NTS LogoSkeptical News for 15 January 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

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IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines - January 15, 2003

GENE THERAPY TRIALS HALTED
from The New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday suspended 27 gene therapy trials involving several hundred patients after learning that a second child treated in France had developed a condition resembling leukemia.

The agency said it was not aware that any of the patients treated in the 27 American trials had suffered illnesses similar to that of the infants in France but was nevertheless taking precautions.

"We see no evidence that the subjects in these 27 trials are actually at risk," said Dr. Philip Noguchi, acting director of the agency's office of cellular, tissue and gene therapies.

The temporary halt, the largest such action involving gene therapy trials, is yet another setback to the fledgling field, which usually involves introducing healthy genes into patients to treat diseases caused by defective ones. The field is still shaken from the death of a teenager undergoing gene therapy in 1999 at the University of Pennsylvania and from the first case of leukemia in an infant in France last year.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/15/health/15GENE.html

DOCTORS ARE IRONING OUT DETAILS FOR GIVING SMALLPOX VACCINE
from The New York Times

With smallpox vaccinations for half a million health and emergency workers scheduled to begin later this month, doctors advising the government were still ironing out details yesterday of who should avoid the vaccine and how it should be given.

In a conference call, the group, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, addressed questions yesterday that had been raised about draft recommendations the committee developed in October. Its final recommendations will be presented to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which usually follows the committee's advice.

One issue was whether people living with infants under a year old should be vaccinated. In its draft, the group said such adults could safely be immunized. But babies that young should not be vaccinated, because they are vulnerable to dangerous reactions. Some experts fear that a vaccinated adult could infect a baby with the vaccine virus, vaccinia, which is related to smallpox and can be shed from the inoculation site.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/15/health/15SMAL.html

NEW STUDY CHALLENGES NOAH'S ARK REPORT
from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Scientists are seriously challenging a recent, fascinating proposal that Noah's epic story -- setting sail with an ark jam-full of animal couples -- was based on an actual catastrophic flood that suddenly filled the Black Sea 7,500 years ago, forcing people to flee.

In a detailed new look at the rocks, sediments, currents and seashells in and around the Black Sea, an international research team pooh-poohs the Noah flood idea, arguing that all the geologic, hydrologic and biologic signs are wrong.

Little that the earth can tell us seems to fit the Noah story, they say. The new research takes direct aim at the work of two Columbia University geologists -- William Ryan and Walter Pitman -- whose proposal in 1997 ignited much new interest, and much new research, into Middle East history and geology.

http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/news/science/0103/15noahsark.html

CANCER STUDY SKEPTICAL OF BODY SCANS
from The Chicago Tribune

As physicians and patients struggle to determine the role of high-tech body scans in health management, researchers reported Wednesday that the scans are probably not useful as a screening test for lung cancer.

According to a Johns Hopkins study to be published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of lives potentially saved by annual screening with computed tomography, or CT, might be outweighed by the cost of the procedure and by the harm of unnecessary follow-up tests for "positive" findings that turn out to be benign.

The study was the latest shot in a battle between the medical establishment and the for-profit providers of wondrous new technologies that can peer inside the human body and visualize disease processes in their earliest stages--when, presumably, they could be cured.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0301150362jan15,1,1979764.story?coll=chi%2Dnewsnati onworld%2Dhed

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The New York Review of Books

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/14581

October 4, 2001

[A review of creationist and anti-creationist books. Ed.]

The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism

by Phillip E. Johnson

Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution Is Wrong

by Jonathan Wells

Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution

by Michael J. Behe

Mere Creation: Science, Faith and Intelligent Design

edited by William A. Dembski

Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology

by William A. Dembski

Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism

by Robert T. Pennock

Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution

by Kenneth R. Miller

THE COFFEE ENEMA

http://www.cancerhelpcentre.co.uk/detoxification.htm

"It is difficult to describe the incredulous facial expressions which ripple across a medical school lecture audience as the topic of coffee enemas is introduced. Embarrassed sniggering is heard from several seats in the hall.

A wise guy heckles "How do you take it?"

Charlotte Gerson doesn't miss a beat, answering "Black - without cream or sugar"

Laughter relaxes the entire room and Charlotte goes on to explain this aspect of her famous father's treatment (Max Gerson MD)."

(Excerpted from The Little Enema Book - for those on the Gerson Therapy)

Another Controversial Effort to Establish the Medical Efficacy of Intercessory Prayer

http://www.hcrc.org/contrib/posner/prayer.html

By Gary Posner, MD

The following analysis was published in the Spring/Summer 2000 issue of The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. © Prometheus Books, all rights reserved.

Review of: W.S. Harris et al. A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit. Arch Int Med. 1999; 159 (19): 2273-2278.

A study published in the October 25, 1999, Archives of Internal Medicine "attempt[ed] to replicate [Dr. Randolph] Byrd's findings by testing the hypothesis that patients who are unknowingly and remotely prayed for by blinded intercessors will experience fewer complications and have a shorter hospital stay than patients not receiving such prayer."[1] Byrd's 1988 paper was the first to purport to establish the positive effects of intercessory (not personal) prayer, without the recipients' knowledge, on the hospital course of patients.[2]

Byrd had found that of twenty-six indicators in patients admitted to a coronary care unit (CCU), most differences between prayed-for and control patients were statistically insignificant. Nevertheless he reported a significant decrease in certain medical complications in the prayed-for group: less congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and cardiopulmonary arrest; less need for diuretic therapy, antibiotics, and respiratory intubation and/or ventilation. Byrd also devised a scoring system to rate the overall hospital course as "Good," "Intermediate," or "Bad," and reported a statistically significant decrease in the number of "Bad" outcomes among the prayed-for patients.

Despite its procedural and statistical shortcomings,[3,4,5,6] the 1988 Byrd study has been frequently quoted as showing positive effects of prayer. Writers such as Dr. Larry Dossey credit it with spurring their own quests for further proof of the power of prayer.[7] And the recent Archives paper seems at first pass to claim success in replicating Byrd's findings: "Our findings support Byrd's conclusions...." But, as the authors acknowledge, there is much more (or less) to this claim.

Over a twelve-month period, about a thousand patients admitted to the CCU at Mid America Heart Institute (MAHI) in Kansas City, Missouri, were randomly placed either in the prayer or the control group under an assignment protocol based on chart numbering -- odd or even. As in the Byrd study, each patient in MAHI's prayed-for group was assigned to a team of "intercessors" who would pray for the patient on a daily basis. MAHI's teams consisted of five members each; Byrd's varied from three to seven. MAHI's intercessors prayed for "a speedy recovery with no complications" plus "anything else that seemed appropriate to them."

With regard to the matter of "speedy recovery," Byrd's study, in which the prayers had been targeted for "a rapid recovery and for prevention of complications and death," found no statistically significant differences in length of CCU stay, total days hospitalized, or number of deaths. MAHI also found no significant differences in these categories. Thus, with respect to Byrd's negative data, the MAHI study was able to replicate his results.

As for the development of medical "complications" during the course of hospitalization, the MAHI study failed to achieve any of the statistically significant beneficial effects reported by Byrd with regard to congestive heart failure, pneumonia, cardiopulmonary arrest, diuretic therapy, antibiotics, and intubation/ventilation. Further, using Byrd's "Good/Intermediate/Bad" scoring system to evaluate their own data, the MAHI researchers found "no significant difference between [the] groups." Thus, with respect to Byrd's positive data, the MAHI study was not able to replicate his results.

But the MAHI authors do not actually claim to have replicated Byrd's findings -- which was their stated objective. Here is the entirety of their sentence only partially quoted on the previous page: "Our findings support Byrd's conclusions [emphasis added] despite the fact that we could not document an effect of prayer using his scoring method." The MAHI researchers had their own "weighted and summed scoring system called the MAHI-CCU score [which is] a continuous variable that attempts to describe outcomes from excellent to catastrophic." This system was developed at their request by four other clinicians who practice at MAHI.

The MAHI-CCU system, like Byrd's, is "an unvalidated measure of...outcomes" (they could find no previously validated system in the medical literature). Yet the MAHI researchers were able to claim "findings...consistent with those of Byrd, who reported that intercessory prayer for hospitalized patients lowered the hospital course score." Overall, their prayed-for patients, as a group, scored 11% better than the others, with only a 1:25 probability that this difference in score is attributable to chance alone (P = .04). For comparison, when my skeptical colleagues or I test claimants of paranormal powers, we try to devise a test wherein the probability of "success" by chance alone is in the range of 1:10,000,000. The James Randi Educational Foundation would not confer its $1-million prize upon someone able, on a single occasion, to identify correctly a number between one and twenty-five. As the axiom of science goes, extraordinary claims -- especially supernatural ones -- demand extraordinary proof.

Although they have "no explanation" as to why, even at the P = .04 level, the Byrd scoring system failed to find significance in their own data, the MAHI authors offer speculation. They note that their protocol was more thoroughly blinded than was Byrd's, in that neither the patients nor the medical staff were even aware that a study was being conducted. Such awareness among the Byrd patients assured that those with objections to such a study were able to opt out, thus indicating to the MAHI authors that "only 'prayer-receptive' patients were included in [Byrd's] final cohort." Additionally, the Byrd intercessors had been kept informed as to their patients' conditions and progress, whereas the only patient information given the MAHI intercessors was their first names. Translation: Byrd's scoring system may have been too tough for a more thoroughly blinded test involving patients not screened for prayer receptiveness. But would Byrd's data pass the MAHI-CCU scoring test? Presumably so, though the authors make no mention of this.

As with the Byrd study, one is left to ponder the cosmic significance of the MAHI conclusions. First, do they suggest the existence of a God who responds to prayer? The authors claim only that "when individuals outside of the hospital speak (or think) the first names of hospitalized patients with an attitude of prayer, the latter appeared to have a 'better' CCU experience." Moreover, "it is probable that many if not most patients in both groups were already receiving intercessory and/or direct prayer from friends, family, and clergy during their hospitalization." The authors acknowledge that what they studied was not the effects of intercessory prayer per se, but rather of "supplementary intercessory prayer."

Certain logical conclusions from such prayer studies are not mentioned. One conclusion from the MAHI study, as from Byrd's, is that responses to "supplementary" intercessory prayer appear nearly imperceptible. Also, the responses to prayer appear to be based on the number of prayers/thoughts being offered, independent of the character and religious beliefs of the patients. An "Adolph Hitler" in the prayed-for group would be expected to have a marginally "better" outcome than a "Mother Teresa" in the control group, or in another CCU not involved in a prayer study.

Nevertheless, the MAHI authors conclude that, given the "possible benefits of intercessory prayer" as suggested in their study and Byrd's, "further studies using validated and standardized outcome measures and variations in prayer strategy are warranted to explore the potential role of prayer as an adjunct to standard medical care." Although, as noted earlier, they could find no applicable "validated and standardized outcome measures" in the medical literature, I suspect that this will not deter continuing attempts to prove the medical efficacy of intercessory prayer.

Applied Kinesiology

http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Tests/ak.html

Muscle-Testing for "Allergies" and "Nutrient Deficiencies"

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Applied kinesiology (AK) is a pseudoscientific system of muscle-testing and therapy. It was initiated in 1964 by George J. Goodheart, Jr., D.C., and has become quite elaborate. Its basic notion is that every organ dysfunction is accompanied by a specific muscle weakness, which enables diseases to be diagnosed through muscle-testing procedures. Most practitioners are chiropractors, but naturopaths, medical doctors, dentists, bogus nutritionists, physical therapists, massage therapists, nurse practitioners, and multilevel distributors (most notably for Nature's Sunshine) are also involved. In 1991, 37% of 4,835 full-time American chiropractors who responded to a survey by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) said they used AK in their practice [1]. Subsequent NBCE surveys found percentages of 31% in Canada (1992) [2], 60% in Australia (1993) [3], 72% in New Zealand (1993) [3], and 43% in the United States (1998) [4]. The prevalence among other types of practitioners is unknown. Note: Applied kinesiology should be distinguished from kinesiology (biomechanics), which is the scientific study of movement.

Heaven's Gate

http://www.heavensgatetoo.com/

[As the sixth anniversary approaches, it is interesting to review the site as they left it. Ed.]

Whether Hale-Bopp has a "companion" or not is irrelevant from our perspective. However, its arrival is joyously very significant to us at "Heaven's Gate ®." The joy is that our Older Member in the Evolutionary Level Above Human (the "Kingdom of Heaven") has made it clear to us that Hale-Bopp's approach is the "marker" we've been waiting for -- the time for the arrival of the spacecraft from the Level Above Human to take us home to "Their World" -- in the literal Heavens. Our 22 years of classroom here on planet Earth is finally coming to conclusion -- "graduation" from the Human Evolutionary Level. We are happily prepared to leave "this world" and go with Ti's crew.

If you study the material on this website you will hopefully understand our joy and what our purpose here on Earth has been. You may even find your "boarding pass" to leave with us during this brief "window."

We are so very thankful that we have been recipients of this opportunity to prepare for membership in Their Kingdom, and to experience Their boundless Caring and Nurturing.

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

For accurate instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the listserv, follow this link: http://www.mediaresource.org/instruct.htm

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IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines - January 13, 2003

A PATENT FOR A BLOOD ANTIBODY
from The New York Times

Even though heart disease is not the death sentence it once was, it remains a major threat, especially to women.

In spite of medical advances like bypass surgery and angioplasty to clear blocked arteries, a heart patient's worst enemy can sometimes be his or her own body. In some cases, no amount of reformed living with the help of exercise, fruit and vegetables can stop the body from releasing cells that clog blood vessels anew and cause heart disease to return.

The culprit is a protein in the walls of blood vessels. Those vessels are easily damaged, and incisions, stitches, a catheter or a stent can cause the protein to tell cells to leave the wall tissue. The cells are sticky, so they are not always carried away by blood flow. They can attach themselves to the vessel walls, accumulate and cause new blockages.

Last fall, a molecular biologist at the State University of New York at Albany won a patent for an antibody that appears to thwart the protein that sets off the movement of the sticky cells. No experiments have been conducted on humans, but the inventor says that in laboratory tissue tests, the antibody stops this migration. And he says it may also help inhibit the movement of cells essential to the growth of cancer.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/13/business/13PATE.html

FOR A CHANGE OF CLIMATE, TEAM TREKS ANTARCTICA
from The Washington Post

Where do you go to study global warming? Try the coldest, windiest, most forbidding land mass on Earth.

If you can get your sleds dug out of the snowdrifts and tolerate the occasional blinding screamer of a blizzard, and you don't mind wind chills that plummet to 60 degrees below in the summertime, Antarctica is the perfect place to hunt for clues to the complex workings of Earth's climate.

That, at least, is the conviction that has kept climate investigator Paul Mayewski and his intrepid band of meteorologists, geophysicists, atmospheric chemists, remote sensing specialists and glaciologists coming back four summers in a row to trek the continent of ice at the bottom of the world.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41452-2003Jan11.html

VIRGINIA AGGRESSIVELY USES DNA TO SOLVE OTHER CASES
from The Los Angeles Times

FAIRFAX, Va. -- Hours after the new year dawned, two men were led into the booking area of the Fairfax County Detention Center and ordered to scrape their cheeks with tiny swabs. The same thing happened 160 miles away in the small town of Waverly, where a stabbing suspect had been brought in after a bloody fracas.

In both cases, the suspects provided police with DNA samples compelled under a new Virginia law that seeks to use genetic tests to broaden the hunt for suspects in unsolved crimes.

Soon after the tests were carried out, Fairfax sheriff's deputies took the DNA samples to a state forensic lab down the street. And Waverly Police Chief Aaron Britton drove 60 miles to Richmond to provide state officials with a sealed envelope containing genetic traces from the stabbing suspect held in the Sussex County jail.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-dna13jan13001446,0,3236559.story?coll=la%2Dheadli nes%2Dnation%2Dmanual

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Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

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IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines - January 14, 2003

IN A LAB ON LONG ISLAND, A VISIT TO THE BIG BANG
from The New York Times

UPTON, N.Y. - Sam Aronson was perched a few stories up on a metal catwalk, surrounded by tons of Russian steel and Japanese electronics, and enough wires to impress even Con Ed, when he paused to say what really interested him about the $600 million machine.

Time, he said. More precisely, the beginning of time, just after the Big Bang, some 14 billion years ago.

The time machine - the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, known affectionately at the Brookhaven National Laboratory here on eastern Long Island as RHIC (pronounced rick) - is designed to make a Little Bang, recreating a tiny dollop of the hot, mysterious soup of particles that scientists say existed a split second after the gargantuan blast that started it all.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/14/science/physical/14COLL.html

ANTHRAX MIGHT BE USED TO TREAT TUMORS, STUDY SAYS
from The Miami Herald

WASHINGTON - Anthrax, the bioterrorism agent that killed five people in 2001 and has frightened millions more, may be an effective cancer killer, according to new research from the National Institutes of Health.

Genetically engineered anthrax protein -- designed to activate only on contact with a chemical on the surface of malignant tumors -- dramatically reduced and even eradicated cancers in tests on mice, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Thanks to the genetic engineering, the anthrax did not poison the mice.

Three main types of tumors -- soft-tissue fibrosarcoma, skin melanoma and lung carcinoma -- responded to the anthrax protein, which is a key component of anthrax bacteria, said Dr. Stephen Leppla, an NIH scientist and co-author of the study. In theory, the new toxin should work on all or almost all forms of cancer, he said.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/nation/4940196.htm

LOS ALAMOS PROBE WIDENS TO INCLUDE TWO OTHER LABS
from The Los Angeles Times

One of several congressional committees looking into allegations of fraud and mismanagement at Los Alamos National Laboratory has widened its probe, calling on federal investigators to include an examination of the University of California's management practices at two other national labs.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has asked the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, to scrutinize the university's recent record at the Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley labs, both in the Bay Area. The university manages the three laboratories for the Department of Energy.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-alamos14jan14,0,921276.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines% 2Dnation

TABLET EXAMINED FOR LINK TO JERUSALEM'S TEMPLE OF SOLOMON
from The Chicago Tribune

JERUSALEM -- Israeli geologists said Monday that they have examined a stone tablet detailing repair plans for the Jewish Temple of King Solomon that, if authenticated, would be a rare piece of physical evidence supporting biblical narrative.

The tablet--whose origin is murky--is about the size of a legal pad, with a 15-line inscription in ancient Hebrew that strongly resembles descriptions in the biblical Book of Kings. The find also could strengthen Jewish claims to a disputed holy site in Jerusalem's Old City that is now home to two major mosques.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0301140209jan14,1,603506.story?coll=chi%2Dnewsnatio nworld%2Dhed

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Intelligent Design and Creationism Just Aren't the Same

[And God didn't make little green apples. Ed.]

http://www.discovery.org/viewDB/index.php3?command=view&id=1329&program=CRSC

John G. West, Jr.
Research News and Opportunities in Science and Theology
January 9, 2003

Recent news accounts about controversies over evolution in Ohio and Georgia have contained references to the scientific theory of "intelligent design." Some advocates of Darwinian evolution try to conflate "intelligent design" (ID) with "creationism," sometimes using the term "intelligent design creationism." (1) In fact, intelligent design is quite different from "creationism," as even some of its critics have acknowledged. University of Wisconsin historian of science Ronald Numbers is critical of intelligent design, yet according to the Associated Press, he "agrees the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID movement." Why, then, do some Darwinists keep trying to identify ID with creationism? According to Numbers, it is because they think such claims are "the easiest way to discredit intelligent design." (2) In other words, the charge that intelligent design is "creationism" is a rhetorical strategy on the part of those who wish to delegitimize design theory without actually addressing the merits of its case.

In reality, there are a variety of reasons why ID should not be confused with creationism:

1. "Intelligent Design Creationism" is a pejorative term coined by some Darwinists to attack intelligent design; it is not a neutral label of the intelligent design movement.

Scientists and scholars supportive of intelligent design do not describe themselves as "intelligent design creationists." Indeed, intelligent design scholars do not regard intelligent design theory as a form of creationism. Therefore to employ the term "intelligent design creationism" is inaccurate, inappropriate, and tendentious, especially on the part of scholars and journalists who are striving to be fair. "Intelligent design creationism" is not a neutral description of intelligent design theory. It is a polemical label created for rhetorical purposes. "Intelligent design" is the proper neutral description of the theory.

2. Unlike creationism, intelligent design is based on science, not sacred texts.

Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text. Instead, intelligent design theory is an effort to empirically detect whether the "apparent design" in nature observed by biologists is genuine design (the product of an organizing intelligence) or is simply the product of chance and mechanical natural laws. This effort to detect design in nature is being adopted by a growing number of biologists, biochemists, physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers of science at American colleges and universities. Scholars who adopt a design approach include biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University, microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, and mathematician William Dembski at Baylor University. (3)

3. Creationists know that intelligent design theory is not creationism.

The two most prominent creationist groups, Answers in Genesis Ministries (AIG) and Institute for Creation Research (ICR) have criticized the intelligent design movement (IDM) because design theory, unlike creationism, does not seek to defend the Biblical account of creation. AIG specifically complained about IDM's "refusal to identify the Designer with the Biblical God" and noted that "philosophically and theologically the leading lights of the ID movement form an eclectic group." Indeed, according to AIG, "many prominent figures in the IDM reject or are hostile to Biblical creation, especially the notion of recent creation…." (4) Likewise, ICR has criticized ID for not employing "the Biblical method," concluding that "Design is not enough!" (5) Creationist groups like AIG and ICR clearly understand that intelligent design is not the same thing as creationism.

4. Like Darwinism, design theory may have implications for religion, but these implications are distinct from its scientific program.

Intelligent design theory may hold implications for fields outside of science such as theology, ethics, and philosophy. But such implications are distinct from intelligent design as a scientific research program. In this matter intelligent design theory is no different than the theory of evolution. Leading Darwinists routinely try to draw out theological and cultural implications from the theory of evolution. Oxford's Richard Dawkins, for example, claims that Darwin "made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." (6) Harvard's E.O. Wilson employs Darwinian biology to deconstruct religion and the arts. (7) Other Darwinists try to elicit positive implications for religion from Darwin's theory. The pro-evolution National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has organized a "Faith Network" to promote the study of evolution in churches. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the NCSE, acknowledges that the purpose of the group's "clergy outreach program" is "to try to encourage members of the practicing clergy to address the issue of Evolution in Sunday schools and adult Bible classes" and to get church members to talk about "the theological implications of evolution." (8) The NCSE's "Faith Network Director" even claims that "Darwin's theory of evolution…has, for those open to the possibilities, expanded our notions of God." (9) If Darwinists have the right to explore the cultural and theological implications of Darwin's theory without disqualifying Darwinism as science, then ID-inspired discussions in the social sciences and the humanities clearly do not disqualify design as a scientific theory.

5. Fair-minded critics recognize the difference between intelligent design and creationism.

Scholars and science writers who are willing to explore the evidence for themselves are coming to the conclusion that intelligent design is different from creationism. As mentioned earlier, historian of science Ronald Numbers has acknowledged the distinction between ID and creationism. So has science writer Robert Wright, writing in Time magazine: "Critics of ID, which has been billed in the press as new and sophisticated, say it's just creationism in disguise. If so it's a good disguise. Creationists believe that God made current life-forms from scratch. The ID movement takes no position on how life got here, and many adherents believe in evolution. Some even grant a role to the evolutionary engine posited by Darwin: natural selection. They just deny that natural selection alone could have driven life all the way from pond scum to us." (10)

Whatever problems the theory of intelligent design may have, it should be allowed to rise or fall on its own merits, not on the merits of some other theory.

(1) For a particularly egregious example of use of this term, see Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pinnock (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001).
(2) Richard Ostling, AP Writer, March 14, 2002.
(3) For good introductions to intelligent design theory, see Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (The Free Press, 1996); Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Stephen Meyer, Science & Evidence For Design in the Universe (Ignatius, 2000); William Dembski, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence (Rowman and Littlefield, 2002); and Unlocking the Mystery of Life video documentary (Illustra Media, 2002).
(4) Carl Wieland, "AiG's views on the Intelligent Design Movement," August 30, 2002, available at http://www.answersingenesis.org.
(5) Henry M. Morris, "Design is not Enough!", Institute for Creation Research, July 1999, available at: http://www.icr.org/.
(6) Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1996), 6.
(7) E.O. Wilson, Consilience (New York: Vintage Books, 1998).
(8) Eugenie Scott, interview with ColdWater Media, September 2002. Courtesy of ColdWater Media.
(9) Phina Borgeson, "Introduction to the Congregational Study Guide for Evolution," National Center for Science Education, 2001, available at www.ncseweb.org.
(10) Robert Wright, Time, March 11, 2002.

* This article originally ran in the December issue of Research News

Cryptozoology and Philately

http://www.pibburns.com/cryptost.htm

I am always happy to be able to combine two of my hobbies -- in this case, cryptozoology and stamp collecting. You may click on the thumbnail images of each stamp to see a larger image. I have also provided the Scott catalog number for each stamp if I know it.

These pages feature stamps of animals which once were or are still considered legendary, but which may actually exist. Stamps of animals thought to be extinct but which have been found alive are also featured. Other stamps depict supposedly extinct animals for which sightings comtinue to occur. All of these animals are called "cryptids." Cryptozoology is the study of cryptids.

You can find more about cryptozoology on my main cryptozoology page. My page of books about cryptozoology lists some I've found interesting.

For more information about stamp collecting please see my hobbies page.

My Cryptozoology and Philately pages were awarded the distinction of being named a Classic Site by Michael Mills at his Glassine Surfer site.

Bigfoot Stamps

http://www.pibburns.com/cryptost/bigfoot.htm

Encounters with hairy hominids or "wild men" like the Yeti, Sasquatch, and Nguoi Rung go back to antiquity and appear in legends throughout the world. One of the earliest literary compositions in the world, the Epic of Gilgamesh, contains a hairy wildman named Enkidu. North America's representative is usually called the Sasquatch, one of its Native American names, or Bigfoot.

One hypothesis is that some reports represent encounters with surviving representatives of supposedly extinct hominoid or hominid species. A popular choice for Bigfoot is Gigantopithecus blacki, a giant ape commonly assumed to have died out several hundred thousand years ago. Other suggested candidates include Homo neandertalensis (Neanderthal Man), Homo erectus, and Australopithecus (Paranthropus) robustus.

See the Bigfoot section of my cryptozoology links page for more sites offering information about Bigfoot.

Creationist FAQ

From: Scott Peterson

This was just reposted to rec.humor.funny.reruns .
It should be enjoyed here too.

There has been a considerable call for a Creationist FAQ, which doesn't seem to be forthcoming in any great hurry. In the interests of facilitating matters I have decided to jump the gun and provide a provisional Creationist FAQ. Regard this as a provisional effort; I am not an expert in these matters and may have erred in a few small details. Criticisms and suggestions for improvement are welcome. Speculations on my private life will be met with dignified silence.

Q: What is the principle evidence for Creationism?
A: The Holy Bible, of course. After all, is it likely that the author of the Universe would be mistaken about its age?

Q: But isn't the Bible religion and not science?
A: Truth is truth. It's a poor sort of science that ignores truth.

Q: But isn't there a lot of evidence for evolution?
A: Not really, most of it is from university professors writing papers for each other. If they didn't write papers they wouldn't have jobs.

Q: How big was Noah's ark?
A: Big enough.

Q: But what about radioactive dating?
A: Hey, everybody knows that stuff is bad for you. Stick with good Christian girls.

Q: What about the fossil evidence?
A: The real fossils are university professors writing papers for each other.

Q: Is there any other evidence for Creationism besides the Bible?
A: Yes.

Q: Can you give us some?
A: Yes.

Q: Could you give us a specific example?
A: Yes.

Q: What be a specific example of evidence for Creationism?
A: I've already answered that question.

Q: What about the Antarctic ice core data?
A: Now I put it to you. Coop up a bunch of men in a Quonset hut in the worst weather in the world, with nothing to do but gather data and drink, and what do you expect?

Q: Did the dinosaurs coexist with man?
A: Look, the liberals were preaching coexistence with the Communists, and you saw what happened to them.

Q: Should Creationism be taught along with Evolution in the schools?
A: Creationism should be taught instead of Evolution in the schools.

Q: Doesn't the Geologic Column prove that the Earth is very old?
A: The geologic column proves that some things are on top of other things and some things are underneath other things. But we already knew that, didn't we.

Q: Hasn't Evolution been demonstrated in the laboratory?
A: Students are demonstrating everywhere these days. To their shame, many professors are demonstrating also.

Q: Aren't Hawiian wallabies an example of Evolution in action?
A: No.

Q: Why not?
A: Because they aren't.

Q: What is a kind?
A: A kind is cards of the same rank. Thus 4 aces and a king are four of a kind, but four spades and a heart are not.

Q: Doesn't genetic variation indicate that life has been going on a long time?
A: Let's be up front about this. That's deviation, not variation, and yes, there is a lot of deviancy out there. That just shows that there has been a lot of Sin since the garden of Eden.

Q: What about Neanderthal Man?
A: Hey, you take one of those geezers and put him in tweeds and give him a pipe and he could be a professor anywhere.

Q: Some scientists state that the earth's continents are drifting around on top of a molten interior which has shaped life as we see it now. Are they right?
A: As you well know the Bible says that beneath the surface of the earth is Hell where there is eternal fires and brimstone. If the continents appear to be moving around that is Satan's doing.

Q: Why do almost all of the scientists believe in Evolution?
A: The real scientists don't. As for the rest of them, that's a very good question, isn't it?

Q: Are you talking about a Satanic conspiracy?
A: Did I say anything about a conspiracy? You might want to think about the shape the world is in since the Evolutionists and the Liberal Humanists captured academia and Evolution is hand in hand with Godless Communism and crime in the streets but I certainly wouldn't want to say anything about a Satanic conspiracy. I just want you to think about it with an open mind.

Scott Peterson

Cobb County Clarifies: Teach Only Science in Science Classes

Dear Friends of NCSE,

On January 8, 2003, the Cobb County, Georgia, School District issued guidelines that clarify the new "Theories of Origins" policy.

Although the "Theories of Origins" policy -- adopted by the Cobb County Board of Education on September 26, 2002 -- explicitly stated that it is "not to be interpreted to restrict the teaching of evolution; [or] to promote or require the teaching of creationism," its treatment of evolution is not entirely satisfactory. Although it is certainly true that, as the policy states, evolution is a "subject [that] remains an intense area of interest, research, and discussion among scholars," no attempt is made to clarify that evolution, as the common descent of living things, is not a matter of dispute within the scientific community. The "interest, research, and discussion among scholars" is about controversies about how evolution occurred. Thus the policy as worded is likely to encourage those wishing to promote "alternatives" to evolution.

The guidelines largely rectify the problem by clarifying the nature of the controversy over evolution: "It is recognized that instruction regarding theories of origin is difficult because it is socially controversial and potentially divisive" (emphasis added). There is no mention in the guidelines of any supposed scientific controversy over evolution or of any supposed scientific "alternatives" to it. Curt Johnston, the chairman of the Cobb County Board of Education, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (January 9, 2003) that "Encouraging discussion of that might be illegal." Johnston was evidently alluding to faith-based views such as "intelligent design."

Reviewing the guidelines, Eugenie C. Scott, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, commented, "When the 'Theories of Origins' policy was adopted, I said that the Cobb County Board of Education was sending mixed signals to teachers and citizens. With these guidelines, the Board's message is loud and clear: teach only science in science classes. This is good news for the education of the children of Cobb County."

The clarification of the "Theories of Origins" policy also won approval from the American Civil Liberties Union. Michael Manely told the Marietta Daily Journal (January 9, 2003) that, in light of the guidelines, the ACLU has decided not to file suit over the "Theories of Origins" policy. "It certainly seems that the board is telling the teachers to back down on the teaching of creationism, intelligent design or other faith-based theories", he said. In August 2002, the ACLU filed suit over the textbook disclaimer mandated by the Cobb County Board of Education that refers to evolution as "a theory, not a fact."

Prominently mentioned in the Daily Journal's article was the recently formed Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education, a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting scientific literacy and excellence in science education in Georgia's public schools. "The members of GCISE have worked hard to ensure that evolution is taught in the Cobb County public schools as the unifying, important, and vital science that it is," said NCSE's Scott. "Everyone who cares about a quality science education for the students of Georgia's public schools is indebted to them."

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x 305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

The Starry Environmentalist?
(National Review compares Björn Lomborg to Galileo)

http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg011303.asp

January 13, 2003 8:45 a.m.
The cases of Björn Lomborg and Galileo.

There is no realm of modern culture that has institutionalized the concept of "lying for justice" more than environmentalism. Even the hothouse world of racial politics, with its fringe of Tawana Brawley believers and Afrocentric gobbledygook, comes a not-too-close second to the generalized deceit of the environmental movement. After all, the closer racial activists get to the mainstream, the more difficult it is for them to lie. When was the last time you heard Julian Bond claim Aristotle was black?

Meanwhile, the reverse is often — though certainly not always — the case with environmentalists. At professional conferences, in industry publications, and in the clubhouse of environmental policymakers, it is taken as a given that "raising awareness" trumps "explaining the facts" if, that is, increased "awareness" might hasten desirable policies while explicated facts would merely result in continued "pointless" debate. Moreover, mainstream journalists not only know about this doctrine of deceit, they encourage and amplify it, exaggerating already hyped scare-scenarios and downplaying any news of environmental improvement.

As with all ideologies and movements which alternate between apocalyptic and utopian visions, the scaring of children is a particular priority. In one textbook, for example, children are told that, in the future, earth's natural resources "will become so depleted that our very existence will become economically and environmentally impossible." This, it warns, will cause "famine, disease, pollution, unrest, crime and international conflicts." University of Rochester economist Steven E. Landsburg, writing in his wonderful book, The Armchair Economist, about the "naive environmentalism" taught at his daughter's preschool, summed it up well: Schools offer "a force-fed potpourri of myth, superstition and ritual that has much in common with the least reputable varieties of religious fundamentalism."

Russian scientists see flying saucers

Harvested from thedailygrail.com

http://atimes.com/c-asia/CH29Ag01.html

By Sergei Blagov

MOSCOW - A group of Russian scientists has come up with sensational claims of fundamental discoveries. However, their assertions provide more questions than answers about the current, deplorable state of Russian science. The group, headed by Professor Valerian Sobolev, claims "seven major discoveries". One of these relates to a new electrochemical process, which allows production of new, previously unknown types of materials from silicon. Sobolev, who heads the Material Technology Research Center in Volgograd, Central Russia, claims that his new materials may contain electromagnetic impulses and could therefore become a source of virtually free electric energy.

Sobolev says that his know-how may help to build new types of engineless flying machines evocative of flying saucers. He and his team have sent a letter informing Russian President Valdimir Putin of their "discoveries" - casually pointing out that commercialization of their know-how would require some US$2 million.

The Russian scientists say they can build generators of free electric energy on a commercial basis within 18 months. However, established researchers remain skeptical. "They are yet to show us any concrete proof," said prominent physicist Sergei Kapitsa. The talk about new materials and sources of energy is either "an honest mistake or an intentional deception", he added.

The chemtrail thing

From: Terry W. Colvin

Terry wrote:

The chemtrail speculation (maybe bullshit) has been circulating on the net for at least four years. Here are a few links:

http://www.forteantimes.com/artic/124/fbi.html

Here was my own contribution of a few photos I took in March of 1999. I have since decided that "BS" is a pretty good descripter of the whole chemtrail hysteria. More planes, different fuel formulations, different atmosphere than years ago and voila! Conspiracy fodder.

http://www.fortunecity.com/roswell/randles/36/WisconsinSunset.html

Fel

Environmentalists Seek to Curb 'Moothane' Gas

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,75297,00.html

Monday, January 13, 2003

LOS ANGELES — Scientists trying to get to the bottom of global warming are having a cow — to blame, that is.

Researchers say methane-producing bovines are passing way too much gas and it is contributing to the environmental challenge.

"We've got to be proactive on everything so we're taking it seriously," said Bob Feenstra of the Milk Producers Council.

So what's the straight poop? Dairy animal waste produces so much methane gas, they're becoming targets for environmentalists and energy companies.

Vacuum trucks scoop up cow pies in the field and dump them in digester facilities that turn the methane into clean energy.

But there's no way to trap it all. Twelve percent of greenhouse gases that are believed to contribute to global warming are from methane.

Landfills are the top methane producer in the United States; livestock is second. Now dairymen and ranchers are looking at ways to make cows less gassy.

"We have expert veterinarians that remove the waste from the cows and analyze it, what's in it and what gases are being produced," Feenstra said.

The most common remedies are injecting the animals with hormones, altering the feed and disposing of their waste quicker.

But some scientists are skeptical of these methods.

"They're being fed higher quality feed, so there's going to be less methane being generated from cows. So it's not a situation that's going to get worse, it's going to get better," said environmental researcher Nathan de Boom.

Even so, he added, "It's kind of hard to believe it would have some kind of significant contribution to the environment."

Canadian farmers have already taken steps to reduce their impacts on global warming, and landfill operators in the United States have dealt with stricter methane rules for years. So some dairymen worry regulators may target them next even though many think the whole issue is a lot of hot air.

Fox News' Trace Gallagher contributed to this report.


Monday, January 13, 2003

Bigger and Better Occult Shop to serve you!

Welcome to the "Occult BookShop Visitor"
From Book Shop Website: http://www.poto.com
January 12, 2003

Dear Friends,

We have completed our move to a bigger and better facility in Long Beach California. PoTOís new distribution facility in Long Beach will afford us increased space to provide our clients with an even greater selection of books and reintroduce or offerings of related arts, tools of the craft and antiques. Our growth is in direct relation to the increasing demand for such items and we thank you for the opportunity to have served you over the last 13 years.

The pressure to find a new location for PoTO had been brewing for some time. We had outgrown the Santa Monica location and finding a facility there (that would accept us) just wasnít happening. In November of last year, an unexpected opportunity to get what we needed developed in Long Beach California and we made the decision to take advantage of it. The move of the complete Procurer of The Obscure inventory was brutal. After 3 weeks of packing and moving as much as we could, we contracted a commercial mover. Even then, the 30-mile move down the 405 Freeway seemed like it would never end. It took 12-hour days, everyday from early November 2002 to January 10th 2003 to physically complete the move -I know that we will NOT be doing that again.

Another change that you will see this year is the reintroduction of Ms Rachel Luna as our customer service person. Rachel was in charge of customer service until she returned to college, full time in 1998. The customer service person you are accustomed to seeing up till now was Ann Jacobi. In December, Ann left us to be married and move to San Louis Obispo California. (I canít believe what some people will do to get out of moving a store!) We wish Ann and her husband Richard all the best, and we are very pleased to have Rachel back with us -it takes a particularly special person to be a customer service person for the Procurer of The Obscure Books & Herbs Company -as you well can imagineÖ

Thank you,

Peter Michael
PoTO Books & Herbs Company

I. 22 Subject Categories are like having 22 separate occult shops on one site.

REFRESH your computer's pages to view the New Books we add Every Day, All Items are in Stock and Ready to Ship NOW... *Our site is completely inventoried every night between 12AM to 6AM Pacific Standard Time. You might experience some downtime within those hours.

Magick & Sorcery
http://poto.com/productCat53105.ctlg

WitchCraft & Wicca
http://poto.com/productCat53107.ctlg

Prophecy & Parapsychology
http://poto.com/productCat53116.ctlg

The Dark Side, Left Hand Path
http://poto.com/productCat53109.ctlg

Herbs in Half Pounds, Dried
http://poto.com/productCat53113.ctlg

Herbal Literature
http://poto.com/productCat53110.ctlg

VooDoo / Santeria
http://poto.com/productCat53120.ctlg

Secret Societies & Mystery Schools
http://poto.com/productCat53112.ctlg

Limited or Out-of-Print Books
http://poto.com/productCat53118.ctlg

Special Discounts on Books
http://poto.com/productCat53117.ctlg

Taped Instruction & Video
http://poto.com/productCat53104.ctlg

Music CDs
http://poto.com/productCat53103.ctlg

Incense & Urns
http://poto.com/productCat53121.ctlg

Druid & Celtic Literature
http://poto.com/productCat53106.ctlg

Sexuality
http://poto.com/productCat53111.ctlg

Jewelry
http://poto.com/productCat53100.ctlg

Tarot & Divination
http://poto.com/productCat53102.ctlg

Celtic Bogwood Crafts (Import from Ireland)
http://poto.com/productCat53101.ctlg

Alchemy
http://poto.com/productCat53108.ctlg

Exotic Herbal Blends, Teas & Tools
http://poto.com/productCat53114.ctlg

Comparative Religions
http://poto.com/productCat53119.ctlg

Ghosts, Hauntings, Contacting the Dead
http://poto.com/productCat53115.ctlg

Supreme Court Justice Says Courts Misinterpreting Church-State Separation

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia complained Sunday that courts have gone overboard in keeping God out of government.

http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGAQX3JIVAD.html

Filipinos tussle for miracles from Christ statue

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030109/od_uk_nm/oukoe_religion_philippines_1

Thu Jan 9, 4:24 AM ET
MANILA (Reuters) - Thousands of barefoot Filipinos have pulled, shoved and shouted for what they hope will be heavenly grace, escorting a 400-year-old statue of Jesus Christ through the streets of Manila.

Cheering and handkerchief-waving crowds almost went berserk when the life-sized icon emerged from a Roman Catholic church on Thursday to begin its annual journey through the Quiapo district during the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

The faithful surged forward to touch the statue or pull one of the ropes on the gilded carriage in hopes of securing some divine intervention. Dozens of people usually faint in the press of bodies and some risk being trampled underfoot.

"I am here because of my son. My son has been in all sorts of trouble," said Ricardo Ledesma, who has joined the procession for seven years. "I also need help because I am accident prone."

The Black Nazarene, a statue of Christ brought from Mexico to the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Philippines in 1606, has been housed in the Saint John the Baptist Church since 1787.

On this day each year, it is brought out of the church and taken in a procession through the Quiapo neighbourhood, a crowded maze of shops and houses. Tales abound of people healed of diseases or receiving other miracles after touching the icon. Most in the crowd go barefoot as a sign of humility. Born with a permanent disability, Jess Cruz said he was not praying to be able to walk but for atonement.

"I am here to pay for my sins," he said.

Feng Shui expert 'helped us have a child'

From Ananova at

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_737958.html?menu=news.quirkies

A couple who spent 10 years trying in vain for a baby say they've finally been blessed with a child after a Feng Shui expert moved their bed.

Fiona and Darren Burke had lost hope of having a child of their own, and had decided to adopt instead after countless visits to consultants and two years of fertility treatment.

But after inviting Feng Shui expert Paul Darby into their home, he realigned their energy in the house and told them they would have a child

Dutch company makes film for aliens

From Ananova at

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_738344.html?menu=news.quirkies

A Dutch film company has made a film to explain what humans are like to aliens.

Pavlov Media's eight minute cartoon shows what people are and what they think and feel.

The makers hope it will be taken into space on a mission in 2007.

Pavlov spokesman Cees Wolbers told De Telegraaf the idea behind the project was realising how hard it was for humans to explain themselves to each other.

"Imagine then how difficult it would be to explain it to an alien," he added. "That¹s why we decided to make a film about it."

The film is being shown to the public at the main library in the city of Groningen where viewers have to lie on a bench and wear a special helmet to watch it.

The aim is to transfer the film to CD-ROM and to send it into space with the mission taking up the Herschel space telescope in 2007.

Celebrity witch being sued over impotency ad

From Ananova at

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_738212.html?menu=news.quirkies

A celebrity Romanian witch is being sued by a man she claims she helped cure of impotence.

Merecedeza, a household name in Romania, could be facing three years in jail after businessman Constantin Tara launched a legal action against her.

He claims she used his image in an advert under the headline: "I will always be grateful to this great witch for curing my impotence."

Mr Tara is asking for £10,000 damages after denying he had ever met the witch and claiming his girlfriend had left him because of the advert.

He told the Evenimentul Zilei daily: "I found out about that ad from my friends. They called me one day and started making fun of me. At first I thought everything was a joke but then I saw the ad in a local paper.

"Neither the paper nor the witch listened to me when I asked them to withdraw the ad. Merecedeza has to pay for almost destroying my life.

"The woman I was about to marry left me because she said I didn't trust her and my friends now avoid me. I have no idea how she got hold of that photo of me."

Politician Caught Up in Vampire Rumors

http://member.compuserve.com/news/story.jsp?floc=FF-RTO-reodd&idq=/ff/story/0002%2F20030110%2F075281640.htm&sc=reodd

BLANTYRE, Malawi (Reuters) - Hundreds of angry Malawians hounded a senior political figure from his house and stoned him late Wednesday, accusing him of harboring vampires. Blantire Urban Governor Eric Chiwaya, a member of the ruling United Democratic Front, was the latest victim of a bizarre rumor that the country's government is colluding with vampires to collect human blood for international aid agencies.

Bearing severe cuts to his face and body, he told Reuters from his hospital bed that a crowd had hailed him with stones and other missiles, chanting "vampire" and threatening to kill him.

Chiwaya said he knew some of his assailants, adding that political opponents were trying to discredit him and the government.

The vampire rumors have sparked several vigilante attacks on suspected bloodsuckers in recent weeks, despite official attempts to stop the rumor. One man was stoned to death, and three priests were attacked by angry villagers in the south.

Political tensions are already high in Malawi. President Bakili Muluzi's attempts to stay in office for another five-year term have already sparked protests, while many face starvation in the face of a regional food crisis.

'Earth medicine' man Byron Utah Jordan

[Another barely contained paean to quackery from this local rag of many colors.]

'Earth medicine' man Byron Utah Jordan may come off like a New Age quack, but clients claim he's helped cure cancer
BY CAMILLE DODERO

http://www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/news_features/other_stories/multipage/documents/02643520.htm

BYRON UTAH JORDAN, a Cambridge-based holistic healer with a name as brazen as his attitude, doesn't live in the same world as most Americans. According to Jordan, the world that modern Americans inhabit is "upside down" — an inverted order where the "mind-controlled masses" revere Britney Spears instead of Mother Teresa, where people claiming to be virgins dress like trollops. In Jordan's world, people looking for "sexual battle" are unambiguous: they slap on war paint.

To Jordan, everything is sacred: the fleas, the bees, the seas. The wind is alive too, and he chats with it. He also talks to trees. He says they speak back. Plants are much more intelligent than humans are, he reasons, since we go to herbs for healing. And as humans, we're stupid to think we're superior: everything on earth is equal, from the mosquito to the bear.

As a teacher and practitioner of "earth medicine" — an abstruse strain of alternative medicine Jordan learned from two Cherokee healers named Two Trees and Sun Bear — the 50-year-old Southerner bases many of his ideas on the ways of bears. It says so in the first sentence of Earth Medicine: The Way of the Bear , a booklet he wrote that introduces the foundation of earth medicine (available by e-mailing Jordan through his Web site, http://home.attbi.com/~earthmedicine ): "I walk an ancient path, following the footsteps of ancestors who followed the tracks of bears and learned from these sacred animals their healing knowledge. Even Hippocrates wrote of studying bears and learning medicine from them." From studying bears, Jordan says, the ancestors of his Cherokee mentors discovered "the truth": i.e. ,the cure is where you stand.

From where you stand, Jordan asserts, you can remedy everything from malignant lumps and crippling arthritis to premenstrual syndrome and attention-deficit disorder. Right under your feet are the restorative tools for easing headaches, relieving nausea, controlling diarrhea, even shriveling a tumor. In Jordan's world, there is no need for Pepto-Bismol, Midol, Maalox, health insurance, or bottled milk. And chemo is not therapy. Because in Jordan's world, healing begins and ends with the earth.

I WAS LIKE everybody else," Jordan recalls. "On the treadmill, working full-time jobs, wanting to be famous for my genetic creation. It was some sick stuff I was headed for."

A one-time merchant seaman, Jordan was described to me as "a big guy." Wearing a brown button-down and jeans, he's average size, a little under six feet tall — definitely not strapping. Yet the longer he talks, the easier it is to see how someone would picture him large: like most preachers, he swells as he sermonizes, his presence nearly swallowing the room whole. His face is a pageant of expression, changing spectacularly from crazed to friendly in less than a second, morphing from a wild-eyebrowed Grandpa Munster to a doughy-faced Cabbage Patch Kid.

Jordan's first encounter with what he calls "the mystical" was as a teenager in the late '60s, when a Dallas psychic predicted a college scholarship in his future. Back then, Jordan was a C student with a thirst for beer and no appetite for academics, so he knew his fortuneteller must be a wacko. But seven years later, after a stint sailing the ocean, Jordan applied to the University of California, San Diego to study biochemistry and the school offered him a full ride. And that's when he started to wonder.

His parents were Jehovah's Witnesses, but by the age of 27, Jordan was a "scientific atheist." Then, one day, while jogging along Black's Beach in San Diego, he ran into buddies who were building a sweat lodge with Cherokee medicine man Sun Bear. "When I was introduced to him, he asked me — he looked at me kind of funny, like — and asked me if I wanted to join his sweat lodge," Jordan says. "And I thought, 'Yeah, that'd be interesting.' I didn't even know that people still did sweat lodges." The experiences of that night awakened Jordan's spirituality. "Even as a devout atheist, the presence of God was so overwhelming in that little hovel, sitting naked on the earth, it affected me dramatically."

Soon after, Jordan's mother suffered a stroke, which was followed by what he terms "a miraculous healing through Christian prayer." It cured him of skepticism. "If someone else had told me their mother had recovered from a stroke through prayer, I'd have been, 'Yeah, right. Sure.' But it was my mother," he croaks, with emotion. "From then on, the world was a much scarier and weirder place."

In the early 1980s, Jordan himself fell ill with debilitating migraines, chronic fatigue, and memory loss. The deterioration dragged on for so long, with doctors unable to provide a diagnosis, that he left school. Eventually, he ended up in North Carolina, and there he met Two Trees, the person he credits with "saving my life." Two Trees diagnosed him on the spot as having an infestation of the fungus candida, and over the next year, he taught Jordan the elements of earth medicine.

Eleven years ago, Jordan relocated to Boston to get married. Within three months, he ended the engagement. "I realized it wasn't going to work," he grins. "She does research for Mass General. And that was when I started getting weird."

THE WESTERN medical axis is uncomfortable with holistic practitioners — especially those working without licenses or degrees — but that doesn't bother Jordan. "I never cared about the 'paper' after I found my way to my Cherokee Healing path," he writes in an e-mail. "I felt I had no use for the misguided, misinformed way of science."

MDs, loaded with degrees and credentials, have already seen most of Jordan's patrons. The folks Jordan counsels tend to be teetering on the precipice of death — old women with their stomachs eviscerated, men missing their lungs, patients eaten by tumors — people desperate enough to listen to a fey fella who talks to trees. "Cancer, MS — he sees people with serious problems," says Roger Moreau, owner of Lexington's Whole Health Pharmacy, who's referred hundreds of patients to Jordan. For many, Jordan is a last resort. "I work with people who are dealing with catastrophic illnesses," he says solemnly. "It's the worst part of my job. I see the undiagnosed cases and the can't-do-nothing-else-for-you cases. The we-give-up-on-you cases."

A "nasty case" of prostate cancer, for example, had John from Cambridge, a 57-year-old antiques dealer, in its blackened grip. (John asked that his last name not be used because his kids still don't know about his cancer.) One way physicians test for prostate cancer is through a blood test measuring prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a protein produced by the prostate that, at elevated levels, may indicate the presence of cancer cells. A score of four is typically cause for further testing. John's count was 27. "The highest I've ever heard," sighs the Cambridge resident.

A friend who discovered John's predicament suggested that his ailing chum meet Jordan, whom he described as an eccentric, garrulous guy who'd supposedly helped other cancer patients. "When you come across the C-word, you want the right reactions from people," John from Cambridge says. "When I met Byron and explained my situation, he looked me right in the eyes and told me he could help me."

Jordan prescribed an all-natural regimen, plus doses of Essiac, an herbal tea Jordan termed a "tumor shrinker." Simultaneously, John underwent radiation therapy, but abided by Jordan's routine the entire time he "got zapped."

A common side effect of radiation therapy is chronic fatigue — yet John says he never experienced exhaustion. The high-intensity X-rays never sidelined the antiques dealer professionally: he worked throughout the course of his radiation program.

Three months after the treatments, doctors retested John's PSA. The resulting levels, he recalls, were "undetectable." John believes it's a "near miracle," and credits Jordan's natural regimen with catalyzing the treatments' success. To this day, John says his PSA count is still below one.

Ted Mcalarney, a seventysomething friend of John's, had a similar experience. "When I was diagnosed for the prostate cancer, the PSA was 6.8," he says. "Right away, I started on the regimen. In the meantime, I made an appointment to see a doctor at the Dana-Farber, and it might've been a month or two before I had the appointment with the doctor. By then, my PSA had dropped down to 4.2." Mcalarney also received radiation treatments from the same doctor who treated John. These days, Mcalarney's PSA hovers around 1.2.

Other stories about Byron Utah Jordan are a lot like that, tales that sound too good to be true, extolling him as a "healer," a "blessing," or a "gift." Jordan keeps a book of testimonies, letters from clients filled with exclamation points and proclamations like, "I'm forever grateful for the day I met you" and "I'm so grateful my family insisted on meeting you!" Among the first-person accounts are two notes, one typed from a mother and another handwritten by her epileptic son:

9/24/98

Byron,

Eight weeks ago when we met, Derek was a different person than he is today. He had developed very noticeable tics. His entire life he had been lethargic, spacey, suffering from significant learning disabilities ... We started the Earth Medicine regimen the very next day. In a few short days, we saw the frequency and the severity of the tics beginning to decrease. And now, eight weeks later, all that's left are some slight facial twitches.

— CR

9/21/98

Byron,

Lately, I've felt on target and very focused, and I think that its all from the Green Magma I'm taking. Last year in 7th grade, I had a very, very difficult time paying attention ... but all that's changed. Now this year in the 8th grade, I'm doing so much better ... At first I was scared to go into the 8th grade, because the tics were so bad that I thought that kids were going to laugh at me. But with your help, the tics have gotten better... I may really hate this diet, and I may think its really stupid, but ... it has helped me with my epillepsy [sic].

Sincerely,

DR

Dr. Guy Pugh, medical director of the Marino Center for Progressive Health, a Cambridge facility offering a form of integrative care that Pugh describes as "mainstream unconventional," understands the appeal of these stories. "Anecdotally, I've had patients who've seen radical practitioners from all over the country," he says. "Some of them have had remarkable results in the changes in the course of their cancers. But you can't really draw conclusions about the efficacy of a treatment overall by looking at the individual response. You can find one, five, or 50 cases of people who've had their tumors evaporate, but unless they were controlled carefully, it would be very difficult to draw any conclusions." He pauses and then adds: "Although we as people find those stories very compelling, we as clinicians try our best to see them with the most objective light possible, so as to maintain a scientific balance."

EACH YEAR, Americans spend $27 billion on alternative medicine, but Jordan isn't among those turning a profit. Not only does he not advertise (perhaps because he doesn't want to draw attention to his lack of a license or medical degree), but he doesn't charge. "The rule, basically, is you make a donation according to your ability to pay," he explains. Jordan points over to the right of two folding screens, where a broken street sign reading two trees hangs on the wall. Underneath it is a basket used for offerings. Jordan got the idea from Two Trees himself, who left out a coffee can for collection.

"It's called the Cherokee sliding scale, and you pay according to your perception of the value of the work," he explains. Typically, clients proffer anywhere between $30 and $60. "Sometimes people put in $30, and then three years later I'll get a check for $200 or $300. Which I understand: at the time [of their initial visit], how do they know how valuable my advice is going to be? Years later, they go, 'Wow, what a difference this has made. I'm going to write that SOB a check.' "

But even if clients are broke, Jordan won't turn them away. "If people come and don't have any money, that doesn't change the way I treat them."

Jordan's earth-medicine consultations and his Orendé energy healing practice ("Acupuncture without needles," he explains) are his primary sources of income. Lately, he's had about one client a day, so rent has been a monthly walk of faith — but Jordan's not complaining. "Hell, any fool can make a living with a job," he says, elaborating on a quote he attributes to Sun Bear. "But when you take that job, you're literally going into economic slavery. The Native culture is based on being free. And not free in the modern American sense, but truly free: no boss, no landlord, no government, none of that crap."

He also accepts donations for his earth-medicine class, which takes place in his makeshift office, the second-floor living room of the Cambridge apartment he shares with two housemates. Around the corner is the kitchen, which is also the waiting room. The front door downstairs is unlocked. ("When you go to the doctor's office, you don't have to knock on the door, do you?") There are two massage tables pushed together against his office's far wall and a card table piled with pamphlets — the table is a "sentient being that is fully alive," according to Jordan — that doubles as the healer's consultation desk.

Forecasters have predicted snow for this afternoon, so just one student is present — a thin, apple-cheeked woman named Lori. Last April, doctors found a nodule on Lori's pituitary gland, so her massage therapist referred her to Jordan. She started Jordan's earth-medicine regimen in early July; by October, a follow-up ultrasound revealed that the nodule had already shrunk, so Lori canceled her scheduled surgery


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