Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
by Dr Beverley Sequeira
Well, it's a question, which while as old as mankind is one that finds itself being addresses even today. All civilisation have been shown to have sense of insecurity and fear over spotty but recurring reports of phenomenon that leave man feeling victimised by hostile beings with supernatural powers.The most common human response to incidents such as these is naturally confusion or fear and human beings indefinitely have responded to such supernatural challenges in various ways. Words, rites, amulets have ritually been employed in response to supernatural attacks and manifestations dating back even to the ancient Semitic civilization like the Babylonians and their feared Udog demons as it is seen in present day Christian rites of exorcism.
So how do we look at incidents such as those associated with supernatural phenomena? Do we believe or merely relegate it to the psychotic machinations of a fevered mind? Of course in our modern world there are three main stances which, no doubt in various combinations characterise the multitude of attitudes that individuals assume towards reports of siege by mysterious powers.
The first is scientific - which views the world and perhaps the universe as being governed by unvarying laws that have either been discovered or at the least are discoverable by scientific investigation. Then diametrically opposed to this views the - shall we say - superstitious which focuses on unseen spiritual realities and seems to deplore if not ignore the findings of science, seeing empirical realities as shallow and meaningless. The third stance of course, contains a little of each and while adhering to science as a natural method, broadens the vistas of positive science, incorporating spiritual dimensions of reality through theological and philosophical consideration. This stance is based more on faith and cannot really be classified, but can be termed as the religious.
The reaction the world over, when any supernatural phenomena is reported is one of absolute disbelief, precipitating a response to deny the reality of reported data and inevitably to refuse to examine the minute amounts of evidence there. Make no mistake - such phenomena does occur and to ordinary people and their families that are neither exhibitionists nor attention seekers. However, one cannot ignore that superstitious people seize on psychic phenomena for a sometimes unreasonable approach to life interjecting irrational fears and senseless preconceived notions and explanations.
What the best way to confront the issue - one might ask? Well, I suppose the balanced view to take is while admiring and accepting the findings of modern science and concluding that even projecting future development, it is without doubt myopic to think that nature does not reveal a depth of reality beyond the empirical realm of natural science. Thus it is evident that no matter what stance an individual adopts, will rest on certain prejudices that cannot be proven to the satisfaction of those who choose to adopt a different construct.
When any psychic phenomena does occur it is quite normal for people to be equally repelled by the naivete of the superstitious, the uncertainty of those who profess faith in the supernatural, but seem confused at their own beliefs and the haughty pride of those who assert with certainty things contradictory to one's own explanation. Ultimately the person who has experienced the phenomena is no doubt caught in a complex web of ignorance, bias and fear which exacerbate the individual's suffering.
Psychiatrists hypothesize that concepts of such supernatural phenomena are usually based on rumors and mindsets. Many issues we believe are rarely based on facts rather on the "I heard it form her" factor. In such cases there are said to be basic errors in communication i.e. deletion, distortion and generalisation.
So when an individual goes through a experience, his mind tends to delete and distort facts and people generally tend to generalise the issue making it a mindset. Another aspect is that if one has a high fear / anxiety quotient then that person would not be able to think rationally. Oliver Goldsmith said, "Don't let us make imaginary evils, when you know, we have so many real ones to encounter".
There are lots of uncertainties connected with the paranormal - however it would be remiss not to be warned of the dangers of both, an arrogance that professes a grasp of the unknown and that of a bravado that boasts of the control of the transcendent. It is rightly said that "a wise man knows what he does not know." However it is a prudent man who respects what he cannot control.
Audience charmed by the paranormal.
22 January 2004
This story is from the news section of the journal Nature
Scientists tend to steer clear of public debates with advocates of the paranormal. And judging from the response of a London audience to a rare example of such a head-to-head conflict last week, they are wise to do so.
Lewis Wolpert, a developmental biologist at University College London, made the case against the existence of telepathy at a debate at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London on 15 January. Rupert Sheldrake, a former biochemist and plant physiologist at the University of Cambridge who has taken up parapsychology, argued in its favour. And most of the 200-strong audience seemed to agree with him.
Wolpert is one of Britain's best-known public spokesmen for science. But few members of the audience seemed to be swayed by his arguments.
Sheldrake, who moved beyond the scientific pale in the early 1980s by claiming that ideas and forms can spread by a mysterious force he called morphic resonance, kicked off the debate.
He presented the results of tests of extrasensory perception, together with his own research on whether people know who is going to phone or e-mail them, on whether dogs know when their owners are coming home, and on the allegedly telepathic bond between a New York woman and her parrot. "Billions of perfectly rational people believe that they have had these experiences," he said.
Wolpert countered that telepathy was "pathological science", based on tiny, unrepeatable effects backed up by fantastic theories and an ad hoc response to criticism. "The blunt fact is that there's no persuasive evidence for it," he said. "An open mind is a very bad thing - everything falls out."
For Ann Blaber, who works in children's music and was undecided on the subject, Sheldrake was the more convincing. "You can't just dismiss all the evidence for telepathy out of hand," she said. Her view was reflected by many in the audience, who variously accused Wolpert of "not knowing the evidence" and being "unscientific".
In staging the debate, the RSA joins a growing list of London organizations taking a novel approach to science communication1. "We want to provide a platform for controversial subjects," says Liz Winder, head of lectures at the RSA.
1.Giles, J. Museum breaks mould in attempts to lure reluctant visitors . Nature, 426, 6, doi:10.1038/426006a (2003). |Article|
© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2004
Adventures in Alternative Medicine
By Carlin Flora -- Publication Date: Nov/Dec 2003
Summary: Six people take the natural path to better health. Discusses their treatments for ailments such as cancer, repetitive-strain injuries and allergies.
The Fighter, Carrie Putrello, 34
Just after receiving the last of her chemotherapy treatments, dancer Carrie Putrello performed in public. Every cancer patient she knew "was nauseous or had weight problems," she says. "But I felt good." When Putrello, the owner of a dance studio in Utica, New York, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, she went straight to the health-food store and started reading up on cancer and diet. She cut out sugar, white flour and processed foods and drank only water and tea. "I don't even call it alternative [health]; it's just the way it should be."
A fighting attitude was vital to her recovery, as well. "I was mad. I thought, 'This is not going to happen—my kids are not going to grow up without a mother.' " While in the bathtub each evening, Putrello would visualize cancer cells seeping out of her body. She has now been in remission for a year. She sees an acupuncturist regularly and has maintained her diet. "But when my birthday came, I wanted chocolate so much—and I had it."
The Skeptic, Dan Marano, 33
In 1997, when doctors saw that his lymph glands were the size of tennis balls, Dan Marano was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disorder. "There was no discussion of nutrition. Just a heavy regimen of steroids," Marano says of his surgeon's prescription. "I felt like a slab of meat on their cold table." He decided against steroids and consulted friends and books instead. While he had long mocked "new age" practices, he read Andrew Weil's Spontaneous Healing and decided that "the premise rang true." A meeting with a naturopath doctor who asked about his general symptoms led to a plan: Marano started breathing and cardiovascular exercises, took grape-seed extract, cyrillic acid and hoxsey—a combination of plant extracts—and eliminated wheat, dairy and sugars from his diet.
Three months later, the sarcoidosis was in remission, never to return. His doctors didn't attribute it to his regimen, figuring they caught the disease just before its remission. Marano, who lives in Ann Arbor, has since relaxed his dietary restrictions and hasn't completely sworn off Western medicine. "I advocate an integrated approach," he says.
The Dabbler, Amy Lynch, 34
Lynch wasn't exactly a natural health skeptic, but she certainly wouldn't have known one alternative remedy from another. Still, Lynch needed an energy boost for her stepped-up yoga and pilates workout. So she visited a natural-health store.
While browsing for standard Vitamin C, she happened upon multiple vitamins that contained 28 essential nutrients. The labeling boasted "high-strength vitamin-B complex and beta carotene." Lynch, who works at an advertising firm in New York City, gave it a try. She started taking the vitamins six months ago and noticed changes within a week. "I was much more energetic, and it enhanced everything—even hair and skin." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration can't evaluate the safety or effectiveness of supplements, but such high-power vitamins have made people like Lynch believers. Today, she's more amenable to alternative remedies: "Now, I use liquid echinacea when I feel a cold or flu coming on."
The Devotee, Dorothy Compeau, 50
In 1990, after weeks of suffering from tendonitis in her shoulder and no improvement with physical therapy, Dorothy Compeau visited a chiropractor. She was pain-free within a year. Compeau, a middle-school teacher in San Jose, California, continued the treatment for 10 years. "He was a homeopath. I felt like he was reading my mind, telling me things about myself I hadn't mentioned—but he was reading my body."
The chiropractor soon prescribed herbal remedies as he realigned her joints. "Some worked and some didn't," she says of his treatments for stress, allergies and other health concerns. "When he cured me of the shoulder ailment, he was my god…but over the 10 years, there were times when I thought I was throwing $75 a week at him, and we had both lost the focus." In 2000, Compeau switched to a massage therapist who also practices acupuncture.
The Nonbeliever, Josie Glausiusz, 39
"I had awful pain in my wrists, elbow and neck," says Josie Glausiusz of the repetitive-strain injuries she sustained from typing a few years ago. "I tried physical therapy and it only made it worse." A new physical therapist practiced an alternative treatment called myofascial release—a stretching of the underlying muscle and thin tissue that covers the body's organs—and convinced Glausiusz to try it. "I would lie down and she would place her hands on my chest and stomach and press lightly. After the first time, I said, 'Oh, my goodness, the pain went away!' "
But after three months, even though the treatment soothed her, it didn't stop the pain. Glausiusz finally improved after she worked with a new physical therapist and gave up typing for six months—not an easy sacrifice in her job as an editor in New York. "It took patience for the pain to go away."
The Success Story, Soliman Eid, 17
Eid is a competitive swimmer who practically lives underwater. "I hope to go to University of California at Irvine on a swimming scholarship," the high school senior says. But when his allergies and asthma strike, "I can't really breathe. I have about a quarter of the breathing capacity of the other swimmers."
When Soliman's allergies surfaced six years ago, his mother, Sophia, gave him antihistamines. "But he would get very irritable," she says. She went to a large health-food store in Irvine and found Sinus-Ease, a homeopathic remedy. Soliman has been taking it daily ever since.
"It's unbelievable," Soliman says. "It makes me more awake and my sinus and throat clear." Sophia gives Soliman zinc and echinacea when he's sick and another daily supplement called Mind Care, which contains fish oil (such oils have been shown to help concentration). A good thing because "he hates fish," according to Mom.
Buckeye State remains strong in medical, food research
Thursday, January 22, 2004
ThisWeek Staff Writer
Consider the science fair, where a miniature version of Mount Vesuvius still destroys papier-mache Pompeii, where an acrid stench wafts from some experiments, while at others frightened mice leap onto wheels and furiously attempt to flee the prying eyes of onlookers, where the ahead-of-their-class as well as the in-over-their-heads gather to see if they have what it takes to become the next science great, if they can hope one day to rank right up there with Einstein or Edison, Copernicus or Curie, Hawking or Hubble.
Most people aware of the existence of the Ohio Academy of Science know it through its longstanding sponsorship of such fairs in locales around the state.
But the organization, now working on its second hundred years, also does much to try to protect the image and further the cause of science.
So, what is the state of science in the state of Ohio?
Fairly stately, according to top officials with the academy.
Oh, to be sure, supporters of science can quibble about funding levels for research in the state and the always irksome issue of evolution versus creationism in public education, but in general Ohio has been and probably will continue to be a thriving place for invention and innovation.
"I think the state of science in Ohio is that it's very sound," said Robert T. Heath, Ph.D., professor of biology and director of the Water Resources Research Institute at Kent State University.
Heath is the current president of the Ohio Academy of Science, a membership-based, volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization that now operates out of offices on West Third Avenue in Columbus, just outside of Grandview.
The academy was founded in 1891 with a mission, according to its Web site, of fostering "curiosity, discovery and innovation for the benefit of society."
"We're really part of science," said chief executive officer Lynn E. Elfner. "We do science. Most of what we do is actually publish research."
Elfner, who makes his home in Delaware, has headed up the organization since 1975.
Before that, he was with the Mount Orab Local School District, Ohio State University, the Ohio Environmental Council and the state of Ohio. He received his bachelor of science degree in zoology in 1967 and his master's degree in plant ecology in 1971, both from OSU.
Elfner, too, gave a guarded thumbs-up to the state of science in Ohio.
"I think it's in a transition period," he said.
That applies not only in the Buckeye State, but all over the country.
Society as a whole does not currently view science with the same high regard as in years past, Elfner said.
This is due, in part, to people frequently confusing science with technology, but also, Elfner added, it is a result of media coverage of controversial issues like cloning and other aspects of biotechnology.
"I think there are more questions than concerns, but we have to address them," Elfner said. "Science only operates when there's support for it, financial support or tolerance of risks."
Science must operate within the context of what society will tolerate.
"Not everybody understands that," Elfner said. "Not all scientists understand that."
"Often people will call science what are the results of science," Professor Heath offered. "We need to teach that it is a process."
Their assessment of science in Ohio is somewhat at odds with a recent editorial in The Los Angeles Times. Published on New Year's Day, the editorial took a dim view of 2003 in terms of science, stating that "it is likely to be remembered as a year when science came back to earth.
"To be sure, last year saw plenty of good research and discovery," The Times editorial said in part. "However, the year was inarguably framed more by setbacks than achievements.
"Most of the year's discoveries were not mind-bending new revelations but rather modest, incremental bits of progress."
That's all well and good as far as it goes, in Elfner's view, but he cautioned against making snapshot judgments regarding any single year's contributions to science. The true significance of discoveries made today may not be realized for years to come, the academy CEO said.
All innovations, he added, not just those in science, tend to result from a combination of developments, not just from a single breakthrough.
Food research is very strong in Ohio, according to Elfner, as is the medical community. Ohio is home to a number of topnotch children's hospitals and, by some accounts, leads the nation in the number of clinical trials for medical research.
"We're good guinea pigs, apparently," Elfner said. "The medical industry is really strong. Medicine is really applied science."
About 40 other states have academies of science similar to Ohio's.
"We're probably one of the more active ones," the chief executive officer said.
These activities take a number of forms, including advocacy of science at all levels of learning.
"You cannot wait until someone is in university to lay out what science is," academy president Heath said. "This is something that needs to be articulated in the grade schools and certainly in the high schools.
"Lynn has been strident and hardworking and long-suffering in his efforts to promote education of science in the state."
Sponsorship of science fairs, District Science Days and the annual State Science Day are prime ways of achieving that goal.
"Nearly 1,000 students in grades seven through 12 attended the 55th annual State Science Day last May at Ohio State's French Field House and St. John Arena, where more than 100 colleges, universities and professional groups presented more than $650,000 in scholarships and awards," according to a fact sheet provided by Elfner.
This year's District Science Fair Days will take place at 16 different locations in March. More information is available over the Internet at http://www.ohiosci.org/dsd1.htm.
Columbus attorney Donell R. Grubbs is the current board secretary for the academy, but he first became involved with the organization as a science fair participant at district and state levels while in middle and high school.
As an undergraduate at Ohio Northern University, where he obtained a degree in biology, Grubbs continued his involvement with the Ohio Academy of Science by helping out with district science fair events.
Grubbs, who was elected secretary of the board in 1999 replacing Dr. Ronald Stuckey, has remained active in the organization and was for a time a judge for science fair projects.
"It was fun to see some of the same students come back year after year," Grubbs said.
"It's really worked out," he added about being board secretary. "I was happy to do it. It is the kind of thing where I like to give back."
The academy also seeks to further the frontiers of various disciplines and the work of researchers by publishing The Ohio Journal of Science.
Many graduate and even undergraduate students get the opportunity at the Ohio Academy of Science's annual meeting to give technical presentations on papers they have had published in The Ohio Journal of Science, Elfner said. That's heady stuff for young scientists and a possible boost to careers, he added.
"It really helps undergraduates, especially, when they're applying to medical school or graduate school or other professional training to have an actual published paper," Elfner said.
"I think the academy is one of the few that is still trying to provide that resource: peer review of papers and a forum, if you will, for actual science," Grubbs said.
January 20, 2004
Phillip Johnson ("Life called intelligent design," Jan. 11) is a highly qualified professional and speaks well on legal points. However, his academic qualifications and training are in law, not evolutionary biology. His criticisms are grounded in belief, not fact.
Science is based upon developing hypotheses to explain phenomena. Hypotheses are rigorously tested to see if their proposed explanations have a high probability of correctness. Evolution is a set of explanations tested myriad times and shown to be the best explanation for the history and diversity of life.
Evolutionary theory is not a faith-based belief system, nor does it deny such beliefs. I know many who profess to be Christian and who find evolutionary theory the most appropriate explanation of the Earth's biotic diversity.
Intelligent design is another guise for those who prefer ignorance to truth and myth to science. It is an attack upon public education by those who want to place their deity and religious beliefs in every classroom in this country.
I challenge intelligent designers to establish testable hypotheses for their doctrine, to subject those hypotheses to testing and to publish those results in a refereed journal. The only qualifications are that their hypotheses be properly formulated and tested in the same manner as scientific hypotheses.
—Lyle T. Hubbard Jr.
Terrorism has nothing on the weirdness of Americans
Thursday, January 1, 2004
Universal Press Syndicate
Hurricanes 2, Pat Robertson 0
Hurricane Isabel roared through Virginia Beach, Va., in September, inflicting serious property damage despite public calls for prayer to keep it away by local resident Pat Robertson, whose Christian Broadcasting Network has its headquarters there. (In 1998, Robertson condemned the city of Orlando, Fla., for sponsoring the Gay Days festival, and warned the city that God could tear it up during hurricane season for promoting homosexuality. Instead, the first hurricane to make landfall in 1998, Bonnie, scored a direct hit on Virginia Beach.)
Two American Legion posts and two other veterans' groups in Pleasanton, Calif., sponsored a class on dowsing to consider whether domestic terrorists could be identified by pointing sticks at suspicious people to see if the sticks move. Said one of the leaders, "You can't wait for the FBI and police to come up with solutions when you have the bad guys living among us."
- Chuck Shepherd
January 20, 2004
Regarding the article "Life called 'intelligent design'" (Jan. 11), Phillip Johnson's own words show the limitations of "intelligent design."
There was no scientific evidence offered in the Statesman Journal's account of his visit to Salem, even though the claim is made lower in the story that there is some. There was, by contrast, a lot of vituperation. Words like "drive a wedge," "dogma," "utter contempt" and "battle" are attributed to him, rather than those of science. Interestingly, the newspaper said Johnson does not present his point as a minister; the law professor doesn't do it as a scientist, either.
Readers of the paper would have been better served if the story had included a few words from a scientist about how science works. Certainly someone from a nearby university could have made this clear.
I hope the WOU biology senior, quoted at the end of the article, acquires a greater understanding of and a greater fidelity to the scientific method before she is put in front of students.
It would be worth knowing what the Salem-Keizer School District has to say regarding her assertion that teachers are "gagged by rules that prevent teachers from discussing the controversies of Creationism and evolution."
Wed, Jan 21, 2004
JEFF Lewry makes a valid point about creationism (The Border Mail, January 16) but it is important to realise that it doesnt stand on its own; it has become but one of the pillars of Christian fundamentalism.
So from where and when did Christian fundamentalism originate? Its own literature reveals that it is really only the “new kid on the block”.
It was the product of two Christian laymen thats right, unordained, uneducated in theology and self-appointed authorities in where else but the U.S., who, in 1909, released a series of 12 religious booklets called The Fundamentals.
The tenets that they put forth in these booklets were pretty much the “standard list” as far as Christianity is concerned, with the exception of one: the demand for Christians to accept the Bible as the inspired, revealed, infallible and inerrant word of God.
This final imperative was to change the standard set of beliefs in such a way as to set it apart from mainstream Christianity.
The booklets were published extensively in the next 10 years, with more than three million copies sent to those involved in spreading the Christian faith through the U.S.
Ridiculously simple, isnt it?
Two ordinary blokes woke up one morning, perhaps feeling that their preaching was a tad shabby and in need of a new attention-grabbing “sales pitch”, and decided that they would redefine the Christian faith by giving a book which had been subject to almost two millennia of scrutiny and study, a new “spin”, declaring it independently authoritative in itself.
In fact some Christian authorities state that they transformed the Bible itself into an idol, an emphasis which has damaged Christianity irreparably.
The resulting aberrancy opened the floodgates for any person of dubious character and motivation to claim that they were inspired by the word of God, or that they had received a prophecy, or that God instructed them, to lead believers in any direction they wish and to interpret the Bible in any way that serves their needs.
And anyone with a Biblical concordance can do exactly that, with consummate ease.
In his book Telling Lies For God, Melbourne University geologist, Prof Ian Plimer, demolishes every tenet of creationism being portrayed as science without exception and exposes the lies and scientific fraud which it has perpetrated.
Prof Plimer states that he has the utmost respect for those with Christian faith but considers fundamentalism a dangerous cult.
By JENNY JOHNSON
DARBY – The push to broaden the Darby science curriculum and encourage teachers to challenge evolution as a biological origin isn't over. Countering a proposal to include biological origin theories other than evolution in science class, opponents Wednesday will argue to maintain the long-established theory of evolution as the genesis of biology.
Sponsored by the Ravalli County Citizens for Science, the public meeting Wednesday at the Darby Junior High gymnasium at 7 p.m. will include a presentation by Allan Gishlick of the National Center for Science Education.
With a resolution on the table that would change school policy and possibly thrust Darby into a national spotlight, school board trustees decided to hear a presentation against the "objective origins" policy before making a decision at a special meeting next week.
The policy calls for students to "assess evidence for and against theories," and "to analyze the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution." Although the policy doesn't spell out what other theories would be included in science curriculum and courts have emphatically prohibited the teaching of creationism in public schools, the objective origins curriculum inevitably willinclude discussions of intelligent design – a theory that assumes a designer of the biologically complex world but stops short of declaring who or what that intelligent designer might be.
Opponents of the intelligent design idea say that the theory holds little scientific merit and is a round-about way to bring creationism into education.
Last month, school officials in Roseville, Calif., decided not to add anti-evolutionist materials to the district science curriculum, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee. Darby is the first school district in Montana to take up such a decision, according to Montana School Board Association officials.
Darby school board trustees are generally split on the decision, but at least two trustees have said they support the objective origins curriculum. Trustees were approached about the policy in November by Curtis Brickley, a Darby parent and minister who used a high-tech, multimedia presentation to introduce more than 200 Darby residents to the objective origins science policy.
Wednesday's presentation by people opposed to straying from the Darwin's theory and teaching intelligent design in school will outline the science behind teaching evolution not just as a theory, but as scientific fact. Since 1859 the theory of evolution has been the benchmark in public science curriculum.
Brickley argues that scientific debate exists regarding Darwin's theory and students need to examine all of the facts. He says that restricting science academic standards to evolution censors information from students and in order to teach objective, science-based curriculum, schools must offer other theories.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Copyright © 2000-2004 Helena Independent Record and Lee Enterprises.
By Kimberly Edds
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, January 20, 2004; Page A17
Visitors to the Grand Canyon won't be able to find a U.S. park ranger who will tell them the chasm was created as a result of the very same flood that threatened to drown Noah and sink his ark, but they can walk away from the park souvenir shop with a book that tells that version of how the canyon came to be.
The book, "Grand Canyon: A Different View," compiled by Colorado River guide Tom Vail, hit park bookshelves in August and includes breathtaking views of the canyon along with a collection of essays by two dozen other creationists who maintain the canyon is just over a few thousand years old. While no one disputes that the photographs capture the park's beauty, some critics want the pro-creationist book pulled from park bookshelves because it flies in the face of what they say is the park's mission: to teach science.
According to geologists, the rocks in the deepest part of the canyon are as much as 2 billion years old and the canyon itself was created about 6 million years ago when the Colorado River slowly carved through the layers over thousands of years.
Vail and his fellow creationists argue that all science is theory and say their theory is just as valid as current geological theories.
"Young Earth creationists" say the rocks were formed by deposits from the flood told of in Genesis and the canyon itself was cut when a lake broke its natural dam and cut through the rock in just a few days.
Last month, the heads of seven national geological organizations sent a letter to Joseph Alston, superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, expressing concern that visitors might see the sale of the book as an endorsement of a religious idea by the park and urging him to remove it from park shelves.
"The National Park Service should be extremely careful about giving the impression that it approves of the anti-science movement known as young Earth creationism or endorses the advancement of religious tenets as science," the geologists wrote. "The book aggressively attacks modern science and broadly accepted interpretations of the geologic history of the Grand Canyon. As such, any implied approval or endorsement by the NPS for the book and others like it undermines efforts to educate the public about the scientific understanding of Grand Canyon geology."
Vail's book, which was unanimously approved for sale at the Grand Canyon by a board of park employees, has been sent to national headquarters for a review "on the appropriateness for our bookstores to have that type of book on creation for sale in a park bookstore," said Maureen Oltrogge, public affairs officer for the park. "We are waiting for that decision."
The souvenir shop on park grounds is run by the Grand Canyon Association, but the National Park Service approves what may be sold there. The book, which is found in the inspiration section of park bookstores, is a "medium seller," Oltrogge said, with about 300 copies sold since August.
Park rangers are instructed to give a scientific view of the age of the canyon and how it was created, based on currently accepted geology, Oltrogge said. If park visitors raise questions about creationism, rangers are supposed to defer to science, she said.
"National Park Service policy on interpretation is to teach current geological science," Oltrogge said, adding: "We also recognize there are other beliefs out there. We don't teach that. We teach current accepted geological science and history. Of course, they get questions during their interpretive sessions. You avoid confrontation."
Vail argues that removing his book because it presents another view of how the canyon was formed would be religious discrimination -- and he's prepared to battle the Park Service if the book is removed.
"None of it is science," said Vail, who leads Christian-oriented white-water rafting tours down the Colorado River. "Science has to be repeatable and measurable. What they call science is theory just as what is in my book is theory. All the scientists here [in the book] have as much a right to their opinion as anyone else."
Grand Canyon officials last year were caught up in another spat over public displays of religion at the park when three bronze plaques with biblical quotations were ordered removed by Alston after complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union. Park Service Deputy Director Donald Murphy ordered the plaques restored and wrote a letter of apology to the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, which had put up the plaques more than 30 years ago.
Wilfred Elders, a professor emeritus of geology at the University of California at Riverside, said the plaques and the park's continued sale of the book demonstrate an increasing willingness by park officials to bend to the political pressures of the religious right.
"It undermines the park rangers who are trying to explain the natural history of a world-class geological phenomenon," said Elders, who has done extensive research on the canyon. "You can preach about Genesis in churches. That's fine. But don't do it in science class and don't put books on a bookshelf of science books when it is not science."
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit advocacy group, believes the creationist book does not belong in a shop on government property.
"The park's mission is to promote science. I don't see anything in their charter that they are supposed to provide a forum for debate," PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said. "It is a public place. People can have debates. The problem is when the government takes a side in the debate."
The park ordered dozens more books last week.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
January 18, 2004
By MICHAEL JANOFSKY
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 — To halt the removal of a cross placed in the Mojave National Preserve almost 70 years ago to commemorate World War I veterans, a Republican lawmaker from California has proposed swapping the land it sits on with a private group.
The National Park Service recently ordered the return of plaques bearing biblical verses that had hung in Grand Canyon National Park for more than 30 years before they were taken down last summer. The Park Service also approved selling a book at the Grand Canyon that suggests the canyon was created in six days several thousand years ago.
And here at the Lincoln Memorial, an eight-minute film that shows historical events at the memorial, including demonstrations for civil rights, abortion rights and gay rights, is being revised by the Park Service to add four minutes of more politically neutral events.
While the Park Service says these are unrelated incidents, reflecting no overarching political policy, a national alliance of public environmental workers says the efforts are evidence of a new program of "faith-based parks" promoted by the Bush administration with the strong support of conservative groups.
The apparent trend, the alliance says, has resulted in a willingness by Republican appointees now in senior positions in the Park Service to resolve disputes by protecting religious or conservative content, even in the face of arguments that the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which safeguards the separation of church and state, is being violated.
"What this shows," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of the alliance, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, "is that Christian fundamentalists and morally conservative groups have a special entree with the decision makers at the Park Service and the White House."
A spokesman for the Park Service, Dave Barna, denied that decisions made in these recent cases reflected political motives, insisting that political appointees have sought advice from career employees in resolving problems. "These are a few unrelated issues that have been put together just to criticize this administration," said Mr. Barna, who has worked for the Park Service for eight years.
Even so, in all but the case involving the cross, a senior political appointee at the Park Service has influenced the resolution of the dispute, fueling at least the impression that political considerations could have played a part in the decision.
At the Grand Canyon, three plaques quoting psalms had been hanging on buildings at the South Rim since the plaques were given to the park in the late 1960's by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, a Christian group founded in Germany during World War II.
Maureen Oltrogge, a Grand Canyon spokeswoman, said that a handful of visitors each year complain about them, but that it was not until the American Civil Liberties Union inquired last February that officials at the canyon sought counsel from regional Park Service officials in Denver and a Park Service lawyer in Santa Fe, N.M. Those discussions led to a decision last July by the Grand Canyon superintendent, Joe Alston, to take the plaques down.
Within a few weeks, however, complaints over his ruling had reached Washington, prompting the Park Service's deputy director, Donald W. Murphy, to ask the Sisterhood to return the plaques so they could be displayed again.
In a letter to the Sisterhood last July, Mr. Murphy said he regretted that "further legal analysis and policy review did not take place" before the plaques were removed and apologized for any inconvenience. He said he would like to "return to the historical situation that had been in place" while the department conducted a more comprehensive examination of the issue.
Mr. Barna said the issue was still under review.
The other matter, involving a coffee-table book that promotes a creationist view of the Grand Canyon, has been resolved — at least for now.
After the book, "Grand Canyon: A Different View" (2003, Master Books), by Tom Vail, a river guide and evangelical Christian who leads religious-oriented excursions, first appeared on shelves at the park's six bookstores last summer, a park employee raised objections. That led to a review by several members of the Grand Canyon staff, who recommended that the book remain on the same shelves with books that offer evolutionary explanations of how the park formed. About 300 copies have been sold, Ms. Oltrogge said, and more have been ordered.
But the book's presence clearly troubles some Park Service employees. As Mr. Barna said, "We're still struggling with it."
When the controversy arose at the Grand Canyon, a copy of the book was sent to Park Service officials in Washington for review. This month, the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative law firm that specializes in First Amendment issues and is representing Mr. Vail, threatened to sue the Interior Department if the book did not receive "the same treatment as books on the same topic from differing viewpoints."
Mr. Barna said that Mr. Vail's book had not led senior officials to ask for a change in policy. They have determined, he said, that the book can remain on sale as an alternative theory to Grand Canyon history — but one that the Park Service does not necessarily support.
The film at the Lincoln Memorial has been shown for nearly a decade. But because so many of the events held there have been large protests sponsored by liberal groups, they tend to dominate the presentation. Last year, Mr. Barna said, several conservative groups complained that the film reflected "a leftist political agenda," leading to a decision by Fran P. Mainella, the Park Service's director, to order the film lengthened to include events like the gulf war victory parade in 1991 and tape of every president since the memorial opened in 1922.
A dispute over the Mojave Desert cross arose when a former Park Service employee, Frank Buono, objected to the presence of a religious symbol on federal land. After Mr. Buono and the American Civil Liberties Union tried repeatedly to have it taken down, Congress passed a measure in December 2000, sponsored by Representative Jerry Lewis, a 13-term Republican from California, that prohibited spending money on its removal. A year later, the cross was designated a National Memorial, giving it federal protection.
Mr. Buono then sued the Park Service and won, with a federal judge in Riverside, Calif., ordering the government to remove the cross. Rather than comply, the Park Service appealed.
With the case now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Mr. Lewis succeeded in getting a provision into the 2004 defense appropriations bill that could resolve the dispute by trading the acre around the cross for land owned by a private veterans group in Barstow, Calif.
The government now claims that the land transfer, which could take several years, makes the litigation moot. Not so, say Mr. Buono's lawyers, who argue that the designation of the cross as a memorial keeps it in federal hands — and should keep the court case alive.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Tue January 20, 2004 01:48 PM ET
By Patricia Reaney LONDON (Reuters) - Doctors warned cancer patients on Tuesday about the potential dangers of mixing alternative and herbal medicines with conventional treatments.
Remedies such as cod liver oil and St John's Wort may interfere with blood thinning drugs, hormone treatments or chemotherapy.
"Any patient who takes herbal remedies needs to be aware that there can be potential health risks with them. The risk could be related to the remedy itself and any other medicines they are taking," Dr Ursula Werneke, of the Homerton Hospital in London, said in an interview.
In a study of 300 cancer patients at London's Royal Marsden Hospital, Werneke found that more than half took herbal remedies, or supplements, or both.
Eleven percent used more than the recommended dosage and one third of the patients weren't sure why they were taking them, according to the research published in the British Journal of Cancer.
"There is a perception among the public that herbal remedies are harmless because they are herbal or natural. This paper shows a potential for risk and a potential for interaction (with other treatments)," she added.
Earlier research has shown that garlic and cod liver oil may exaggerate the effects of blood-thinning drugs taken by some cancer patients.
St John's Wort, which is used to relieve mild depression, can interfere with hormone treatment, antibiotics and chemotherapy. Echinacea, which effects the immune system, could have a negative impact on some treatments for lymphoma and leukemia.
Werneke advised patients to tell their doctor about any complementary remedies or supplements they are taking and to be aware that herbal medicines might not always be effective.
"Although they are natural, that does not necessarily mean they are harmless," she added.
Evening primrose oil, gingko biloba, echinacea, selenium, cod liver oil and vitamins were the most popular complementary remedies and supplements taken by people in the study.
Professor Robert Souhami of Britain's Cancer Research charity said in a statement: "this research is very valuable in that it indicates more work needs to be done to get a clearer picture about how complementary medicines react with conventional drugs..."
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Tue Jan 20,10:53 AM ET
ROSWELL, N.M. - Visitors to this year's UFO Festival in this eastern New Mexico community will have a chance to step back in time - six decades, to be exact.
The annual event, celebrating the tale of a purported alien spacecraft crash-landing on a Roswell farm in 1947, will have a 1940s theme.
This year's festival is scheduled for July 1 to July 4 and the committee in charge of the event plans to "bring Roswell back to the 1940s," said David Baumann, the operator of Alien Encounter, the alien-themed haunted house on Roswell's main street.
The committee wants to get the whole town involved in the '40s theme. Plans call for employees at motels and restaurants to wear clothing from that era. Radio stations will be asked to play music from the '40s, and the committee is looking at the downtown historic district for a block to use as a model for a 1940s neighborhood.
This year's festival also will include presentations by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar J. Mitchell and noted UFO researcher Stanton Friedman.
Organizers said they expect anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 people to attend the festival.
The event, Baumann said, will provide the city with an opportunity to promote itself as a tourist destination, as well as a good place to do business or retire.
"Roswell's got a lot to offer these people, not just aliens," Baumann said. "We've got a great city here for business, business development and retirement."
For information about Roswell, call (877) 849-7679 or visit
By Peter Fray, Herald Correspondent in London and agencies
January 19, 2004
Doctors, politicians and religious and pressure groups have denounced an announcement by a US doctor that he has beaten the world to implant a cloned human embryo in a woman's womb - and wants more volunteers to join her.
Panos Zavos gave no evidence for his claim, but told a news conference in London he would allow independent DNA testing if the pregnancy was confirmed in the next few weeks.
He said the embryo had come from the immature egg of an infertile 35-year-old woman and a skin cell from her husband. He would not say where the operation was performed, other than that it was not the US, Britain or Europe, nor when, although it was a "very recent event". There was a 30 per cent chance it would produce the world's first verified clone, he said.
The British Government criticised Dr Zavos's announcement and noted the practice was illegal in Britain. The Vatican also denounced the move, while Wolff Reik, a cloning expert at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, said: "My dim view is this man is exploiting the emotional pressures of parents desperate to have children."
Experts say it is scientifically possible for cloning to happen in humans, as it already has in several mammalian species. One described Dr Zavos as a capable and "relatively credible" scientist. But they noted that none of the claims by him or other would-be cloners had so far been verified or subjected to peer review.
Cloning involves taking DNA from the donor - in this case the woman's husband - and implanting it into the egg, which has had its own genetic material removed.
Clonaid, a firm linked to the Raelians UFO sect, says it cloned the first baby about 13 months ago and the baby girl, Eve, is living in Israel.
While Dr Zavos's announcement prompted outrage and scepticism among scientists and moral crusaders,
Arlene Judith Klotzko, a lawyer and bioethicist and the author of a new book, A Clone of Your Own?, to be published this month, said it was "possible he's really done this". She said cloning might one day bring relief to infertile couples, but "so far in animals it has been shown not to be safe".
Monday, January 19, 2004 Posted: 9:48 AM EST (1448 GMT)
BALTIMORE, Maryland (AP) -- It was nearly "nevermore" for French cognac Monday in an annual tribute at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe.
For 56 years, someone has marked the writer's birthday by slinking into the small cemetery where Poe is buried to place French cognac and three roses on his grave in the middle of the night.
This year, however, the mystery visitor included a note with a possible reference to French opposition to the war in Iraq.
"The sacred memory of Poe and his final resting place is no place for French cognac," the note read. "With great reluctance but for respect for family tradition the cognac is place. The memory of Poe shall live evermore!"
Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum in Baltimore, has watched the cemetery every January 19 since 1976. He said he was nervous about making the note public because of its political tone.
"I'm the person that picks the items up," Jerome said. "Is it up to me to interpret these and be the judge of what shouldn't be released or not released? If I do that, then I'm setting myself as a censor."
The black-hooded man appeared just before 3 a.m., walking carefully on the icy cemetery grounds. After placing the roses and a half-filled bottle of cognac on Poe's grave, he slipped into the shadows.
For about a dozen people who waited for the visitor, the anticipation was thrilling.
"It's kind of like Christmas morning," said Bethany Diner of Baltimore. "You know it shows up, but the anticipation and the buildup and how it's going to happen is 10 times more fun."
No one knows the identity of the so-called "Poe Toaster." The visit was first documented in 1949, a century after Poe's death at age 40. For decades, it was the same frail figure.
But in 1993 the original visitor left a cryptic note saying, "The torch will be passed." A later note said the man, who apparently died in 1998, had passed the tradition on to his sons.
It wasn't the first time the note included a topical subject. In 2001, the visitor enraged Baltimore Ravens fans by appearing to back the New York Giants in the upcoming Super Bowl. The Ravens, who take their name from Poe's most famous poem, ended up winning the game.
Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Faith schools work only because they cherry-pick the best pupils
Monday January 19, 2004
You're a parent with a 10-year-old who's starting at secondary school this September, so you've been looking at local schools. In your borough, three out of the four secondary schools are Muslim. You are not a Muslim. Two of them only admit Muslims, though one of them holds out the hope that, if not oversubscribed, (which it generally is) they could give a place to a non-Muslim child if the child attends a Muslim primary school. The third school will take non-Muslims, but only if they demonstrate "an aptitude for the visual arts".
Looking outside the borough, you find another school which seems promising until you discover that it, too, is a Muslim school which requires not only that prospective pupils and their parents have gone to the mosque every week since the start of primary school, but also that parents must sign a statement saying that "they have not applied or taken steps to apply (including the sitting of a selective test) to a non-Muslim school". (Guess that rules out Eton then.)
Does something look wrong? Surely a society where government departments are too tactful to mention Christmas on their greeting cards wouldn't sanction such blatant discrimination? Well, in real life, the schools are Roman Catholic rather than Muslim, but otherwise you're looking at examples of current admission policy in London. (The borough so enthused by Catholicism is Kensington and Chelsea.)
The standard defence of faith schools is that they work. Why single out for criticism one of the few parts of the education system that's delivering the goods? Faith schools dominate the league tables even though they account for only a third of primary schools and just 17% of secondary schools. Well, duh. It's not the power of the religious "ethos" which David Blunkett was so keen to bottle, it's the magic of selection.
The government has been keen to pin the praise (or blame) for school performance on teachers. But, as studies have shown, league table results are closely tied to intake. The apparently exceptional schools which outperform their neighbours almost always turn out to have some kind of intake advantage. As the weary headteacher of an "underperforming" school told the TES - "give me a school full of Asian girls and I too will give you the stars".
Schools which can select (and perhaps more importantly "deselect") their pupils will therefore do better on league table measures than schools which can't. Unlike their community school counterparts, which generally work on distance-to-school criteria, the voluntary-aided faith schools are able to determine their own admission criteria. The flexibility of faith criteria means that they are able to cherry-pick their pupils, selecting children who, a recent report found, "tend to live in higher status neighbourhoods, show lower levels of poverty and have higher levels of attainment". For the faith schools, it's a virtuous circle, for their non-selective neighbours, who see the best local children "cream-skimmed", it's the reverse.
But what about parental choice? Shouldn't parents have the right to choose the kind of education they want for their children? Not necessarily. Choice has almost no meaning so far as school admissions are concerned since you can't have choice unless you have excess supply. Parental choice dissolves into the almost content-free "parental preference" as soon as it comes up against a popular school with more applicants than places.
A second objection is that the state can't and shouldn't be in the business of providing educational choice based on religion. There are too many faiths and too few schools to make it workable. It's noticeable that even those who defend the status quo on the basis that if it works, don't fix it, start to look a little less enthusiastic when faced with the religious apartheid which is the logical conclusion of this policy. (Anyone for state-funded creationism?)
There's no reason why the state, which pays the bills, shouldn't end discriminatory practices in the voluntary aided schools. A school's admission criteria have an impact on the whole community, so it shouldn't be left to individual schools to make up their own rules. Instead, control of admission criteria should be handed over to the LEAs which, working with the recently established local admission forums, would have responsibility for determining the right balance of criteria in their area.
A final thought: if specialist schools are able to maintain a distinctive ethos by selecting 10% of their pupils, why couldn't the same be true of faith schools? If faith schools were able to allocate 10% of their places on the basis of faith, with the remainder determined by distance to school, they could continue to operate as they do now but the choice would be opened up to all local parents. Parents who want a particular faith school would still have that choice; they just wouldn't be able to choose to remove that choice from those who don't share their beliefs.
Lucy Heller is the parent of a 10-year-old
Sunday, January 18, 2004
— Time: 12:05:38 AM EST
By MICHAEL ERB PARKERSBURG - Health care workers, wellness care providers and interested community members gathered Saturday at St. Joseph's Hospital to hear presentations on the healing benefits of energy medicine.
The event was the first in a series of informational gatherings about alternative approaches to health and medicine.
The four-hour gathering drew about 75 participants and featured several speakers with a variety of backgrounds in traditional and alternative medicine. The Healing Art Source, a local organization working in conjunction with the national Wholistic Wellness Network (WWN), sponsored the event.
The event featured speakers William Pettit, medical director for the Sydney Banks Institute for Innate Health and associate professor of behavioral medicine and psychiatry at the West Virginia School of Medicine, and his wife Linda Sandel-Pettit, a spiritual psychologist.
Henri Roca, president and founder of the Baton Rouge, La.-based WWN, discussed the history and uses of energy therapies on the healing process during the featured presentation of "Energy Medicine: Ramifications and Applications."
Energy medicine has often been associated with the more "spiritual aspects" of alternative medicine, he said, but in more recent years the field has become increasingly accepted as a valid aspect of health care and treatment.
"It does include those things that we cannot lay our eyes on directly," Roca said. However, increasingly sensitive equipment and a better understanding of different kinds of energies have allowed physicians and scientists to track energy medicine's effects on the human body, he said.
"All of those things that were just thought of as beliefs we now can measure," Roca said.
Matthew Smith, a local licensed massage therapist and lead facilitator of the Healing Art Source, said he hopes this and other presentations would help people understand some of the practical applications of alternative medicine.
"We want to make alternative medicine more accessible to people," he said.
The practice of "wholistic medicine" has become increasingly mainstream in recent years. When combined with more traditional medicines, Smith said wholistic treatments can lift spirits, speed recovery times or help ensure good health through attitude and lifestyle changes.
The difference between "wholistic" medicine and the better known "holistic" medicine is a philosophical one.
"Holistic is derived from 'holy.' It has a more spiritual, religious basis," Smith said. "Wholistic is more about the 'whole' person ... body, mind and spirit."
Wholistic medicine is designed to "treat the individual and the underlying causes," physically, mentally and spiritually, Smith said. Whereas traditional medicine works to alleviate symptoms, "wholistic" medicine seeks out the root cause of an ailment.
Each style of medicine has its own strengths and weaknesses, Smith said, but can achieve amazing results when used in tandem.
"They've kind of looked at each other suspiciously for too long now," he said. "We want to have the best of both to build a bridge between the two."
Smith said wholistic medicine include massage therapy, chiropractic care and counseling and nutrition, as well as alternative energy-based therapies.
"Alternative medicines are becoming more prevalent because research shows people who treat themselves and take care of themselves before they get sick spend less time and money on hospitalization and medication," he said.
Healing Art Sources will be holding more alternative medicine presentations every Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at St. Joseph's.
The group also will sponsor the presentation "Coyote Behind the Moon" at the hospital Feb. 21.
More information is available by contacting Therese Stephens at (304) 679-3585, Matthew Smith at (304) 615-2955 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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By Tom Vail
Excerpted from "Grand Canyon: A Different View," compiled
by Tom Vail.
The Grand Canyon is an awesome display of God's creation. Carved through layers of limestone, sandstone, shale, schist, and granite, this great chasm stretches 277 miles through the Colorado Plateau. It descends over a mile into the earth and extends as much as 18 miles in width. The Canyon holds within its walls mountains that are taller than anything east of the Mississippi River. Grand Canyon National Park encompasses both Marble Canyon and Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is also a place to find and explore the wonders of His creation. When viewed from a biblical perspective, the Canyon has "God" written all over it, from the splendor and grandeur of the Canyon walls, to the intelligent design of the Creator displayed in the creatures that inhabit this magical place.
Not only is the Canyon a testimony to creation, but it also presents evidence of God's judgment of the world, as told in the book of Genesis. It was a judgment by water of a world broken by the sin of man known as "the Fall." (See the Genesis account of the Days of Creation, the Fall, and the Flood on pages 10-11.) The Canyon gives us a glimpse of the effects of a catastrophic global flood, as well as an appreciation for the scale of the biblical Flood of Noah's day. And yet, at the same time, we see God's handiwork in the beauty and majesty of the earth that we live in today.
Visitors to the Grand Canyon generally find it to be awe inspiring, but at the same time, too overwhelming to be fully understood on its own, for the Canyon can't tell us about itself. As humans, we tend to ask two questions as we view this vast, mysterious hole in the ground: how and why. With the help of some of the top creation scientists and theologians from around the world, we hope to at least scratch the surface of these questions and provide you with some resources to "dig deeper" if you wish.
If we visit the Canyon, or read the prevailing interpretive literature about it, we will find that the views presented are predominantly based on evolutionary theories. For the Canyon, this means that the rock layers were laid down a particle at a time over literally hundreds of millions of years and that the Canyon was later carved slowly by the Colorado River. These theories tend to deny God's involvement and often His very existence.
As you read this book, you will see that we look at the Canyon from a biblical worldview. With that in mind, there is one basic premise, or framework, used as a starting point. That premise is: the Bible, in its original form, is the inerrant Word of God. Therefore, there are three truths that should be clarified. First, in Genesis a "day" is a day, which means a literal 24-hour period of time (technically a "solar day" which is approximately 24 hours). Genesis 1:5 says "… And there was evening and there was morning, one day." Second, there was no death before sin. The first death came as a result of initial sin in Genesis 3:21: "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them." And third, Noah's flood was an actual historical global event. Genesis 7:19-20 says, "The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits [about 20 feet] higher, and the mountains were covered."
If we accept those truths, then Scripture tells us that God created the heavens and earth, and everything in them in six literal days. Based on the lineages laid out in the Bible and other historical documents, this occurred about 6,000 years ago. The vast majority of the sedimentary layers we see in the Grand Canyon, and in the rest of the world for that matter, were deposited as the result of a global flood that occurred after, and ultimately as a result of, the initial sin that took place in the Garden of Eden. And the fossils found in the rock layers are remnants of the plants and animals that perished in the Flood.
Other interpretations – that there was a "gap" early in Genesis 1, that creation days were "long periods of time," or that it was just a "local flood"--are compromise positions, compromises made in an attempt to fit man's fallible ideas into what God has told us in His Word. Deuteronomy 4:2 says, "You shall not add to the Word which I am commanding you…" Unfortunately, these compromises do just that. They add to God's Word in an effort to fit man's millions-of-years evolutionary theories into the Bible. This compromise in turn calls into question the authority of Scripture, beginning in the first verse of Genesis right through the last verse of Revelation.
Some will say that the age of the earth is not important, that it is a "non-essential," but what is vital is a belief in and a personal relationship with the living God. To some degree that is true. The gates to heaven will not be closed to us for believing in millions of years. But it is important! Why? Because adding millions of years to the Bible undermines the authority of the Word of God. If we can't believe the accounts of Genesis, which are foundational to the entire Bible, why would we believe the rest to be truth? If the Word doesn't really mean "in six days," then maybe it doesn't really mean "thou shall not…"
Realize also that the age of the earth is the cornerstone of evolution. Without an earth that is millions of years old, the entire molecules-to-man theory of evolution falls apart. Without millions of years of supposed mutations and adaptations, lizards can't grow feathers and "learn" to fly. Without millions of years, the human eye, with all its complexities, does not have time to evolve. Without millions of years, man is then forced to consider a Creator, a Creator to whom he just may be accountable.
The evolutionist will read this and say, "That is just a religious point of view." Not true. It is a worldview. Religion, as defined in the dictionary, is "any system of belief, practices, ethical values, etc…. (humanism is a religion)." By that definition, both humanism and evolution are as much a religion as Christianity. They are all systems of belief. The issue at hand is not what "religion" we believe in, but rather how it affects our view of the world in which we live.
Both groups, the evolutionists and the creationists, look at the same data, only from a different perspective or worldview. The creationist assumes a young earth as God's Word indicates, versus the evolutionist who assumes an earth millions of years old based on man's theories. When we break down the two theories of how the Grand Canyon was formed, it seems that the biggest difference is the amount of time and water. The evolutionists' view is that a little bit of water eroded the Canyon over a long period of time through hard rock. The creationists' view is that a whole lot of water over a relatively short amount of time cut the Canyon through the still "soft" rock layers laid down by the Flood. But the bigger difference is in how the layers were formed in the first place. Was it millions of years of slow, particle-at-a-time deposition, or catastrophic deposition during a global flood?
What it really comes down to is whether we put our faith in the book given to us by God, or in the books written by man.
May you find this look at the Grand Canyon, from A Different View, to be a blessing and a window into His world.
Sun 18 January, 2004 15:04
"Since it has not been two weeks since we transferred the embryo, we are waiting for the results of the pregnancy"
Dr Panos Zavos
By Mike Peacock
LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have received the news that a human embryo has been cloned into a woman with a large dose of scepticism and are challenging the maverick fertility expert to prove it.
U.S.-based Dr Panos Zavos said on Sunday some secrecy had to be maintained in his work and he stood by his announcement that he had transplanted the embryo into a 35-year-old-woman less than two weeks ago.
The claim bore a striking resemblance to an announcement made last year by the Raelian Movement -- a cult that believes life on Earth was engineered by visitors from outer space -- saying it had produced the world's first cloned human.
It never came up with any scientific evidence but managed to whip up huge publicity around the world.
Scientists are now throwing down a similar gauntlet to Zavos, urging him to publish his results so they can be reviewed by experts.
"Like most scientists and doctors I remain extremely sceptical of the claims," said Bob Ward from the Royal Society, Britain's main academy of science.
Zavos told BBC radio he had worked in the reproductive arena for 25 years or more and had "delivered everything that he said that he would".
"We have to maintain some secrecy in our work," Zavos said. Why? Because a lot of people would like to know where we are, what we do and reveal everything."
Sceptics point to similar claims, like the Raelian Movement, that have fizzled out as no evidence has been forthcoming.
Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori, a former colleague of Zavos, said nearly two years ago that three women were pregnant with clones. He too produced no evidence but became a household name in Italy following his claims.
Peter Braude, a fertility expert at King's College London said: "Zavos does not represent mainstream science and what and his colleagues are doing is seeking publicity rather than advancing science."
"It is highly unlikely that he has successfully made a cloned human embryo," Professor Chris Higgins of Britain's Medical Research Council said of Zavos. "So far he has produced no data at all."
Even Zavos admitted the chances of the woman's pregnancy going to term were slim. He said he would continue until he was successful and was looking for more volunteers.
British Health Secretary John Reid denounced the claim and pointed out that cloning a child was illegal in Britain, while the Vatican condemned it as immoral.
Last October, Zavos said he was only weeks away from implanting a cloned embryo in a surrogate mother but leading fertility experts dismissed the claim.
Saturday January 17, 2004
By Dayna Harpster
Sylvia Browne doesn't believe in death.
If she did, the 68-year-old psychic would have a hard time explaining a career built almost entirely on communicating with the spirits of so-called "dead" people.
The Campbell, Calif., church that Browne founded in 1986 -- Novus Spiritus -- embraces spiritual eclecticism, including the old-time religion of the Spiritualist church, which has among its beliefs that the living can communicate with people whose bodies have been buried, cremated or otherwise put to rest.
That belief is shared by growing numbers of people from a variety of religious backgrounds, according to national polls. In 2001, the Gallup Organization noted that half or more of Americans believe in psychic or spiritual healing and extrasensory perception, while 28 percent believe in spirit communication -- "talk" between dead and living people through mediums, seances, electrical signals (flashing lights, phones ringing), physical changes (doors shutting, pennies appearing), even hearing a person's voice or smelling a perfume. That's 10 percent more than in 1990.
In addition, a Harris poll last year showed that 27 percent of Americans believe they have been reincarnated, 82 percent believe in heaven and 62 percent think they're bound for that happy afterlife. Only 1 percent think they're headed for hell.
Browne, who taught English and theology to Catholic eighth graders for 17 years, said in a phone interview that lately, interest in psychic matters "has just boomed." At 68, she has been involved in the paranormal for 50 years, having written or co-written more than two dozen books, most of them best sellers. Five have reached No. 1 on the New York Times list.
The field has always had followers, but rather than coming from the theological fringe they're marching in from the mainstream, too. Browne, who will present a workshop on "Visits From the Afterlife" here Sunday, says there is no such thing as a "typical" client who comes to her for a reading or enrolls in one of her seminars.
"I do know that I'm getting an awful lot of young people now," Browne said. "I do try to tell them to think for themselves. Please just love God and be good. Find your own spiritual center."
Browne preaches the power of intuition: "You know what you know," she said, and can trust and improve access to this knowledge. With her, it's "infused knowledge," or a rush of images that quickly come to mind, usually when she is asked a question. She considers herself a "tube" through which information passes.
As people who watch her weekly on "Montel" and twice monthly on "Larry King Live" would attest, she is matter-of-fact when telling a caller that, for instance, the man in white that he saw at a car accident was an angel, or that a woman's health problems have something to do with her thyroid. Her approach is no-nonsense and maternal.
"How is your stomach? That acidity problem?" she asks an interviewer who does, in fact, have heartburn daily. "You've got to give up dairy, honey," she said.
In addition to regular appearances on television, she tours in support of her books, including the most recent, "Visits from the Afterlife: The Truth About Hauntings, Spirits, and Reunions with Lost Loved Ones."
With the workshop and all of her books, Browne's goal -- her calling, she believes -- is to teach others to use their own abilities for insight. "Everybody's psychic," she said, "but I don't think everybody is a psychic. Everybody has intuitive feelings from time to time. I just happen to have them all the time."
Browne says that 300 years of her family's history turned out a great many people like her, leading her to believe she has inherited abilities.
"My grandmother was psychic. So was her mother's mother," she said. "But I have been the only one to put myself through a battery of psychological tests. I put myself through everything. Because how do I know? We could have been 300 years' worth of schizophrenics."
She emerged with no diagnosis, she said, just an intuitive ability that the tests acknowledged but could not explain. She also sees these qualities in her son and her granddaughter.
To see for themselves, clients can wait up to three years for a private reading. And finding out the name of a spirit guide or which entity keeps making the telephone ring may be pricey: Consultation by phone with Browne may cost as much as $700.
Why so expensive?
"I employ 150 people. I have a church, and tremendous overhead," Browne said. Those people include ministers who counsel callers (for free) on life problems, clerks who retrieve e-mail, run offices, make appointments. "My phone bill alone would keep three families in business."
About costs and other things, Browne has her critics. Some Christians condemn her for a lack of emphasis on Jesus; some traditional Catholics consider her work forbidden by their religion. People of various backgrounds consider her a "fraud."
Are there frauds in her field?
"Are you kidding?" Browne said. "There are fake everything. Fake reporters, fake doctors, fake mediums. These Madam So-and-So's with the flashing hands."
How does she respond to those who put her in this category?
"I don't care," said Browne. "I'm not trying to convert anybody."
. . . . . . .
Staff writer Dayna Harpster can be reached at email@example.com or at (504) 826-3444.
VISITS FROM THE AFTERLIFE
WITH SYLVIA BROWNE
Where: Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts.
When: 2-4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: Range from $39.99 to $199.99, and were still available at press time.
ADDENDUM BY JAMES RANDI:
On September 3, 2001, Sylvia Browne agreed on the protocol for a definitive test
for the JREF million-dollar challenge, on Larry King Live. This shows the number
of days that have passed since her acceptance. It has been 1048 days since she
first agreed to take the test!
Fri January 16, 2004 10:25 AM ET
HELSINKI (Reuters) - A service promising to answer people's prayers with a text message apparently sent by Jesus has been shut down after complaints by Finland's mobile services watchdog.
The heavenly service offered answers from Jesus in response to a text message prayer at the cost of a hefty 1.20 euros ($1.52) per message, but lasted less than a month.
"These kinds of services are against basic norms," Ville Nurmi, ombudsman for Finland's mobile content watchdog MAPEL, told Reuters on Friday.
Finland's Mobile G Host transmitted the messages, but declined to name the company that provided the replies from "Jesus." Chief Executive Marko Hakala said the service had been axed as soon as he discovered what was being offered.
He declined to say how many prayers had been received, but added: "This was no gold mine... It seems you can't interest people in everything."
The Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat tested the service before it was shut down. It sent a prayer of desperation which was answered thus: "Remember: unless you follow God's will much better than priests and pharaohs, you will not be allowed into the heavenly kingdom."
January 14, 2004
By NICHOLAS WADE
A gene that helps determine the size of the human brain has been under intense Darwinian pressure in the last few million years, changing its structure 15 times since humans and chimps separated from their common ancestor, biologists have found.
The gene came to light two years ago, when a disrupted form of it was identified as the cause of microcephaly, a disease in which people are born with an abnormally small cerebral cortex.
Dr. Bruce T. Lahn and fellow geneticists at the University of Chicago have decoded the DNA sequence of the gene in apes, monkeys and people and have identified the changes caused by the pressure exerted by natural selection. Most of the other changes in DNA units generally make no difference to the protein specified by the gene, and evolutionary forces are neutral to them.
The gene, known as the ASPM gene, has been under steady selective pressure throughout the evolution of the great apes, a group that includes orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and humans, Dr. Lahn and colleagues say in an article being published today in the journal Human Molecular Genetics. By contrast, the versions of the gene possessed by monkeys, dogs, cats and cows show no particular sign of being under selective pressure.
The progressive change in the architecture of the ASPM protein over the last 18 million years is correlated with a steady increase in the size of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher cognitive function, during the ape and human lineage. Evolution has been particularly intense in the five million years since humans split from chimpanzees.
"There has been a sweep every 300,000 to 400,000 years, with the last sweep occurring between 200,000 and 500,000 years ago," Dr. Lahn said, referring to a genetic change so advantageous that it sweeps through a population, endowing everyone with the same improved version of a gene.
But since the last sweep, the gene seems to have been kept stable by what geneticists call purifying selection, the removal of any change that makes a significant difference to the gene's protein product, according to an independent study by Dr. Jianzhi Zhang, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Michigan. Dr. Zhang's report was published last month in the journal Genetics.
Early hominids like Australopithecus africanus, which lived some three million years ago, had a brain that weighed about 420 grams (15 ounces); modern human brains range from 1,350 to 1,450 grams, an increase that Dr. Zhang calls "one of the most rapid morphological changes in evolution." The brain of a typical patient with microcephaly is the same weight as that of an australopithecus, Dr. Zhang noted, as if disruption of the gene negated three million years of development.
Disruption of the ASPM gene was identified as a cause of microcephaly two years ago by Dr. Geoffrey Woods, a British pediatrician, and Dr. Christopher Walsh, a neurogeneticist at the Harvard Medical School. Their finding instantly caught the interest of evolutionary geneticists.
At least five other genes, yet to be identified, can cause microcephaly when disrupted by a mutation, so ASPM is not the only determinant of human brain size. But given what is now known about its evolutionary history, it does seem to be an important one. It acts during fetal development to prescribe the number of cells in the future cerebral cortex.
Most human genes exist as families of similar members, formed when one gene gets accidentally duplicated one or several times. The ASPM gene is "almost unique," Dr. Walsh wrote by e-mail, because in all known animal genomes, it has resisted the usual duplication events and been maintained as a single copy. Single-copy genes can cause serious disease if disrupted by mutation. But their advantage, in terms of evolution, is that "you only have to edit them once to create a lasting change," Dr. Walsh said.
Evidently, the ASPM gene has been heavily edited, but with an apparently fortunate result.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
Residents of a town in eastern India have performed Hindu religious rituals to ward off evil spirits which they believe have been raining stones on them.
The Telegraph of Calcutta reports scared residents of Jaiprakash Nagar won't venture out into the streets after sunset as it rains stones for two hours.
One said: "Some of us have performed puja in our houses to ward off the evil spirit, which, we believe, is behind the phenomenon. Some of us are making regular trips to Golpahari temple to offer prayers."
Some of the locals who reported the matter to the police last week suspect anti-social elements could be behind the stone rain, but preliminary investigations by officers have not yielded any leads.
Awadh Bihar Tiwari, a teacher at a local college, said: "I thought this was the work of some mischievous youths trying to take people for a ride. But now, I feel an evil spirit is behind the act. I am planning to consult a witchdoctor."
Sambhu Singh, a trader, said: "I have incurred a loss of about 2,000 rupees (£23) in the last fortnight as I have to close my grocery shop right after sunset."
Police spokesman SN Singh said: "We are trying to trace the culprits and we will definitely catch them in a few days."
Story filed: 11:23 Wednesday 14th January 2004
A Belgian soothsayer has panicked car plant staff by predicting that 800 workers will be laid off this year.
Many are taking Irena Leavens' prediction seriously because she accurately warned that Ford would make workers redundant at the plant in Genk last year, reports Algemeen Dagblad.
Some 3,000 workers lost their jobs at Genk last year but Ford say no more job losses are planned and dismissed Ms Leavens' forecast.
But Ludo Copermans, of the Christian Trade Union, said some employees were still worried because the soothsayer said she had read the cards carefully and was certain she was right.
Story filed: 10:43 Wednesday 14th January 2004
A Kenyan government official has ordered the arrest of exorcists following claims that they are being used to break the "evil eyes" spell.
The Coast Provincial Commissioner, Mr Cyrus Maina, says since Sunday exorcists have been storming homes of those they suspect to be under the spell and unearthing what they claim to be witchcraft equipment.
During the ritual, they bite off chickens' heads and let blood stream from their mouths and down their chests. They then smear the blood on their faces. The exorcists also strip their clients naked and smear their bodies with chicken blood.
The Coast Provincial Commissioner also described exorcism as a "very horrifying act" and, by law, an offence.
Mr Maina says those practising witchcraft and exorcism were purporting to have supernatural powers. He says the claim is illegal. He has warned that it is an offence to brand a person a witch or a wizard. "Lives have been lost in Kilifi, Kwale and Malindi through witchcraft," he said, reports All Africa.com.
Religious leaders have also condemned witchcraft and exorcism. Sheikh Mohamed Khalif of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya said Islam did not allow witchcraft, which he described as retrogressive.
Mombasa Anglican bishop Julius Kalu said the Bible was against the practices as they caused fear among the people. He warned residents against evil deeds, saying there were no people called exorcists. "You cannot send a devil to catch a devil," he added.
The anti-witchcraft crackdown is due to hit a climax on Thurdsay when exorcists promise to exhume three skulls from a home.
Story filed: 16:33 Wednesday
SUPERSOLID, QUANTUM CRYSTAL, A BOSE-EINSTEIN CONDENSATE IN SOLID FORM---all of these expressions apply to a weird substance observed in a Penn State experiment in which a solid made of helium-4 atoms appears to behave like a superfluid. Moses Chan and Eun-Seong Kim look for signs of bizarre quantum behavior in a tiny disk hung from a slender rod. The disk is filled with a porous glassy material (Vycor), into which helium-4 atoms are inserted. Then the sample is chilled down to a temperature of 2 K and subjected to a pressure of 63 atmospheres. This turns the helium into a solid. The disk containing the now-solid helium residing within the spongelike Vycor is set in motion. The disk gently oscillates like a pendulum and its resonant frequency is recorded. Next the helium-filled disk is cooled further. Below a temperature of about 175 mK a phase change seems to occur. Without losing its status as a solid, the helium now acts like a superfluid. Evidence for this consists in the lowering of the resonant frequency. The oscillation will shift (its spring constant changes) depending on the mechanical property of the disk, and below the special temperature there is an abrupt drop in the rotational inertia of the solid. The solid behaves like a superfluid.
It is one thing to visualize a superfluid gliding frictionlessly through the porous Vycor, another thing to imagine a solid moving in this way. How can one solid (the helium) pass through another solid (the Vycor), however porous it might be? Moses Chan (firstname.lastname@example.org) invokes quantum theory to explain what might be going on in the sample. The motion of the supersolid is facilitated by the fact that at very low temperatures atoms in a solid still possess a certain minimum amount of motion, allowed to them by the quantum uncertainty principle. For lightweight atoms like helium, this "zero-point energy" is even larger, and in the porous Vycor, there are lots of vacancies into which helium atoms can shuttle, courtesy of the quantum fluctuations. The quantum way of looking at the crystal of He-4 atoms is to say that they are governed by a single wave function, just as vapor atoms cooled to a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) form participate in a single quantum state. The Penn State researchers look for alternative explanations by performing lots of control tests---with an empty disk, with disks filled with helium-3 (the solid effect goes away), and with helium-4 samples with helium-3 admixtures---without altering the supersolid interpretation. (Nature, 15 January 2004.)
COLOR GLASS CONDENSATE (CGC) is the name for an extreme form of nuclear matter that may have been created in recent experiments at Brookhaven's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). At this week's Quark Matter 2004 conference in Oakland, California, experimentalists presented possible preliminary evidence for this novel state of matter. While nuclear physicists are debating the evidence for a CGC, the concept itself is an accepted, if evolving, theoretical idea that may describe a universal form of matter at high energies. In RHIC experiments, researchers ordinarily collide a beam of gold ions with another beam of gold ions. But during the first quarter of 2003, they studied the collision of gold ions with deuterons, nuclei which each consist of a proton and neutron. They used a deuteron beam precisely to avoid making the coveted quark-gluon plasma (QGP), the hypothetical soup of individual quarks and gluons that the RHIC researchers hope to recreate in their future experiments. They do this in order to better observe the CGC state, which many believe would be a precursor to QGP So what is a color glass condensate? According to Einstein's special theory of relativity, when a nucleus travels at near-light (relativistic) speed, it flattens like a pancake in its direction of motion. Also, the high energy of an accelerated nucleus may cause it to spawn a large number of gluons, the particles that hold together its quarks. These factors--relativistic effects and the proliferation of gluons--may transform a spherelike nucleus into a flattened "wall" made mostly of gluons. This wall, 50-1000 times more dense than ordinary nuclei, is the CGC (see www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/2003/colorglasscondensate-background.htm for a letter-by-letter explanation of the CGC's name). How does the gluon glass relate to the much sought quark-gluon plasma? The QGP might get formed when two CGC's collide.
Reporting their gold-deuteron data at the Quark Matter conference, researchers in the BRAHMS collaboration (Jens Jorgen Gaardhoje, email@example.com) observed fewer-than-usual high-momentum particles emitted transverse (sideways) to the direction of the collision. According to Gaardhoje, the data, which includes BRAHMS's ability to detect particles at small angles to the beam, provided evidence that the deuteron nucleus formed a CGC. Meanwhile, the PHOBOS collaboration (Gunther Roland, MIT, firstname.lastname@example.org) confirms the experimental effect seem by BRAHMS, though Roland cautions that direct calculations that confront the CGC theory with the observed effect need to be performed. According to Brookhaven theorist Larry McLerran (email@example.com), the BRAHMS and PHOBOS observations provide evidence for this new state of matter. However, Columbia theorist Miklos Gyulassy (firstname.lastname@example.org), disagrees. BRAHMS spokesperson Gaardhoje points out there are conflicting theoretical views, but considers the suppressed production of high-momentum particles to be "a necessary feature" of a CGC. Whether it is sufficient evidence is another story, he says, and the next RHIC runs should provide further insights. Nonetheless, Gyulassy believes that CGC is a valid concept and that the RHIC researchers should actively search for signs of it, just as they continue to try to create and study the QGP (which, incidentally, he believes RHIC has already produced--see Update 642). (Gaardhoje adds that evidence for the existence of a CGC state has already appeared in electron-positron collisions at HERA in Germany.) According to McLerran, the CGC has the potential to explain many things in high-energy nuclear physics such as the mechanisms by which particles are produced in nuclear collisions as well as the distribution of gluons inside nuclei. (For more information, see Brookhaven news release at www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/2003/bnlpr122203.htm )
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