When it comes to evolution, scientists tell us that we mammals started out small and only got to be human (and human-sized) after the dinosaurs died out. And diseases have their own evolution: How did HIV (and the AIDS it leads to) migrate from monkeys to men? The reason that mammals stayed small (most of them were the size of today’s rats) during the dinosaur days was because most of the dinosaurs were herbivores (vegetarians), so they ate most of the plants that existed in that time.

In the November 30 edition of the New York Times, Sindyan Bhando quotes paleontologist Jessica Theodor as saying, "Basically what happened was the biggest dinosaurs were the herbivores, and when you remove the biggest herbivores there’s nobody eating those plant resources. It basically left open space for mammals. Mammals have higher metabolic rates, and we think they are kind of capped at a lower size. It takes more plant material to sustain a higher metabolic rate, so there isn’t enough food to grow bigger."

And while some of those mammals were meat-eaters, even the ones that were not got bigger and bigger until they eventually became the ancestors of today’s elephants. Their size topped out about 34 million years ago, with the rhinoceros-like Indricotherium, which tipped the scales at 40,000 pounds. Even today, the largest land-based mammals–including rhinos and hippos–are vegetarians, just like the dinosaurs.

The HIV-like virus that infects monkeys is thousands of years older than previously thought. Virologist Preston Marx says, "Something happened in the 20th century to change this relatively benign monkey virus into something that was much more potent and could start the epidemic. We don’t know what that flashpoint was, but there had to be one." Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), which is the ancestor to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), is between 32,000 and 75,000 years old and may even be more than a million years old, according to genetic analysis of unique SIV strains found in monkeys on Bioko, an island off the coast of Africa.

"The biology and geography of SIV is such that it goes from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean all the way to the tip of Africa. It would take many, many thousands of years to spread that far and couldn’t have happened in a couple of hundred years," says Marx. If humans have been exposed to SIV-infected monkeys for thousands of years, why did the HIV epidemic only begin in the 20th century? If scientists find the answer to this puzzle, you can be sure we’ll let you know.

In Whitley’s Room, just for subscribers, there are now several short (15 min.) discussions by Whitley Strieber on bible verses. The first covers the meaning of the phrase "because man goeth to his long home" in Ecclesiastes 12:5. It explains this enigmatic phrase in a startling and deeply moving way. The second in the series covers John 13: 34: "Love one another." When Whitley begins talking about what the imposition of doctrine did at the Council of Nicea, this quickly becomes one of the most powerful discussions on any biblical passage you are going to hear.

These brief fifteen minutes have the potential to free us from thousands of years of unacknowledged bondage to doctrine, and bring vivid new life to the experience of Jesus (just in time for Christmas). The third is on the opening lines of Genesis (you’ve never heard an interpretation like THIS before)! In another, Whitley Strieber talks about how the Romans saw Jesus, and uses the gospels and his deep knowledge of Roman history to explain what Jesus meant to them and why they executed him, and why they did it in the precise way that they did. And the latest is on the REAL meaning of the "marriage feast at Cana."

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