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  • Featured Articles

    Noah Way

    Are we future-positive or future-negative? When we look out at the world today—at its strange combination of human wonders and atrocities, overlaid as they are atop the natural and integrated beauty of the earth itself—the question of what will happen next is not easy to answer.

    A Line in the Sand

    The earth’s geological record attests to various mass extinctions that have taken place over the ages. But since the advent of the nuclear age, we can bring about our own extinction. Will we cross that line?

     

    Blinded by the Dark

    What happens to eyesight when you live in darkness? A tiny fish serves as a metaphor for the material-spiritual divide that has set science and religion at odds with one another.  

    One Fish, Two Fish, All Fish, No Fish

    Despite recent positive changes in some of the world’s enormous fisheries, the problems of overfishing and habitat destruction remain very real threats to the survival of global marine resources. But if humankind was given “dominion” over Earth and its bounty, aren’t we just exercising our God-given rights?

    Reflecting on Rio

    As world leaders gather again in Rio de Janeiro for a follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit, the world doesn’t seem much closer to attaining the sustainability goals set out at that time. Will Rio+20 produce the results they’re hoping for?

    Finding Our Place

    Ever since Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the expansion of the universe in 1929, astronomers have sought an answer to a most basic question: How long ago did the universe begin expanding? To determine an answer, one must know the rate of expansion, a value called the Hubble constant (H0).

    Seven Billion at the Door

    As the United Nations pegs October 31, 2011, as the date when human population passes 7 billion, we can expect increasingly strident calls for a deep evaluation of our planetary role.

    The Mind of God

    Scientists are turning the cosmos upside down in their search for a unifying Theory of Everything. But there’s one place most of them won’t look.  

    Relating to Water

    In The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, journalist Charles Fishman reintroduces the reader to life’s most precious resource—water.

    It's a Small World

    The United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Chemistry. While the world celebrates a century of scientific progress, we have to ask how our dreams of a synthetic utopia might end.  

  • More on Science and the Environment

    Noah Way

    Are we future-positive or future-negative? When we look out at the world today—at its strange combination of human wonders and atrocities, overlaid as they are atop the natural and integrated beauty of the earth itself—the question of what will happen next is not easy to answer.

    A Line in the Sand

    The earth’s geological record attests to various mass extinctions that have taken place over the ages. But since the advent of the nuclear age, we can bring about our own extinction. Will we cross that line?

     

    The Best of All Possible Worlds

    In the history of human thought, the separation of religion and science occurred very recently. For millennia the normal, orthodox view was that the physical world did not stand apart from God.

    Blinded by the Dark

    What happens to eyesight when you live in darkness? A tiny fish serves as a metaphor for the material-spiritual divide that has set science and religion at odds with one another.  

    One Fish, Two Fish, All Fish, No Fish

    Despite recent positive changes in some of the world’s enormous fisheries, the problems of overfishing and habitat destruction remain very real threats to the survival of global marine resources. But if humankind was given “dominion” over Earth and its bounty, aren’t we just exercising our God-given rights?

    YouGenics: The Decoding of Personal Health

    DNA is becoming a second language of sorts because of its most attractive promise: customized, personalized medicine.

    Darwin's Gemmules

    Although ultimately incorrect in its details, Charles Darwin's outline of pangenesis foreshadowed much of what we call genetics and epigenetics today.

    The Ripple Effect

    It hasn’t been very many years since biologists offered the startling news that genetics wasn’t a matter of nature versus nurture but a somewhat puzzling
    marriage of the two. Today they go farther, introducing us to a third factor that helps determine who we are and what we pass on to our children, and the implications are profound.

    Physics' Missing Link

    The apparent discovery of a theorized elementary particle—“the God particle”—builds confidence in science’s Standard Model of the universe and may lead to greater discoveries ahead.

    The Biblical World Line

    It is commonly said that the Bible can be divided into thirds: history, instruction and prophecy.

    Reflecting on Rio

    As world leaders gather again in Rio de Janeiro for a follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit, the world doesn’t seem much closer to attaining the sustainability goals set out at that time. Will Rio+20 produce the results they’re hoping for?

    Insight Video: Technological Disconnect

    Technology has made information ever more easily accessible. The question is, can we continue to process the endlessly increasing load?

    Iceberg Dead Ahead!

    Ignoring economic icebergs in pursuit of limitless growth is foolish. Like the Titanic, this ship is not unsinkable.

    Insight Video: Our Polluted Planet

    The whole planet is being assaulted by human beings and human activity, and environmental pollution is a serious concern. In all of this, reverence for God’s creation and humility in dealing with it are key to our survival. 
     

    Landlord or Tenant?

    The earth seems to have been built specifically with us—all of humankind—in mind.

    A Universal Universe

    Science and Environment A Universal Universe Winter 2012 Issue The following excerpt from The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Change the World by Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel R. Primack   sets out their very optimistic hopes of unifying humanity

    Let There Be Dark

    Every culture, tribe and religion seems to have its own story about the origins of life and of the universe itself. Today scientists hope to bridge the divides with a unifying story of their own.

    Finding Our Place

    Ever since Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the expansion of the universe in 1929, astronomers have sought an answer to a most basic question: How long ago did the universe begin expanding? To determine an answer, one must know the rate of expansion, a value called the Hubble constant (H0).

    Seven Billion at the Door

    As the United Nations pegs October 31, 2011, as the date when human population passes 7 billion, we can expect increasingly strident calls for a deep evaluation of our planetary role.

    The Mind of God

    Scientists are turning the cosmos upside down in their search for a unifying Theory of Everything. But there’s one place most of them won’t look.  

    Precautionary Principles

    We can learn from our mistakes. Recognizing and correcting errors, and the sources of errors, can help us avoid future errors.

    It's a Small World

    The United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Chemistry. While the world celebrates a century of scientific progress, we have to ask how our dreams of a synthetic utopia might end.  

    The Missing Dots

    Stanford symposium “Connecting the Dots” looks for connections between agriculture, energy and the environment as we anticipate another 2 billion mouths to feed in the years ahead.

    Chernobyl: The Silent Museum

    April 26 marks the 25th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in history. It’s a good time to revisit our individual and collective responsibilities regarding the energy sources we all depend on.

    Fukushima: A Bump in the Road to Safe Nuclear Energy?

    The irony in the timing of the disaster that crippled Japan’s nuclear reactors is not lost on those who have been planning for years to remember the victims of Chernobyl.

    Gaylord Nelson: Founder of Earth Day

    Gaylord Nelson was instrumental in establishing the first Earth Day which was held on April 22, 1970.

    The Stem Cell Controversy: A Three-Sided Coin

    The topic of stem cells usually elicits a two-sided reaction pitting the moral question of using human embryos for research against the potential of such research for curing disease. But now there is a third side to the stem-cell coin. It is called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS).

    In the Zone

    What is it about human beings that makes us always want to push the limits? When it comes to the frontiers of medical science, is it possible to go too far? 

    Mother Earth?

    Popular references to our planet as Mother Earth, and to the natural forces that govern it as Mother Nature, bring to mind the ancient earth goddess Gaia. But they don’t come close to describing the true nature of our relationship with the earth.

    In the Beginning

    How the universe came into existence continues to intrigue—and baffle—cosmologists, whose ever-evolving theories are still far from revealing definitive answers. Can anyone ever know how it all really began?

    The New Synthesis

    Although it does not now have the weightiness of September 11, 2001—clearly a date on which the world changed—May 20, 2010, may one day be known as another key marker, a hinge of history in terms of the human control of life. 

    Earth Day Retrospective: Shape of the Planet

    At the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the earth’s nearly seven billion inhabitants were asked to ponder our individual and communal conduct. Is humanity’s current course sustainable?

    The Descent of Darwinism

    Hatched in a world that generally acknowledged the need for God, if only as a First Cause, how did Darwin’s theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest become today’s dominant worldview?  

    Mayan Mayhem: Is 2012 the End of the World?

    Like a newly discovered celebrity, the Mayan Calendar’s 2012 phenomenon is taking hold—first with a notable documentary in 2008 and accompanying book, 2012 Science or Superstition, in 2009 (both published by the Disinformation Company) and also with the recent major Hollywood release, 2012.

    In Darwin’s Words

    Through six editions Darwin continued to pepper Origin of Species with purposeful language. He certainly had ample opportunity to alter some passages, but he did not. Darwin rightly recognized the plasticity of variation and the necessity of an adaptive process; to insist, however, that he did not harbor some small hope that he was wrong about the purpose of creation seems to be more a catering to one’s own interests rather than his.

    Yes, but . . .

    Even if one accepts the big-bang model on faith, obvious questions come to mind for most people: What came before the big bang?

    Vexing Verbs

    What is humankind’s intended relationship to the Earth? Unfortunately, misinterpretation of the initial instructions given to the first humans has led to widely diverging views, and with devastating results.

    The Drake Equation, or How Alone Are We?

    Beginning with Project Ozma in 1960, and for the last 25 years through SETI, Frank Drake has spearheaded the quest to hear from other intelligent beings in the universe.

    A New Earth

    Our planet shows increasing signs of succumbing to the assault we and our technologies have launched. Although there’s no shortage of far-out ideas on how technology can also help fix the problem, including finding a new planet in case we break this one, the real solution lies close to home. 

    From the Ground Up

    On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made the first extraterrestrial steps for mankind. When the lunar module Eagle landed, its touchdown represented the decade-long collective efforts of thousands of laborers in dozens of industries.

    Another Another World

    Like a nighttime soap opera, the dramatic search for another earth added a new episode in April. Corresponding to the 39th anniversary of Earth Day in the United States, astronomers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced their discovery of a small, apparently Earth-like planet orbiting the star Gliese 581.

    Comparison of Some Major Stratigraphically Significant Trends

    Comparison of some major stratigraphically significant trends over the past 15,000 yr. Trends typical of the bulk of immediately pre-Holocene and Holocene time are compared with those of the past two centuries. Data compiled from sources including Hooke (1994), Monnin et al. (2001), Wilkinson (2005), and Behre (2007). Original in J.A. Zalasiewicz, etal, “Are we living in the Anthropocene?” GSA Today Volume 18, Issue 2 (February 2008)

    A Change in the Air: Is Humankind Now a Force of Planetary Change?

    Skeptics question the ability of human activity to initiate planetary change. They wonder if building cities, removing forests and increasing the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere really matter in the big picture of life on earth.

    Identity Crisis

    Although at times we all wonder, “Why am I here?” and “What is the meaning of my life?” these questions of individual purpose arise from a larger crisis of identity. It is not a question of one man’s identity; it is the problem of mankind’s identity. What are we? Why are we here?

    Home, Sweet Earth

    Fifty years have passed since 67 countries participated in the global physical science project known as the International Geophysical Year. But despite the wealth of knowledge gained both during the IGY and since, too many of us may still take the Earth for granted.

    Digging Wonderland

    After about two months of Martian days on the surface, NASA’s Phoenix robotic lander is well down the road to completing several important aspects of its mission.

    Sniffing Out a Cure for Parkinson’s?

    A decade has passed since James Thomson first showed how embryonic stem cells could be cultured under laboratory conditions. Long known for their embryonic potential—the stem cells’ ability to grow and differentiate into a complete human being—the cells’ healing and regenerative potential quickly came to the forefront of investigators’ interest around the world. If new stem cells could be grown in the lab, could a patient’s cells be cloned and used to replace or repair his degenerative disease like Parkinson's?

    The Flight of the Phoenix

    Phoenix settled on an arctic plain called Vastitas Borealis, comparable in latitude to central Greenland or northern Alaska. In the Martian permafrost the mission will look for evidence of organic molecules and the history of a habitable environment in the planet’s past.

    A Penny for Your Thoughts

    How much would you pay to know what thoughts are swimming around in someone else’s head? And if you could really know their truthfulness how much more would you pay?

    Before and After Earth Day

    Today, events such as Earth Day and the combined international efforts to complete and man the ISS are offshoots of the original cooperative Sputnik mission of 1957.

    Revisiting the State of the Planet

    Vision reports on the State of the Planet Conference at Columbia University in New York, March 27-28, 2008.

    Design and Dissent

    The Intelligent Design versus Evolution battle again comes to the fore with the release of the Ben Stein film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

    Derivatives

    Are human awareness, conscience and even consciousness itself simply a lucky mix, a repackaging of something that our biological ancestors somehow had in part?

    From Nothing, to Thing, to Something

    Almost 55 years have passed since the publication in Nature of Francis Crick and James Watson’s description of the structure of DNA.

    Synthetic Genomics: Build It and They Will Come

    The J. Craig Venter Institute announces that researchers there have succeeded in synthetically recreating the genome of the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium.

    Climate Futures

    Whether one believes global climate change is related to human use of fossil fuels, the anthropomorphic production of carbon dioxide, or not, the politics of climate alternation seem to be here to stay.

    Bigger Is Not Better

    The Worldwatch Institute released its State of the World for 2008 today, and while it was very bleak in the current assessment of environmental and economic conditions it sounded some positive notes about changes in attitudes from business, industry and governmental institutions.

    Theory or Sleight of Hand?

    The term “theory” in science is lavished only on the big ideas that appear to have predictive power. But doing science this way is like performing a secret-number trick: a magician, by getting an audience member to apply a certain sequence of mathematical operations to a secret number, amazingly comes up with the hidden number.

    Cosmologies Compared: Connecting the Dots

    This table outlines a few fundamental observations of cosmology, accompanied by interpretations of each one according to the standard (big bang) view and the alternative view. 

    Crunch Time

    The most confounding question that arises from the big bang theory is a simple one: if the big bang is the origin of the universe, what happened before? Doesn't an origin event, however one eventually describes it, still require a cause?

     

    Getting Past the Big Bang, Part 2: Alternative Views

    Our age is a unique and exciting one: we now possess the means of exploring many of the great questions of our place in the universe. But will we find the answers we’re looking for?

     

    An Interview With Geoffrey Burbidge

    The most widely accepted model of the origin of the universe is known as the hot big bang. It seeks to describe a practically unfathomable instant in the vicinity of 15 billion years ago when the material of the universe came into being.

    Cosmic Views

    A successful space shuttle mission such as the recent Endeavor journey is a triumph of human ingenuity and inventiveness over the harsh elements of extraterrestrial travel.

    Poe's Parallel Universe

    Evidence for this picture of an expanding universe has been gathered over the last century. But while we might view this model as a product of modern scientific investigation combined with mathematical theory, it seems as if Edgar Allan Poe knew it all before its time and wrote all the notes that we now play.

     

    Getting Past the Big Bang: Why Beginnings Matter

    There is not a much bigger question than “Where did the universe come from?” and the theory of origins called the “big bang” has become the dominant answer to that most fundamental question. But giving the event a name simply frames a new question: What happened before the big bang?

     

    Genetically Modified Foods—Are They Safe?

    International debate continues on the primary question: Are GMO foods "Safe?"

    Matters of the Heart

    Since ancient times the heart has been considered to be at the center of human life.

    Cells of Mice and Men

    Stem cell research using mouse cells is increasing our knowledge of human growth and development.

    Tales From the Stem Cell Crypt

    Regenerative medicine is quickly moving forward. At the recent Stem Cells World Congress organized by Select Biosciences, LLC, in La Jolla, California, an international slate of presenters outlined both current applications and future hopes of stem cell research.

    An Appeal to Save the Earth

    E.O. Wilson in his new book, The Creation, an Appeal to Save Life on Earth, asks for an abatement of aggression and calls for cooperation from the sacred and secular communities.

    Neurogenesis: Changing Your Mind

    Until recently it was generally thought that we are incapable of producing new brain cells after early childhood. The reversal of that idea has profound social implications.

    Are We in Need of a Neuromorality?

    As neuroscience develops tests for particular psychological traits and medical predispositions in individuals, ethicists wonder what moral framework will govern such information.

    Water: Dead and Alive

    The geography of Palestine and Israel provides a useful analogy for the ultimate solution to the world’s water problems.

    Life on the Fly

    Can fly fishermen teach us a lesson on life?

    The Simple Complexities of Life

    Modern science may be coming face-to-face with the very circumstance that Darwin said would cause his famous theory to break down.

    Should We Put a Patent on Life?

    Remarkable feats of genetic engineering are unleashing the ability to reorganize all life at the genetic level. With these amazing developments come enormous economic, social and moral ramifications with the power to dramatically transform society. And therein lies the controversy.

    Research Issues

    Life patenting research issues.

    Economic Implications

    When a company gets a patent on a biological product, it has monopoly rights and can charge any price it wants for that product.

    Ethical Concerns

    Many believe that if living things can be patented, life is reduced to a mere commodity.

    Arguments in Favor of Life Patenting

    Arguments in favor of life patenting.

    Seeds of Discord

    Increasing numbers of DNA-based patents are being applied for on a daily basis. Vision examines some of the implications of the battle over who owns life.

    Where Has All the Water Gone?

    Probably the single biggest threat to the Middle East’s water supply is the region’s burgeoning population.

    New Chip Off the Old Block

    An amazing technology promises freedom from our genetic predispositions.

    Genes, Genome and Genesis

    Surprisingly, what geneticists are seeking to discover by probing the mysteries of life was revealed long ago.

    An Outline of Molecular Genetics

    Although the science of how our bodies operate at the chemical level is multilayered and technically complex, the landmarks of the cellular processes that function within us are actually rather simple.

    Science and Environment: 50 Years of DNA Research

    Information revealed through the decoding of DNA 50 years ago has been astounding, but there is still much to be learned. Is science up to the challenge?

    The Long Arm of Darwin

    Darwinian philosophy today controls the educational and scientific communities and influences most other aspects of society just as inflexibly and stiflingly as did Aristotelian philosophy in Catholic Europe during the days of Galileo. The reach of Darwinian ideas into our lives is nothing short of amazing. 

    For Creationists to Consider

    The Bible nowhere states when the earth was created.

    Evolution: Science's Center of the Universe

    Most in the scientific community consider evolution a fact. But is it good science, or bad philosophy?

    The Word on Earthquakes

    A commonly expressed thought in the wake of natural disasters is that God must be punishing humanity for sin. But where does this belief come from?

    This Unstable Earth

    With the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster still haunting Southeast Asia, Vision looks at other potential trobule spots on the earth's fragile surface.

    State of the Planet

    At the end of March, Vision was invited to attend the State of the Planet conference at Columbia University in New York. In recognition of Earth Day ceremonies in the United States, we offer the following report from the conference.

    2000: A Space Odyssey?

    Three astronauts are slated to board the International Space Station this fall. Will the ISS play a role in the human conquest of space? Or is there another route to the ends of the universe?

    Troubled Waters

    Oil isn't the only resource that helps shape the peace and regulate the balance of power in the Middle East.

    By Our Own Hand

    What effect do our actions have on the environment and on the future?

    A Point of Convergence

    In revising its position on the origin of the universe, science has unwittingly come to agreement with the Bible.

    Journey to the Center of Jules Verne

    While most novelists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries warned society of the dangers of unchecked technological advances, Jules Verne excited his readers with romantic tales of fantastic adventures made possible by wonderful new machines. But what did he really think about man's progress and advancements? A recent discovery offers insight into this question.

    Artificial Intelligence: A Virtual Reality?

    Book Reviews: When Things Start to Think by Neil Gershenfeld; Wired Life by Charles Jonscher; The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil.

    The Dawning of Cell-Based Medicine

    In the next few decades scientists say we will witness an explosion of new discoveries and advancements from the medical community that will present difficult ethical challenges. Vision reports from the Cambridge Healthtech Institute’s 13th Annual Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference, San Francisco.

    The Synaptic Connection

    Coming to understand the synaptic processes that gather, store and retrieve information throughout the brain is the cutting edge of modern neuroscience.

    Brain Science Has a Change of Mind

    Recent discoveries in neuroscience are providing exciting insights into the nature of beign human.

    Looking Uphill

    Last week the U.S. observed the 20th anniversary of the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger. It was a reminder that for NASA there is no room for error. What can we learn on a personal level from the deep introspection that the U.S. Space program is going through?

    Where Is God?

    To expect to see God is akin to expecting to see television signals through our unaided eyes: both are outside the realm of human detection.

    Your Clock or Mine?

    How can moving faster through space somehow slow the movement of time?

    Relativity Check

    More than a century has passed since the publication of Albert Einstein's first papers on relativity and the structure of the universe. As we look back, we may marvel at how much we once did not know; more challenging, though, is to contemplate what has yet to be revealed.

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