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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Extreme Weather; Lowering the Bar?; Religion and Politics; What is a Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science

Aired May 9, 2007 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Big Lake flooded after several levees along the Missouri River were breached. Cleaning up will take months. Patio decks are floating in the middle of the lake.

DON GILMORE, BIG LAKE, MISSOURI RESIDENT: Floating upright with seats. Looks like it belongs out there.

LAVANDERA: Dennis Saunders and Vince Caputo were briefly escorted into town to check on some stranded pets. The animals are fine, but their homes weren't as lucky.

VINCE CAPUTO, BIG LAKE, MISSOURI RESIDENT: Right now, just totally overwhelmed with the prospect of what we're going to have to go through to rebuild our lives from here.

DENNIS SAUNDERS, BIG LAKE, MISSOURI RESIDENT: It's bugging the hell out of our wives.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Right now homeowners aren't allowed to come back into the Big Lake area to check on their homes and their belongings. And they're not exactly sure when that will happen.

The last time this area flooded back in 1993, it took several weeks for the floodwaters to recede. And many homeowners now expect that it will take at least a week before these waters disappear.

(voice-over): The sheriff says residents will be kept out until at least next week. But Don Gilmore isn't going anywhere.

What do you like about this?

GILMORE: The calmness. This is so calm and quiet out here at night and the daytime.

LAVANDERA: He'll have plenty of time to enjoy the peace and quiet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Ed, are the floodwaters in Big Lake still rising or has it slowed down?

LAVANDERA (on camera): Anderson, right now the waters seem to have started rolling back a little bit.

This is the main road that takes you into Big Lake. And you can see the waters are starting to recede a little bit. But this is going to be a very slow process and will take several days, if not weeks.

If you can imagine, the Missouri River is running south about five miles away from here. All of this water needs to make its way back to that river. But as the sheriff here described it to us, it's like that is like a highway full of traffic and this water is just waiting for its opportunity to merge back in and escape from this area.

COOPER: Remarkable pictures.

Ed, thanks very much.

Flooding has taken a heavy toll throughout American history, of course.

Here's the raw data.

In 1900, the storm surge from the hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas, killed more than 6,000 people.

In 1913, flooding from heavy rains caused 467 deaths in Ohio.

And in '72, a flash flood killed 237 people in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Moving on now to Iraq and new questions about the end game.

Vice President Dick Cheney made a surprise visit to Baghdad today, where he met with Iraqi officials. During a press briefing, a mortar round struck inside the green zone. This, as the U.S. military said attacks by bombs capable of piercing armored vehicles spiked to a new high last month.

Back in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has a message for Congress.

In football they call it moving the goalpost. In politics, well, here's CNN's Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The new Baghdad security strategy has yet to produce any measurable decline in violence, despite the fact that four of five additional U.S. combat brigades are now in place. That has the Pentagon lowering expectations for what will constitute progress when this strategy is reviewed at the end of the summer.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The goal in September is not whether the violence has been significantly reduced or stability has been brought, and it seems to me, but rather whether it has been reduced to a level that the political reconciliation process is moving forward in some meaningful way.

MCINTYRE: So with no requirement for stability or a significant reduction in violence, almost any trend could be seen as justification for keeping the 30,000 extra U.S. troops in Iraq.

GATES: Regardless of timelines or anything else, the consequences of leaving Iraq in chaos have enormous national security consequences for the United States.

MCINTYRE: So far, U.S. commanders have offered a mixed picture, a decline in sectarian murders in some neighborhoods overshadowed by spectacular attacks, driving up the number of American and Iraqi casualties.

Gates promises an honest evaluation of the plan, which, he says, could set the stage for a U.S. troop reduction. But will that really happen? Some Senators wanted to know.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: What are the prospects for having some light at the end of the tunnel?

GATES: Well, I think that the honest answer is, Senator, that I don't know.

MCINTYRE (on camera): Gates says whatever happens in September, it will not lead to what he calls a precipitous decision. But, he says, whether or not the strategy is working, it will point to a new direction, without saying what that direction might be.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Interesting.

Faith is front and center in the presidential race these days. We're all seeing it play out. Republicans and Democrats alike are making their spirituality a touch stone of their campaigns.

Tonight, a war of words has broken out between the only Mormon candidate in the race and a former candidate who is always outspoken and often controversial.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Is the Reverend Al Sharpton questioning Mitt Romney's faith? Listen to what he said about the Republican presidential candidate during a debate on God Monday night with atheist and author Christopher Hitchens.

REV. AL SHARPTON, FOUNDER, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: And as for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that. That's a temporary -- that's a temporary situation.

COOPER: Romney reacted to Sharpton's comments this morning on MSNBC. He did not mince words.

VOICE OF MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I can only -- hearing that statement, wonder whether there's not bigotry that still remains in America. That's an extraordinary thing for someone to say. And I can't imagine what prompted him to say something of that nature. It's an extraordinarily bigoted kind of statement.

COOPER: Tonight, Sharpton told Paula Zahn his remarks were misinterpreted and that he was responding to Hitchens' assertion that until the mid 1960s, the Mormons believed in the separation of the races.

SHARPTON: The argument was over atheism. The argument was not about Mormon. Real believers, not atheists, who's going to vote against him anyway because I don't think Romney will win.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": ALL RIGHT, but...

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: But I think -- no, but I think what is interesting here is I think now Mr. Romney -- since I didn't bring this up, Hitchens did, has opened the door for me to say, well wait a minute. Is Hitchens right?

COOPER: Sharpton also said Romney must answer about his religion's past.

SHARPTON: If prior to '65, '78, whenever it was they did not see blacks as equal, I do not believe that as real worshipers of God because I do not believe God distinguishes between people. That's not bigotry. That's responding to their bigotry.

COOPER: The controversy is far from over. And it's only part of the bigger picture of faith and the White House race, an issue that Romney is facing.

JONATHAN DARMAN, SR. WRITER, "NEWSWEEK": Mormonism really hasn't had its moment in prime time yet. And if -- as Romney gains traction as a candidate, people are going to be talking more and more and more about what Mormons actually believe.

And most of America really isn't familiar with some of those details. And Mitt Romney is going to be the vehicle for exploring that, which is a real risk if you're trying to be a frontrunner in a presidential primary process.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): While mixing faith and politics can be trouble, mixing faith and science can be downright explosive.

Just ahead, the battle of the ages between the scientific and the divine. Where do you stand? And is there a middle ground? A 360 special, "What is a Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science" is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Welcome to another edition in our "What is a Christian" series. Tonight, God, Faith and Hard Science.

It's a clash that has stretched across centuries, the relationship between the scientific and the divine. At its heart, the most fundamental questions about how we got here, who we are.

Many Christians call the bible the ultimate authority on creation and existence, a manual for all that's possible. Others seek to chip away at that conviction. And yet others hope for harmony between science and faith.

Where do you stand? Chances are you've asked yourself some of these questions. Did God create our bodies? Does he heal us when we're sick? Or is religion a denial of science? Could there actually be a scientific explanation for biblical miracles like the parting of the Red Sea?

Tonight, all the angles -- and we begin with the most contentious issue, the fight over creationism.

Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

"God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him." Genesis 1:27

(END GRAPHIC)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the beginning, an explosion rocked the cosmos, and the universe was born. Primitive life crawled from an ooze, mutating, changing. Dinosaurs lived, died, left nothing but bones. And evolution rolled on, until millions of years later.

Science tells us that's what happened. But what if it's wrong? What if another story, a very old one, is right?

(on camera): So, this is the Garden of Eden, and you have dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden?

KEN HAM, FOUNDER, CREATION MUSEUM: That's true, because God made the land animals on day six. He made...

FOREMAN (voice over): Ken Ham is the founder of a $27 million Creation Museum set to open on Memorial Day in rural Kentucky. The message: God made the Earth, the heavens, and everything in them in just six days, just 6,000 years ago.

(on camera): This just doesn't look like what I have always thought of as the Garden of Eden. Does it you?

HAM: Well, that's true. And -- and it's meant to challenge people, because most people today would not think of that. That's true.

FOREMAN (voice over): Polls show roughly half the country believes human beings were created in our present form by God.

HAM: Genesis is written as literal history. Why are we sinners? Because there was an original sin, because a real man, in a real garden, with a real tree and a real fruit; a real event really happened.

FOREMAN: So, it stands to reason, people and dinosaurs roamed the planet peacefully, together, facing no death or disease before Adam and Eve sinned and were cast out of Eden. Some people might call that blind faith, but the Creation Museum calls it hard science. And, they say, they have proof.

MIKE RIDDLE, CREATION MUSEUM: We are also finding dinosaur bones that are not mineralized. They're not fossilized yet. How in the world can a bone sit out there for 65 million years and not be completely mineralized?

FOREMAN: That argument doesn't wash in this museum, the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

MIKE NOVACEK, PROVOST, AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: There's no question in my mind that dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, long before humans. There's absolutely no scientific evidence aligned with the notion that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

HAM: If the history in the bible is not true, then neither is the rest.

FOREMAN: There is a ready market for this version of history. Ken Ham is preaching to the choir, a convention of Christian home- schoolers in nearby Cincinnati.

HAM: They haven't thrown religion out of the classroom, by the way. They have thrown Christianity out and replaced it with a different religion. It's a religion of atheism, or the religion of naturalism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could always take one of these lessons and stretch it over a full week.

FOREMAN: Here, parents browse creation science textbooks, with lessons you will never find in a public school.

JOE SCHLAWIN, CHRISTIAN HOMESCHOOLER: We believe it's the truth. I mean -- and why would we teach our children something that's not true?

You know, we don't sit down and talk to them about Santa Claus and an Easter Bunny and try and instill in them that that's the way it happens. No, we tell them the truth. Evolution doesn't fall into that category of being good science.

FOREMAN: Pam Amlung and her daughter Kayla say believing all creation came to be without God requires an even greater leap of faith.

PAM AMLUNG, CHRISTIAN HOMESCHOOLER: How could all of this, what we see, possibly have come from nothing? I just can't figure out how atheists can have that much faith to believe. I mean, it takes a whole lot of faith.

KAYLA AMLUNG, STUDENT: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

K. AMLUNG: Like, they have nothing to start with. We have something, but they have nothing. And they're believing this whole thing, where the bible makes more sense.

FOREMAN: They admit faith is full of mystery.

P. AMLUNG: I think, when we get to heaven, that we will be really surprised, that God will reveal at that point in time, this is how I did it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

P. AMLUNG: And it may not look exactly like what any individual here on earth ever could even imagine.

FOREMAN: But, until then, they will believe that creation looked like this glimpse of Eden in the heartland.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Petersburg, Kentucky.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, the battle over what children should be taught in school has been raging for nearly a century now. The question is, is there room for compromise?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Joining us to talk about it is Robert Boston of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Charmaine Yoest of the Family Research Council.

Appreciate both of you being with us.

Robert, let me start with you.

Polls show that nearly half the American public believes that people didn't evolve from lower life-forms, but were created in our present form by God. If so many people think that, shouldn't we at least be discussing it in a science class?

ROBERT BOSTON, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Well, I think we need to look really not at what polls show, but what the scientific evidence shows.

We wouldn't want to teach something in the public schools that was factually incorrect, simply because some people believed it was so. So, we really have to look at the science. If you look at the scientific community, you don't see this great disparity in polls. You see most of the scientists backing the theory of evolution.

COOPER: Charmaine, what about that? Why should a science class be forced to -- to teach something which mainstream science says is simply not true?

CHARMAINE YOEST, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, you know, mainstream science, throughout history, has been challenged by questions. And that's how we make advances in science, being open to all different perspectives.

And that's all that we're calling for, is saying that, you know, have we gotten to a place in our culture where science has such an orthodoxy around Darwinian theory that we can't even question it, that we can't even look at some of the gaps in the theory, and ask, how can we do better and how can answer some of these questions?

That's all we're asking for, is an openness of dialogue and looking at all of the research.

COOPER: Robert, President Bush has suggested that this theory of intelligent design should be taught in public school classrooms. The idea is that kids should be able to make up their own minds; they should get different points of view.

Robert, what is wrong with that?

BOSTON: I disagree.

I think that there is a mechanism in science that allows for these views to be aired through peer-review journals. And the intelligent-design advocates...

YOEST: Well, sure.

BOSTON: ... have not been able to publish any research that indicates...

YOEST: That's just not true.

BOSTON: ... their point of view.

Let me finish, Charmaine.

And one of the important things we need to remember, too, is that some of the ideas that groups would like to bring into our schools have been completely discredited. For example, the idea that the earth is 10,000 years old and that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time. Scientifically, that's untenable.

Yet, that is what the creationists believe. And that is what, ultimately, I think they would like to bring into our classrooms.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Charmaine, I mean, do you -- do you believe that dinosaurs walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? And, if so, is that the -- the basis of your argument?

YOEST: What we are looking at here is saying, there are legitimate scientific questions on the table. And it is not true that -- that there is a complete cohesiveness among scientists.

So, we're really, really seeing an amazing censorship of anything that questions Darwinism. And you see this kind of thing where, immediately, the minute you question Darwinism, people like Rob come up and say, oh, no, you're going to talk about God.

Well, you know, I think our children have more robust intelligence and -- and questioning to be able to cope with looking at all the different theories that are out there. I think it's -- I just have to ask, what is he so scared of?

COOPER: Robert, do you believe this is really about -- a debate about science, or is it a debate about religion?

BOSTON: Of course it's about religion.

And notice how she did not answer your question about the age of the Earth and dinosaurs and humans coexisting. I would guess that, if you took a survey of the members of the Family Research Council, you would find overwhelmingly they believe that the Earth is 6,000 to 10,000 years old, that dinosaurs died because they were too big to fit on Noah's Ark, or that they existed alongside human beings, other pseudoscientific ideas that have been debunked time and time again.

YOEST: Hey -- hey, Rob...

BOSTON: Why would we want to bring this into the classroom, when there's absolutely no scientific evidence?

(CROSSTALK)

BOSTON: Charmaine, answer the question, yes or no. Age of the Earth?

(CROSSTALK)

YOEST: You are trying to confuse the issue of conflating...

BOSTON: Age of the earth, answer the question.

(CROSSTALK)

YOEST: I am trying to answer the question.

BOSTON: How old is it?

YOEST: I'm trying to answer the question.

BOSTON: How old is it, Charmaine?

(CROSSTALK)

YOEST: I can't get a word in -- that you're trying to conflate creationism with intelligent design.

BOSTON: That's because you want...

YOEST: I'm saying that you should look at...

BOSTON: ... you want creationism in the classroom. Answer the question.

YOEST: I didn't say -- I didn't say that.

BOSTON: Ten thousand years or six billion?

YOEST: The only thing I have talked about is intelligent design.

BOSTON: Why are you afraid to answer the question?

YOEST: Why are you afraid of the fact that 90 percent of the American people do believe in God?

BOSTON: I know exactly what you want to do. You want to teach your book of Genesis as if it's some kind of literal, scientific truth, instead of maybe possibly metaphor or lots of other history. You want to bring it into science. It's not going to fly.

COOPER: Do you want your children -- Charmaine, do you want your children to be exposed to a belief which the scientific community has disproven? I'm not saying that they have disproven all of this. But, in certain cases, I mean, some things clearly...

YOEST: Sure.

COOPER: ... have been disproven.

YOEST: Sure.

COOPER: Things which have been clearly scientifically disproven, do you still want them taught?

YOEST: Well, absolutely. That would -- that would come in, in a history of science, in a philosophy of science.

That's why I'm saying, there's different kinds of classes. So, we're talking about kind of a broad array of things. Your kids need to know what opinions are out there and -- and -- and see what the evidence is, consider the evidence.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, for other subjects in a science class that people disagree on, but that have been disproven, the kids should be taught those as well?

YOEST: Sure.

COOPER: They should -- they should -- they should know that there are other people who disagree on...

YOEST: Absolutely.

COOPER: ... just about every scientific issue?

YOEST: I'm not afraid of my kids knowing about any controversy that is out there, as long as you put the evidence on the table and consider what -- what the debate is. That's what education is all about, is having a vigorous debate.

COOPER: Charmaine Yoest, appreciate it, and Robert Boston as well.

BOSTON: Thank you.

COOPER: Fascinating discussion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, as you have just seen, the emotions are strong in this debate, the lines clearly drawn. But some are trying to reconcile science and God.

Coming up, one of the top scientists in the world who once believed there was no God, and what made him change his mind.

Also tonight...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): Divine healing or just wishful thinking?

Speaking in tongues, falling for God's mercy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some say the age of miracles is past. I don't believe that.

COOPER: Meet a pastor who says prayer can cure sickness.

Plus, the greening of the church, the Christian environmental agenda, making some Christians red-hot mad.

REVEREND JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: It is Satan's attempt to redirect the church's primary focus.

COOPER: Politics and passion, when "What Is a Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science" continues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR ERWIN MCMANUS, MOSAIC CHURCH: It's not about how much of the bible you read. It is about allowing God to have a conversation with you, and you engage in an intimate relationship with him.

And let me challenge you. If you want to begin to become the person God created you to be, begin to have a continuous awareness of God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (on camera): The relationship between religion and science is constantly evolving. Advances in genetics and geology have led some to question whether God exists at all. Reason, they argue, trumps religion.

But one of the world's top scientists says progress doesn't threaten his faith, quite the contrary.

Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." Genesis 1:31

(END GRAPHIC)

FOREMAN (voice-over): For nearly as long as we have walked the planet, life itself has been a great puzzle, cloaked in magic, bathed in wonder.

Then suddenly, within just the past 200 years, science started to unravel the mystery, exposing the secrets of who we are.

In the last decade alone, an astounding revelation -- scientists deciphered the human genome, mapping out the tens of thousands of genes that make up the blueprint of humanity.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced.

FOREMAN: Dr. Francis Collins is the mapmaker, director of the Human Genome Project. But to him, the genome is not just a triumph of science; it is a triumph of faith.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, HUMAN GENOME PROJECT: It's also a glimpse into God's mind. FOREMAN (on camera): You were not naturally religious or faithful as a young person?

COLLINS: No. It was just not something I was exposed to.

FOREMAN (voice-over): As a child, Francis Collins was home- schooled in rural Virginia, faith never part of his family's tradition.

(on camera): Did it exist in your mind as a question?

COLLINS: Oh, I had glimmers of something, some longing outside of myself, some sense that maybe there was a God up there.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Up there, maybe, but still far from reach, especially from the ivory towers of Yale, where Collins got his Ph.D.

COLLINS: As an adult I walked very far away from faith. I went from being sort of vaguely interested but not really to becoming an atheist. As a scientist studying physical chemistry, quantum mechanics, I became convinced that everything about the universe could be described by equations.

FOREMAN (on camera): So what changed that for you?

COLLINS: Well, I changed from life plan from physical science to medicine. And when I went to medical school, the ideas about death and dying, which had been rather hypothetical, became very real.

FOREMAN (voice-over): With a scientist's precision, Collins began a philosophical exploration of the human soul.

COLLINS: All of us human beings have a sense that there is such a thing as right and there's such a thing as wrong. What a curious thing. Where does that come from?

Something written within our hearts, universally in humankind, making us different from other species, and calling us to be good and holy, pointing us as a sign post, if you will, towards something outside ourselves that is much more good and much more holy than we can imagine.

FOREMAN: For him, overwhelming evidence, God was no illusion, no spiritual crutch for the weak and unschooled. God was real.

(on camera): Did you have at some point a born again experience?

COLLINS: Yes, I did have a moment where I became a believer, and after many months of struggling with whether to make that leap on a beautiful fall day, hiking in the northwest, with my mind a little more clear than usual because there were not the usual distractions.

I felt I could no longer resist, and I became a believer that day, in the sunshine, in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains.

FOREMAN (voice-over): For much of the past century, science and religion have clashed here in America. The most fierce battle, the Scopes monkey trial, when creationism squared off against evolution and evolution won.

COLLINS (singing): Evolution, it's causing such a lot of grief. Evolution, is it compatible with belief?

FOREMAN: For Francis Collins, an avowed evolutionist, each scientific advance is further confirmation of his faith.

COLLINS: The fact of the matter is the universe began about 13.7 billion years ago in this incredible singularity of energy in the tiniest imaginable point, the entire universe contained at that moment. How does that get started? We have not observed energy and matter to create themselves.

FOREMAN (on camera): You're saying that's one of those fundamental questions that science doesn't seem designed to answer.

COLLINS: It does force you to ask the question, how could something like the universe have had a beginning without having a creator and a creator who's outside of the universe involved in that event? And that sounds like God.

FOREMAN: Science, he says, very simply, should not be seen as a threat to Christianity.

COLLINS: To actually insist, therefore, that God might be threatened by what science is teaching us, it seems to me, that requires a lot less faith than one should have.

If God is the author of all this and he's given us the chance to discover the awesome nature of his creation, I kind of think he expects us to follow that lead.

FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Rockville, Maryland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Still to come on "What is a Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science," it is a widely held Christian belief that prayer can heal the sick. But does science back that up?

Also ahead tonight, an Evangelical under fire for what seemed to be a simple message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to look at the sky differently and every plant and every tree. God made them for you to take care of them.

COOPER (voice-over): So why are he and others facing a backlash from some big names in American Christianity? Science, faith and politics in a collision course.

Plus, the mysteries of Biblical miracles. The parting of the Red Sea. Jesus walking on water. How science may offer an explanation when "What is a Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science" continues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDINAL SEAN P. O'MALLEY, BOSTON: Jesus, since his first sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth, has presented himself as the merciful face of the Father, sent to announce the good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to captives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (on camera): In times of illness, chances are you have turned to prayer for yourself or a family member or a friend.

It's the most common complement to mainstream medicine now facing acupuncture and herbs and other alternative remedies. In fact, a Pugh research poll shows that 62 percent of Pentecostals and nearly 30 percent of all Americans say they've witnessed divine healing.

But is there a danger in believing in the power of prayer?

CNN's Gary Tuchman investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

"In my name...they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." Mark 16:17-18.

(END GRAPHIC)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you come to this Pentecostal church in Pensacola, Florida, you'll be told the seemingly impossible is indeed possible.

PASTOR EVON HORTON, BROWNSVILLE ASSEMBLY OF GOD: Hallelujah, hallelujah. Some say the age of miracles has passed. I don't believe that. I believe God is still doing miracles today. Do you? It is true.

TUCHMAN: At first glance, Pastor Evon Horton seems to be a fairly mellow guy.

HORTON: When God moves, just be ready to receive.

TUCHMAN: But that's before he transforms.

HORTON: That's my brother, right now, Lord. You know his life, you know his heart. Fill him now, Lord! Fill him now. Right now!

TUCHMAN: Into a spiritual healer.

Pastor Horton says the Lord is working miracles in his church.

HORTON: If you need a miracle in your life, the river is flowing.

TUCHMAN: When he lays hands on worshipers, the pastor says he is helping to facilitate acts of God.

It's kind of startling, to be frank, when you see people shake and fall down. Isn't it?

HORTON: Yes. It is. It is to me. Yes, I'm still amazed every time it happens. I go, my goodness this is amazing to me.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Is that the power of God that makes them fall down?

HORTON: I believe it's their -- it's their reaction to the power of God in their physical bodies.

TUCHMAN: Do you ever worry that they'll get hurt when they fall down?

HORTON: That's why we have catchers.

TUCHMAN: Is that what you call them?

HORTON: That's what we call them. Yes, they're catchers.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Dale Goenner says divine healing cured the extreme pain in her hands.

DALE GOENNER, WORSHIPER: You sense and feel the power of God flowing through you.

TUCHMAN: Renee Wilson (ph) says her vertigo disappeared.

RENEE WILSON (ph), WORSHIPER: God healed me, and it's gone. Absolutely gone.

HORTON: God will do whatever he can.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Pastor Horton says cancers have been cured, bad heart conditions have gone away.

You know, you hear a lot of tales about things like that happening that we can't see. But for example, could prayer grow back a missing arm or a missing leg, things you can see?

HORTON: Well, I don't know if prayer can, but God can do anything.

TUCHMAN: But you've never seen that happen before?

HORTON: I have not seen it. I believe God can raise the dead. I've never seen that yet, either, so, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. TUCHMAN (voice-over): Pentecostal and charismatic churches emphasize healing and speaking in tongues. And they're not on the fringe. In fact, they're part of one of the fastest growing segments of world Christianity, with an estimated 500 million global followers.

This church emphasizes its belief in doctor's care too, that medicine is also a gift from God. But that doesn't alleviate the concern the scientific community has about this.

DR. RICHARD SLOAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: There are things in medicine that we just don't understand. Nobody would dispute that. But there's no systematic evidence whatsoever to support that this kind of religious procedure, ceremony, has any impact on health.

TUCHMAN: But they disagree here. Although with this acknowledgment.

HORTON: I don't understand why some are healed and why some aren't. But then I have a choice. Am I going to believe God still heals or not?

TUCHMAN (on camera): I'm sure the people who aren't healed wouldn't understand why not me? What do you say to them?

HORTON: Keep praying, keep believing, do everything you can.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This couple keeps praying and believing. He's been in a wheelchair for almost 30 years after a mountain climbing accident.

BEVERLY MAYO, WORSHIPER: I would like to know why it hasn't come yet, but every day I've got to wake up and believe it's today.

TUCHMAN: There is no shortage of faith here, even though it comes with no guarantees.

HORTON: Amen. Can we honor the Lord. Hallelujah.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Pensacola, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's not just Pentecostals, across Christianity, many believe faith can help heal the sick. The question is, what does science says about it? Joining us, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta.

What about it? In this area where does the medical community stand?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, first of all, I find this really fascinating. This whole intersection, if you will, between faith and science.

But there have been some studies on this as well. To actually get some raw data on this, I mean, you talk about what faith and what prayer, and whether it's your own or whether someone is praying for you, really does for somebody with regards to cancer, for example. There's been no data to suggest that it actually decreases the likelihood of getting cancer or decreases the likelihood of a recurrence. It may help with the pain associated with cancer and associated with some diseases. Obviously, that's much more of a subjective thing.

What's even more fascinating, Anderson, is something known as distant prayer, intercessory prayer, where people are being prayed for, but they don't even know that they're being prayed for. Could there be something more cosmic here?

And obviously, this is controversial. But could there be something more cosmic where people actually being prayed for improve?

There's a huge study going on right now, a multi-million dollar study. Cardiologists are looking into this, doctors are looking onto this. The cynics are already saying absolute nonsense. But could there be something else there? No data yet, but a lot of people are curious about it.

COOPER: There are other studies that are showing that people who pray regularly are actually healthier than those who don't. What does that tell you?

GUPTA: I think that they are also more likely to have less anxiety, less likely to have depression, less likely to abuse substances. What other characteristics about these people who are faithful, who pray, do they also share? And these are the things that are associated with better health, better health practices as well.

We also know, for example, that people who go to church or go to some place of worship regularly, at least once a week, 43 percent of them say that they are very happy. Whereas people who don't, only about 26 percent of them say that they're very happy.

So could it be more an interplay of attitude and faith as opposed to the faith itself causing better health?

COOPER: Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, from faith and your health to faith and the environment. The greening of the church. The push to protect God's creation facing some backlash from Christian leaders when "What is a Christian" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Erica Hill from "HEADLINE NEWS." Our 360 special, "What is a Christian," continues in a moment.

But first, here's your 360 news and business bulletin.

The military says last month U.S. troops in Iraq saw a spike in attacks involving bombs that can penetrate U.S. armored vehicles. The military claims the bombs, called EFPs, are manufactured in Iran and are taken into Iraq by groups believed to be linked to Iran's revolutionary guards. The U.S. has stopped short, though, of saying the Iranian government is behind the shipment.

President Bush, today making a stop in Greensburg, Kansas, that town wiped out by a tornado Friday night. The president says his mission: to lift the people's spirits. Mr. Bush has already ordered federal aid for the region.

After a day of rest, the Dow back to breaking records. Stocks rose on the heels of a Federal Reserve decision to keep interest rates steady. The Dow gained 53 points to close today at 13362. Both the NASDAQ and the S&P also finished on the upside.

That's a look at your 360 news and business bulletin.

"What is a Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Creation is very ordered. Then God said, then God said, then God said. God has a plan. You got to stick with the plan, you got to understand the plan. And when you understand why He made the environment, it kind of shocks you, because you never look at the sky the same way again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (on camera): Have you heard the term creation care? Some top evangelicals committing themselves to protecting the planet. But there's a backlash underway. And one of the most well-known Christian leaders is casting environmentalism as a false gospel.

CNN's David Mattingly reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Genesis 2:15

(END GRAPHIC)

REVEREND JOEL HUNTER, NORTHLAND CHURCH: Oh look, look at this. Noah's Ark.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reverend Joel Hunter was a rising star among American evangelicals -- so well thought of that he was once picked to lead the influential Christian Coalition.

But Hunter suddenly found himself on the outs with powerful leaders of the religious right when he went public with his seemingly simple message.

HUNTER: I want you to look at the sky differently and every plant and every tree. God made them for you. Take care of them.

MATTINGLY (on camera): What exactly did you do that was so offensive?

HUNTER: This is not all about global warming. This is about who speaks for evangelical Christianity.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): To many, Hunter has become the face of a new green Christian movement, following what he believes is a biblical mandate to protect the environment. He appeared in this television ad challenging evangelicals to act on the threat of global warming.

HUNTER: The good news is that with God's help, we can stop global warming for our kids, our world and for our Lord.

MATTINGLY: One national poll reveals more than two-thirds of evangelicals believe the earth is getting hotter, but highly placed critics of the global warming initiative are taking a very hard line, calling the appeal for action a threat to unity.

REVEREND JERRY FALLWELL: That's what it's all about, politics. The fact is, it's all phony bologna.

MATTINGLY: Reverend Jerry Fallwell took to the pulpit, calling global warming a myth, part of a natural cycle, and calling church leaders who believe otherwise alarmist and naive.

FALLWELL: It is Satan's attempt to redirect the church's primary focus.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Are you doing the work of Satan?

HUNTER: I hope not. I hope we're on exactly the opposite sides.

MATTINGLY: Opponents believe this greening of the church chips away at an old, but successful agenda. One that for years has kept evangelical voters narrowly focused on issues like school prayer, gay marriage and abortion. It's also kept them tied to the political party that supports their views.

RICHARD CIZIK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICALS: There are people who have an ideological litmus test that you have to meet as a Christian, which is to vote Republican. And that's the way they think.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Prominent Christian conservatives unsuccessfully demanded Richard Cizik be fired as Washington lobbyist of the National Association of Evangelicals for his support of the global warming campaign. They argued the issue should be addressed scientifically and not theologically.

(on camera): How did your congregation respond?

HUNTER: There are -- many people are loving this. We have a few people that are really kind of, I didn't come to church to get lectured on how I ought to treat the earth and so on and so forth.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The outcome of the struggle for the hearts and minds of the faithful is not clear cut. And pastors like Joel Hunter appear to be in the minority.

According to a study by the Pugh forum, compared to other Christians, white evangelicals are still less likely to believe that rising earth temperatures are the result of human activity.

David Mattingly, CNN, Longwood Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Up next, miracles under the microscope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): Can science explain the bible?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miracles don't prove the faith, there are invitations to faith.

COOPER: But what about Noah's Ark and the parting of the Red Sea? Is there a scientific basis for those Biblical stories, when "What is a Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science" continues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever the Lord said he will do, he will do it. And He might not do it when you want it done. God might not shape it as you want it shaped, but rest assured that God will do what God said he would do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Welcome back to "What is a Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science."

It's the greatest story told, taken as faith by millions. But some are looking for concrete proof of the miracles in the bible, answers to some of the most baffling mysteries of all time.

CNN's Tom Foreman investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

"Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight." Isaiah 5:21

(END GRAPHIC)

FOREMAN (voice-over): The idea that God touches the earth and makes miracles is a cornerstone belief for many Christians.

JOHN CAVADINI, THEOLOGY PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME: I believe in miracles.

FOREMAN: John Cavadini, a theology professor at Notre Dame, teaches about miracles and says they can't be proven or disproven by anyone.

CAVADINI: Because to believe that something is a miracle is to believe that it was a special act of God. And there's nothing that can prove that it was or wasn't a special act of God, nothing that you can observe.

FOREMAN: Still, scientists try.

Take the parting of the Red Sea, which allowed Moses to escape the Egyptians. The bible says the Lord drove the sea back with his strong east wind and turned it into dry land.

Researchers with the American Meteorological Society say indeed intense wind or an earthquake could cause shallow water in that region to recede dramatically and then rush back in, just like the bible says.

What about walking on water? Some researchers say it happens all the time. Although the Sea of Galilee is not known to freeze, they say once a century or so, patches of ice appear and maybe Jesus strolled on these.

(on camera): All this can be a slippery slope. Showing how something might be done does not prove it was done that way. And even the scientists don't always agree with each other.

(voice-over): Archaeologists have sought biblical sites all over the globe. They've suggested that the ark that held the Ten Commandments might be in Ethiopia or Egypt or Israel.

Jesus's tomb has been found in the Israeli capital, Jerusalem, not once but three different times in different places, not to mention those researchers who think it may be in Kashmir or even Japan.

And Noah's ark? Various sources say that great ship of biblical lure came to rest in Turkey or Egypt or Iran.

So John Cavadini says it again.

CAVADINI: You can't prove that that was a miracle. You can't disprove that that was a miracle. Miracles don't prove the faith. They're invitations to faith.

FOREMAN: After all, if you've got proof, it's not really faith at all.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, across generations, research and religion have done battle in courtrooms and classrooms and of course in churches. But as science marches on, faith remains strong. And maybe they're not on such different ends of the spectrum after all.

Tonight we hope you've gained some insight. Thanks for watching "What is a Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science."

I'm Anderson Cooper.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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