NTS LogoSkeptical News for 13 March 2001

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Alert from the National Center for Science Education

We at NCSE want our members and supporters in Michigan to know about House Bill 4382 in your state legislature. This bill was recently introduced, and has been referred to the House Education Committee. It proposes changes in curriculum content standards for science education to treat evolution as "an unproven theory" and to require time in public schools for "the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a creator." (See text at end of this message)

Of course, there is no scientific basis for this contention, and no such scientific alternative to evolution to be taught. Similarly anti-evolutionary bills have been introduced in the last month into state legislatures in Montana, Georgia, and Washington. The Montana and Georgia bills have been killed in committee, while the Washington one is still pending. We hope that our members in Michigan will take a look at this legislation, and contact their representatives with their opinions. The full text of the bill is available at:

http://198.109.122.10/txt/house.bills.intro/2001-2002/4382hhhh.htm

Other information about the state legislature is available at: http://michiganlegislature.org/

If you need further information or want to discuss this matter, please contact me at NCSE.

Thanks very much,

Eric Meikle
--
W. Eric Meikle, Ph.D.
Outreach Coordinator
National Center for Science Education
420 40th St., Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510 601-7203
510 601-7204 (fax)
800 290-6006 www.ncseweb.org

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Note new address and phone
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The most relevant section of HB 4382 reads as follows:

(10) AS SOON AS PRACTICABLE AFTER THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS SUBSECTION, THE STATE BOARD SHALL REVISE THE RECOMMENDED MODEL CORE ACADEMIC CURRICULUM CONTENT STANDARDS UNDER SUBSECTION (2) AS FOLLOWS:

(A) IN THE SCIENCE STANDARDS, ALL REFERENCES TO "EVOLUTION" AND "HOW SPECIES CHANGE THROUGH TIME" SHALL BE MODIFIED TO INDICATE THAT THIS IS AN UNPROVEN THEORY BY ADDING THE PHRASE "ALL STUDENTS WILL EXPLAIN THE COMPETING THEORIES OF EVOLUTION AND NATURAL SELECTION BASED ON RANDOM MUTATION AND THE THEORY THAT LIFE IS THE RESULT OF THE PURPOSEFUL, INTELLIGENT DESIGN OF A CREATOR.".
(B) IN THE SCIENCE STANDARDS FOR MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL, ALL REFERENCES TO "EVOLUTION" AND "NATURAL SELECTION" SHALL BE MODIFIED TO INDICATE THAT THESE ARE UNPROVEN THEORIES BY ADDING THE PHRASE "DESCRIBE HOW LIFE MAY BE THE RESULT OF THE PURPOSEFUL, INTELLIGENT DESIGN OF A CREATOR.".
(C) IN THE SCIENCE STANDARDS FOR MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL, ALL REFERENCES TO "EVOLUTION" AND "NATURAL SELECTION" SHALL BE MODIFIED TO INDICATE THAT THESE ARE UNPROVEN THEORIES BY ADDING THE PHRASE "EXPLAIN THE COMPETING THEORIES OF EVOLUTION AND NATURAL SELECTION BASED ON RANDOM MUTATION AND THE THEORY THAT LIFE IS THE RESULT OF THE PURPOSEFUL, INTELLIGENT DESIGN OF A CREATOR.".

Believe it ... or not?

From The Dallas Morning News at
http://www.dallasnews.com/sun_reader/308108_BELIEFS_11SUN..html

Some scientists say people cling to their convictions
instinctively, ignoring contrary evidence

03/11/2001

By Ira J. Hadnot / The Dallas Morning News

The tongue is not the only part of the body that defends beliefs.

In much the same way that soldier ants instinctively surround unwanted intruders in the nest, some scientists argue, the mind shields human beliefs from outside attacks.

See also
http://www.andrewnewberg.com
http://www.ctns.org
http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Lind_bel.htm


Sunday, March 11, 2001

The March mini-AIR is on-line here!

Inherited photo may show the image of an alien craft

From the Union Leader at: http://www.theunionleader.com/articles_show.html?article=12857

By JANINE GILBERTSON

Union Leader Correspondent

WINDHAM When his grandfather died in 1988, Claude Riendeau of Windham inherited something out of this world.

Wilfred Stringer bequeathed Riendeau his 1977 photograph of what he believed was a spaceship he captured on film near his hometown, the small Canadian town of Chartierville, just across the border from Pittsburg.

Riendeau, who copyrighted the photo, recently launched a Web site (www.galaxygateproducts.com) to sell T-shirts, posters and postcards bearing the extraterrestrial image.

"The orders are coming in," Riendeau said. "We've had orders from Canada, Mexico and as far away as Russia. We also got an order request from the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico."

According to Riendeau, his grandfather was driving near Chartierville's famed "Magnetic Hill" one September evening when he heard a heavy wind blowing. He then claims to have seen a glowing half-orb descend silently and land a few hundred yards in front of him. Stringer had his camera in the car and snapped a picture.

Riendeau said it is not considered unusual to have such an encounter in that area.

"My cousins and I used to see things up there all the time," he said. "People all over Chartierville claim to have seen UFOs."

When the picture was left to him, Riendeau knew he had to do something with it.

"I decided that if it was a good picture, I would start the copyright and trademark process and do something with the picture," he said.

He took the photograph to a 1996 Mutual UFO Network gathering in Portsmouth to hear what the experts had to say about the authenticity of the image.

Riendeau said Dr. Richard Haines of NASA's Ames Research Center called it "a very interesting photo." UFO expert Stanton Friedman, a UFO researcher for more than 20 years, also examined the picture. Riendeau said that Friedman called it "a great photo."

Another noted UFO researcher, Antonio Huewnes, told Riendeau he thought it was probably one of the finest examples he's ever seen of a UFO photo. While at the gathering, Riendeau also made contact with the inspiration for the movie "Fire in the Sky," Travis Walton.

Riendeau took his faded photograph to a Boston graphics firm so the image could be enhanced and made into a four-color process that could be printed on T-shirts.

Riendeau said the company tried to retain rights to the image that they produced from the original photo.

Possessed peacock returns home

From Ananova at

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_236199.html?menu=

A peacock believed to be possessed with the soul of a Cambodian woman has been taken in by her family after they found it sitting on her grave.

The woman reportedly told her father a week before she died that her human life was coming to an end, but she would soon return as a bird.

Three days after the funeral, her father returned home to find the bird on his daughter's grave. It now sleeps in her bed.

Um Sum, who lives in Kompong Chhnang province, said he asked the bird to prove it was carrying the soul of his 28-year-old daughter Sokhom by relaxing on the bed where she used to sleep.

The possessed peacock is also attracting the attention of other villagers.

Hundreds of people visit it each day to offer it holy water in the hope it will heal them, reports Buddhist newspaper Koh Santepheap.

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_234417.html?menu=

'Magician' claims don't fool police

An Iranian "magician" who told crowds he could transform small creatures into elephants has been arrested.

The man also claimed he could make their cash grow by a million times, police in the United Arab Emirates allege.

He was arrested on suspicion of fraud after a plain clothes policeman set up a trap and offered the man cash to free him from a spell.

Gulf News reports that officers found he was carrying a notebook containing strange, unexplained writings.

From ananova at

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_233483.html?menu=

Preacher performs exorcism on student's suit

A university student says a preacher performed an exorcism on a haunted suit he bought for job interviews.

Dave Underhill, of Coventry, believes the grey two-piece which cost 15 at a charity shop was possessed by a spirit.

The 20-year-old says when he wore the jacket he felt cold. But when he took it off and put it away, the jacket moved along his wardrobe rail and footsteps sounded outside his bedroom door.

He says he called in clairvoyant Maurice Dunbar after waking to find the suit had left his wardrobe and was strewn across his floor.

But when Mr Dunbar said the Oxfam suit was haunted by a dead owner and advised him to throw it away, Mr Underhill took it to a Pentecostal church meeting.

The Sun reports the spirit disappeared after a minister and congregation laid hands on the suit.

Mr Underhill said: "After prayers and laying-on of hands the suit seemed to change. Now I'm happy wearing it and hope it's a lucky suit that helps me get a job."

The student added: "My pals think the whole thing is a big hoot and have nicknamed me Casper. But it was a bit like living in a horror movie." From the Washington Post at

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/20010310/aponline103256_000.htm

Temple alterations could increase number of male babies

From Ananova at

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_236277.html

A feng shui master says a Malaysian temple should be altered if members want more male children.

The expert says an obstruction in front of the Penang temple is to blame for members having more girls than boys.

A temple spokesman says they have been told a pre-war house jutting into the front of the temple is blocking its "left eye", which symbolically affects male offspring.

The advice was given by a Chinese-American feng shui master who visited the Cheah Si Hock Haw Kong Kongsi temple.

Spokesman Cheah Cheng Ean says: "We realise there is some truth in it as many kongsi members actually have more daughters than sons."

Cheng Ean said at least six out of 16 kongsi trustees had only daughters in their families, reports The Star.

Jin Teong, who has four daughters and one son, says another feng shui master will have to be engaged for a second opinion to convince trustees and members before going ahead with the plans.

The 180-year-old temple is bounded on its front and right sides by pre-war houses, and the Lim Kongsi temple on its left.

Louis Farrakhan and woo woo numerological statements

From: The Textbook League

---------------------------------------------------

[excerpts from transcript from Minister Louis Farrakhan's remarks at the Million Man March, 17 October 1995, posted on the Web by CNN]

There, in the middle of this mall is the Washington Monument, 555 feet high. But if we put a one in front of that 555 feet, we get 1555, the year that our first fathers landed on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia as slaves.

In the background is the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorial, each one of these monuments is 19 feet high. Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president. Thomas Jefferson, third president, and 16 and three make 19 again. What is so deep about this number 19? Why are we standing on the Capitol steps today?

That number 19 -- when you have a nine you have a womb that is pregnant. And when you have a one standing by the nine, it means that there's something secret that has to be unfolded....

In the 18th dynasty, a Pharaoh named Akhenaton, was the first man of this history period to destroy the pantheon of many gods and bring the people to the worship of one god. And that one god was symboled by a sun disk with 19 rays coming out of that sun with hands holding the Egyptian Ankh -- the cross of life.

A-ton. The name for the one god in ancient Egypt. A-ton, the one god. 19 rays. Look at your scripture....

You're dead, Black man. But if you believe in the god who created this sun of truth and of light with 19 rays, meaning he's pregnant with God's spirit, God's life, God's wisdom. Abraham Lincoln's statue, 19 feet high, 19 feet wide. Jefferson, 19 feet high, 16 (OFF-MIKE) and the third president, 19. Standing on the steps of the Capitol, in the light of the sun. Offering life to a people who are dead.

Black man, the a-ton represents the one God. In the Koran, Muhammad is called a light giving son. So if you look at the aton, add an "e" to it, and separate the "a" from the next four letters and you get the word a tone.

Atone means sound. And "a", the first letter of the alphabet and the first letter of the numerical system is one. So "a" equals one. So "a" sound means when you hear the "a" tone, you will hear the right sound. And when you hear the right sound from the one God calling you to divine life, you will respond.

So what is the "a" tone? In music, a equals 440 vibrations. How long have we been in America? Four hundred and forty years.

Well, in the 440th year, from the one God, the aton will come the a tone and all of us got to tune up our lives by the sound of the a tone. Because we've got to atone for all that we have done wrong. And when you atone, if you take the "t" and couple it with the "a" and hyphenate it, you get at one. So when you atone you become at one. At one with who? The aton or the one God. Because you heard the a tone and you tuned up your life and now you're ready to make a new beginning. So when you get at one, you get the next two letters. It is "m" "e"....

END OF EXCERPTS

NOTE:

The numerological woo-woo aside, Farrakhan doesn't even have his facts right. The number of rays in depictions of the pharaoh and the sun wasn't constant. It varied from depiction to depiction. A famous relief from the city of Tell el-Amarna shows Akhenaten and his wife making offerings to their sun god, and the god is represented as a disk that emits 14, not 19, rays. A photgraph of the Tell el-Amarna appears in Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia issued in 1980 by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. (New York City).

Bill Bennetta


Saturday, March 10, 2001

Alternative Therapy: New "Product Line" for Hospitals

A new wave of treatment

Via Christi intends to open a center specializing in alternative therapies, including nutrition, acupuncture and massage.

By Novelda Sommers
The Wichita Eagle March 10, 2001
A new wave

Massage tables have replaced exam tables at Via Christi Regional Medical Center's newest venture.Wichita's largest nonprofit health-care provider this month plans to open a center at its Webb Road campus offering treatments that some might call unconventional.A physician, a nutritionist, a nurse, an acupuncturist and massage therapists will work in the clinic, which will be in the former offices of a weight-loss program near K-96 and Webb Road.Via Christi is among a growing number of medical centers across the country offering alternative therapies as a product line -- therapies that Americans spend billions of dollars on annually. And rival Wesley Medical Center has at least considered opening its own clinic.Startup costs at the Via Christi clinic aren't much -- about $33,000, officials said. But something much bigger is at stake: the medical center's reputation as it offers treatments that many doctors have shunned for years, saying they are unproven at best.
...
A feng shui consultant is helping with the decorating
#############
Stuart Elliott


Friday, March 09, 2001

Bigfoot Mile-High, but Light-Years from Acceptance

Science Frontiers, No. 134, Mar-Apr 2001, pp. 2&3

BIOLOGY

Colorado is not prime Bigfoot country. Most Bigfoot reports come from the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless, enough Bigfoot sightings, hearings, and foot-prints have accumulated in the Rockies for the Denver *Post* to print a lengthy review of the Bigfoot phenomenon.

The article identifies three Colorado hotspots: (1) Leadville, where the Little Creek Monster was reported as early as the 1880s; (2) the southern San Juan Mountains; and (3) Pike National Forest. A few reports even come from the plains east of the Front Range.

Coloradans have reported seeing the animals walking along a stream below Loveland Pass, drinking from a pond in the Lost Creek Wilderness, running after deer in the Roosevelt National Forest, chasing cars near Gypsum and roaring at hikers, campers and fishermen in various locations. The reports have come from scientists, wildlife biologists and elk hunters.
Surely, this [is] enough to convince everyone of Bigfoot's reality. Not so! To recognize Bigfoot officially scientists must have a living specimen, a corpse, or at least a good skeleton. They do not.

Even though there are thousands of Bigfoot sightings recorded continent-wide plus hundreds of casts of huge footprints, these are not enough. Just as with UFOs and sea monsters, fraud and misidentification abound in that field of endeavor called "cryptozoology."

However, bigfoot researchers do have one advantage over UFO and Loch Ness aficionados; namely, those hundreds of casts of outsized footprints. Some are so detailed that the skin's ridge patterns are clearly apparent. These ridge patterns ("dermatoglyphs") do not seem to match those of human feet or any of the other great apes. (SF#129)

This is all very good, and some scientists are impressed by the sheer magnitude of the evidence. As G.W. Gill, a professor at the University of Wyoming, comments: "Either the most sophisticated hoax in the history of anthropology has gone undiscovered for centuries, or the big ape exists." [Of course, the same can be said for UFOs and Nessie.]

On the other hand, if Bigfoot is so ubiquitous, as claimed, why do not the many hunters of lions and bears, who scour the Rocky Mountain wilderness aided by dogs, ever submit credible Bigfoot reports? If Bigfoot is really out there, these woods-wise hunters should have seen him or her.

We still need that Bigfoot specimen, dead or alive.

M. Shermer, editor of Skeptic, speaks for most of mainstream science:

If you believe in Bigfoot, you most likely believe in the Loch Ness monster, the lost continent of Atlantis, whatever.
(Stein, Theo; "Not All Scientists Doubt Bigfoot Now," Denver Post, January 14, 2001. Cr. G. McCudden and D. Phelps)

Spiritualists' powers turn scientists into believers

COPIED FROM:ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH (LONDON - ENGLAND-UK - ON LINE) ISSUE 2109 - Sunday 4 March 2001
http://www.telegraph.co.uk

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?ac=001358854403341&rtmo=r99b9FrX&atmo=kkkkkkru&pg=/et/01/3/4/wmed04.html

Spiritualists' powers turn scientists into believers
By Robert Matthews, Science Correspondent

A UNIQUE scientific experiment has produced startling evidence that some "spirit mediums" may indeed have paranormal talents. Scientists involved in the study at the University of Arizona say that the findings are so extraordinary they raise fundamental questions about the survival of consciousness after death.

Until now, the whole issue of the "afterlife" has been dismissed by most mainstream scientists, with spiritual mediums being regarded as either self-deluded or charlatans. Now the first serious laboratory study of a group of mediums has found that they share an uncanny ability to state facts about the deceased relatives of people who come to them.

The experiments, details of which will be published this week, involved five mediums and two "sitters" unknown to the mediums, whose deceased relatives they were asked to contact.

In the first experiment, each medium spent an hour with one of the sitters in a laboratory, with a screen preventing visual contact. Under constant video surveillance, each began talking about aspects of the sitter's deceased relatives. The sitter was only allowed to respond to specific questions from the medium with the words "yes" or "no". At the end of each session, the information gleaned by the mediums was analysed for its accuracy.

The transcripts of each session showed that the mediums typically produced more than 80 pieces of information about the deceased relatives, ranging from their names and personal idiosyncrasies to the precise circumstances of their death. When analysed for factual accuracy, the mediums achieved a success rate of 83 per cent, with one achieving an accuracy of 93 per cent.

Similar success was achieved in experiments involving the second sitter, and even when the mediums were not allowed to communicate with the sitter in any way. Sceptics have long argued that the success of mediums is due to so-called "cold reading", in which mediums make educated guesses about deceased people - such as asking if a husband died of heart disease, which is a common cause of death.

The team claims to have dealt with this objection after a panel of more than 60 people was asked to supply the same information as the mediums about the sitter. The average score was only 36 per cent, with the most successful guesser achieving just 54 per cent.

Reporting their findings in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, the researchers conclude: "Highly skilled mediums are able to obtain accurate and replicable information." Professor Gary Schwartz, who led the team, told The Telegraph: "The bottom line is that there is a class of highly skilled mediums who are doing something extraordinary."

The secret of their success is unclear: every precaution was taken to rule out unconscious cheating or outright fraud. In one experiment, a medium claimed to have been in communication with the sitter's deceased mother three days before the meeting - and supplied a prayer that the mother used to recite for the sitter as a child.

Prof Schwartz said such evidence is consistent with claims of mediums to deal directly with the dead, rather than merely with the minds of the sitters. He said: "All the data gathered so far is consistently in accord with survival of consciousness after death. Based on our data to date, the most parsimonious explanation is that the mediums are in direct communication with the deceased."

Sceptics said that while the results are intriguing, they leave many questions unanswered. Dr Chris French, a leading expert at Goldsmiths College, London, said: "Parapsychologists have become disillusioned with studies of mediums because the results are usually nothing more than you would expect by cold reading. This study has results that are so out of line that one would want to have a very close look at how it was done."

The implications of the study are to be discussed at an international meeting in Arizona this week. Prof Schwartz admitted that the findings were likely to disturb many people. He said: "Some of our colleagues would like us to do this research elsewhere."