NTS LogoSkeptical News for 5 December 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, December 05, 2003

Woman attends crop circle conference

Mark Taylor
CanWest News Service

Monday, December 01, 2003

SASKATOON -- Although she's a crop circle researcher, it was Saskatoon resident Beata Van Berkom's attempts to interpret dreams that resulted in her representing Canada last week at a crop-circle conference in Phoenix.

Van Berkom, a hospital lab technician in Saskatoon, said an old friend organizing the second-annual Signs of Destiny conference was curious about a vision that a crop-circle clairvoyant elsewhere had reported.

"She's in contact with a Dutch boy who knows when circles come and he had a dream of a big white humanoid eagle," Van Berkom said. "She phoned me out of the blue and asked me what I thought this would mean. We got into a conversation and that's how I got invited to the conference."

Once in Phoenix, Van Berkom concentrated on contributing a more metaphysical side to the predominately scientific gathering of circle researchers.

"I speak on how to empower the self to interpret reality, so I reminded them of the chakra system."

The chakra system, Van Berkom said, is how people process information from the environment through their "four bodies" -- physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

With that in mind, or minds, Van Berkom said she believes crop circles are formed by sound and light and are in fact "information packets" for earthlings to take notice of.

Van Berkom cites a scientific study which found sand in a dish will form geometric shapes when a violin bow is run along the edge of the dish.

Likewise, crop formations are the result of a bigger, more metaphysical violin bow, she believes.

"There are intelligences that live in higher frequencies and what we do here (on earth) --- pollute, blow up atomic bombs -- it has a resonance to other dimensions and that's frankly where these (crop circles) are coming from.

"They must use a type of technology that programs these plasma vortexes or these balls of light ... (which) are programmed with intelligence to tell the plants where to lay down," in turn creating crop circles, Van Berkom said.

When asked what crop circles are trying to tell us, Van Berkom said: "You can't just say 'This means this,' or 'This means that.' This means a myriad of things.

"They have something to do with helping our consciousness wake up so we get better ideas because we're polluting the planet."

In crop-circle circles, Van Berkom said Saskatchewan is considered a hot bed of activity, with 16 reported cases this year alone."This place is legendary in crop-circle lore. You pick up a crop-circle book and it's going to say Saskatchewan in the first 10 pages."

Although there are lots of crop circles in Saskatchewan, Van Berkom said there aren't many circle researchers.

"I feel like I'm all alone sometimes," she said, noting August was busy with circles spotted near Wilkie and Wadena.

"The nice thing about Saskatchewan is that the people are really generally open-minded. In the States, some of these researchers have to contend with farmers coming at them with guns," said Van Berkom, who calls Saskatchewan "the Mecca of the new age.

"We should be proud of where we come from. It's magic. Science is magic we understand and magic is science we don't."

Van Berkom asks anyone who spots a crop circle to e-mail her at bvb@shaw.ca

Saskatchewan News Network

© Copyright 2003 The Leader-Post (Regina)


Pilgrims Flock to See 'Weeping Statue' Thu December 4, 2003 10:04 AM ET


ROME (Reuters) - Faithful and curious flocked to a town in southern Italy on Thursday after reports that a bronze statue of a saint was weeping blood. Local officials in the southern town of Brancaleone said a red liquid was seen coming out of the eyelids of a life-size statue of Padre Pio, a mystic monk who died in 1968 at the age of 81 and was made a saint last year.

The town's deputy mayor, Gentile Scaramozzino, said tests showed there was some kind of blood in the liquid that stained the statue and the pavement in a town square on Wednesday.

Further tests were being carried out to determine if it was human or animal blood.

While local Catholic Church officials urged the faithful to be cautious about what some people were calling a miracle and others a hoax, Scaramozzino said the town was getting ready to provide hospitality services for pilgrims.

A national consumer protection group warned against a possible hoax, saying devotees of Padre Pio had been swindled in the past. "Let's be careful before shouting 'miracle'," the Codacons consumer group said in a statement.

During his life, Padre Pio had the stigmata -- bleeding wounds in the hands and feet similar to those of Christ. Scientists could not explain the wounds.

Fossils Bridge Gap in African Mammal Evolution


Wed December 3, 2003 03:43 PM ET

By Patricia Reaney LONDON (Reuters) - Fossils discovered in Ethiopia's highlands are a missing piece in the puzzle of how African mammals evolved, a team of international scientists said on Wednesday.

Little is known about what happened to mammals between 24 million to 32 million years ago, when Africa and Arabia were still joined together in a single continent.

But the remains of ancestors of modern-day elephants and other animals, unearthed by the team of U.S. and Ethiopian scientists 27 million years on, provide some answers.

"We show that some of these very primitive forms continue to live through the missing years, and then during that period as well, some new forms evolved -- these would be the ancestors of modern elephants," said Dr John Kappelman, who headed the team.

The find included several types of proboscideans, distant relatives of elephants, and fossils from the arsinoithere, a rhinoceros-like creature that had two huge bony horns on its snout and was about 7 feet high at the shoulder.

"It continues to amaze me that we don't have more from this interval of time. We are talking about an enormous continent," said Kappelman, who is based at the University of Texas at Austin.

Scientists had thought arsinoithere had disappeared much earlier but the discovery showed it managed to survive through the missing years. The fossils from the new species found in Ethiopia are the largest, and at 27 million years old, the youngest discovered so far.

"If this animal was still alive today it would be the central attraction at the zoo," Tab Rasmussen, a paleontologist at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri who worked on the project, said in a statement.

Many of the major fossil finds in Ethiopia are from the Rift Valley. But Kappelman and colleagues in the United States and at Ethiopia's National Science Foundation and Addis Ababa University concentrated on a different area in the northwestern part of the country.

Using high-resolution satellite images to scour a remote area where others had not looked before, his team found the remains in sedimentary rocks about 6,600 feet above sea level.

© Reuters 2003. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Today's Headlines - December 4, 2003

from The Washington Post

Scientists in Africa have unearthed the remains of six new species of large prehistoric mammals, including an ancestor of elephants and a 5,000-pound rhinoceros-like beast that roamed Ethiopia's highlands 27 million years ago.

The discoveries offer new clues to the fate of Africa's mammals during the "dark period" in the interval between 32 million years ago and the time 8 million years later when the prehistoric continent known as Afro-Arabia began to connect with Eurasia.

It was only after that contact that Africa developed the spectacular mix of lions, tigers, hippos, hyenas, antelopes and elands for which it is famous today. All of these animals evolved from Eurasian immigrants who crossed the frontier when the continents joined.

from Associated Press

A common genetic variation appears to reduce the risk of a serious complication after a bone marrow transplant, new research shows.

People with the gene variation were half as likely as other patients to develop severe graft-versus-host disease or die from the transplant, according to a study of 933 bone marrow recipients in Seattle.

The researchers said testing for the genetic variation could help determine treatment options for patients considering the risky procedure and could help their doctors adjust their medication afterward.

"People have assumed for a long time that genetic differences between patients will affect outcome of cancer therapy. This is clear, clinical evidence that supports that hypothesis," said one of the researchers, Dr. John A. Hansen of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington. The findings are reported in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

from Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The magnetosphere that shields the Earth from eruptions of charged particles from the sun is "like a drafty old house" that lets in gusts of solar energy, causing auroras and the occasional disruption of radio and satellite communications.

A new study using a series of satellites monitoring the Earth's natural magnetic field has confirmed that the magnetosphere develops cracks that may last for hours. This breach allows charged electrons and ions from the sun, a force called the solar wind, to stream into the Earth's upper atmosphere and dump massive loads of magnetic energy.

Scientists have long known that the Earth's magnetosphere -- the area of space just above Earth's ionosphere and controlled by Earth's magnetic field -- occasionally develops cracks. The new satellite studies confirm for the first time that these cracks can last for hours, allowing a steady flow of solar wind into the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

from The Christian Science Monitor

Sweet and flaky tilapia often graces the dinner tables of Americans, surpassing trout as one of the most popular fish to eat. But in its native tropical habitat in countries like impoverished Haiti, the tilapia often remains a runt - as malnourished as the local people.

Some American researchers hope to change that. Working with local missionaries in the L'Acul area of Haiti's northwest coast, some 40 miles from Port-au-Prince, the scientists are trying to increase the fish's weight substantially, from 10 grams to about 450 grams. Their secret weapon: a nutritious fish-food pellet made from local Haitian tree leaves.

Their aim is to produce about a one-pound fish, almost half of which would be edible animal protein, a key ingredient missing from the average Haitian's 800-calorie daily diet. Haiti - one of the poorest countries in the world, where 80 percent of the population lives in poverty and 70 percent are unemployed - represents a key experiment in using seafood to alleviate human hunger in the world.

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Monterey -- Armed with a long-lost manuscript, a boatload of scientists and scholars are getting ready to recreate John Steinbeck's famous 1940 voyage from Monterey to Mexico's Sea of Cortez.

It will be a journey very much like the original -- a combination of science, literature and adventure.

"A lot of people have dreamed of making this trip some day,'' said Jon Christensen, a Steinbeck scholar who is helping to organize the voyage. "They dreamed and dreamed, and that we're doing it is just amazing.''

The six travelers will duplicate the trip made by Steinbeck, his pal the marine biologist Edward "Doc" Ricketts and five others that resulted in both scientific discoveries and the book, "The Log From the Sea of Cortez," considered one of his best nonfiction works.

Woman beheaded after being branded a witch

Indo-Asian News Service
Ranchi, December 3
A villager in Jharkhand accused a woman of being a witch, beheaded her with a spade, and then rode around on his bicycle brandishing her severed skull, police officials said.

The incident took place in Bazara village, about 45 km away from Ranchi on Tuesday. Murder accused Budhu Bhagat already has a criminal background. Bhagat, who is now absconding, was apparently returning to the village when he encountered the victim Telia Oraon, who was going to her field for farming. The two had an argument after which Bhagat called her a witch and beheaded her.

He is then said to have audaciously paraded the head in the village and later thrown it in a field. The police have restored the body of the woman. In another incident on the same day, a 70-year-old-woman was beaten up by villagers, who also tried to set her aflame after pouring oil on to her.

Mutaira Devi, a resident of Ranchi's Targadi village, was also accused of witchcraft. Devi's life was saved after the police intervened. No complaint has been lodged.

The killing of women on charges of being witches is common in Jharkhand. Around 600 women have been killed in the past six years. Police said low conviction rates and high levels of superstition in rural areas fuelled the killings.


Thursday, December 04, 2003

UCLA study sheds new light on island evolution


Evolution of genetically distinct species that live exclusively on land can be slowed by over-water dispersal following tropical storms, according to a UCLA study that suggests classic theories of island evolution need an overhaul.

In an article published Thursday, Dec. 4, in the journal Nature, postdoctoral fellow Ryan Calsbeek and Professor Thomas B. Smith of the UCLA Center for Tropical Research report that lizards long thought to be evolving independently on Caribbean Islands in fact exchange genetic material. The reason, according to their 12-month study: Hurricanes and lesser storms wash the lizards into prevailing ocean currents, which carry them from island to island.

"The lizards are being prevented from evolving as quickly as they otherwise would have," said Calsbeek, the study's lead researcher. "We can no longer just assume that certain populations evolved independently on separate islands."

The study questions the widely held view that vast numbers of species of plants and animals on Caribbean, Hawaiian and Galapagos islands evolved separately in isolated microcosms of evolution. As a result, the research sheds new light on the mechanisms of evolution of animals in island habitats and their ability to adapt in the future.

Smith, an evolutionary biologist and director of the Center for Tropical Research at the UCLA Institute of the Environment, explained that the exchange of genes among adjacent islands over time can slow evolution and the ability of animals to adapt to their surroundings. "When islands evolve independently, they maintain their own identity," Smith said. "When they begin sharing genetic material, their uniqueness begins to disappear, and the process of evolution slows."

Calsbeek and Smith focused the study on Anolis lizards, a genus of lizards long considered a classic example of adaptive radiation -- the process whereby a single lineage rapidly evolves into many species that are adapted to specific habitats. In the case of Anolis lizards, all species share a single ancestor from South America, and changes in body proportions have occurred based on habitat use; species found on the broad trunks of mature trees have longer legs than those found in shrubbery with narrower branches. Anolis lizards, typically 55–65 millimeters in length, are characterized by a colorful throat fan used in signaling other lizards, and a distinctive black, gray and white back pattern.

Calsbeek and Smith captured approximately 50 Anolis lizards from each of five Caribbean islands in June and July of 2002. The researchers weighed and measured each lizard, and removed a tiny tissue sample from each lizard's regenerative tail to use in DNA analysis. Working in the lab over the following 10 months, they created a genetic profile for each lizard. Given the numbers and frequencies of physical and genetic differences among lizard populations, they determined that lizards were moving between islands.

Next, the researchers sought to explain this unusual flow of genetic material between islands. Smith said they were "stunned to find an exact match between the gene flow and ocean currents, even in exceptional cases where prevailing currents are not in the expected direction."

Calsbeek said that ocean currents are the most plausible explanation for the gene flow between islands, more likely than human transportation, land-bridges that connected islands more than 10,000 years ago or island colonization by the lizards' Cuban ancestors.

"It's quite amazing to think that weather patterns can affect the evolution of island lizards, but the patterns of dispersal match up so well with the direction of ocean currents that the conclusion is almost unavoidable," Calsbeek said. "Whether similar processes are important for other island groups is a question that needs further investigation, but the lizards have opened the door to new ideas about evolution on islands."

Previous research has demonstrated clearly that hurricanes can carry animals vast distances. But not until the UCLA study had research provided evidence that over-water dispersal can affect the evolution of individual genes.

Note to Editors: Digital images are available upon request.

The UCLA Institute of the Environment (www.ioe.ucla.edu/) is dedicated to interdisciplinary research to help produce solutions to complex issues related to the environment. The faculty -- representing a broad range of disciplines, including the sciences, public policy, engineering, law, business, public health -- works together to educate the next generation of professionals, leaders and citizens committed to the health of our planet. The institute includes four centers, including the Coastal Marine Center, the Center for Air Pollution and Exposure, the Center for Tropical Research, and the Center for Urban Sustainability and Predictability.

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.


Today's Headlines - December 2, 2003

from The Washington Post

AUSTIN, Dec. 1 -- A Texas jury convicted one of the nation's top experts on bubonic plague Monday on charges of export violations and fraud that he faced after telling the FBI that vial samples of bacteria had been stolen from his medical school laboratory at Texas Tech University.

Thomas C. Butler was found not guilty of charges that he had lied to the FBI. The agency sent 60 agents swarming into the Panhandle town of Lubbock Jan. 14 to investigate the missing samples of the deadly medieval "Black Death."

After 11 hours of deliberations, the jury in Lubbock returned guilty verdicts in 47 of 69 federal counts against Butler, 62, a tall, snowy- haired scientist whose research was once considered key in the national defense against bioterrorism.

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Scientists seeking to restore brain function in patients with Alzheimer's disease have discovered that as the disorder slowly destroys the brain cells of the victims, new cells form that may provide a novel strategy for therapy.

"This work is a long shot, but following up on long shots is what you have to do to make progress," said Dr. David A. Greenberg, a neurologist at the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato.

Greenberg is the senior researcher on a team of seven scientists who are publishing a report on their new Alzheimer's work in the current online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the first to concede that their findings have already raised more challenging questions than answers.

from Newsday

Ovarian tumors are one of the most difficult cancers to detect in an early stage but researchers at Stony Brook University today report being one step closer to making such a test reality.

The researchers have produced a complex mathematical algorithm to analyze myriad proteins in a mere pinprick-amount of blood from a finger. Such a tool can identify the pattern of proteins present in even the earliest development of ovarian cancer, researchers said.

The team of mathematicians and cancer specialists joined a project begun by two government scientists aiming for a highly accurate detection method, one that ultimately can be used as a mass screening test for ovarian cancer.

from The (Raleigh, NC) News & Observer

A clearer view of what Orville and Wilbur Wright encountered on North Carolina's remote barrier islands a century ago is coming into focus.

New studies at East Carolina University of Wright photographs taken during stays near Kitty Hawk reveal details previously obscured, including nearby buildings and possessions of the Wrights and year-round residents.

"This opens up a whole new area of historical investigation for cultural historians and local historians," said Leonard Bruno, a science and technology historian at the Library of Congress. "This is concrete evidence of what it was like back then."

The Wrights left a rich visual record of flight experiments on the Outer Banks, thanks to photos taken with a large and bulky Korona V, one of the finest cameras of its day. They also documented the land and people they found during off-season trips to a region already attracting summer visitors but dominated by fishing and other maritime occupations.

from The New York Times

In September, the journal Science issued a startling retraction.

A primate study it published in 2002, with heavy publicity, warned that the amount of the drug Ecstasy that a typical user consumes in a single night might cause permanent brain damage.

It turned out that the $1.3 million study, led by Dr. George A. Ricaurte of Johns Hopkins University, had not used Ecstasy at all. His 10 squirrel monkeys and baboons had instead been injected with overdoses of methamphetamine, and two of them had died. The labels on two vials he bought in 2000, he said, were somehow switched.

The problem corrupted four other studies in his lab, forcing him to withdraw four other papers.

from The New York Times

Sir Walter Scott was an author, not an evolutionary theorist. He wrote his poems and historical novels 40 years before Charles Darwin described the process of evolution — and well over a century before scientists began in earnest to apply principles of natural selection to the study of human nature.

Yet Scott, a 19th-century writer, apparently shared with modern evolutionary scientists the general notion that men tend to follow two basic mating strategies.

According to a new study, Scott's dark heroes, rebellious and promiscuous, and his proper heroes, law-abiding and monogamous, reflect the two types of men scientists recognize by the kinds of relationships they have with women: cads and dads.

The new research is part of the fledgling field of Darwinian literary studies, in which scholars try to draw connections between literature and evolutionary science.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Study: Herbal cold remedy no help to kids


Widely used echinacea also linked to skin rashes
Tuesday, December 2, 2003 Posted: 4:16 PM EST (2116 GMT)

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Echinacea failed to relieve children's cold symptoms and appeared to cause skin rashes in some cases, a study of 407 youngsters found.

It is one of the largest studies yet to question the benefits of the popular but unproven herbal remedy.

With reported sales of more than $300 million annually, echinacea is one of the most widely used herbal remedies nationwide. Also known as the purple coneflower, echinacea is sold in a variety of over-the-counter preparations, including pills, drops and lozenges that are purported to boost the body's disease-fighting immune system.

Anecdotal reports and some animal studies suggest the herb can prevent and relieve respiratory infections, but human studies have had mixed results. The herb was not effective at treating colds in a small study of college students published last year.

In the current study of 407 Seattle-area children ages 2 to 11, echinacea plant extract worked no better than a dummy preparation in reducing sneezing, runny noses and fever.

"We did not find any group of children in whom echinacea appeared to have a positive benefit," said the researchers, led by Dr. James Taylor of the University of Washington's Child Health Institute.

Symptoms lasted an average of nine days in children given echinacea and in those taking the placebo, and the overall severity of symptoms were similar.

Mild skin rashes occurred in 7 percent of colds treated with echinacea but in only 2.7 percent of colds treated with the dummy preparation. None of the rashes required medical treatment.

What about prevention?

The findings appear in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Healthy patients were enrolled and followed for four months. At the outset, parents were instructed to call the researchers when their children developed at least two cold symptoms. Parents then were asked to start administering treatment.

That lag time may explain why no benefits were found, said Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council, an independent group that studies herbs. He said echinacea is thought to work best if taken as soon as the first symptoms appear.

Some of the children had multiple colds during the study, but there were 33 fewer colds in the echinacea group -- results Blumenthal said suggest that echinacea might have helped prevent subsequent colds.

Taylor called those results could be just a fluke. The study was not designed to examine prevention.

Blumenthal said the rashes that developed may have been a rare side effect from pollen in the echinacea plant flower. The echinacea used in the study was made by the German company Madaus AG and contained extract mostly from the flower. Blumenthal said many echinacea products are made instead from the root.

Jim Bruce, president of Madaus' United States-based subsidiary, said numerous previous studies showed the product to be effective at preventing and treating colds.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Faith, Healing: Is There a Proven Link?


Published on November 25, 2003
Spectator Staff Writer

The debate over the role of spirituality in medicine is centuries old.

But with the recent publication of a major Newsweek cover story on the subject, it's clear that the debate rages on. And one of the most outspoken critics of recent research, Columbia Presbyterian's Richard Sloan, remains at the forefront of the controversy.

In 1999, Sloan, the director of the behavioral medicine program at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, published "Religion, Spirituality, and Medicine" in the esteemed British medical journal The Lancet. The paper denounced the media's excitement about the role of faith in healing the sick, making Sloan a lone voice of dissent against growing interest in alternative healing methods.

Critiquing a number of recent medical studies and popular media reports celebrating religion's role in everything from reducing blood pressure to increasing longevity, Sloan's paper identified several basic methodological errors. The Lancet paper concluded: "Even in the best studies, the evidence of an association between religion, spirituality and health is weak and inconsistent ... [and] it is therefore premature to promote faith and religion as adjunctive medical treatments."

"This [paper] is going to be a little bit of a bombshell," said Tom Mayo, a medical ethicist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, following its publication. Mayo was right. Sloan's attack provoked furious letter-writing campaigns in the academic press, and the medical profession was split in two over the issue of faith and healing research.

Four years later, Sloan continues to write papers opposing the introduction of religion into medical practice, and is working on a book on the subject. But while he hasn't given up the fight, Sloan sees little room for optimism. "I think it's worse now than it was then," he said. Despite recent inconclusive studies on the subject, he cited "an even broader interest within medicine and among the general public in pursuing what I continue to think is the wrong direction."

The Nov. 10 article published in Newsweek describes a national trial of 750 patients undergoing heart catheterization. Some members of the group were prayed for by Roman Catholics and Sufi Muslims in the United States, Buddhist monks in Nepal, and Jews at the Western Wall, while others had nobody praying for them. The purpose of the test was to see if the prayers affected quicker recovery--if, in effect, prayer heals.

"The prayer studies have not shown clear effects," the article concedes, emphasizing that "so many people already pray for the sick that scientists cannot establish a control group."

Other tests--perhaps more viable--focus on the role of patients' own spiritual lives in their health, testing variables including church attendance and regularity of prayer against various indicators of physical health. But researchers were unable to perform tests on a cellular level, relying instead primarily on epidemiological research--which can often prove misleading if multiple variables are used. Because of this possibility for error, Sloan said that he does not believe conclusive positive results will be forthcoming.

But even if research could establish a clear correspondence between faith and health, Sloan said he believes it is patently unethical for doctors to inquire into the spiritual lives of their patients, as some have done.

"It's widely known and well documented that married people live longer than single people," he said. "But we would recoil if a physician ever recommended to a single patient that he or she ought to get married. There are aspects of our lives that, even if they are relevant to health, are out of bounds to medicine."

Introducing medicine into religion, Sloan says, is antithetical to the foundational principles of American democracy.

"This country was founded in large part to avoid religious persecution, to promote religious freedom," he said. "Patients ought to engage in whatever religious practices they want. And medicine doesn't have anything to add to that."

Harold Koenig, the director of Duke University's Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health, disagreed.

Inquiring into the spiritual lives of patients "just makes too much sense," Koenig told Newsweek. Koenig recommended questions including: "Is religion a source of comfort or stress?" and "Do you have any religious beliefs that would influence decision-making?" as questions that could be asked by doctors trying to get a read on their patients' religious awareness.

But Sloan countered that such practices would be absurd. "[Koenig] has now said that in two minutes you can collect the spiritual history on patients and that's going to be adequate to guide you," Sloan said. "That's a discussion that is enormously complicated, and it's not something a physician can do in the 10 minutes that he or she has with a patient."

A better approach, he said, would be for physicians to "simply not treat their patients like collections of organ systems, but to treat their patients as people, understand them as people, and be nice."

At the root of the popular cry for spirituality in medicine, Sloan believes, reflects dissatisfaction with the way in which medicine is practiced today in the United States.

"Patients are just pissed off," Sloan said. "They're tired of being treated like pieces of meat by impersonal physicians and even more impersonal bureaucrats at some phone screening desk."

Sloan added that the media may deserve some of the blame for the public's interest in introducing religion into medicine. "Many media outlets no longer have dedicated science reporters," he said, adding that the absence of this expertise can lead the public to a warped understanding of tests that may already contain methodological flaws.

With supporters like former mutual fund tycoon Sir John Templeton--who spends as much as $30 million a year funding scientific projects that explore the nature of God--and classes at approximately 30 medical schools on religion and spirituality for medical students, it seems unlikely that the links being proposed between spirituality and health will be severed decisively any time soon.

Sloan, who considers the religion-in-medicine craze to be a medical fad like many before it, believes it will ultimately reach a peak and begin to fade out. "This is different," he said, "because it's about something that's institutionally very important in the United States. I think that it will fade eventually, but I'm concerned about what damage may be done in the meantime."

André Kole's million-dollar challenge

published: Tuesday | December 2, 2003

By Mark Dawes, Staff Reporter

VISITING MAGICIAN André Kole is offering US$1million to the Rev. Dr. Donald Stewart if he can prove his statement that Satan gives supernatural powers. Such evidence, he said, should be verified by an independent group of people. "If he can't he needs to shut up and quit causing all this problem and superstition about something that is totally unBiblical," said Mr. Kole.

Mr. Kole's offer came in the wake of the Rev. Dr. Stewart's article published last Friday on page D6 of this newspaper under the headline 'Mr Kole, you are so wrong!' The Rev. Dr. Stewart, who is pastor of the Portmore Covenant Community Church said in his article "The Christian Bible clearly warns against involvement in all forms of occultic activity, including magic (regardless of how we redefine it) - If magic and the occult world are not really diabolic then it is obvious that the God who created the heavens and the earth has been misled and needs some guidance (possibly some revised theological education) on this matter. If demons and satanic power are not real, but merely illusionary, then someone should have told Jesus."


The Gleaner has learnt that on Sunday November 23, Mr. Kole was the guest of the Covenant Community Church which meets at the old Priory School in St. Andrew where Senior Pastor for the Covenant Community Churches, the Rev. Dr. Peter Morgan, volunteered for one of Mr. Kole's magical tricks. He placed his head in Mr. Kole's guillotine.

That the Bible warns against involvement in the occult, Mr. Kole agreed. He continued: "As a magician I feel a magician is more qualified to recognise what is involved in occultism - if it is real demonic power or is it just tricks."

Mr. Kole has been performing in Jamaica since Monday November 24. He leaves the island on December 9. His remaining schedule includes shows at Mandeville, Munro College, the Mannings School and MoBay Community College.

Mr. Kole is in the island as the guest of Campus Crusade for Christ, an internationally renowned para-church organisation which seeks to share the Christian gospel primarily in tertiary institutions.


"I want to make it clear, I am not attacking the sincerity of Mr. Stewart. He is sincere but sincerely wrong ­ and is causing great confusion. By the things he is saying, he is keeping people from coming to Christ. Satan is using him to prevent people from coming to the programme ­ because they believe that I am the devil, that I am going to Hell and I have demonic powers.

"If I had demonic powers to do what I do, it would be much easier for me to be a magician. I would not have to have 20 persons assisting me and a truck load of thousands of pounds of equipment. I would just tell the demons 'Go do your thing' and ­ zap - all the magic would be done. I would not need all my stuff to do the special effects," Mr. Kole said.

Mr. Kole said Satan and demons do have supernatural powers and as such they do afflict people including causing ill-health. However, he said, Satan and his hosts cannot do magical tricks like levitation.


"Demons and Satan do have powers. But to give people the idea that people involved in the occult have these powers ­ that Satan can impart powers to do miracles ­ then one is undermining the entire Bible and the uniqueness of God. Because that is the argument Jesus used more than any other to defend His ministry. Jesus said 'Do not believe my words unless I perform miracles that only God can do.' So by suggesting that people involved in the occult can be demon-possessed, which they can be, to say those demons can give a supernatural power is an insult to God. It is tragic that so many people in Jamaica believe that the obeah man and others have supernatural powers. It is causing a great deal of superstition."

Magician Kole, stressed: "The dictionary gives two meanings to the word magic. The first definition is as follows: 'The pretended art of producing effects or controlling events by charms, spells, and rituals supposedly to govern certain natural or supernatural forces; sorcery; witchcraft.' The practices contained in this definition are all condemned by God and the Bible. Whether these practices are claimed to be used for good or not makes no difference, they are still condemned as an abomination to God."

"The second definition in the dictionary is for theatrical magic: 'The art of producing baffling effects or illusions by sleight of hand, concealed apparatus' etc. This definition describes what I do. I have made a very careful study of every Hebrew and Greek word in the Old and New Testaments that has been translated 'magician', 'divine', 'soothsayer', 'wizard', 'conjurer', 'astrologer', 'sorcerer', etc. Not one of the definitions of the Greek and Hebrew words describes or implies the second definition of the word magic, which is used for entertainment purposes and which has no relationship with occult practices."

He argues "If one engages in a proper study of the Bible and if one has any knowledge of the theatrical art of illusion, one would immediately realise that the practices defined by these Greek and Hebrew words are completely foreign to anything anyone in my profession does today who uses the title 'magician'."


Referring to the Rev. Dr. Stewart's argument based on Revelation 22:15 that those who practise the magic arts will not make it into the 'New Jerusalem', Mr. Kole said the Greek word used for magic arts in that passage is 'pharmakia' from which the English 'pharmacy' is derived. 'Pharmakia' is sometimes translated as sorcery or magic. 'Pharmakia', he said, refers to drugs and the misuse of drugs or people in the occult who are involved in charms and potions. "It has nothing to do with the theatrical art of magic," he stressed.

"I have spent nearly 40 years from a Christian point of view examining the occult all over the world and in more than 70 countries of the world. In my investigations, I have never found anybody involved in the occult who had a supernatural power."

In his article last Friday, the Rev. Dr. Stewart said: "The slave girl in Phillippi who predicted the future via a spirit (demon) of divination was certainly not an illusionist. (Acts 16:16-18). Please notice that her powers left instantly as the demonic spirit was cast out by Paul in the name of Jesus Christ. If these occult powers, according to role, did not come from Satan, then where is their origin?"


To this the famed magician said: "Satan does not have the ability to accurately predict the future." Mr. Kole says he has tracked the predictions of psychics, astrologers etc., and in general they miss 89 per cent of any specific prophecy.

Mr. Kole spoke of the 'Barnum-effect' which is to make statements that are true of 80 per cent of all people and people will believe it till they think those statements are true. Then tricks are used to get information from people to make the prediction more specific. "So if these people are demon-possessed then they are possessed by a stupid, dumb set of demons who miss 89 per cent of the prophecies. To say they (psychics, astrologers and demons) can accurately predict the future is an insult to God."

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Science standards debate continues evolving in Ohio



Scott Stephens
Plain Dealer Reporter

Some scientists say Ohio is still monkeying around with how it teaches Darwin's theory of evolution.

The state found itself under a national microscope last year while it debated, and later adopted, a set of science standards that included evolution - the theory that living things descended from common ancestors. Those adopted standards specifically discounted "intelligent design" - the concept that the history of life cannot be explained by natural law alone.

This fall, a select group of Ohio teachers field-tested numerous model lesson plans that grew from the standards. Schools do not have to use the lesson plans, but state proficiency tests will be based on the information they cover.

Some teachers and scientists complain that the lessons were developed without adequate public scrutiny and could not be reviewed during field testing, which ended last week. They also say that some language in the plans sounds an awful lot like intelligent design.

"If the process had been open to the public and to the scientific community, we'd have a better product," said Ohio Academy of Science Chief Executive Lynn Elfner, who battled with state education officials for weeks before getting complete copies of the lessons. "It's not the quality we expected."

The present flashpoint for debate flows from one requirement in the standards for 10th-graders: "Describe how scientists today continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."

Some worry that the requirement, as implemented in the lesson plans, will give teachers and students the green light to debate and challenge bedrock scientific principals as if they were discussing "soft" disciplines such as political science or philosophy.

Others say criticisms of the model science curriculum are neither fair nor accurate. State Board of Education member Deborah Owens Fink of Peninsula said the process being used in science is identical to the one used in English, math and other subjects. Teachers, parents and others can attend meetings and provide input, she said. She added that the committee that wrote the lesson plans received specific orders to follow the intent of the academic standards.

"Lynn Elfner's own group said these were some of the best standards in the country," said Owens Fink, who had fought to include intelligent design in the standards. "Yet still this group chooses to whine about students participating in an open inquiry about evolution."

Robert Lattimer, a member of the team chosen to write Ohio's science standards and an ardent supporter of intelligent design, agreed that the evolution-only forces appear intent on stifling all debate on the issue.

"If the evidence is so strong for evolution, then why are they afraid if students debate it?" Lattimer said. "Their implication that evidence against evolution cannot be considered is just inaccurate."

When it meets next week, the 40-member committee that wrote the lessons will begin to sift through the initial feedback from teachers and decide what needs to be reshaped or eliminated. But Elfner remains skeptical about whether Ohio will end up with a solid science curriculum for its public school students.

"I hate to say it's dead in the water, but it's a wounded duck," Elfner said.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

sstephens@plaind.com, 216-999-4827

© 2003 The Plain Dealer

Amid challenges: Does science matter?


NY Times News Service

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 1960s.

"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 reestablish 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 9 percent 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," 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, codiscoverer 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' preeminent 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, cell phones, 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, 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, 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, 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," 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," 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, 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," 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 toward slavery."

State Drops Case Against Alternative Medicine Doctor


UPDATED: 4:37 p.m. CST November 24, 2003
News 3 first reported on the case last week in a special two-part I-Team series. ( Read/Watch Reports )

MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin Medical Examining Board unanimously voted by phone Friday to put an end to the state's nine-year-old case against a Green Bay doctor.

Dr. Eleazar Kadile runs an alternative health care clinic and practices experimental chelation therapy. He's been under state investigation since 1994. His attorney says the agreement is a victory for Kadile and many others.

"It's a victory for freedom of choice, and I think it's a victory for complimentary and alternative medicine and, quite frankly, I think it's a victory for Dr. Kadile, personally," said Ray Roder.

A News 3 investigation found Kadile and other alternative practioners alleging unfair prosecution by some at the Department of Regulation and Licensing.

After several years of battles, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, the medical board decided not to revoke Kadile's license, but to simply reprimand him.

Kadile agreed he had an incorrect brochure, misleading ad, and that some patient records were deficient, but the board made no finding about chelation therapy's impact on vascular or heart disease. It took no position on complimentary and alternative medicine.

Kadile also agreed to giving patients notice that he "practices certain therapies that are outside the usual practice of most American physicians ... that may or may not work."

Those getting chelation therapy will have to sign a chelation disclosure form, stating it's experimental.

Under the agreement, a peer will also assess Kadile's practice. Earlier the state said Kadile was endangering patients.

"The agreement addresses the board's primary goals of protection of the public and rehabilitation of the licensee -- it is a sound agreement," said Michael Bernt, a prosecutor for the Department of Regulation and Licensing.

Both sides intend to get the other to pay their legal expenses. Kadile told News 3 his have topped $300,000.

Kadile said he will continue to be open for business.

Dear Mr. Raspberry


Jonathan Pait
December 2, 2002

A response to a column of Mr. William Raspberry as it appears in Dec. 2 edition of The State.

Dear Mr. Raspberry,

Must you fear me? I am a fundamentalist Christian. I believe that any duty is a sacred duty because I do all things for Christ. I am a loyal American who also looks forward to a Kingdom whose builder and maker is God.

We simply hold that our civic virtues find a large portion of their genesis in Judeo-Christian principles. You make the assumption that the Christian whose "sacred" understanding helps shape his "secular" involvement will ignore all other components that helped shape these virtues. To do so is to take the same tired approach that these people are "simple" and can't handle complex thoughts outside of their faith.

Indeed, there are certainly other philosophies that influenced our founding fathers. Are there any Christians of today that would deny that? The ideas of Greek and French philosophers certainly played their part. Who is to deny that even the laws of the Roman Empire played a role? Our founding fathers did not create a theocracy—they created a republic governed by law.

This law is there to protect you, Mr. Raspberry, from me – or what you perceive me to be. It should also be there to protect me from you. The same concerns you are expressing, Christians have been experiencing.

Take the subject of what to teach our children about our origins. Creation seems such an obvious truth, religious beliefs and scientific arguments notwithstanding, that it seems clear to me we ought to teach creation -- perhaps with a mention that other people hold a different view. But you believe that evolution is the obvious truth -- and suppose you are in a position to help maintain your belief as the dominant view of academia? Wouldn't you want all our children to have access -- real access, not just a perfunctory mention -- to this truth while withholding competing doctrines?

I trust you will forgive the above rewriting of your words. However, I think you get the point. Your side (as you term it) has been in power. You control the classroom. You will not allow other ideas to enter in to challenge your own. Hmmmm, now who is sounding like the Taliban?

Here is the difference. Yes, there are those who would probably say, "Teach only Creationism in the public schools." Those are very few – if they do exist at all. What most Christians request is simply that the two beliefs be given equal billing if you are going to teach them at all. We are willing to accept that our view is a belief around which we can find much supporting evidence. Evolutionists, on the other hand, are unwilling to admit that their view is the same.

So, which side is unwilling to allow diversity in the realm of ideas?

You have fears of what might be. We have fears of what exists. Each day it gets worse. The "religion" of secular humanism continues to force sacred belief toward the exclusive realm of the "private individual." Already, we have seen a person's religious beliefs become a litmus test for worthiness of public office. The secular humanists will not rest until the role of Judeo-Christian principles in the establishment of our country is ignored. In their rush to avoid the Taliban, they become like the apparitions they fear.

I ask you, Mr. Raspberry, since the end of the Dark Ages, what country with the influence of Christianity as part of its heritage and leadership has produced the theocracy you fear? On the contrary, where the light of Christianity has been there has been an increased amount of freedom—and yes, liberal thought.

I fear your "civic religion." It is the teaching that diversity of thought must be sacrificed on the altar of relativism. The intolerable sin is to believe that there is an Absolute Truth. The sinners who do not convert are incapable of being tolerant to those who disagree with them. Give them power and they will overthrow law to install their own religion. They must be pushed out of the public sphere.

Ironically, Christian doctrine teaches that it is impossible to force sacred belief. The idea of a country run according to a strictly Christian set of morals is antithetical to the cause the Kingdom of God. Such a country would fail miserably at the very thing that was intended. No, what Christians want is what we have had: A country of law that allows us to share the great news of Jesus Christ. Where there is an influence of Judeo-Christian belief in our policies just as there are of any other belief or philosophy. The freedom of other religions and practices are paramount to the maintenance our own freedoms.

You fear shadows of your own making and in the process enhance the darkness. You do so not by extinguishing the light of Christianity (it shines brightest in the darkness of persecution), but by undermining the very principles you claim to revere.

Monday, December 01, 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.

from Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- The first high-resolution images of the West Nile virus reveal a tiny microorganism that looks something like a bumpy gum ball.

The three-dimensional images obtained by Purdue University researchers give scientists their most detailed look yet of the virus and could help them design drugs to disarm it.

The Purdue team found the virus to be about two millionths of an inch wide - - small even in the minuscule realm of viruses.

from Associated Press

REIDSVILLE, N.C. -- Scientists say they have found a way to boost tree growth but so far there they haven't found a practical use for the fast- growing plants.

A tree species at N.C. State's Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville grew up to 20 feet in a single year, about double its usual rate. A typical tree in the area grows about 18 inches in a good year.

The experiment uses paulownias, a naturally rapid-growing tree from China whose thin stalks are covered in purple blossoms during the spring.

from The Washington Post

Thank Smallpox for HIV Defense

Doctors have known for years that a small percentage of people carry a mutated form of a gene called CCR5, which protects against infection by the AIDS virus. Now it appears that these people may have smallpox to thank for their fortunate inheritance...

Urban Bears are Living Large

Humans apparently are not the only species falling victim to fast food: Black bears with easy access to eats are turning into overweight couch potatoes, too...

Clues to Antibiotic Resistance

A single patient with kidney disease appears to have been the crucible in which the latest strain of deadly bacteria was created...

from The Baltimore Sun

Researchers Trace Many Languages to Farmers in Turkey

The first spoken Indo-European languages, a vast family of diverse tongues that includes English, French and German, originated among farmers 9,000 years ago in what is now Turkey, according to two University of Auckland linguistic experts...

Study Finds Few Effects from Prozac on Infants

Breast-fed infants show few chemical effects from their mothers' use of the antidepressant Prozac, according to a small study by Yale researchers...

5-Year Study Aims to Catalog All Catfish

Scientists have already catalogued 2,855 species of catfish. The whiskered fish are found in the waters of every continent and on fish farms and frying pans nearly everywhere...

Sunday, November 30, 2003

MIOS MEETING Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Les Bruce, Ph.D.
Will Present An Illustrated Lecture on

The Chasm Between Human And Animal Communication

Dr. Bruce will demonstrate the difference between human language and animal communication systems. A central question about human language will guide our discussion: "How can we understand what we talk about?" He will first note that the primary function of language is to talk about things and to influence other people. Then he will show that this tool for communication is a symbolic system. Understand symbols requires certain ideas about meaning. The meanings of symbols are in the mind. In fact, the substance of language is in the mind where grammar rules are formed and stored in memory and where concepts are stored in a mental lexicon. The great chasm as we shall see between human and animal communication is in the mind. He will discuss some modern speculations about the evolution of human language from animal communication systems. What would have to happen assuming symbolic language evolved from functional signals involves processes that evolutionists call "radical innovations", "a stroke of genius", and "quantum leap". Language is passed on socially from generation to generation. That process is the crucible for how language changes today, not adaptive advantage and natural selection.

Bucky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX
Tuesday, December 2nd, 7:30 PM

Atheism and the Scientific Community


The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist

The scientific community, above any other subgroup of the population, has become overwhelmingly atheistic. According to a 1998 report in Nature, a recent survey finds that, "among the top natural scientists, disbelief is greater than ever; almost total". Interestingly, the biologists in the National Academy of Science possess the lowest rate of belief of all the science disciplines, with only 5.5% believing in God. This decline in belief in biologists strongly indicates the nature of the cause, and the ability of the teaching of evolutionary biology to turn people away from a belief in God. Nature, Vol. 394, No. 6691, p. 313 (1998) Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

The views of the general population over the last couple of decades remain largely unchanged with regard to creation vs evolution, however according to the American Religious Identification Survey taken in 2001, the number of adults in the U.S identifying with "no religion" has doubled since 1990; from 14.3 million (8%) in 1990 to the current 29.4 million (14.1%). Also in a 1991 Gallop poll a clear trend emerged demonstrating that higher education, and belief in evolution over millions of years as the source of human existence were concurrent. From these statistics it would appear that higher education, and particularly specialization in the natural sciences will indoctrinate students into a naturalistic or atheistic view of the world.

Education in these naturalistic philosophies, and the pervasive teaching of evolution is almost certainly the principal influence affecting the rise of atheism in our scientific community. Evolution is the champion theory of a scientific community now totally under the control of an atheistic majority, and is being used in attempt to explain the origin and evolution of life on earth without a supernatural creation. These theories are being taught as a matter of fact in science classes today, and such teaching will affect the way people view the world. If they are left unchallenged, this innundation will cause belief in God as the source of life to diminish, and evolution ultimately has the power to convince people there is no God.

On the Web, Research Work Proves Ephemeral

Electronic Archivists Are Playing Catch-Up in Trying to Keep Documents From Landing in History's Dustbin

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 24, 2003; Page A08

It was in the mundane course of getting a scientific paper published that physician Robert Dellavalle came to the unsettling realization that the world was dissolving before his eyes.

The world, that is, of footnotes, references and Web pages.

Dellavalle, a dermatologist with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Denver, had co-written a research report featuring dozens of footnotes -- many of which referred not to books or journal articles but, as is increasingly the case these days, to Web sites that he and his colleagues had used to substantiate their findings.

Problem was, it took about two years for the article to wind its way to publication. And by that time, many of the sites they had cited had moved to other locations on the Internet or disappeared altogether, rendering useless all those Web addresses -- also known as uniform resource locators (URLs) -- they had provided in their footnotes.

"Every time we checked, some were gone and others had moved," said Dellavalle, who is on the faculty at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. "We thought, 'This is an interesting phenomenon itself. We should look at this.' "

He and his co-workers have done just that, and what they have found is not reassuring to those who value having a permanent record of scientific progress. In research described in the journal Science last month, the team looked at footnotes from scientific articles in three major journals -- the New England Journal of Medicine, Science and Nature -- at three months, 15 months and 27 months after publication. The prevalence of inactive Internet references grew during those intervals from 3.8 percent to 10 percent to 13 percent.

"I think of it like the library burning in Alexandria," Dellavalle said, referring to the 48 B.C. sacking of the ancient world's greatest repository of knowledge. "We've had all these hundreds of years of stuff available by interlibrary loan, but now things just a few years old are disappearing right under our noses really quickly."

Dellavalle's concerns reflect those of a growing number of scientists and scholars who are nervous about their increasing reliance on a medium that is proving far more ephemeral than archival. In one recent study, one-fifth of the Internet addresses used in a Web-based high school science curriculum disappeared over 12 months.

Another study, published in January, found that 40 percent to 50 percent of the URLs referenced in articles in two computing journals were inaccessible within four years.

"It's a huge problem," said Brewster Kahle, digital librarian at the Internet Archive in San Francisco. "The average lifespan of a Web page today is 100 days. This is no way to run a culture."

Of course, even conventional footnotes often lead to dead ends. Some experts have estimated that as many as 20 percent to 25 percent of all published footnotes have typographical errors, which can lead people to the wrong volume or issue of a sought-after reference, said Sheldon Kotzin, chief of bibliographic services at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda.

But the Web's relentless morphing affects a lot more than footnotes. People are increasingly dependent on the Web to get information from companies, organizations and governments. Yet, of the 2,483 British government Web sites, for example, 25 percent change their URL each year, said David Worlock of Electronic Publishing Services Ltd. in London.

That matters in part because some documents exist only as Web pages -- for example, the British government's dossier on Iraqi weapons. "It only appeared on the Web," Worlock said. "There is no definitive reference where future historians might find it."

Web sites become inaccessible for many reasons. In some cases individuals or groups that launched them have moved on and have removed the material from the global network of computer systems that makes up the Web. In other cases the sites' handlers have moved the material to a different virtual address (the URL that users type in at the top of the browser page) without providing a direct link from the old address to the new one.

When computer users try to access a URL that has died or moved to a new location, they typically get what is called a "404 Not Found" message, which reads in part: "The page cannot be displayed. The page you are looking for is currently unavailable."

So common are such occurrences today, and so iconic has that message become in the Internet era, that at least one eclectic band has named itself "404 Not Found," and humorists have launched countless knockoffs of the page -- including www.mamselle.ca/error.html, which looks like a standard error page but scolds people for spending too much time on their computers ("This page cannot be displayed because you need some fresh air . . .") and www.coxar.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk, which offers political commentary about the U.S. war in Iraq ("The weapons you are looking for are currently unavailable.").

Not all apparently inaccessible Web sites are really beyond reach. Several organizations, including the popular search engine Google and Kahle's Internet Archive (www.archive.org), are taking snapshots of Web pages and archiving them as fast as they can so they can be viewed even after they are pulled down from their sites. The Internet Archive already contains more than 200 terabytes of information (a terabyte is a million million bytes) -- equivalent to about 200 million books. Every month it is adding 20 more terabytes, equivalent to the number of words in the entire Library of Congress.

"We're trying to make sure there's a good historical record of at least some subsets of the Web, and at least some record of other parts," Kahle said. "We're injecting the past into the present."

But with an estimated 7 million new pages added to the Web every day, archivists can do little more than play catch-up. So others are creating new indexing and retrieval systems that can find Web pages that have wandered to new addresses.

One such system, known as DOI (for digital object identifier), assigns a virtual but permanent bar code of sorts to participating Web pages. Even if the page moves to a new URL address, it can always be found via its unique DOI.

Standard browsers cannot by themselves find documents by their DOIs. For now, at least, users must use go-between "registration agencies" -- such as one called CrossRef -- and "handle servers," which together work like digital switchboards to lead subscribers to the DOI-labeled pages they seek. A hodgepodge of other retrieval systems is cropping up, as well -- all part of the increasingly desperate effort to keep the ballooning Web's thoughts accessible.

If it all sounds complicated, it is. But consider the stakes: The Web contains unfathomably more information than did the Alexandria library. If our culture ends up unable to retrieve and use that information, then all that knowledge will, in effect, have gone up in smoke.

Research editor Margot Williams contributed to this report.


Trust me, I'm a witch doctor


By Rachel Harvey
BBC correspondent in Jakarta

Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country in the world. But some Indonesians retain a belief in traditional mysticism.

I'm not sure if it was the joss sticks, the heat or the darkness.

Or perhaps it was the evil spirit which had just been exorcised.

Whatever it was, my visit to the Dukun, a traditional Indonesian witch doctor, gave me a cracking headache.

But it was worth it.

Healing hands

Watching Gus perform his mysterious rituals was one of the most extraordinary things I have seen during my time in Indonesia.

Gus is in his early twenties which is still comparatively young for a Dukun.

His yellowed finger nails are almost as long as the dark hair which flows down over his shoulders.

He says he inherited his magical powers from his grandfather.

His particular forte is healing. He claims he can cure heart disease, kidney failure and infertility as well as simpler ailments like sinusitis.

And of course he can summon spirits. This brings us back to the exorcism.

Gus had agreed to let us film him at work.

There were a number of patients sitting in the front room when we arrived at the simple house in one of Jakarta's poorer suburbs.

One by one they were led into a small, windowless room where Gus was waiting.

The room had a thin mattress on the floor, surrounded by various wooden effigies, bits of crystal and unidentified potions.

The clientele

Dui was one of Gus' regulars. A big man, with a tortured expression on his face, he had apparently been possessed by an evil spirit about a year ago.

Or at least that's what he and Gus told us. Dui lay down on the mattress on his back and closed his eyes.

Gus' eyes weren't closed but they didn't look exactly focussed either.

He had a kind of glazed expression on his face as he stood up slowly and raised his arms out sideways.

He began to make strange puffing noises - a bit like a child trying to blow out a persistent candle on a birthday cake.

On the floor, Dui's face contorted with what looked like pain. His hands came up in front of his eyes in a protective gesture and beads of sweat rolled down his neck.

Dui began to writhe around on the floor as Gus paced around him, carving patterns in the air with his outstretched hands and stamping his feet.

Then suddenly it was all over.

The patient went limp and the Dukun sat back down on a pile of cushions.

Time to relax

Nobody spoke for what seemed like an age.

Then Dui got up, ran his hand over his face and went through to the next room where he promptly fell asleep.

Gus smiled. "You see," he said, "Dui is calm now. The spirit has left him."

Gus told me he is often asked to help people who believe they are victims of black magic, known in Indonesia as Santet.

He showed me a photograph of a woman with a hugely inflated stomach.

I thought she looked pregnant, but Gus disabused me of that innocent explanation. Somebody had cast a spell on her, he told me.

He was now treating her and had managed to reduce her pain, but the swelling would take longer.

I asked Gus if he ever performed black magic spells. "I prefer to use my powers to heal people," he answered evasively.

Gus is wise to be circumspect about the darker side of Indonesian mysticism.

Belief in the supernatural runs deep in this country and in some cases the fear which underlies that belief can have tragic consequences.

In recent years, people suspected of dealing in black magic have become the targets of vigilante-style attacks.

Some have even been killed.

Taking control

The Indonesian Government is so worried about the problem it is drafting a bill to ban the practice of black magic.

But details of how they will be implemented are still being worked out.

Already critics say the law is the wrong weapon to use in the battle against superstition. And in any case, how would you prove the existence of supernatural phenomena in court?

Gus the Dukun thinks the proposed new law is stupid.

Instead of persecuting Dukuns, they should have a law to protect us, he told me.

And anyway, who decides what is bad magic and what is good magic?


We prepared to leave Gus to let him get back to his waiting patients.

But something had been bothering me. The patient Dui, with the evil spirit problem.

If he'd been coming for treatment for more than a year, how come the spirit only left him today? Had we just been lucky?

Gus looked a little sheepish. "Actually, I got the spirit out months ago," he said.

"But I wanted to demonstrate it for you. So today I put a spirit back into Dui and then took it out again when you got here."

No wonder I had a headache.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Does Bigfoot live in Pennsylvania's woods? Some think so

By Scott Westcott

Bigfoot lives!

Larry Brink thinks the day will come when that headline will not be confined to supermarket tabloids.

Brink, a 37-year-old Harborcreek resident, said he believes Bigfoot is out there — and he's not alone.

He and some other Pennsylvanians are convinced the mythical ape-like creature could be lurking nearby.

While the Pacific Northwest has long been America's hotbed for Bigfoot sightings and searchers, many believers now think Bigfoot might be stomping through Penn's Woods.

They claim to be hot on the trail of the proto-human whose legend stretches back more than 5,000 years.

Members of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society last February searched a forested area around Guys Mills in Crawford County after an Erie resident who owns land there said he glimpsed a large creature running through the woods.

The Bigfoot Society investigators didn't spot an 8-foot-tall Sasquatch, but they did find a pile of bones and a large sampling of "scat'' that they hope to have analyzed at a laboratory.

The reported sighting is one of a several from Erie and Crawford over the last 25 years and scores more from across the state of Pennsylvania.

Yet for all the mysterious claims and the hours spent investigating in the field, Bigfoot Society members admit they still lack the smoking gun — credible proof that Bigfoot exists.

"People think we're crazy for doing this, but what happens when something does get discovered?'' said Brink, northwest regional investigator for the Bigfoot Society. "Then, all of a sudden, we are not the crazy ones.''

Indeed, Bigfoot believers are often dismissed as kooks, crackpots or conspiracy theorists.

Yet, Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society founder Eric Altman, 33, of Jeannette, said that people from all walks of life — and socioeconomic status — have either joined his organization or believe that Bigfoot may exist.

"I'm willing to bet there have been more sightings in the state, but people are afraid to come forward and talk about it,'' Altman said. "It's slowly starting to grow. People are starting to take it seriously. I think it's only a matter of time with the technology and manpower that we find something out there.''

James Adovasio, an internationally known archaeologist who serves as director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, said he does not think Bigfoot exists.

But he stops short of ruling out the possibility entirely.

"I don't deny the possibility that a large primate has gone undiscovered,'' Adovasio said. "But the evidence to support their existence is more than tenuous.''

Bigfoot believers often point to the discovery of new species in the past few decades when trying to explain why conclusive proof of Bigfoot hasn't been found.

Adovasio said that new species have been discovered in the "recent past,'' but mostly were found in remote, sparsely populated wilds and jungles of the world.

Adovasio classified the chance of a Bigfoot existing without discovery in North America as "extremely slim.''

"But if folks want to run around Pennsylvania, Oregon or the Himalayas in search of such a creature they are certainly free to do so,'' Adovasio said. "And if they should find one, so much the better for biologists and zoologists.''

Altman and a core group of researchers don't limit their investigations to reading, Internet searches and conventions like the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society's annual East Coast Bigfoot Conference/Expo that was held in late September.

When someone contacts them claiming to have seen or heard a Bigfoot, investigators conduct extensive interviews to determine if the claim is a hoax.

When they think the report is credible, they will often spend the better part of a weekend staking out the location where the sighting or strange activity was reported.

Investigators wear thermal night vision goggles and have high-tech monitoring and sound equipment in hopes of catching Bigfoot on film or tape.

Altman said he has spent many a night leaning against a tree, looking and listening for Bigfoot.

"I'm 95 percent sure they are real,'' Altman said "I have seen footprints in the snow and mud, I have talked with hundreds of witnesses who obviously are shaken up by what they have seen. I think there is something out there. What we are trying to do is prove it or disprove it.''

Altman admits for all the time he has spent in the woods, he's never caught sight of a Bigfoot. The closest he came, he says, was in August 2000 during a stakeout in Bradford.

"Something began to circle us, it was grunting and screaming and making all types of racket,'' Altman said. "We never saw it but when it happens to you it walks right off the pages of a book right into your world.''

Brink said he has looked into several local reported sightings.

In one instance, two campers in 1998 were near Lake Erie in the Fairview-Girard area when they said "a creature'' strolled across the path. Brink said his organization also gets many bogus reports.

"Once in a while we get reports that one ran into the middle of town,'' Brink said. "It's like, come on, we're trying to be serious here. If Bigfoot exists, he hasn't survived by going into town.''

So if Bigfoot does exist, then why haven't at least some skeletal remains been found?

"There are a lot of different theories,'' Brink said. "The major theory is that Bigfoot bury their own. Others think they are cannibals. You are going to have people who don't believe it until someone brings one in alive. And how are you going to do that? You're not.''

Adovasio said the search for the unknown and inexplicable will never end.

"We seem to want to believe in the existence of things unverified by scientific observation,'' he said. "Whether we are talking about Bigfoot or flying saucers, we are rarely content with what we can see and touch. We may stop believing in Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, but there will always be something else. It seems to serve some psychological need.''



SCOTT WESTCOTT can be reached at 870-1733 or by e-mail.


Actress wife of comedian Paul Merton dies of cancer


By Andrew Hibberd
(Filed: 25/09/2003)

Sarah Parkinson, the actress, writer and wife of the comedian Paul Merton, has died aged 41.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in February last year but rejected conventional medical help, preferring to rely on holistic remedies that would not prevent her using IVF to try to start a family.

She died on Tuesday with her husband by her bedside, Merton's agent, Mandy Ward, said last night. In a statement issued on his behalf, Merton said: "After her initial diagnosis of cancer in February 2002 Sarah successfully lived with the disease for the next 19 months.

"She refused chemotherapy because she knew it would finish her off. Instead, she boosted her immune system with a mixture of nutritional therapy, yoga, meditation, positive thinking and laughter. Consequently she led a full and active life right up to the last couple of weeks when her condition suddenly worsened."

He added: "She faced the situation with courage and died serenely and without pain in the early hours of Tuesday."

At her request, her funeral will be a private family service, he said.

Merton and Miss Parkinson married in East Sussex in June. They had exchanged vows in the Maldives in October 2000 but, because no one else was there, it was not an official marriage. The couple had been together since 1997, five months after Merton separated from

his previous wife , the actress Caroline Quentin.

Miss Parkinson was told she would have to undergo major surgery and might need chemotherapy, which was likely to leave her infertile.

It was then that she decided to try to beat the disease through acupuncture, spiritual healing, homeopathy and swimming in the sea near her East Sussex home. She also tried Johrei, a Japanese therapy meant to build up the immune system. Shortly after the diagnosis, she told Pink Ribbon, the magazine that helps to raise money for breast cancer charities: "When you're told you have cancer, the world stops. We went through a tidal wave of emotion - disbelief, anger, grief." She said that thanks to the changes in their daily regime she and her husband were healthier then than they had been for years.

She urged other women who were similarly diagnosed with breast cancer: "You are still alive, so live. Embrace life. Stop worrying about trivial things."

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