NTS LogoSkeptical News for 4 March 2004

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Thursday, March 04, 2004

Taboos and heretics

An interesting and amusing essay:

Paul Graham
http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

January 2004

(This essay is about heresy: how to think forbidden thoughts, and what to do with them. The latter was till recently something only a small elite had to think about. Now we all have to, because the Web has made us all publishers.)

Have you ever seen an old photo of yourself and been embarrassed at the way you looked? Did we actually dress like that? We did. And we had no idea how silly we looked. It's the nature of fashion to be invisible, in the same way the movement of the earth is invisible to all of us riding on it.

What scares me is that there are moral fashions too. They're just as arbitrary, and just as invisible to most people. But they're much more dangerous. Fashion is mistaken for good design; moral fashion is mistaken for good. Dressing oddly gets you laughed at. Violating moral fashions can get you fired, ostracized, imprisoned, or even killed.

If you could travel back in a time machine, one thing would be true no matter where you went: you'd have to watch what you said. Opinions we consider harmless could have gotten you in big trouble. I've already said at least one thing that would have gotten me in big trouble in most of Europe in the seventeenth century, and did get Galileo in big trouble when he said it-- that the earth moves. [1]

Nerds are always getting in trouble. They say improper things for the same reason they dress unfashionably and have good ideas: convention has less hold over them.

It seems to be a constant throughout history: In every period, people believed things that were just ridiculous, and believed them so strongly that you would have gotten in terrible trouble for saying otherwise.

Is our time any different? To anyone who has read any amount of history, the answer is almost certainly no. It would be a remarkable coincidence if ours were the first era to get everything just right.

It's tantalizing to think we believe things that people in the future will find ridiculous. What would someone coming back to visit us in a time machine have to be careful not to say? That's what I want to study here. But I want to do more than just shock everyone with the heresy du jour. I want to find general recipes for discovering what you can't say, in any era.

The Conformist Test

Let's start with a test: Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?

If the answer is no, you might want to stop and think about that. If everything you believe is something you're supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? Odds are it isn't. Odds are you just think whatever you're told.

The other alternative would be that you independently considered every question and came up with the exact same answers that are now considered acceptable. That seems unlikely, because you'd also have to make the same mistakes. Mapmakers deliberately put slight mistakes in their maps so they can tell when someone copies them. If another map has the same mistake, that's very convincing evidence.

Like every other era in history, our moral map almost certainly contains a few mistakes. And anyone who makes the same mistakes probably didn't do it by accident. It would be like someone claiming they had independently decided in 1972 that bell-bottom jeans were a good idea.

If you believe everything you're supposed to now, how can you be sure you wouldn't also have believed everything you were supposed to if you had grown up among the plantation owners of the pre-Civil War South, or in Germany in the 1930s-- or among the Mongols in 1200, for that matter? Odds are you would have.

Back in the era of terms like "well-adjusted," the idea seemed to be that there was something wrong with you if you thought things you didn't dare say out loud. This seems backward. Almost certainly, there is something wrong with you if you don't think things you don't dare say out loud.

Trouble

What can't we say? One way to find these ideas is simply to look at things people do say, and get in trouble for. [2]

Of course, we're not just looking for things we can't say. We're looking for things we can't say that are true, or at least have enough chance of being true that the question should remain open. But many of the things people get in trouble for saying probably do make it over this second, lower threshold. No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.

If Galileo had said that people in Padua were ten feet tall, he would have been regarded as a harmless eccentric. Saying the earth orbited the sun was another matter. The church knew this would set people thinking.

Certainly, as we look back on the past, this rule of thumb works well. A lot of the statements people got in trouble for seem harmless now. So it's likely that visitors from the future would agree with at least some of the statements that get people in trouble today. Do we have no Galileos? Not likely.

To find them, keep track of opinions that get people in trouble, and start asking, could this be true? Ok, it may be heretical (or whatever modern equivalent), but might it also be true?

Heresy

This won't get us all the answers, though. What if no one happens to have gotten in trouble for a particular idea yet? What if some idea would be so radioactively controversial that no one would dare express it in public? How can we find these too?

Another approach is to follow that word, heresy. In every period of history, there seem to have been labels that got applied to statements to shoot them down before anyone had a chance to ask if they were true or not. "Blasphemy", "sacrilege", and "heresy" were such labels for a good part of western history, as in more recent times "indecent", "improper", and "unamerican" have been. By now these labels have lost their sting. They always do. By now they're mostly used ironically. But in their time, they had real force.

The word "defeatist", for example, has no particular political connotations now. But in Germany in 1917 it was a weapon, used by Ludendorff in a purge of those who favored a negotiated peace. At the start of World War II it was used extensively by Churchill and his supporters to silence their opponents. In 1940, any argument against Churchill's aggressive policy was "defeatist". Was it right or wrong? Ideally, no one got far enough to ask that.

We have such labels today, of course, quite a lot of them, from the all-purpose "inappropriate" to the dreaded "divisive." In any period, it should be easy to figure out what such labels are, simply by looking at what people call ideas they disagree with besides untrue. When a politician says his opponent is mistaken, that's a straightforward criticism, but when he attacks a statement as "divisive" or "racially insensitive" instead of arguing that it's false, we should start paying attention.

So another way to figure out which of our taboos future generations will laugh at is to start with the labels. Take a label-- "sexist", for example-- and try to think of some ideas that would be called that. Then for each ask, might this be true?

Just start listing ideas at random? Yes, because they won't really be random. The ideas that come to mind first will be the most plausible ones. They'll be things you've already noticed but didn't let yourself think.

In 1989 some clever researchers tracked the eye movements of radiologists as they scanned chest images for signs of lung cancer. [3] They found that even when the radiologists missed a cancerous lesion, their eyes had usually paused at the site of it. Part of their brain knew there was something there; it just didn't percolate all the way up into conscious knowledge. I think many interesting heretical thoughts are already mostly formed in our minds. If we turn off our self-censorship temporarily, those will be the first to emerge.

Time and Space

If we could look into the future it would be obvious which of our taboos they'd laugh at. We can't do that, but we can do something almost as good: we can look into the past. Another way to figure out what we're getting wrong is to look at what used to be acceptable and is now unthinkable.

Changes between the past and the present sometimes do represent progress. In a field like physics, if we disagree with past generations it's because we're right and they're wrong. But this becomes rapidly less true as you move away from the certainty of the hard sciences. By the time you get to social questions, many changes are just fashion. The age of consent fluctuates like hemlines.

We may imagine that we are a great deal smarter and more virtuous than past generations, but the more history you read, the less likely this seems. People in past times were much like us. Not heroes, not barbarians. Whatever their ideas were, they were ideas reasonable people could believe.

So here is another source of interesting heresies. Diff present ideas against those of various past cultures, and see what you get. [4] Some will be shocking by present standards. Ok, fine; but which might also be true?

You don't have to look into the past to find big differences. In our own time, different societies have wildly varying ideas of what's ok and what isn't. So you can try diffing other cultures' ideas against ours as well. (The best way to do that is to visit them.)

You might find contradictory taboos. In one culture it might seem shocking to think x, while in another it was shocking not to. But I think usually the shock is on one side. In one culture x is ok, and in another it's considered shocking. My hypothesis is that the side that's shocked is most likely to be the mistaken one. [5]

I suspect the only taboos that are more than taboos are the ones that are universal, or nearly so. Murder for example. But any idea that's considered harmless in a significant percentage of times and places, and yet is taboo in ours, is a good candidate for something we're mistaken about.

For example, at the high water mark of political correctness in the early 1990s, Harvard distributed to its faculty and staff a brochure saying, among other things, that it was inappropriate to compliment a colleague or student's clothes. No more "nice shirt." I think this principle is rare among the world's cultures, past or present. There are probably more where it's considered especially polite to compliment someone's clothing than where it's considered improper. So odds are this is, in a mild form, an example of one of the taboos a visitor from the future would have to be careful to avoid if he happened to set his time machine for Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1992.

Prigs

Of course, if they have time machines in the future they'll probably have a separate reference manual just for Cambridge. This has always been a fussy place, a town of i dotters and t crossers, where you're liable to get both your grammar and your ideas corrected in the same conversation. And that suggests another way to find taboos. Look for prigs, and see what's inside their heads.

Kids' heads are repositories of all our taboos. It seems fitting to us that kids' ideas should be bright and clean. The picture we give them of the world is not merely simplified, to suit their developing minds, but sanitized as well, to suit our ideas of what kids ought to think. [6]

You can see this on a small scale in the matter of dirty words. A lot of my friends are starting to have children now, and they're all trying not to use words like "fuck" and "shit" within baby's hearing, lest baby start using these words too. But these words are part of the language, and adults use them all the time. So parents are giving their kids an inaccurate idea of the language by not using them. Why do they do this? Because they don't think it's fitting that kids should use the whole language. We like children to seem innocent. [7]

Most adults, likewise, deliberately give kids a misleading view of the world. One of the most obvious examples is Santa Claus. We think it's cute for little kids to believe in Santa Claus. I myself think it's cute for little kids to believe in Santa Claus. But one wonders, do we tell them this stuff for their sake, or for ours?

I'm not arguing for or against this idea here. It is probably inevitable that parents should want to dress up their kids' minds in cute little baby outfits. I'll probably do it myself. The important thing for our purposes is that, as a result, a well brought-up teenage kid's brain is a more or less complete collection of all our taboos-- and in mint condition, because they're untainted by experience. Whatever we think that will later turn out to be ridiculous, it's almost certainly inside that head.

How do we get at these ideas? By the following thought experiment. Imagine a kind of latter-day Conrad character who has worked for a time as a mercenary in Africa, for a time as a doctor in Nepal, for a time as the manager of a nightclub in Miami. The specifics don't matter-- just someone who has seen a lot. Now imagine comparing what's inside this guy's head with what's inside the head of a well-behaved sixteen year old girl from the suburbs. What does he think that would shock her? He knows the world; she knows, or at least embodies, present taboos. Subtract one from the other, and the result is what we can't say.

Mechanism

I can think of one more way to figure out what we can't say: to look at how taboos are created. How do moral fashions arise, and why are they adopted? If we can understand this mechanism, we may be able to see it at work in our own time.

Moral fashions don't seem to be created the way ordinary fashions are. Ordinary fashions seem to arise by accident when everyone imitates the whim of some influential person. The fashion for broad-toed shoes in late fifteenth century Europe began because Charles VIII of France had six toes on one foot. The fashion for the name Gary began when the actor Frank Cooper adopted the name of a tough mill town in Indiana. Moral fashions more often seem to be created deliberately. When there's something we can't say, it's often because some group doesn't want us to.

The prohibition will be strongest when the group is nervous. The irony of Galileo's situation was that he got in trouble for repeating Copernicus's ideas. Copernicus himself didn't. In fact, Copernicus was a canon of a cathedral, and dedicated his book to the pope. But by Galileo's time the church was in the throes of the Counter-Reformation and was much more worried about unorthodox ideas.

To launch a taboo, a group has to be poised halfway between weakness and power. A confident group doesn't need taboos to protect it. It's not considered improper to make disparaging remarks about Americans, or the English. And yet a group has to be powerful enough to enforce a taboo. Coprophiles, as of this writing, don't seem to be numerous or energetic enough to have had their interests promoted to a lifestyle.

I suspect the biggest source of moral taboos will turn out to be power struggles in which one side only barely has the upper hand. That's where you'll find a group powerful enough to enforce taboos, but weak enough to need them.

Most struggles, whatever they're really about, will be cast as struggles between competing ideas. The English Reformation was at bottom a struggle for wealth and power, but it ended up being cast as a struggle to preserve the souls of Englishmen from the corrupting influence of Rome. It's easier to get people to fight for an idea. And whichever side wins, their ideas will also be considered to have triumphed, as if God wanted to signal his agreement by selecting that side as the victor.

We often like to think of World War II as a triumph of freedom over totalitarianism. We conveniently forget that the Soviet Union was also one of the winners.

I'm not saying that struggles are never about ideas, just that they will always be made to seem to be about ideas, whether they are or not. And just as there is nothing so unfashionable as the last, discarded fashion, there is nothing so wrong as the principles of the most recently defeated opponent. Representational art is only now recovering from the approval of both Hitler and Stalin. [8]

Although moral fashions tend to arise from different sources than fashions in clothing, the mechanism of their adoption seems much the same. The early adopters will be driven by ambition: self-consciously cool people who want to distinguish themselves from the common herd. As the fashion becomes established they'll be joined by a second, much larger group, driven by fear. [9] This second group adopt the fashion not because they want to stand out but because they are afraid of standing out.

So if you want to figure out what we can't say, look at the machinery of fashion and try to predict what it would make unsayable. What groups are powerful but nervous, and what ideas would they like to suppress? What ideas were tarnished by association when they ended up on the losing side of a recent struggle? If a self-consciously cool person wanted to differentiate himself from preceding fashions (e.g. from his parents), which of their ideas would he tend to reject? What are conventional-minded people afraid of saying?

This technique won't find us all the things we can't say. I can think of some that aren't the result of any recent struggle. Many of our taboos are rooted deep in the past. But this approach, combined with the preceding four, will turn up a good number of unthinkable ideas.

Why

Some would ask, why would one want to do this? Why deliberately go poking around among nasty, disreputable ideas? Why look under rocks?

I do it, first of all, for the same reason I did look under rocks as a kid: plain curiosity. And I'm especially curious about anything that's forbidden. Let me see and decide for myself.

Second, I do it because I don't like the idea of being mistaken. If, like other eras, we believe things that will later seem ridiculous, I want to know what they are so that I, at least, can avoid believing them.

Third, I do it because it's good for the brain. To do good work you need a brain that can go anywhere. And you especially need a brain that's in the habit of going where it's not supposed to.

Great work tends to grow out of ideas that others have overlooked, and no idea is so overlooked as one that's unthinkable. Natural selection, for example. It's so simple. Why didn't anyone think of it before? Well, that is all too obvious. Darwin himself was careful to tiptoe around the implications of his theory. He wanted to spend his time thinking about biology, not arguing with people who accused him of being an atheist.

In the sciences, especially, it's a great advantage to be able to question assumptions. The m.o. of scientists, or at least of the good ones, is precisely that: look for places where conventional wisdom is broken, and then try to pry apart the cracks and see what's underneath. That's where new theories come from.

A good scientist, in other words, does not merely ignore conventional wisdom, but makes a special effort to break it. Scientists go looking for trouble. This should be the m.o. of any scholar, but scientists seem much more willing to look under rocks. [10]

Why? It could be that the scientists are simply smarter; most physicists could, if necessary, make it through a PhD program in French literature, but few professors of French literature could make it through a PhD program in physics. Or it could be because it's clearer in the sciences whether theories are true or false, and this makes scientists bolder. (Or it could be that, because it's clearer in the sciences whether theories are true or false, you have to be smart to get jobs as a scientist, rather than just a good politician.)

Whatever the reason, there seems a clear correlation between intelligence and willingness to consider shocking ideas. This isn't just because smart people actively work to find holes in conventional thinking. I think conventions also have less hold over them to start with. You can see that in the way they dress.

It's not only in the sciences that heresy pays off. In any competitive field, you can win big by seeing things that others daren't. And in every field there are probably heresies few dare utter. Within the US car industry there is a lot of hand-wringing now about declining market share. Yet the cause is so obvious that any observant outsider could explain it in a second: they make bad cars. And they have for so long that by now the US car brands are antibrands-- something you'd buy a car despite, not because of. Cadillac stopped being the Cadillac of cars in about 1970. And yet I suspect no one dares say this. [11] Otherwise these companies would have tried to fix the problem.

Training yourself to think unthinkable thoughts has advantages beyond the thoughts themselves. It's like stretching. When you stretch before running, you put your body into positions much more extreme than any it will assume during the run. If you can think things so outside the box that they'd make people's hair stand on end, you'll have no trouble with the small trips outside the box that people call innovative.

Pensieri Stretti

When you find something you can't say, what do you do with it? My advice is, don't say it. Or at least, pick your battles.

Suppose in the future there is a movement to ban the color yellow. Proposals to paint anything yellow are denounced as "yellowist", as is anyone suspected of liking the color. People who like orange are tolerated but viewed with suspicion. Suppose you realize there is nothing wrong with yellow. If you go around saying this, you'll be denounced as a yellowist too, and you'll find yourself having a lot of arguments with anti-yellowists. If your aim in life is to rehabilitate the color yellow, that may be what you want. But if you're mostly interested in other questions, being labelled as a yellowist will just be a distraction. Argue with idiots, and you become an idiot.

The most important thing is to be able to think what you want, not to say what you want. And if you feel you have to say everything you think, it may inhibit you from thinking improper thoughts. I think it's better to follow the opposite policy. Draw a sharp line between your thoughts and your speech. Inside your head, anything is allowed. Within my head I make a point of encouraging the most outrageous thoughts I can imagine. But, as in a secret society, nothing that happens within the building should be told to outsiders. The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club.

When Milton was going to visit Italy in the 1630s, Sir Henry Wootton, who had been ambassador to Venice, told him his motto should be "i pensieri stretti & il viso sciolto." Closed thoughts and an open face. Smile at everyone, and don't tell them what you're thinking. This was wise advice. Milton was an argumentative fellow, and the Inquisition was a bit restive at that time. But I think the difference between Milton's situation and ours is only a matter of degree. Every era has its heresies, and if you don't get imprisoned for them you will at least get in enough trouble that it becomes a complete distraction.

I admit it seems cowardly to keep quiet. When I read about the harassment to which the Scientologists subject their critics [12], or that pro-Israel groups are "compiling dossiers" on those who speak out against Israeli human rights abuses [13], or about people being sued for violating the DMCA [14], part of me wants to say, "All right, you bastards, bring it on." The problem is, there are so many things you can't say. If you said them all you'd have no time left for your real work. You'd have to turn into Noam Chomsky. [15]

The trouble with keeping your thoughts secret, though, is that you lose the advantages of discussion. Talking about an idea leads to more ideas. So the optimal plan, if you can manage it, is to have a few trusted friends you can speak openly to. This is not just a way to develop ideas; it's also a good rule of thumb for choosing friends. The people you can say heretical things to without getting jumped on are also the most interesting to know.

Viso Sciolto?

I don't think we need the viso sciolto so much as the pensieri stretti. Perhaps the best policy is to make it plain that you don't agree with whatever zealotry is current in your time, but not to be too specific about what you disagree with. Zealots will try to draw you out, but you don't have to answer them. If they try to force you to treat a question on their terms by asking "are you with us or against us?" you can always just answer "neither".

Better still, answer "I haven't decided." That's what Larry Summers did when a group tried to put him in this position. Explaining himself later, he said "I don't do litmus tests." [16] A lot of the questions people get hot about are actually quite complicated. There is no prize for getting the answer quickly.

If the anti-yellowists seem to be getting out of hand and you want to fight back, there are ways to do it without getting yourself accused of being a yellowist. Like skirmishers in an ancient army, you want to avoid directly engaging the main body of the enemy's troops. Better to harass them with arrows from a distance.

One way to do this is to ratchet the debate up one level of abstraction. If you argue against censorship in general, you can avoid being accused of whatever heresy is contained in the book or film that someone is trying to censor. You can attack labels with meta-labels: labels that refer to the use of labels to prevent discussion. The spread of the term "political correctness" meant the beginning of the end of political correctness, because it enabled one to attack the phenomenon as a whole without being accused of any of the specific heresies it sought to suppress.

Another way to counterattack is with metaphor. Arthur Miller undermined the House Un-American Activities Committee by writing a play, "The Crucible," about the Salem witch trials. He never referred directly to the committee and so gave them no way to reply. What could HUAC do, defend the Salem witch trials? And yet Miller's metaphor stuck so well that to this day the activities of the committee are often described as a "witch-hunt."

Best of all, probably, is humor. Zealots, whatever their cause, invariably lack a sense of humor. They can't reply in kind to jokes. They're as unhappy on the territory of humor as a mounted knight on a skating rink. Victorian prudishness, for example, seems to have been defeated mainly by treating it as a joke. Likewise its reincarnation as political correctness. "I am glad that I managed to write 'The Crucible,'" Arthur Miller wrote, "but looking back I have often wished I'd had the temperament to do an absurd comedy, which is what the situation deserved." [17]

ABQ

A Dutch friend says I should use Holland as an example of a tolerant society. It's true they have a long tradition of comparative open-mindedness. For centuries the low countries were the place to go to say things you couldn't say anywhere else, and this helped to make the region a center of scholarship and industry (which have been closely tied for longer than most people realize). Descartes, though claimed by the French, did much of his thinking in Holland.

And yet, I wonder. The Dutch seem to live their lives up to their necks in rules and regulations. There's so much you can't do there; is there really nothing you can't say?

Certainly the fact that they value open-mindedness is no guarantee. Who thinks they're not open-minded? Our hypothetical prim miss from the suburbs thinks she's open-minded. Hasn't she been taught to be? Ask anyone, and they'll say the same thing: they're pretty open-minded, though they draw the line at things that are really wrong. (Some tribes may avoid "wrong" as judgemental, and may instead use a more neutral sounding euphemism like "negative" or "destructive".)

When people are bad at math, they know it, because they get the wrong answers on tests. But when people are bad at open-mindedness they don't know it. In fact they tend to think the opposite. Remember, it's the nature of fashion to be invisible. It wouldn't work otherwise. Fashion doesn't seem like fashion to someone in the grip of it. It just seems like the right thing to do. It's only by looking from a distance that we see oscillations in people's idea of the right thing to do, and can identify them as fashions.

Time gives us such distance for free. Indeed, the arrival of new fashions makes old fashions easy to see, because they seem so ridiculous by contrast. From one end of a pendulum's swing, the other end seems especially far away.

To see fashion in your own time, though, requires a conscious effort. Without time to give you distance, you have to create distance yourself. Instead of being part of the mob, stand as far away from it as you can and watch what it's doing. And pay especially close attention whenever an idea is being suppressed. Web filters for children and employees often ban sites containing pornography, violence, and hate speech. What counts as pornography and violence? And what, exactly, is "hate speech?" This sounds like a phrase out of 1984.

Labels like that are probably the biggest external clue. If a statement is false, that's the worst thing you can say about it. You don't need to say that it's heretical. And if it isn't false, it shouldn't be suppressed. So when you see statements being attacked as x-ist or y-ic (substitute your current values of x and y), whether in 1630 or 2030, that's a sure sign that something is wrong. When you hear such labels being used, ask why.

Especially if you hear yourself using them. It's not just the mob you need to learn to watch from a distance. You need to be able to watch your own thoughts from a distance. That's not a radical idea, by the way; it's the main difference between children and adults. When a child gets angry because he's tired, he doesn't know what's happening. An adult can distance himself enough from the situation to say "never mind, I'm just tired." I don't see why one couldn't, by a similar process, learn to recognize and discount the effects of moral fashions.

You have to take that extra step if you want to think clearly. But it's harder, because now you're working against social customs instead of with them. Everyone encourages you to grow up to the point where you can discount your own bad moods. Few encourage you to continue to the point where you can discount society's bad moods.

How can you see the wave, when you're the water? Always be questioning. That's the only defence. What can't you say? And why?

Thanks to Sarah Harlin, Trevor Blackwell, Jessica Livingston, Robert Morris, Eric Raymond and Bob van der Zwaan for reading drafts of this essay, and to Lisa Randall, Jackie McDonough, Ryan Stanley and Joel Rainey for conversations about heresy. Needless to say they bear no blame for opinions expressed in it, and especially for opinions not expressed in it.

Lobbying unlikely to change vote on evolution standard

http://www.bucyrustelegraphforum.com/news/stories/20040304/localnews/13271.html

By Leo Shane III
T-F Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS -- Critics of the state Board of Education's new evolution curriculum hope to derail final approval of the document at the board's monthly meeting next week.

But they admit little has changed since last month, when the board overwhelmingly backed the lesson plan they say includes intelligent design teachings.

"We're trying to get some signal, but we don't know what will happen," said Lynn Elfner, CEO of the Ohio Academy of Science. "We haven't had any feedback from the governor or anyone else."

In February the board voted 13-4 to give preliminary approval to the evolution curriculum, designed to be a classroom guideline for science teachers.

It includes a chapter titled "Critical analysis of evolution," which recommends 10th graders debate several common critiques of the theory.

Board member Martha Wise, who tried to have the chapter removed, said the arguments and examples used are those often put forth by proponents of intelligent design, the belief that a higher power played a role in the creation of all life.

"There's a reason to be upset here, because it's not science," she said. "(Intelligent design) is specifically faith-based."

But the majority of the board said the curriculum reflects compromise language worked out two years ago when science standards were drafted, after the board considered requiring intelligent design to be taught alongside evolution.

Supporters insist that, as written, the chapter has nothing to do with intelligent design, only critical thinking.

References to one specific intelligent design author have been removed from the curriculum's bibliography, and the chapter's preamble states it "does not mandate the teaching of intelligent design."

Board member Michael Cochran, head of the group's standards committee, said he will present the lesson plan to the board next Tuesday without any major revisions because no compelling arguments against the curriculum have been presented.

Board member Jennifer Stewart, who voted against the language last month, said the board hasn't taken enough time to review the concerns outlined by opponents. She is optimistic that enough revisions have been made to the initial draft that she can vote for it this time.

But Wise said she and other opponents are still lobbying her colleagues to delay final approval and remove the critical analysis chapter. Neither she nor board member Virginia Jacobs, another opponent, was present for last month's vote.

"We only need four votes more, so we're trying to persuade people leading up to the meeting," she said. "There is no room for compromise."

Elfner echoed those comments.

"Our concern is that if this gets past the board it will be touted as a way to get a wedge into the system," he said. "We're not in the mood to compromise."

Elfner said faculty at Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University have rallied against the curriculum, and he expects more academics to petition the board again next week.

He has also asked Gov. Bob Taft to step in and block passage of the curriculum. Taft so far has refused to get involved.

Wise said she thinks if the lesson plan is approved it will leave the board vulnerable to legal action on the basis the state is promoting teaching religion in its public schools.

"I'm ready to file a case myself," she said.

Email this story

Originally published Thursday, March 4, 2004


Wednesday, March 03, 2004

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 675 March 3, 2004 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

THE ACCELERATING EXPANSION of the universe, the notion that the big bang enlargement of spacetime is not slowing down but actually gathering speed, has received new experimental support in the form of supernova observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Previous evidence for such a cosmic acceleration consisted of studies of the dimness of remote supernovas (http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/1998/split/pnu355-1.htm), and represented a major revision for some scientists who had long thought that the mutual gravity among galaxies would slow or even reverse the cosmological expansion. The new HST observations consist of reexaminations of 170 previously studied supernovas and the announcement of 16 new objects, including 6 of the 7 most distant type Ia supernovas yet recorded. The new data are in line with the accelerating-expansion hypothesis employing the mysterious mechanism usually referred to as "dark energy." The energy of the universe would be divided up as follows: 29% in the form of matter (dark plus luminous) and 71% as dark energy. (NASA press conference, 20 Feb; Riess et al., preprint astro-ph/0402512 ) SUB-WAVELENGTH LENSING in flat panels of left-hand materials (LHM) has been seen in two new experiments. What this means is that a planar sheet---and not something that has to be machined into a traditional lens shape---can be used to focus light into a tight spot. The size of this spot, furthermore, is less than half the wavelength of the light being used. Getting around the venerable "diffraction limit" (whereby an object smaller than the wavelength is difficult to image) would be a boon to optics (in the microwave range, for example, wireless communications would benefit at the level of cell phones and base stations) and is normally achieved only by parking the object very close to the source of the illumination. Left hand materials (so called because the "right hand rule" used by physicists to picture the relation between a light pulse's electric and magnetic fields and its line of propagation is here reversed) possess a negative index of refraction. This fact, in turn, means that a light ray approaching from air into the LHM material will be deflected not toward but back and away from a line drawn perpendicular to the surface of the material. It is this bizarre deflection that leads to novel optical effects. When the idea of the LHM phenomenon was first propounded, many felt that such materials could not exist. Even after the first experiments were reported (www.aip.org/enews/physnews/2000/split/pnu476-1.htm) skepticism lingered. Later more evidence arrived showing preliminary lensing effects with flat panels, the hallmark of LHM optical abilities (http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/2003/split/628-1.html). Now, two groups have more direct evidence for flat-panel lensing and for better-than-wavelength focusing. George Eleftheriades and his colleagues at the University of Toronto (gelefth@waves.toronto.edu; 416-946-3564; www.waves.utoronto.ca/prof/gelefth/main.html), using a material devised from printed metallic strips mounted on a plane and sandwiched between two patterned sheets, show that a source of microwaves can be lensed better than the diffraction-limit would allow, but not into a "perfect focus" called for in some LHM theories. On the positive side, the energy losses in the material which some commentators had predicted would hamper prospective LHM lenses (and their potential use in medical imaging or radar sets, say), were actually quite minimal.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Kissel and his associates at the Institute for Theoretical and Applied Electromagnetics in Moscow (kis_v@mail.ru, +7(095)4842644) have also observed "superresolution" in their lensing of microwaves with a flat panel, achieving a spatial resolution as good as one-tenth the wavelength. (Toronto group, Grbic and Eleftheriades, Physical Review Letters, upcoming article; Moscow group, Lagarkov and Kissel, Physical Review Letters, 20 February 2004)

BUBBLE FUSION, the apparent generation of fusion energy through the violent collapse of bubbles in a liquid tank, has been reported in a paper about to be published in Physical Review E (Taleyarkhan et al., upcoming, probably March 2004). The paper, a followup to a controversial report published two years ago (http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/2002/split/579-2.html), reports "statistically significant neutron and gamma ray emissions" after sound waves and pulsed neutrons hit a chilled liquid acetone tank spiked with deuterium fuel. The researchers (Rusi Taleyarkhan, formerly at Oak Ridge but now at Purdue, 765-494-0198, rusi@purdue.edu ) report the observation of flashes of light (sonoluminescence) as well as the emission of neutrons with energies of less than or equal to 2.5 MeV---what you would expect if pairs of deuterium atoms were fusing together to produce energy in their setup. While the researchers describe various improvements to their experimental setup, in response to comments received in their original paper 2 years ago, critics (including Aaron Galonsky, Michigan State, galonsky@nscl.msu.edu, 850-267-8976 by phone until April 1) still have a number of concerns. According to Galonsky, the data for neutron emissions is lumped together with data of gamma-ray emissions. While separating neutron and gamma-ray signals is challenging, it is necessary to have a clean neutron-only spectrum to have an unambiguous demonstration of nuclear fusion. Willy Moss of Livermore (925-422-7302, wmoss@llnl.gov) says "Although I believe that thermonuclear sonofusion [not to be confused with cold fusion] may not be impossible...I am still not convinced... I believe that additional tests need to be done and many should have been performed and discussed in the paper, for example...if neutrons are being generated, then how about moving the scintillator further away from the sample to see if the signal decreases, due to the decreasing solid angle of the detector?" (Other experts, Richard Lahey, RPI, laheyr@rpi.edu , 518-276-6614, a co-author on the paper; Mike Saltmarsh, Oak Ridge, 865-576-6915, saltmars@mail.phy.ornl.gov, co-author of a paper that attempted to duplicate the initial results but reported a null result---see Shapira and Saltmarsh, Phys Rev Lett, 19 August 2002)

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.

Antibacterials Offer Little Protection, Study Says

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20715-2004Mar1.html

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 2, 2004; Page A02

The antibacterial soaps, laundry detergents and other household cleaning products that have become increasingly popular in recent years apparently offer little protection against the most common germs, the first major test in people's homes has found.

In a carefully designed study involving 238 Manhattan families, those who used only antibacterial cleaners for about a year were just as likely to get fevers, sniffles, sore throats, coughs, rashes and stomach problems as those who used standard cleaners.

"This study certainly indicates that antibacterial soaps may not be necessary and may not be offering any value," said Elaine L. Larson, associate dean for research at the Columbia University School of Nursing, who led the study. "The very small amount of antibacterial ingredients in these soaps don't seem to be doing much."

Public concern about germs has increased in recent years with highly publicized cases of food poisoning from E. coli, "flesh-eating" bacteria and the emergence of new diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). More than two-thirds of liquid soaps found on the shelves of U.S. stores now contain antibacterial agents, making it a $16 billion-a-year industry.

Their widespread use has raised concerns that the products could contribute to a dangerous increase in "superbugs" invulnerable to treatment in serious medical situations. The effectiveness of antibacterials has also been questioned because most common infections, such as colds and flu, are caused by viruses that are not affected by antibacterial preparations.

The new study represents the first time scientists have attempted a study to evaluate the products under real-life, day-to-day conditions in homes.

Larson and her colleagues delivered free monthly supplies of general cleaning solutions, laundry detergent and hand soaps to families living near Columbia in New York City. Half the families got supplies containing antibacterial agents while the other half received regular products. Neither the volunteers nor the researchers knew which products an individual family was getting. The researchers also called each family weekly, visited them monthly and conducted extensive interviews every three months to gather detailed data on their cleaning practices and whether family members developed any infections.

Over the course of about a year, the most common symptoms reported were coughs and runny noses, followed by sore throats and fevers, then vomiting and diarrhea, and finally rashes and eye problems. But there was no difference between those using the antibacterial agents and those who were not, the researchers reported today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The findings were immediately criticized by groups representing manufacturers of the products, saying numerous other studies have found that the cleaners protect people against infections. The manufacturers said the new study failed to find a benefit primarily because most of the symptoms reported in the study are usually caused by viruses, not the bacteria that the products are designed to fight.

"These products do provide an extra measure of protection from infectious disease," said Richard Sedlak, vice president for technical and international affairs at the Soap and Detergent Association, a trade association.

Larson agreed that most of the symptoms that the participants in the study reported are usually caused by viruses.

"That's the point -- most infections . . . are viral," she said. "So since we don't have a big risk of bacterial infections, then why do we need 72 percent of our liquid soap in this country containing antibacterial ingredients?"

Even for symptoms that often are caused by bacteria -- vomiting and diarrhea -- the study failed to find any indication that the products cut the risk, she added. "There were no differences in those rates, either," she said.

In addition to possibly promoting the evolution of dangerous superbugs, using antibacterial products in the home might make children more likely to develop allergies and asthma, said Stuart Levy, a professor of molecular biology, microbiology and medicine at the Tufts University School of Medicine.

"I have been concerned for a long time about changing the microbiology of the home," said Levy, who was not involved in the new study. "Infants growing up in the home need to be exposed to certain types of bacteria to get their immune systems to mature properly. Too hygienic means that you are more likely to come down with allergies and asthma."

In an accompanying editorial in the journal, J. Todd Weber and James M. Hughes of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said infectious diseases do pose an important public health threat, but the findings are a reminder that the best protection against germs is basic cleanliness.

"Perhaps the frequent admonitions we heard as children are more valid now more than ever -- cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands!" they wrote.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Eye-Related Quackery

http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/eyequack.html

Russell S. Worrall, O.D.
Jacob Nevyas, Ph.D.
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Since ancient times, many people have held the mistaken belief that poor eyesight can be cured by special eye exercises. This belief was brought to its highest state of fruition by a one-time reputable physician, William Horatio Bates, M.D., who in 1920 published The Cure of Imperfect Eyesight by Treatment Without Glasses.

In 1917, Bates teamed up with Bernarr Macfadden, a well known food faddist who published the magazine Physical Culture. Together they offered a course in the Bates System of Eye Exercises for a fee that included a subscription to the magazine. This venture met with considerable success and led many people to believe in the Bates System. However, the big impact of Bates's work materialized after publication of his book. This book attracted large numbers of charlatans, quacks, and gullible followers who then published scores of unscientific books and articles of their own on the subject of vision. Extolling the Bates System, these authors urged readers to "throw away" their glasses. Some of these writers even established schools.

Contrary to scientific fact, Bates taught that errors of refraction are due, not to the basic shape of the eyeball or the structure of the lens, but to a functional and therefore curable derangement in the action of the muscles on the outside of the eyeball. All defects in vision, he said, were caused by eyestrain and nervous tension; and perfect vision could be achieved by relaxing the eyes completely. Bates warned that eyeglasses cause the vision to deteriorate; he also deplored the use of sunglasses. Bates claimed his exercises could correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia (the inability of older people to focus their eyes on nearby objects). They could also cure such diseases as cataracts, eye infections, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. His exercises included palming (covering the eyes and attempting to see blackness) and shifting or swinging the gaze from object to object.

It should be obvious that these exercises cannot influence eyesight disorders as Bates claimed. Nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia result from inborn and acquired characteristics of the lens and the eyeball -- which no exercise can change. As for eye diseases, the only thing the exercises can do is delay proper medical or surgical treatment and result in permanent impairment of vision. The claims Bates made in advertising his book were so dubious that in 1929 the Federal Trade Commission issued a complaint against him for advertising "falsely or misleadingly."

After Bates died in 1931, his office and teaching practices were taken over very successfully by his wife Emily with the help of Dr. Harold M. Peppard. Mrs. Bates had worked with her husband for a number of years, and Peppard was an ardent advocate of the Bates System. An edited version of Dr. Bates's book was published in 1940 as Better Eyesight Without Glasses. This version was revised several times and is still in print. Its recommendations include "sun treatment" in which the sun is permitted to shine on closed eyes and then on the sclera (white portion of the eye) while looking downward. The book states: "One cannot get too much sun treatment."

Other dubious promoters followed Bates's path. One of the best known was Gayelord Hauser, popular food faddist and Hollywood favorite, who in 1932 published Keener Sight Without Glasses. By combining eye exercise and diet theories, Hauser furthered the sale of his own dietary products.

In the mid-1950s, Philip Pollack, OD, a prominent optometrist in New York City, wrote a blistering critique of the Bates System [1]; and the vast majority of optometrists and ophthalmologists regard Bate's notions as wrong. Yet Bates still has advocates today. Some cling to "traditional" Bates techniques, while others use expensive computerized biofeedback machines. Their promotion is not limited to books and magazine articles but includes direct-mail campaigns with glossy brochures and toll-free numbers, pitching similar programs with new gadgets and mail-order videos. Beware of "Institutes" using well-known college towns in their names or "doctors" with dubious credentials, such as one we encountered with a degree from the "University in California" (not the University of California).

See Clearly (Quack)

http://www.seeclearlymethod.com/

Q. How does the See Clearly Method work?

A. Just as you can improve your health and fitness by exercising your body, we believe you can improve your vision by exercising your eyes. In today's society, most people don't put their eye muscles through a full range of motion on a regular basis. For instance, when we spend too much time focusing at close range, e.g., reading or working at a computer, we impose a lot of stress on the visual system. This stress weakens the eye muscles and inhibits circulation of blood and nutrients, which may contribute to premature aging of the eye, improper coordination between the eyes, and blurred vision.

The standard approach to vision care is to buy stronger and stronger glasses as our eyes get weaker and weaker. However, glasses just treat the symptoms and don't fix the problem. In fact, the more we wear glasses or contacts, the more our eyes grow dependent on them, and the weaker they become.

With the See Clearly Method, you learn simple techniques that increase the flow of blood and nutrients to the eyes, making them healthier and stronger. The techniques help increase your natural focusing power so you see more clearly, both far away and up close. They also reduce eyestrain and improve the coordination of the eyes.

Q. How long do you have to practice the techniques before you get results?

A. Individual results vary, but if you use the See Clearly Method as directed, we expect that you will get noticeable results in about one month. Although some people get amazing results very quickly, in most cases it takes several weeks before the techniques really start to work. The key is doing the techniques on a regular basis, preferably every day.

Q. What do I have to do?

A. The program comes with 4 different ways to do the same simple program: video, audio, computer CD ROM, and a manual with written instructions. The core of the program are the videotapes, which teach you all the vision improvement techniques. There are 4 half-hour exercise sessions, so that you just throw the video in and follow along. It's very simple, fun, easy to do.

Then, once you've learned the techniques, you can do them at various times during the day when you have a free moment, like waiting in line at the bank or grocery store, at a stop light, talking on the phone, during TV commercials. We liken it to preventative dentistry. 45 years ago people didn't brush or floss their teeth but now we do this as part of our daily routine. In the same way, once you learn this program it becomes a habit, something you regularly do to improve and maintain the health of your eyes.

Q. How much time does the program take?

A. The doctors who developed the See Clearly Method recommend spending a minimum of 30 minutes a day doing the techniques. However, many people don't have this much time, and you can experience benefits spending only minutes every day doing the program. The most important thing is to learn the techniques so that you can do them at times during the day when you have a free moment, like waiting in line at the bank or grocery store, at a stop light, talking on the phone, during TV commercials.

Q. Will I be able to get out of my glasses?

A. It depends on a number of factors. According to the See Clearly Method doctors, getting out of glasses depends on a number of factors, including the severity of your condition, your diligence in doing our program, and your lifestyle (state of health, stress level and diet).

There are three ways people are using the See Clearly Method:

1. To get out of their glasses, which is a reasonable expectation for many people 2. To reduce their dependency on glasses, so they don't have to wear them so much 3. If their vision is getting worse, to stabilize it so they don't have to keep getting stronger prescriptions every year or two

The doctors recommend setting multi-level goals. If your vision is getting worse, we'd recommend your first goal be to stabilize your vision and avoid stronger prescriptions. Then you might set as a goal to reduce your dependency on glasses. Once you achieved that goal, you can have as your goal to return to normal or near-normal vision and eliminate corrective lenses.

Q. What if I'm not happy with the results? Is there a money-back guarantee?

A. You have 30 days from the day you receive the program to try it out, and if you're not satisfied with the results you can return it to us for a refund of the purchase price (less shipping and handling).

Q. What kind of vision problems and conditions is the See Clearly Method designed to help?

A. The See Clearly Method is designed to help people with common vision problems like eyestrain, nearsightedness, farsightedness, presbyopia (poor vision due to aging), blurred vision, double vision, and astigmatism.

Q. Is it the same program for nearsightedness and farsightedness?

A. The goal is to improve the health of the entire eye region, and all the aspects of your vision, so you want to be strengthening both your close vision and your distance vision. Some of the techniques are done a little differently depending on whether you're nearsighted or farsighted. Also, there are specific recommendations for techniques to emphasize for different vision conditions.

Q. Will the See Clearly Method eye exercises help with my inability to change focus?

A. Yes, with the exception of very old people, the eye exercises can improve focusing ability.

Q. I wear really thick glasses. Will the exercises help me?

A. Yes, but if you've been wearing glasses for decades and have a strong prescription, don't expect to get rid of them overnight. An easier goal is to reduce dependency on glasses so you don't need to wear them all the time.

Q. Both my parents are nearsighted. Does this mean my nearsightedness is inherited?

A. Probably not. If you could see well as a child, it's likely that you inherited normal, healthy eyes. In fact, the vast majority of babies are slightly farsighted, so they can see well in the distance.

Q. What causes myopia?

A. In most cases, myopia (nearsightedness) is caused by stress on the focusing mechanism of the eyes (nearpoint stress), which can result from extended periods of reading, working at a computer, or other close-up visual activity, often accompanied by a poor diet. Although there may be a genetic factor at work in some cases, the mechanism by which this operates is presently unknown.

Q. Is it okay for children to do the See Clearly Method?

A. Yes. It's an excellent idea to tackle visual problems when they first appear. We recommend that parents and children do the program together.

Q. Can any of the exercises be harmful?

A. To the best of our knowledge, no injuries or other problems have ever occurred when the exercises are done as directed. However, like any other form of physical exercise, it's important not to overdo it. If your eyes become unpleasantly sore or you experience any pain in your eyes when doing the exercises, you must immediately stop and do the relaxation techniques.

Q. What kind of research is there on The See Clearly Method?

A. In 1999, the doctors who created the See Clearly Method conducted a clinical evaluation. This was not considered formal research, since there was no control group. Twenty-one people did the program for 5 weeks, and their vision was evaluated before and after. The results: 95% improved their visual acuity (clarity), 86% reduced or eliminated their use of glasses or contacts, 67% reduced refractive error (prescription strength), 95% were satisfied with the results, and everyone who was experiencing eyestrain eliminated it.

Also, more than 1,500 articles and research papers have been published on vision therapy, which is the body of knowledge from which the See Clearly Method doctors developed the principles and techniques that are the basis of The See Clearly Method.

Q. Is the See Clearly Method similar to the Bates Method?

A. In the early 1900's, William Bates pioneered the notion that vision could be improved through natural techniques. Some of his principles and techniques are incorporated into The See Clearly Method, as is the work of many other behavioral optometrists. As a result, our doctors believe The See Clearly Method is more comprehensive, and is designed to address many different aspects of visual health--reducing stress, strengthening the muscles, relaxing the muscles, improving the coordination and teamwork of the eyes, improving circulation and flow of nutrients to the eye region, stimulating tear fluid, improving depth perception, and improving focusing power.

Q. Do you recommend laser surgery for the eyes?

A. The results obtained from laser surgery are impressive and we give it a qualified recommendation. However, you should be aware that laser surgery doesn't improve the health of the eyes, nor does it restore the loss of natural focusing power due to the aging process. And the Federal Trade Commission has said that most people who undergo laser surgery will still need glasses at some point--typically reading glasses as a result of deterioration of the vision due to the aging process.

Anyone who has had laser surgery would benefit by using The See Clearly Method to improve the total performance of their visual system. The big advantage of The See Clearly Method over laser surgery is that it helps restore your focusing power naturally. In addition, it's completely safe and costs only a fraction of the price. If you are considering laser surgery, we recommend that you try The See Clearly Method first.

Even if you have already had laser surgery, The See Cleary Method can improve the total performance of your visual system. For example, one customer, a scout for the Boston Red Sox, still needed glasses after laser surgery, but no longer needed them after doing The See Clearly Method.

Q. What does my prescription mean?

A. In general, the larger the number, the worse your eyesight. A plus sign in front of the number means farsighted or presbyopic. A minus sign in front of the number means nearsighted (myopic). If a second decimal number, an "x" and another number follow in sequence after the first number, you have astigmatism.

Q. Who developed this program?

A. Three award-winning eye doctors and research scientists created the See Clearly Method program. Almost every optometrist has heard of two of the doctors, Dr. Merrill Allen and Dr. Francis Young. Dr. Allen has personally educated thousands of optometrists in his 47 years at the Indiana University School of Optometry. He was the inventor of the high-mounted rear brake light, and other vision-related auto safety features. His father was involved in training pilots in the military during World War II using eye exercises so they would be 20/20 without glasses.

Dr. Young (Ph.D.) is a former professor at Washington State University who did pioneering research on myopia. He studied Native Alaskan families and found that while almost all the parents had excellent vision, 60% of their children, who were the first family members to attend American schools, were nearsighted. Young and his team concluded that this could not be attributed to genetics or nutrition, that it was the long periods of doing close-up reading and schoolwork that was causing the myopia.

The other doctor is Dr. David W. Muris, an optometrist who has been using these techniques with his patients for 20 years.

Get Rid of the Spectacle Nuisance

http://www.mtn.org/quack/devices/eye.htm

Regain Your Eye Freedom

SIMPLY-SATISFACTORILY-SAFELY

The Natural Eyesight System Tells You How

No Doctoring-No Drugs-No Danger
Nothing to Wear and Nothing to Fear

THIS IS THE NATURAL EYE NORMALIZER

The Natural Eye Normalizer is the most important invention which makes it practical for you and your family to have and enjoy the complete revolutionary NATURAL EYESIGHT SYSTEM in the privacy of your own home. It administers a most effective treatment for relaxing tense eyes, resting tired eyes and relieving strained eyes. Operated by a simple "Twist of the Wrist," it can be used with perfect safety by everyone.

Your Eyes Were Made to See With

Take Off Your Eye Crutches and Enjoy Stronger Eyes See the Way Nature Intended You to See

This 1930's ad was produced by the Natural Eyesight Institute manufacturer of the Natural Eye Normalizer, a metal device finished in chrome with rubber gaskets fitting the eyes. The device came with five booklets describing treatments and containing logs to record eye excercises. How did it work? It didn't!

The "patient" applied the device to the eyes shutting out all light. The handle on the side of the device allows the gaskets to rotate slightly to massage the eyelids. In theory, the device was supposed to relax the eyes thereby eliminating all vision problems. The device had no effect on vision problems.

This device is one of many which sought to cash in on the theory promoted by William Horatio Bates, M.D. who published The Cure of Imperfect Eyesight by Treatment Without Glasses in 1920. Dr. Bates wrongly suggested that relaxation would cure vision problems. Today, many of his followers have altered his theory by suggesting that eye exercise will cure vision problems (and there is a kernel of truth in this for eye exercise is recommended for conditions like lazy eye and crossed eyes). In mystical ways, Bates followers suggest practicing how and where to focus, rotating eyes from left to right and back again to increase peripheral vision and more. For almost all vision problems, eye exercise has no effect. Claims that the Bates theory and exercise may 'eliminate the need for glasses and contacts' are false.

These claims are made today by sellers of pinhole eyeglasses and expensive consultants who lead vision therapy 'classes.' "It is difficult to understand the widespread popularity of the Bates System unless one considers that its followers make up what is essentially a cult. Its practitioners are faith healers who appeal to the gullible, the neurotic, the highly emotional, and the psychosomatic…. 'Perfect sight without glasses' is an empty promise," say Russell S. Worrall, O.D. and Jacob Nevyas, Ph.D. (cited by George Nava True II). True relates

"In 1956, Dr. Philip Pollack, a Manhattan optometrist, wrote The Truth About Eye Exercises which exposed the flaws in the Bates System. Alas, Pollack's book was soon forgotten while the Bates System lives on."

See Can Eye Exercises Improve Vision? by George Nava True II.

Urbane Barrett, owner of the Natural Eyesight Institute, was convicted of mail fraud in 1937 - a year before the U. S. Food and Drug Administration was authorized to regulate medical devices.


Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Complementary Medicine Faces Gmc-Style Regulation

http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=2599106

Tue 2 Mar 2004
1:44pm (UK)

By Lyndsay Moss, Health Correspondent, PA News

New proposals to regulate herbal practitioners and acupuncturists were outlined by the Government today.

The plans would require those practising complementary and alternative medicine to meet required standards of competence or face being struck off the register, similar to sanctions used against doctors and nurses.

The Department of Health said its wide-ranging regulatory reforms aimed to “place patient safety at the centre of all health services”.

It follows recommendations last year by the Herbal Medicine Regulatory Working Group which voiced concerns about rogue practitioners endangering patients with “quack cures”.

The consultation proposed setting up a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Council, which would have similar powers to the General Medical Council (GMC) in assessing the performance of doctors.

Health Minister John Hutton also announced another public consultation to extend regulations to a wider range of health staff, including healthcare assistants, therapy assistants and healthcare scientists.

It is estimated that around 300,000 of these support staff are currently working in the NHS and the proposals would also create a separate body to regulate standards.

Mr Hutton said: “Professional staff who are currently unregulated are increasingly working as part of a wider healthcare team to provide efficient and high quality care.

“Proper arrangements therefore need to be put in place to regulate the practice of all staff who provide direct care to patients.

“We are considering the introduction of compulsory regulation for all these health care support workers, who will be subject to discipline if their actions or behaviour fall short of accepted standards.”

Mr Hutton also said people were increasingly turning to complementary medicine, with more than 4,000 practising acupuncturists and herbalists in the UK â€" none of whom are subject to professional standards of training.

“These proposals to regulate the industry will reassure patients and the public that herbal medicine and acupuncture practitioners are not only suitably qualified, but also competent and up-to-date with developments in practice.

“The professions welcome the work undertaken by the Government in this area, and the opportunity it represents to reassure the public of their competence to treat patients,” he said.

Health workers’ union Unison also welcomed the consultations’ proposals.

Head of Health Karen Jennings said: “Unison has nearly 100,000 health care assistants and we have long called for proper regulation to establish minimum standards of skills and expertise before they are able to lay a hand on a patient.

“Health care assistants are a vital part of the NHS team and yet the training they receive varies enormously from trust to trust.

“We want to see an end to the training lottery, and proper recognition of the valuable contribution that they make to patient care.”

The two consultations run until the summer. The regulations for healthcare staff would cover England and Wales, while the complementary regulation proposals apply to the whole of the UK.

Latest News:

http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm

Bending science to fit religion

http://www.helenair.com/articles/2004/03/02/opinions/a04030204_02.txt

By KEN TOOLE - 03/02/04

Matters of science, culture, history and experience that naturally prompt fascination and wonder must be explained within the frame work of the biblical world view." You might think this quote came from the distant past when scientists were put on trial for heresy and imprisoned or burned at the stake. Well, think again. This quote is from the welcoming statement on a web page called Creationresource.org. It is relevant today because this is where you can find material which is being used to support a book challenge at the Smith School Library here in Helena.

The offending book in this case is Horse, by Juliette Clutton-Brock. Part of the Eyewitness series, this book provides information for nine to 12 year olds on all aspects of horses and ponies. There is a chapter in the book titled, How Horses Evolved. The person filing the complaint says that the book fails to properly present evolution as a religious belief.

Book challenges are nothing new in Helena. We have seen them before at both our local library and in the school system. And School District No. 1 has a good policy which allows parents and others to challenge material they find offensive while giving the community an opportunity to review and participate. But, it is also important to recognize that the challenge here in Helena is part of a much larger controversy which is boiling across the country.

A recent school controversy in Darby also focused on evolution. Following several community meetings, the Darby school board adopted a program called "Intelligent Design." This program promotes the idea that the world is simply too complex to have been created without an "intelligent designer" (God?). A group in the community wanted "Intelligent Design theory" presented in science classes along with "evolution theory." Of course Intelligent Design didn't just appear in Darby. It is promoted by a national group called the Discovery Institute. Despite repeated warnings about the legality the move, the Darby school board voted to adopt the Intelligent Design proposal. Maybe that is because two national religious right organizations, the Alliance Defense Fund and the Liberty Counsel, have volunteered to provide representation if needed. There is little doubt the Darby controversy will continue for months to come. And little doubt that numerous national organizations are looking for test cases to litigate.

So far, repeated efforts to have the biblical creation story treated as science in public school classrooms have been rejected by the courts as an unconstitutional state adoption of religious doctrine. The newest tactic of the creation science crowd seems to be to challenge "evolution theory" as an unproven belief system which constitutes a religion of its own. If evolution is a religious theory, then it should be prohibited just like creation science has been. In fact, the person challenging the book here in Helena says that evolution is a religious belief.

This strategy hinges on the use of the word "theory." Like many words, its meaning varies depending on usage and context. For example, we might say that we have a theory about why a person committed a crime. The meaning of the word in this context is that the theory is an idea or set of ideas which are not proven or even provable. On the other hand the word "theory" in the scientific context means a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena. Probability theory and Einstein's theory of relativity, are examples of the word being used in this way. Evolution theory fits in the second category. It is not simply conjecture about how certain events have occurred. It is supported by facts and a documented record. Yet those who want to see the biblical creation story taught as science play on the term "theory of evolution." They insist that evolution is nothing more than speculation.

As a community we must be very cautious about bending science to fit some people's religious perspectives. Religion belongs in our classrooms; it should be taught in philosophy, history, and a host of other disciplines. But it should not be used to undermine the science curriculum.

Ken Toole is the program director for The Montana Human Rights Network

Hearing on school library book airs evolution dispute

http://www.montanaforum.com/rednews/2004/03/01/build/education/evolution.php?nnn=2

Associated Press

HELENA – A woman who wants the book "Horse" removed from her 8-year-old's school because it promotes evolution had only one supporter and dozens of opponents at a hearing by a school district committee.

Roxanne Cleasby wants the Helena School District to remove the book, or at least pages 8 and 9, from Smith Elementary because it does not address creationism as an alternative theory to evolution. The committee will submit its recommendation to the superintendent of public schools within 30 days.

"It took about 55 million years for the present family of horses, asses and zebras to evolve from their earliest horse-like ancestor," reads Page 8 of the children's book by Juliet Clutton-Brock.

Cleasby said there is no evidence that the horse, as a species, actually evolved. She devoted most of her allotted three minutes at Friday's hearing to disputing the theory of evolution.

"There remain too many questions with evolutionary theory to present it as a fact," she said. "Children and adults need the freedom to question, ponder and seek this very fundamental question of how they came to be."

John Fenlason of the Hannaford Street Bible Church in Helena also said the book should not present evolution as a fact.

"Evolution is just as much a theory and a religious view as creationism is," Fenlason said. "I don't think creationism gets equal opportunity to be discussed. Let's give both sides that opportunity." When the moderator turned over the discussion to supporters of the book, the line stretched to the back of the room. Some called Cleasby's complaint an "attack by extremists" on public schools and nothing more than "religious dogma."

"The primary assumption of creation science is a supernatural event," said Carroll College biology professor Grant Hokit. "It's impossible to test creationism using scientific theory because the mechanisms of the supernatural events are not measurable."

Hokit said science does not dismiss the existence of a creator, nor does it prove the existence of one.

"For the success of future generations, it is critical that we allow access to books that contain the prevailing views of science," he said. Zia Kazimi, a Clancy resident born in Afghanistan, said Cleasby's arguments reminded him of the Taliban, the Muslim fundamentalists who ruled his native country.

"I've had the opportunity, firsthand, to see what extremists can do," Kazimi said. "Perhaps those in our community don't wear turbans or grow long beards, but the simple truth is that they are afraid of any competing views or beliefs."

Darby schools are embroiled in a similar dispute over teaching alternative theories to evolution in the classroom. The school board last month adopted an "objective origins" policy for the district's science classes.

Copyright © 2004 Associated Press.

Jerome Lawrence, Inherit the Wind Playwright, Dead at 88

http://www.playbill.com/news/article/84684.html

By Kenneth Jones
March 2, 2004

Jerome Lawrence, the playwright known for Auntie Mame, Inherit the Wind, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail and The Last Sunday in October, all collaborations with fellow writer Robert E. Lee, died Feb. 29 at his home in Malibu, California, according to The New York Times.Mr. Lawrence was 88 and leaves behind 39 works co-written with Lee, including librettos for Dear World and Mame. Lee died in 1994.

Their best-known work might be the courtroom drama, Inherit the Wind, the even-handed fictionalization of the Scopes Monkey Trial that put a Tennessee teacher on trial for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in a community where creationism was embraced.

Mr. Lawrence was born in Cleveland in 1915. His father owned a printing company and his mother was a poet and philanthropist. He earned a B.A. from Ohio State University in 1937 and later did graduate work at the University of California.

Mr. Lawrence reportedly met Lee (a native of Elyria, Ohio) in New York in 1942 while Mr. Lawrence was a writer for CBS radio and Lee was working for Young & Rubicam, the advertising agency.

While serving in World War II, they helped found the Armed Forces Radio Service. Their first Broadway collaboration after their service was the musical, Look, Ma! I'm Dancin'.

Their works included Shangri-La (also lyricist), Diamond Orchid, The Incomparable Max, The Gang's All Here, Only in America and A Call on Kuprin.

According to The New York Times, the last collaboration of Lawrence & Lee was seen at the Missouri Rep in 1994. The play was Whisper in the Mind, about an imaginary meeting between Benjamin Franklin and hypnotist Frank Anton Mesmer.

Mr. Lawrence's one Tony Award nomination was for Best Musical, for Mame, though his works are revived hundreds of times around the world, long after many Tony-winning playwrights fall from view.

The writers also penned the screen plays of "Auntie Mame" (based on the novel by Patrick Dennis) and "Inherit the Wind."

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail has had a wide life in university and regional theatre.

Mr. Lawrence is survived by his companion, Will Willoughby, of Malibu, and nieces and nephews.

A theatre archive is named in honor of Lawrence & Lee at Ohio State University. Click here for more information.

Copyright © 2002 Playbill, Inc.

Vaccinations: Irrational fear isn't confined to Third World

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/editorials/stories/030104dnedivaccines.50f47.html

12:01 AM CST on Monday, March 1, 2004

Polio is back in northern Nigeria, thanks to a conspiracy theory spread by some Muslim clerics. They're telling their people that a United Nations vaccine program is part of a Western plot to render their women infertile. African children will be left crippled because of such barbaric nonsense, and a dread disease that could have been eradicated by scientists will live to maim countless others.

But before we start feeling too superior to the superstitious Nigerians, let's consider how vulnerable our own irrational fears of vaccines leave our population to potentially calamitous outbreaks of disease.

Consider Great Britain. Measles has returned, thanks to the public's reaction to a 1998 report tentatively linking the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine to autism. Subsequent studies failed to confirm the connection, but that didn't stop a significant number of anxious parents from withholding the vaccine from their children.

In the United States, there's a small but well-organized anti-vaccine movement that blames thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative once widely used in vaccines, for the dramatic rise in autism. Despite a wealth of scientific evidence showing no link, a growing number of parents are refusing to immunize children – even though thimerosal hasn't been used in most vaccines here since 1999.

That hasn't stopped a flood of thimerosal-related litigation against vaccine makers. The vaccine market always has been a low-profit area for drug manufacturers, and with the added drain of fighting lawsuits, it's no wonder vaccine makers are leaving the business.

This is a potential disaster. In 2002, the United States suffered an unprecedented shortage of vaccine designed to prevent eight childhood diseases. There were no outbreaks, thanks mostly to residual immunity from past vaccinations. But doctors are scared that future shortages, combined with more parents refusing to vaccinate their kids, could bring on a serious crisis.

Americans have to realize there's no such thing as a fully safe vaccine. The absence of diseases like polio, smallpox, rubella and the like is the legacy of vaccination. When nobody has such diseases, it's easy to focus on kids who may have been damaged by vaccine side effects. But let those formerly controlled diseases return because we lacked adequate vaccines or refused to accept them, and the price of irrational adults will be paid by innocent children.


Monday, March 01, 2004

Bay area man wages war against occult, spiritualism

http://www.sptimes.com/2004/02/20/Southpinellas/Bay_area_man_wages_wa.shtml

While Ben Alexander says most psychics are frauds, he warns against what he sees as a real danger - seances and similar spiritualism.
By LEONORA LaPETER, Times Staff Writer
Published February 20, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - For more than 30 years, Ben Alexander has been traveling the world, criticizing Ouija boards and psychics, battling witchcraft and Wicca, finding fault with the likes of Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons.

As psychics rise to new prominence, he is finding plenty of targets.

Celebrity psychic John Edward claims to speak to the dead on a nationally syndicated television show and commands $45 a person on a national tour. Pet psychic Sonja Fitzpatrick, who appears on cable channel Animal Planet, recently charged as much as $50 a head at an appearance in St. Petersburg. Even Carlie Brucia's parents hired a psychic to try to locate the missing 11-year-old, who was later found dead near a Sarasota church.

Anderson says they are all fakes. But there is a difference between him and others skeptical of spiritualism.

He believes.

He believes in ectoplasm, a substance that some spiritualists say spews from the mouth or stomach of a medium in the midst of a darkened seance to form a spirit. He believes spirits can materialize and speak to ordinary people about extraordinary things. He thinks some people are psychic, possessed of special powers to reach where most can't.

Alexander, who lived in St. Petersburg for 15 years and recently moved to Bradenton, says he has experienced all of it. But he has made it his mission to stop it. He says speaking to spirits is the same as speaking to Satan.

His message has made him a popular speaker in religious circles. He has spoken to tens of thousands of people in every state but Rhode Island, plus 14 foreign countries. He has appeared on several hundred TV and radio shows around the world, including three times on the Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club.

Alexander says celebrity psychics Edward and Fitzpatrick aren't really talking to the dead because they speak in generalities. Fitzpatrick, he said, would not ask for a dog's name if she could speak to him. Edward would be more precise when dealing with his audience.

At the altar of a St. Petersburg church sanctuary, Alexander recently knelt with one hand on a mock guitar and the other pumping the air in rock star fashion. In the pews sat 100 middle-schoolers from Central Christian School.

"Your rock stars are the ugliest people I've ever seen in my life," he said in a British accent.

Then he donned a messy, long black wig and a plastic nose with black bushy eyebrows and mustache. For a moment, he pretended to be Alice Cooper as strains of Metallica's Battery filled the sanctuary.

"I remember when I used to use a Ouija board," he told them. "In my circle, there was eight of us. We felt an evil presence and we heard, "All is dark. Pray with me.' Over and over and over again. And the Bible would be raised and slammed against the wall."

* * *

Alexander is considered one of Central Christian Church's missionaries, and he receives about $1,500 a year from the church. This past weekend, he was in Salt Lake City and received $1,500 for speaking to 250 junior high and high school kids. He says he wants to concentrate more on sending his message to kids.

But some say he's just another speaker cashing in on the public's fears.

"It's just a racket," says James Randi, a professional magician known as the Amazing Randi who lives in Plantation.

He's speaking of anyone who claims to have seen a spirit materialize at a seance or remove a shoe from someone in attendance.

"It's an illusion. It's a racket for people to make money on. It's the same as a shell game. It's not supernatural. It's not genuine."

Randi first offered $1,000 in 1948 to anyone who could show him proof of a paranormal, supernatural or occult power, or even psychic phenomena. Today, the educational foundation that bears his name has a $1-million prize to anyone who can offer proof. Randi, author of numerous books, said he has been all over the world investigating claims, but no one has claimed any money in 56 years.

Randi said paranormal claims escalate in the years following wars, and the elderly are particularly susceptible to such potential.

"People get silly when they have needs," he said.

None of this changes Alexander's mind about what he saw.

"I've had people come up and say they don't believe it, and I can fully understand that," Alexander said. "But I've seen it with my own eyes. . . . I can't make you believe. But it happened."

* * *

Alexander grew up in London's east end, the adopted son of a couple who had their share of problems. He said his father gambled, drank and hit his mother. His mother tried to commit suicide a number of times and eventually became a prostitute after his father died.

Alexander's story is outlined in his 1993 book, Out from Darkness.

Eventually, Alexander became a London taxi driver. He recalled taking to the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain an American woman who told him she had participated in seances and spoken to her dead husband. Alexander became obsessed with spiritualism after that and began to participate in a weekly seance.

He says he has seen all manner of spiritualistic phenomena, from objects being moved from one place to another to spirits materializing in the darkened room where the group met every Saturday night for some six years.

But Alexander says the spirits in his group became so terrifying as time progressed that he stopped going.

Soon after that, he moved to California in 1965 with his second wife, Miranda. Alexander worked at a bakery and hoped to become a practicing medium in the United States. But he met an old friend who brought him to her church. He said he read the Bible and realized he was talking with demons, not the dead. He chose a new path with Christianity.

As he went to churches and told his story about converting from spiritualism to Christianity, he became a popular speaker at churches and Christian schools. He began to receive "love offerings" and other compensation for his work, $110 here, $40 there. He called his ministry Exposing Satan's Power.

* * *

Lora Phillips, 39, was at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Mo., some 20 years ago when she first heard Alexander talking about "spiritual warfare."

Last week, her 14-year-old son, Drew, heard Alexander speak at Central Christian School, where she is a first-grade teacher and Drew is an eighth-grader. Alexander spoke about how his seance circle sat around a Ouija board and summoned information about the dead.

Phillips and a handful of other students who heard Alexander said they accepted his message without question. So did the principal of the 350-student religious school, Rhonna Bodin.

"I've never actually seen that, only in Hollywood movies," Bodin said of a spirit. "But I do believe it's very real. The Bible talks about the spirit world."

Dara Wilson, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Central Christian, said Alexander's message about Ouija boards was scary.

"I told my brother I was scared and that I didn't ever want to play with that," she said.

Leah Baker, mother of Central Christian sixth-grader Amber Baker, said she was happy her daughter received Alexander's lesson. "This man was involved in it," she said, "so he can teach people not to get involved in it."

- Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

[Last modified February 20, 2004, 01:31:57]

© Copyright 2002-2004

Focus on metaphysical, an outreach to 'seekers'

http://www.hernandotoday.com/MGACU5RW6RD.html

By MAUREA SLEESMAN Hernando Today correspondent
Published: Feb 27, 2004

BROOKSVILLE - The Inner Peace Church of the Spirit provides an opportunity for seekers who may be undecided in their search for a home church. The Rev. Maria A. Marshall was active in an Indiana church for several years as its ordained minister and founder. When she relocated to Florida, she looked for a church of similar beliefs and found she would have to start one to meet her spiritual needs and those of like-minded area residents.

As many new churches must, the budding group met in homes. Later, it moved to a building in Brooksville, three doors from Domino's Pizza on West Jefferson Street.

The front portion and entry serves as a large bookstore that focuses on religious texts, healing, health concerns, world religions and even a children's section for ethics and "just for fun" books, according to the pastor. It sets the tone for the interfaith church.

A veteran yard sale and thrift store shopper, the pastor has gathered an impressive array of new and second-hand selections, ranging from a dozen copies of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus," by Dr. John Gray. There are also 21 new books by James Redfield's "Celestine Prophecies" to Depak Chopra, "Prayer of Jabez," Charles Dobson, Norman Vincent Peale, Dr. Weil, Dr. Phil, Dr. Joyce Brothers and just about every religious, health or self-help guidebook you could name, all at a discount.

"Sometimes," the pastor said, " we do exchanges for other books, and we're trying to keep the books on the subjects reflecting our outreach in ministry."

Shelves are accented with symbolic and artful knick-knacks, toys, figurines, porcelain mugs, lamps, angels, shells, artifacts from diverse cultures and household accessories and appliances. A yard sale will be held at the store in April to make room for newer acquisitions and to serve as a church fundraiser.

The church ad in the Yellow Pages lists development classes and a Reiki clinic. Reiki is a Japanese word meaning Universal Life Force Energy. Reiki works holistically, and its energy is drawn to areas where it is most needed, be that physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. It has been known to compliment the therapeutic effects of both conventional and alternative remedies in medicine. Reiki sessions are held at 7 p.m. each Tuesday, led by Jeanette Short. Jill Dale serves as the bookstore assistant, and is a survivor of a recent liver transplant. She uses Reiki to form meditative "energy balls" in an exercise that helps in her healing and serves as a calming asset.

"I used it to save my cat's life, and to settle my dog down," she said. "When my one injured hand aches, I can use it to relive tension and pain." Dale also teaches classes in nutrition, and is a vegan. She claims that her health is "A-1 now from the curative powers of making organic juices and healthful nutrition."

She offers free healthful teas, cold beverages and warm casseroles to browsers during the Inner Peace Church of the Spirit bookstore on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Shoppers can sample a diversity of meditative, health-related and religious CDs and videos from the church reference sections, and most are also for sale.

Regular church scheduling includes the worship service at 11 a.m. each Sunday, the Reiki clinic and studies at 7 p.m. Tuesdays. The Sylvia Browne Study Group is held at 10 a.m. on Thursdays.

"Sylvia Browne is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of 'The Other Side and Back' and she is also a popular lecturer," Marshall explained. "She has been working as a psychic for nearly 50 years, and appears frequently on the 'Montel Show,' 'Larry King Live,' CNN and 'Good Morning America.' Current Thursday morning church book study is on her book 'Life on the Other Side.'"

Sunday worship handouts include precepts of the Christian metaphysical denomination. Beliefs include the Lord as Almighty God, worship of him, eternal life as a gift of God and a belief that those in the natural world and those in the spiritual world can communicate with each other.

"Jesus demonstrated that spiritual communication ability in the New Testament," Marshall said. "We believe in the creationship of God, the oneness of life everywhere, the leadership of Christ, salvation and the progression of humanity upward and onward forever."

Marshall has officiated at weddings and funerals. She appreciates the Good News Version of the Bible, but has all versions in the church and bookstore.

Music tends toward the blend of newer and traditional Christian hymns and the pastor would appreciate musicians joining the worship services. Current singing is without instruments and mostly congregational. CDs and tapes in the store range from meditative to uplifting and joyful, Native American, Japanese, East Indian, mantras, and some Enya.

"A variety," Marshall stated." She personally enjoys the Christian vocals of Larnelle Harris, "and a little jazz."

The pastor is looking forward to psychic Hazel Tomim who will speak to the group Sunday March 21. She is visiting from Cassadaga, a quaint town known for its psychics and spiritualists.

Sunday worship services and mid-week classes feature lively group discussions and testimonials and an exchange of opinions and concerns are encouraged, Marshall said. "People come from a variety of experiences and deeper understanding builds from these exchanges. We can do this readily as a small church."

Her vision for the church includes purchase of rural acreage to build a facility that includes room for interfaith and multi-cultural classes, retreats, conferences, concerts and a daycare for seniors.

Three years ago, the pastor moved to Florida to be near her parents. She lives in Hernando Beach with her husband and three teens. She graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor's degree in psychology, and was ordained into the denomination in 1996. She served in the Air National Guard for 24 years and has worked in the engineering section of Magnavox for many years. She also works as a rental associate for her family's business as well as operating the bookstore.

Linda Hayward is the church administrative assistant and is also a family friend, serving as the family's accountant for nearly 15 years. Hayward lives nearby and is an equestrian and a professional computer advisor.

"Computers are a wonderful tool," she said. "The troubles usually come from humans who don't use them correctly, and sometimes the various programs from different systems don't match. There are, sadly, occasional wrong-doers who create worms and viruses and other mass Internet problems." Hayward said she appreciates the pastor for being a good listener, as a person who is always calm, and as a boss who allows for others to have creative ideas so that work may flourish.

Healing through prayer is paramount at Inner Peace Church of the Spirit, and Marshall finds it rewarding whenever she can help people along their spiritual path. She finds it engaging and challenging to be of help to the vast diversity of people, yet welcomes people of all faiths, especially "seekers" to come to the church and the bookstore to find healthful, ethical and spiritual aid.

"To live in the present to the utmost" she said, "as life and one's religious beliefs are really all interwoven, or should be."

Inner Peace Church of the Spirit is located at 425 W. Jefferson St., Brooksville Phone: 544-0305 Email: innerpeacechurch@aol.com

© 2004, Media General Inc.

Helena hearing airs evolution dispute

http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2004/03/01/news/mtregional/news05.txt

By the Associated Press

Long line of speakers argues against request to remove book from school

HELENA - A woman who wants the book "Horse" removed from her 8-year-old's school because it promotes evolution had only one supporter and dozens of opponents at a hearing by a school district committee.

Roxanne Cleasby wants the Helena School District to remove the book, or at least pages 8 and 9, from Smith Elementary because it does not address creationism as an alternative theory to evolution.

The committee will submit its recommendation to the superintendent of public schools within 30 days.

"It took about 55 million years for the present family of horses, asses and zebras to evolve from their earliest horse-like ancestor," reads Page 8 of the children's book by Juliet Clutton-Brock.

Cleasby said there is no evidence that the horse, as a species, actually evolved. She devoted most of her allotted three minutes at Friday's hearing to disputing the theory of evolution.

"There remain too many questions with evolutionary theory to present it as a fact," she said. "Children and adults need the freedom to question, ponder and seek this very fundamental question of how they came to be."

John Fenlason of the Hannaford Street Bible Church in Helena also said the book should not present evolution as a fact.

"Evolution is just as much a theory and a religious view as creationism is," Fenlason said. "I don't think creationism gets equal opportunity to be discussed. Let's give both sides that opportunity."

When the moderator turned over the discussion to supporters of the book, the line stretched to the back of the room. Some called Cleasby's complaint an "attack by extremists" on public schools and nothing more than "religious dogma."

"The primary assumption of creation science is a supernatural event," said Carroll College biology professor Grant Hokit. "It's impossible to test creationism using scientific theory because the mechanisms of the supernatural events are not measurable."

Hokit said science does not dismiss the existence of a creator, nor does it prove the existence of one.

"For the success of future generations, it is critical that we allow access to books that contain the prevailing views of science," he said.

Zia Kazimi, a Clancy resident born in Afghanistan, said Cleasby's arguments reminded him of the Taliban, the Muslim fundamentalists who ruled his native country.

"I've had the opportunity, firsthand, to see what extremists can do," Kazimi said. "Perhaps those in our community don't wear turbans or grow long beards, but the simple truth is that they are afraid of any competing views or beliefs."

Darby schools are embroiled in a similar dispute over teaching alternative theories to evolution in the classroom. The school board last month adopted an "objective origins" policy for the district's science classes.

Copyright © 2004 Missoulian


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