NTS LogoSkeptical News for 27 September 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, September 27, 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 - September 26, 2003

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Just six months ago, Japanese scientists forecast the huge earthquake that hit Japan Thursday.

Using techniques broadly similar to those used by U.S. scientists to anticipate future quakes in the Bay Area, the Japanese scientists estimated a 60 percent probability of an 8.1 magnitude quake in the vicinity of Japan's Tokachi Plain on the island of Hokkaido over the next 30 years.

A quake measuring 8.0 magnitude hit Thursday within the boundaries of the designated region, a 100-by-150-mile area that the scientists called "Region B, " just offshore from the Tokachi Plain.

"This is the bull's-eye," said Ross Stein, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey office in Menlo Park. "This is a direct hit -- I would say that without any qualification. I think we need to say that this looks like a very successful forecast."

from The Los Angeles Times

After years of frustrating failures, scientists have succeeded in cloning the laboratory rat, Rattus norvegicus.

The feat -- reported online Thursday in the journal Science -- was hailed by scientists as a boon to medical research, because the rat is the animal of choice for studying many human diseases, including hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

It also adds new glitz to the rat as a research tool. In labs, the rat has long been eclipsed by its more glamorous cousin, the mouse, which has been a powerhouse for genetics research for decades and was one of the first mammals to be cloned, in 1998.

"This opens the door for us -- it is critical for moving the rat further along in medical research," said rat researcher John Critser, chairman of veterinary pathobiology at the University of Missouri.

from Newsday

It turns out Fido may be more like his master than you may have imagined. Researchers have completed a rough draft of the genetic blueprint for the dog and have found an equivalent dog gene for 75 percent of the known human genes.

"It's quite fascinating to see how close our DNA sequence is to dogs," said Ewen Kirkness, lead author on a study published in Friday's issue of the journal Science. "It was quite an eye opener."

Kirkness said he has a new appreciation for his own dog, Emma, a mostly Labrador mongrel that he adopted at the pound. "You look at your dog a little differently," he said.

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The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News Number 655 September 26, 2003 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

AN ULTRABRIGHT TUNABLE PHOTON-PAIR SOURCE created at MIT is the best generator so far of entangled photon pairs, a development which should help quantum communications systems to do their job more smoothly. Entangled photons possess a special correlation unlike anything in classical physics: if, say, we measure the spin (polarization) of one photon, then we automatically know the polarization of the other photon, even though it might be on the other side of the galaxy and even if, until the moment of measurement, the spins of both photons had been indeterminate. This weird property of quantum reality, it is hoped, will be a boon to encryption (perhaps in a "quantum teleportation" scheme---see Physics News Update 350, http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/1997/split/pnu350-1.htm ) and future quantum computers. Indeed, for some time now quantum effects have been an important factor in communications engineering applications, especially insofar as quantum fluctuations (uncertainty in our knowledge of where an electron is or the value of its energy) can produce levels of electrical noise that can limit the effectiveness of practical devices. The use of entangled photons might be able to mitigate this problem. Quantum limitations are already a problem in such devices as optical amplifiers (whose amplified spontaneous emission noise limits communication performance) or soliton pulses (supposedly non-dispersing light pulses that are subject to quantum-induced timing jitter accumulation) used in fiber-optic communications. MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics is a place where quantum aspects of electrical engineering are taken very seriously. The head of the lab, Jeffrey H. Shapiro (jhs@mit.edu, 617-253-4179), will report on progress in a program aimed at developing a system for long-distance, high-fidelity teleportation of photon states at the upcoming Frontiers in Optics meeting of the Optical Society of America. As part of this work the MIT team has developed a source of entangled photons some ten times brighter than previous sources. The correlated photons are engendered by shooting a laser beam into a nonlinear optical crystal, where incoming photons are, in effect, split into two related photons of half the wavelength. This "down-conversion" process is even tunable over a certain wavelength range. Up to 12,000 photon pairs per second per milliwatt of input power have been produced. (Paper MI3, OSA meeting 5-9 October in Tucson, AZ; meeting website at http://www.osa.org/meetings/annual/ )

THE RELATIVITY OF TIME, as set forth in Einstein's theory, has been affirmed once again, with new higher precision. Time dilation is the name for the notion that elapsed time as recorded by two observers with identical clocks will differ if one of the observers is traveling at a velocity v with respect to the other. The amount of dilation will become more noticeable as v becomes a larger fraction of the speed of light. In an experiment performed by Gerald Gwinner, Dirk Schwalm and their colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg the clocks are lithium ions. The ions are struck by laser light from in front and from the back, putting them temporarily into an excited state and inducing fluorescence. By comparing the resonant laser wavelengths with the transition wavelength of the stationary ion, and by taking into account the Doppler effect (the apparent wavelength of a wave emitted from a traveling source will always be different from a stationary source owing to bunching or thinning of the wave crests---but this has nothing to do with relativity) the researchers can arrive at a value for time dilation. In the Heidelberg experiment, the lithium ions moved with a speed of 19,000 km/sec, or about 6.4 % of the speed of light (and corresponding to an energy of 13.3 MeV, the largest energy obtainable at the local heavy-ion storage ring). The precision of the new time dilation measurement, an uncertainty of 2.2 x 10^-7, is about a factor of four better than the best previous value. (Saathoff et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article; contact Guido Saathoff, guido.saathoff@mpi-hd.mpg.de 49-6221-516-547; website at http://www.mpi-hd.mpg.de/ato/rel/)

MALLEABILITY OF SPACETIME, as set forth in Einstein's general relativity theory, has been affirmed, once again, by watching radio waves from the Cassini spacecraft, on its way toward Saturn, be deflected by the sun. Einstein said that a massive object would distort the fabric of spacetime in its vicinity, and that this distortion would slightly redirect the trajectory of light waves passing the object. Scientists from three Italian universities (those of Pavia, Rome, and Bologna) have carefully scrutinized Cassini's radio report and found that the observed light deflection is in accordance with the conventional form of relativity. Furthermore, the sensitivity of their measurements is at a level where some alternative gravity models can be probed for veracity. (Bertotti et al., Nature, 25 November 2003.)

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. It is provided free of charge as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists. For that reason, you are free to post it, if you like, where others can read it, providing only that you credit AIP. Physics News Update appears approximately once a week.

A new chapter in evolution fight

Groups disagree on how Texas schoolbooks should treat subject

02:11 PM CDT on Wednesday, September 10, 2003

By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – The bare-knuckle schoolhouse fight over how to teach Texas students about evolution and the origin of humans has itself evolved into a sophisticated, new class of warfare this year.

Longtime critics of evolution within Texas have been joined by a well-funded national think tank that has launched an attack on new biology textbooks slated to be read by millions of students over the next several years.

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute is lobbying the State Board of Education to mandate language that pokes holes in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. The institute has used DVDs, books, news conferences and editorial board meetings to argue that the biology books are too one-sided in their coverage of how humans evolved and how life on Earth in general evolved through natural selection.

Their opponents – leading scientists and educators from across the state – accuse the group of trying to water down coverage of evolution in textbooks so its members can later pressure publishers to include religious-based explanations for the origins of life.

That assertion is flatly rejected by leaders of the policy and research group.

"All Discovery Institute has ever advocated is that textbooks should fix embarrassing factual errors and tell students about the scientific weaknesses of neo-Darwinism as well as its strengths," said John G. West, associate director of the institute's Center for Science and Culture.

"This is fully in accord with Texas law, which says students should know the scientific evidence that both supports and shows the weaknesses of existing scientific theories."

Alternate theory

Such explanations are merely a smokescreen, according to Steven Schafersman, a biology professor at the University of Texas-Permian Basin and president of Texas Citizens for Science.

"The Discovery Institute is just a creationist organization. Their goal is to present a watered-downed, dumbed-down presentation of evolution in textbooks" so they can open the door to future teaching of "intelligent design" and other "pseudoscientific" theories, he argued.

The theory of intelligent design – promoted by the Discovery Institute – holds that certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an unknown "intelligent cause" rather than by undirected processes like natural selection and random mutation – key components of the theory of evolution. Institute leaders insist they are not seeking to include their theory in new biology books, however.

Rhetoric from the two sides has heated up as they prepare to square off at a textbook hearing on Wednesday before the State Board of Education. Board members will select new biology and other books for public schools in November.

Big book buyer

Because of its status as one of the largest textbook purchasers in the nation, Texas exerts considerable influence on publishers and the content of their books, which are marketed across the nation. Only California buys more textbooks.

That status is what brought the Discovery Institute to Texas this year, seizing an opportunity to help decide what millions of students will read in science books for years to come. The group, founded in 1990, was successful in a similar effort in Ohio last year and is active in several other states.

Discovery Institute leaders bristle at the accusation that the organization is a Trojan horse for putting creationism into the science curriculum of public schools. Their opponents have warned that Texas could return to the days when publishers sidestepped the topic of evolution to avoid conflict with creationists – those adhering to the biblical account of the origin of humans.

Publishers have been required to cover the theory of evolution – but no competing theories – in science books since 1991.

"We are not asking the board to insert intelligent design into biology textbooks," Dr. West said. "We are asking that the scientific criticisms of various aspects of neo-Darwinism that appear in the scientific literature be included.

"Far from seeking to water down the teaching of evolution, we want to see a lot more taught about evolution. It's the other side that wants to limit what information about evolution students learn."

Institute critics

Critics of the group, including the Texas Freedom Network, note that the institute has promoted its intelligent design theory in other states. The nonprofit freedom network has spearheaded opposition to the Discovery Institute.

They also point out that much of the funding for the institute comes from wealthy individuals connected with fundamentalist religious groups and the anti-evolution movement.

"In the scientific community, the Discovery Institute has no credibility whatsoever," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the California-based National Center for Science Education.

She said the institute is using the same strategy as religious conservatives who are opposed to the theory of evolution. "They try to dumb down coverage of evolution by claiming that the textbooks are full of errors and missing information," she said, noting the group is only concerned with "errors" about evolution.

The presence of errors is an important concept in textbook selection in Texas because, under current state law, the grounds for rejection are limited. Board of Education members may reject a book only if it has factual errors, does not cover the curriculum or is manufactured poorly.

The Discovery Institute, which touts a large number of college professors, scientists and researchers as members, has compiled its criticisms of evolution in a book written by senior fellow Jonathan Wells, titled Icons of Evolution.

Among the key criticisms is that embryo drawings that have appeared in biology books for decades showing strong similarities between embryos of humans and of other species are incorrect. The drawings show more similarities than exist in reality.

All of the criticisms have been dismissed by the National Center for Science Education and leading science educator groups, which point to the vast body of fossil and other evidence supporting the theory that animal and plant species on Earth evolved over millions of years from common ancestors.

"Not a single section of the book [Icons of Evolution] accurately portrays the current research on evolution," said Amanda Walker, a biology teacher in Austin who has joined the groups defending the textbooks up for adoption this year.

"It would be disastrous if they are successful, because the flaws in evolution that they talk about are not really flaws at all. There is no argument in the scientific community about the validity of the theory of evolution. And reputable scientific circles do not even discuss intelligent design."

Teacher support

To counter that claim, Discovery Institute leaders have recruited two dozen professors from seven Texas universities who signed an open letter to the Board of Education urging it to require that textbooks include weaknesses as well as strengths of the theory of evolution. Several of the professors are in fields other than science.

"Darwinists claim there is no academic debate over Darwin's theory, and that the only objections are religious," said Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman. "But these professors show that claim is false."

The group also released results of a poll this week indicating that three-fourths of Texans want biology books to describe the flaws in evolution theory, along with supporting evidence. The survey was conducted by established pollster Zogby International and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Samantha Smoot of the Texas Freedom Network said the poll and letter from the professors are part of a strategy to give the institute more credibility in the eyes of Board of Education members.

"Old-fashioned creationism has emerged as a sophisticated new force," she said. "Intelligent design proponents clearly intend to be taken seriously in the political arena in a way they've failed to in the scientific arena."

E-mail tstutz@dallasnews.com

Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dallas/tsw/stories/091003dntexbigfight.585dd.html


These are among the criticisms that the Discovery Institute cites in objecting to the way proposed biology textbooks treat evolution: NOTE: The Discovery Institute's criticisms have been dismissed by the National Center for Science Education, which points to the vast body of fossil and other evidence supporting the theory that animal and plant species on Earth evolved over millions of years from common ancestors.
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News research

Friday, September 26, 2003

Egypt Uses Science to Dispel Pharaonic Curse Fri September 12, 2003


02:41 AM ET
By Tom Perry

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will use science to dispel the curse of the pharaohs, which popular myth blames for the deaths of those who have opened the tombs of Egypt's ancient rulers, Egypt's antiquities chief said.

Zahi Hawass told Reuters a study would examine unexcavated tombs for dangerous substances, gases or germs, to explain the curse, whose fame spread in the 1920s following the death of a British aristocrat who entered King Tutankhamun's tomb.

"At one of my excavations ... I found inscriptions telling us 'If anyone would touch my tomb he would be eaten by a crocodile, a hippo and a lion.' It doesn't mean that this will actually happen," Hawass said in an interview this week.

"Scientifically we want to ... show when the Egyptians put a curse inscription on a tomb they did not mean they could hurt anyone today who opened the tomb," he said.

Part of the study would focus on dangerous germs that may have developed over the centuries in mummified human remains, said Hawass, Secretary-General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

British archaeologist Howard Carter and his sponsor, Lord Carnarvon, were among the first to enter the tomb of boy-king Tutankhamun, who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago, in Luxor's Valley of the Kings in 1922.

Lord Carnarvon died shortly afterward from an infected mosquito bite. Newspapers at the time said a pharaonic curse had killed him and other people linked to the discovery.

Scientists have in the past suggested that a disease lying dormant in the tomb may have killed the British aristocrat.

"We will start the work soon, perhaps next month. But we don't know when we will end ... we are going to study in unexcavated, intact tombs," Hawass said.

Hawass said he had once been accidentally knocked unconscious in an ancient Egyptian tomb.

"When I woke up I told people if anything had happened to me people would think this was the curse of the pharaohs. But it was just an accident."

Critics of biology textbooks draw on think tank

Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau


Sept. 10, 2003, 11:38PM

AUSTIN -- Jerry Springer and cockroaches managed to creep into Wednesday's episode of the ever-evolving textbook wars over Darwin's theory versus the biblical story of creation.

In the latest version of a decades-old fight concerning teaching the origin of humankind, homegrown critics of Darwin's theory of evolution have joined forces with a national think tank.

The Discovery Institute, based in Seattle, is trying to persuade the State Board of Education and others around the nation to adopt biology textbooks that point out "weaknesses" in Darwin's theory. Texas is the nation's second-largest purchaser of textbooks.

Defenders of the books -- particularly biology teachers -- accuse the critics of engaging in pseudoscience, trying to pass off religious explanations as scientifically valid.

"Biologists really stopped arguing whether or not evolution by natural selection occurred back in the 1800s," said Dan Wivagg, a biology professor at Baylor University. "There's no doubt that it's the central unifying concept in biology, and it must be in the textbooks if we're going to have scientifically literate citizens."

As it hunkered down for hours of testimony, the state board voted to allow only Texans to testify but accepted written statements from out-of-staters.

Before it was all over, Darwin's theory had been blamed as dehumanizing and even contributing to a rise in teenage depression and crime.

"In Fort Worth public schools, I learned that all of you are less than human. I was taught that maybe you came from a monkey," said Eddy Parker, adding he doesn't think the theory of evolution has ever been proved.

"All I'm asking this board to do is don't allow people to tamper with children's minds," he added. "All of you in here are human and a cut above roaches and rats and all such lies."

The Discovery Institute says several Texas scientists agree with the group that weaknesses in the theory of evolution are being suppressed.

Some testified at the hearing, many of them chemical or mechanical engineers rather than biologists.

Ide P. Trotter, a chemical engineer from Duncanville, said he believes his training is superior to that of a biologist in finding flaws in Darwin's theory and the textbooks that teach it.

State Board member Dan Montgomery of Fredericksburg quoted from a newspaper article in which Trotter said, "What is the educational problem today? It is to excite the interest of the students. This is a Jerry Springer world. Controversy is exciting."

"Are you suggesting we ought to include these kinds of Jerry Springer controversies in our classrooms, whether or not they have any scientific basis?" Montgomery asked.

"A good controversy would be a help," Trotter said.

Board member Gail Lowe of Lampasas congratulated high school junior Michelle Ramsey for her courage in weighing in on the subject, also by criticizing the teaching of Darwin.

"Evolution has been taught undisputed for a number of years now in the classroom. By the time high school is reached, many youth have been indoctrinated with it, not once learning of weaknesses in this theory," Ramsey testified.

Mac Deaver, who identified himself as a "gospel preacher," asserted that questions about the origin of life are philosophical rather than scientific.

He took Ramsey's connection to Darwin and teen violence even further, however, saying the theory leads to "ethical deterioration" in society.

"When you teach evolution as fact and don't show weaknesses, you are teaching children there is no ultimate accountability," he said.

Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science, said the textbooks are accurate as written and Texas biologists overwhelmingly support protecting the textbooks as currently written.

The 'Intelligent Design' Hoax

A while ago I wrote a very long piece that included an account of the development and early history of the creationists' "intelligent design" construct. That account has now been extracted and has been posted as a separate page on the Web site of The Textbook League. It may be useful to readers who are interested in the creationists' current efforts, in Texas and elsewhere, to undermine and corrupt the teaching of evolutionary biology in public schools. See "The 'Intelligent Design' Hoax" at http://www.textbookleague.org/id-hx-1.htm

Bill Bennetta

"Attachment Therapist's Appeal Denied"

One of the convicted killers of Candace Newmaker, Connell Watkins, has lost the appeal of her conviction. As a result, she will continue serving prison time until at least September 2012.

Watkins, and her co-defendant, Julie Ponder, were convicted in April 2001, for reckless child abuse resulting in the death of 10-year-old Candace Newmaker during an Attachment Therapy (AT) session a year earlier which gained notoriety for its involvement of "rebirthing." Both women were sentenced to 16 years in prison. Under current penal guidelines in Colorado, neither will be eligible for parole until 2012.

Both appealed their convictions and sentences. A decision on Ponder's case is still pending.

As *AT News* reported last month, Watkins's attorneys appealed her conviction and sentencing basically on two grounds upon which the Colorado court ruled:

First, that the trial judge did not allow the testimonials of previous clients to rebut prosecution experts who testified that "holding therapy" is without scientific basis and cannot be regarded as effective. The judge had said testimonials on effectiveness were irrelevant and would tend to confuse the jury as to the real issues in the trial; she did allow testimony where previous clients thought Watkins's procedures were safe.

Second, that trying Watkins under the reckless child-abuse statute denied her the lesser sentencing options which would have been available had she been tried under other statutory provisions; as a result, she claims to have been denied equal protection under the law.

The first claim would have overturned the conviction and required a new trial, but the 3-judge panel unanimously ruled that the trial judge committed no error in excluding Watkins's "lay witnesses". In particular, the testimonials on the "effectiveness" of AT with other children would have "led to mini-trials concerning the medical conditions and courses of treatment of each of those children," the court declared, adding, "The trial court acted well within its discretion in concluding that such evidence could distract the jury from its mission of deciding the critical issues of whether defendant's actions in the rebirthing therapy were reckless and whether they caused the child's death."

The second claim would have overturned the sentencing and required a re-sentencing, leaving open the possibility for early parole or even probation. The original 16-year sentences were the minimum that could be given under the charged statute, and probation was not an option. Because of the nature of the statute violated, parole will not be considered until 70% of the sentence is served. Had she been convicted and sentenced under a similar statute, she could have been considered for parole after only 40% of the sentence is served. The court, however, rejected the appeal on the second claim because she did not raise it at the time of her sentencing.

Watkins has been serving her time in the women's prison in Canon City, Colorado.

For those with MS Word, or a translator, the court's decision can be downloaded from the Colorado Judiciary site: http://www.courts.state.co.us/coa/opinion/2003q3/01CA1313.doc.

(Or from here).

Not "Respectful, Responsible, and Fun to Be With"?

Leading Attachment Therapist "Researcher" Cancelled

Psychologist Elizabeth Marie Randolph, Ph.D., had to cancel a series of workshops in Texas last month when that state's chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) withdrew its approval for Continuing Education credits (CEUs) for social workers after learning Randolph had no professional license. Cancellation came less than two weeks before the series of day-long workshops in Dallas, Waco, and Houston were to be held by Randolph.

The workshops had been offered by "FRL Counseling" in Littleton, Colorado, run by Forrest R. Lien, LCSW, who is also Clinical Director for the infamous and recently renamed Attachment Center of Evergreen (ACE is now known as the Institute for Attachment and Child Development). Randolph's web pages were also apparently removed from FRL's website the same day the cancellations were announced. Pre-registrants were given the option of a refund or half-price attendance at Lien's workshops in western Texas.

The Texas NASW action was taken when its officials learned that Randolph had lost her California psychology license in California in 1994 after pleading guilty to aiding and counseling another to commit child-abuse in 1993. In a related action, Randolph also surrendered her nursing licenses. The Texas NASW also learned that in early 2002 Randolph had consented to a cease-and-desist order from practicing psychotherapy without a license in the state of Utah, which she had been doing since 1999.

Randolph, who claims to have a PhD in psychology from California Graduate School for Family Psychology, is often cited by other Attachment Therapists around the country as being the foremost researcher in Attachment Therapy. Her RADQ (Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire), though unvalidated by independently published research, is widely used in the AT community to diagnose and evaluate the unrecognized condition called "attachment disorder." None of Randolph's research has been published in peer-reviewed psychology journals.

Randolph moved to Colorado after losing her California licenses. Colorado doesn't require a license for the practice of psychotherapy in the state, but it does require registration as an unlicensed provider. She so registered in 1996, and "consulted" for several years with ACE, which publishes and sells her RADQ. Then Randolph moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, and treated patients there for a couple of years, while she also continued to lecture around the country. She lectured regularly at ATTACh national conferences, for example.

Utah, however, does require a license for practicing psychotherapy, and regulators there shut down her operation in early 2002. Whereupon she returned to Colorado, renewed her standing as a "registered unlicensed psychotherapist" there, and set up shop with Forrest Lien, an LCSW who was clinical director at ACE while Randolph was with them. She apparently intended to continue lecturing and holding workshops, utilizing Lien's operation.

Randolph's recent self-published book, *Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds* reports on AT research she did while she has been unlicensed. None of this research has been reported to peer-reviewed journals so that it can be judged professionally and scientifically credible. Nonetheless, the AT community relies heavily on Randolph's work to justify their clinical practices to regulators and clients. (*Broken Hearts* also reveals the new "humanistic" AT -- in which a child might now be able to momentarily halt the rigors of "holding therapy.")

Awarding CEUs is the lifeblood of the professional lecture circuit. Professionals need them to meet ongoing licensure requirements. A lecturer who is not accredited to offer CEUs will not be able to reach professionals effectively. It is hoped in this quarter that other states will follow Texas and withdraw approvals for CEUs of Ms Randolph's future offerings. This avenue for proselytizing AT's child-abuse outside the immediate AT community will then be shut down.

AT NEWS sends the latest news to activists and allied organizations about the many abusive, pseudoscientific, and violent practices inflicted on children by the fringe psychotherapy known as Attachment Therapy, aka "holding therapy" and "therapeutic parenting." Attachment Therapists claim to work with our nation's most vulnerable of children, e.g. minority children, children in foster care, and adoptees. AT NEWS is the publication of newly formed *Advocates for Children in Therapy.* For more information on Attachment Therapy and a film clip demonstrating AT, go to the Utah activists' site: http://www.kidscomefirst.info ]

Contact: Linda Rosa, RN
Adminstrative Director
Loveland, CO
(970) 667-7313

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Textbook debate: It's all about the evidence


Sept. 18, 2003, 7:17PM


CYNICAL old lawyers have a maxim: When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When neither is on your side, change the subject and question the motives of the opposition. That seems to be the strategy of many Darwinists now that the Texas State Board of Education has begun to evaluate whether current biology textbooks meet state standards for accuracy in their presentation of Darwin's theory of evolution.

Consider what happened at last week's hearing of the Board of Education in Austin. There, numerous Texas scientists, educators and students asked the board to insist that textbooks comply with state law by correcting factual errors in current biology textbooks and by presenting both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory.

This seemingly reasonable request elicited a torrent of personal abuse and misinformation from those lobbying for Darwin's theory to be presented uncritically. Motives were questioned. The subject was changed. Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science even compared those asking for full scientific disclosure to Stalinists and Nazis!

Some reporters and editorialists joined the misinformation campaign, warning (falsely) that textbook critics want to teach the biblical account of creation in the science classroom. And defenders of the current texts dismissed all scientific critiques of contemporary Darwinism as religiously motivated .

Yet these claims are as irrelevant to assessing the question before the board as they are hysterical and misinformed.

First, it's not what motivates a scientist's argument that determines its validity; it's the evidence. Even if all scientific critics of Darwin's theory were motivated by religious belief (and they are not), their critiques would still need to be judged by the evidence.

Motives don't matter in science. Evidence does.

If this weren't the case, then several Darwinists who testified at last week's hearing would be sorely out of luck. Schafersman, for example, is a self-described secular humanist who has written that supernaturalistic religion and naturalistic science are and will remain in eternal conflict. Does Schafersman's anti-religious motivation invalidate his support of Darwinian evolution? Of course not.

The same standard should apply when considering scientific critics of Darwinism. True, some scientists critical of contemporary evolutionary theory also favor a new alternative theory called intelligent design. Darwinists say such religious-based ideas cannot be science. But the theory of intelligent design is not based on religious doctrine. It's based on scientific evidence. For example, the leading advocate of intelligent design, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, bases his case for design on intriguing new evidence: the miniature motors and complex circuits now found in cells.

Some may decide that Behe's conclusions lend support to their religious beliefs. But that does not mean that his theory is based on religion, only that it may have theistic implications. But so what? Many Darwinists, and even some Darwinist textbooks, openly state that Darwinism has anti-theistic implications. Implications don't decide the truth of theories either. Evidence does.

In any case, design theorists are not the only scientific critics of Darwinism, and those asking for more accurate biology textbooks are not asking for the theory of intelligent design to be taught. Instead, they are asking that students learn all the evidence they need to assess Darwinian theory, not just the evidence that happens to supports it.

Peer-reviewed scientific literature now documents the existence of many problems with current evolutionary theory and with the textbook presentations of that theory. For example, at least three of the texts currently used in Texas use discredited 19th century diagrams of embryos as support for Darwin's universal common ancestry thesis. These now infamous Haeckel embryo drawings allegedly demonstrate the similarity of the early embryological development of fish, chickens, pigs and humans. Yet scientists have long known that these different vertebrate classes do not strongly resemble each other during early embryological development. Why must this inaccuracy persist in Texas textbooks?

The law of the land also supports this approach, as does our national education policy. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard, the controlling legal authority on how to teach about origins questions, that state legislatures could require the teaching of scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories. Last year, in the No Child Left Behind Act Conference Report, Congress expressed its support for greater openness in science instruction, citing biological evolution as the key example.

Teaching both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory will engage student interest and teach them to weigh evidence -- a key skill in scientific reasoning.

As Charles Darwin himself wrote in the Origin of Species, a fair result can only be obtained by balancing the facts and argument on both sides of each question.

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 - September 24, 2003

from Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- A serious accident is waiting to happen on the International Space Station due to poor communications between American and Russian engineers, says one of the nine members of a NASA safety panel who resigned Tuesday.

There have been three separate incidents that could have led to accidents aboard the space station and all were linked to a lack of coordination between the Russians and Americans who operate the orbiting lab, said Arthur Zygielbaum, a former member of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel.

Zygielbaum said safety flaws on the space station are being brushed aside in the same way that NASA ignored problems with foam insulation on the space shuttle. A suitcase-sized chunk of foam insulation that flew off a fuel tank during the launch of Columbia is blamed for breaking a heat shield and causing the loss of the space shuttle and seven astronauts.

from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — Senate Democrats used the confirmation hearing today on Gov. Michael O. Leavitt of Utah, President Bush's choice for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, as a forum to sharply criticize the administration's environmental record, all but ignoring the nominee sitting in front of them.

In the packed, three-hour hearing, members of the Environment and Public Works Committee told Mr. Leavitt repeatedly that the job he was seeking was one of the worst in Washington.

In response, Mr. Leavitt said that he viewed himself as a problem solver, that his preferred approach was collaboration and that his main goal was clean air.

"The solutions to these problems are found in the productive middle," he said. "Rarely are they found at the extremes."

from Newsday

A medicine developed to treat epileptic seizures has shown effectiveness in helping longtime cocaine addicts refrain from drug use.

Eight addicts who received the medicine daily for six weeks have been clean for more than two months, some for almost 90 days. Twelve addicts dropped out.All were volunteers in a study, published yesterday in the journal Synapse, that was conducted by scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York University School of Medicine and an addiction treatment clinic in Mexico.

"This is unheard of in addiction treatment," said Stephen Dewey, a scientist at the Brookhaven lab in Upton. "There are no medicines that are effective at blocking cocaine craving in addicts."

from Associated Press

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. -- A new satellite could offer more information into the gamma ray bursts that occurred billions of years ago.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory discovered the strange phenomenon 30 years ago, but much about it -- such as why they happen -- remains mysterious.

In May 2004, when a new satellite called SWIFT launches, they might finally be able to unravel some of the mysteries about gamma ray bursts.

"We've had to create an explanation to fit what we're seeing, rather than understanding what gamma ray bursts are by predicting them," said Ed Fenimore, a Los Alamos astrophysicist. "What we know is that something has to accelerate a huge mass -- close to the mass of the sun -- to close to the speed of light in a very short period of time. We just don't know why that's happening."

Dawson family protests Beckwith's appointment to Baylor institute


Posted: 9/19/03

By Marv Knox

WACO--Twenty-nine members of the J.M. Dawson family have called on Baylor University to remove the associate director of the institute that bears Dawson's name.

In an open letter dated Sept. 11, Dawson family members question the appointment of Francis Beckwith as associate director of Baylor's J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies.

However, two of Beckwith's key colleagues have claimed the protest is misguided, affirmed Beckwith's qualifications and championed Baylor's right to select a diverse faculty.

Dawson was a 1904 Baylor graduate who served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Waco 32 years. In retirement, he became the first executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs in Washington. His 1948 book, "Separate Church and State Now" is considered a landmark treatise on church-state separation and religious liberty.

In their open letter, the Dawson family members say they have asked Baylor President Robert Sloan to remove Beckwith as associate director of the Dawson Institute and reassign him to "another, more appropriate, position." Matt Dawson, J.M. Dawson's son and a retired Baylor law professor, and Alice Cheavens Baird, a granddaughter from Waco, signed the letter. Including that pair, the letter carries the names of one child, 12 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. Fourteen of them are Baylor graduates.

The letter accuses Beckwith of holding church-state positions contrary to the strong stand for separation advocated by J.M. Dawson. Therefore, he should not be a leader of the Dawson Institute, it notes.

"We are troubled because Dr. Beckwith is a fellow of the Discovery Institute. The activities of this organization are widely recognized in the academic community as engaging in political activities that contravene the fundamental principle of the separation of church and state for which J.M. Dawson stood," the letter says.

"The Discovery Institute works to get the concept called 'intelligent design' into the science curriculum of public school textbooks, claiming that intelligent design is a scientific, not a religious, concept. In our judgment and in the judgment of the scientific community, this is a ruse for getting a religious notion into the public schools--clearly a violation of the separation of church and state."

Intelligent design--a theory that counters evolution by advocating a rational plan behind creation--is not a new controversy at Baylor. The university's faculty, particularly science and religion professors, protested more than three years ago, when President Sloan created the Michael Polanyi Center, intended to focus on whether mathematical and scientific formulas can prove an intelligent design behind creation. "The vast majority of scientists view intelligent design as the latest version of creationist theory, though the Discovery Institute works tirelessly to refute this fact," the Dawson family letter says.

It cites several articles in scientific and church-state journals that claim intelligent design actually is a religious theory rather than a scientific endeavor. Consequently, since intelligent design advocates attempt to introduce the theory into public school science classrooms, they violate longstanding principles of church-state separation, it adds.

"We ... ask the question: Is Baylor University going to maintain its commitment to the separation of church and state? Is the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies going to remain committed to its mission? How can it possibly do so if an associate director is a fellow of the Discovery Institute, an organization that violates the church-state separation principle?" the letter asks.

In response, both Baylor Provost David Jeffrey and one of Beckwith's colleagues in the Dawson Institute, Barry Hankins, affirmed his fitness for leadership in the institute. The Dawson Institute's director, Derek Davis, was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

Beckwith topped the list of candidates for the Dawson Institute during a national search, Jeffrey said. Among Beckwith's credentials, Jeffrey cited his academic accomplishments, including a doctorate from Fordham University and a master's degree in juridical studies from Washington University, as well as publication of articles in numerous scholarly periodicals, including the Dawson Institute's own Journal of Church and State.

He has been a research fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, and he is a fellow in the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute. He has held full-time faculty appointments at Trinity International University, Whittier College and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

His latest book is "Law, Darwinism, & Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design." Other books include "The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement," "Do the Right Thing: Readings in Applied Ethics and Social Philosophy," "Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air," "The Abortion Controversy 25 Years After Roe v. Wade," "Affirmative Action: Social Justice or Reverse Discrimination?" and "Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights."

"He's nuanced in some of his opinions, but we try to have diversity on the faculty here at Baylor. He's a proponent of separation of church and state," Jeffrey said. "He was the strongest candidate."

The Dawson family's protest reflects a double misunderstanding, Jeffrey surmised.

"First is the actual nature of his (church-state) views," the provost said, noting Dawson Institute Director Davis holds the same views. "Second is the climate of intellectual freedom we want to have here at Baylor. At Baylor, we're vigorous proponents of freedom of conscience and academic inquiry," he added, noting the faculty represents a broad spectrum of views on their various disciplines.

The challenge to Beckwith, "apparently on the basis of his having received a grant and fellow status from an institute that specializes in intelligent design theory," is dismaying, added Barry Hankins, associate professor of history and church-state studies in the institute.

"Frank's views on the constitutionality of teaching intelligent design in public schools, however debatable, are scholarly and reasonable," Hankins said. "I have found him a scholar of integrity and one who is always prepared to listen and dialogue about important matters."

Hankins also debunked what he called rumors that have surfaced since Beckwith arrived at Baylor.

"It is simply not true that Frank was forced on the department by the administration," Hankins insisted. "He was the best qualified person for the job and in my view strengthens the department, both because of his credentials as a scholar and because of his views on various church-state matters.

"There are faculty at Baylor who believe Frank should not have been hired because of his work on intelligent design or because he could be called a 'cultural conservative.' I believe the academic enterprise is strengthened when a variety of views are represented in institutes and departments where complex and controversial issues are to be debated. We are in the business of educating, not indoctrinating."

For his part, Beckwith noted he is "surprised and saddened that the descendants of J.M. Dawson would invoke his name as an authority in their request that Baylor University take action that is contrary to the academic and religious liberty that ... Dawson stood for."

Citing a 1964 quote from Dawson, "Most people know how sickly is mere conformity," Beckwith added: "It is disappointing to know that some today are requiring ideological conformity for faculty at an institute that bears the name of J.M. Dawson. There can be no academic freedom if alumni are successful in their attempt to remove faculty who hold views contrary to their own."

Beckwith, who in addition to his administrative position is associate professor of church-state studies, affirms the principles championed by the Dawson Institute, he said.

"I am a strong proponent of the separation of church and state as well as religious liberty, though in a free society such as ours, citizens of goodwill will differ on how to understand these principles in the 21st century, an era nearly a half-century removed from the time J.M. Dawson published the bulk of his work," he said. "For example, my scholarship on law, Darwinism and public education explores a new, important and fascinating question ...: Would certain critiques of Darwinism, including intelligent design theory, pass constitutional muster if subjected to standard judicial tests?"

Beckwith's affiliations with think-tanks such as the Discovery Institute are merely affiliations, he stressed. "Think-tanks are not churches or lodges; there are no oaths or statements of faith that one must sign. ...

"My work is my own, and I stand by it. However, it is inappropriate and not in the spirit of J.M. Dawson's philosophy for his descendants or any members of the Baylor community to blacklist faculty because they receive funding, however modest, from think-tanks and foundations with which other members of the academic community disagree."

News of religion, faith, missions, Bible study and Christian ministry among Texas Baptist churches, in the BGCT, the Southern Baptist Convention ( SBC ) and around the world.


Here it is. First the op-ed piece by Bruce Chapman in The Dallas Morning News. Then the follow-up letter posted this morning.

What brass!


Bruce Chapman: How should schools teach evolution?
Don't forget weaknesses in theory

12:02 AM CDT on Sunday, September 21, 2003


Some people don't want Charles Darwin's theory of evolution taught in public schools, while some others don't want anything taught that might contradict it. Both are wrong.

Texas law calls for textbooks to provide both "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. A recent Zogby poll showed overwhelming support among Texans (75 percent) for that approach on teaching evolution. The support reached across all demographic groups.

At the national level, language connected with the No Child Left Behind Act said, "Where topics are taught that may generate controversy [such as biological evolution], the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist."

Darwinist die-hards have persuaded some in the media and on state school boards that the federal language wasn't really "official." So, in a letter released a few days ago, the chairs of the House and Senate Education committees that wrote the act forcefully repeated that state science standards should "not be used to censor debate" on Darwin's theory. States can defy Congress without losing federal aid, but there is no mistaking the official congressional view.

Darwinism is a theory in crisis.

More and more scientists question the Darwinian claim that all of life's complexity is the result of natural selection working on random mutations. Nearly 300 scientists, including 40 Texans, have signed a statement expressing such skepticism.

Other scientists, such as Dr. J.Y. Chen of China, one of the world's leading paleontologists, have argued that the fossil record from the "Cambrian explosion" of animal life "is basically in conflict with Darwinian evolution."

Biologist Giuseppe Sermonti, editor of the peer-reviewed European journal Revista Biologia, says dryly, "Darwinism is the politically correct of science." Political correctness, he points out, never has served the cause of academic freedom and true science.

Yet textbooks continue to ignore the growing scientific skepticism. Some textbooks even perpetuate long-discredited proofs for Darwin's theory, such as embryo drawings from the 19th century that purport to show that many animals – from fish to people – look virtually identical in the earliest stages of embryonic development. Although it has been known in scientific literature for years that the drawings are wildly inaccurate, three textbooks proposed for Texas still include them.

But Darwinists aren't about to admit any errors, even when textbooks disagree among themselves. Take the Cambrian explosion. If all of the textbooks are just fine, as the Darwinists assert, are we to believe the text that says it took place more than 20 million years ago or the one that says 160 million years or the ones that ignore the event altogether? Somebody is wrong. But Darwinists want the state school board to pretend otherwise.

Such errors and factual disagreements are rife in the high school biology text accounts of evolution, whether it is the story of the "peppered moth" or the study of finch beaks on the Galapagos Islands. In each case, experts not only have shown the Texas school board the errors but also have backed them with copious examples of peer-reviewed science literature.

Instead of answering the charges of scientific errors, the defenders of Darwinism are trying to change the subject to ... religion.

Their tactic is to label any scientific critic a "religious rightist" or "creationist," even though creationism teaches the literal biblical account of life's origin, while none of the scientists drawing the Darwinists' ire shares that position.

Many are indeed Christians of various kinds, but others aren't even religious. But in all of those cases, so what? Unless a scientist's work is corrupted by his personal faith or an anti-religious animus, it shouldn't matter to the integrity of his science.

Darwin's theory certainly does have implications for religion, philosophy and sociology. That is why it excites such passions. Let historians and philosophers explore those topics to their hearts' content. But keep the topic of religion and the philosophy of anti-religion out of high school science classes and textbooks.

Congress, more and more scientists and most Texans agree: Students should know all about Darwin's theory. Just make sure that includes the growing scientific dispute of its key "proofs."

Bruce K. Chapman, former director of the U. S. Census Bureau and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Organizations in Vienna, is president of the Discovery Institute. His e-mail address is bchapman@discovery.org.

Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/viewpoints/stories/092103dnedibrucechapman.2c468.html

Then the letter today:

Cambrian explosion

In my Sunday Viewpoints column on evolution instruction – "Don't forget weaknesses in theory" – I described the differences in how textbooks handle the timing of the Cambrian explosion. I wrote that one has it placed 20 million years "ago," when, of course, I should have said, "over a period of 20 million years." The Cambrian explosion as a whole took place approximately 530 million years ago. The fact that textbooks differ wildly over how long the "explosion" took (my actual point) shows why students should learn that there is a controversy on this and other issues of the theory of evolution.

Bruce Chapman, Seattle


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Joshi at home, his deputy at work with a cobra necklace

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Tantra is future science, says Minister, after he walks on fire


PATNA, SEPTEMBER 23: His resignation on the table, Murli Manohar Joshi may already have a worthy successor in the Union HRD Ministry. Minister of State Sanjay Paswan who, after Joshi's love for Vedic mathematics and astrology, wants tantrik practices and exorcism included in school curriculum.

Two cobras coiled around his neck, still glowing from the 'walk on fire' he demonstrated before a crowd of 2,000-plus yesterday, Paswan means business. ''This is all futuristic science and hence needs promotion by the state, media and the civil society... I am saying this with conviction, not politics in mind,'' he said here today. Incidentally, like his boss, the MoS too is a student of physics, having done a Masters in it.

As a first step towards this, Paswan honoured 51 ojhas, gunis and bhagats—village exorcists, shamans and charmers or, in the minister's words, ''healers''—yesterday. Of the 51 honoured, 11 were women.

Incidentally, in Bihar and Jharkhand, dozens of women are stoned to death every year after being branded witches. But Paswan is unfazed. ''We will correct the distortions if any, but they are healers who give relief to the people. The WHO defines health as being physically fit, mentally alert and emotionally balanced. Modern doctors can only take care of your physical fitness. Traditional healers will give you mental and spiritual comfort.''

However, one person who will certainly be healed by the exercise is Paswan, who has been trying to emerge as a Dalit leader. Most of the practitioners of the craft are Dalits, and they will return to their villages and tell others about the BJP leader who danced, chanted and beat the drums with them.

Like Ambika Das, a bhagat from Makhdumpur in Nalanda district. ''We are always sought after in the villages, but hardly honoured. We are grateful to the minister,'' she says. While the bhagats propitiate the village deity, ojhas exorcise evil spirits and gunis protect one from potential evils.

However, the roles, not surprisingly, often overlap. ''We want to modernise these practices,'' says Paswan. ''Like the way Ayurveda has become internationally accepted now.''

He doesn't even approve of the word exorcists for ojhas. ''They heal broken hearts and humans. It's about spiritual enlightenment,'' Paswan says. ''I want this included in school curriculum to bring this ancient wisdom closer to modernity.''

The minister's next plan is to form a national-level forum for healers. There are plans to hold a meeting in Delhi in November, after which he hopes to start two institutes, one in Darbhanga and another in Patna to do research on these topics.

These institutes will prepare a data bank of different types of healing practitioners in Bihar, have a website and build a team of teachers for those aspiring to learn the practices.

Paswan even tries to convince you that employment opportunity is high in the field. Talk about how promotion of superstition would help the Dalits whose cause he professes to espouse and Paswan says: ''If psychosomatic studies are internationally accepted as scientific, why should we hesitate? Let there be a debate.''

Of that, he can be sure.

URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=32146

The blatant blanket blag


Ben Goldacre
Thursday August 28, 2003
The Guardian

Talk bad science

My informants send news of the new Magneto-Tex blankets, available for only £399. They have set themselves apart from other magnet therapies (many of which have been successfully prosecuted for fraud in the US) by offering "patented alternating magnets" that, remarkably, don't seem to require an alternating electrical current. But how do we know it works? Fortunately bad science spotter GJ Pitt sent me the company's leaflet, featuring diagrams of "the healthy cell" in which the positive and negative ions defy brownian motion and all congregate at opposite ends of the cell. Not so in unhealthy cells, where the ions are all over the shop. You can also prove it to yourself: "You will feel the effects right away because the body becomes pleasantly warm." Please remember, this is a blanket we're talking about.

But it's a lot more technical than that. Apparently, "The magnets in the underblanket influence the iron atoms in your blood each time they are passing the magnetic foils." It takes a 1.5 Tesla magnet in an enormous MRI scanner to make water molecules line up, and they're at least slightly bipolar, but if you want to have a go at home, why not bleed yourself on to a plate and wave a magnet around over the top of it. You'll notice that when the four iron atoms in a haemoglobin molecule are spread out, rather than lined up nicely in your magnet, they're not terribly magnetic.

Even better than the dodgy science are the "experts" recommending the therapy. Chasing these guys around the internet is the best fun I have, in my sad little world. Professor Johan Schulze apparently performed a double blind placebo trial on Magneto-Tex, which is reported in the leaflet but not on the Medline archive, and he completely ignores the placebo group in the results. Good work. There is, unusually for any professor, no trace of his work anywhere on Google.

But here is "Dr Jean Monro MB BS MRCS LRCP" of Breakspear Hospital in Hemel Hempstead, apparently in a nice white coat, recommending the therapy. Breakspear is a private day centre offering alternative therapies; the publications section of their website is empty. They offer Chelation Therapy, which "corrects the major underlying cause of the blood vessel blockage by dissolving the plaques." A Cochrane Library systematic review found that there was insufficient evidence for this claim last year.

Please send your bad science to bad.science@guardian.co.uk

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

Michigan Science Teachers Association adds its Voice for Evolution

NCSE is pleased to announce a further addition to Voices for Evolution: a statement from the Michigan Science Teachers Association reacting to two antievolution bills introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives. The statement reads in part, "In recognition of the Michigan State Board of Education's resolution on the teaching of evolution and the MSTA adoption of the NSTA position statement on teaching evolution, the Michigan Science Teachers Association advocates that HB 4946 & HB 5005 be removed from any further consideration by the House of Representatives."

For the full statement, go to http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=2, click on Statements from Educational Organizations, and then click on Michigan Science Teachers Association (2003). And be sure to visit MSTA's web site at http://www.msta-mich.org/index.php.


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


From: Ray Nelke

This is only a small part of the article.

The subject is mostly about the famous *bullfrog* claim.


*"... On 18 Feb 1985, Gish came to the University of Minnesota to debate Philip Kitcher at noon and then that evening to speak to the local Creation-Science Association, Christians at the U, and the University Evangelical Coalition.

Gish is formidable against an ill-prepared or inarticulate debate opponent; Kitcher was neither. Needless to say, Gish did not fare well at the debate. Gish spoke first, ostensibly for the affirmative, yet as usual he offered no creation model. Instead, his "affirmative" presentation consisted of his usual negative statements against evolution.

On the other hand, Kitcher spoke both for evolution and against creationism. He countered Gish's denial of the existence of transitional forms by presenting those transitional forms, contrasted Flood Geology with conventional geology and demonstrated the former's inadequacies and absurdities, and talked about Gish's bullfrog and chicken proteins. Of course, Gish refused to defend Flood Geology (as he always does), launched into his usual description of the reptile-mammal transition requiring the jaw to unhinge and then much later hinge itself again so that the mammal-like reptiles couldn't "chew and hear at the same time" (which Kitcher countered by citing the many Jurassic mammals with "reptilian" jaws and the transitional forms with double jaw joints; this was obviously lost on Gish, but not on the audience), and ignored the references to his protein claims.

Then at the end of the debate, things started to come to a head. From Schadewald's report of the debate:

"In his final remarks, Kitcher demanded that Gish either produce references for the chicken and bullfrog proteins or admit that they do not exist. Gish ignored the challenge, which apparently disappointed many in the audience who had read my editorial, for Gish's final remarks were punctuated with sporadic cries of 'Bullfrog!'"

NOTE: This then is the popular source of "Bullfrog!" Coupled with Dr. Doolittle's use of the exclamation on national TV in 1982, I think this answers yet another question of ultimate origins. ..."*

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 - September 23, 2003

from The Washington Post

The largest ice shelf in the Northern Hemisphere has broken in two, draining a freshwater lake beneath the ice and providing further evidence of climate change in the Earth's Arctic reaches, scientists said yesterday.

The researchers said a fissure appeared in the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf in 2000 and it was cleaved completely by the following year. In 2002, the original fissure had widened to 85 yards in some spots, many other fissures had opened and a 2.4-mile-square area of free-floating ice blocks had appeared.

"We believe that these events fit into a bigger picture of climate [warming] in the Arctic," said geophysicist Martin O. Jeffries of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. "There is growing evidence of Arctic-wide warming in the last 10 to 15 years." Jeffries joined the team of researchers led by Warwick F. Vincent and Derek R. Mueller of Laval University in Quebec.

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to cut air pollution by 50 percent within a decade -- mostly by urging drivers to use hydrogen-powered vehicles -- was described as unrealistic by environmentalists and scientists, even as they praised him for promoting the new fuel cell technology.

At an event Sunday near Santa Barbara, the leading Republican in the Oct. 7 recall election pledged to reduce air pollution by half in California by 2011. He pledged to sign an executive order requiring hydrogen fueling stations every 20 miles on interstates and highways to encourage consumers to buy the pollution-free vehicles.

But even supporters of fuel cells said daunting technological hurdles associated with hydrogen-powered cars -- combined with consumers' preference for gas-guzzling vehicles -- mean that his pledge of lowering emissions is probably pie-in-the-sky.

from Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. -- Scientists hope DNA analysis will reveal the origins of large, mysterious apes discovered in the heart of Africa by an Atlanta primatologist.

Genetics research has begun at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo on fecal samples collected this summer from the rare apes to determine if they make up a new species, a new subspecies or some form of hybrid -- possibly a mix between a chimpanzee and a gorilla.

"It's a new, mystery ape and we are doing the DNA fingerprinting to find out more," said Dr. Lee Simmons, zoo director.

The apes, which stand five to six feet tall and have feet nearly 14 inches long, were first documented last year by primatologist Shelly Williams in a forest in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

from Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- A jawbone found in a cave in Romania may be evidence of the earliest modern humans in Europe, living at the same time as the last of the Neanderthals.

Erik Trinkaus, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, has dated the bone at 34,000 to 36,000 years ago. His findings are reported in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The jawbone was found by recreational cavers who gave it to Oana Moldovan, director of the cave research institute in Cluj, Romania.

from The New York Times

SANTA FE, N.M. — With advances toward ultrastrong fibers, the concept of building an elevator 60,000 miles high to carry cargo into space is moving from the realm of science fiction to the fringes of reality.

This month, the Los Alamos National Laboratory was a sponsor of a conference to ponder the concept. Yet, the keynote address was by a titan of science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke, speaking via satellite from his home in Sri Lanka. "I'm happy that people are taking it more and more seriously," said Mr. Clarke, whose novel "The Fountains of Paradise" (1978) revolved around such a space elevator.

The discovery in 1991 of nanotubes, cylindrical molecules of carbon with many times the strength of steel, turned the idea from a fantastical impossibility to an intriguing possibility that could be realized in as little as a decade or two.

from The New York Times

Who knows what evil lurks in the lymph nodes of men?

The immunologist knows.

But the body may not even suspect it.

That evil is the AIDS virus, which has the power to hibernate, virtually forever, even in patients taking their triple-therapy cocktails with religious devotion.

Many AIDS specialists are working on ways to tease the virus out of hiding so it can be killed, and real progress has been made. A laboratory at the University of California at Los Angeles recently reported 80 percent success in mice.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

How should schools teach evolution? Emphasize the scientific facts

05:07 PM CDT on Monday, September 22, 2003


The state school board recently heard testimony from many people about whether 11 high school biology textbooks should be excluded from consideration for state adoption because they supposedly place undue emphasis on evolution. The issue has evoked passionate debate, but the board has until November to make its decision.

I write on behalf of 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences and/or the Institute of Medicine; four of us are Nobel laureates. We all live and work in North Texas. We are speaking as individual scientists and clinicians, not as employees of any institution.

We urge board members to use the next several weeks to review the science and, ultimately, to render a decision based solely on whether the texts are scientifically accurate. To do otherwise would undermine the integrity of expert panels that already have indicated the books pass scientific muster. The textbooks in question are used only in science courses, and science must be the basis of their information.

Some individuals and organizations have long opposed teaching only scientific bases for the appearance and evolution of life on earth. Those opponents claim that scientific texts systematically misinform readers. Why? Because, according to the critics, the books in question don't expound upon supposed weaknesses in the theory of evolution.

Those assertions have been refuted in great detail by scientists in testimony prepared for the state board and in analyses of the central arguments raised by opponents of the texts. (See www.txscience.org/files/icons-revealed/index.htm and www.ncseweb.org/icons/ on the Web.)

We note that those supposedly scientific challenges are directed selectively at the theory of evolution. There are no similar campaigns being waged against textbooks that don't discuss alleged weaknesses in other major scientific theories, such as gravitation or relativity. Clearly, the motivation for the current challenges lies not in science, and the scientific classroom is not the proper forum for such a debate.

Part of the confusion may stem from how scientists use the term "theory" in their work. Rather than being someone's hunch or guess, ideas become accepted scientific theories only after they have been tested repeatedly and confirmed experimentally – and have been shown to account for and explain such a wealth of data that they enable scientists to make reasonable predictions about similar phenomena that have yet to undergo such scrutiny.

The modern theory of evolution has undergone 140 years of testing. It now is so well established that its veracity and robustness are accepted as fact by the overwhelming majority of scientists in this country and around the world. In the scientific community, the unanswered questions surrounding evolution concern not the fact of evolution but rather the mechanisms by which evolution operates.

We are very concerned that any action by the board to exclude science textbooks that have been determined to be scientifically accurate – by independent review panels of scientists and science educators and by expert review committees appointed by the Texas Education Agency – sets a very dangerous precedent.

If successful, such an action would prevent the state's students from being exposed to one of the most tested theories in science and would place them at a disadvantage in relation to their peers in most other states, where scientific approaches to evolution would continue to be taught. Without a basic knowledge of evolution, how could they begin to comprehend high school or college biology classes?

In addition, because Texas' textbook adoption policies have a large impact on the U.S. textbook market, we worry that prohibiting the purchase of science books that accurately discuss evolution could push publishers to eliminate the subject, compromising science education across the country. That would be tantamount to censorship.

The November decision must be scientifically informed. Like students heading back to school, the state school board must do its work to understand fully the issues at stake. We call upon our scientific, engineering and medical colleagues across the state to deliver a similar message to the board.

Alfred G. Gilman is a 1994 Nobel laureate and professor of pharmacology. Colleagues who support his position include Nobel laureate Michael S. Brown, professor of biophysics and molecular genetics; Nobel laureate Johann Deisenhofer, professor of biochemistry; Ronald Estabrook, professor of biochemistry; Daniel W. Foster, professor of internal medicine; David Garbers, professor of pharmacology; Scott Grundy, professor of human nutrition; Nobel laureate Joseph L. Goldstein, professor of biophysics and molecular genetics; Steven McKnight, professor of biochemistry; Eric Nestler, professor of psychiatry; Eric Olson, professor of molecular biology; Thomas Sudhof, professor of basic neuroscience; Carol A. Tamminga, professor of psychiatry; Jonathan Uhr, professor of cancer immunobiology; Roger Unger, professor of internal medicine; Ellen S. Vitetta, professor of cancer immunobiology; and Jean D. Wilson, professor of internal medicine.

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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

If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News" http://www.mediaresource.org/news.shtml which mirrors the daily e-mail update.

In the News

Today's Headlines - September 20, 2003

from The Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif., Sept. 21 (AP) — NASA plunged the Galileo spacecraft into Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere today, bringing a fiery conclusion to a 14-year, $1.5 billion mission.

The unmanned spacecraft, traveling at nearly 108,000 miles per hour, was torn apart by the heat and friction of its fall through the clouds after it dived into the atmosphere at 2:57 p.m. Eastern time, as planned.

At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory here, hundreds of scientists, engineers and their families counted down the seconds before the spacecraft ended its 2.8 billion-mile journey to Jupiter, the solar system's largest planet.

from Reuters

U.S. researchers said yesterday that they had used cloned cells to treat a Parkinson's-like disease in mice and that it provided a good experimental basis for testing whether "therapeutic cloning" will work.

Although they did not clone each individual mouse, the cells they used were from cloned embryos and relieved the symptoms of artificially induced Parkinson's, they reported in this week's issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Cloning is highly controversial, but many scientists believe therapeutic cloning can revolutionize medicine. The idea is for a patient to provide a single cell that could be manipulated and grown into new tissue or even organs.

from The New York Times

Researchers in Iceland say they have discovered the first gene that underlies common forms of stroke, a disease that affects more than 600,000 people a year in the United States.

People with a particular version of the gene have a three to five times greater risk of stroke, said the researchers, who are at Decode Genetics, a company based in Reykjavik. This is as large as or larger than known environmental risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.

Dr. Kari Stefansson, the chief executive of Decode, said that the new gene makes an enzyme that is a good target for drugs, and that the Roche pharmaceutical company in Switzerland was already testing several such drugs in laboratory rats.

from The New York Times

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Sept. 19 — Written off lately by the computer industry as a has-been, Sun Microsystems may still have a few tricks up its engineers' shirt sleeves.

On Tuesday, Sun researchers plan to report that they have discovered a way to transmit data inside a computer much more quickly than current techniques allow. By placing the edge of one chip directly in contact with its neighbor, it may be possible to move data 60 to 100 times as fast as the present top speeds.

For the computer industry, the advance — if it can be repeated on the assembly line — would be truly revolutionary. It would make obsolete the traditional circuit board constructed of tiny bits of soldered wires between chips, familiar to hobbyists who hand-soldered connections when assembling Heathkit electronic projects.

"It could represent the end of the printed circuit board," said Jim Mitchell, director of Sun Laboratories here. "It makes things way, way faster."

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Moss Landing, Monterey County -- Predicting a storm at sea is tough. For a real challenge, try forecasting the storms in the sea.

A subtle change in wind speed and direction can nudge vast amounts of water in different directions, rippling all through the marine environment, affecting nutrient levels, fisheries and military operations in ways scientists are only beginning to understand.

In one of the most ambitious ocean experiments ever conducted, scientists from 14 institutions, coordinated by James Bellingham, director of engineering at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, spent the month of August trying to come to grips with the complex waters of Monterey Bay.

2002 Texas Bigfoot Conference video

From: Craig Woolheater-TBRC

We are in the final stages of editing the 2002 Conference video. It will be available for purchase very soon. This will be 90+ minutes of the highlights of last year's Conference. It will be available in VHS format as well as DVD. This video will be available at the 2003 Texas Bigfoot Conference being held October 18, 2003. They will also be shipping at that date as well. We are now taking pre-orders for the video. The page on the website with the details is: http://www.texasbigfoot.com/2002video.html Check out the page, you may be quoted on your thoughts on the event.

The cover artwork by artist Paul Smith can be viewed front and back at: http://www.texasbigfoot.com/videocover.html

Craig Woolheater
Texas Bigfoot Research Center

Monday, September 22, 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.

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

If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News" http://www.mediaresource.org/news.shtml which mirrors the daily e-mail update.

In the News

Today's Headlines - September 19, 2003

from The Washington Post

On Monday, Hurricane Isabel, a Category 5 monster with winds swirling at 155 mph, was east of the Bahamas and heading inexorably toward the Atlantic coast of the United States.

At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, meteorologists readied their prediction: The hurricane's eye would make landfall at North Carolina's Outer Banks on Thursday. "We called it for 2 p.m.," NOAA meteorologist Steve Kuhl said in a telephone interview.

They were an hour off, but in most respects, Isabel, which rolled ashore between Cape Lookout and Ocracoke Island yesterday, accompanied by high winds, heavy rain, 30-foot waves and a storm surge, behaved just as scientists said it would.

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Eight million years ago, a giant relative of today's pet guinea pigs wallowed in the coastal marshes and lagoons of northwestern Venezuela -- a buffalo-size beast that scientists say is by far the biggest rodent that ever lived.

Now, the fossil remains of two of the mysterious creatures have been unearthed from what has become a dry and scrubby semidesert, and the discovery is fascinating scientists who puzzle over the evolutionary lineage of animals that were once so big and are now mostly so small.

The scientific name of the long-vanished rodent is Phoberomys pattersoni, but the scientists who found it call it Goya. A detailed report on the size and bone structure of the ancient beast is appearing today in the journal Science by an international team of paleontologists.

from Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Shivering and sweating feverishly, Felicia Egbuchue took the malaria medicine her doctor prescribed. Although it had cured her in years past, this time it didn't. She was rushed to the hospital, and hooked up to an intravenous drip.

"I have no inner strength. I feel like I'm dying," the 30-year-old university student said from her hospital bed.

Malaria, the ancient mosquito-borne disease that was rolled back by medical advances in the mid-20th century, is making a deadly comeback.

Strains of the disease are becoming increasingly resistant to treatment, infecting and killing more people than ever before -- sickening as many as 900 million last year, according to estimates by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

from The New York Times

Scientists know that very strict low-calorie diets can prolong life. But now they report that it does not matter when you start that diet — at least if you are a fruit fly. The life-prolonging effect kicks in immediately, continues as long as the diet, and is lost as soon as the dieting stops.

"We were very surprised, completely taken aback," said Dr. Linda Partridge, a professor at University College London, whose laboratory made the discovery.

For now, no one has a clue about what the crucial changes are in a fly's body when it goes on or off a diet. "It's been assumed that the reason things live longer when they diet is that there is a slowing down of age-related damage," Dr. Partridge said. But, she added, it now appears that cannot be true. "The system has no memory."

from Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Researchers working in the Amazon River basin have discovered clusters of settlements linked by wide roads and surrounded by agricultural developments.

The researchers, including some descendants of pre-Columbia tribes that lived along the Amazon, have unearthed evidence of densely settled, well-organized communities with roads, moats and bridges in the Upper Xingu part of the vast tropical region.

The findings show the Amazon was not, as was once thought, all an untouched wilderness before Columbus came to the Americas.

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Sondra Barrett, a Forestville scientist, artist and educator, likes to enjoy wine the old-fashioned way -- by drinking it. But she has also pioneered a unique way to observe the "inner life" of wine, by viewing it under a special microscope.

Using an "interference" microscope, a standard laboratory 'scope outfitted with light-refracting filters, Barrett, 62, studies and photographs the crystalline forms that appear after a drop of wine has dried on a slide.

To date, her work has been noted mainly for its beauty or as a curiosity. But her findings provide an intriguing glimpse at possible uses for the microscope as a new diagnostic tool.



11:00 - 13 September 2003
A Ghostbuster wants permission to investigate claims a beer-swigging poltergeist is stalking a West supermarket, it was revealed yesterday. Staff at the Co-op store in Penzance have been spooked by a mischief-making spirit with a penchant for lager.

Staff say they saw a four-pack of beer fly across an empty aisle.

Branch manager Mark Roberts, 28, said: "It was about 10pm and three members of staff were closing up when the shift manager heard a crashing sound.

"She found the four cans on the floor and went to check the CCTV. I have seen the footage and do not know what to make of it."

He said a paranormal investigator offered to do some tests, but will need permission from the area manager.

Soundless Music Shown to Produce Weird Sensations


Sun September 7, 2003 07:09 PM ET
By Patricia Reaney

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Mysteriously snuffed out candles, weird sensations and shivers down the spine may not be due to the presence of ghosts in haunted houses but to very low frequency sound that is inaudible to humans.

British scientists have shown in a controlled experiment that the extreme bass sound known as infrasound produces a range of bizarre effects in people including anxiety, extreme sorrow and chills -- supporting popular suggestions of a link between infrasound and strange sensations.

"Normally you can't hear it," Dr Richard Lord, an acoustic scientist at the National Physical Laboratory in England who worked on the project, said Monday.

Lord and his colleagues, who produced infrasound with a seven meter (yard) pipe and tested its impact on 750 people at a concert, said infrasound is also generated by natural phenomena.

"Some scientists have suggested that this level of sound may be present at some allegedly haunted sites and so cause people to have odd sensations that they attribute to a ghost -- our findings support these ideas," said Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire in southern England.

In the first controlled experiment of infrasound, Lord and Wiseman played four contemporary pieces of live music, including some laced with infrasound, at a London concert hall and asked the audience to describe their reactions to the music.

The audience did not know which pieces included infrasound but 22 percent reported more unusual experiences when it was present in the music.

Their unusual experiences included feeling uneasy or sorrowful, getting chills down the spine or nervous feelings of revulsion or fear.

"These results suggest that low frequency sound can cause people to have unusual experiences even though they cannot consciously detect infrasound," said Wiseman, who presented his findings to the British Association science conference.

Infrasound is also produced by storms, seasonal winds and weather patterns and some types of earthquakes. Animals such as elephants also use infrasound to communicate over long distances or as weapons to repel foes.

"So much has been said about infrasound -- it's been associated with just about everything from beam weapons to bad driving. It's wonderful to be able to examine the evidence," said Sarah Angliss, a composer and engineer who worked on the project.

Telepathy gets academic in Sweden


STOCKHOLM, Sweden (Reuters) -- Sweden's Lund University, one of the oldest seats of learning in Scandinavia, will take a leap into the unknown by appointing northern Europe's first professor of parapsychology, hypnology and clairvoyance.

Almost 30 candidates, including a self-professed Indian medium and an American named Heaven Lord, applied for the post, financed by a donation, whose holder the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet has joked will be a "Ghost Professor."

The first professor, to be appointed by Lund University Dean Goran Bexell, is expected to start work in 2004, faculty secretary Kerstin Johansson told Reuters.

Hypnology is the science of the phenomena of sleep and hypnosis.

Despite decades of experimental research and television performances by people such as spoonbending psychic Uri Geller, there is still no proof that gifts such as telepathy and the ability to see the future exist, mainstream scientists say.

"Verifying the existence of paranormal phenomena does not seem to be a promising field of science," said Sven Ove Hansson, professor of philosophy at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Utrecht University in the Netherlands and Scotland's Edinburgh University also have chairs in parapsychology.

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