#0052 RRS Newsletter for September 2, 2007

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This is a pretty video heavy post today, so enjoy the not having to read, lol. Still, check out the Affiliate section to see the most recent projects we are engaged in.

Thanks for reading, if you have any comments or suggestions you can reach me directly HERE. Or on Myspace HERE.
Stay rational,
and the RRS MI team

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Click HERE to find your local affiliate!

Rational Response Squad News

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RRS Affiliate News

Healthy Addict leading the charge Discrimintory Policy at major college challenged by RRS MSCD Texas State/Church Separation Rally – Austin – Sep 8 2007

Science News

Scientists Find Elusive Waves In Sun's Corona One Species' Entire Genome Discovered Inside Another's Fruit Flies Prefer Fizzy Drinks A Genetic Trigger For The Cambrian Explosion Unraveled?


Jordan site may be biblical city of Sodom Here is the Top 10 least religious countries in the world Does Religion Make You a Better Person? Do We Have Free Will?


Bill Clinton tells Fox news the way it is! Henry Rollins on the devastation of the war


Atheist Blood Drive Atheists for Autism Research Charity! Religious Victim of the day No Atheists in the Boy Scouts


A fun way for atheists and theists to dialog, Reason VS Faith Halo Style Lego Bible stories How to Get Laid at an Anti-Abortion Rally David Cross on religion

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‹ Open letter to Michael Shermer in response to his letter... Help us buy a good ad... (chip in) ›

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Healthy Addict leading the charge

Ashley (a.k.a. Healthy Addict) of RRS Ohio is leading a project to debunk the claims put forth by the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Several other local affiliate heads have signed on to help her in scientificaly refuting each and every claim put forth by the "Museum". The cooperative affiliate heads are, Zombie of RRS Ontario, Bumbklaatt of RRS Colorado, Lunar Shadow of RRS Northern California, Voiderest of RRS Texas, Will Power of RRS Alabama, and myself, Jack of RRS Michigan. This project is still in it's infancy, so more news as it developes. If you would like to assist us in our efforts, contact one of us, Voiderest and myself are regulars here on this site, and the others can be found in the affiliate section HERE , or by clicking their names above. The ultimate goal is to have the resulting material presentable and coherent in a format for tours of the "Museum" for children, to point out to them why all the claims put forth by AIG are horribly inaccurate in any kind of scientific context.

Discrimintory Policy at major college challenged by RRS MSCD

August 31, 2007 - Friday


We had a meeting today with one of the student Trustees at MSCD (Metropolitan State College of Denver).  He is a Trustee to the Board of Directors, which includes the President of MSCD.  He was a very educated and extremely knowledgeable man who saw that our argument was not only legitimate, but also, that it was reasonable and logical. The nature of issue stems from the first paragraph of the MSCD "Class on religious holidays policy", which states "Students at Metropolitan State College of Denver (MSCD) who, because of their sincerely held religious beliefs, are unable to attend classes, take examinations, participate in graded activities or submit graded assignments on particular days shall without penalty be excused from such classes and be given a meaningful opportunity to make up such examinations and graded activities or assignments provided that advance written notice that the student will be absent for religious reasons is given to the faculty members during the first two weeks of the semester."  The issue we have is that people who have religious beliefs are given extra time to complete tests, assignments, etc… While others cannot, (e.g. , including but not limited to atheists/agnostics/skeptics/humanists).  The groups described above, can't do this because they aren't a religion.  Now, we don't want atheism defined as something that it's not, of course, our main issues are that of subjective application of the policy, academic dishonesty, and outright discrimination. Mr. Harris, the student Trustee we talked to, not only agreed with us but also gave us ideas that we hadn't thought about that supported our concerns/issues.  He even gave us a third way in which the policy could be dealt with that we had not thought ourselves. He has said that in his next meeting with the President of MSCD, which is soon; we should have a email from him to share by next Thursday at the latest, he will bring it up and is giving it very serious thought, consideration and effort.  He said "a policy that is intended to encourage diversity, actually discourages diversity", going on later to a say, referring to the subjectivity of the policy, "if you're German teacher sent you the policy back and gave you a definite no and your philosophy teacher, saying yes because he/she would probably see your point, would be a definite yes.  You would then have P&~P which is a contradiction."  The problem of course is that both teachers would be justified under the policy.  Also, as Mr. Harris agreed, that the policy could be used, unfairly, to get more time on papers, tests or other assignments which would be unfair to the rest of the students in the respective class.  Finally, as Chalmer rightly pointed out to Mr. Harris, that no religion or philosophical viewpoint is more deserving of respect than any other, as in the case that a Christian teacher might and could deny a Wiccan or a Muslim "religious holidays" off because of personal bias. And even though there is a process to deal with this, it is quite unnecessary for both student and faculty.  To sum up, Mr. Harris, student trustee to the board of directors, agrees with us and can explain and articulate our concerns very well.  He is essentially on our side and will be making things happen soon and we will keep you updated.

Rational Response Squad @ MSCD
Update 1

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Texas State/Church Separation Rally – Austin – Sep 8 2007

Are you tired of hearing about all of the religious bills and now laws coming from our Texas state government lately? Don't you think it's time we had a rally for state/church separation here in Texas?

Come take part in the 2007 Texas State/Church Separation Rally here in Austin, at the Texas State Capitol Building on Saturday, September 8, from noon till 3pm. We'll have speakers from lots of Freethought groups there, including:

American Atheists www.atheists.org
The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkersmaaf.info
The Freethinkers at the University of Texas at Arlingtonwww.freethinkersofuta.org
The Freethinkers Association of Central Texaswww.freethinkersact.org
The Rational Response Squadwww.rationalresponders.com

Four of the goals of this rally are the following:

  1. To speak out for the civil rights of non-religious Americans.
  2. To vocally promote the separation of government from religion.
  3. To show support for the Croft family in Carrollton who have sued over the moment of silence in their public school. (No matter how the case ends, or whether it's over by then or not.)
  4. To protest the flurry of religious bills and now religious laws coming from our current Texas State Legislature.

To all local and national Freethought group leaders: We need more group leaders to come speak. Please contact me if you'd like some speaking time at this rally. We also have some great individual speakers lined up, including at least two Foxhole Atheists.

We'll have some signs and banners, but all groups are urged to bring your group's banner. This needs to be a show of strength in numbers, and we now have more Freethought groups in Texas than ever before. PLEASE mark this date and time on your calendar:

Saturday, September 8, 2007 from noon till 3pm.

The State Capitol Building is located at the corner of 11th St. and Congress Ave. in beautiful downtown Austin. We have permission to rally on the south steps. All parking meters in Austin are free on weekends. The date and time were planned for maximum convenience for the most number of folks attending. So come on down!

The Texas Constitution

"Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS


No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office,

or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding

office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the

existence of a Supreme Being."


Joe Zamecki
[email protected]
Located in North Austin, Texas

Read the original story HERE!

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Scientists Find Elusive Waves In Sun's Corona

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Scientists for the first time have observed elusive oscillations in the Sun's corona, known as Alfvén waves, by tracking the motions of coronal plasma (charged particles and gas) around the entire edge of the Sun. In this series of images and animations, NCAR's Coronal Multi-channel Polarimeter instrument, or CoMP, has captured the intensity of the light emitted from the solar corona (upper left), the line width or spectral extent over which the light is emitted (upper right), and the velocity (lower left). The oscillations of the plasma velocity are made clearer by filtering the velocity data to show only oscillations that recur periodically every five minutes. (lower right and still image, below). These motions are caused by the Alfvén waves. (Credit: Image courtesy Steve Tomczyk and Scott McIntosh, NCAR)

Science Daily Scientists for the first time have observed elusive oscillations in the Sun's corona, known as Alfvén waves, that transport energy outward from the surface of the Sun. The discovery is expected to give researchers more insight into the fundamental behavior of solar magnetic fields, eventually leading to a fuller understanding of how the Sun affects Earth and the solar system.

The research, led by Steve Tomczyk of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), is being published this week in Science.

"Alfvén waves can provide us with a window into processes that are fundamental to the workings of the Sun and its impacts on Earth," says Tomczyk, a scientist with NCAR's High Altitude Observatory.

Alfvén waves are fast-moving perturbations that emanate outward from the Sun along magnetic field lines, transporting energy. Although they have been detected in the heliosphere outside the Sun, they have never before been viewed within the corona, which is the outer layer of the Sun's atmosphere. Alfvén waves are difficult to detect partly because, unlike other waves, they do not lead to large-intensity fluctuations in the corona. In addition, their velocity shifts are small and not easily spotted.

"Our observations allowed us to unambiguously identify these oscillations as Alfvén waves," says coauthor Scott McIntosh of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder. "The waves are visible all the time and they occur all over the corona, which was initially surprising to us."

Insights into the Sun

By tracking the speed and direction of the waves, researchers will be able to infer basic properties of the solar atmosphere, such as the density and direction of magnetic fields. The waves may provide answers to questions that have puzzled physicists for generations, such as why the Sun's corona is hundreds of times hotter than its surface.

The research also can help scientists better predict solar storms that spew thousands of tons of magnetized matter into space, sometimes causing geomagnetic storms on Earth that disrupt sensitive telecommunications and power systems. By learning more about solar disruptions, scientists may be able to better protect astronauts from potentially dangerous levels of radiation in space.

"If we want to go to the moon and Mars, people need to know what's going to happen on the Sun," Tomczyk says.

A powerful instrument

To observe the waves, Tomczyk and his coauthors turned to an instrument developed at NCAR over the last few years. The coronal multichannel polarimeter, or CoMP, uses a telescope at the National Solar Observatory in Sacramento Peak, New Mexico, to gather and analyze light from the corona, which is much dimmer than the Sun itself. It tracks magnetic activity around the entire edge of the Sun and collects data with unusual speed, making a measurement as frequently as every 15 seconds.

The instrument enabled the research team to simultaneously capture intensity, velocity, and polarization images of the solar corona. Those images revealed propagating oscillations that moved in trajectories aligned with magnetic fields, and traveled as fast as nearly 2,500 miles per second.

In addition to Tomczyk and McIntosh, the research team included scientists from the National Solar Observatory, University of Notre Dame, Framingham High School in Massachusetts, University of Michigan, and NCAR.

Article:  S. Tomczyk, S.W. McIntosh, S.L. Keil, P.G. Judge, T. Schad, D.H. Seeley, J. Edmondson, "Alfvén Waves in the Solar Corona", Science, August 31, 2007

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Read the original story HERE!

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One Species' Entire Genome Discovered Inside Another's

Science Daily Scientists at the University of Rochester and the J. Craig Venter Institute have discovered a copy of the entire genome of a bacterial parasite residing inside the genome of its host species.

The finding, reported in Science August 30, suggests that lateral gene transfer--the movement of genes between unrelated species--may happen much more frequently between bacteria and multicellular organisms than scientists previously believed, posing dramatic implications for evolution.

Such large-scale heritable gene transfers may allow species to acquire new genes and functions extremely quickly, says Jack Werren, a principle investigator of the study.

The results also have serious repercussions for genome-sequencing projects. Bacterial DNA is routinely discarded when scientists are assembling invertebrate genomes, yet these genes may very well be part of the organism's genome, and might even be responsible for functioning traits.

"This study establishes the widespread occurrence and high frequency of a process that we would have dismissed as science fiction until just a few years ago," says W. Ford Doolittle, Canada Research Chair in Comparative Microbial Genomics at Dalhousie University, who is not connected to the study. "This is stunning evidence for increased frequency of gene transfer."

"It didn't seem possible at first," says Werren, professor of biology at the University of Rochester and a world-leading authority on the parasite, called Wolbachia. "This parasite has implanted itself inside the cells of 70 percent of the world's invertebrates, coevolving with them. And now, we've found at least one species where the parasite's entire or nearly entire genome has been absorbed and integrated into the host's. The host's genes actually hold the coding information for a completely separate species."

Wolbachia may be the most prolific parasite in the world--a "pandemic," as Werren calls it. The bacterium invades a member of a species, most often an insect, and eventually makes its way into the host's eggs or sperm. Once there, the Wolbachia is ensured passage to the next generation of its host, and any genetic exchanges between it and the host also are much more likely to be passed on.

Since Wolbachia typically live within the reproductive organs of their hosts, Werren reasoned that gene exchanges between the two would frequently pass on to subsequent generations. Based on this and an earlier discovery of a Wolbachia gene in a beetle by the Fukatsu team at the University of Tokyo, Japan, the researchers in Werren's lab and collaborators at J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) decided to systematically screen invertebrates. Julie Dunning-Hotopp at JCVI found evidence that some of the Wolbachia genes seemed to be fused to the genes of the fruitfly, Drosophila ananassae, as if they were part of the same genome.

Michael Clark, a research associate at Rochester then brought a colony of ananassae into Werren's lab to look into the mystery. To isolate the fly's genome from the parasite's, Clark fed the flies a simple antibiotic, killing the Wolbachia. To confirm the ananassae flies were indeed cured of the wolbachia, Clark tested a few samples of DNA for the presence of several Wolbachia genes.

To his dismay, he found them.

"For several months, I thought I was just failing," says Clark. "I kept administering antibiotics, but every single Wolbachia gene I tested for was still there. I started thinking maybe the strain had grown antibiotic resistance. After months of this I finally went back and looked at the tissue again, and there was no Wolbachia there at all."

Clark had cured the fly of the parasite, but a copy of the parasite's genome was still present in the fly's genome. Clark was able to see that Wolbachia genes were present on the second chromosome of the insect.

Clark confirmed that the Wolbachia genes are inherited like "normal" insect genes in the chromosomes, and Dunning-Hotopp showed that some of the genes are "transcribed" in uninfected flies, meaning that copies of the gene sequence are made in cells that could be used to make Wolbachia proteins.

Werren doesn't believe that the Wolbachia "intentionally" insert their genes into the hosts. Rather, it is a consequence of cells routinely repairing their damaged DNA. As cells go about their regular business, they can accidentally absorb bits of DNA into their nuclei, often sewing those foreign genes into their own DNA. But integrating an entire genome was definitely an unexpected find.

Werren and Clark are now looking further into the huge insert found in the fruitfly, and whether it is providing a benefit. "The chance that a chunk of DNA of this magnitude is totally neutral, I think, is pretty small, so the implication is that it has imparted of some selective advantage to the host," says Werren. "The question is, are these foreign genes providing new functions for the host" This is something we need to figure out."

Evolutionary biologists will certainly take note of this discovery, but scientists conducting genome-sequencing projects around the world also may have to readjust their thinking.

Before this study, geneticists knew of examples where genes from a parasite had crossed into the host, but such an event was considered a rare anomaly except in very simple organisms. Bacterial DNA is very conspicuous in its structure, so if scientists sequencing a nematode genome, for example, come across bacterial DNA, they would likely discard it, reasonably assuming that it was merely contamination--perhaps a bit of bacteria in the gut of the animal, or on its skin.

But those genes may not be contamination. They may very well be in the host's own genome. This is exactly what happened with the original sequencing of the genome of the anannassae fruitfly--the huge Wolbachia insert was discarded from the final assembly, despite the fact that it is part of the fly's genome.

In the early days of the Human Genome Project, some studies appeared to show bacterial DNA residing in our own genome, but those were shown indeed to be caused by contamination. Wolbachia is not known to infect any vertebrates such as humans.

"Such transfers have happened before in the distant past" notes Werren. "In our very own cells and those of nearly all plants and animals are mitochondria, special structures responsible for generating most of our cells' supply of chemical energy. These were once bacteria that lived inside cells, much like Wolbachia does today. Mitochondria still retain their own, albeit tiny, DNA, and most of the genes moved into the nucleus in the very distant past. Like wolbachia, they have passively exchanged DNA with their host cells. It's possible wolbachia may follow in the path of mitochondria, eventually becoming a necessary and useful part of a cell.

"In a way, wolbachia could be the next mitochondria," says Werren. "A hundred million years from now, everyone may have a wolbachia organelle."

"Well, not us," he laughs. "We'll be long gone, but wolbachia will still be around."

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University of Rochester.

Read the original story HERE!

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Fruit Flies Prefer Fizzy Drinks

Science Daily That fruit fly hovering over your kitchen counter may be attracted to more than the bananas that are going brown; it may also want a sip of your carbonated water.

Fruit flies detect and are attracted to the taste of carbon dioxide dissolved in water, such as water found on rotting fruits containing yeast, concludes a study appearing in the August 30 issue of the journal Nature. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the study, suggest that the ability to taste carbon dioxide may help a fruit fly scout for food that is nutritious over that which is too ripe and potentially toxic. The research is partly funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of the National Institutes of Health.

"Fruit flies contain similar versions of many human genes, which is why we study them for a variety of health issues, including taste," says James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIDCD. "This research raises the question of whether people also may have the ability to taste carbon dioxide and perhaps other chemicals in food. If this were found to be true, our sense of taste could be even more complex than we realize." Currently, scientists recognize five tastes in humans: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami, or savory. Before today's findings, fruit flies were known to be able to taste sweet, bitter, and salty.

The researchers note that a fruit fly's attraction for the taste of carbon dioxide is on a much smaller scale than for sugar, so it may be used more as a possible flavor enhancer as opposed to a full-fledged taste. This makes sense, they say, since carbon dioxide offers no nutrition to the fly.

In humans, taste occurs by way of taste cells, sensory cells that are clustered in the taste buds of the mouth, tongue, and throat, and that express certain proteins, called receptors. These receptors are activated by specific chemicals--called tastants--found in foods and drinks. When a receptor is activated by a tastant, an electrical signal is generated, which travels to the brain.

Taste in the fruit fly, or Drosophila melanogaster, operates much the same way, except fruit flies have taste neurons instead of taste cells, and the taste neurons are found in structures called taste pegs and taste bristles instead of buds. Although taste pegs and bristles can be found all over a fruit fly's body, most are concentrated on the labellum--the equivalent of a tongue--which is housed in the proboscis, a long tubular structure originating from the fly's head.

To arrive at their findings, senior author Kristin Scott, Ph.D., and her research team made use of a powerful genetics technique that enables fruit fly researchers to tightly control which genes are expressed in a cell and which remain silent.

The team first homed in on a class of taste neurons, called E409, found on taste pegs in the fruit fly's labellum. These neurons had not been characterized before and were not already associated with known taste receptors for sweet and bitter. They then labeled the neurons with a fluorescent protein and found that their projections extended to separate parts of the taste area of the brain in comparison to the sweet and bitter neurons.

Next, the researchers tested the E409 neurons' response to an array of compounds and found that substances high in carbon dioxide, such as beer, yeast, and carbonated water, elicited heightened neuron activity as opposed to substances low in carbon dioxide.

Finally, they found that fruit flies were attracted to solutions with high carbon dioxide concentrations, while those whose E409 neurons were shut off were not.

Because fruit flies are also able to smell carbon dioxide, the team also wanted to learn if the two senses influenced one another. Under normal conditions, when fruit flies smell carbon dioxide in the air, they are repelled by it.

Scott and her team showed that fruit flies that had their E409 neurons shut off avoided high carbon dioxide concentrations in the environment; likewise, flies that were missing antennae, the structures they use to smell their surroundings, were attracted to solutions with high carbon dioxide concentrations. These results indicate that the senses of taste and smell operate independently. As a result, the team concluded that fruit flies use both senses of taste and smell separately to gauge their environment for a potential food source.

"Our model is that flies like high local concentrations of carbon dioxide," says Scott. "So if carbon dioxide is being produced by the yeast, flies taste it and they like it. But if there are increased global levels of carbon dioxide in the air--such as if a food source becomes spoiled and potentially toxic--then flies are repelled by it. So we think by having these two different carbon dioxide detectors, flies are able to compare global to local levels of carbon dioxide and then regulate their behavior accordingly."

The research is partly funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of the National Institutes of Health. Other funding sources include a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award, a McKnight Scholar Award, and a John Merck Award.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by NIH/National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Read the original story HERE!

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A Genetic Trigger For The Cambrian Explosion Unraveled?

Science Daily A team of scientists led by young Croatian evolutionary geneticist Tomislav Domazet-Lošo from Ruder Boškovic Institute (RBI) in Zagreb, Croatia, developed a novel methodological approach in evolutionary studies. Using the method they named 'genomic phylostratigraphy', its authors shed new and unexpected light on some of the long standing macroevolutionary issues, which have been puzzling evolutionary biologists since Darwin.

The only direct method of research in evolutionary history involves analyzing the fossil remains of once living organisms, excavated in various localities throughout of the world. However, that approach often cannot provide the full evolutionary pathway of some species, as it requires uncovering of many fossils from various stages of its evolutionary history. As the fossil record is imperfect, the evolution research fundamentally hinges on luck factor in discovering the adequate paleontological sites.

However, the RBI team proposed a novel and interesting approach to bypass this obstacle. Namely, they suggested that the genome of every extant species carries the ‘snapshots’ of evolutionary epochs that species went trough. What's even more important, they also developed the method which enables evolution researchers to readily convert those individual 'snapshots’ into the full-length 'evolutionary movie' of a species.

Applying their new methodology on the fruit fly genomic data they tackled some of the most intriguing evolutionary puzzles - some of which distressed even Darwin himself. First, they demonstrated that parts of the living organism exposed to the environment – so called ‘ectoderm’ - are more prone to evolutionary changes. Further, they explained the evolutionary origin of the ‘germ layers’, the primary tissue forms that form during the first days after the conception of a new animal, and from which subsequently all other tissues are developed. Finally, they discovered the potential genetic trigger for the 'Cambrian explosion', a major global evolutionary event on the planet, when some 540 million years ago almost all animal forms known today suddenly 'appeared'.

The first public lecture on these findings will be given by dr. Domazet-Lošo on September 4th at 5. ISABS Conference in Forensic Genetics and Molecular Anthropology, held in Split, Croatia. The groundbreaking paper fully presenting the theory of genomic phylostratigraphy will appear in the November issue of 'Trends in genetics', the most established monthly journal in Genetics.

Reference: Domazet-Lošo, T. et al. (2007) 'A phylostratigraphy approach to uncover the genomic history of major adaptations in metazoan lineages'. Trends in Genetics (to appear in the November 2007 issue of the journal)

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Rudjer Boskovic Institute.

Read the original story HERE!

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Jordan site may be biblical city of Sodom

Archaeologist has committed to seven years excavating Tall el-Hammom

Argen Duncan El Defensor Chieftain Reporter, adunc[email protected]

A New Mexico archeologist told an audience at First Baptist Church on Sunday night that he believes he has found the biblical city of Sodom. According to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, God destroyed the city with fire and brimstone because of the inhabitants' evil behavior.

Steven Collins, dean of the College of Archaeology and Biblical History at Albuquerque's Trinity Southwest University, and his group spent several weeks last winter excavating Tall el-Hammam, a site in Jordan he believes fits the profile of Sodom. He has committed to working there for seven seasons.

Collins said most historians and archaeologists believe the stories of the early followers of Judaism, including the tale of Sodom's destruction, are myths.

"If that's true, they're basically saying our Bible is wrong," he said.

Operating on the belief that the Bible is true, he searched the Book of Genesis for clues to the city's location.

Genesis Chapter 13 says Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, and his nephew, Lot, were in the area of the cities of Bethel and Ai, 10 miles north of Jerusalem, when Lot moved east on the Plain of the Jordan and pitched his tent as far as Sodom.

In 2001, Collins visited a library in Jordan and learned of at least 14 major archaeological sites in the vicinity.

Collins was looking for a city destroyed in the Middle Bronze Age, about 2,000 years B.C. It would have existed earlier, probably in the Early Bronze Age, about 3,000 years B.C.

Also, the ruins Collins wanted would show evidence of no occupation for several centuries after its destruction, he said.

The Bible tells of Moses, who led Israel centuries after Abraham, bringing the nation to the area after they left enslavement in Egypt. It describes the place as a wasteland and records no encounters with other people.

He said research, now a few weeks old, indicates that Sodom would be the southernmost city in a group of two cities and at least three villages because of the order the Bible lists them. Collins said it would also be the largest city because the Bible sometimes mentions it without naming other towns at the same time.

Collins visited sites and used potsherds to date them.

Five ruins on the plain's east side match the locations, artifacts and time of occupation for Sodom and towns the Bible mentions in relation to it.

"It is so good archaeologically and geographically, it's almost unbelievable," he said of the match.

Also, Sodom was fortified, since Genesis Chapter 19 mentions Lot sitting in the city gate. Collins and his excavation crew found a mound of packed earth typical of Bronze Age city walls. An Iron Age wall was built around or through the older structure, indicating no one lived in the city for at least five centuries after its Bronze Age destruction.

While excavating around the wall, Collins and his group discovered a huge mud-brick structure. He doesn't know what it is, but suspects they found the city gate all or mostly intact.

If so, it will be the first time in archaeology someone has found and excavated intact a specific structure mentioned in the Old Testament.

In a probe plot 3 meters deep, Collins found a piece of a clay storage jar with a glaze-like substance. However, Middle Eastern potters couldn't fire their work at high enough temperatures for glazing until ninth or 10th century, he said.

He said a flash event heated the pottery so much, so fast after it broke that the surface turned to glass and began flowing over the edge of the break.

Prolonged exposure to such heat causes the whole clay piece to lose its shape, but only the surface of this potsherd changed. Collins believes this indicates a flash event.

He is having a number of people, including New Mexico Tech scientists, examine the potsherd to determine what the glaze is. Material engineers at the site said it looks like Trinitite, the substance materials such as sand turn into when subjected to a nuclear blast. However, Collins said he isn't suggesting a nuclear blast hit the site. He doesn't know the cause, but suspects a comet strike or electrical event.

Mud bricks and other potsherds his crew discovered also show burn marks, but not the glaze. He expects to find more melted surfaces in the next excavation season and gain a better picture of what happened.

"So right now, it's just extremely interesting," he said of the partially melted potsherd. "Scientifically, you can't say much about it."

Collins sees his field of biblical archaeology as a means to prove the Bible is real. Finding Sodom would provide an opportunity to demonstrate the historical authenticity of the most doubted part of the Bible, he said.

He hopes to help keep the United States from becoming "post-Christian" as Europe has.

He is looking for financial support to pay experts and other expenses, and for volunteer excavators.

Read the original story HERE!

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Here is the Top 10 least religious countries in the world

When you travel to Europe , don't be surprised to find that many Europeans don't believe in God. I have even witnessed some alcohol-infused conversations between Americans and Europeans that almost ended in fist fights over His/Her existence. When you travel to the following countries, you might want to pick a less controversial topic of conversation...umm, maybe George W?

Here is the Top 10 least religious countries in the world:

1. Sweden (up to 85% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)
2. Vietnam
3. Denmark
4. Norway
5. Japan
6. Czech Republic
7. Finland
8. France
9. South Korea
10. Estonia (up to 49% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)

The one that surprised me was Israel, ranking 19th, with up to 37% claiming to be non-believer, atheist, agnostic. Compare that with the US, ranking 44th, with 3-9% non-believers, atheists, agnostics. (I think I have met them all on the streets of New York City , too.)

The survey concluded that "high levels of organic atheism are strongly correlated with high levels of societal health, such as low homicide rates, low poverty rates, low infant mortality rates, and low illiteracy rates, as well as high levels of educational attainment, per capita income, and gender equality. Most nations characterized by high degrees of individual and societal security have the highest rates of organic atheism, and conversely, nations characterized by low degrees of individual and societal security have the lowest rates of organic atheism. In some societies, particularly Europe , atheism is growing. However, throughout much of the world – particularly nations with high birth rates – atheism is barely discernable."

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Does Religion Make You a Better Person?

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Do We Have Free Will?

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Bill Clinton tells Fox news the way it is!

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Henry Rollins on the devastation of the war

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Atheist Blood Drive

In an attempt to show the world that atheists are every bit as charitable as the religious of society, and that we need no "divine warrent" to be so, the RRS has set up a daughter organization called Atheist Volunteers. We hope you will all chip in. The most prominent of it's projects is the Atheist Blood drive.

Click HERE to get more info on this important project!

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Atheists for Autism Research Charity!

Check these guys out, and donate if you can!

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Religious Victim of the day

Man skins his mother and wears her as a coat for God

A MAN killed his mother, skinned her then wore her as a “coat” as he directed traffic while reciting Bible extracts. The 42-year-old had bludgeoned his mum to death, cut her throat and chopped off her arms. Rotterdam Court in Holland was told the unnamed man “sacrificed” his 76-year-old mum to God because he loved her so much. He is being sent for psychiatric tests.

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No Atheists in the Boy Scouts

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A fun way for atheists and theists to dialog, Reason VS Faith Halo Style

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Lego Bible stories

Leviticus 15:16
'When a man ejaculates semen...

Leviticus 15:17
'Any clothing of leather touched by the ejaculated semen must be washed and will be unclean until evening.'

Leviticus 18:23
'Do not have sex with any kind of animal. You would become unclean by doing so.'

Exodus 22:18
'Any man who has sex with an animal, is certainly to be put to death.'

Leviticus 20:15
'Put the animal to death as well.'

'Neither shall a man wear women's clothing.' Deuteronomy 22:5

Deuteronomy 23:1
'A man whose testicles have been crushed...'

Deuteronomy 23:1
'...or whose penis has been cut off...'

Deuteronomy 23:1
'...must not be admitted to the congregation of Yahweh.'

Leviticus 18:22 says
'Do not have sex with a man as you would with a woman. It is an abomination.

Leviticus 20:13
'If a man has sex with a man in same way as with a woman, they have committed an abomination. They are certainly to be put to death.'

Matthew 5:27
'You have heard that it was said, "Do not commit adultery."'

Tt 2: 9
Slaves must be obedient to their masters in everything, and do what is wanted without argument.

Matthew 19:11-12
Jesus replied, 'There are some eunuchs who were born that way, and there are some who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.'

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How to Get Laid at an Anti-Abortion Rally

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David Cross on religion

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Huge thanks go to everyone that has helped me out on this endeavor. Specifically, Zombie, head of RRS Ontario for multple article submissions, Voiderest of RRS Texas, my coding guru without whom many of the features of this newsletter (like the Table of Contents) would not be in place, Brian Sapient for his guiding hand and for the space in which this is published, and all of you who have contributed articles. Cheers go out to you all!!!