Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
When it comes to the media's human cloning coverage, we're still in 1997. Chris Mooney; January 9, 2003 With each minute that passes, it becomes more and more astonishing that anyone ever though the Raelian cult's alleged human cloning was, um, real. Indeed, with each new turn in this storyâ€"the most recent being journalist Michael Guillen's decision to give up on corroborating the cloning claimâ€"the supposed birth of "Eve" looks more and more like a publicity stunt timed for just after Christmas, one of the slowest news weeks of the year. Skeptics have seen plenty of hoaxes in the sphere of the paranormal, but when there's a serious scientific issue at stake the result is in many ways much worse. The Raelians have received far more attention for their alleged cloning than they ever did for their longstanding UFO claims.
To read more go to: http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/cloning/
Celebrating a Third of a Century of Independence and Progress
A Conversation with Paul Kurtz of Prometheus Books
Paul Kurtz founded Prometheus Books in 1969 while a professor of philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, "to offer an alternative." From the beginning, Prometheus Books were written from a rationalistic, naturalistic and scientifically oriented perspective, examining the intersection of science and religion. Prometheus is now established in several original niche subjects: applied philosophy, religious criticism, skepticism of the paranormal, atheism and humanism.
The Starr Report
By Michael Starr
New York Post Jan 6, 2003
Yes, but did he see it coming? Tribune has canned the low-rated "Beyond with James Van Praagh," which airs here on Ch. 11 (1
p.m.). Tribune had hoped "Beyond," hosted by psychic James Van Praagh, would pose some tough competition in the "talking to
the dead" genre versus"Crossing Over with John Edward."
Skeptical Inquirers own Ben Radford quoted by Fox News
The New Year Is in the Stars Monday, January 06, 2003
By Amy C. Sims
NEW YORK - The Times Square ball may have dropped, but many people are still looking up to the stars for guidance in 2003. While some make New Year's resolutions, year-ahead astrological predictions are a must-read for many people...
"You can't put too much stock in this," said Benjamin Radford, managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. "The idea that you can tell future events by where planets are at a specific time â€¦ there's just no scientific evidence of that. Any of us can guess to some degree what will happen, like I predict in the next 10 years the Pope will die."
From Center For Inquiry Alum Tim Madigan:
Hi, Barry - I thought you'd enjoy this dig at Kreskin:
THIS IS kinda funny. I was just over at www.amazingkreskin.com -- and you don't have to be The Amazing Kreskin to guess that that's the official website of The Amazing Kreskin. It still displays his fearless predictions for 2002, such as "If [Gary] Condit chooses to run for re-election, he will win." There are clippings and current U.F.O. predictions and all sorts of nonsense, and I also love Kreskin's Photo Gallery in which "the bona fide mentalist" cannot seem to even identify many of the people with him in the photographs. There's a picture of Kreskin with George Kirby, but no one seems to have been able to remember George's name, so the caption is "Kreskin with famous impressionist." There's another one of him with "one of New York's leading weathermen" and one of him with "an actor from Law and Order" but he couldn't divine the names of these people. But the real winner is this announcement...
UFO Skeptic Robert Sheaffer sends along this note from the Histroy Channel regarding his appearance on their program on UFOs.
Subject: History Channel UFOs show:
We finally have an airdate for "UFO Hot Spots" (I believe that's the only one you were involved in). It will air on 1/29 at 9:00 PM Eastern & Pacific on the History Channel. FYI, the other two shows in the series "UFOs in the Bible" and "When UFOs Arrive" will air on 1/28 at 9:00 PM and 1/30 at 9:00 PM respectively.
January 19 2003
By Duncan Campbell
Mars looms large in Project Prometheus's vision of slashing travel time with nuclear-powered engines.
The United States was hoping to send an astronaut to Mars in a nuclear-powered rocket within eight years, said a senior NASA official.
Under the space agency's ambitious plan, the project would involve a two-month journey to Mars in a spaceship travelling at three times the present speed of space travel.
President George Bush may announce the plan, termed Project Prometheus, in his State of the Union address on January 28, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The plan would commit the US to the exploration of Mars as a priority, and herald the development of a nuclear-powered propulsion system.
The first voyage could be as early as 2010.
* The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been
canceled due to a conflict.
* The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."
* Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
* Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.
* Don't let worry kill you - let the Church help.
* A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
* At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.
* Eight new choir robes are currently needed, due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
* Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles, and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
* Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person(s) you want remembered.
* Attend and you will hear an excellent speaker and heave a healthy lunch.
* The church will host an evening of fine dining, superb entertainment, and gracious hostility.
* Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.
* Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
* The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours."
Three years ago a strange cycle of headaches started to grip Linda Norton. In July 1999, after her husband received a promotion, she moved from a cozy house in the woods of New Hampshire to an upscale development in Hackettstown, N.J. A few days after the move, while unpacking boxes, she felt a mild throbbing in her head. Norton, a 42-year-old mother of three with glossy blond hair and a winsome smile, didn't make much of it; she hadn't had a headache since she was a teenager. She took some Tylenol, and the headache went away. But a few days later the pain came back -- it felt like a vise clamped around the back of her head -- and returned again a few days after that. It had to be the stress of moving, Norton concluded, figuring that her headaches would disappear once her family settled into their new home.
But her headaches multiplied, and within a month she was having them every day. Over-the-counter medication provided temporary relief, yet the headaches kept coming back. At first Norton suspected the house and had it professionally cleaned several times. When that didn't help, she sought medical advice. ''I wanted to figure out what was causing the headaches,'' she told me recently at the Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia, one of the country's best headache clinics. ''I thought, Something has to be causing this.''
Susan Granger's review of "Penn & Teller: Bullshit!" (Showtime TV presentation)
With its advertising logo, "No Limits," Showtime once again leaps into controversy with this outrageous, irreverent expose of taboo topics, hosted by magicians Penn & Teller. While the title may give pause to viewers and advertisers, it's been carefully chosen because, as Penn explains, while it's profanity, it's also legal. Accusing performance artists of outright fraud isn't. So to avoid lawsuits, expletives are used as rather than more socially acceptable words.
The first episode of this half-hour series challenges the popular phenomenon of psychics who claim they can communicate with the dead. "Anyone can talk to the dead," Penn skeptically notes, "getting an answer is what's difficult." With the help of paranormal investigators, the technique of "cold readings" is revealed, as Penn delivers an angry tirade about how these nonsense peddlers exploit grief. Then Penn delves into "hot readings," which is when psychics cheat, using advance research or hidden microphones. Citing the P.T. Barnum effect, Penn contends that the public wants to be fooled. Who wouldn't want to talk to long-lost loved ones? Invariably the psychics have more misses than hits but people remember the hits, not the misses. Upcoming segments debunk Alternative Medicine, Alien Abductions, Environmental Hysteria, Bottled Water, Feng Shui, Creationism, Ouija Boards, Sex Appliances, Self-Help Gurus, Diets & Food, Second-Hand Smoke, ESP and the End of the World. On the Granger Made-for-TV Gauge, "Penn & Teller: Bullshit!" is a weird, wacky, intriguing 7 - and while I found the barrage of obscenities disconcerting, it seems useful in the case of scam artists. The series premieres on Friday, Jan. 24, at 11 PM with new episodes every Friday night. So how gullible are you?
Where Darwin Meets The Bible: Creationists and Evolutionists in America
Larry A. WithamAn excellent, well-written book, which should be required reading for anyone interested in the debate over creation and evolution in the United States. Witham, a journalist, emphasizes the religious aspects of the arguments, as that is clearly what makes it such a public issue. He presents most of the major players in the debate, including interesting touches from interviews, and brief summaries of their overall positions. There is not much in this book about the scientific aspects of the debate, and appropriately so -- the public concerns raised by evolution have little to do with scientific details. Witham constantly looks for the religious angle, including outspoken atheist scientists who argue Darwinian evolution supports a godless world, liberal religious thinkers who completely separate the sphere of science from that of religion, and "intelligent design" proponents who forcefully argue that the issue is not Bible-thumping but the naturalism of evolutionary theory. Witham rarely goes off the rails, and even that never distracts from the excellent job he does overall. This is the survey anyone interested in learning about the ideas and people in play about creation and evolution should read.
2002, Oxford University Press; vii+330p.
creationism, creationism:defense, creationism:philosophy, education, religion, religion:defense
Please visit the rest of the bibliography at
Consider contributing an entry or two yourself...
Taner Edis, SKEPTIC Bibliographer
Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society
David Sloan WilsonWilson argues that religions must offer something beyond a factual representation of gods and the cosmos. If religions do help their members and societies, then perhaps they should be beneficial in a long term and evolutionary way. Wilson takes a "group selection" perspective, which is controversial, but he defends this well, showing how religions succeed when their teachings influence adherents to participate in a smoothly functioning society. These practical adaptations improve a religion's staying power because they provide in-group stability. Although Wilson wanted to write a book for readers of all backgrounds, he has not "'dumbed down' the material for a popular audience," and admits that there is serious intellectual work to be done in getting through these pages. There is valuable and clear writing here, however, and a new way of looking at religion which may become a standard in scientific evaluation.
2002, University of Chicago Press; 280p.
[ Reviewed by Rob Hardy, firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Please visit the rest of the bibliography at
Consider contributing an entry or two yourself...
Taner Edis, SKEPTIC Bibliographer
If one were to mimic appropriately the "bread and circuses" atmosphere of contemporary creationism and the theatrical antics [e.g. phony debates] of some its more prominent practitioners, it would seem appropriate to conjure the following reply to "Dr" Kent ("From Adam to Luke with help from the Spook") Hovind's challenge -
In Response to Dr. Hovind's Generous Standing $250,000 Offer formerly a pathetic $10,000, offered since 1990 Dr. Faustrol2 of The Jarry Institute of Applied Pataphysics of Paris Offers the Sum of $50.00 Plus Soloist Billing in the Heavenly Choir Telling an Egotistic Deity How Pretty He Is For Eternity Plus Ten Years
Dr. Faustrol's offer prefers to sit rather than stand and consists of $50.00 to any creationist who can, using only the information given in John Woodmorappe's widely-praised [by creationary "scientists"] book on the feasibility of Noah's ark, build such a big wooden boat, fill it with the required "created kinds", and put to sea for a year manned only by a Biblically correct Noachian crew.
While tempting, such a format might easily be mistaken for a sign of insincerity. But my offer is just as real as "Dr" Hovind's.
"Scientists" who adhere to the "creationary paradigm"3 claim to practice real science. The creationary paradigm crowd has loudly touted the Woodmorappe ark "study" as compelling evidence for, or even actual proof of, the literal truth of Genesis' World Wide Flood. The book is cited countless times in creationist literature as if it were as important as Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Here's a boffo chance for them to conduct a genuine scientific experiment in order to demonstrate the validity of the massive Woodmorappian collection of "could haves". Let the creationary paradigmists build their Noachian barge, light it with fireflies (and hope they don't croak in the methane-rich arkian atmosphere), fill it with composting earthworms and animals trained to poop into buckets on command [Why haven't the circuses of the world learned this trick and eliminated their shoveling clowns? Guess they haven't read Woodmorappe's opus], and all the other foolishness in the book.
And if Woodmorappe's book isn't foolishness, let the creationary paradigm practitioners of the universe prove it with a simple genuine scientific experiment.
Given the frequently opulent lifestyles of prominent advocates of the creationary paradigm, including but not limited to the notable television and radio evangelists Jimmy Swaggart, Billy James Hargis, Oral Roberts and Robert Tilton, "scientific" practitioners of the creationary paradigm should have little difficulty getting the money to do so. If the likes of Jimmy Swaggart, Billy James Hargis, Oral Roberts and Robert Tilton can afford their mansions, prostitutes and expensive cars, they and their creationary paradigm brethren can surely pick enough pockets of the faithful with their tongues to raise the funds needed to defend their dubious Noachian fairy tale.
If the practitioners of the creationary paradigm refuse this challenge, what are they afraid of? Surely their Big Guy in the Sky deity wouldn't let them fail, would he? He wouldn't let them fail, would he? Would he?
The only restrictions are imposed by the Bible and Woodmorappe's Ark book. If it isn't in there, you can't use it, with the following exceptions:
If the ark drifts into non-Noachian modern danger zones such as shipping lanes, the vicinity of coral reefs or near land, support craft can tow it to Noachian waters -- but there can be no exchange of supplies or personnel at any time during the year afloat.
The ark can contain a GPS receiver for navigation and rudimentary two-way radio communications equipment, a solar-powered DVD player and an unlimited number of DVDs containing sermons by Jimmy Swaggart, Billy James Hargis, Oral Roberts and Robert Tilton.
A basic modern first-aid kit is permitted.
Creationist refusal of this offer would prove that the Noah's ark story is nothing more than a religious myth and "creation scientists" nothing but purveyors of wind and water.
1 Asking forgiveness of Jonathan Swift for the theft of his essay title
2 Dr. Faustrol is a character in the writings of Frenchman Alfred Jarry, one of the major influences on the Theatre of the Absurd. Pataphysics is Jarry's "science of imaginary solutions". Creation "science" is an example of pataphysics, albeit apparently without the conscious knowledge or intent of its practitioners. The Jarry Institute of Applied Pataphysics of Paris does not, to my knowledge, exist. It's imaginary, but at least I know it's imaginary. The answers offered by "creation scientists" are also imaginary, but they seem blissfully unaware of it. Perhaps stupidity is, after all, in some contexts a virtuous commodity.
3 and similar meaningless jargon
Saturday, January 18, 2003 Posted: 4:31 AM EST (0931 GMT)
VANCLEVE, Kentucky (AP) -- A small Appalachian Bible college is fighting to change its telephone number because the 666 prefix is disturbing to Christians who recognize it as the biblical mark of the beast.
"People say, 'You're a Bible college and you have 666 in your phone number?"' said Carlene Light, an office worker at Kentucky Mountain Bible College. "It's the connotation. No one wants to be part of the mark of the beast."
By Mark Goldblatt
Zeitgeist Films, distributor of the documentary Derrida, currently in limited release in select cities across the country, poses the following rhetorical question on its promotional website: What if you could watch Socrates, on film, rehearsing his Socratic dialogues? The insinuation, of course, is that Jacques Derrida, the contemporary French thinker sometimes called the "father of deconstruction" deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the ancient Greek thinker sometimes called the "father of philosophy." This is true only insofar as a firecracker and a hydrogen bomb both go pop. Otherwise, the comparison is ludicrous.
In :The Power of Place, the second volume of Janet Browne's biography of Charles Darwin, AS Byatt discovers the role of the postal service in the formulation of evolutionary theory
Saturday January 4, 2003
Charles Darwin: The Power of Place
by Janet Browne
656pp, Cape, £25
Janet Browne opens the second volume of her biography of Darwin in 1858, at the point when he received Alfred Russel Wallace's letter from the East Indies, containing Wallace's theory of natural selection and the development of new species. This alarmed the slowly cumulative writer of what was to become The Origin of Species, who was ashamed of his "trumpery feelings" of disappointment that his "priority" of discovery was compromised. Browne describes beautifully the gentlemanly way in which Darwin and his friends orchestrated the revelation of the theory, in a discussion that credited both scientists. As she rightly says, the friendship and respect that developed between Wallace and Darwin is a credit to both men - and it survived Wallace's later eccentric forays into spiritualism.
Anyone who has watched much nature television knows that orangutans are by far the handsomest and smartest-looking of the great apes. They're literal highbrows, with wide, soulful eyes and broad expressive foreheads. They're covered not with bathmat fur, like so many apes, but with what amounts to a couture pelt -- red hair so long and fine it seems blow-dried. It's true that orangutans drag their knuckles when they walk, but how else are you going to get around if your arms are longer than your legs? For creatures so large, they are uncommonly graceful, not to mention sweet-natured, so it's gratifying to learn that a team of scientists, writing in the journal Science, has recently certified them as ''cultured'' as well. Metaphorically at least, the news makes you want to extend a cheerful hand to your fellow primate and pump him by his auburn, hirsute paw (it would feel sort of like angora, I'm guessing).
Culture in this sense is not exactly a museum or concert-hall accomplishment. It's behavior that's not genetically determined but, rather, learned by watching others; certain styles of tool use, for example, or systems of social signaling. The theory is that if animals in one place do something a certain way, for no particular reason, and the same animals someplace else do not, then chances are that behavior is cultural, not instinctive.
The expedition members emphasized that they aren't certain this is the actual tomb, which if it follows Mongol custom could contain large amounts of treasure; that they are still seeking official permission to excavate the grave area next summer; and that one bit of ambiguous evidence-pottery shards found on the site's surface-may actually pre-date the era of Khan.
Nevertheless, the announcement caught popular and media imagination.
"The location of this site is intriguing," says Woods, U.S. academic director for the Genghis Khan Geo-Historical Expedition, established in 1995 by Chicago attorney Maury A. Kravitz. The enclave of tombs, holding the remains of high-status Mongolian tribespeople, lies not far from the town of Batshireet-200 miles northeast of Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia's capital-on a hill near Genghis Khan's probable birthplace and near the site where he was proclaimed emperor of the Mongols. Some 20 unopened tombs were found on a 600-foot elevation that is part of a walled burial ground known locally as "the Almsgivers Castle," "Chinggis' Castle," and "Red Rock." Another 40 unopened graves lie in the enclave's lower area. Discovered during the expedition's second season of surveying sites associated with Khan, the tombs are encircled by a two-mile long, 9- to 12-foot high wall built without mortar from a variety of stones.
Genghis Khan, whose original name was Temüjin, was born in 1162. Succeeding his father at age 13 as head of his family, he quickly demonstrated his military genius. By 1206 Temüjin was master of almost all of Mongolia and was proclaimed Genghis Khan ("Oceanic Lord"), leader of the united Mongol nation. He invaded northern China, capturing Beijing in 1215, and then turned west, conquering parts of the eastern Islamic world. At his death in 1227, his armies controlled a landmass reaching from Beijing to the Caspian Sea.
Kravitz, an independent scholar who has studied the life of Genghis Khan for 40 years, says that to discover his grave would be "the find of all finds." Already, the expedition has had its share of Indiana Jones-like moments: the team had to turn back from its attempt to scale one possible burial site, deterred by Mongolian hordes of horseflies that Woods said were "right out of a Hollywood science-fiction film. They were large, they were multi-colored, they were bad."
Despite the flies, Woods-who primarily studies the history of Turkey, Iran, and Central Asia from the 13th to 18th centuries and focuses on the encounters of sedentary and nomadic peoples-has enjoyed his first foray into archaeology, where "serendipity is so important." The enclave, he explains, was found almost by accident, when the team approached the site "with the idea of eliminating it" from consideration. Instead, armed with the necessary permissions from the Mongolian government-and plenty of insect netting-the team plans to return next summer to determine if the site is truly the final resting place of Genghis Khan. - M.R.Y.
Albany: State senator assailed after calling
bishop's presence inappropriate
By Elizabeth Benjamin, Capitol bureau
A request by a Democratic state senator to bar certain Catholic clergy when the chamber is in session - particularly Albany Roman Catholic Bishop Howard Hubbard - drew angry responses from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Thursday.
Sen. Thomas Duane, D-Manhattan, said he finds it "inappropriate" for Catholic leaders to be in the chamber at a time when lawmakers continue to consider legislation to address the sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the Catholic church.
The presence of clergy members could give the impression that they are "exerting undue influence" on senators, Duane wrote in a letter Wednesday to Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick. It also "sends a terrible message" to victims of abuse that church leaders are using their influence with the state to shield themselves from liability, he said.
Bruno spokesman John McArdle would not comment on the letter, saying: "We don't want to dignify it with a response."
Duane's concern was sparked by Hubbard's presence Wednesday in the Senate chamber, where he delivered a convocation during a ceremony to mark the first day of the 2003 legislative term. Hubbard was invited by the Republican majority to give the convocation, as he has annually for more than a decade, a diocesan spokesman said.
After praying, Hubbard remained on the podium for the rest of the 20-minute session, after which senators walked down the hall to the Assembly chamber to hear Gov. George Pataki deliver his ninth State of the State address.
In an interview Thursday, Duane said he took issue with Hubbard's presence because the bishop is a member of the New York State Catholic Conference, which lobbies lawmakers on many legislative issues. Lobbyists are not allowed on the floor of either the Assembly or the Senate while lawmakers are in session.
"Bishop Hubbard is a very prominent leader, and as such his presence during session, I believe, sent a chilling message to legislators," Duane said. "If he feels the need to give the convocation, he should absolutely leave the chamber afterward while we're doing the people's business as any lobbyist would be asked to leave."
The senator said he is not advocating that all Catholic clergy be barred from praying in the Senate and has nothing personal against Hubbard. But he opposes "any bishop from the New York Diocese presiding in the Senate chamber."
Duane said he believed the Catholic Conference had a hand in killing legislation last year that would add clergy to the list of professionals required to report to authorities cases of child abuse they learn about while on duty.
A Catholic Conference spokesman hotly denied Duane's allegation, as did Assemblyman John "Jack" McEneny, D-Albany, and Sen. Stephen Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, who sponsored the legislation in their respective houses.
The two lawmakers said there was an agreement on the bill, but it was held up by a last-minute problem - it would require health care and mental health professionals to report cases of consensual sex among underage teens. Advocates from groups like Planned Parenthood worried the bill would deter young people from seeking health care services and asked that it be reworked.
Both McEneny and Saland were unrestrained Thursday in their criticism of Duane, as was Richard Barnes, executive director of the Catholic Conference.
"To me it's the height of hypocrisy," Saland said. "It reeks with a sense of intolerance. To have Senator Duane, of all people, be the one who is hurling this type of innuendo, if not invective, is to me staggering."
Duane, the only openly gay member of the Senate, routinely speaks out in favor of civil rights and anti-prejudice legislation.
"Senator Duane's assertion that a Catholic bishop should be barred from praying in the Senate chamber is an expression of anti-Catholic intolerance," Barnes said. "The senator's claim that such a prayer 'give(s) the impression of exerting undue influence on Senate members' is an extremely serious and offensive charge, both to the bishop and his fellow senators."
McEneny started by calling Duane's letter "very insulting to Bishop Hubbard," but did not stop there.
"It is appalling, insulting and grossly unfair, particularly against an individual who has a long record of service and advocacy to the very constituencies that Senator Duane purports to represent," McEneny said.
Hubbard has long been well-known throughout the diocese and within the U.S. church as an outspoken advocate for social justice issues.
The diocese itself was reserved in its response to Duane's comments.
"The bishop was invited by the Senate to deliver the invocation at their opening legislative session as he has for over a decade," said diocesan spokesman Ken Goldfarb. "There was nothing different or unusual about this from one year to the next. The Assembly had their clergyman that they picked to do it. We don't believe anything else has to be said."
posted January 9, 2003
From the Hill Online
The University received criticism in December from a civil rights group for threatening to cut funding and University access to the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship based on a violation of the University's non-discrimination policy.
On Dec. 10, Jonathan Curtis, the Student Union's assistant director for student activities and organizations, issued InterVarsity and 16 other campus groups letters informing them that they must change their charters to conform to the University's anti-discrimination policy, which states in part that "openness to full membership and participation must be available to all members of the University community without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender (where applicable)."
InterVarsity allows anyone to join, but it specifies that its officers must adhere to Christian beliefs.
Scott Vermillion '91, staff director of the University's four chapters of InterVarsity, which have about 325 members, said he thought religious organizations should maintain the right to discriminate based on religious beliefs to preserve the organization's identity. "If we give up our beliefs, we give up who we are." But he added that every religious group on campus has a right to found its own organization based on specific beliefs. He said InterVarsity's exemption should be extended to similar groups that received letters from Curtis.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in Philadelphia, a First Amendment watchdog group, indicated it was willing to sue the University for ignoring InterVarsity's right to freedom of expression.
Chancellor James Moeser issued a statement Dec. 31 declaring InterVarsity exempt from the requirement. "On balance, given that general membership in IVCF is open to all students, I believe that in this matter, preserving freedom of expression is the more crucial consideration.
"This is not a simple matter. While the University continues to seek to ensure that our facilities and resources are not used in any way that fosters illegal discrimination, we also wish to uphold the principles of freedom of expression."
Vermillion said he was pleased with the outcome. But he said he suspects the media pressure influenced Moeser's decision. "The media coverage sped a decision. I'm not sure the University believes we have a right to be on campus."
Other groups that are expected to meet the requirement include religious organizations such as the Chi Alpha Omega Christian fraternity, the Brotherhood of Christ and the Baha'is of UNC. Among non-religious groups held in violation were the Native-American Law Student Association and the University's chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
The Catholic Church scandal is blamed for confidence index hitting lowest level in decades. Protestant churches show little or no drop.
By Larry B. Stammer
Times Staff Writer
The sexual abuse scandal that dogged the Roman Catholic Church throughout 2002 has driven public confidence in organized religion overall to its lowest level in six decades, a new poll by George H. Gallup Jr. has found.
Only 45% of Americans had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in organized religion in 2002, compared with 60% who did so in 2001 before the sexual abuse scandal erupted. When it comes to the ethical standards of clergy, only 52% of Americans gave clergy a very high or high rating in 2002, compared with 64% who did so in 2001. The poll reported a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
"It's a major body blow to the [Roman Catholic] church," Gallup said in an interview.
Pennsylvnia State University
January 14, 2003
University Park, Pa. - Climate change had little to do with the demise of the dinosaurs, but the last million years before their extinction had a complex pattern of warming and cooling events that are important to our understanding of the end of their reign, according to geologists.
"The terrestrial paleoclimate record near the K-T is historically contradictory and poorly resolved," says Dr. Peter Wilf, assistant professor of geosciences at Penn State. "In contrast, the resolution of K-T marine climates that has emerged over the last 10 years is excellent. Our work brings the terrestrial record up to speed so that we can look for global climate events that occurred for both land and sea."
Wilf worked with Kirk R. Johnson, curator of paleontology, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, who provided the data on land plant fossils and Brian T. Huber, curator of Foraminifera, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, who provided the marine data.
An extraterrestrial object that impacted the Earth near the Yucatan in Mexico 65.51 million years ago doomed the dinosaurs and 70 percent of the Earth's other species, vaporizing itself and the surrounding rocks and throwing enough ash, soot and debris into the atmosphere to effectively stop photosynthesis worldwide. This impact radically altered the natural progression of evolution. The time of the impact is called the K-T boundary and marked the end of Cretaceous Period and the beginning of the Tertiary Period.
"It could be argued that we are still recovering from that impact and the mass extinctions of dinosaurs, mammals, insects, plants and sea life that it caused," says Wilf, who worked on this project at the University of Michigan before coming to Penn State. "For example, not only the dinosaurs, but also 80 to 90 percent of the Cretaceous plant species, including all the dominant species, disappeared."
According to Wilf, there is a lingering minority argument that the K-T extinction was caused by climate change, but the research team's results, published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, both document the climate changes and show that they were not the principal cause.
Wilf, Johnson and Huber first worked to create a finely resolved terrestrial temperature record, based on plant fossils, and then correlated that record with the existing marine records.
Plant fossils from the one million-year period before the extinction that are abundant and well preserved in a fine time sequence are found only in New Mexico and North Dakota. Of the two, the North Dakota sites are comparably much more intensively collected and studied and enabled Johnson to collect 22,000 plant fossils of more than 300 fossil plant species.
"Only in the last year, with the publication of an entire volume filled with new research results on the Hell Creek Formation in North Dakota, can we do this work and tie the plant fossil record there to actual dates in millions of years rather than relative dates," says Wilf. Johnson is a co-editor and contributor for the Hell Creek volume.
Fossils can be dated relatively by their position in the stratigraphy or layers of sediment using a simple rule. In undisturbed layers, the oldest fossils are in the lowest layers and the most recent fossils are in higher levels. Tying relative dates to real dates is not easy, especially keeping within the 100,000 year sensitivity available in the marine record, which comes from the scientific results of the ocean drilling program.
Luckily, the K-T extinction occurred during a short interval in the Earth's magnetic pole reversals. Periodically, the Earth's poles switch polarity making North negative and South positive. Eventually, another switch occurs making North positive and South negative. A record of the Earth's paleomagnetism is recorded in the rocks as they are laid down.
"Three hundred and thirty-three thousand years before the extinction, a pole reversal occurred," says Wilf. "Two hundred and seventy thousand years after the extinction, another reversal occurred."
Because the researchers have three datable points --the two reversals and the K-T impact - they could attach ages to the layers and the fossils within and correlate the terrestrial and marine data at much finer resolution than ever before.
Simply equating the layers, however, was not enough. The researchers needed to estimate the temperature of the environment in which each fossil grew. For the plants, this turned out to be simple, using a method first developed in 1915 that is still widely used today.
Modern forests have two types of trees, those with toothed leaves and those with smooth leaves. The cooler the climate, the higher the percentage of species with toothed leaves.
"The presence of palm species also suggests a warm climate as these plants cannot survive the ground freezing," says Wilf.
The researchers found from the plants that the long, slow cooling that occurred for millions of years of the Late Cretaceous was broken by a warming event that began about 66 million years ago and peaked 300,000 to 100,000 years before the K-T collision. The temperatures then returned to baseline just before the collision and stayed nearly constant before and after the collision. The plant record agreed strongly with the marine data, which comes from ocean coring projects in the South Atlantic, Antarctica and off the shores of New Jersey and Florida, and is based on the oxygen isotope ratios in the skeletons of marine-shelled micropredators called Foraminifera. The colder the water, the more of the heavier oxygen isotope is incorporated in the calcium carbonate of the shells. The sediments that entomb the forams also record the paleomagnetic reversals around the K-T.
Because the marine data come from four different locations and the terrestrial data from a fifth, the warming and cooling trends seem global, according to Wilf. The marine data also show that warm water forams migrated from the tropics as far as New Jersey and Antarctica.
While the mean annual temperature in North Dakota today is 43 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, during the warmest part of the warming episode, the mean annual temperature was from 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The North Dakota site was then at the same latitude as Quebec City, Canada, and not only palm trees, but alligators and turtles thrived too.
"The K-T impact affected the Earth's living things severely and dramatically, but the climate changes right before the impact, by comparison, did not," says Wilf. "Understanding the climate and vegetation before the impact gives us insight into what kind of world the meteorite struck, and shows us that it was warming, cooling, lushly forested and otherwise functioning the way it always has done. The dinosaurs were well adapted to global warming and cooling, but not to giant speeding rocks from space."
The American Chemical Society, National Science Foundation and Smithsonian Institution funded this research.
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The Association for
The European Council of
The Committee for the Scientific
Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
Congress Advisory Board
Prof. Willem Betz, University of Brussels; Dr. Scott Campbell, University of Nottingham; Prof. Cornelis de Jager, Universities of Utrecht and Brussels; Prof. Steven Donnelly, University of Salford; Prof. Christopher French, Goldsmiths College, University of London; Dr. Toby Howard, University of Manchester; Mr. Mike Hutchinson, The Skeptic; Mr. Barry Karr, CSICOP; Dr. Martin Mahner, GWUP/ECSO; Prof. David Marks, City University; Mr. Amardeo Sarma, GWUP/ECSO; Dr. Graham Wagstaff, University of Liverpool; Dr. Richard Wiseman, University of Herts.
PRELIMINARY PROGRAMME and EARLY CALL FOR PAPERS
This is a preliminary outline of the programme for the 11th European Skeptics Congress in 2003 and an early first call for papers to enable potential speakers plenty of time to consider what they would like to contribute to the congress.
The congress will be divided into symposia. Some will include one or more presentations from invited speakers. The remaining time will be devoted to shorter presentations by participants and audience discussion of these presentations.
Provisional titles of the symposia are given in this brochure. Under each title are examples of possible topics for volunteered presentations. There will be at least two types of non-invited presentation:
1. Presentations of 20 minutes + 10 minutes for question and discussion
2. 'Make you point' sessions. These will be of 1 hours duration, with 4 speakers. Each speaker will be allowed no more than 7 minutes to make his or her point. Following the 4 presentations there will be comments and questions from the audience to any of the speakers, thus allowing each speaker to develop his or her theme.
N.B. The programme organisers will give preference to presentations of the second type, in order to encourage audience participation and debate.
The congress is open to anyone, and indeed we hope that people from all walks of life will come and listen and participate in the debates and discussions. It is the intention of the organisers that costs will be kept to a minimum to encourage a good attendance. The exact venue and costs will be announced as soon as possible.
SYMPOSIUM 1: SCIENCE, HEALTH AND MEDICINE
This symposium addresses contemporary controversies in health, illness and treatment. As well as the traditional conflict between conventional science-based medicine and alternative medicine, participants and audience are invited to take a skeptical stance on a range of matters pertaining to modern medicine in general, including orthodox approaches.
There will be two invited addresses, one on the current state of alternative medicine, the other on cancer treatment. Further contributions are invited, suggested themes and titles being as follows:
· The current state of alternative medicine
· Alternative medicine: Free market, regulation or prohibition?
· Health scares
· Is there a voice for Skepticism in modern medicine?
· Modern medicine: friend or tyrant?
· The medicalisation of everyday life
· Are there real alternatives to orthodox medical practice?
· Evidence-based medicine: Fad or the way forward?
· Is medicine bad for our health?
· Gene therapy: Salvation or false dawn?
· Can prevention work better than cure?
· Mental illness: The medical model wrongly applied?
· Medical ethics
· Does medical research give value for money?
· Animal research: For whose benefit?
SYMPOSIUM 2: ANOMALISTIC PSYCHOLOGY
This symposium deals with the area of anomalistic psychology, which may be defined as the study of extraordinary phenomena of behaviour and experience, including (but not restricted to) those that are often labelled "paranormal". It is directed towards understanding bizarre experiences that many people have without assuming a priori that there is anything paranormal involved. It entails attempting to explain paranormal and related beliefs and ostensibly paranormal experiences in terms of known (or knowable) psychological and physical factors and presenting empirical evidence to support such explanations.
The paranormal is here defined as "alleged phenomena that cannot be accounted for in terms of conventional scientific theories". The definition of the paranormal adopted by those working in this area typically goes beyond the core phenomena of ESP, PK, and life after death. There will be a keynote address presenting an overview of the area. Contributions are invited on such topics as:
· Cognitive biases related to ostensibly paranormal experiences
· Personality characteristics associated with paranormal belief and experience
· The development and maintenance of paranormal and related beliefs
· The functions of paranormal and related beliefs
· Altered states of consciousness
(Symposium 2, continued)
· Dissociative states, including dissociative identity disorder
· The relevance of false memories and reality monitoring errors to paranormal claims
· The psychology of deception and self-deception
· Placebo effects
· The psychology of psychic readings
· The psychology of superstition
· The psychology of coincidences
· Sleep-related disorders, including sleep paralysis
· Religious experiences and religious beliefs
· Non-paranormal accounts for a range of ostensibly paranormal experiences including:
· Extrasensory perception
· Psychic readings
· Psychic healing
· Alternative and complementary medicine
· Out-of-body and near-death experiences
· Astrology and other divinatory techniques
· UFOs and alien abduction
· Ghosts and poltergeists
· Crystal power
SYMPOSIUM 3: PARAPSYCHOLOGY
This symposium assesses the current status and future prospects of parapsychology. Parapsychology attempts to study alleged paranormal phenomena using the tools of experimental science. Proponents claim that it is only prejudice on the part of the wider scientific community that prevents the general acceptance that the existence of paranormal forces has been established beyond all reasonable doubt. Critics allege that parapsychology is dogged by the problems of failure to replicate, sloppy methodology, and occasional fraud by experimenters or participants.
There will be an invited address by a leading parapsychologist outlining the current state of the field. Further contributions are invited, arguing both for and against the psi hypothesis, dealing with such topics as:
· Ganzfeld studies
· Remote viewing
(Symposium 3, continued)
· Mental interactions with living organisms
· Field consciousness
· Ghosts and poltergeists
· Near-death and out-of-body experiences
· The scientific status of parapsychology
SYMPOSIUM 4: (to be decided, or 'miscellany')
This is reserved either for a miscellany of topics or a single theme that may emerge from the 'call for papers'. Apart from the usual topics, talks on more radical, iconoclastic and even political themes will also be considered, provided they present a reasoned and informed skeptical analysis.
DEBATE: 'SCIENTISTS ON THE DEFENSIVE'
This 90-minute debate will consist in the main of 5-minute 'make your point' presentations plus spontaneous contributions from the audience. Examples of points for the debate are as follows:
· Public conceptions of science
· The teaching of science in schools
· Science and the media: What's wrong?
· Do scientists have too much power?
· Science and ethics
· Science and religion
· Should we trust scientists?
GIVING A PRESENTATION
If you would like to give a presentation at the congress (full paper or a 'make your point' contribution) please complete the form enclosed with this brochure entitled 'Preliminary Application to Present a Paper' and return it to the congress address shown. The congress organisers will then contact you in due course with further information. Please note that there is no discount on the congress registration fee for contributors to the programme. The 11th European Skeptics Congress London, September 5-7, 2003
If you are interested in giving a presentation at the congress, please read the brochure 'Provisional Programme and Early Call for Papers' and in particular note that the programme organisers will give preference to the following presentations:
1. Those that are on a topic that is covered by any of the planned symposia as outlined in the brochure
2. 'Make your point' presentations
Address for Correspondence: Telephone: Fax: Email:
Name of skeptical organisation of which you are a member (if any):
Title of your presentation:
Type of presentation (please tick): 30 minute talk OR 'Make your point' presentation:
Brief resumé of presentation:
Please post or email your form to The 11th European Skeptics Congress, ASKE,
P.O. Box 5994, Ripley, DE5 3X, UK (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Quacks And Crusaders: The Fabulous Careers of John Brinkley, Norman Baker, and Harry Hoxsey
Eric S. Juhnke
2002, University Press of Kansas; 224p., 28 photos
We have had a boom in interest in "alternative health care" recently, but that interest has been with us ever since there has been a medical establishment to which there could be alternatives. In the American Midwest in the 1930s three alternative healers began a rise to financial, social, and political power. Juhnke documents their rise and fall, and gives a lesson in the dangers of credulousness. It is important that Juhnke has brought them again to our attention. We may no longer have a John Brinkley pushing goat gland transplants, but anyone who watches television knows that herbal cures, homeopathy, and healing magnets are still taking money from the gullible. There is still a large group of potential patients who view organized medicine (and governmental regulation of medical treatment) as some sort of conspiracy, and of course there are plenty of faith healers who are glad to have their flocks doubting the efficacy of regular medical treatment. Brinkley, Baker, and Hoxsey eventually lost their power and their millions, but Juhnke's useful study reminds us that there are always healers ready to take their place.
[ Reviewed by Rob Hardy, email@example.com ]
Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/ Please consider submitting an entry yourself.
Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer
January 17, 2003 8:45 a.m.
Spirits in the Sky
Their cloning techniques may (or, more likely, may not) be cutting edge, but there's nothing particularly novel about the Raelians. That's true both literally (they have been around since the 1970s) and, ahem, spiritually — the wilder realms of UFO lore have long been filled with numerous cults, creeds, and true believers in salvation from the skies.
Distinguishing between all the varieties of alien enlightenment can be confusing. To use a possibly unfortunate word, "space" does not permit a detailed survey of what is on offer, so here's a quick guide to some of the players, with a handy comparison of certain key issues to help you choose the group best suited to your needs. NRO's dedicated team of in-house sensitivity counselors insist that the word "cult," with its pejorative connotations, be avoided, so let's just say that all these people have managed, at one time or another, to attract an enthusiastic following. All claims of alien contact have been taken at face value.
Before making your choice, here are some questions you might want to ask:
Just finished the first three programs of our TV series here. Outstanding, triumphant, superb, flawless, satisfying, incredible, and epoch-making.
Effusive account to follow.
WEDNESDAY, 15 JANUARY 2003
Was it a blur on the lens, a doctored image, a large and misshapen bird, or was it a visitor from another planet?
No one knows for sure, but dozens of people called a national radio morning talkback show to share their thoughts about the object in a photograph printed in the Otago Daily Times yesterday.
The photo was taken by Dunedin man Tom Ueyama, who was left baffled as to what the flying saucer shaped object was, which appears in his shot of the Cardrona bra fence taken on December 28.
Today, dozens of people phoned the Auckland based station to relay their own experiences with unidentified flying objects, some of which, were in the lower South Island, around the same as Mr Ueyama's experience and resembled what appears in the bra fence photograph.
Waikouaiti man Mac Lotter yesterday called the ODT to relay what he saw while driving from Waikouaiti to Palmerston, "a couple of days after Christmas".
"There was something in the sky which looked to be levelling up with me from a distance.
"It was a really clear day and it was so vivid," Mr Lotter, who does not believe in UFOs, said.
He described the object as a pure white flat saucer shape.
"I stopped to get my camera, but when I looked up again it had vanished."
Dunedin Astronomical Society president Peter Jaquiery said there was nothing "particularly obvious" about the object.
"I am a bit intrigued about the dark area above it, but that doesn't indicate anything obvious either."
He said he doubted it was the vehicle of a visitor from outer space.
A spokesman for the Royal New Zealand Air Force confirmed no air force planes were in the area around the time in question.
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IN THE NEWS
Today's Headlines - January 17, 2003
SHUTTLE COLUMBIA LIFTS OFF AFTER TWO-YEAR DELAY
from The Washington Post
CAPE CANAVERAL, Jan. 16 -- Two years behind schedule, the shuttle Columbia rocketed into space yesterday, kicking off a 16-day science mission featuring more than 80 experiments, a host of animal research subjects and the first Israeli astronaut.
With its three main engines at full throttle, Columbia's solid-fuel boosters ignited with a ground-shaking roar at 10:39 a.m., instantly pushing the spacecraft away from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.
Eight-and-a-half minutes later, the 120-ton shuttle slipped into orbit in the first of six shuttle missions planned for the year.
2ND CANCER IS ATTRIBUTED TO GENE USED IN F.D.A TEST
from The New York Times
The second case of a leukemia-like disease in a gene therapy patient in France appears to have the same basic cause as the first one, a scientist investigating the incident said yesterday.
In both cases, it appears the gene inserted into the boys' cells to cure their disease accidentally landed on or near a cancer-causing gene and switched it on, said the scientist, Dr. Christof von Kalle of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, who is collaborating with the French researchers.
Dr. von Kalle said his preliminary assessment, which is still to be verified, suggested that the problem might be restricted to the particular gene therapy regimen in France. "This is something that is so specific and unique I would say it would not have been possible to predict this," he said.
ATLANTIC SHARKS FOUND IN RAPID DECLINE
from The New York Times
Shark populations in the northwest Atlantic Ocean have plunged by more than half since scientists began keeping careful track in 1986, with marquee species like the hammerhead and the great white falling more than 75 percent, researchers are reporting.
Such an abrupt decline in the ocean's dominant hunters could substantially alter marine food chains in ways that are impossible to predict and might take decades to reverse, the researchers and other experts said.
The researchers, from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, ascribed the drop to intensifying commercial and recreational fishing for sharks, which reproduce slowly compared with other oceanic fish. They described their findings today in the journal Science.
MILITARY HYBRID MAY DRIVE CIVILIAN FUEL CELL USE
from The Los Angeles Times
DETROIT -- The space program gave us Teflon, and military aircraft development gave us disc brakes and drive-by-wire systems, so maybe it will take the U.S. Army to give us civilian fuel-cell vehicles.
That's some of the thinking behind a collaboration between General Motors Corp. and the Army on a battle truck project that could help improve troop mobility and safety while slashing fuel costs. A GM executive said the Army wants to begin placing hybrid trucks in its fleet by the end of the decade.
Because the military can pay much higher prices than civilians for new technologies, GM executives think the program will help hasten the day fuel-cell-powered passenger vehicles are available at car dealerships.
ROUGH WEATHER IN OUTER SPACE CAN WREAK HAVOC ON EARTH
from The Miami Herald
WASHINGTON - Tornadoes, floods, ice storms, hurricanes, drought - weather on Earth isn't for sissies. But weather in outer space can be even rougher.
Gales of high-energy solar particles race by our planet at speeds of a million or more miles per hour. Intense magnetic fields, broiling clouds of electrified gas and deadly cosmic rays fill the space environment just a few hundred miles over our heads.
Space weather endangers not only astronauts and spacecraft, but also people and industry down here on the ground. It has knocked out power grids, garbled radio transmission, fried sensitive electronic equipment and wrecked a major communication satellite.
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Dear Straight Dope:
What's the deal with feng shui? Every time I see someone on television espousing it, I reach for my wallet, because its fundamentals and supposed benefits seem a total crock to me. Am I just being reactionary and biased against non-European theories, or is feng shui really just flimflam? --Chris Garrity, Los Angeles
[Related to the Randi story following. Ed.]
Welcome to the official website of the Yellow Bamboo Association.
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You know the demonstrations we organize are only to show you the power you have achieved. Regardless of whether you want to be able to knock down attackers from 10 feet away by merely striking the ground, to heal the sick, become a billionaire or reach a special relationship with your creator- this is the tool to achieve what you want.
The Yellow Bamboo organization openly embraces all walks of life, all religions, all religious beliefs, all races because in the end we are all the product of our creator, preserver and destroyer. The main criteria is the Yellow Bamboo practitioner must be **serious**
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Anybody who has any knowledge on the paranormal, psi phenomena, or anything like that has for sure heard of Magician James Randi. James Randi is a professional magician, and an official truth terrorist.
Lately he has been making claims, one time that has been on the news, that he is offering 1 million dollars to anybody who can successfully perform a paranormal ability. This is complete utter bunk. Several well known psychics and other people with "paranormal" abilities have approached him and asked to take his little test and have been completely denied, and with a rude attitude at that. He also wants people to fly to Bali for the tests to be performed, which no westerner in his right mind would travel to right now. Its very simple, James Randi is not going to give anybody 1 million dollars for abilities that have been proven scientifically over and over again in independent studies done at universities such as the University of Princeton's parapsychological program and Global Consciousness Study (http://noosphere.princeton.edu/), and the governments 20 year STARGATE study performed at Stanford Research International (SRI), and other universities. Psychic mediums have been on the news almost weekly on Larry King and other shows, having people calling in with about 80% accuracy (no its not the so called psychic trickster "cold readings" that these magicians claim there using.) A recent study done by a former medical skeptic Dr. Gary Schwartz PhD. called The Afterlife Experiments, proved these allegations right and the experimentation showed the psychic mediums used such as Jon Edwards [sic] and others were correct 80% of the time. You can go to the studies website at www.openmindsciences.com. This isn't the first time Randi has used fraudery to fake other peoples frauds. In the 70's when everybody was talking about the spoon-bending Uri Geller, he pulled the same tactics. Him and some other occult magicians (which makes me question their motivations) claimed that any skilled magician could perform the feats that Uri performed. However after performing tricks on stage, on television, in front of scientists and politicians alike they never fully demonstrated how he did it, just saying he was "a dangerous man whose somehow taken magic to "the next level"." He then went on a huge campaign to convince everyone how Uri was a fake, and after Uri being emotionally and mentally attacked was having troubles with his abilities, and because he was just in it for ego and fame at the time (which Uri admits) he performed standard magic when his abilities failed on stage, and Randi and others exposed this destroying Uri's credibility. Regardless of what people were led to believe Uri is now a changed man and still performs his feats. If you think this is impossible here is what several highly respected people have said about Uri Geller:
"Uri bent a spoon for me, the first time he did it, I thought there must be a trick. The second time I was stunned, completely, completely stunned and amazed. It just bent in my hand. I've never seen anything like it. It takes a lot to impress me. Uri Geller is for real and anyone who doesn't recognize that is either deluding himself, or is a very sad person."David Blain, (American Magician. Star of ABC's Television Specials.)
"I have spent my life in neuropsychiatry and have been interested in strange mental states and odd phenomena for a number of years. I first met Uri three years ago and was able to watch him bend a spoon on a colleague's outstretched hand. I took a spoon from the table. Uri did not touch it, I put it on my colleague's hand and asked Uri to bend it. Uri ran his finger above the spoon and stood back. Nothing happened. We expressed some disappointment, still watching the spoon. He said, Wait and Watch. Slowly, as we watched, with Uri standing well away, the spoon started to curl in front of us, and within four minutes the tail of the spoon had risen up like a scorpions sting. I then took the spoon, the first time I had handled it since I put it there, and sure enough, it remained a normal spoon with a marked bend."Dr. Peter Fenwick. MB, BChir, DPM, FIRCPsych
Dr. Fenwick is a senior lecturer at the institute of psychiatry, London, Consultant Neuropsychiatrist at John Radcliffe infirmary in Oxford, and Honorary consultant in Neurophysiology to Broadmoor Special Hospital. He has published numerous scientific papers on brain function and also several papers on meditation and altered states of consciousness. His most recent book is "The Truth of Light". Dr. Fenwick is also chairman of the scientific and Medical network, a group of doctors and scientists seeking to deepen understanding in science and medicine by fostering intuitive as well as rational insights.
"I was in Scientific laboratories at Stanford Research Institute investigating a rather amazing individual Uri Geller. Uri's ability to perform amazing feats of mental wizardry is known the world over. We in Science are just now catching up and understanding what you can do with exercise and proper practice. Uri is Not a magician. He is using capabilities that we all have and can develop with exercise and practice." "After the Geller work, I was asked to brief the director of the CIA, Ambassador George Bush (Later to become President of the United States), on our activities and the results. In later years during the Brezhnev period, I met with several Russian scientists who not only had documented results similar to ours, but were actively using "psychic" techniques against the U.S. and its allies."Dr Edgar D. Mitchell S.C.D. (Apollo 14 Astronaut and 6th man to walk on the moon)
I can attest to the same type of incident, but in a different venue. I was with Uri when he held a session in the US Capitol. With few exceptions, only Congressional members and their staff were there. Uri wanted to talk about how the Soviets were exploiting Jews with psychic ability. This was based on his interviews with many people who had left the Soviet Union and gone to Israel. The group asked him to bend something. While he wanted to address the problem, he did agree and ask for a spoon. One was finally found in a guard's coffee cup. Uri bent the spoon with minimal contact. He then laid it down on a chair about three feet in front of me and went back to talking. As he talked, the spoon continued to bend and fell on the floor. I still have the spoon.Col. John Alexander
"Geller has bent my ring in the palm of my hand without ever touching it. Personally, I have no scientific explanation for the phenomena."Dr. Wernher von Braun (NASA scientist & father of the Rocket - U.S.A.)
So you may ask what Randi's motivations are for doing this, well look at who he is. He is a magician, a master of illusion, and his little tricks would be insignificant if it was a mainstream fact that these so called "paranormal" things were true. People would seek out spiritual realization instead of material happiness and buying into his age old tricks, if it was common public knowledge. So instead people who have interest in keeping this from the public use these tactics of ridicule and making arguments that seem legitimate but if you investigate it you realize they're crap. Most people don't have the time or the motivation to investigate it so they just assume that when James Randi says nobody has taken his test they assume there's no half-truths or lies, and get on with their lives centered around eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. So the purpose of this petition is to get enough signatures to bring James Randi and these skepti-cults, who will do anything to keep up their 300 year old dogmatic orthodox science, to justice for the half-truths, and emotionally charged arguments that they are spreading in the mass consciousness to prevent a massive change in human thinking from occurring. Type in your name below, and pass it on to everyone you know (If you feel uncomfortable passing it on to your friends because its "weird", your doing nothing but falling into group think and deluding yourself)
The behavior of chukhar partridge chicks, which can run straight up the side of a hay bale or a tree while flapping their wings, may offer a new window on the origin of flight in birds.
Feathered dinosaurs may have done something similar, Dr. Kenneth P. Dial of the University of Montana suggests in today's issue of Science. He suggests that they too flapped their wings to help them climb, which brought them off the ground and closer to discovering the aerial possibilities of their wings. Even incompletely feathered proto-wings, Dr. Dial says, would have been useful in running up steep inclines.
One of Dr. Dial's findings, which has surprised other scientists who study the evolution of flight, is that the chicks he studied did not use their wings to raise them up, off the ground. The wing beats served the same purpose as spoilers on race cars. The force generated by flapping pressed the chicks into the surface on which they were running for better traction. As Dr. Dial said of his finding, "It's not intuitive."
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IN THE NEWS
Today's Headlines - January 16, 2003
LINK IS SOUGHT IN VOLCANIC STIRRINGS
from The Los Angeles Times
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, Hawaii -- It started last Mother's Day. On May 12, the biggest volcano in the world started to swell. After 18 years of slumber, Mauna Loa was awake.
That same day, the Big Island's youngest and most active volcano, Kilauea, stepped up an eruption that has flowed nearly continuously since 1983. As the towering Mauna Loa grew, its smaller sibling spewed copious amounts of lava -- 30 times more than normal -- from two new vents torn from its flank.
The odd confluence of events did not go unnoticed. Now, after months of analyzing the behavior of the neighboring volcanoes, two geophysicists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say the two volcanoes -- long seen as solo acts -- might be closely linked, or at the very least, might somehow commune with each other beneath the surface.
FROM WORM GENES, HUMAN OBESITY CLUES
from The New York Times
Biologists have laid a new basis for studying human obesity by identifying almost all the genes that regulate fat storage and metabolism in a small animal, the laboratory roundworm.
The finding should provide leads to the many unknown genes that regulate fat storage in people and to the defects in the genes that underlie many obesity cases.
It is also a landmark in studying genomes, because this is apparently the first time that almost all of an animal's genes have been inactivated in a single experiment. The technique for creating "knockout" mice, strains missing a single gene, is invaluable in biomedical research, but it takes months to generate each strain.
ACTING CHIEF PLEDGES LOS ALAMOS CRACKDOWN
He warns of 'more bad news before there's good news'
from The San Francisco Chronicle
The new interim director of Los Alamos National Laboratory pledged Wednesday a shakeup at the lab that will feel as painful as "ripping off someone's skin" in order to end a rapidly unfolding financial and management scandal.
George P. "Pete" Nanos, told an incensed and concerned University of California Board of Regents that he would "drain the swamp" to fix the problems at the nation's premier weapons lab and restore its credibility.
But the tough-talking interim director told the regents "there's going to be more bad news before there's good news" as UC tries to correct the abuses and retain its contract to manage Los Alamos in New Mexico for the federal government.
THE BLACK SEA YIELDS SHIP FROM GREECE IN GLORY DAYS
from The New York Times
Scientists said yesterday that they had discovered the remains of a 2,400-year-old ship at the bottom of the Black Sea - the oldest shipwreck ever found in the sea and a testament to its role as a vibrant crossroads of ancient commerce.
The ship, laden with amphoras, the clay storage jars of antiquity, apparently sank in about the fourth century B.C., the golden age of the Greek city-states. One amphora held the bones of a six- to seven-foot-long freshwater catfish that had been dried and cut into steaks, a popular food in ancient Greece.
A team of American and Bulgarian scientists led by Dr. Robert D. Ballard, the ocean explorer best known for discovering the Titanic, found the wreck last summer. The vessel, he said in an interview, lies 275 feet down and several miles from the Bulgarian coast, barely in sight of land.
WALKING STICKS, JUST WINGING IT
from The Washington Post
A team of biologists says it has found what is quite likely the first-ever documented case of "re-evolution," suggesting that nature does indeed offer second chances -- a species can evolve a new characteristic, lose it and then regain it.
That's a radical idea, because for most of modern times, scientists have taught that evolution, at least in part, functions on the principle of "use it or lose it." This is one reason seals no longer have paws, moles see badly and humans lack heavy fur.
The team is challenging that assumption based on its analysis of DNA from 37 species of the insect order Phasmatodea -- commonly known as "walking sticks" -- which showed that they evolved from winged to wingless and back again. In fact, walking sticks made the shift four times.
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NICOSIA, Cyprus (Reuters) - Orthodox clergy in Cyprus want authorities to pull the plug on Harry Potter movies, incensed the diminutive boy wizard could be a bad influence on children.
The latest film, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," has been playing to packed audiences on the island for three weeks.
But however spellbinding youngsters find Potters' exploits at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, his wand hasn't worked in the conservative Church.
Such films familiarized children with "evil, sorcery and apocryphism," one senior church member, Bishop Chrysostomos, was quoted as telling Alithia newspaper.
A new study maintains that the government is poorly structured to assess possible environmental hazards posed by genetically modified fish.
The study, being issued today by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, a nonprofit group, comes as the Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to approve a salmon genetically engineered to grow twice as fast as regular salmon.
---- C O N T E S T R U L E S ----
1. One thousand dollars will be awarded to the earliest entry that,in the sole judgement of USE-YOUR-BRAIN INC., has provided in writing a rational, logical explanation of the basic premises of established Christian doctrine. By entering this contest, the entrant agrees to abide by the contest rules and the judgement of USE-YOUR-BRAIN INC.
2. The written explanation must justify the theory known as the 'Atonement' as it applies to Jesus of Nazareth (the alleged Jewish Messiah claimed to have lived in Palestine during the first century of the current era), in light of the more basic premises known as the 'Trinity' and the 'Incarnation.'
3. The 'Atonement' theory claims that Jesus 'suffered and died on the cross to pay for the sins of mankind', making it possible for individual humans to achieve immortality. The explanation must show how and to whom the 'sin payment' was made in a way that would seem reasonable to educated,literate non-Christians. 'Mystery' or 'Beyond human understanding' are not acceptable answers- in other words, the explanation must make sense, as judged by USE-Your-Brain Inc.
4.The 'Trinity' is defined as the theory that there is but one all-powerful God as the Jewish bible states, and as logic would dictate, but that one God consists of three separate individuals- Yaweh, Jesus, and the 'Holy Spirit.' As defined by the Old and New Testaments, being all-powerful means that one has no limits, can achieve any result instantaneously, and knows everything about every past, present, and future event.
5.The 'Incarnation' states that Jesus was simultaneously fully God and fully man, and therefore both all-knowing and ignorant, and both fearless and fearful.
6. The essay must answer each of the questions in the following set of required questions using reason and logic, and the basic assumptions above.
QUESTIONS REQUIRED TO BE ANSWERED
It is claimed that Jesus paid for the sins of mankind by his crucifixion on the Cross (the Atonement). Whenever something is 'paid for', a 'transaction' occurs. In any transaction there is one who pays, (the 'payor') and one who receives the payment, (the 'payee'). If a transaction occurs, a medium of exchange is required, and the medium of exchange must be something of value to the payee, such as currency, precious metals, jewels, property, and services. This claim and the related definition leads to the following questions:
1.Did Jesus die? Christianity claims that he still lives, so any 'death' was only temporary, and besides, an all-powerful being (God) couldn't be killed. If Jesus lost his human body, couldn't he just create a new one?
2.Did Jesus suffer on the cross? Would an all-powerful being suffer? Unless he was a masochist, it doesn't seem likely since he would have the power to turn off the pain signals at will.
3.Does suffering have intrinsic value such that it could be used as a medium of exchange?
4.If the payee and payor in a payment transaction are the same person, has anything meaningful happened? If so what?
Some born-again Christians claim that they are able to 'understand' these theories through their contact and association with the 'Holy Spirit.' Obviously, if something is understood, it can be explained. This so-called explanation is not an explanation at all, but is an attempt to avoid providing an answer.
Are these questions not valid? Is the Atonement analagous to a criminal court proceeding where one person is convicted of a crime and then another steps in to serve the sentence? USE YOUR BRAIN INC doesn't think so, but let us explore that possibility. The purpose of a criminal justice system is twofold- to rehabilitate/punish the criminal, and/or to separate the criminal from society so as to prevent further criminal acts. The idea that a criminal 'pays' for crimes is a fallacy- except for the rare instances where property stolen is returned, the criminal actually becomes a financial burden to society. The criminal's time spent in prison has negative value as society must pay the costs of imprisonment and prosecution. No judge would ever allow anyone to serve the sentence of another since none of the goals of a criminal justice system would be satisfied. In the case of the atonement, of what crime has mankind been guilty? According to Christianity, we are guilty of having a 'sinful nature.' And where did this 'sinful nature' come from? Why it came from the creator, who at the moment of creation knew exactly how things would turn out, and had absolute power to change that bad result! And so the analogy to the criminal justice system fails. The crime, of which we are supposedly guilty, is due to the actions of the God who is the supposed victim of the crime and as we have seen in the previous analysis, the sentence is served by God himself but is a sham, and in any case the supposed sentence is 'separation from God' and/or 'eternal torment', but Jesus is claimed to have ascended to heaven at the 'right hand of God', and therefore did not serve the sentence(s) supposedly imposed on mankind. Therefore the Atonement does not serve the purpose of satisfying the sentence imposed on mankind for human sinfulness.
Send all entries to USE YOUR BRAIN INC.: firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - A judge has ruled that a wrongful death lawsuit against the Church of Scientology should go to trial.
The cause and manner of Scientologist Lisa McPherson's death in 1995 ``is legitimately an issue that needs to be decided by a jury,'' Judge Susan Schaeffer said in her ruling Monday.
But the judge also said she found no proof to support the McPherson estate's allegation that the church's worldwide leader, David Miscavige, decided to let McPherson die.
Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw said the church was ``completely vindicated of the false and scurrilous allegation that church leaders intended harm to Lisa McPherson.''
McPherson's estate says she died from severe dehydration after 18 days in the church's care. The church maintains that McPherson died from a pulmonary embolism, the result of a traffic accident the day before she was brought to the church.
The church had sought to have the suit dismissed, alleging that Tampa attorney Ken Dandar, who is representing McPherson's estate, had urged a witness to lie under oath.
The witness, Robert Minton, gave Dandar up to $2 million over five years to bankroll the case against Scientology.
Schaeffer ruled that Minton lied when he testified during a 35-day hearing last summer that Dandar had urged him to say the money was from unidentified Europeans who oppose the church.
Schaeffer said she believes Minton did not want to disclose a foreign bank account for tax reasons.
The judge said she would forward her order to the state attorney so Minton can be investigated for perjury.
Schaeffer also ruled Dandar could continue representing the estate. But she did not endorse the estate's claim that the church extorted Minton's testimony.
The government of Greenland has collapsed amid political bickering sparked by the use of an Inuit healer to cleanse government offices.
Greenland premier Hans Enoksen, leader of the social democratic Siumut party, has dumped his left-wing coalition partner, the Inuit Ataqatigitt party.
The coalition's collapse was linked to last month's use of a healer by the territory's top civil servant, Jens Lyberth to chase away evil spirits from government offices.
Mr Lyberth - Mr Enoksen's interpreter and longtime friend - used the healer to "drive away the negative energy" from government headquarters in the capital Nuuk.
The episode sparked a dispute between Mr Enoksen and deputy premier Josef Motzfeldt, who accused him of cronyism over Mr Lyberth's appointment.
Most of the population of the semiautonomous Danish territory belong to Denmark's Lutheran church, but some maintain ancient Inuit traditions, like folk-oriented drum dances.
Mr Enoksen, who won a December 3 election, is to begin talks with the opposition liberal Atassut to form a new coalition.
Greenland has had a local parliament and government since 1979 that runs most of its affairs. However, Denmark handles its foreign and defence policies, as well as law and currency issues.
Jan. 10, 2003
Michael Guillen, the reporter who was supposed to verify the Raelians' cloning claims, is hardly a skeptical observer.
"I trade in evidence," says Michael Guillen, a scientist, free-lance journalist and former science editor of ABC news. Guillen is the man who gained instant fame, or perhaps notoriety, by sharing the podium at the news conference called by the Raelians, the otherworldly religious sect, to announce that its affiliated company, Clonaid, had produced the first human clone.
Tuesday, Jan. 07, 2003
One good thing for Bill Frist's legislative calendar: Removing the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994
For devotees of alternative medicine, 2002 ended on a sour note, one of many they heard during the year. In December, researchers at the University of Wisconsin reported the results of a double-blind test of echinacea, a popular herbal remedy for the common cold. They gave capsules of the herb to 73 students suffering from the common cold. Another 75 students were given a place bo, dummy pills containing only alfalfa. The results: "Compared with the placebo," the researchers reported, "unrefined echinacea provided no detectable benefit or harm." In fact, those students taking the placebo remained sick for an average of 5.75 days, compared with 6.27 days for those on the herb. Some remedy!
Denver Business Journal
From the January 10, 2003 Viewpoint
Be wary of alternative medicine by Carl E. Bartecchi
Richard Dawkins, professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, notes that alternative medicine is defined as that set of practices that cannot be tested, refuse to be tested or consistently fail tests.
Study: Bracelets offer false relief
Company backs ionized product By P. Douglas Filaroski Monday, January 13, 2003 Florida Times Union
Makers of the Q-Ray ionized bracelet say wearers will have less pain and more strength. But new research at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville suggests the biggest change is lighter wallets and that any benefit comes from something in people's heads. QT Inc. of Illinois has sold millions of its Q-Ray "ionized" metal bracelets, promising to balance the body's yin-yang with bracelets costing $50 to $250.
Fighting The Fear Factor Local scientists are quietly working to give UFO sightings a measured look and lend legitimacy to those who spot them
Rick Del Vecchio Sunday, January 12, 2003 2003 San Francisco Chronicle http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/01/12/CM200763.DTL
It was a routine flight from San Francisco to Boston. The DC-10 was on autopilot, with World War II combat veteran Neil Daniels in the captain's seat. Suddenly, the jumbo jet veered to the left. Daniels looked out the window and saw something odd over the winter cloud tops. He didn't recognize it, and 2 5 years later, the Los Altos resident still can't figure out what it was. "There was this brilliant, brilliant light, the intensity of a flashbulb," Daniels said.
Editors Note: Pretty funny satire from the Onion.
The Onion January 15, 2002
Creationist Museum Acquires 5,000-Year-Old T. Rex Skeleton
TULSA, OK_In a major coup for the growing field of creation science, the perfectly preserved remains of a 5,000-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex were delivered Monday to Tulsa's Creationist Museum of Natural History. Above: Methuselah stands on display at the Creationist Museum of Natural History.
"The Good Lord has, in His benevolence, led us to an important breakthrough for scientific inquiry," Creationist Museum of Natural History curator Dr. Elijah Gill said. "Our museum has many valuable and exciting exhibits that testify to Creation and shine light on the Lord's divine plan. But none have been as exciting_or anywhere near as old _as this new T. Rex specimen named 'Methuselah.' This skeleton, which dates back to roughly 3,000 B.C., offers the most compelling proof yet that the Earth was made by God roughly 10,000 years ago."
Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 16:13 GMT
The £600m European space mission to land on a comet has been postponed for the foreseeable future, the BBC has learned.
A formal announcement suspending all preparations of the Rosetta spacecraft is expected from the European Space Agency (Esa) later on Tuesday.