Charles Darwin to receive apology from the Church of England for rejecting evolution.

The Church of England is to apologise to Charles Darwin for its initial rejection of his theories, nearly 150 years after he published his most famous work.

The Church of England will concede in a statement that it was over-defensive and over-emotional in dismissing Darwin’s ideas. It will call “anti-evolutionary fervour” an “indictment” on the Church”.

Charles Darwin to receive apology from the Church of England for rejecting evolution

The bold move is certain to dismay sections of the Church that believe in creationism and regard Darwin’s views as directly opposed to traditional Christian teaching.

The apology, which has been written by the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, the Church’s director of mission and public affairs, says that Christians, in their response to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, repeated the mistakes they made in doubting Galileo’s astronomy in the 17th century.

“The statement will read: Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still. We try to practise the old virtues of ‘faith seeking understanding’ and hope that makes some amends.”

Opposition to evolutionary theories is still “a litmus test of faithfulness” for some Christian movements, the Church will admit. It will say that such attitudes owe much to a fear of perceived threats to Christianity.

Menstrual regulation and the sacra rosa—escaping religious rigidity.

Countries that are strongly Muslim or Roman Catholic find abortion unacceptable, but Bangladesh, a Muslim country, has found a clever way of helping women who might be pregnant and don’t want to be.

In Bangladesh induced abortion is illegal unless a woman’s life is threatened. But a woman who has missed a period may in the next eight to ten weeks undergo menstrual regulation to ensure that she is not pregnant. Menstrual regulation has been undertaken with manual vacuum aspiration, but increasingly drugs are being used. It is very important not to do a pregnancy test: if it was known that the woman was pregnant then the procedure would be an abortion and so illegal.

In 2010 some 650 000 women had menstrual regulation performed, but there were also 640 000 induced abortions, most of them illegal. Around 570 000 of the women suffer complications, and about 1%—some 6400—die. Women undergo unsafe abortions because they are unaware of menstrual regulation, lack access to the procedure, or don’t understand the difference between menstrual regulation and unsafe abortion. Unsurprisingly poor and rural women are more likely to undergo unsafe abortion.

Menstrual regulation, which seems to me a very clever idea, has been available in Bangladesh since 1979. It’s been suggested to me that it became acceptable because of the systematic raping of women during the War of Liberation, when what was East Pakistan fought off the dominance of West Pakistan and became Bangladesh, still a Muslim country, but steeped in the richness of Bengali culture.

As far as I know, other countries that are opposed to abortion on religious grounds don’t allow menstrual regulation—but perhaps they should.

I’m impressed by the ingenuity of menstrual regulation, and I was describing it to an Italian friend, who said that it reminded him what he called the sacra rosa. The way he described it even a married couple who had had children could be allowed a divorce by the Catholic Church on the grounds that one or other or both of the couple had not been thinking of sex while conceiving the children. For my friend it was a form of corruption, and the Church would need generous payment for allowing such a divorce.

I can’t find mention of the sacra rosa online, but I have learnt about the “declaration of nullity.” The Church, it seems, can’t allow separation of a couple whom God have joined, but it can accept that there are circumstances in which true marriage never took place even though the couple went through the ceremony in a church. Non-consummation is the best known cause, and both the Church and God expect sex to occur. But it also seems that “not intending, when marrying, to remain faithful to the spouse (simulation of consent)” can mean that true marriage never took place.

This would seem to be a marvellous out for the world’s many philanderers, but it leaves me wondering why all the fuss around Henry VIII and why we need the Church of England. I know the answer: it was all about politics, power, and money.

Perhaps with more of the mental ingenuity that has given us menstrual regulation and the declaration of nullity we could avoid the considerable pain and suffering that result from ideological and religious rigidity.

Source: BMJ



The First Book To Be Encoded in DNA.

Two Harvard scientists have produced 70 billion copies of a book in DNA code –and it’s smaller than the size of your thumbnail.
Despite the fact there are 70 billion copies of it in existence, very few people have actually read the book Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves in DNA, by George Church and Ed Regis. The reason? It is written in the basic building blocks of life: Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.

Church, along with his colleague Sriram Kosuri, both molecular geneticists from the Wyss Institute for Biomedical Engineering at Harvard, used the book to demonstrate a breakthrough in DNA data storage. By copying the 53,000 word book (alongside 11 jpeg images and a computer program) they’ve managed to squeeze a thousand times more data than ever previously encoded into strands of DNA, as reported in the August 17 issue of the journal Science. (To give you some idea of how much information we’re talking about, 70 billion copies is more than three times the total number of copies for the next 200 most popular books in the world combined.)

Part of DNA’s genius is just how conspicuously small it is: so dense and energy efficient that one gram of the stuff can hold 455 billion gigabytes. Four grams could in theory hold ever scrap of data the entire world produces in a year. Couple this with a theoretical lifespan of 3.5 billion years and you have a revolution in data storage, with wide ranging implications for the amount of information we could record and store.

Don’t expect your library to transform from paperbacks to vials of DNA anytime soon though. “It took a decade to work out the next generation of reading and writing of DNA – I’ve been working on reading for 38 years, and writing since the 90s,” Church tells TIME.

The actual work of encoding the book into DNA and then decoding it and copying it only took a couple weeks. “I did it with my own two hands!” says Dr. Church, “which is very rare to have that kind of time to spend doing something like this.” Church and Kosuri took a computer file of Regenesis and converted it into binary code — strings of ones and zeroes. They then translated that code into the basic building blocks of DNA. “The 1s stand for adenine (A) or cytosine (C) and the zero for guanine (G) and thymine (T),” says Kosuri.  Using a computer program, this translation was simple.

While the future implications and applications are not yet clear, the DNA storage industry is moving at an incredible speed. “Classical electronic technology is moving forward something like 1.5 fold per year,” says Dr. Church, “whereas reading and writing DNA is improving roughly ten fold per year. We’ve already had a million-fold improvement in the past few years, which is shocking.”

Given that the genomics field has attracted its fair share of criticism — witness, for example, the firestorm that greeted biologist Craig Venter and his colleagues when they created the first synthetic cell in 2010 — there are ethical questions to address. Dr. Church and co-author Ed Regis have decided not to include a DNA insert of the book with the actual paper copy when it comes out in October because of this sensitivity.

“We’re always trying to think proactively about the ethical, social and economic implications in this line of work,” says Dr. Church. He explains that the risks are relatively small, but both he and Dr. Kosuri mention that if it is possible to encode a book using DNA encode, it is also theoretically possible to encode a virus–though this would be a far-fetched scenario.

“The chances that something bad will come out of this is so small,” says Dr. Kosuri. “If someone really nefarious wanted to make a virus they would have to use a much larger chunk of DNA to encode function.”

Why make 70 billion copies of the book? “Oh that was a bit of fun,” says Dr. Church. “We calculated the total copies of the top 200 books of all time, including A Tale of Two Cities and the Bible and so on, and they add up to about 20 billion. We figured we needed to go well beyond that.”

Source: Time

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