NTS LogoSkeptical News for 3 February 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Perdue tries both ways on 'evolution'

http://www.ajc.com/tuesday/content/epaper/editions/tuesday/metro_04f1342791d422f300b3.html

Colin Campbell - Staff
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

It's too soon to describe in detail how the fundamentalists and their appeasers attempted to hijack Georgia's biology curriculum. All we know for sure yet is that state officials met, heard that "evolution" was a no-no and, suddenly, the word vanished from what the state expects its students to learn.

Great hunks of related science and biology also vanished, including the concept of natural selection and the multibillion-year age of the Earth. The name Darwin wasn't obliterated, exactly, but he did get demoted: In the real world of science, Darwin is a giant; but in the backward-rushing world of Georgia education, he's just another scientific thinker, along with Lamarck, who became a byword for faulty theorizing.

Kathy Cox, the state's elected superintendent of schools, has said she takes full responsibility for the proposed changes. But her candor cries out for more. Who are Cox's experts on evolution? Why precisely does she feel the word excites fears in Georgia that "we're going to be teaching the monkeys-to-man sort of thing"? Does the same fear explain why she (or somebody) also deleted much larger pieces of evolutionary science from the proposed curriculum?

These are questions that need answers.

Meanwhile, where does Gov. Sonny Perdue stand on all this? So far, the signs are mixed at best.

The governor evidently feels there's a place for creationism in the schools. (In biology classes? Not clear.) The governor said soon after he was elected that he had "no problem" with kids being taught creationism, evolution and other theories but that local school districts should decide.

Last Thursday, Perdue said he trusted Cox and the Board of Education. "The superintendent," Perdue said, "is perfectly capable of making those kinds of curriculum decisions."

Then on Saturday the governor told a reporter that using the word "evolution" was OK and even desirable, but "there ought to be a balance." Perdue said he was concerned about teachers who go beyond teaching evolution as a "theory" and "teach it as a proven fact. . . . I think we need to have academic freedom, but we need to have academic balance as well."

On Monday, I tried to phone Perdue but got through only to his spokesman, Dan McLagan. I told McLagan that Perdue's call for "balance" was hard to distinguish from the creationists' agenda. Knowing that the courts won't ban evolution, many politically active creationists have borrowed a leaf from the book of tolerance and rationality, and they've asked for "equal time" and "choice" and "balance" --- including the teaching of creationism and "intelligent design" in science classes. Did the governor know this when he called for "balance"?

McLagan equivocated.

Pressed for Perdue's own views on evolution, McLagan said the governor understands that evolution is "the basis for our modern biology." But when asked whether Perdue agrees that the Earth is over 4 billion years old, McLagan replied that he didn't know.

The question is relevant because the likely age of the Earth (one of the benchmarks in biology recommended by the American Association for the Advancement of Science) has been censored from the state's proposed curriculum.

Clearly, the governor is trying to have it both ways. This is leadership?

Colin Campbell's column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

ccampbell@ajc.com

© 2004 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

SOUL-SEARCHING QUESTION

http://www.sunspot.net/news/health/bal-te.gram02feb02,0,7721707.story?coll=bal-home-headlines

from The Baltimore Sun

21 grams.

It's the weight of five nickels, a chocolate bar, a hummingbird - and, according to the acclaimed movie of the same name, the amount of weight we lose at the precise moment we die, perhaps as the soul escapes the body.

Chalk the idea up to urban legend, because doctors say there's no modern physiological evidence of the phenomenon. But there is, it turns out, a historical basis for the claim - albeit one based on scientifically flawed experiments.

Tucked away in a 1907 journal called American Medicine is the story of Dr. Duncan MacDougall of Haverhill, Mass., who postulated that the soul had substance and, therefore, a measurable mass.

To test his hypothesis, MacDougall did something that would be unthinkable today: He placed six terminal patients on a specially designed bed built on a scale and weighed them as they lived their last hours. His first subject was dying of tuberculosis.

"The patient's comfort was looked after in every way, although he was practically moribund when placed upon the bed," MacDougall wrote. "He lost weight slowly at the rate of one ounce per hour due to evaporation of moisture in respiration and evaporation of sweat.

" ... At the end of the three hours and forty minutes, he expired and suddenly coincident with death the beam end [of the scale] dropped with an audible stroke, hitting against the lower limiting bar and remaining there with no rebound. The loss was ascertained to be three-fourths of an ounce."

Or 21.262142347500003 grams.

MacDougall claimed that the weight loss couldn't have come from moisture evaporating because he had accounted for that. The patient hadn't moved his bowels, he said, and his bladder "evacuated one or two drams of urine," which remained on the bed.

Also, MacDougall asserted, the drop wasn't from the loss of left-over air in the lungs, because the doctor and a colleague each got on the bed, strenuously inhaled and exhaled, and saw no change in the scale.

"Is it the soul substance? How other shall we explain it?" he concluded.

Three other expiring patients MacDougall studied over the course of several years also lost weight - either a half-ounce or three-eighths of an ounce - which he said couldn't be explained.

MacDougall discarded results from two more patients, one because of problems with the scale and outside interference, the other because the patient died within five minutes of being placed on the bed and MacDougall wasn't ready.

"I am aware that a large number of experiments would require to be made before the matter can be proved beyond any possibility of error," MacDougall wrote, "but if further and sufficient experimentation proves that there is a loss of substance occurring at death and not accounted for by known channels of loss, the establishment of such a truth cannot fail to be of the utmost importance."

Though it's unclear whether anyone tried to reproduce his work, it is unlikely. MacDougall tried the experiment with 15 dogs - he had to drug them to keep them from struggling - and recorded no loss of weight at death.

Canines aside, Ronn Wade has been pondering such deep questions all his life - or at least since the age of 7, when he began helping his father, a mortician, embalm dead bodies.

As director of the Maryland Anatomy Board, Wade oversees the state's body donor program. As head of the anatomical services division at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, he prepares bodies used by doctors and doctors-in-training in the name of science.

According to the laws of physics, he points out, energy is never lost, it just changes forms. So if the spirit is a kind of energy, what happens to it?

"It's one of those metaphysical questions that hard science doesn't have an answer to," said Wade, who hasn't seen 21 Grams, in part because he prefers reading to film.

He wonders how MacDougall determined the exact moment of death. After all, there's physical death, brain death, cellular death and legal death - the definition of which can differ from state to state. But he understands the Massachusetts doctor's interest in the matter.

"We try to overcome death in a lot of ways. We deny death in a lot of ways," he said. "No one really wants to think when you're dead, you're dead, you're dead. That's human nature."

Author Mary Roach, who included a section on MacDougall in her book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, said that he was a prominent physician and an upstanding member of his community. "He must have been," she said, "in order to convince people at this sanitarium to do this."

MacDougall didn't intend to go public with his experiment until he was finished, Roach said, but somehow the news leaked to the press. No one thought much of his work - then or now - although accounts were published, including one in The New York Times with the headline "Soul Has Weight, Physician Thinks."

"Personally, I think it's kind of just preposterous to imagine that the soul is a weighable entity subject to the laws of gravity," said Roach, who is working on another book about science's attempt to prove the existence of the soul. "It's like, 'Huh?' Where is it in the body? If it had affected the scale, it would have just gone 'clunk' on the floor."

As far as Wade is concerned, the afterlife is a tricky thing.

"My real feeling is, the legacy that we leave behind is the impact we've had on other people," he said. "How do you weigh that?"

Sun staff researcher Sarah Gehring contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun

Georgia schools shouldn't drop 'evolution,' Carter says

http://www.dallasnews.com/s/dws/news/nation/stories/013104dnnatevolution.13ae7.html

He says ban on word would subject state to 'nationwide ridicule'

08:00 PM CST on Friday, January 30, 2004
Associated Press

ATLANTA – Former President Jimmy Carter on Friday called a push to remove the word "evolution" from Georgia's school curriculum an embarrassment, saying it exposes the state to nationwide ridicule.

"As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox's attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia's students," Mr. Carter, a native of Plains, Ga., said in a statement.

Ms. Cox, a Republican elected in 2002, said Thursday that the proposal for new middle and high school science standards would ban references to "evolution" and replace them with the term "biological changes over time."

She repeatedly referred to evolution as a negative "buzzword" and said it was removed, in part, to alleviate pressure on teachers in socially conservative areas where parents object to its teaching.

"We respect his opinion, as we do the opinions of all citizens of Georgia," Cox spokesman Kirk Englehardt said Friday. "We would also like to make sure that President Carter, as well as the rest of Georgia's citizens, understands that we're not imposing a ban on evolution from textbooks or the classroom."

Five states – Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma – have no references to evolution in their state school curriculums, according to the National Center for Science Education.

Mr. Carter, a Democrat who served as Georgia's governor before being elected president in 1976, said the debate will hurt the reputation of Georgia's schools.

"Nationwide ridicule of Georgia's public school system will be inevitable if this proposal is adopted," he said.

Mr. Carter, a Baptist, said that existing references to evolution in curriculum have done nothing to damage religion in the state.

"There can be no incompatibility between Christian faith and proven facts concerning geology, biology and astronomy," he said. "There is no need to teach that stars can fall out of the sky and land on a flat Earth in order to defend our religious faith."


Monday, February 02, 2004

Denying Evolution Is Denying Biology

February 2, 2004

To the Editor:

Re "Georgia Takes On `Evolution' as `Monkeys to Man' Idea" (news article, Jan. 30):

I have always been amazed at the ability of the Christian right to bully educators into diluting the teaching of evolution and promoting so-called creation science in public school classrooms. I suspect that part of the reason for this is a misappreciation of the importance of evolution by the general public.

Evolution is not an isolated concept that can be expediently omitted from a high-school biology syllabus. Rather, it is the single unifying concept of modern biology. It unites all areas of biology, from ecology to physiology to biochemistry and beyond. Without it, students are denied a framework to understand how these different areas are related and interdependent.

Can you imagine asking a physics teacher to cover everything except Newton's laws?

Maybe soon a small group of reactionaries will persuade a school board to teach students that apples do not fall to earth because of gravity, but because of some mystical phenomenon that can neither be studied nor understood.

ALBERT E. PRICE

New Haven, Jan. 30, 2004

The writer is a research fellow, department of cell biology, Yale University School of Medicine.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/02/opinion/L02EVOL.html?ex=1076703853&ei=1&en=b8782311211a2b4d

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 671 January 30, 2004 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

HALFWAY ACROSS ON THE BEC-BCS PRAIRIE. Researchers in Colorado have discovered a new form of atomic matter, a fermionic condensate unlike anything seen before. To approach this conceptually-difficult but physics-rich topic, we will proceed in several parts: providing a quantum background, defining the word "degeneracy," summarizing the new atomic state, and finally assessing the advantages of the new state.

1. Quantum background. In exploring the exotic landscape of quantum gases, physicists have lavished much attention on bosonic atoms (atoms whose total spin has an integer value, such as 0 or 1 or 2). In 1995 scientists succeeded in cooling (bosonic) atoms so that in a quantum sense the atoms began to overlap, at which point they really could not be distinguished and had, in effect, become part of a single quantum entity called Bose Einstein condensate (BEC). Fermions (possessing half-integer spins, such as 1/2 or 3/2 or 9/2), whether elementary particles like electrons and quarks, or whole atoms (and in determining whether an atom is a boson or fermion one has to add up the spins of all its constituent protons, neutrons, and electrons), do not act like bosons. The Pauli exclusion principle dictates that no two identical fermions may occupy the same quantum state. Most of chemistry here on Earth and elsewhere is dictated by the simple Pauli rule: electrons fill atomic orbitals in such a way that no two electrons have exactly the same quantum values. Partially filled orbitals determine what kind of chemical affinity that atom will have. Note that fermion atoms are not precluded from interacting in ordinary chemical reactions (the atoms have differing nuclear and electronic internal configurations). But they may not enter into an extensive BEC kind of quantum condensate where the atoms do possess the same quantum attributes.

2. Degeneracy. Pauli is on duty at all times, but he chiefly manifests himself in a quantum setting, such as in the orbitals within an atom or in the chilled molasses of a microkelvin-level atom trap. In this rarefied realm, bosons can all fall into that singular BEC state. All having the same energy, these atoms are said to be degenerate. With fermions, it's quite different. In a quantum setting---whether electrons moving through a crystal or fermion atoms chilled in a trap, fermions are obliged to fill, one by one, all the different possible quantum energy states, starting at the low end. On an energy level diagram, the fermions look as if they were perching on the rungs of a ladder, filling all the rungs singly. (The uppermost rung is called the fermi energy and the temperature that corresponds to that energy is called the fermi temperature.) Commonplace example: the free-roaming electrons in a metal crystal, even at room temperature, are obliged to assume a set of discrete quantum-allowed energies in this way. These electrons are said to constitute a degenerate fermi gas. In the fermion context, "degenerate" means that the particles fill up the plenum of possible energy states. Creating such a gas of degenerate fermion atoms proved more difficult to make than a degenerate (BEC) gas of boson atoms. In fact, a degenerate fermi gas was first accomplished only in 1999 (www.aip.org/enews/physnews/1999/split/pnu447-1.htm) in an experiment by Deborah Jin and her NIST/JILA colleagues, the same lab where the new results have been performed. By the way, although physicists had long assumed the Pauli principle would apply to atoms (composite objects) as well as to electrons (truly elementary particles), it was only in recent work that this was demonstrated experimentally.

3. New state of matter. Fermions, if you pair them, can become bosons. And in that way, fermions can enter pairwise into a quantum condensate. There are, however, a whole spectrum of pairing mechanisms. At one extreme is the case where the atoms pair strongly, after which they can (as molecules) collapse into a Bose Einstein condensate (BEC). At the other end of the spectrum the atoms can pair weakly, or more to the point, combine in an unbound but correlated state analogous to the Cooper pairs of electrons that form the essence of quantum currents in superconductors or the pairs of helium-3 atoms that constitute a superfluid. In previous months a number of labs have reported forming condensations of strongly-bound molecules (see www.aip.org/enews/physnews/2003/split/663-1.html). Now Deborah Jin and her colleagues Cindy Regal and Marcus Greiner at NIST and the University of Colorado report making great progress in moving across the plain between the BEC and BCS pairing alternatives. The type of pairing can be adjusted by subtly altering the strength of an external magnetic field. The NIST researchers, who cool potassium-40 atoms to microkelvin temperatures, are at the cross-over region: they are not at the BEC regime because the applied magnetic field would not permit the kind of pairing one needs for a BEC condensate. Also they can affirm that they are not in the BCS regime either because the strength of the interaction among atoms is too strong for the kind of weak Cooper pairing that occurs in superconductivity or helium-3 superfluids. This new condensed form of atomic matter should not be thought of merely as a way station between the BEC and (weak) BCS pairing alternatives, but as a unique state in its own right. Eric Cornell (also at NIST but not part of Jin's group), who won a Nobel prize for his part in the discovery of BEC, describes the new NIST state as "a dramatic new sort of fermionic condensate, basically Cooper pairing in the strong-field limit."

4. Assessment. One of the goals in pursuing this research is the chance to form novel types of Cooper pairs or superfluids, and possibly to custom make different kinds of superconductivity. In these cold fermi gases the interactions (and the strength of the pairing) can be adjusted by turning a knob (changing the magnetic field), which is more than you can say about conventional superconductivity, metallic or ceramic. Here is one hint that this work might lead to warmer, even room temperature, superconductivity: In the new potassium fermionic condensate the ratio of transition temperature (at which condensation of pairs occurs) to fermi temperature is about 1 to 5. In conventional low-temp superconductors the ratio is 1 to 1000 (or even 100,000). Even in high-temp superconductors, the ratio is 1 to 100. (Regal et al., Physical Review Letters, 30 January 2004; additional background in Physics Today, Oct 1999 and Oct 2003.)

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

Evolution is evolution by any other name

http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/137-02012004-238245.html

The Intelligencer

It's not often that you run across the words "trend-setter" and "Georgia" in the same sentence, but the folks down yonder in the Peach State might be onto something this time.

The state's superintendent of schools has hit upon an idea to defuse some of the emotion from the controversy attached to the teaching of evolution in public schools.

It's a controversy that by no means is limited to Georgia, but it's more of an issue in some places than in others.

You know how it goes. Some people believe that homo sapiens, like other species of life on this planet, slowly evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, thus the term "evolution." Other people believe in creationism, that is to say, that God created all life in a couple of days as it's described in the Bible.

A few people probably believe that life on Earth originated in a distant galaxy and was brought here in spaceships as part of some alien race's idea of a practical joke.

It doesn't matter what you believe. The heart of the controversy, where such a controversy exists, is which theory should be taught in public schools.

Georgia Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox has proposed removing the word evolution from the state's science curriculum and replacing it with the phrase "biological changes over time."

Well, that's what evolution is, right? Biological changes over time?

Exactly, and that's the genius of Cox's proposal. The concept of evolution would still be taught in Georgia's schools; it just wouldn't be called evolution.

Cox, according to the Associated Press, called evolution a "buzzword" and said that eliminating it was proposed, in part, to alleviate pressure on teachers in "socially conservative areas" where parents object to its teaching.

Brilliant! If people object to something, simply call it something else.

Maybe we could apply that principle around here.

For example, some people still object to construction of the proposed Route 202 bypass between Montgomeryville and Doylestown. No problem. We'll just call it something else, something like "the alternative to the Chalfont traffic jam" or "the faster way to go."

That way, people could no longer object to the bypass because there would be no bypass. It would be called something else.

And then there's the issue of where the new Bucks County courthouse should be built in Doylestown. Some want it here. Others want it there.

Maybe they could just stop calling it a courthouse. They could call it something else.

Maybe they could call it the new Bucks County Justice Center. Come to think of it, I believe they're already calling it the new Bucks County Justice Center, and that brings up another matter.

When the new justice center is built - wherever - could the present courthouse still accurately be called a courthouse since it would no longer have any courtrooms in it?

Well, that really isn't an issue because they could just call it something else.

The possible applications of this problem-solving by name-changing are limitless. If you don't like something, give it a different name. What's the difference?

Lou Sessinger's column is published Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's also on the Internet at www.phillyburbs.com. He can be contacted at the Montgomery County office of The Intelligencer, 145 Easton Road, Horsham, PA 19044; phone (215) 957-8172; fax (215) 957-8165; e-mail, lsessinger@phillyburbs.com.

February 1, 2004 9:07 AM

©2004 Copyright Calkins Media, Inc.

Both science and religion important

http://www.bordermail.com.au/newsflow/pageitem?page_id=687547

Mon, Feb 02, 2004

THE debate through your column on the issue of evolution versus creationism is dismaying, for it is based on the belief that science and religion are in conflict, when they are really complementary.

On the one hand, science seeks answers to the questions raised within the realm of time and space ie the material world.

It attempts to address the "How?" question.

How have things come about in the way that they have?

The theory of evolution is one such scientific attempt to answer this question.

On the other hand, theology deals with that which lies beyond time and space.

If God is the Creator, then he existed before the material world came into being and, therefore, lives outside of time and space.

This means that science can |neither prove nor disprove his existence.

The Genesis account of creation is a theological faith statement which in no way attempts to answer the “How?” question.

All it tells us is that "God made".

Thus we find ourselves still asking the question, “But how did he do it?”

As a theological document Genesis is addressing the metaphysical questions of “Who?” and “Why?”

Who created the world? Answer: "God?"

Why did God do this? Answer: "Because this was a good thing for a good God to do."

Any attempt to denigrate these statements as being based on faith only fails to recognise that science cannot offer answers to all of the questions that human existence raises.

Let us all recognise that both |science and religion are important.

For example, when I become sick I do visit a doctor because he/she is trained in medical science.

But medical science really only seeks to deal with the mechanical working of our bodies, whereas theology or religion, attempts to deal with that side of our being which makes us truly human.

It deals with us as a bundle of emotions: sorrows and joys despairs and aspirations cynicism and faith.

To people supporting the creationist position, I would warn that your argument threatens to reduce the value of the Genesis account of creation from theology to geology.

Hold on to your faith beliefs (which I share with you), but recognise that the Biblical accounts of creation are not meant to explain how God did this. Perhaps science can be of assistance to us here.

On the other hand, I would urge people who are opposing creationism to recognise that science cannot answer all of lifes questions and remain open to the possibility that convictions held by people of faith may also embody important truth.

REV LANCE ARMSTRONG,
Albury


Sunday, February 01, 2004

The Real Culprits

Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men

http://www.pfm.org/Template.cfm?Section=Home&CONTENTID=11394&TEMPLATE=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm

BreakPoint with Charles Colson

January 14, 2004

Every year, more than a million people report seeing UFOs. Are these people crackpots and attention-seekers? Or is there something real behind their claims?

Hugh Ross, a Christian physicist and astronomer, has studied UFO phenomena for years. His conclusion: The overwhelming majority are explainable, but some are not, and they could be dangerous.

In his book, Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, Ross writes that, after all the frauds and natural causes have been exposed, researchers "agree that there must be something real at the bottom of some UFO reports."

For one thing, there's physical evidence. In the vicinity of reported UFOs, researchers have found deep soil compressions—including crushed rock—and altered soil and rock chemistry. Pilots encountering UFOs report disruptions in radar, radio, and compass operations. Animals become greatly agitated in the presence of UFO phenomena. And some humans who have seen UFOs claim to experience temporary blindness, burns, and internal bleeding.

And yet, Ross writes, UFOs must be nonphysical, because they disobey the laws of physics. For instance, they may be detected by radar but not seen, or they're seen but not detected by radar. They make impossibly sharp turns and sudden stops, disappear and reappear. They melt asphalt and burn grass without fire or flame.

And then there's the fact that ten times as many UFO sightings occur at 3:00 a.m. than at either 6:00 a.m. or 8:00 p.m. They appear in remote areas far more often than in densely populated ones.

Of course, most of these reported phenomena are investigated and proven to be false. But for the remainder that cannot be explained otherwise, Ross has an intriguing theory.

He writes: "Only one kind of being favors the dead of night and lonely roads. Only one is real but nonphysical, animate, powerful, deceptive," and "bent on wreaking psychological and physical harm." It seems apparent, says Ross, that UFOs, if there are such things, "must be associated with the activities of demons."

Other researchers—including secular scholars—have come to similar conclusions. They attribute UFO phenomena to demons or to an equivalent cause—for example, malevolent beings from another dimension. Physicist Jacques Vallee concludes: "The UFO phenomenon represents evidence for other dimensions that simply cannot be understood apart from their psychic and symbolic reality. What we see here is not an alien invasion," Vallee writes. "It is a spiritual system that acts on humans and uses humans."

Astronomer and agnostic J. Allen Hynek says that UFOs cause physical effects "in the same way that a poltergeist can produce very real physical effects." Another agnostic, UFO specialist John Keel, concludes that victims of what he calls "demonomania" suffer the same medical and emotional symptoms as UFO contactees.

The idea that demons are behind UFO phenomena—and that they sometimes harm the humans who see them—can be, if Dr. Ross is correct, frightening and can also raise interesting questions: Who among us might be vulnerable to these kinds of attacks?

Read BreakPoint tomorrow for the answer. We'll test Ross's hypothesis and learn why some people encounter UFOs, and others don't.

For further reading and information:

Hugh Ross, Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men (NavPress, 2002).

Peggy Fletcher Stack, " Heaven Sent? " Beliefnet.com, 28 February 2003 .

Benjamin Wiker, " Alien Ideas: Christianity and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life," Crisis, November 2002.

Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live without God? (Word Books, 1994).

Peter Augustine Lawler, Aliens in America: The Strange Truth about Our Souls (ISI Books, 2002).

Chiropactors Offer Hope for Kids with ADHD

http://www.hunterdonhealthonline.org/health_dept_details.cfm?id=1933

In the past decade, prescriptions for Ritalin, a stimulant medication commonly used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), increased five-fold, with 90 percent of all prescriptions worldwide consumed in the United States. As many parents grow leery of the traditional medical approach to ADHD, doctors of chiropractic are offering promising results with non-drug treatments that focus on postural muscles, nutrition and lifestyle changes that affect brain activity.

Some children may simply have difficulty learning certain subjects, but the current system - in a sense - prompts school officials to encourage their parents to have the children diagnosed with ADHD, says Dr. Scott Bautch, past president of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. "The higher the number of disabled kids in the school, the more funding the school can apply for," says Dr. Bautch.

Some teachers might also have difficulty with students who have a different style of learning, according to Dr. Bautch. If the child is a visual learner, and the teacher is not, perhaps the child is not being taught in a way he or she can learn. Before diagnosing the child with ADHD, Dr. Bautch recommends doctors talk to the child and the parents: "Is the child too active? Bored? Has dyslexia or a different learning pattern? It can be a behavior problem, problems at home, or frustrations with the teacher's style," explains Dr. Bautch. "If we went to a conference where the speakers taught in a way we can't learn, we would be frustrated and would misbehave - we'd get up and leave or chat to the person sitting next to us."

The traditional medical model, however, seems to follow the cookie-cutter principle. The diagnosis of ADHD is based on a questionnaire. But this is not enough, says Dr. Robert Melillo, a chiropractic neurologist. "True ADHD patients have other signs - tics, tremors, balance or postural problems, or unusual sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds." Unfortunately, although medications can keep ADHD under control, they don't cure it. Eighty percent of patients have ADHD features in adolescence, and up to 65 percent maintain them in adulthood.

Doctors of chiropractic and chiropractic neurologists offer a non-drug and non-invasive treatment alternative for ADHD patients that targets the underlying problems, not just symptoms. "Motor activity - especially development of the postural muscles - is the baseline function of brain activity. Anything affecting postural muscles will influence brain development. Musculoskeletal imbalance will create imbalance of brain activity, and one part of the brain will develop faster than the other, and that's what's happening in ADHD patients," says Dr. Melillo.

Chiropractic neurologists are trained to identify the underfunctioning part of the brain and find treatments to correct the problem, to help that hemisphere grow. "On every patient, we perform a brain function exam," says Dr. Frederick Carrick, president of the ACA Council on Neurology. "We test visual and auditory reflexes through, for example, flashing light in the eye, or asking patients to listen to music in one or the other ear."

When the problem is identified, patients are placed on a treatment program - and most of the therapies can be done at home. "Patients are asked to smell certain things several times a day ... or wear special glasses," says Dr. Mark S. Smith, a chiropractic neurologist. "We also focus on their individual problems. Some children, for example, have difficulty with planning, organization, and coordination - so they benefit from timing therapies. They learn to clap or tap to the metronome, perform spinning and balancing exercises."

Although currently no studies comparing chiropractic neurological and medical treatment for ADHD are available, chiropractic neurologists are compiling the data. "We test children before they start the treatment and then every three months," says Dr. Melillo. "Within the first three months, the children get a two-grade-level increase on average - which is pretty dramatic. With children on medications, the improvement in academic performance is short term and lasts only as long as they take the medication. Our programs change the brain function and the improvement doesn't go away."

While chiropractic neurologists have found success in treating ADHD and learning disabilities by providing the necessary brain stimulation, they also recommend nutrition and lifestyle changes that may help correct or prevent biochemical imbalances that cause ADHD.

Parents are encouraged to:

1. Remove as many food dyes, sugar, preservatives, and additives from the diet as possible.

2. Focus on natural, mostly organic foods with as few pesticides or herbicides as possible.

3. Determine if there is an allergy - usually starting with dairy and gluten and try elimination diets.

4. Stop using pesticide sprays in the house.

5. Avoid taking medications, nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs in pregnancy that may harm the fetus.

6. Find ways to relax during pregnancy. Stress on the job may affect the unborn baby's health, as well.

7. Breastfeed. The first months and years of a child's life are critical to physical and psychological development. Breastfeeding mothers' diets are important as well.

Chiropractic Care Can Help...

If you or your loved one is diagnosed with ADHD or has the symptoms, ask your doctor of chiropractic if he or she has experience treating patients with the condition. Doctors of chiropractic are trained to identify neurological problems and find individual non-invasive treatment modalities. They can also assess your nutritional status and help you find the diet that will help you manage your condition.

- Updated: December 24, 2003

Secular scientists seek ban on Grand Canyon book

http://www.christianexaminer.com/Articles/Articles%20Feb04/Art_Feb04_07.html

By Lori Arnold
CHRISTIAN EXAMINER

Duane Gish makes no bones about his belief in creationism. In fact, he believes his research in fossils is, well, dying proof that the Genesis account is true.

Gish, whose scientific work with Institute for Creation Research, Santee, Calif., has spanned more than three decades, is one of several noted scientists whose research is included in "Grand Canyon: A Different View," a new book by longtime Colorado River tour guide Tom Vail.

In his contribution to the coffee table book, Gish's essay examines the lack of fossil evidence of complex invertebrate in the Pre-Cambrian era. Gish said despite the sudden presence of billions and billions of the complex fossils—such as clams, snails and jellyfish—in subsequent eras, there is no evidence of any transient forms that would suggest an earlier ancestor.

"They have to have evolved from a common ancestor," he said.

The lack of these transient forms, he said, is significant.

"That alone destroys the theory of evolution," the scientist said.

In agreeing to contribute to the book, published by ICR, the creation scientists were hoping to offer the public a serious challenge to the longstanding thought that earth and humans are the product of evolution.

The dissemination of that information, however, is threatened after a group of evolution scientists are asking that the Vail book be removed from the natural science section of all National Park Service bookstores operating at the Grand Canyon. In December, the presidents of seven science organizations signed a letter to the park's superintendent asking that the book be pulled because of its religious content. The National Parks Service is reviewing the book and at least one media outlet has reported that officials have determined the book will be banned because its theories fall outside of accepted science. Another option being discussed is moving the book to the store's inspirational section.

Polar opinions

Secular scientists—who believe the Grand Canyon was carved over millions of years by slow erosion caused by the Colorado River—take umbrage with creationists, who believe it was created by a lot of water over a short period of time. The latter theory matches the Old Testament account of Noah's ark, something secularists believe is contrary to science.

"The Grand Canyon was formed millions of years ago," William Ausich, president of the Paleontological Society told Religion News Service. "It is the job of the national Park Service to present the best scientific information possible to the public, and the book is complete pseudoscience."

Critics also said the presence of the book would lead the public to believe the government was endorsing religion.

The challenge from the secular science community does not surprise Gish.

"This is very, very typical of evolutionists," he said. "This is what we would expect."

Rapid formation

After the great flood, creationists believe large bodies of lakes were left behind. The canyon was carved they said, after water breached their earthen dams and rushed through Northern Arizona.

According to Gish and Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, a creation-based organization in Kentucky, many secular geologists also believe in the short-exposure theory.

"The effort to ban the book is remarkable," Ham said in a news release. "Although Tom's beautifully illustrated book is low key, it still has managed to shake up the evolutionary community and its strongly held beliefs about the Grand Canyon and its supposed history for millions of years. I hope this controversy will lead many more people, including Grand Canyon visitors, to read its alternative, scientific viewpoint."

Gish said he believes the publicity surrounding the controversy will foster public interest and discussion on the creation view.

"It will certainly draw attention to the fact that there are creationists who have their own view," said Gish, whose training also includes scientific research at Cornell Medical College, University of California, Berkley and the Upjohn Company.

"What are they afraid of? Why don't they let the people read it and make their own decisions," the ICR scientist said.

Nudging the establishment

Gish said the furor over the book follows a consistent pattern of trying to silence alternative thought.

"They control our educational systems, control our science organizations, control our mass media, almost every medium available," the scientist said. "They see it as an intrusion.

"If they do succeed in doing that, there will be an appeal. I think he'll (Vail) win. It's discriminatory and it is a violation of freedom of speech. It's putting their humanistic worldview as the only possibility that is permitted."

The Alliance Defense fund, a not-for-profit public interest law and educational organization, has sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, warning that removal of the book would violate Vail's constitutional rights.

"The NPS has upheld the constitutional rights of Mr. Vail by keeping the book in place among competing viewpoints," wrote Dale M. Schowengerdt, litigation staff attorney for Alliance, in the Jan. 9 letter. "We encourage NPS to maintain this policy and resist pressure from groups urging censorship. NPS is certainly on solid ground by continuing to offer the book under the neutral selection policy is used in this instance."

Regardless the outcome, Gish said he's confident that the biblically supported view will receive increased exposure as creation scientists travel the country participating in lectures and debates.

"We have these creationist organizations which are conducting seminars and debates," he said. "We are getting the message out, which before was not getting out. We are reaching people now that we weren't reaching before."

Among them are high school and college students, many of whom Gish said are eager to hear the evidence.

"Most students are glad to know there is evidence to show there is a destiny for them beyond a pile of dust," he said. "We're challenging the dogma. That's what we have to do."

Published by Keener Communications Group, February 2004

Copyright © Christian Examiner

Conspiracies so vast

Conspiracy theory was born in the Age of Enlightenment and has metastasized in the Age of the Internet. Why won't it go away? By Darrin M. McMahon, 2/1/2004

HOWARD DEAN SPECULATES on National Public Radio that George W. Bush may have been warned of 9/11 "ahead of time by the Saudis." University professors imply with an air of sophistication that the war in Iraq was a plot to fill contracts for Halliburton. Radio shock-jocks rant against the machinations of the United Nations and the "New World Order." And the conservative pundit Ann Coulter makes the rounds of the talk shows with a book, "Treason," built on the claim that the vilification of Joseph McCarthy was the "greatest Orwellian fraud of our time." The man who warned famously of a "great conspiracy" of communists, it seems, was himself the victim of a plot by "liberals" to blacken his good name.

Hillary Clinton may have given up her talk about the "vast right-wing conspiracy." But there are plenty of others on both sides of the political divide anxious to continue the conversation. In today's popular culture and even the elite media, plots lurk behind every door.

Nor is the anxiety confined to the United States. Last month, the British government opened official inquests into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, fueling ongoing speculation that the couple was murdered in a secret plot. In France and Germany, books by the once-mainstream political analyst Thierry Meyssan ("L'Effroyable Imposture" -- The Big Lie) and the former Social-Democratic cabinet minister Andreas von Bulow ("Die CIA und der 11 September") have climbed bestseller lists with their shocking revelations that 9/11 was a plot by rogue elements within the US government. Uncle Sam, they claim, framed Osama. Meanwhile, major media outlets throughout the Islamic world charge that Israel, or an international Jewish cabal, were behind the World Trade Center attacks and countless other nefarious deeds.

It is tempting just to laugh at these views, dismissing them as the ranting of a lunatic fringe or the naive cynicism of the overeducated. But they are simply too prevalent to be ignored. The clearing house www.conspiracy-net.com, one of the many websites devoted to the subject, boasts over "one thousand searchable conspiracies," from child abductions in Nigeria to the invention of AIDS in CIA laboratories to the real motivations behind President Bush's proposed mission to Mars.

Are we living in a golden age of conspiracy theory? And if so, what stands behind this apparent upsurge in global anxiety? Fortunately, no shortage of observers has turned their attention to such questions. As Syracuse University political scientist Michael Barkun writes in "A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America" (California), the latest in a recent spate of academic studies on the subject, "obsessive concern with the magnitude of hidden evil powers" is just what one might expect in a turn-of-the-millennium culture "rife with apocalyptic anxiety."

* * * * *

Conspiracies have been around for as long as there have been people to plot. Yet the courtly coups and palace intrigues that animate the pages of Machiavelli's "The Prince" were very different from the more generalized theories of conspiracy that first began to circulate, ironically, in that crucible of modernity known as the Age of Reason. The 18th-century Enlightenment saw the emergence of vague, shadowy rumors of international machinations, lurid accounts of the collusion of Freemasons, Jesuits, or radical philosophers, ghastly tales of plots hatched in cells throughout the world to infiltrate governments, topple kings, eradicate religion, and corrupt morals and beliefs.

Whereas the older plots were usually localized (and often genuine), reflecting a face-to-face world in which public life was controlled by the actions of powerful individuals, the newer variants tended to be open-ended and elusive in their aims. Titillating, consoling, and disturbing all at once, these were accounts well-suited to the newly expanding print culture of the 18th century, which brought together formerly isolated groups into virtual communities of opinion now sharing the same newspapers, novels, placards, and pamphlets. The new conspiracies also traveled well by word of mouth -- thriving among the 18th century's rapidly growing populations, in which distrust was fueled by the anonymity of urban environments and insecurity heightened by mobility, dislocation, and bewildering socioeconomic change.

In many cases these new tales were entirely fictitious, like the rumors that consumed Paris in the 1750s that servants of the crown were snatching vagrant children to provide baths of blood for King Louis XV. In other instances they were more immediately plausible, as with the widespread conspiracy rhetoric among American colonists, who drew on decades of distrust of Georgian kings and colonial agents.

In still other cases, conspiracy theories metastasized from an original germ of truth. Fears of the Illuminati, for example, still invoked to this day, were originally fed by the discovery in the 1780s of an actual conspiracy led by a Bavarian professor at the University of Ingolstadt, Adam Weishaupt. His brotherhood of "enlightened ones," the Society of the Illuminati, aimed to infiltrate established Masonic lodges throughout Europe with the goal of disseminating republican and anticlerical beliefs. The conspiracy was discovered long before it could have any real effect. But this did nothing to stem the alarm that spread in its wake.

Fanned by the terrible upheavals of the French Revolution, tales of the Illuminati flourished, taking their place alongside the dastardly accounts of "Monied Interests," Masons, Jacobins, Rosicrucians, Jesuits, and Jews. When the President of Yale, Timothy Dwight, preached a sermon before alarmed undergraduates in 1797, warning of the machinations of the Illuminati conspiracy in the New World, he was merely adding an early Yankee voice to what would soon become a full-blown national panic. The American Bavarian Illuminati scare of 1798-1800 swept up the likes of Alexander Hamilton, and brought the country to the brink of civil war.

Dwight and Hamilton were in good company. From Voltaire and Rousseau to David Hume and Edmund Burke, some of the century's finest minds were ready to countenance conspiracies of one form or another. That fact makes it difficult to dismiss the Enlightenment's fascination with these dark developments as simply irrational aberrations. On the contrary, as the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon S. Wood has argued, Enlightenment conspiracy theories may have represented a transitional step on the way to a more nuanced and "scientific" understanding of the world.

For an age in the process of demystifying Nature, to attribute cause and effect to magic or Fate, the Devil or the hidden hand of Providence was no longer sufficient. Searching for rational patterns to explain the laws of humanity as they explained the laws of the natural world, Enlightenment observers ran up against the complexity and contingency of human affairs.

Large-scale phenomena like the transition to capitalism, or the American or French Revolutions, did not readily lend themselves to simple patterns. Conspiracy was a way to ascribe order to the seemingly chaotic, make an irrational world appear rational without ascribing agency to nonhuman forces. Conspiracy, in short, was comforting, even if that comfort could have dark consequences.

* * * * *

Might such insights hold a clue to understanding the fascination with conspiracies in our own time? The work of a number of contemporary scholars would seem to suggest as much.

Peter Knight, a professor of American Studies at the University of Manchester, who has written widely on conspiracy culture, points out that today's conspiracy language is "often a form of popular sociology, a way for people to talk about cause, agency, blame, and structure" in a bafflingly complex world. Globalization in particular "breaks the [perceived] connection between cause and effect" by multiplying the array of economic and social forces acting on our lives. Conspiracy theories piece these connections together, expressing a psychologically reassuring "reason, a structure, a force behind events."

The tremendous increase in access to information (and disinformation) generated by the Internet also bears comparison to the Enlightenment's knowledge revolution and its attendant creation of virtual communities and disembodied publics. In the same way that conspiracy theories united 18th-century audiences in shared fascination and horror, conspiracy theories today are an integral part of the entertainment industry, providing a mysterious and tantalizing twist on the daily spin. At the same time they feed on a post-Watergate distrust of elites that has close analogues with Enlightened suspicion of authorities of all kinds -- be they clerics, aristocrats, intellectuals, or kings.

In "A Culture of Conspiracy," Michael Barkun points to another important factor: the end of the Cold War. Until 1989, he observes, we lived in a "neat, dichotomized moral universe" with a clearly defined enemy. Much as the secularizing forces of the Enlightenment made it more difficult to see the world as the exclusive battleground between God and Satan, the demise of communism has infinitely expanded the field of potential plotters. Where we once saw only commies and capitalist pigs, we now see a more varied and complex array of enemies.

Which is not to suggest that our modern fascination with conspiracies is indicative of newly enlightened times. On the contrary, conspiracy theories are often used as cover for the worst sort of scapegoating and demonization.

David Cook, an assistant professor of religious studies at Rice University, points out that many of the modern conspiracy theories that have flourished in the Middle East since the 18th century tap into even older sources -- such as medieval accounts of the Jewish Blood Libel, the insidious anti-Semitic myth that the blood of Gentiles is used in the preparation of Passover matzos. Barkun notes a similar trend in Western conspiracy rhetoric, especially in America, where themes from the Protestant millennial tradition are often fused with contemporary actors and events to create lurid dramas of the coming Apocalypse and the reign of the Anti-Christ.

Some postmodernist critics argue that contemporary conspiracy obsession is in fact symptomatic of the bankruptcy of reason. Political theorists like Jodi Dean, author of "Aliens in America," a study of contemporary UFO conspiracy theories, and several of the contributors to the recent essay collection "Transparency and Conspiracy: Ethnographies of Suspicion in the New World Order" (Duke), tend to adopt this line. They argue that attempts to disprove conspiracy theories are just efforts to impose dominant ideological views on those defined as "backward," "irrational," or "superstitious." In this "replay of the Enlightenment with a vengeance," observe two of the contributors to "Transparency and Conspiracy," hegemonic reason once again seeks to crowd out all competing perspectives.

Many will conclude that such claims throw out the baby with the bath water, while forgetting that bathtubs can all too easily be filled with blood -- in fact as well as in fiction. That the latter sometimes bleed together is clear. But that we should continue to seek to distinguish them in our accounts of the workings of the world is as vital and unfinished a task today as it was in the 18th century. Call it, if you like, a conspiracy of truth.

Darrin M. McMahon is an associate professor of European history at Florida State University.

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2004/02/01/conspiracies_so_vast/

Darby delays decision on creationism

http://www.billingsgazette.com/index.php?id=1&display=rednews/2004/01/31/build/state/75-darby-creationism.inc

DARBY (AP) -- A decision on whether to change Darby's school science curriculum so it includes discussion of creationism was postponed, as dozens of people stepped forward to speak on the issue. The school board had been expected to make a decision this week, but postponed action until Monday. At issue is whether to adopt a curriculum change first proposed by the Rev. Curtis Brickley of Darby. He has said he advocates a new policy that would emphasize the teaching of "objective origins" theories. Brickley said he wants the school to teach "qualified and responsible criticism of Darwinian evolution theory."

The new policy would say teachers are encouraged to "help students assess evidence for and against theories, to analyze scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution, by giving examples of scientific innovation or discovery challenging commonly held perceptions.

David DeWolf, a law professor at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and a fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank, told the board that enacting "objective origins" is unlikely to put the school district in legal jeopardy. He also said the district is unlikely to be put in violation of state education standards.

"Both of those fears are unfounded," he said.

Speakers at a meeting this week included Dixie Stark of Ravalli County Citizens for Science, who said her group does not need an attorney to make its case.

"We are not the ones who are about to break the law," Stark said. "The school board is."

Several people urged the board to table the proposed curriculum change because of the debate's damage to the community, children and the school.

Copyright © 2004 Associated Press


Saturday, January 31, 2004

Answers in Genesis: Construction still under way

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

PETERSBURG - Some in this western Boone County town of about 2,000 residents envision it becoming a vacation destination for people across the nation and around the world.

They're part of Answers in Genesis, a religious group that believes its $25 million Creation Museum and Family Discovery Center will draw people from everywhere.

The 95,000-square-foot museum and U.S. headquarters for AiG has been under construction near Bullittsburg Church Road for three years and is to be completed in 2006 or 2007.

The museum will feature dinosaur bones and fossils like those at a natural history museum. The difference is that this museum will show the earth's history based on a biblical timeline of about 6,000 years, rather than on the theory of evolution, which dates back millions of years.

"We all have the same evidence. What's different is the starting point and how you interpret the evidence," said Mike Zovath, vice president of ministry for Answers in Genesis and head of the museum project. "This will be a place where people can get a tasteful look at the history of the Bible."

The group is a nonprofit, nondenominational religious organization that teaches a strict interpretation of the Bible through seminars and its Web site to nearly two dozen Christian faiths and churches worldwide.

"Evolution is just a theory, and with this museum AiG is saying, 'Here is the alternative to evolution,' " said the Rev. Stanley Cole of Kento-Boo Baptist Church in Florence. "I think it will be popular."

The project is being built through donations. Zovath said about $10 million has been donated so far.

The museum, on a 47-acre site, will feature an 84-seat planetarium, 180-seat special effects theater and 160-seat classroom.

It's a project that could be valuable to the region financially - and in other ways.

"I think any effort to remind believers of their divine origins is of value," said Tim Fitzgerald, spokesman for the Diocese of Covington.

About Answers in Genesis

A nonprofit group founded more than 20 years ago in Australia by Dr. Carl Wieland and Ken Ham.

Today has six offices worldwide, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom and Northern Kentucky.

Northern Kentucky office opened in 1994 with three employees. Staff today is about 80.

Publisher of the quarterly magazine Creation, with subscribers in more than 120 countries.

Has 35,000 visitors each month to its Web site, www.answersingenesis.org.

Web site has a wide range of biblical questions and answers on more than 50 topics, including "How did all the animals fit on Noah's ark?"

http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2004/01/27/loc_loc1bkygen.html

New entry for SKEPTIC Bibliography

http://www.csicop.org/bib/659

Lucifer Ascending: The Occult in Folklore and Popular Culture
Bill Ellis
2003, University Press of Kentucky; 288p.
folklore, occult:history, occult:sociology, satanism:history, satanism:sociology

In Lucifer Ascending, Ellis continues an academic query which he described in his previous Raising the Devil. He explores how witchcraft was (and is) practiced in opposition to an increasingly rationalistic theology. It usually had limits set by the community, and while sometimes there was violence against witches, usually witches fit into their roles smoothly. The practices were passed down among small groups and were a grass- roots tradition that supplemented, rather than defied, orthodoxy. The practices allow marginalized groups to use occult traditions to give themselves a sense of degree of control over their lives, but can also be employed by those who have no particular conflict with society. Ellis, himself an active Lutheran, makes clear that he is not advocating for the folklore practices described here, or even apologizing for them. He admits that while many of the practices might be harmless, spooky fun for teens, there may be bad consequences as well. In any case, Ellis shows that a pattern of overreaction to occult practices, giving definition to both orthodoxy and the occult, has been going on for centuries.

[ Reviewed by Rob Hardy, robhardy@earthlink.net ]

Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/ Please consider submitting an entry yourself.

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

Greenawalt Argues Against Creationism in Education

http://www.columbiaspectator.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/01/29/4018e8108a0b1

University Professor Kent Greenawalt Asserts that Teaching Creationism Violates First Amendment

By RISHEEN MAHESWARAN
Columbia Daily Spectator
January 29, 2004

University Professor Kent Greenawalt broached the topic of every high school science teachers' biggest concern last night: how to discuss evolution and creationism in the classroom.

In his lecture, "Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design: What Can Public Schools Teach About the Development of Life?" Greenawalt attempted to address the question of how the three most widely held theories on the development of species--evolution, creationism, and intelligent design--might legally be taught in public schools in America. He concluded that teaching creationism and intelligent design, either in place of or as the primary alternatives to evolution, violates the First Amendment.

Early in his talk, which took place at the Schapiro Center for the Study of Science and Religion, Greenawalt laid out the constitutional basis for the exclusion of religious teaching from school curricula. Under national law, public schools--as institutions of the state--cannot give authority to any set of religious beliefs.

Teaching creationism goes against the First Amendment, Greenawalt explained, even if no explicit reference to religion is made, because religion provides the only evidence for the theory. Since there is no scientific proof for the theory, he concluded that it is unconstitutional for public schools to teach creationism in any form.

He also took objection to the teaching of intelligent design. Such a theory postulates that humans are too complicated to have developed by chance; therefore, some "designer" must have had a hand in creating certain more complex biological structures.

Science cannot prove that intelligent design is inaccurate, he said, but it is not a scientific theory. It does not attempt to describe the characteristics of the "designer," or attempt to hypothesize on purposes. It purports to rely on science, but really betrays its ignorance of science, Greenawalt said.

Teaching intelligent design as the accepted theory of species development clearly violates the First Amendment, Greenawalt went on to assert, because it purports divine manipulation of the physical world. Evolution is central enough to biology to necessitate its inclusion in the curriculum.

Requiring textbooks to say that evolution is only a theory would similarly be teaching religion because it casts a disproportionate amount of doubt on the theory of evolution, Greenawalt argued. Although evolution is as well-established and scientifically legitimate as other uncontested theories, the fact that it challenges religious beliefs causes it to receive extra attention.

Greenawalt also suggested that it is unconstitutional to teach intelligent design as the main alternative to evolution because there are several other tentative theories that attempt to explain the existence of complex biological systems.

Evolution is taught in many other countries around the world without controversy, Greenawalt asserted. He explained that there are a wide variety of beliefs in America; 48 percent of Americans believe in creationism, 28 percent believe in evolution, and most of the rest lean toward intelligent design.

"Intelligent design is, at most, one alternative to evolution," Greenawalt said. "To teach it as the alternative would be religious."


Friday, January 30, 2004

New Mobile Psychic Service for BREW-Enabled Phones

http://www.emediawire.com/releases/2004/1/emw101352.htm

WireJack, a provider of mobile lifestyle entertainment and marketing services, today announced its new "mystic mobile" application developed for QUALCOMM's BREW platform. Mystic Garden is a unique infotainment service that acts as your own personal mobile psychic. Similar to an advisor, your mystic guru "inspires you" by providing quick insight into your future with horoscopes, tarot for making a relationship choice, fortune cookies, aura forecaster, answers from the oracle and wallpaper and ring tones to get you cosmically connected.

Manhattan Beach, CA (PRWEB) January 30, 2004 -- /Xpress Press/ -- WireJack, a provider of mobile lifestyle entertainment and marketing services, today announced its new "mystic mobile" application developed for QUALCOMM's BREW platform. Mystic Garden is a unique infotainment service that acts as your own personal mobile psychic. Similar to an advisor, your mystic guru "inspires you" by providing quick insight into your future with horoscopes, tarot for making a relationship choice, fortune cookies, aura forecaster, answers from the oracle and wallpaper and ring tones to get you cosmically connected. The new service is offered in English and Spanish for the following handsets: LGE-VX 6000, Samsung A530, LGE-VX 5450, Motorola T720/730, and Toshiba CDM 9500. Mystic Garden will launch in English today and the Spanish version will be available as of February 21, 2004.

"Mystic entertainment as a mobile application is extremely popular today, with usage continuing to rise," said Jon Bukosky, Chief Executive Officer. "WireJack recognizes the enormous revenue potential in bringing to market mobile applications targeted for the youth and female audience. We believe that QUALCOMM's BREW system offers the most exciting business opportunities and worldwide distribution for our content. Language and geography have proven to be no obstacle, as new wireless operators are joining the growing list of those offering BREW-based applications and services to their subscribers. There's obviously a built-in audience for mobile games, scores of people with time on their hands throughout the day -- and phones in their pockets. We want to be on the forefront of creating premium content that entertain and engage those mobile users."

QUALCOMM's BREW system provides products and services that connect the mobile marketplace value chain. Publishers and developers worldwide are generating substantial revenue from BREW-based applications and content, and 21 manufacturers have offered more than 100 BREW-enabled device models and new handsets are being added daily. The BREW system is successfully enabling the commercial wireless data services of many very successful operators, including Verizon Wireless, ALLTEL, Cellular One, MetroPCS, Midwest Wireless and U.S. Cellular in the United States, China Unicom, KDDI in Japan, KTF in South Korea, Hutch in Thailand, Telstra in Australia, VIVO in Brazil, and BellSouth International in Latin America.

About WireJack LLC

WireJack is a mobile lifestyle entertainment and marketing company that specializes in the development, publishing and marketing of content products and services. WireJack through its content and marketing services strategically assists major brands, entertainment studios, and mobile operators to create new revenue streams, increase average revenue per customer, and increase brand loyalty by providing engaging mobile properties and white label products. Privately funded, WireJack was founded in 2003, and has offices in Manhattan Beach and Stockholm.

For more information, please visit www.wirejack.com.

QUALCOMM is a registered trademark of QUALCOMM Incorporated. BREW and Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless are trademarks of QUALCOMM Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Contact:
Shawn Marie, President of WireJack LLC, (+1) 310 546-7497

Evolution Plan Stirs Emotions

http://www.wsbtv.com/education/2802184/detail.html

Critics Contend Move Would Weaken Science Learning

POSTED: 8:56 AM EST January 29, 2004
UPDATED: 9:07 AM EST January 29, 2004

ATLANTA -- State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox's proposal for new middle and high school science standards would strike references to "evolution" and replace them with the term "biological changes over time."

Cox declined requests for an interview on the issue with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Department of Education issued a statement Wednesday that said: "The discussion of evolution is an age-old debate and it is clear that there are those in Georgia who are passionate on both sides of the issue -- we want to hear from all of them."

The proposed change would not require school systems to buy new textbooks that omit the word "evolution."

But critics say the revision would weaken learning in the sciences.

"Whether you believe in creationism or not, evolution should be known and understood by the public," said David Bechler, head of the biology department at Valdosta State University and a member a committee that worked on the biology standards.

Bechler said he was shocked to learn that evolution was not in the final proposal.

Cox, a Republican elected to the state's top public school position in 2002, addressed the issue briefly in a public debate during the campaign. The candidates were asked about a school dispute in Cobb County over evolution and Bible-based teachings on creation.

Cox responded: "It was a good thing for parents and the community to stand up and say we want our children exposed to this creationism idea as well. ... I'd leave the state out of it and I would make sure teachers were well prepared to deal with competing theories."

Scientists consider evolution the basis for explaining the diversity of living things.

Wes McCoy, a 26-year veteran biology teacher at North Cobb High School, said only the most politically secure teachers would attempt to cover evolution if it is not required by the state.

"They're either going to tread very lightly or they're going to ignore it," McCoy said. "Students will be learning some of the components of evolution. They're going to be missing how that integrates with the rest of biology. They may not understand how evolution explains the antibiotic resistance in bacteria."

The revision of Georgia's curriculum began more than a year ago as an attempt to strengthen the performance of students by requiring greater depth in certain subjects. The new curriculum will replace standards adopted in 1984 that have been criticized by many educators as shallow.

The state Board of Education is expected to vote on the revised curriculum in May.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.

Georgia Takes on 'Evolution'

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/30/education/30GEOR.html

January 30, 2004

By ANDREW JACOBS

ATLANTA, Jan. 29 — A proposed set of guidelines for middle and high school science classes in Georgia has caused a furor after state education officials removed the word "evolution" and scaled back ideas about the age of Earth and the natural selection of species.

Educators across the state said that the document, which was released on the Internet this month, was a veiled effort to bolster creationism and that it would leave the state's public school graduates at a disadvantage.

"They've taken away a major component of biology and acted as if it doesn't exist," said David Bechler, who heads the biology department at Valdosta State University. "By doing this, we're leaving the public shortchanged of the knowledge they should have."

Although education officials said the final version would not be binding on teachers, its contents will ultimately help shape achievement exams. And in a state where religion-based concepts of creation are widely held, many teachers said a curriculum without mentioning "evolution" would make it harder to broach the subject in the classroom.

Georgia's schools superintendent, Kathy Cox, held a news conference near the Capitol on Thursday, a day after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article about the proposed changes.

A handful of states already omit the word "evolution" from their teaching guidelines, and Ms. Cox called it "a buzz word that causes a lot of negative reaction." She added that people often associate it with "that monkeys-to-man sort of thing."

Still, Ms. Cox, who was elected to the post in 2002, said the concept would be taught, as well as "emerging models of change" that challenge Darwin's theories. "Galileo was not considered reputable when he came out with his theory," she said.

Much of the state's 800-page curriculum was adopted verbatim from the "Standards for Excellence in Education," an academic framework produced by the Council for Basic Education, a nonprofit group. But when it came to science, the Georgia Education Department omitted large chunks of material, including references to Earth's age and the concept that all organisms on Earth are related through common ancestry. "Evolution" was replaced with "changes over time," and in another phrase that referred to the "long history of the Earth," the authors removed the word "long." Many proponents of creationism say Earth is at most several thousand years old, based on a literal reading of the Bible.

Sarah L. Pallas, an associate professor of biology at Georgia State University, said, "The point of these benchmarks is to prepare the American work force to be scientifically competitive." She said, "By removing the benchmarks that deal with evolutionary life, we don't have a chance of catching up to the rest of the world."

The guidelines, which were adopted by a panel of 25 educators, will be officially adopted in 90 days, and Ms. Cox said the public could still influence the final document. "If the teachers and parents across the state say this isn't what we want," she said, "then we'll change it."

In the past, Ms. Cox, has not masked her feelings on the matter of creationism versus evolution. During her run for office, Ms. Cox congratulated parents who wanted Christian notions of Earth and human creation to be taught in schools.

"I'd leave the state out of it and would make sure teachers were well prepared to deal with competing theories," she said at a public debate.

Educators say the current curriculum is weak in biology, leading to a high failure rate in the sciences among high school students across the state. Even those who do well in high school science are not necessarily proficient in the fundamentals of biology, astronomy and geology, say some educators.

David Jackson, an associate professor at the University of Georgia who trains middle school science teachers, said about half the students entering his class each year had little knowledge of evolutionary theory.

"In many cases, they've never been exposed to the basic facts about fossils and the universe," he said. "I think there's already formal and informal discouragements to teaching evolution in public school."

The statewide dispute here follows a similar battle two years ago in Cobb County, a fast-growing suburb north of Atlanta. In that case, the Cobb County school board approved a policy to allow schools to teach "disputed views" on the origins of man, referring to creationism, although the decision was later softened by the schools superintendent, who instructed teachers to follow the state curriculum.

Eric Meikle of the National Center for Science Education said several other states currently omit the word "evolution" from their science standards. In Alabama, the state board of education voted in 2001 to place disclaimers on biology textbooks to describe evolution as a controversial theory.

"This kind of thing is happening all the time, in all parts of the country," Mr. Meikle said.

Dr. Francisco J. Ayala, the author of a 1999 report by the National Academy of Sciences titled "Science and Creationism," vehemently opposes including the discussion of alternative ideas of species evolution.

"Creation is not science, so it should not be taught in science class," said Dr. Ayala, a professor of genetics at the University of California at Irvine. "We don't teach astrology instead of astronomy or witchcraft practices instead of medicine."

But Keith Delaplane, a professor of entomology at the University of Georgia, says the wholesale rejection of alternative theories of evolution is unscientific.

"My opinion is that the very nature of science is openness to alternative explanations, even if those explanations go against the current majority," said Professor Delaplane, a proponent of intelligent-design theory, which questions the primacy of evolution's role in natural selection. "They deserve at least a fair hearing in the classroom, and right now they're being laughed out of the arena."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

California Measure Would Align Building Rules With Feng Shui

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/30/national/30FENG.html

January 30, 2004

By PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 29 — With a budget deficit of about $14 billion, California could use a major infusion of positive energy.

So it may be appropriate timing that in this most Asian of mainland American regions, State Assemblyman Leland Y. Yee, Democrat of San Francisco, has introduced a resolution that urges the California Building Standards Commission to adopt standards that would aid feng shui, the ancient Chinese practice of promoting health, harmony and prosperity through the environment.

The resolution, which has yet to pass a committee vote before going to the full Assembly, is meant to encourage planning agencies, building departments and design review boards to provide for the use of feng shui principles, which often touch on the placement of doors and staircases, the position of buildings and the alignment of objects in rooms. It aims to help people live in harmony with nature by promoting the flow of chi, or positive energy, and neutralizing or avoiding negative energy.

"The structure of a building can affect a person's mood," the measure says, "which can influence a person's behavior, which, in turn, can determine the success of a person's personal and professional relationships."

Mr. Yee said: "We need to allow the expression of one's culture. That's why people come to California."

The standards commission typically deals with more mundane concerns, like plumbing pipes. But in California, feng shui is big business. In communities like Fremont and Cupertino, south of San Francisco, feng shui experts often consult with developers on the layout of subdivisions, avoiding placing a house at a T-shaped intersection, which would invite negative energy, or sha, the mouth of the dragon .

"Feng shui is a very major cultural factor," said Irene Jhin, publisher of the Chinese New Home Buyer's Guide, based in Burlingame.

Traditionally, feng shui is believed to have ramifications beyond domestic tranquillity. "If there is harmony in the house, there is order in the nation," says a Chinese proverb. "If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


Thursday, January 29, 2004

MIOS MEETING

Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Dr. Jobe Martin

Will Present An Illustrated Lecture on Creation Vs. Evolution

Dr. Jobe Martin has spent the last twenty years studying the topic of Creation vs. Evolution, and lectures frequently on the subject. He began his scientific career as a dentist, and a believer in Darwinian evolution, as he had been taught in numerous courses in high school, undergraduate school, and dental school. Some of his Christian students at the Baylor College of Dentistry challenged him to prove to them that evolution was a correct, complete and accurate explanation for the origin of the earth and all of its abundance of unique life forms.

As Dr. Martin studied the topic in order to educate these students in evolution, he began to see that most of the world is heavily indoctrinated from their earliest education to believe in an earth that was created billions of years ago in the Big Bang, and life which evolved from non-life. Yet in reality there is very little scientific evidence to back up this version of origins. Over the course of the next decade, Dr. Martin became an expert on the subject, and has uncovered countless pieces of evidence that the Big Bang, evolution of life from non-life, and an earth billions of years old are simply not factually provable, and are in fact, somewhat incredible. He has written a superb book on the subject, The Evolution of a Creationist.

Dr. Martin also has produced a very interesting and enjoyable video documenting Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution

Bucky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX

Tuesday, February 3rd, 7:30 PM

Girl 'sees' broken bones

http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,5-2004040384,00.html

By LUCY HAGAN

THE SUN has brought the incredible X-ray eyes girl to Britain and seen her amazing powers at first hand.

Russian Natasha Demkina, 17, has stunned doctors in her home country with her ability to see medical conditions inside people.

We flew her 1,500 miles to London to demonstrate her extraordinary powers on Sun reporter Briony Warden, who suffered multiple injuries when she was knocked down by a car in October last year.

She is still recovering from the hit-and-run and uses crutches or a wheelchair to get around.

Before Natasha arrived at Briony's North London home, our reporter removed a leg brace and hid all clues to her injuries.

Then the petite blonde teenager, who looks years younger than her age, began her examination.

Briony, 36, said: "I stood up and let her eyes scan over my fully-clothed body.

"Her pupils dilated and she seemed to go into a trance for a couple of minutes.

"Straight away she began identifying a pain site at the base of my spine which she called a 'blockage'.

"In fact I have four healing spinal fractures and some nerve damage.

"She described my pelvic area as being asymmetrical and pointed to the right side — where I suffered several fractures.

"Pointing to my jaw, she reported seeing a 'hard, alien part' – it was exactly the spot where a titanium plate holds my bones together.

"The most astonishing moment was when she saw the injuries to my left leg.

"Both the tibia and fibula bones — the two below the knee — are broken. I was amazed as she identified the two separate breaks and told me I had problems bending my knee joint.

"Then she said she saw 'traces of several metal pins and screws' which had left their mark on the bone.

"She could not possibly know, without seeing the scars, that until two weeks ago my leg was held together by half-a-dozen pins and screws.

"She even said the scars where the screws had been were covered over with new tissue — which is exactly what my last X-ray showed."

Stunned Briony added: "Natasha is amazing. I was very sceptical at first but after just a few minutes she focused on my major fractures.

"I was very impressed. It was as though she was looking at X-rays of me. Only my orthopaedic consultant could have known more."

After the examination we told Natasha about Briony's accident.

She said: "I can see she is healing very well."

Natasha first demonstrated her extraordinary ability at the age of ten, when she told her stunned mum Tatyana she could see "two beans", "a tomato" and a "vacuum cleaner" inside her.

The child was referring to Tatyana's kidneys, heart and intestines but did not know their names. Doctors at first refused to accept that her astonishingly-accurate descriptions were genuine. But exhaustive tests have failed to discover any trickery at work.

The teenager is famous in her home town of Saransk, the capital of Mordovia — a Russian republic 400 miles east of Moscow.

People queue down the stairs outside the family's flat, waiting to be assessed by Natasha. She calls her power "medical vision" and believes it is a divine gift.

Speaking through a translator, she said: "The only way I can explain it is that my brain sees before my eyes. I seem to have two visions — one is normal, the other I call medical vision. I can see inside the human body but not through it. If someone held something behind their back I wouldn't see it."

Natasha summons her "medical vision" by focusing on her subject for around two minutes.

Recalling the first time it happened, she said: "At first I was disgusted, then I became used to it. It seems normal now and if I don't see anyone for a while I miss the experience."

Natasha's family believe her powers were triggered when she suffered complications from a childhood operation. Doctors left a swab inside her which had to be removed later.

Mum Tatyana, 41, who came to London with Natasha and younger daughter Tanya, 11, said: "I was curious rather than frightened when she told me about her ability. I only took her to a doctor because I wanted them to explain what was happening to her. We wrote to one medical official who said Natasha should see a psychiatrist.

"But when we arrived, Natasha correctly diagnosed the psychiatrist as having a stomach ulcer — he was convinced and told her to keep using her gift.

"At first it was friends and acquaintances who visited but word quickly spread and now we receive 100 phone calls a day.

"We have people waiting for months to see Natasha. At first she did it for free but now we charge 400 roubles (less than £10) for a diagnosis."

Although Natasha spends her evenings meeting "patients" she insists she does not miss the carefree lifestyle enjoyed by her friends. And she finds they are perfectly accepting of her strange powers.

She said: "Other kids are nice — I am not bullied about it at all, although the teachers can be a problem — they keep wanting me to see them and their friends!"

Natasha cannot see inside herself and only examines family members when they think there might be something wrong with them.

As for the future, she hopes to study medicine at a top Moscow university after sitting the Russian equivalent of A-levels — the Unified State Exam — later this year.

She said: "I want to become a doctor who helps people. It is psychologically very hard telling people there is something wrong with them.

"I want to become a doctor so that I can help to cure them."

Natasha will be demonstrating her amazing abilities when she appears on ITV1's This Morning show today.


Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Decision on objective origins delayed until Wednesday

http://www.montanaforum.com/rednews/2004/01/28/build/education/origins-decision.php?nnn=4

By ROD DANIEL
Ravalli Republic

DARBY – Most of the more than 200 people attending Monday's special meeting of the Darby school board expected to hear the board's decision on whether to adopt the objective origins policy as part of the district's science teaching.

But because attorneys for objective origins proponent Curtis Brickley couldn't make the Monday meeting, a final decision on the controversial proposal was postponed until Wednesday, according to board member Mary Lovejoy.

Lovejoy, who is on record as opposing the proposed policy change, said neither she nor fellow trustee, Bob Wetzsteon, were informed of the meeting change until Monday morning when each received a call from Gina Shallenberger, chairperson of the five-member board. Surprised by the meeting change, Lovejoy believes it was not necessary.

"While it may be legal, I think it is unprofessional to have called a meeting without consulting the entire board," she said.

Monday's special meeting had been scheduled earlier this month to follow two separate presentations – one in December by Brickley recommending the policy change, and a second on Jan. 21 by a citizens group opposed to the district adding objective origins to its science teachings – in order for the board to hear both sides of the divisive issue.

As planned, Monday's meeting began with two 15-minute presentations, one by advocates of the change and another by opponents. Curtis Brickley, a minister and Darby resident, was first to speak and used computerized visual aids to illustrate his belief that the objective origins science policy should be part of the Darby schools.

Brickley wanted, he said, to clear up what he claimed were misconceptions presented last week in a forum sponsored by Ravalli County Citizens for Science.

"We're not asking to teach creationism," he said at the end of his 15 minutes. "We're asking to teach a qualified and responsible criticism of Darwinian evolution."

Brickley's presentation was followed by one from Rod Miner, a parent with two children in the Darby schools, who spoke of the virtues of scientific inquiry. Miner took issue with what he called Brickley's anti-science agenda, which, he said, "claims there is a raging controversy that divides the world's scientists between old, weak Darwinism and a new, vibrant intelligent design theory."

"What we can show," he said, "is that there is no conspiracy of censorship, no viable (intelligent design) theory, and no need to allow random criticisms of science into our curriculum."

He went on to say that intelligent design fails to follow the accepted method of observation, speculation, hypothesis and testing.

"Without the possibility of having a testable hypothesis, intelligent design is not within the realm of scientific inquiry," Miner said in conclusion. "It is not science, and as such, does not deserve a place in our science classes."

Following the two presentations, Shallenberger laid out the groundwork for public discussion of the issue, explaining that a motion first must be made and seconded by trustees before public comments could be taken.

Trustee Doug Banks moved to adopt the objective origin policy and Elisabeth Bender seconded the motion.

Shallenberger then explained that the meeting would be extended to Wednesday to allow time for attorneys to be present.

"Our plan is to continue this meeting on Wednesday," Schallenberger told the crowd. She encouraged people to comment on the proposed change but added that anyone speaking at Monday's meeting would not be allowed to comment on Wednesday.

She also read a letter from Deputy County Attorney James McCubbin in which he concurred with advice given to Shallenberger by Montana School Boards Association attorney Elizabeth Kaleva. Both Kaleva and McCubbin strongly advised against making any changes to the school curriculum without first receiving approval from the state.

McCubbin's letter ended with "I trust that you will not pursue immediate action without State approval which could result in litigation and/or jeopardize funding for the Darby Schools."

Kaleva is expected to be at Wednesday's continuation of the meeting and will likely advise against adopting the policy change. In her Jan. 25 letter to Shallenberger she wrote: "Based on the language in the policy and the documentation submitted, it is my opinion that the Darby School Board of Trustees should not adopt this policy as written, but should develop a curriculum which it thinks will accomplish its goals and submit that curriculum to the State Board of Public Education for approval. If the curriculum is approved, the policy statement could be adopted at that point."

The public comment period of Monday's meeting went on for more than an hour-and-a-half, and included more than 35 speakers from Missoula to Sula ranging in age from about 10- to 85-years old. Speakers favoring the adoption of the objective origins policy outnumbered those opposed to it by about a two-to-one ratio.

In spite of the contentious nature of the discussion, people attending the meeting remained polite during the lengthy public comment period, even at times applauding those with opposing viewpoints. Such was the case when Bruce Conner, who said he attended Darby School in 1926, got up to speak.

"Evolution has been criticized for 150 years," Conner said. "And science is a beautiful way of finding the truth. ... There's such precious little time in school to teach anything. Let's not make it harder by adding something that's not tested."

Wednesday's continuation of the special meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Darby Junior High School gymnasium. The Darby School Board is expected to make a decision on whether to adopt the objective origins policy at the end of that meeting.

Reporter Rod Daniel can be reached at 363-3300 or rdaniel@ravallirepublic.com

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Editorial: It isn't always easy to draw a crowd Missoulian Opinion

http://www.montanaforum.com/rednews/2004/01/28/build/education/origins-oped.php?nnn=4

Summary: Too bad discussion of, say, reading and math scores can't excite as much interest as teaching evolution.

A couple of hundred people turned out Monday night for a school board meeting in the small town of Darby. It's so gratifying whenever a community shows great interest in its schools. Too bad such interest tends to be so selective.

Rallying the community of Darby on Monday was the school board's deliberation over teaching creationism – the theory that God created life on Earth – in science classes that currently touch on evolution. Teaching biblical beliefs in public schools invariably raises questions about separation of church and state – and excites people who believe there's too much or too little separation between the two. This is such a hot-button issue that you can almost always fill a school gymnasium with people to argue about it.

Alas, the same cannot be said of the more mundane topics of reading, writing and arithmetic.

You haven't seen hundreds of parents descending on the school board concerned over the fact that, according to test scores reported by the state Office of Public Instruction, 33 percent of Darby's eighth-graders last year couldn't read proficiently. Or that 15 percent of last year's juniors read at the "novice" level. Or that, while 12 percent of fourth-graders earned "advanced" math scores, 21 percent scored below the "proficient" level. The district's standardized test scores aren't exceptional, one way or the other, by Montana standards. In 2003, one in five Montana schools – 173 in all – failed to meet the "adequate yearly progress" standards set by the federal "Leave No Child Behind Act."

You can argue about standardized tests and interpretation of scores; you can debate the reasons why mediocrity is rampant in our schools; you can mull over the possible remedies. But in Darby or elsewhere in Montana, you will almost never see a school packed to the rafters with your fellow citizens when those kinds of things are discussed. Isn't that interesting?

Darby's school board will sort out the science curriculum. The good thing about community-based schools run by locally elected boards is that they do a pretty good job of finding common-denominator curriculum that reflect community standards. Meeting public expectations is the easy part – even when the issue is as contentious as evolution. Creating higher public expectations for the less inflammatory but more important parts of education is another matter.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Lawmaker Wants Feng Shui Applied To State Buildings

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/2795125/detail.html

Critics Say Feng Shui Should Be Last Thing On Lawmakers' Minds

POSTED: 6:05 PM PST January 26, 2004
UPDATED: 6:15 PM PST January 26, 2004

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A Bay Area lawmaker wants to spread the ancient Chinese ritual of feng shui.

San Francisco Assemblyman Leland Yee says feng shui would create a positive work environment in all state buildings.

NBC11's Damian Trujillo reported that the DMV office at Alma Street in San Jose might have to abide by the new rules of feng shui, if the resolution passes.

But critics say feng shui should be the last thing on the minds of lawmakers, in the midst of the budget crisis that the state is in.

"What clutter can be, is stuck energy in places where energy isn't moving into our lives," said Joan Green, a feng shui expert.

Green says feng shui is allowing energy to flow freely in a room, creating a more positive work and home environment.

A lot of it has to do with how people arrange their furniture. Chimes also sometimes help in the energy flow.

Now, Yee says this is what all state buildings need to create that positive work environment. So, he's introduced a resolution to promote feng shui in state buildings.

"It's only in California that we have this diversity. We should enhance it," Yee said.

The publisher of El Observador newspaper, Hilbert Morales, in San Jose was appalled when he saw the proposal. He wondered why lawmakers are even discussing feng shui when the state is in crisis mode.

"I can't believe (Yee) did this, because there are more important issues to deal with," Morales said.

In fact, assembly members have introduced more than 50 bills since the session began on Jan. 5. Some bills deal with snowmobile restrictions and littering -- topics that will take time and attention away from the economy and education.

San Jose Assemblyman Manny Diaz says the state's focus should be on those other issues.

"My highest priority right now is dealing with the state budget crisis," Diaz said.

Yee's proposal is not a bill, but rather a resolution. So the recommendations would only be advisory. But it still has to go through the committee process, taking up valuable staff time, Trujillo reported.

Feng shui urged for Calif. building codes

http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20040127-120140-6228r.htm

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- A California lawmaker wants the art of Feng Shui to be incorporated into the state's building codes as a means of truly improving the business climate.

State Assemblyman Leland Yee says he wants building codes to encourage the voluntary use of Feng Shui in both homes and commercial buildings, although some of his fellow lawmakers say there are already enough rules for builders to deal with.

Practitioners of Feng Shui tell San Francisco television station KGO that the Asian art is already being used by several companies to encourage a more pleasant and profitable atmosphere in their establishments. It relies on such things as the placement of doors, windows, mirrors and furniture affecting the flow of "chi" energy through a room.

Critics say building codes are meant ensure the safety of buildings and not their harmony, but Yee told KGO he hopes the legislature will harmoniously pass his proposal.


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