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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Iran Announces Intention to Release British Captives; God, Faith, and Hard Science

Aired April 04, 2007 - 22:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone. I'm John Roberts.
Tonight: some eternal questions about how we got here and how the universe came to be. Science has one view, the Bible another. In just a few minutes, Anderson is along with the 360 special report on how the two fit together. It's called "What Is a Christian? God, Faith, and Hard Science."

Also tonight, with the number of poisoned pets growing steadily, 360 travels halfway around the world for answers from the maker of a toxic ingredient.

We begin, though, with three words: They're heading home.

Fifteen British sailors and marines nabbed 13 days ago in the Persian Gulf leaving Tehran in the morning. Today, wearing Iranian suits, they met with Iran's president, who calls their release a -- quote -- "gift to the British people," handshakes all around, and more questionable British confessions.


LIEUTENANT FELIX CARMAN, BRITISH ROYAL NAVY OFFICER: To the Iranian people, I can understand why you were insulted by our apparent intrusion into your waters. I would like to say that no harm was meant to the Iranian people or its territories whatsoever, and that I hope that this experience will help to build the relationship between our countries."


ROBERTS: Meantime, gratitude from Britain's prime minister, who credited patient diplomacy and firm resolve for their release.

Neither side admits to backing down. Each denies any quid pro quo. But there are big questions on that score and a lot that we still don't know.

CNN's chief correspondent, Christiane Amanpour has working her sources. She joins us now from London.

Christiane, as you understand it, what was the key to resolving this dispute?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, quiet diplomacy. Perhaps even some of the allies in the region helped.

The Syrian foreign minister told publicly that they had exerted quiet diplomacy to encourage both sides to negotiate. We don't know the full details of that.

But it's clear that Britain got what it wanted, which was the sailors back. And perhaps the Iranian president was able to score a vote for magnanimity in a publicly broadcast, globally televised news conference by saying he pardoned and amnestied them. But he did not get the apology that Iran had been demanding from Britain, although the Iranians continue to insist that those Britons had in fact strayed into their water.

ROBERTS: Christiane, earlier tonight, I asked John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations, about all of this. Specifically, I asked him if this proves that diplomacy was the right way to approach Iran.

Listen to what he said.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Ahmadinejad emerges as a win-win for him here. He had a victory by taking the hostages. And now he has another victory by what is effectively a unilateral decision to give them back to the British as an Easter present.

I think that the Iranians had really learned the answer to the question they posed by taking the hostages in the first place: Would there be a stiff response from Britain? And the answer to that was no.


ROBERTS: Essentially, Christiane, Bolton saying that he believes that Britain went about this in absolutely the wrong way.

How do people in Britain see that? Do they agree?

AMANPOUR: Well, most people have been asking, what was the alternative way? War? I mean, what was the alternative way has been really a big question being asked in Britain. Nobody has come down on the side of anything other than diplomacy to resolve this issue.

There wasn't a situation that was going to -- no side wanted to bring this to a confrontational head. And the issue really is whether diplomacy and engagement works. And, certainly, in this case, it seems to have worked, with the British saying that they -- as you heard Tony Blair saying that we did not negotiate, but we did pursue quiet and resolute diplomacy.

ROBERTS: Do you think, Christiane, there's anything to Bolton's claim that this is all about Iran's nuclear program, that they wanted to provoke the West, they wanted to see what kind of a response that that would bring, just in case they wanted to go ahead with another provocation?

AMANPOUR: Well, from what we can gather from talking to Iranian sources, this was more about they strongly believed that they were being provoked by the British.

You know, that line there is quite a sort of a troubled line there. Now, the British claim and maintain that they did not go over. But you know they did in 2004. And the Iranians have claimed that they come very close and into their waters frequently.

And, so, from that point of view, and even if that is not the case, the Iranians seem to be pushing back. What they're saying is: You're bringing sanctions against us. You won't let us pursue our legal right to a nuclear program. You're capturing our operatives in Iraq, our diplomats, they say. And now you're heading close to our lines in the Gulf waters there.

So, it seemed that actually what they were doing was sort of pushing back.

ROBERTS: So, do you think, though, that this was a victory for Ahmadinejad? And could this embolden Iran as it goes ahead, in the face of all of this pressure from the West, and, indeed, from the United Nations Security Council, to shut down that nuclear program?

AMANPOUR: Well, the thing is, Iran has not shown anything other than a resolute desire to go ahead. You might say it's already emboldened in the pursuit of its nuclear program, which it insists is a peaceful nuclear program.

Neither sanctions, nor years of pressure from the West, the United States and Britain, have caused it to back down on its nuclear program. Now, in terms of this particular issue, again, is it a victory for President Ahmadinejad? Well, not many people think that President Ahmadinejad was instrumental in actually arresting them or capturing those marines. Most people think it's something that happened right there out on the Gulf waters by the Revolutionary Guard.

And is it a victory for him? I'm sure, in those corners of the world where he's very much appreciated, people will appreciate what he did publicly, and consider it, you know, quite a dramatic flourish to have released them, and, of course, right ahead of Easter, which he made a point of saying.

ROBERTS: Every time he stands up to the West, he seems to gain points.

Christiane, thanks very much. Do us a favor. Come back again next hour. We want to talk to you about Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria. So, we will see you then.

Some breaking news to bring you now from the Pentagon: The Army says it is investigating the possibility that two soldiers killed in Iraq in February were victims of friendly fire. Initial reports were that Specialists Alan McPeek and Private Matthew Zeimer died in action.

Now to China and its link to contaminated pet food. In your e- mails, you have asked us to stay on top of this story. And we're going to for you.

The suspect ingredient in the tainted pet food was traced back to a company in China. But the company says, it's not to blame.

We sent our cameras to keep it out.

CNN's Joe Johns is "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The pet food investigation starts its long path on the other side of the world at a rundown warehouse in China, where employees started covering up what appeared to be sacks of grain when our cameras arrived.

The Food and Drug Administration has ordered the seizure of wheat gluten entering the U.S. that comes from the company inside the warehouse, Xuzhou Anying Biological. Its wheat gluten was found to be contaminated with the chemical melamine, which testing has suggested is toxic to pets.

But the company is claiming it's only a middleman and not the source of the problem. The company said it was astonished by what it called rumors from the United States. Xuzhou Anying has also said it did not export directly to the U.S., that it sold the product to another Chinese company, which probably exported it.

This woman at the warehouse told CNN, "We want to clear our name."

Meanwhile, back in the United States, Menu Foods, manufacturer of nearly 100 brands that it recalled, is being sued by angry pet owners who unknowingly gave their animals the suspect food.

DAWN MAJERCZYK, PET OWNER: He died six days after I fed him. All his organs shut down.

BEN DELONG, PET OWNER: She would get up, walk five or 10 feet, kind of in a diagonal motion, and then just lay down and groan. And I knew it was time to euthanize the cat.

JOHNS (on camera): The Chicago lawsuit that held that news conference is looking for more plaintiffs. It said 200 people have signed on to the class-action lawsuit so far. It also wants a court to keep Menu from destroying the recalled food, claiming it's evidence.

(voice-over): According to the University of Guelph, here's what appears to be part of the scientific evidence. These are pictures of crystals found in the urine of cats believed to have been affected by the toxin. Toxicologists think the crystals are formed by melamine, which is a plastic derivative used as fertilizer. The question in the laboratory is whether the crystals are causing the kidney failure that is killing the pets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It ends up in the kidneys and forms crystals. And there can be large amount of crystals in the kidney. Right now, pathologists are looking very carefully at the kidneys of cats to try and see if they can tell exactly what is happening.

JOHNS: As far as sick and dying pets, the count continues. FDA said it had 10,000 complaints, though it has registered only 14 deaths.

However,, a pet owner Web site, claims it has received reports of more than 3,000 suspected deaths.

But the worst may be over. At this animal hospital in New York, the veterinarian was reporting no new cases.

DR. LOUISE MURRAY, BERGH MEMORIAL ANIMAL HOSPITAL: So, we did start seeing cases of kidney failure in cats several weeks ago, when the recall began. We treated the cats aggressively with intravenous fluids in our intensive care unit. And we're lucky, because our cats have all made it home.

JOHNS: And the ASPCA has said the number of calls it has been getting has dropped off substantially.

But the fallout may be just beginning. A Senate hearing could come next week. And the FDA investigation isn't over yet.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


ROBERTS: And we will stay on top of this story for you.

A list of the 42 cat food and 53 dog food products involved in the Menu Foods recall is online at --

And next on "A.C. 360": a new look at faith.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Dinosaurs and people living together in the Garden of Eden -- the best minds in science talking religion.

PAM AMLUNG, CHRISTIAN HOMESCHOOLER: How could all of this, what we see, possibly have come from nothing?

ROBERTS: Darwin and God, science and religion, two roads, are they coming together?

"What Is a Christian? God, Faith, and Hard Science" -- where do you fit? A 360 special report -- next.



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 has crossed 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 is 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 have 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.


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.

HAM: 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 homeschoolers 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.



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."


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.


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?

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 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, VICE PRESIDENT FOR COMMUNICATIONS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, you know, mainstream science, throughout history, has been challenged by questions. And that's how we make advances in science, is 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 public 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.


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 has 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?


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


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

BOSTON: Age of the Earth, answer the question.


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?


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.


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.


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: 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.



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.


COOPER: 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 say progress doesn't threaten his faith, quite the contrary.

Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.


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 most important, most wondrous map ever produced.

FOREMAN: Dr. Frances Collins is the map maker, 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. FRANCES 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, Frances 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: 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 apart from faith. I went from being sort of vaguely interested but not really to becoming as a scientist considering 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 did 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, where 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 Frances 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 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 to 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.


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.


DR. JOEL HUNTER, NORTHPOINT CHURCH: I want you to look at the sky differently and every plant and every tree. God made them for you to take care of.

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.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus, since his first sermon in the synagogue at 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.


COOPER: In times of illness, chances are you have turned to prayer for yourself or a family member or friend. It's the most common complement to mainstream medicine, outpacing acupuncture and herbs and other alternative remedies.

In fact, a Pew Research poll showed 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.


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



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Brownsville.

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


TUCHMAN: ... is indeed possible.


PASTOR EVON HORTON, BROWNSVILLE ASSEMBLY OF GOD: Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Some say the age of miracles is 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: Touch my brother right now, Lord. Right now. You know his life. You know his heart. Fill him now, Lord. Fill him now, right now.

TUCHMAN: ... into a spiritual healer.


TUCHMAN: 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 worshippers, the pastor says he is helping to facilitate acts of God.

(on camera) It's kind of startling when -- to be frank, when you see people shake and fall down, isn't it?

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

TUCHMAN: Is that the power of God that makes them fall down?

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

TUCHMAN: Do you ever worry that people will 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 Gunner (ph) says divine healing cured the extreme pain in her hands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You sense and feel the power of God through his hands.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God healed me. And it's gone. Absolutely gone.

HORTON: God will do whatever he can.

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

(on camera) 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: I don't know if prayer can, but God can do anything.

TUCHMAN: But you've never seen that happening?

HORTON: I haven't 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 emphasizing 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 a belief in doctors' 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 or ceremony has any impact on health.

TUCHMAN: But they disagree here, although with this acknowledgement.

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

TUCHMAN (on camera): I'm sure that people who aren't healed want to 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 he's been in a wheelchair for almost 30 years after a mountain climbing accident.

BEVERLY MAYO, WORSHIPPER: 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 was 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.

HORTON: Praise the Lord.


COOPER: It's not just Pentecostals. Across Christianity, many believe faith can help heal the sick. The question is what does science say about it?

Joining us, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta.

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

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, I find this really fascinating. I mean, this whole intersection, if you will, between faith and science.

But there have been some studies on this, as well, to actually give some raw data on this. And you talk about what's faith and what's prayer, whether it's your own or whether someone's 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, it 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 into this.

The cynics are already saying absolute nonsense. But could there be something else there? No data yet, but a lot of people curious about it.

COOPER: And there are other studies that have shown 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.

COOPER: 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.



HUNTER: Creation is very ordered. Then God said, then God said, then God said. God has a plan. You have to stick with the plan. You've 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: 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.


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

HUNTER: Oh, look. Look at this. Noah's ark.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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 this 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 Christian 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.

REV. JERRY FALWELL, EVANGELICAL LEADER: That's what it's all about, politics. The fact is, it's all phony-baloney.

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

FALWELL: 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 side.

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 for Evangelicals for his support of the global warming campaign. They argued the issues 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 hear -- come to church to get lectured on how I ought to treat the earth," and so on and so forth.

Kapti (ph), is that how you pronounce that?

MATTINGLY: The outcome of the struggle for the hearts and minds of the faithful is not clear cut. Pastors like Joel Hunter appear to be in the minority. According to a study by the Pew 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.


COOPER: Up next, miracles under the microscope.


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

JOHN CAVADINI, UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME: Miracles don't prove the faith. They're invitations to faith.

COOPER: 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.




REV. DR. THOMAS D. JOHNSON SR., CANAAN BAPTIST CHURCH: Whatever the Lord said he would do, that he will do. 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.


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

It's the greatest story ever 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.


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

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

CAVADINI: 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.

CHARLTON HESTON, ACTOR: Behold his mighty hand.

FOREMAN: Take the parting of the Red Sea, which allowed Moses to escape the Egyptians. The Bible says the Lord drove the sea back with a 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) Archeologists have sought biblical sites all over the globe. They suggested that the ark that held the Ten Commandments might be in Ethiopia, or Egypt or Israel.

Jesus' tomb has been found in the Israeli capitol of 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 lore 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.


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 gained some insight. Thanks for watching "What is a Christian: God, Faith and Hard Science". I'm Anderson Cooper.