Science

God, man, Israel, fluoride, Kosher laws and Dr. Strangelove

God, man, Israel, fluoride, Kosher laws and Dr. Strangelove

Some might argue that the war in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge ( צוּק אֵיתָן), was the major news story out of Israel this summer.  The seven week military operation launched by the IDF against Hamas certainly was the focus of the majority of news stories. The quantity of stories on a topic, however, is not a reliable gauge as to the importance of an issue. 

In 2008 I was part of the Jerusalem Post’s team covering the Second Lebanon War (albeit in my case as their London correspondent reporting on the European and British responses). That war between Israel and Hezbollah generated a great deal of ink, but that conflict has quickly disappeared from current memories. It was another in an unending series of conflicts between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and their surrogates. The sharp rise in public displays of anti-Semitism in Europe in the wake of Operation Protective Edge may give this latest war “legs”, but the issues, actors and outcomes have not changed all that much.
 
Were I to add, only partially tongue in cheek, another candidate for the “big” story out of Israel this summer, I would nominate this item in Newsweek

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A medical miracle on NBC News: 'The hand of God at work' in saving Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly

A medical miracle on NBC News: 'The hand of God at work' in saving Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly

The hour-long NBC News special "Saving Dr. Brantly: The Inside Story of a Medical Miracle" aired Friday night.

The report by NBC's Matt Lauer features an exclusive interview with Dr. Kent Brantly, who contracted the often-deadly Ebola virus while serving as a medical missionary in Liberia.

It's an incredible piece of journalism that includes additional reflections from Brantly's wife Amber, Samaritan's Purse CEO Franklin Graham and doctors and nurses involved in his care at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. 

As the special begins, Lauer emphasizes that Brantly's faith will play a major role in this story:

He may be one of the luckiest men alive, and Dr. Kent Brantly probably thinks there are two very good reasons for that.
He attributes his victory over the deadly Ebola virus to a combination of faith and science. 
As a devout Christian and a physician, he’s a man of both.
He was serving as a missionary doctor in Liberia when he became infected, and tonight in an NBC News exclusive, Dr. Brantly and the brave medical team that helped to save his life tell for the first time the extraordinary story of how he was cured.

Seconds later, Lauer begins delving into Brantly's faith.

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That Down syndrome baby: Christmas comes early for the Australian press

That Down syndrome baby: Christmas comes early for the Australian press

Christmas has come early for the Australian press. The case of Gammy, the child born with Down syndrome to a surrogate Thai mother on behalf of an Australian couple, is everything an editor would desire during the dull news days of August.

This gift keeps on giving.

A very bad thing has happened. The press knows it. We readers know it. 

Yet no one appears to have explained why this is wrong. Is this another example of viewing the world from an Anglo-American mindset?  Or are there universal values and ethical considerations that do not need to be explained?

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Ice scream: Boston.com unleashes snark vs. Catholics & others opposing 'Bucket Challenge'

Ice scream: Boston.com unleashes snark vs. Catholics & others opposing 'Bucket Challenge'

Occasionally it happens that a mainstream news organization publishes a story so blatantly biased that it seems incredible it should appear under the label of "news" rather than "commentary." That, I am afraid, is the case with a Boston.com piece on Catholics and others who refuse to support the ALS Association's "Ice Bucket Challenge" because it funds embryonic stem-cell research.

The headline of the article by Boston.com staff reporter Sara Morrison (who calls herself a "noted Internet snark woman")  says it all: "There’s a New Anti-ALS Association Ice Bucket Challenge." Normally, your GetReligionistas don't call out reporters by name, but this case is rather obvious.

Right away, according to Boston.com (an online subsidiary of the Boston Globe), the pro-lifers who oppose the viral fund-raising campaign are painted as an "anti-ALS Association" -- as though they were not only against destroying embryos, but were even against the association's mission of curing ALS.

Am I exaggerating? You tell me whether the story's first few paragraphs paint pro-lifers as cold and heartless:

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Pod people: Did journalists (and clergy) take Robin Williams seriously?

Pod people: Did journalists (and clergy) take Robin Williams seriously?

I don't know about you, but I am still thinking about that soft, disturbing voice inside the haunted head of superstar Robin Williams. That's why Todd Wilken were still talking about that topic in this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.

As I discussed in my first post on the actor's suicide, Williams was very open -- during his entire adult life -- about the troubling nature of the voices he heard that made his improvisational genius possible, along with the voices that urged him to end it all -- either slowly, through substance abuse, or quickly, through suicide. Remember the quotes that were included in so many of the mainstream obituaries?

"You're standing at a precipice and you look down, there's a voice and it's a little quiet voice that goes, 'Jump!' " he told ABC News.

Or maybe this one:

 "The same voice that goes, 'Just one.' … And the idea of just one for someone who has no tolerance for it, that's not the possibility."

Now, one does not need to leap into religious talk-radio land, where some people oh-so-compassionately suggested that Williams was possessed by demons, to recognize that Williams was being quite candid about the presence of evil and temptation in his life. It appeared that he took that very, very seriously.

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It's a 'miraculous day' for Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly, but what role did prayer play?

It's a 'miraculous day' for Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly, but what role did prayer play?

Here at GetReligion, we frequently refer to holy ghosts.

Holy ghosts are important religious elements of news stories that often go unnoticed or unmentioned by the mass media.

In watching today's news conference on the release of Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, the faith angle was impossible to miss.

“Today is a miraculous day," Brantly said. "I’m thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family.”

He also said: "I can tell you, I serve a faithful God who answers prayers. … God saved my life, a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers.”

Just a few weeks ago, after Brantly contracted the often-deadly virus while serving as a medical missionary in Liberia, a fellow doctor characterized his prognosis as "grave." But "thousands, even millions" of people around the world prayed for him, Brantly said at the news conference.

But will Brantly's focus on prayer make it into news reports?

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On planned Noah's Ark theme park, NPR doesn't tell the hull story

On planned Noah's Ark theme park, NPR doesn't tell the hull story

NPR raises an eyebrow but mostly keeps an even keel in a report on a tax break for a planned creationist theme park in Kentucky. But the shallow draft of the story is less a voyage than a day cruise.

Answers in Genesis, which opened its dino-friendly Creation Museum in 2007 in Petersburg, Ky., now wants to build a fullsize replica of Noah's Ark and the Tower of Babel. For this so-called Ark Encounter, the state tourism board approved $18 million in tax breaks, though the state legislature still must ratify it.

The primeval story of a world cataclysm, and one man's effort to obey God through it all, has long captured people's imagination -- the epic film Noah,  released in March, has earned $359 million worldwide thus far. But NPR's focus is on the government's role in what it calls a "controversial" project.

Yet this article, part of NPR's  breaking news section called "The Two-Way," is a very brief 417 words and offers little background. Ken Ham, head of Answers in Genesis, is mentioned high in the story, yet he's never quoted directly. He's cited mainly for having debated Bill Nye, the so-called Science Guy, on creation versus evolution.

And that recap, in shipping terms, lists a little:

The debate, which was streamed live online, pitted Ham's biblical literalism, which among other things includes the belief in a 6,000-year-old Earth and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed, against Nye, who argued for Darwinian evolution.

Apparently, NPR thought biblical literalism needed spelling out, but Darwinian evolution was self-evident. Nor does the article quote Ham or anyone else connected with the project.

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Wait? Who is calling who an 'evangelical' or 'conservative'?

Wait? Who is calling who an 'evangelical' or 'conservative'?

Bravo and a big amen to Religion News Service editor Kevin Eckstrom for a crisp bit of religion-label dissection work about a New York Times report that's been creating buzz among GetReligionistas past and present (and future) the past 24 hours or so.

Eckstrom, who last time I checked does not carry an official right-wing identification card, noted in one of those essential RNS morning listserv notes:

Where on God’s green earth ...

Religious advocates were out in full force here in DC the past two days, testifying in support of proposed EPA rules to cut down on carbon pollution. The NYT describes them as “conservative.” Looking at the list of speakers, I’m not totally sure I’d agree.

Right, right! I mean, left.

What's he talking about? Here's a crucial chunk of that Times report:

The E.P.A. on Wednesday ended two days of public hearings on its proposed regulation to cut carbon pollution from power plants, and mixed in with the coal lobbyists and business executives were conservative religious leaders reasserting their support for President Obama’s environmental policies -- at a time when Republican Party orthodoxy continues to question the science of climate change.

More than two dozen faith leaders, including evangelicals and conservative Christians, spoke at the E.P.A. headquarters in Washington by the time the hearings ended.

“The science is clear,” said Lisa Sharon Harper, the senior director of mobilizing for Sojourners, an evangelical organization with a social justice focus. “The calls of city governments -- who are trying to create sustainable environments for 25, 50 years -- that’s clear.”

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Why do some Protestants teach “young earth” chronology?

Why do some Protestants teach “young earth” chronology?

ANNE ASKS:

What is the explanation for today’s “young earth” movement among evangelicals?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

This question highlights the split between many Christians in science and a wing within conservative Protestantism that believes Genesis chapter 1 requires a “young earth” chronology with earth and all living things originating some 10,000 years ago, not the billions of years in conventional science.

Confusingly, this is -- especially in news reporters -- called “creationism” though Christians who accept the long chronology also believe God created earth and life. Most “creationists” also say God literally formed the world in six 24-hour days, immediately fixed all species and humanity without evolution, and caused a flood that covered the globe.

In the 19th Century, geologists shifted to the vast timeline that was later confirmed by measuring radioactive decay in earth’s minerals. Long chronology was essential for Darwin’s theory that gradual evolution produced all biological species.

Whatever they thought of Darwinism, leading evangelicals and fundamentalists originally saw no biblical problem with the new geology.

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