in a society dominated by selfishness and wanton disregard for the sanctity of life is to continue to push the number down through education.

--Reference: Time, March 7, 2005, page 90.

ADHD A GIFT? Most of us are familiar with various disorders which sometimes are a major hurdle for children to get over to have success in school. I have sometimes had parents write me with great anger towards God for His allowing them to have a child with this problem. Two new books are now out that bring the claim that ADHD is a gift. The claim is that it is how you manage the disorder that determines whether it is a gift or a curse, and that the "nonlinear mind" may not handle a textbook well, but may be a great blessing in art or in managing a company. One is reminded of David Neeleman who invented the e-ticket and has pioneered several discount airlines who calls his ADHD one of his greatest assets. Maybe the problem is not with the disorder, but with the institutions we have put in place to manipulate our children which do not allow the most creative among us to be nurtured in the right way.

--Reference: Newsweek, March 14, 2005, page 48.

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