NTS LogoSkeptical News for 14 November 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, November 14, 2003

Evolution: bypassing the fundamentalists


by Mike Nierengarten

Readers of Saturday's Oregonian had the good fortune to meet Danny Thomas. Just like any typical American, Thomas drove his white 1996 Infiniti to the local McDonald's. After arriving at his home, Thomas discovered he was missing a couple of "Big 'N Tasty" hamburgers.

Understandably ticked, Thomas returned to the McDonald's and asked for the manager. He requested the hamburgers be replaced, plus an additional large drink.

The manager came back with the hamburgers and had the nerve to charge Thomas $1.79 for the soda. Outraged, Thomas began screaming and spit in the manager's face. The manager retreated behind the counter. Unsatisfied, Thomas jumped over the counter and stabbed the manager below the eye with a ballpoint pen.

The manager retaliated with a punch to Thomas' stomach. Customers ended the fight but Thomas' anger was unquenched.

In the spirit of the true American saga, Thomas marched to his car to retrieve his .357 Magnum.

Blasting six shots into the drive- thru, Thomas released his rage on the restaurant. Customers in the line of fire ducked out of the way and crawled along the floor on their stomachs. One of the customers crouched low and called the police on her cell phone.

When the police arrived, they found Thomas hiding in some nearby bushes. They then searched Thomas' car and discovered 10 grams of cocaine.

This story ran on the Oregonian's front page and continued for an additional half page in the back of Section A.

Stuck in the back of the section with the conclusion of Thomas' trip to McDonald's was a blurb about biology textbooks in Texas.

A mere three paragraphs long, the article explains that Texas' Board of Education approved a number of biology textbooks containing Darwin's theory of evolution.

The only reason this even made news is the fact that Texas is the nation's second-largest buyer of textbooks, and many of the textbooks Texas orders are distributed throughout the nation.

The article, roughly one-fifth the length of Thomas' saga, has a much heavier impact on our nation.

Thomas' story has been told a thousand times. The theory of evolution has been fought against for centuries. Danny Thomas will go to jail for 13 years. Christian fundamentalists will wake up in the morning and protest the Board of Education's approval of the textbooks.

To the quasi-intelligent individual, it seems preposterous that in this day and age, groups are still attacking evolution in our schools.

Sadly, these fundamentalist groups are all too real. According to "The Christian Science Monitor" and Eugenie Scott, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education in Berkeley, the fight against evolution "is very much a grass-roots movement and very much increasing."

Granted, Danny Thomas is a verifiable nut, but Christian fundamentalists who attempt to block evolution being taught in schools are insane. If not insane, they must be deaf and blind. How else can one explain how fundamentalists miss the mounds of evidence backing evolution?

Something is wrong in our society when we allow groups to dismantle our education system. To deny educating our future doctors, leaders and educators about evolution is catastrophic. To see the clear impact of evolution on our society, observe the increasing number of drug-resistant strains of bacteria spreading throughout our country.

In coming to the decision to allow evolution alone to be represented in textbooks, many of the board members leaned toward teaching both evolution and intelligent design.

In response, Steven Schafersman, a geology professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin said, "It is (the board's) responsibility to judge scientific textbooks fairly and competently by relying on the advice of scientists and science educators, and not on the claims of anti-evolutionists and pseudo-scientists."

A Seattle think tank spearheaded the motion to add intelligent design to the biology textbooks. The institute feels that both theories need to be taught so that students see the strengths and weaknesses in the theory of evolution.

By now, this topic should not be available for discussion. Congress needs to solidify evolution in our children's curriculum. The decision should not be laid upon educators who are in constant fear of offending parents or students.

Allowing state schools to determine if evolution should be taught has drastic consequences. In 1999, Kansas removed evolution from its curriculum. Biology teachers in the state were at a loss. They were required to dismiss a theory which is fundamental to the subject they were teaching.

Throughout the United States, many textbooks come with stickers stating that evolution is not proven. Under the guise of offering students a choice in what they believe, our education system is suffering.

I look forward to a day when the theory of evolution in textbooks is commonplace and does not warrant even a blurb in the newspaper. Maybe then will the likes of Danny Thomas be our main concern.

Mike Nierengarten is a columnist for The Daily Barometer. The opinions expressed in his columns, which appear every Tuesday, do not necessarily represent those of The Barometer staff. Nierengarten can be reached at baro.forum@studentmedia.orst.edu.

SBOE Approves an Evolution in Texas Textbooks



In what turned out to be something of an anticlimax, the State Board of Education voted last week to approve adoption of all 11 of the high school biology textbooks recommended by Texas Education Agency staff, following professional and public review. After months of high-profile debates over the treatment of evolution in the various texts, both supporters and opponents had been expecting at least some debating fireworks. And because several newly elected members had joined the board this year, few observers cared to predict the final outcome.

But in last Thursday's preliminary vote (confirmed Friday), the fireworks were all procedural. A motion by Beaumont's David Bradley to discuss the books individually was defeated 11-4, and subsequent motions by Mavis Knight of Dallas to close debate and then to approve the books as a group passed by the same margin. Bradley was joined only by Terri Leo (Spring), Don McElroy (Bryan), and Gail Lowe (Lampasas). Board Chair Geraldine "Tincy" Miller insisted, "We have had many opportunities in the last year to look at these books and study them. ... Now is the time to vote."

"This is great news for the children of Texas," said Samantha Smoot of the Texas Freedom Network, a statewide group active on education and religious freedom issues. "The board sent a clear message that educational and scientific standards come first for Texas schools, not the ideological preferences of a few people."

Bradley told reporters he had hoped the board would reject, or at least qualify its approval for, nine of the 11 texts. He argued that those books are "nonconforming" to state standards because they are insufficiently critical of historical errors in the development of evolutionary theory. (Any books ruled "nonconforming" would be at a strong disadvantage at the school district level, because the state will not reimburse districts for the purchase of nonconforming texts.) Prior to the vote, McElroy had recorded his objections to evolutionary theory in an e-mail to supporters, saying, "Given all the time in the world, I don't think I could make a spider out of a rock. However, most of the books we are considering adopting, claim that Nothing made a spider out of a rock."

Most of the attacks on the textbooks made similarly creationist arguments against evolution, although the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank leading a national campaign in support of "intelligent design," insists that opponents want only to eliminate "errors" in the Texas textbooks. Following the SBOE action, the institute declared a "last-minute victory [for] textbook reformers" because prior to Friday's confirming vote, TEA head Robert Scott told board members that any additional errors would be corrected by publishers before the texts are distributed to school districts. But the board's strong vote marks a public defeat for those demanding that the board reject any textbooks critics deemed insufficiently critical of evolution or failing to present the "other side."

Dozens of Texas scientists, teachers, parents, and clergy had testified in public hearings in support of the textbooks and of evolutionary theory as the organizing paradigm of the biological sciences. Dr. Alfred Gilman, a professor at UT's Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and a Nobel Laureate in medicine, called the SBOE decision a very important vote in defense of scientific education. "The people from the Discovery Institute have tried to invent a 'theory in crisis' concerning evolution," said Gilman. "This is propagandistic nonsense. Evolution is not a theory in crisis -- it's the foundation, the cornerstone, of biology." He said opponents' attempts to magnify what they call "errors" in the experimental history amount to "making mountains out of molehills."

"They no longer make explicitly religious arguments against evolution," Gilman continued, "because they know they've been beaten on that one. But we should not dignify their pseudoscience by agreeing that these so-called weaknesses are scientific 'errors.' No textbook is perfect, but they're just looking for excuses to throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Copyright 1995-2003 Austin Chronicle Corp. All rights reserved.

State board recommends biology textbooks


Despite objections from board members and a national campaign to sway the outcome of the vote by various alternative science organizations, the State Board of Education voted 12-4 to adopt all 11 biology textbooks up for review.

The board's preliminary vote Thursday followed months of scientific and religious debate about the treatment of the theory of evolution in the textbooks.

Following the final approval Friday, the decision on which books to use is left up to local school districts.

Allen Independent School District will hear presentations from representatives of textbooks companies in January, and the AISD board will likely make a decision its decision in March.

Some groups, including the Discovery Institute and Texans for Better Science Education, argued that weaknesses in the theory of evolution weren't adequately presented in the books.

But scientists and educators maintained that the theory of evolution is well tested and is a cornerstone of modern biological research.

"There are two views of the world," said Ide Trotter of Texans for Better Science Education. "Either we're an accident, which is what evolution teaches, or we're created."

Board member Geraldine Miller, whose district encompasses South Plano, said creation-based or intelligent design theories of biology should remain in the realm of religion.

"As far as creationism, that is to be taught in a religious setting," she said. "That is not under the science category and most people understand that."

District 9 board member Don McLeroy, who represents Allen, said he doesn't want creationism taught in schools, he just wants a more qualified presentation of evolution taught.

"Common descent, that's what I have a problem with." he said. "I think it's wrong. Scientific dogmatism has no place in textbooks."

Miller agreed that Texas schools should have error-free textbooks and said any allegation that the board is not interested in ensuring that is being disingenuous.

"There is a lot of misinformation going on right now and that's sad," she said. "The claim that we are ignoring evolution or ignoring the weaknesses of evolution - that's exactly what the books have. Somebody is spreading misinformation."

The debate has national significance. Because of the number of textbooks used in Texas, whatever texts are chosen here will likely be adopted nationwide.

It's a financial consideration for those states, since textbook publishers are able to offer the texts adopted in Texas at a lower rate because they are being produced in such large numbers.

Miller said evolution is a component of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the curriculum to which all public schools must teach.

"Our curriculum calls for evolution to be taught," she said. "It is also in the (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) exit test."

McLeroy said he was extremely displeased with the board's preliminary vote and will keep trying to convince his colleagues to change their minds.

"I'm extremely disappointed by the board. I've never been so disappointed in them," he lamented. "The books are not the same. I wanted to vote on them individually. We either had to accept them all or reject them all. I'm going to go to each board member and ask them to please reconsider their vote."

Samantha Smoot, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, commended the board. Smoot had been one of the most vocal supporters of presenting evolution in the textbooks.

"The voices of the science community have been loud and unified," Smoot said. "This is not a theory. There's no question about what whether evolution exists at all."

Contact staff writer Brent Flynn at 972-398-4263 or at flynnb@starcntexas.com.

The Allen American 2003

Does Science Matter?


November 11, 2003


Through its rituals of discovery, science has extended life, conquered disease and offered new sexual and commercial freedoms. It has pushed aside demigods and demons and revealed a cosmos more intricate and awesome than anything produced by pure imagination.

But there are new troubles in the peculiar form of paradise that science has created, as well as new questions about whether it has the popular support to meet the future challenges of disease, pollution, security, energy, education, food, water and urban sprawl.

The public seems increasingly intolerant of grand, technical fixes, even while it hungers for new gadgets and drugs. It has also come to fear the potential consequences of unfettered science and technology in areas like genetic engineering, germ warfare, global warming, nuclear power and the proliferation of nuclear arms.

Tension between science and the public has thrown up new barriers to research involving deadly pathogens, stem cells and human cloning. Some of the doubts about science began with the environmental movement of the 1960's.

"The bloom has been coming off the rose since `Silent Spring,' " said Dr. John H. Gibbons, President Bill Clinton's science adviser, of Rachel Carson's 1962 book on the ravages of DDT. Until then, he said, "People thought of science as a cornucopia of goodies. Now they have to choose between good and bad."

"The urgency," he said, "is to re-establish the fundamental position that science plays in helping devise uses of knowledge to resolve social ills. I hope rationality will triumph. But you can't count on it. As President Chirac said, we've lost the primacy of reason."

Science has also provoked a deeper unease by disturbing traditional beliefs. Some scientists, stunned by the increasing vigor of fundamentalist religion worldwide, wonder if old certainties have rushed into a sort of vacuum left by the inconclusiveness of science on the big issues of everyday life.

"Isn't it incredible that you have so much fundamentalism, retreating back to so much ignorance?" remarked Dr. George A. Keyworth II, President Ronald Reagan's science adviser.

The disaffection can be gauged in recent opinion surveys. Last month, a Harris poll found that the percentage of Americans who saw scientists as having "very great prestige" had declined nine percentage points in the last quarter-century, down to 57 from 66 percent. Another recent Harris poll found that most Americans believe in miracles, while half believe in ghosts and a third in astrology hardly an endorsement of scientific rationality.

"There's obviously a kind of national split personality about these things," said Dr. Owen Gingerich, a historian of astronomy at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who speaks often of his Christian faith.

"Science gives you very cold comfort at times of death or sickness or so on," Dr. Gingerich said.

In this atmosphere of ambivalence, research priorities have become increasingly politicized, some scientists say.

"Right now it's about as bad as I've known it," said Dr. Sidney Drell, a Stanford University physicist who has advised the federal government on national security issues for more than 40 years.

As the world marches into a century born amid fundamentalist strife in oil-producing nations, a divisive political climate in the United States and abroad and ever more sophisticated challenges to scientific credos like Darwin's theory of evolution, it seems warranted to ask a question that runs counter to centuries of Western thought: Does science matter? Do people care about it anymore?

The Context
Breakthroughs and Disenchantment

Clearly, science has mattered a lot, for a long time. Advances in food, public health and medicine helped raise life expectancy in the United States in the past century from roughly 50 to 80 years. So too, world population between 1950 and 1990 more than doubled, now exceeding six billion. Biology discovered the structure of DNA, made test-tube babies and cured diseases. And the decoding of the human genome is leading scientists toward a detailed understanding of how the body works, offering the hope of new treatments for cancer and other diseases.

"For a lot of people, life has gotten better," said Dr. James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix. "You don't know what it was like in 1950. It wasn't just the dreariness of Bing Crosby that made life tough."

In physics, breakthroughs produced digital electronics and subatomic discoveries. American rocket science won the space race, put men on the moon, probed distant planets and lofted hundreds of satellites, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

But major problems also arose: acid rain, environmental toxins, the Bhopal chemical disaster, nuclear waste, global warming, the ozone hole, fears over genetically modified food and the fiery destruction of two space shuttles, not to mention the curse of junk e-mail. Such troubles have helped feed social disenchantment with science.

When the cold war ended, the physical sciences began to lose luster and funding. After spending $2 billion, Congress killed physicists' pre-eminent endeavor, the Superconducting Super Collider, an enormous particle accelerator.

"Suddenly, Congress wasn't interested in science anymore," said Fred Jerome, a science policy analyst at the New School.

At the same time, industry spending on research soared to twice that of the federal government, about $180 billion last year, according to the National Science Foundation. One result is that Americans see more drugs, cellphones, advanced toys, innovative cars and engineered foods and less news about the fundamental building blocks and great shadowy vistas of the universe.

The main exceptions to the downward trend in the federal science budget are for health and weapons. This year, spending on military research hit $58 billion, higher in fixed dollars than during the cold war.

Meanwhile, other countries are spending more on research, taking some of the glory that America once monopolized. Japan, Taiwan and South Korea now account for more than a quarter of all American industrial patents, according to CHI Research. Europe is working on what will be the world's most powerful atom smasher. The British are now flying the first probe in a quarter century to look for evidence of life on Mars.

The Contradictions
New Challenges, but Also Threats

Despite the explosion in the life sciences, cancer still darkens many lives, and the flowering of biotechnology has fed worries about genetically modified foods and organisms as well as the pending reinvention of what it means to be human. Many people worry that the growing power of genetics will sully the sanctity of human life.

Last month, the President's Council on Bioethics issued a report warning that biotechnology in pursuit of human perfection could lead to unintended and destructive ends. Experts also worry about terrorists using advances in biology for intentional harm, perhaps on vast new scales.

"As this becomes ever easier and cheaper, it's only a matter of time before some misguided people decide to infect the world," said Dr. Philip Kitcher, a philosopher of science at Columbia University. Last month, a panel of the National Academy of Sciences recommended wide review of experiments that could lead to biological weapons.

The physical sciences seem to have lost what was once a good story line. Without the space race and the cold war, and perhaps facing intrinsic limits as well as declining budgets, they are slightly adrift. Some observers worry that physics has entered a phase of diminishing returns. That theme runs through "The End of Science," a 1997 book by John Horgan.

In an interview, Mr. Horgan noted that physicists no longer make nuclear arms and have lost momentum on taming fusion energy, which powers the sun, and on developing a theory of everything, a kind of mathematical glue that would unite the sciences. Abstract physics, he said, "has wandered off into the fantasy land of higher dimensions and superstring theory and has really lost touch with reality."

Other experts disagree, noting that scientific fields rise and fall in cycles and that physics may be poised for new strides. "You can smell discovery in the air," said Dr. Leon M. Lederman, a Nobel laureate in physics and an architect of the supercollider. "The sense of imminent revolution is very strong."

Despite the decline in prestige recorded in the recent Harris poll, scientists still top the list of 22 professions in terms of high status, ahead of doctors, teachers, lawyers and athletes.

"Science is one of the charismatic activities," said Dr. Gerald Holton, a professor of physics and the history of science at Harvard. "This keeps our interest in science at some level even if we are deeply troubled by some aspects of its technical misuse."

Polls by the National Science Foundation perennially identify contradictions. Its latest numbers show that 90 percent of adult Americans say they are very or moderately interested in science discoveries. Even so, only half the survey respondents knew that the Earth takes a year to go around the Sun.

"The easy answer is, `Oh, I'm interested,' " said Melissa Pollak, a senior analyst at the National Science Foundation. "I'm not quite sure I believe those responses."

The Competition
The Battles Increase Over Darwin's Theory

A simple number jars many scientists: about two-thirds of the public believe that alternatives to Darwin's theory of evolution should be taught in public schools alongside this bedrock concept of biology itself.

The organized opposition to the mainstream theory of evolution has become vastly more sophisticated and influential than it was, say, 25 years ago. The leading foes of Darwin espouse a theory called "intelligent design," which holds that purely random natural processes could never have produced humans. These foes are led by a relatively small group of people with various academic and professional credentials, including some with advanced degrees in science and even university professorships.

Backers of intelligent design say they are simply pointing up shortcomings in Darwin's theory. Scientists have publicly rallied in response, last week staving off an effort at the Texas State Board of Education to have intelligent design taught alongside evolution.

"It just absolutely boggles the mind," said Dr. James Langer, a physicist at the University of California at Santa Barbara who is vice president of the National Academy of Sciences. "I wouldn't want my doctor thinking that intelligent design was an equally plausible hypothesis to evolution any more than I would want my airplane pilot believing in the flat Earth."

Science has, in fact, sold itself from the start as something more than a utilitarian exercise in developing technologies and medicines. Einstein who often used religious and philosophical language to explain his discoveries seemed to tell humanity something fundamental about the fabric of existence. More recently, the cosmologist Stephen Hawking said that discovering a better theory of gravitation would be like seeing into "the mind of God."

Such rhetorical flourishes are as much derided as admired by the bulk of working scientists, who as a culture have drifted closer to the thinking of Steven Weinberg, another Nobel Prize winner in particle physics, who famously wrote that "the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless."

That almost militantly atheistic view helps some observers explain how science has come into bitter conflict with particular religious groups, especially biblical literalists.

"What accentuates the fault line," said Dr. Ernan McMullin, a Roman Catholic priest who is a former director of the history and philosophy of science program at Notre Dame, is that "the scientists see their science being attacked and they immediately rush to the battlements."

"I think they rather enjoy seeing themselves as a persecuted minority instead of as the dominant force in the culture, which they really are," he said.

The Future
Urgent Goals for Governments

Industry looks to short-term goals and has proven highly adept at using science to take care of itself and consumers. A far more uncertain issue is whether the federal government can successfully address issues of human welfare that lie well beyond the industrial horizon years, decades and even centuries ahead.

"Science is still the wellspring of new options," Dr. Gibbons said. "How else are we going to face the issues of the 21st century on things like the environment, health, security, food and energy?"

Some experts believe that despite the gnawing doubts today, the world will be ever more inclined to seek scientific answers to those questions in the decades to come. "It will probably accelerate," said Dr. John H. Marburger III, President Bush's science adviser, "because it will become increasingly obvious that we need this steady infusion of results to sustain our ability to cope with all these social problems."

An urgent goal, experts say, is to develop new sources of energy, which will become vitally important as oil becomes increasingly scarce. Another is to better understand the nuances of climate change, for instance, how the sun and ocean affect the atmosphere. Such work is in its infancy. Another is to develop ways of countering the spread of nuclear arms and germ weapons.

The world will also need a new science of cities, to help coordinate planning in areas like waste, water use, congestion, highways, hazard mitigation and pollution control.

"It's going to take a lot of work," said Dr. Grant Heiken, an editor of "Earth Science in the City," a collection of essays just published by the American Geophysical Union in Washington. The number of urban dwellers is expected to grow from three billion now to five billion by 2025.

"I don't know if we'll get a new science," Dr. Heiken said, "but we damn well better."

Dr. Richard E. Smalley, a Rice University professor and Nobel laureate in chemistry, argues that new technologies and conservation can probably solve the world's energy needs. But success, he said, requires a new army of scientists and engineers.

Like others, Dr. Smalley worries about a significant shift in the demographics of American graduate schools in science and engineering. By 1999, according to the latest figures from the National Science Foundation, the number of foreign students in full-time engineering programs had soared so high that it exceeded, for the first time, the steeply declining number of Americans.

"Where the bright kids and the big action are is in Asia," Dr. Smalley said. "That's great for them. It is not what I would hope for our country and our economic well-being or our national security."

Whether the complex challenges of today generate a new era of scientific greatness, several scientists said, may depend on how a deeply conflicted public answers the question of whether science still matters.

In many ways, it all boils down to "a schism between people who have accepted the modern scientific view of the world and the people who are fighting that," said Dr. David Baltimore, the Nobel Prize-winning biologist who is president of the California Institute of Technology.

"Scientists are presenting a much more complicated, much less ethically grounded view of the world, and it's hard for people to take that in," he added.

Some experts warn that if support for science falters and if the American public loses interest in it, such apathy may foster an age in which scientific elites ignore the public weal and global imperatives for their own narrow interests, producing something like a dictatorship of the lab coats.

"For any man to abdicate an interest in science," Jacob Bronowski, the science historian, wrote, "is to walk with open eyes towards slavery."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Conspiracy Theories Have Run Their Course



By Richard M. Mosk
Richard M. Mosk, an associate justice of the California Court of Appeal, was a member of the staff of the Warren Commission.

Each fall for 40 years we have remembered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. This year's decennial anniversary, however, may well be remarkable for what will be missing: myriad articles and discussions debunking the Warren Commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

With time, the conspiracy theories that have been offered to explain Kennedy's death have unraveled, and widespread public doubts about the commission's findings have subsided.

There are reasons for this. Most of the plots spun to explain Kennedy's death involved vast government agencies, organizations and groups and suggested that many people were in on the schemes. Yet not one credible witness has ever surfaced. The release of previously classified documents has revealed nothing that reasonably could be used to support a conspiracy theory. And reputable scholars, such as Gerald Posner, and subsequent scientific findings have supported the conclusions of the Warren Commission.

Finally, it seems the conspiracy theories just became too outlandish even for a gullible public. Oliver Stone's 1991 motion picture, "JFK," is an example. The Kennedy assassination conspiracy it portrayed involved the interplay of a gay underground, the FBI, the CIA, the military, President Johnson, state officials and local police. Other conspiracy theorists even pointed to all of us on the Warren Commission, including Chief Justice Earl Warren.

For many years, it was hard to accept the possibility that a man who commanded one of the most powerful nations in the world could be struck down by a single individual who commanded nothing. But lately, we have come to grips with that idea too. The Oklahoma City bombing is one tragedy that taught the American public that a vast conspiracy is not necessary to inflict great pain on an entire nation all it takes is one or a few deranged individuals.

That the Kennedy conspiracy theories flourished at all represents a disturbing and unhealthy aspect of our society. Historians someday may find the reaction to the assassination as interesting as the actual events of November 1963. It's a phenomenon that one historian has referred to as part of "the paranoid style of American politics." Thus, over the years, various theories attempted to explain the assassinations and assassination attempts on our leaders.

For example, the sole assassin of President McKinley was falsely assumed to have been an agent of anarchists. And President Lincoln's assassination was blamed on his successor, a Cabinet member, and even the Jesuits. Notwithstanding overwhelming evidence of a lone gunman, rumors continue about wider plots in the deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. The commercial marketplace can take some blame for the propagation of these theories. For years, publishers clamored for conspiracy theory books. Television programs featured just about anyone who purported to have information on a conspiracy.

There were hundreds of publications, assassination study bureaus and a ready supply of conspiracy evangelists on the lecture circuit. These profiteers saw a chance to tap into a public that was ready, even eager, to consume such ideas.

But although unfounded conspiracy theories may offer tantalizing, entertaining and satisfying explanations, they can also do great harm. They place innocent people in the path of cruel accusations. They threaten to distort history. They lead to the belief that we are all powerless in the face of some secret government or operation capable of killing our leaders. And, in providing easy explanations, they subvert rational and productive analysis.

That publishers and movie moguls can convince people to accept far-fetched and bizarre explanations for the John Kennedy assassination means you have to wonder: What will they get the people to believe next?

Texas Mulls How Biology Should Be Taught


Posted on Thu, Sep. 11, 2003

Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas - Scientists, teachers and religious leaders are clashing over how the origin of humanity should be taught to Texas school children in biology textbooks.

On one side, the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank, is leading a campaign to change the language of biology books to include weaknesses in the theory of evolution.

"There is considerable debate in scientific circles about the mechanism of evolution, namely how it happened," said William Dembski, a Baylor research professor who agrees with the Discovery Institute.

"All the textbooks under consideration grossly exaggerate the evidence for neo-Darwinian evolution, pretending that its mechanism of natural selection acting on random genetic change is a slam dunk. Not so."

Dembski was one of some 160 activists signed up to testify Wednesday before the state Board of Education in the last public hearing before the November adoption of Texas biology textbooks.

Scientists and public watchdog groups testified that the theory of evolution remains widely accepted in scientific communities and is a cornerstone of modern scientific research and technology. Many maintain that attempts to discredit Darwinian theory in textbooks is a scheme to later persuade publishers to include religious-based explanations for the origins of life.

The theory of evolution has been required in Texas textbooks since 1991.

Liz Carpenter, who served as press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson and was appointed to posts by four presidents, urged the board not to "water down the strength of the science curriculum."

"Texans with our wide spaces and blue skies believe in freedom, I think and resent more than anyone being throttled," Carpenter said. "And I don't want to be defined by extremists who want to curtail knowledge of any kind."

The Discovery Institute has been linked to a theory known as "intelligent design" - a belief that species did not evolve by natural selection but instead progressed according to a plan or design. Institute officials, however, say they have no intentions of lobbying the state to include intelligent design.

Several officials from the Discovery Institute were on hand to testify, but the board voted 10-3 not to let the out-of-state witnesses testify during the hearing.

Critics say "intelligent design" is a dressed-up version of creationism, which the U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited from public schools as a violation of the separation of church and state.

The Board of Education has no say over textbook content, but the board can reject books because of errors or failure to follow the state curriculum.

The board will make its final decision on the biology textbooks in November. Publishers must submit final changes by Oct. 3.

Because Texas is the second largest textbook market in the country, changes made by publishers here often influence textbooks nationally. Only California buys more textbooks than Texas.

In textbook battle over evolution, 'errors' debated, corrected


Nov 10, 2003
By Ken Walker

AUSTIN, Texas (BP)--In a case that has both sides claiming victory, the Texas State Board of Education has adopted a series of high school biology textbooks that had been criticized for inaccuracies involving evolution.

The board voted 11-4 on Nov. 7 to adopt improved texts for the next seven years, which evolutionists claimed as a major victory.

Still, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute noted a number of board members indicated remaining factual errors must be fixed before the books will be placed in students' hands.

"This is real progress in the cause of science education reform," said Bruce Chapman, president of the institute which cooperated with a Texas citizen network in challenging the books. "We were already happy that a number of embarrassing errors that overstate the evidence for evolutionary theory were being fixed.

"We were also hoping that the board would require textbooks to include coverage of the peer-reviewed scientific weaknesses of evolutionary theory," Chapman added. "Unfortunately, there wasn't a majority on the board willing to enforce that. However, finally fixing these errors is an important first step to improving the accuracy of science education about evolutionary theory."

"The Discovery Institute lost," contended Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science Education, which is affiliated with the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland-based group that calls evolution a normal part of science.

"This was a victory for science, science education and all the citizens of Texas," Schafersman said after the vote. "The books haven't been censored or dumbed down. The bogus weaknesses [about evolution] won't be in the books."

Because Texas trails only California in the number of textbooks ordered from publishers, the decision could conceivably impact school systems nationwide.

That led to a hotly-contested debate in recent months, including a hearing in September at which 160 activists signed up to testify, according to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

William Dembski, a Baylor University research professor who agrees with the Discovery Institute, noted that there is considerable debate in scientific circles about a mechanism for evolution -- namely, how it occurred.

"All of the textbooks under consideration grossly exaggerate the evidence for neo-Darwinism evolution, pretending that its mechanism of natural selection acting on random genetic change is a slam dunk," Dembski told the Star-Telegram. "Not so."

A week before the Nov. 7 vote, the Discovery Institute issued a "top 10" list of the 20 corrections it said had already been made by publishers as a result of hearings in July and September.

The most significant involved the removal of a set of drawings known as "Haeckel's embryos" from two of three textbooks that included the diagrams. Named for German biologist Ernst Haeckel, the drawings purported to show early stage similarities in eight different species, such as humans, tortoises, frogs and chickens.

John West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, said Haeckel faked the diagrams.

"People in the late 1800s and early 1900s were criticizing them, yet these diagrams had been in most textbooks until a few years ago," West said.

He credited "Icons of Evolution," a 2000 book by institute fellow Jonathan Wells, with spotlighting the problem and leading to their removal by some publishers.

"Wells had a whole chapter on [the drawings]," West said. "People overlooked the error because Haeckel was a Darwinist. They were so attracted by such a powerful depiction that we came from a common ancestor they overlooked the weakness in it. It was not only a logical error but a factual error."

Another correction involved an experiment on the origin of building blocks of life known as the Milley-Urey experiment. Two textbooks now have inserted acknowledgements that it was based on ideas about the earth's early atmosphere that are no longer accepted by scientists, West said.

Among other changes West listed:

-- A textbook that repeatedly claimed animal embryos have gill slits -- similar to the slits that enable fish to breathe -- has dropped "this biologically bogus language."

-- One publisher inserted a minor clarification about peppered moths, noting that other studies had failed to duplicate the results reported by a scientist. The tests reportedly showed that moths gradually changed from light to dark because darker moths were able to hide from birds, evidence of natural selection at work.

West noted that other researchers found that peppered moths don't rest on exposed places of tree trunks. Citing an article last year in The New York Times about those findings, he said some texts had deleted any reference to the moths, but several had retained them.

"This is an uphill battle by people who want to correct these errors," said West, who said corrections were made begrudgingly. "To even correct these 20 errors was a [struggle]. But Texas law requires the errors be corrected and that scientific weaknesses of evolutionary theory be taught.

"Any time you overstate the case for Darwinism, you're misleading students. If these are the only changes made, there are still a lot of problems. We have a list of remaining errors we still want fixed; it is 14 pages long."

West charged that dogmatic Darwinists didn't want any changes made because of fears students will start thinking critically about evolution and question some of its validity.

The Seattle professor also said Darwinists try to paint all critics as uneducated laymen when in fact people like well-known biochemist Michael Behe and others have raised serious questions about Darwinism.

"Our idea is students need to learn more about Darwinism," West said. "There are controversies and flaws about Darwinism that they need to know about. We should make sure that students know not only about Darwin's theory, but about problems with it. That's good science education."

However, Schafersman disputed West's comments, saying the Discovery Institute is creating imaginary weaknesses as a pretense to attack the validity of evolution.

"They're straw men analogies, that's all they are," the Texas scientist declared. "They're not scientifically valid and every scientist testified against these examples that the Discovery Institute presented."

Commenting on the list of corrections issued by the institute, Schafersman scoffed at them as "inconsequential."

He said scientists agreed with a number of the changes, such as Haeckel's drawings being removed from the books, and modifications in the language about gill slits.

He also called West's charges about the peppered moths false.

"The peppered-moth experiments are perfectly valid scientifically," Schafersman said. "They're in the books and they belong in there. There is still ongoing research; there are investigators working with peppered moths and other moths that exhibit industrial melanism.

"They wanted that example removed because it's a very clear illustration of how natural selection works in nature, that students can readily understand."

Some of the other changes involved minor clarifications, but none of them affected the presence of strong evolutionary theory in the textbooks, Schafersman said.

The institute's real goal was to plant doubts in students' minds about evolution and persuade them that -- since not all scientists agree on it -- they don't have to believe it either, the activist said.

"They wanted weaknesses [stated] only for evolution, not other theories," Schafersman said. "One school board member said if they included everything, the books would have to be lifted by a crane. But the books remain free of scientific inaccuracies and are very good biology textbooks that can be used by all of the students in Texas."

While Schafersman downplayed the changes, the spokesman for the Texas citizen group that fought for them said the scientist has been inconsistent in his remarks during recent months.

Ide Trotter noted that earlier Schafersman had denied any of the weakness he now acknowledges.

"In his July 9 testimony before the state board of education he denied the existence of any errors," Trotter said. "Yet those same errors he now concedes but deems 'inconsequential.'"

This battle is likely to continue elsewhere in the future. Whether scientists or not, West said all taxpayers have a stake in how their tax dollars are spent to educate children.

"The question is do parents want their children to learn the truth about this theory or do they want one-sided indoctrination?" West said. "That is a big issue."

Jamie Crannell: Intelligent design doesn't belong in science class


Published November 9, 2003

The science we teach in Minnesota ought to be limited to science. Theology and religious views should not be confused with science.

There is a very vocal minority of Minnesotans who are passionately determined to have the theory of "intelligent design" offered as an alternative to the scientific theory of biological evolution. The theory of intelligent design -- while an interesting, and for some a compelling argument -- is not a scientific theory. The science that underlies biological evolution should not be minimized to appease this group.

Allow me to briefly explain my understanding of how science works. Observations are made. Data is analyzed and relationships between data (laws) are described. Explanations as to how the world works (theories) are proposed. Predictions are made based on the observations, relationships, and explanations. These predictions are checked for their validity, and the relationships and explanations are v erified or altered.

Laws are statements -- usually mathematical -- that describe cause-and-effect relationships. Newton's laws of motion and universal gravitation are examples. Theories are complex and broad in scope. For example, Einstein's theory of general relativity explains gravity through the idea that objects travel in straight lines through four-dimensional space-time. According to the theory, objects with mass affect the fabric of space-time so that a straight line in four dimensions does not appear straight in three.

Theories do not become laws. Laws are statements of relationships. Theories attempt to develop a broad and rational explanation for observations and relationships. A theory may be so overwhelmingly supported that it is accepted as true -- but it does not become a law.

There is a common misconception about science, perpetuated by everyday language, that theories are easily created, tested and modified. Scientific theories form the framework for the scientific view of the world. Modern scientific theories are interwoven and offer a cohesive and integrated understanding of how the world works.

Occasionally there is a "revolution" in science, and a theory is replaced. In order for this to happen, the new theory must offer a more compelling explanation for everything the old theory did, and more. It must be rational, logical, and based on observation. Some examples that come to mind include: the rejection of the existence of an "aether" through which light was theorized to travel through space, the rise of plate tectonics, and the quantum model of the atom.

Scientific theories do not address theological questions that people wrestle with such as "Why are we here?" Scientific theories attempt to determine the mechanisms through which the world works. People are free to ascribe whatever controlling force they personally choose to understand how God fits into the workings of the world.

Biological evolution blends factual observations and theories from multiple disciplines within science (such as the geologic principle of superposition, genetics, microbiology, radioisotopic dating, and biochemistry) to develop a coherent and rational explanation of as much data as possible. The theory addresses specific mechanisms of how the biological diversity seen today, and in the fossil record, could have occurred. It is important to point out that this theory does not attempt to include or rule out an "intelligent designer."

The theory of intelligent design does not offer a mechanism to replace the theory of biological evolution. It sidesteps scientific endeavor by claiming that God must have set things up the way they are because life is just too complex to be explained any other way. It is not sufficient, scientifically, to merely explain the mechanisms of nature as the work of an omnipotent deity. The duty of science is to understand how the process works. If you like, "How God makes the world work."

It would be a disservice to the citizens of Minnesota to portray "intelligent design" as a viable alternative to the theory of biological evolution. It would give a false message regarding the rigor that goes into establishing or altering a scientific theory. Intelligent design simply does not rise to the level of a scientific theory.

We have an obligation to the citizens of Minnesota to ensure that the K-12 Academic Science Standards enable our students and citizens to understand how science works and to know the scientific view of our world. Intelligent design is a wonderful idea and certainly worth exploring -- but not as science. The theory of biological evolution is how science understands the fossil record and the diversity of life that is observed through time.

Jamie Crannell, a Chaska High School teacher, is a member of the Minnesota Academic Standards Committee (9-12).

Baptist layman: Uphill battle looms for Darwinian theory


Nov 10, 2003
By Ken Walker

DALLAS (BP)--While the Discovery Institute's involvement in the Texas biology textbook case drew considerable media attention, another key player is a deacon at First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Ide Trotter is the spokesman for Texans for Better Science Education, an informal citizens network that banded together to press for changes in the state's high school biology textbooks.

One of dozens of residents who testified at a 12-hour hearing in September, the Southern Baptist layman is a former university professor with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Princeton University.

His career started in the research division of Exxon. He also served as the dean of business at Dallas Baptist University from 1986-90. Today, he runs his own investment management company.

Trotter noted there are atheists, Jews and others who also challenge evolutionary presentations high school biology textbooks.

Texans for Better Science Education's primary issue is correcting scientific errors, not advocating for religious beliefs, Trotter said.

"We are only talking about the science," the spokesman said. "We don't want intelligent design or creationism taught. We only want error-free science taught.

"You can find credible literature at important turning points in science that support different paths to a resolution of issues. What we are upset about is the textbooks continue to present material that has been discredited and do not fit current ideas about evolution."

More than 30 supporters of Texans for Better Science Education attended the September hearing where Trotter testified.

One reason the selection process drew such attention is that only California buys more textbooks than Texas, and elsewhere decisions often are decentralized. Changes made in Texas texts often affect many other states, Trotter said.

Although evolution still holds center stage in biology, Trotter pointed out that evolutionary theory is no longer Darwin's theory. Darwin's ideas were updated at the end of World War II, he said, and replaced by a neo-Darwinian synthesis.

While the idea is still graduated change over time, it has become clear evolution doesn't always proceed in that manner, Trotter said.

Thus, he said the late Stephen Jay Gould, an influential Harvard scientist, came up in the early 1970s with the idea of "punctuated equilibrium" to explain how sometimes changes occur rapidly.

Given these developments, Trotter said textbooks need to present a more balanced view of evolution's strengths and weaknesses, as required by Texas law.

Trotter noted that after the Nov. 7 vote adopting the biology books, Texas' education commissioner, Robert Scott, promised that remaining factual errors will have to be addressed before students start using them.

"It may or may not happen; I hope it will," Trotter said. "But the thing I would like for everyone to understand -- if no other changes are made -- on balance the textbooks are substantially better than when they were first brought before the board of education.

"A significant number of changes have been made. Rome wasn't built in a day. Things are moving in the right direction and there's going to be another round down the road."

Since Albert Einstein discovered the theory of relativity in 1915, all major discoveries have made the underlying concepts behind evolution tougher to defend, Trotter said. For example, he said:

-- The time frame conceived for evolutionary processes used to be considered as infinite but has since been reduced to a few million years. That has required evolutionists to acknowledge the need for fast-moving mechanisms of change.

-- Darwin conceived of the cell as a blob of protoplasm. But since then, scientific discoveries have shown that the cell is an extraordinarily complex piece of machinery with its own energy conversion, transportation and security systems.

"The notion that it would just sort of spontaneously arise in the little bit of time that is obviously all that is available to [evolution] -- that is a very, very tough sell," Trotter said. "So people are going to dig into this further. It's going to become more apparent that's a problem and it's going to have to be faced."

Even groups like the National Center for Science Education have conceded that evolution doesn't have an agreed-on path by which it occurred, he added.

Thus, they can't agree on the process by which micro-evolution -- which everyone agrees occurs -- might have proceeded to a macro-evolution stage, Trotter said.

Evolutionists try to keep high school students from learning about such controversies, saying it would just confuse them, Trotter said.

It is worthwhile to note the difference in approach between biologists and those who teach chemistry or physics, Trotter said. He said the latter find what they don't know exciting, since they recognize unknown areas as new frontiers to be explored.

"The ball is rolling and it's going downhill," Trotter said. "There are not enough forces on the side of Darwinism to keep pushing it back uphill forever."

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Death pits law against church


Tulare couple refused medical help for their girl -- in an act of faith

By Luis Hernandez
Staff writer

TULARE -- The death of a 10-year-old Tulare girl is at the center of a court case that pits religion against the law.

Wesley and Laronda Hamm are facing involuntary manslaughter and child-abuse charges in connection with the March death of their daughter Jessica. The charges were filed in September.

The Hamms belong to the Church of the Firstborn, whose members refuse medical treatment and shun manmade medicine. According to their members, they believe in faith healing and placing their health in God's hands.

The Church of the Firstborn traces back to Western frontier settlers and religious figure Brigham Young.

Tulare County authorities filed the charges because there are laws that protect children and insist parents must care for them until they are 18 years old.

Local pastors said faith healing and medical assistance should work together to cure illnesses. They say that while miracles do happen, praying for health should not be the only thing believers do when encountering illnesses.

David Fletcher, a philosophy and ethics professor at Wheaton College, a religious studies college in Illinois, said faith healing is a constant topic in academic debates. He said while freedom of religion is guaranteed, children should still be protected.

And those who fail to protect children should be held accountable, he said.

Origin and definition

According to information on the Web, the Church of the Firstborn was founded in 1836. Mormon leader Brigham Young was present at the founding.

After a brief existence, the Church of the Firstborn went dormant until Jan. 25, 1981, at Saratoga Hot Spring, Utah, according to a Web site.

According to members, Church of the Firstborn in Tulare is made up of 20 families.

One of the church's beliefs is that prayer will bring health.

"It's backed up by scriptures," church member Stoney Porter, said previously. "We believe in praying for the sick and putting our confidence in God."

Child's death

Jessica Hamm displayed flu-like symptoms for several days but her parents didn't call for a doctor, according to authorities.

At one point, Jessica had improved. Court documents say her fever had decreased. But later on the same day, the symptoms returned and she died a few days later.

Throughout Jessica's last days, her parents didn't call for medical help. They never took her to a doctor.

Instead, according to the court documents, Laronda Hamm gave her daughter 7UP to soothe her and placed wet rags on her head to treat her fever.

In the documents, Laronda Hamm said she did call several church members to her house to pray for her daughter. Several of those church members were in the home when Jessica died on March 13.

Authorities' stance

The Hamms are being charged because they failed to provide for their daughter, said William Yoshimoto, a prosecutor with the Tulare County District Attorney's office.

"Parents have a duty, parents have a responsibility to care for their children according to the law," he said. "The charges are saying they failed to do that. And as a result, the child died."

Yoshimoto was assigned the case earlier this week.

Cases involving the death of children are emotionally difficult to prosecute, he said.

"Any time a child dies, everybody feels the pain," he said.

David Allen, Wesley Hamm's attorney, didn't return several phone calls seeking comment.

Other opinions

Pastors at several local churches say they disagree with the Church of the Firstborn philosophy.

"We believe in doctors and medications," said Kenneth Bowman, a pastor at Jubilee Christian Fellowship. "We believe they're good."

Ray Duran, pastor at Vineyard Christian Fellowship, agreed.

"I don't have a problem with doctors," he said. "We're completely comfortable with seeking medicine. We don't see that as a lack of faith."

Tim Vink, pastor at Tulare Community Church, said praying and medicine should work together to heal people.

"We look for Jesus as the great physician," he said.

At First Baptist Church, Bob Metcalf said scriptures give examples of seeking medical help. Metcalf said one of the four writers of the gospel was Luke, a doctor.

"There is nothing that says he surrendered being a doctor," he said.


Wheaton College professor David Fletcher said faith healing is a biblical idea. Most Christians believe healing comes from prayer and medicine.

"But there is a minority who don't," said Fletcher, who teaches ethics. "If you really believe, you shouldn't be consulting a physician. All you need is prayer."

"Legal precedence is strong," he said. "You can't deny medical treatment to a child."

Fletcher said prayer alone won't take care of illnesses. Medical help is needed.

"Prayer alone is not going to take care of a hernia or an infection," he said.

But Fletcher said the Hamms' did act ethically.

"If I believe my best resource is prayer, I am acting ethically," he said. "If I believe prayer is doing better than medicine, I am acting ethically. They are not being unethical. They're doing what they think is best."

Beyond ethics, the Hamms' performance as parents leaves much to be desired, Fletcher said.

"That's irresponsible parenting. It's hard to be sympathetic. If you're going to put your child in danger -- that's too much," he said.

Previous case

The court case against the Hamms is not the first one involving members of Church of the Firstborn in Tulare.

In 1995 Harold and Carol Stevens were prosecuted on charges of child endangerment in connection with the death of their 16-year-old daughter.

That trial ended in the jury not being able to reach a verdict. The Stevenses then plead no contest to misdemeanor child endangerment charges to avoid another trial. They were sentenced to three years probation.

Carrie Stevens stopped taking insulin shots to control her diabetes. She died in 1993.

In that case, the prosecution argued the parents' religious beliefs led to Carrie Stevens' death.

Countering that argument, defense attorneys said their clients believed in miracles and that Carrie Stevens made the choice to stop taking the medication on her own.

Originally published Monday, October 27, 2003


Millions Celebrate Most Spectacular Planetary Alignment in 6,000 Years - November 8/9, 2003 "The Harmonic Concordance"


A phenomenal astrological alignment takes place around the world on November 8/9, 2003, and millions of people are joining together in prayer and meditation to attune themselves to this once in a lifetime event.

(PRWEB) October 31 2003--Chrissie Blaze, renowned astrologer, author, and lecturer explains the meaning of this fascinating time in our history known around the world as The Harmonic Concordance, 2003.It takes place this year at the moment of the total lunar eclipse of November 8/9*. This is at 1:29 a.m. Sunday, November 9 GMT (5:29 p.m. Saturday, November 8 PDT).

This marks an important moment of rare cosmic attunement. The total lunar eclipse is part of what is known in astrology as a Grand Sextile pattern a wonderful, harmonious flow of energy between six planets in our solar system. Within this pattern is yet another powerful pattern known as The Star of David, an important mystic symbol.

This is the most significant alignment in the 6,000 year span between 3,000 BC and 3,000 CE. This is one powerful moment in time -- but its effects can last for centuries to come.

The general consensus is that (at the very least) this moment is likely to bestow grace and blessings upon those who spend this time and use the high energies it produces with their hearts and minds focused spiritually.

There have been numerous speculations about what might happen during this time. Some are rather extreme, to say the least. Some expect to see the first wave of Ascension take place. Others are waiting for spaceships to take us away. Still others wonder if the astrological chart is foretelling a type of universal rapture.

Blaze believes it is not so much about the outward events, but an opportunity for to make this time as spiritually powerful as possible. In other words, be "spiritually proactive"; don't wait for things to happen.

Powerful planetary events can and often do coincide with events in the world around us, and these can indeed be regarded as "signposts" from the Cosmos. Astrology is a language of the Divine, and It uses such events to "talk" to us.

However, first we have to raise our vibrations through spiritual work and meditation, in order to attune ourselves to what is being said. Once we learn to do this, then indeed we can expect sublime events, otherwise known as "miracles" to take place.

To summarize: this is a wonderful, positive time for all those of us who wish to make our world a better place. We can tune into and use the high planetary energies of this time through prayer, meditation, and service to others. It is a great idea to visit the sacred areas of our world to attune yourself to Nature and give appreciation for the Mother Earth. In this way we are cooperating with the beauty and majesty of the cosmos, and so helping to raise the collective consciousness of mankind.

Chrissie Blaze is an author, astrologer and international lecturer. Her books include Mercury Retrograde: Your Survival Guide to Astrology's Most Precarious Time of Year, Warner Books, 2002, and The Baby's Astrologer, Warner Books, 2003. For further information, visit www.chrissieblaze.com. For interviews, call Paul Nugent at (323) 465 9652 x 24, or (323) 461 0368, or email chrissieblaze@msn.com

Larry King and the Paranormal


The CNN host covers a variety of important, news-y topics. So why is he wasting time with pseudo-science?

Friday, Nov. 07, 2003
Cable News Network calls itself "The Most Trusted Name In News." One of CNN's best rated shows, the award-winning "Larry King Live," has contributed to that trust with candid interviews of such prominent guests as Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Vladimir Putin, Jimmy Carter and Margaret Thatcher, as well as by hosting the memorable 1993 debate between Al Gore and Ross Perot.

But host Larry King has undermined the impact of those interviews by also repeatedly inviting a motley collection of UFO enthusiasts, paranormalists, seers and mediums to his show. Writing in the current issue of Skeptical Inquirer, columnist Chris Mooney pulls no punches. "CNN may be a respected news network," he says, "but in its irresponsible presentation of paranormal topics and themes, 'Larry King Live' compromises that reputation."

What apparently set Mooney off was a show this summer that King claimed would explore "the incredible events of fifty-six years ago at Roswell, New Mexico." His guests included the same group of eccentrics, publicity seekers and losers who for decades have been living off the legend that an spacecraft crashed near Roswell, that bodies of little aliens were found and spirited away by sinister Federal agents and that the that Feds ever since have been guilty of a monumental cover-up.

The show also included video clips from a TV production entitled "The Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence," aired earlier on The Sci-Fi Channel, which is best known for programs containing little Sci and an abundance of Fi. Notably absent from "Larry King Live" were any officials or scientists who could have presented evidence that the wreckage at Roswell was that of a secret (at the time) Project Mogul balloon designed to gather evidence of Soviet nuclear tests. Indeed, none of King's guests took issue with the "little aliens" theme.

King has devoted other uncritical programs to UFOs and little aliens. But his greatest transgressions have involved literally dozens of shows devoted entirely to "psychics" and spiritualists like Sylvia Browne, who claims the gifts of psychically locating the bodies of missing people, predicting the future, and seeing angel wings on some people. (She told King that he had four such wings). Another frequent guest is John Edward, who uses magicians' "cold reading" and other trick techniques to buffalo audiences into believing that he is a go-between for people wishing to contact deceased loved ones who have "crossed over." Wendy Whitworth, senior executive producer of "Larry King Live," downplays the appearance of off-the-wall guests. "Over the course of 2003," she says, "fewer than two percent of our original shows have bee devoted to the paranormal. That represents a very small slice of a very large and diverse programming palette."

True, King occasionally, but rarely, includes skeptics to counter the claims of his wafty guests. (In fact, I was invited to appear on one show featuring the trio of Browne, Edward and another well-known psychic, James Van Praagh, and I characterized what they do as "baloney."). But invariably, the featured guests, spinning their fantasies, are given more air time than afforded to the skeptics.

Does Larry King really believe the nonsense spewed by his far-out guests? When asked that question by Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, King replied, "For the most part, I'm a skeptic, like you." Then why does King seem so credulous and approving when his guests utter sheer nonsense?

I have a suggestion for CNN. Why not launch a show, along the lines of "Crossfire," that would pit skeptics against paranormalists, giving each side equal time for rebuttals? The friction would be monumental, the rational case could be made, and the network could restore some of the credibility and trust lost by Larry King's occasional forays into the supernatural.

Family Calls Psychic to Help Find Missing Alzheimer's Patient


By Jamie Muro
First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- As days pass without a single sign of 78 year old Alfred Feinglass, prayers intensify, but hope beings to fade.

Feinglass, who lives in the Southside, has been missing since Saturday and suffers from Alzheimer's. He was last seen riding his bike at his retirement complex near Southside and Baymeadows Road.

"We've tried our best, we've done as much as we can do," said Harriet Feinglass, Alfred's wife.

Leads that have popped-up outside the complex quickly turn to dead-ends. Which is why the family placed a phone call to Jill Cook-Richards, a psychic who lives off Atlantic.

"I feel like they are sent to me for a reason. Everything happens for a reason in life, and when they called me, I went okay, I am meant to do this," said Cook-Richards from her home in Jacksonville.

No stranger to helping police on occasion, Jill spent several hours with Harriet Wednesday. The good news, she believes, is that Alfred is still alive.

"When I got in Al's vibration, it was like he's hungry. He's starving, hungry and starving. It's funny, I wasn't thirsty so he must be getting water."

The reliance upon a higher power is something the Feinglass family and Jill have in common. It's a common prayer for a happy ending.

"I've found somebody's missing children in the past. I have done some heavy work, I did find them. That's one of the "Oh thank you God" stories. It's not fun work, I have nightmares, I don't sleep well," said Cook-Richards.

If nothing else, Jill has served as a spiritual counselor for the family. A grieving family still clinging on to hope.

"I fear for his life, wishing I could be with him. You want to be your loved ones in their last moments in life," said Harriet Feinglass.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has sent flyers to law enforcement agencies across the First Coast. Feinglass is a white male, 5'2" and 140 pounds. He was riding a mountain bike and wearing a white windbreaker, khaki shorts and a purple shirt. He may be showing signs of an unkempt beard.

If you have any information, call the Sheriff's Department at 630-0500.

Created: 11/5/2003 10:20:37 PM
Updated: 11/6/2003 6:40:06 AM
Edited by Jamie Muro, reporter

2003 First Coast News All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.

Tuesday, November 11, 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 - November 11, 2003

from The New York Times

Twenty-five years ago, editors of The New York Times had a big problem: what to do about Tuesdays?

In a bold move to draw more readers and advertising revenue in a troubled economy, the newspaper was reinventing itself in format and content. The pages were redesigned to be six columns, instead of eight, giving the paper a more spacious look. But the most striking change was abandoning the two-section daily newspaper for one in four sections Monday through Friday.

A. M. Rosenthal, the managing editor and soon to be executive editor, asked Arthur Gelb, an assistant managing editor, to oversee the transformation, beginning in 1976. The first section continued to run foreign and national news, and the second, metropolitan news. The fourth section featured expanded coverage of business and financial news. The third section, it was decided, would be different each day of the week, though the specifics were left to fall into place over the next two years.

Click on the link below to access the index of stories, in which reporters tackle "25 of the most provocative questions facing science," appearing in this special edition of "Science Times."

from The New York Times

Through its rituals of discovery, science has extended life, conquered disease and offered new sexual and commercial freedoms. It has pushed aside demigods and demons and revealed a cosmos more intricate and awesome than anything produced by pure imagination.

But there are new troubles in the peculiar form of paradise that science has created, as well as new questions about whether it has the popular support to meet the future challenges of disease, pollution, security, energy, education, food, water and urban sprawl.

The public seems increasingly intolerant of grand, technical fixes, even while it hungers for new gadgets and drugs. It has also come to fear the potential consequences of unfettered science and technology in areas like genetic engineering, germ warfare, global warming, nuclear power and the proliferation of nuclear arms.

from Associated Press

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Treating patients with the embryonic stem cells approved by President Bush for federally funded research would be unethical and risky, a medical ethics panel said.

The approved cell lines, created for possible future disease treatments, were initially grown on mouse cells. That could expose humans to an animal virus their immune systems couldn't fight, the panel said. The experts said Monday that safer stem cell lines now exist, but those would not be eligible for federal funding.

The ethics panel announcement was the latest sign of the friction between stem cell scientists and Bush, who two years ago set limits on the controversial research which destroys human embryos.

from Newsday

Rockville, Md. - While the Food and Drug Administration has found that food products from animal clones or their offspring appear safe to eat and the clones themselves not unduly at risk of poor health, members of an agency advisory panel expressed doubts last week about the adequacy of the supporting data.

Members of the Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee said during a public meeting that the FDA had done a good job of weighing the available information in its draft risk assessment. But citing the limited number of studies, some of them involving small numbers of animals, many of the specialists said it was too soon to draw firm conclusions.

Asked by the FDA if the agency had adequately identified the health hazards for cloned livestock animals, Dennis Wages, a North Carolina State University veterinarian, said, "It's difficult to answer the question 'yes' with the data we've been given."

from Associated Press

HONOLULU -- Bats with a wingspan of up to four feet, boiled in coconut cream and eaten whole, are linked to the exceptionally high rate of a form of Parkinson's disease on Guam, a new scientific study confirms.

Scientists have long suspected a link between Guamanians' consumption of the bats known as flying foxes and their high rate of a form of Parkinson's. The study being published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms that the neurotoxic non-protein amino acid BMAA, found in Chamorros with Parkinson's, is contained in the cycad tree, whose seeds the winged mammals eat.

Dr. Paul Cox, the director of the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauai and the leader of the study, said analysis shows that the seeds must be eaten by the bats before the neurotoxin transfers to humans. Eating foods made from cycad seeds, including tortillas popular in Guam, would require massive amounts to be dangerous, Cox said.

Anomaly Archives Lending Library Opens In Austin Texas

From: Stephen Miles Lewis

Greetings UFO UpDates Listers,

It's been a while since I posted to this List - tho' it remains one of my favorite elists of all time. My posts to the List tend to be sporadic but you can read past posts as far back as September 1998 under these email prefixes "elfis", "smiles", "stephen.lewis", and "miles" if you go to the UFO UpDates List Archive:



A brief re-introduction for those who don't know me.....

My name is Stephen Miles Lewis, but you can call me Miles or SMiles.

I've had a life-long interest (oh, who am I kidding, it's an obsession) in all things anomalous, be they paranormal, ufological, parapsychological, whatever.

Here in Austin, Texas, I served as facilitator for a local UFO Experiencer Forum and Study Group, State Section Director, editor of ELFIS Journal of Possible Paradigms, editor of the Austin Para Times and organizer of the ill-fated 38th annual National UFO Conference of September 2001.

Currently I host about 20 anomaly related web sites via the Elfis Network. http://www.nufoc.net/nufoc38/>


For over ten years I've dreamed of founding a research lending library to house my ever-growing book, magazine and clipping collections. Well, that dream is finally a reality. Thanks to serendipity and a friendship with Bob McGarey - see Ray Stanford's Socorro Saucer In A Pentagon Pantry - of the Human Potential Center, my archives have a home in which to birth this project.

Two of the role-models for the Anomaly Archives are the Archives for UFO Research in Sweden and Rhea White's Exceptional Human Experience Network and its Psiline database.



There are so many fine researchers on this list who each have there own monumental research collections and projects; Jan Aldrich's Project 1947, Wendy Connors' Faded Discs archive, Jerome Clark and the CUFOS collection and others come to mind. The Anomaly Archives hopes to work with these and the many other fine researchers and research collections who network via this and other elists.

Some of the organizations we have partnered with locally include: Austin MUFON (Mutual UFO Network), Austin IONS (Institute Of Noetic Science), INACS (Institute for Neuroscience And Consciousness Studies), the Human Potential Center and others.

To those in the Central Texas region I invite you to come by Friday, November 14th to see the Anomaly Archives. To those farther afield, you are also invited to explore and join the growing non-local Anomaly Community.


SMiles Lewis


ANOMALY ARCHIVES - Lending Library - Opens Friday November 14th
Austin, Texas - 2007 Bert Ave. 78704

Ever wondered about the reality of UFOs? Ever had a strange experience and wondered if others have had similar experiences? Ever wanted to learn about scientific investigations into the reality of Cryptozoological Critters, Parapsychological Paradigms and Parapolitical Cover-Ups?

Then Come See the Anomaly Archives and explore the Human Potential Campus at the upcoming...

Human Potential Center - Art Show And Open House Friday, November 14th !! [See bottom for more info on the art show]

The Anomaly Archives has been a vision of founder SMiles Lewis for over ten years. Finally, the Anomaly Archives have manifested in physical reality as the non-profit corporation the Scientific Anomaly Institute, headquartered at the...

Human Potential Campus, 2007 Bert Avenue, Austin, Texas 78704

The Mission of the Anomaly Archives includes:

*Preservation and dissemination of scientific research into anomalous phenomena,

*Research and analysis of accumulated collections, and

*Education of the public regarding scientific investigations into these phenomena.

Purposes of the Institute include:

*Managing and developing an archive and library for documents and literature with regards to a multi-disciplinary approach to anomalous phenomena,

*Supporting, promoting and pursuing research to obtain increased knowledge about anomalous phenomena, and

*Pursuing and stimulating a critical, scientific discussion of anomalous phenomena, and providing a forum for information, support, and sharing among researchers while,

*Functioning as the archives and library for like-minded organizations, and other groups in the community that have similar interests.

Services at the Anomaly Archives will include,

*Free In-House Access to Materials for the Public,

*Free Searches of Digitized Index,

*Bibliography and Virtual Collections,

*Lending Library for Membership Discounted Membership with Partnered Organizations,

*Research Services for the Public (Discounts for Membership),

*Discounted Services for Archives Membership & Partnered Organizations,

*Interlibrary Loan with Participating Libraries for Archives Membership,

*Discounted Membership & Services for Donated Collections, and

*On-line access to digitized collections for Membership.

Future Services the Archives will provide include Reprinting of Rare Publications & Anomaly Org Newsletters, Archiving Publications of Anomaly Oriented Organizations, Web Development & Archiving for Anomaly Oriented Orgs, and the creation of an On-line Distance Learning Campus.

For more information, visit:



MORE INFO: HPC - Art Show and Open House

The Human Potential Center has much to offer in the areas of personal growth and development. To showcase both, the Center hosts a quarterly Art Show and Open House. Featured are the remarkable paintings of Kristi Hayner and Jo Lagattuta, and the handmade jewelry of Pam Chambers and Lia Nelson. Friday, November 14 from 6 - 10 pm. FREE!

The Human Potential Center, 2007 Bert Avenue.

For more information, visit:


or call 441-8988

Will We Ever Find Atlantis?

November 11, 2003

Somewhere in the imagination, at an intersection of the idealized Golden Age and mankind's descent into manifest imperfection, existed the island civilization of Atlantis. This realm of divine origin was ruled from a splendid metropolis in the distant ocean. Its empire, described by a philosopher as "larger than Libya and Asia combined," enjoyed prosperity and great power.

In time, driven by overweening ambition, a common theme in antiquity and not unheard of today, Atlantis set out to conquer lands of the Mediterranean. But in a terrible day and night of floods and earthquakes, Atlantis was swallowed by the sea, sinking into legend.

The story endures as a classic in the genre of lost worlds long vanished, the ruins and treasures of which are surely somewhere out there yet to be found. Legends, though, are often mirages, forever shimmering out of reach, yet exerting an attractive power beyond reason.

Sometimes the pursuit of legends leads to unforeseen knowledge.

In the 12th century A.D., the legend of Prester John, a rich and powerful Christian monarch somewhere in Asia, drew intrepid seekers, eventually including Marco Polo, who opened Western eyes to the wonders of the East. When no one found Prester John in Asia, the legend did not go away; its locale shifted to Africa.

The golden city of El Dorado eluded hellbent adventurers, whose frustrated quest nonetheless put much of South America on the map.

The fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, castles in the air that proved to be nothing more than humble Indian pueblos, drew Europeans across tortured miles and years of discovery in what is now the Southwestern United States.

The tale of the lost continent has sent respected classical scholars to their texts for corroboration that Atlantis was more than fantasy. Archaeologists, geologists and divers have plumbed ocean depths where the island supposedly sank out of sight thousands of years ago. Not a scrap of compelling evidence supporting the legend has ever turned up.

Such a negative discovery might be conclusive enough for most legends to pass from rock-hard belief to literary artifacts of prescientific cultures living in a world of limited horizons and boundless mystery. But true believers, complaining that scientists have got it all wrong, continue the search.

Generations of adventurers, writers, mystics and cranks have satisfied themselves of the legend's reality. Their "solutions" fill more than 2,000 books and countless articles. The lost continent also inspired works by authors as diverse as Francis Bacon and Arthur Conan Doyle, and Hollywood has weighed in with any number of forgettable movies.

Richard Ellis, author of "Imagining Atlantis," thinks the legend is fantasy. "Atlantis lives on in people's minds largely because you cannot prove it doesn't exist," he said recently. "You can't search every inch of the ocean bottom, and so the hope remains alive and the promise of finding treasures in sunken palaces."

The sole source of the Atlantis story is by no means obscure. In two dialogues, the "Critias" and the "Timaeus," Plato in the fourth century B.C. described a resplendent island empire in the Atlantic Ocean beyond the Pillars of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar). "This dynasty, gathering its whole power together," Plato wrote, "attempted to enslave, at a single stroke, your country and ours."

Even after disbelief in ancient gods undercut literal acceptance of the legend, medieval maps were sprinkled with imaginary islands in the Atlantic, including Antillia. Some experts suspect this preserves in garbled form the name of Atlantis and a lingering belief that its remnants may still exist. The maps encouraged navigators in their quests, among them Columbus.

The 20th century was hard on Atlantis dreams. Detailed mapping of the sea floor and the new theory of plate tectonics made it clear, geophysicists say, that land masses resembling Atlantis never existed in the Atlantic.

Undeterred, ardent believers went looking elsewhere: in Scandinavia, the Bahamas and the Aegean Sea. Huge blocks of stone submerged off Cuba were recently proclaimed possible ruins of the lost empire.

A more plausible hypothesis, some scholars think, places Atlantis at Crete. The accomplished Minoan civilization there collapsed in the middle of the second millennium B.C., presumably destroyed by a volcanic eruption on nearby Thera, modern Santorini.

Was this in Plato's mind? Or he might have been inspired by an event in his own time, the earthquake in 373 B.C. that brought the Greek city of Helike, as ancient writers said, crashing into the sea.

The unknown fires the imagination. Whether the starry night or extraterrestrial beings, the mystery of life itself or life after death or any of the uncertain boundaries between reality and resolute yearning, it is unknowns that populate history with gods and heroes, monsters of the deep and chimeric islands, lost paradises and the elusive El Dorado at the end of greed's rainbow, not to mention Martians.

Some mysteries will be solved, but never all of them. As for Atlantis, another Greek philosopher delivered the verdict that has yet to be contradicted.

As noted by the British classicist J. V. Luce, Aristotle considered Atlantis a poetic fiction invented by Plato as a warning of the fate that befalls the arrogant and decadent. Plato placed Atlantis beyond the then known world and sank it to the ocean floor to preserve the power of the mystery.

"The man who dreamed it up made it vanish" was Aristotle's solution to the mystery of Atlantis.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Do Paranormal Phenomena Exist?

November 11, 2003

Mention mind reading, ghosts, premonitions, the bending of spoons through thought or other supposed mysteries of the paranormal, and most scientists will say there are no such things.

Polls show that about half of Americans believe in paranormal phenomena. "For some reason, a lot of people want it to be so," said Dr. Robert L. Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland and the author of "Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud." "If you can do things with your mind, then the universe is paying attention to you, and that's important to a lot of people."

What then to make of researchers at an institute set up by the Iowa-based Maharishi meditation movement who claim meditation reduces violence in Israel and murders in Washington - and publish scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals?

Or published peer-reviewed studies indicating that prayer lengthens lives, even when patients don't know that someone is praying for them?

The few scientists working on paranormal research, often on their own dime, feel they are following the rules of science yet being excluded from the playing field.

"There's really strong pressure not to allow these things to be talked about in a positive way," said Dr. Brian D. Josephson, a professor of physics at Cambridge University who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physics for a fundamental discovery in superconductivity, and now heads the Mind-Matter Unification Project at Cambridge.

One experiment Dr. Josephson finds intriguing is the Global Consciousness Project, which records the output from devices that generate random numbers based on electrical noise. Dr. Roger D. Nelson, the project's director, said that for unknown reasons the distribution of random numbers changes noticeably during crises, with a noticeable shift on Sept. 11, 2001.

The skeptics, however, say the data do not sway them. Dr. Terence M. Hines, a professor of psychology at Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y., said, for example, that the prayer studies he had seen were poorly designed - a criticism that is often made of mainstream research as well. (A new, larger study reported last month that prayer by strangers provided no benefits to patients undergoing heart surgery.)

More generally, Dr. Hines said, the data claiming to demonstrate paranormal events "always stay at the very edge of perceptibility." As scientists learn more about a phenomenon, they can often refine their experiments to highlight the new effects. Despite years of work, that has not occurred with the paranormal research, Dr. Hines said.

Perhaps the biggest reason most scientists dismiss paranormal research is that no one has a good suggestion for how the mind could interact with the physical world.

And even Dr. Josephson concedes: "It would have to be something we haven't identified in physical experiments. I think if we can get some sort of model, then people may start to look at it."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Monday, November 10, 2003



The mysterious "Kokomo hum" may not be much of a mystery anymore.

It appears the source has been narrowed down to two factories in town.

Industrial fans are the likely cause.. and changes are being made to stop the low frequency tone.

A tone experts say could be causing health problems like fatigue, nausea and headaches.

City officials in Kokomo plan a follow-up study to see if the fixes at the factories work.

Board of education members face lawsuit


By Bridie Isensee
The Facts

Published November 08, 2003

Brazoria County's two representatives on the State Board of Education are being sued for rejecting an environmental textbook for ideological reasons two years ago.

A public interest law firm, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, has filed the lawsuit against David Bradley and Cynthia Thornton, along with two other board members and a former board member, claiming they abridged the First Amendment rights of the author and high school students by rejecting the textbook.

The book, Daniel Chiras' "Environmental Science: Creating a Sustainable Future," was recommended by the commissioner of education and has been used by two Texas universities, according to Adele P. Kimmel, co-counsel in the case, in an article on her law firm's Web site.

But the book was rejected, and two others were approved.

"The board's decision to choose an environmental science text financed by the mining industry over one written by a scientist that emphasizes the importance of critical-thinking is no accident," Kimmel said in the article.

"Texas students will be better prepared to compete for jobs and college scholarships when the board stops trying to force feed public school students with corporate propaganda and extremist ideology," Kimmel said.

The class-action lawsuit, whose plaintiffs include Chiras and an 18-year-old Dallas high school student, seeks a court order declaring the board members' rejection of the book unconstitutional. It also seeks the book's inclusion among state-approved books and damages for Chiras from lost sales.

The board rejected the book in a 10-to-5 vote two years ago because of its portrayal of the U.S. free enterprise system, said Bradley, a Beaumont Republican who represents most of Brazoria County on the board.

"It was very disparaging to the petrochemical industry, which is so important to this community," Bradley said.

The board voted against the book along party lines, with 10 Republicans against and five Democrats in favor.

"Maybe Ted Kennedy would like this book, but I think folks in Texas deserved better," Bradley said.

Board members can reject books based only on factual errors or failure to follow state curriculum as mandated by the Legislature.

Bradley said he thought the timing of the lawsuit was suspect because the board had given final approval Friday to 11 biology books. The scientific and religious debate about the theory of evolution has been dragging on for months.

"It's just grandstanding and publicity," Bradley said.

Seeking judicial remedies for such cases could set a dangerous precedent, Bradley said, because judges would be the ones to choose textbooks.

University of Houston law professor Sidney Buchanan, who specializes in constitutional law, said the plaintiffs had a difficult case to prove.

"The state has generous discretion in determining the subject matter that will be placed in the curriculum," Buchanan said. "It will be a tough, uphill battle for the author and students to win."

Textbook selection in Texas can be a hairy situation for publishers. The Associated Press reported the state is the nation's second-largest buyer of textbooks, and books used in Texas are often marketed elsewhere. Texas, California and Florida account for more than 30 percent of the nation's $4 billion public school book market. Three dozen publishers invest millions of dollars in Texas.

Bridie Isensee is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at (979) 237-0149.

Textbook decision political, Bradley says

http://www.galvnews.com/story.lasso?wcd=15005 By Alicia Gooden
The Daily News

Published November 08, 2003

It was a losing battle from the beginning, said David Bradley, a Republican who represents Galveston County on the State Board of Education.

But that didn't stop him Friday from again leading a spirited charge to block blanket approval of all the evolution-based biology textbooks that will be in Texas high schools next fall.

Bradley tried to get all but two of the 12 evolution-based textbooks and products on a "non-conforming" list, meaning that they did not meet the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills objectives.

Biology books in Texas will continue to present the origin of life according to the theories of Charles Darwin.

The State Board of Education gave final approval Friday to the biology books, among others, despite a campaign to poke holes in Darwin's theory of evolution.

School districts in Texas will be able to purchase books from the approved list for use beginning in the 2004-05 school year.

Bradley and three other board members Terri Leo, Gail Lowe and Don McLeroy were outnumbered. "It's like the Aggies football team," Bradley said, referring to the Texas A&M University team's lackluster season. "You already know going in what the outcome will be."

Bradley said that the "educational establishment" wanted to keep him and like-minded board members quiet. "There is a prejudice against allowing minority, conservative voices to be heard," he said. "Our viewpoints are not wanted by the educational establishment."

Texas Education Agency Director Robert Scott said publishers would correct any factual errors in the books before they become available.

A 172-page document lists the errors found in the biology and English as a Second Language books approved by the board on Friday.

The decision could affect dozens of states because books sold in Texas, the nation's second-largest buyer of textbooks, are often marketed elsewhere.

Texas, California and Florida account for more than 30 percent of the nation's $4 billion public schoolbook market. Three dozen publishers invest millions of dollars in Texas.

Some alternative science groups had argued that weaknesses in the theory of evolution weren't adequately presented in the books. But scientists and educators argued that the theory is a cornerstone of modern science.

Despite the controversy surrounding the adoption process, the majority of state school board members voted Friday to let local school districts and teachers choose which of the 12 approved books would be best for their classrooms. "I believe in local control and in letting teachers decide what book to select," said Bob Craig, a Republican from Lubbock.

Usually, the state's education board votes according to political affiliation Democrat or Republican. They strayed from that political voting pattern on this issue, and Bradley said it was due to political pacification.

"The Democrats are in coalition with liberal Republicans, and they decided to shut off any debate and suppress the voice of the minority," he said. "I anticipated the votes were always there to approve all of the books. "

On Thursday, the lopsided preliminary vote was 11-4. It did not change Friday. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute was one of the most vocal supporters of including criticisms of evolution in the book.

"We were also hoping that the board would require textbooks to include coverage of the peer-reviewed scientific weaknesses of evolutionary theory," said Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute. "Unfortunately, there wasn't a majority on the board that was willing to enforce that."

Institute officials said they would continue to publicize what they call errors and weaknesses in Darwin's theory as presented in some books.

Board members Alma Allen, a Democrat from Houston, and Mary Helen Berlanga, a Democrat from Corpus Christi, said that if Bradley's amendment had been approved, it would have cut off the choices school district's had because rarely do districts choose books from the state's non-conforming list. "What is the rationale for this?" asked Allen.

TEA officials said Friday that no punitive reaction would come to districts that chose books from the non-conforming list because they were reimbursed at the same rate as if they had chosen books from the conforming list.

Despite the religious implications of evolution, several churches and ministers throughout Texas signed a letter to the board in opposition of "attempts to dilute, distort or censor the teaching of evolution in biology textbooks."

"We believe religious convictions about the origin of life are sacred and should be cultivated and strengthened in homes and houses of worship," the statement said. "We further believe that efforts to insert religious beliefs into science textbooks misunderstand and demean both faith and science."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Today's Headlines - November 10, 2003

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from The New York Times

Scientists have found an unexpected genetic link among three common autoimmune diseases: psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

The findings, being reported today in the journal Nature Genetics, have no immediate practical effect. But by identifying a cellular path through which the three diseases are touched off, they may help biologists design new treatments.

Psoriasis affects 2 percent of Americans; rheumatoid arthritis, up to 1 percent; and systemic lupus which attacks the joints and can cause severe inflammation one-twentieth of 1 percent.

from The San Francisco Chronicle

New Orleans -- Less than a month after a widely heralded experiment showed how thought-reading implants can work in monkeys, scientists presented new findings Sunday suggesting such machines could work in people, too.

Dr. Miguel A.L. Nicolelis of Duke University said previously unreported human experiments demonstrated success with one type of a so-called brain computer interface, or BCI.

He and others discussed their latest findings Sunday at the annual meeting in New Orleans of the Society for Neuroscience, the world's largest gathering of brain researchers. About 28,000 people are attending the weeklong event.

from Associated Press

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican invited scientists, health experts, U.N. officials and farmers' groups to a conference Monday on genetically modified foods, which some Vatican officials have said could help alleviate world hunger.

The two-day symposium "GMO: Threat or Hope" was organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which is headed by Cardinal Renato Martino, who has frequently spoken out about the potential benefits of biotech foods.

Skeptics of the technology have also been invited to speak, and say suggestions that GMOs could make a marked impact on alleviating world hunger are overblown.

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