Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
Issue 6.11 - Nov 1998
It was the most notorious scientific experiment in recent memory - in 1989, the two men who claimed to have discovered the energy of the future were condemned as imposters and exiled by their peers. Can it possibly make sense to reopen the cold fusion investigation? A surprising number of researchers already have.
By Charles Platt
Almost four stories high, framed in steel beams and tangled in pipes, conduits, cables, and coils, the Joint European Torus (JET) claims to be the largest fusion power experiment in the world. Located near Oxford, England, JET is a monument to big science, its donut-shaped containment vessel dwarfing maintenance workers who enter it in protective suits. Here in this gleaming nuclear cauldron, deuterium gas is energized with 7 million amperes and heated to 300 million degrees Celsius - more than 10 times hotter than the center of the sun. Under these extreme conditions atomic nuclei collide and fuse, liberating energy that could provide virtually limitless power.
High-tension lines run directly to the installation, but they don't take electricity out - they bring it in. For a few magic seconds in 1997, JET managed to return 60 percent of the energy it consumed, but that's the best it's ever done, and is typical of fusion experiments worldwide. The US Department of Energy has predicted that we'll have to wait another five decades, minimum, before fusion power becomes practical. Meanwhile, the United States continues to depend on fossil fuels for 85 percent of its energy.
Many miles away, in the basement of a fine new home in the hills overlooking Santa Fe, New Mexico, a retired scientist named Edmund Storms has built a different kind of fusion reactor. It consists of laboratory glassware, off-the-shelf chemical supplies, two aging Macintosh computers for data acquisition, and an insulated wooden box the size of a kitchen cabinet. While JET's 15 European sponsor-nations have paid about US$1 billion for their hardware, and the US government has spent $14.7 billion on fusion research since 1951 (all figures in 1997 dollars), Storms's apparatus and ancillary gear have cost less than $50,000. Moreover, he claims that his equipment works, generating surplus heat for days at a time.
Storms is not an antiestablishment pseudoscientist pursuing a crackpot theory. For 34 years he was part of the establishment himself, employed at Los Alamos on projects such as a nuclear motor for space vehicles. Subsequently he testified before a congressional subcommittee considering the future of fusion. He believes you don't need millions of degrees or billions of dollars to fuse atomic nuclei and yield energy. "You can stimulate nuclear reactions at room temperature," he says, in his genial, matter-of-fact style. "I am absolutely certain that the phenomenon is real. It is quite extraordinary, and if it can be developed, it will have profound effects on society."
That's an understatement. If low-temperature fusion does exist and can be perfected, power generation could be decentralized. Each home could heat itself and produce its own electricity, probably using a form of water as fuel. Even automobiles might be cold fusion powered. Massive generators and ugly power lines could be eliminated, along with imported oil and our contribution to the greenhouse effect. Moreover, according to some experimental data, low-temperature fusion doesn't create significant hazardous radiation or radioactive waste.
Most scientists laugh at these claims. "It's pathological science," says physicist Douglas Morrison, formerly employed by CERN in Geneva. "The results are impossible."
Yet some highly qualified researchers disagree.
George Miley, who received the Edward Teller medal for innovative research in hot fusion and has edited Fusion Technology magazine for the American Nuclear Society for more than 15 years: "There's very strong evidence that low-energy nuclear reactions do occur. Numerous experiments have shown definitive results - as do my own."
John Bockris, formerly a distinguished professor in physical chemistry at Texas A&M University and a cofounder of the International Society for Electrochemistry: "Nuclear reactions can occur without high temperatures. Low-energy nuclear transformations can - and do - exist."
Michael McKubre, director of the Energy Research Center at SRI International: "I am absolutely certain there is unexplained heat, and the most likely explanation is that its origin is nuclear."
Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction writer, futurist, and funder of Infinite Energy magazine: "It seems very promising to me that nuclear reactions may occur at room temperatures. I'm quite convinced there's something in this."
Statements like these prompt an obvious question: If nuclear fusion can be demonstrated in anyone's basement workshop for a few thousand dollars, and could revolutionize society - why haven't we heard about it?
We have. On March 23, 1989, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced their discovery of "cold fusion." It was the most heavily hyped science story of the decade, but the awed excitement quickly evaporated amid accusations of fraud and incompetence. When it was over, Pons and Fleischmann were humiliated by the scientific establishment; their reputations ruined, they fled from their laboratory and dropped out of sight. "Cold fusion" and "hoax" became synonymous in most people's minds, and today, everyone knows that the idea has been discredited.
Or has it? In fact, despite the scandal, laboratories in at least eight countries are still spending millions on cold fusion research. During the past nine years this work has yielded a huge body of evidence, while remaining virtually unknown - because most academic journals adamantly refuse to publish papers on it. At most, the story of cold fusion represents a colossal conspiracy of denial. At least, it is one of the strangest untold stories in 20th-century science.
Copyright © 1993-2003 The Condι Nast Publications Inc.
Copyright © 1994-2003 Wired Digital, Inc.
I failed a test for precognition when I was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia. The test involved predicting which cards would appear next in a randomly shuffled deck. I guess I should have knownor perhaps I shouldn't have known? Of course, you've heard all the jokes: If phone psychics really know what's going to happen, shouldn't they call their clients rather than wait for their clients to call them? And whoever believes in psychokinesis, please raise my hand.
Still, a 2001 Gallup poll found that Americans continue to be credulous about the reality of psychic phenomena. About half of all Americans believe in psychic healing and extrasensory perception (ESP), and around a third believe in ghosts, telepathy, and clairvoyance.
Notoriously, during the Cold War, the CIA and the KGB both had programs researching paranormal abilities like "remote seeing" and telepathy. It should be noted that a 1995 study of the Department of Defense's STAR GATE remote viewing program done by the American Institutes for Research concluded: "[T]he information provided by remote viewing is vague and ambiguous, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the technique to yield information of sufficient quality and accuracy...for actionable intelligence. Thus, we conclude that continued use of remote viewing in intelligence gathering operations is not warranted."
Research into paranormal phenomena is still ongoing at places like Princeton University and the University of Edinburgh, as well as various institutes like the Rhine Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina. Some professors like the University of Arizona's Gary Schwartz host "spoon bending parties" where undergraduates allegedly deform flatware using their mental powers.
The New Scientist takes a fair-minded look into the controversy over the paranormal in its March 13 issue with a Parapsychology Special (which is unfortunately available only to subscribers). One article focuses on the results for tests for micro-PK, Ganzfeld viewing, and telekinesis.
Micro-PK is psychokinesis in which subjects try to influence microscopic events like the diffraction patterns of beams of photons or the output of random number generators. For example, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) lab runs experiments in which participants try to influence random number generators. PEAR director Robert Jahn's analysis of all his studies finds that participants can mentally influence random number generators. Jahn calculates that the probability of getting the same results by chance are less than 0.00007.
Still, according to the New Scientist, most micro-PK experiments fail to show results. For example, Stanley Jeffers of York University in Canada, using a different random number generator, found no effect. Even Jahn himself, collaborating with German researchers, could not reproduce his earlier results.
A Ganzfeld test helps assess your ESP. In one typical experiment a "sender" views one of four randomly chosen videotapes and tries to mentally project what he is seeing to an isolated "receiver." The receiver later views all four tapes and chooses the one he thinks he was being sent. Other ESP tests involve such things as "remote staring," where a participant is monitored for that back-of-neck-feeling when an experimenter randomly stares at them through a video monitor.
The latest meta-analysis of 40 Ganzfeld studies yielded "an overall hit rate of 30.1 percent" when the chance result would be 25 percent. The New Scientist noted that this is a "significant result," while nevertheless pointing out that other analyses conclude that the results are within the bounds of chance. Finally, a meta-analysis of 40 remote-staring studies reported a "small, yet significant deviation from chance," according to the New Scientist. However, when the meta-analysis was restricted to only the highest-quality studies, the effect disappeared.
Most studies of paranormal effects, then, find that they are not very robust; research results are often on the knife-edge of statistical significance, and can appear and disappear capriciously. There is also the believer effect: researchers who believe in the paranormal regularly find effects, while those who are skeptical do not. Perhaps science has an explanation for believers in psychic phenomenaexcess dopamine in their brains causes them to overidentify patterns in random data. To be fair, non-believers in psychic phenomena also find what they expect to find. But then again, they are not making claims about extraordinary phenomena.
What would convince skeptics that there are paranormal phenomena like remote viewing and clairvoyance? In a word, "replication." One may be skeptical that photons can act like waves, yet the double-slit experiment showing this effect can be replicated on demand by anybody. If just thinking at them could reliably bend photon beams for all researchers, then there really would be something to study. Until experimental replication without a lot of fancy statistical massaging occurs regularly, research on the paranormal will and should remain on the fringes of science.
Besides, normal science produces real miracles everyday. Who needs remote seeing when we have satellites and handheld video cameras, or telepathy in a world filled with cell phones?
Ronald Bailey, Reason's science correspondent, is the editor of Global Warming and Other Eco Myths (Prima Publishing) and Earth Report 2000: Revisiting the True State of the Planet(McGraw-Hill). His new book, Liberation Biology: An Ethical and Scientific Defense of the Biotech Revolution will be published by Prometheus later this year.
Wednesday, 17 March 2004, 12:16 pm
For centuries unexplained lights have appeared in the night sky with no suitable theory though many have been advanced. A New Zealander is claiming he was the first to successfully explain the mystery lights commonly called "UFOs" with a unified theory. These are the hard-to-explain UFO cases. Author and researcher Peter Coleman has revealed the real science behind these unexplained UFO fireballs.
His unified theory not only explains these UFO chariots of fire but in one sweeping theory ball lightning, the Tunguska "meteor", the Kaikoura UFOs, the Australian Min mins, the will o' the wisp and several other events are accounted for. Not content with theory he has actually created the fireballs in the laboratory and published the results in a 1999 Spring issue of EOS Transactions a publication of the American Geological Union.
His theory first appeared in 1993 in Weather (publication of Royal Meteorological Society of the UK) and in New Scientist 22 May, 1999. He has since written two books Ball Lightning-a scientific mystery explained (limited edition) that challenges the idea that ball lightning is an unsolved problem especially the book by Mark Stenhoff called Ball Lightning- an unsolved problem. Peter's latest book is Great Balls of Fire-A unified theory of UFOs, ball lightning, Tunguska and other anomalous lights is expected to be available sometime this year.
The key idea is that many UFO reports are actually luminous vortices. Only vortices have the power and unpredictibility to account for extreme events. Couple this to the idea that a vortex is actually on fire in a spheroidal zone of vortex breakdown and you have a potent formula that will explain many puzzling lights.
Vortex breakdown is the essential element. The low air speeds in this region enable a combustion flame to survive amidst the surrounding high speed air streams. Imagine seeing such a vortex at night all that you would see would be the fireball region moving around in seemingly unpredictable fashion and against the wind!
That such atmospheric vortex burners should exist is indisputable and first postulated by Coleman. The whole concept is firmly based on known ideas and results in science. Coleman believes that a correct solution could not have eventuated prior to 1957 simply because vortex breakdown was discovered in 1957 on the leading edge of model wings of planes.
The speculation and confirmnation that naturally occurring vortices should exhibit vortex breakdown would have have come later. Vortex breakdown has been seen in tornadoes only relatively recently by Pauley and Snow in 1988. Reports in early meteorological literature testify that such vortex burners exist. Collectively there is now sufficient evidence in favour of this unified theory.
Dr Stanley Singer a ball litghtning researcher, retired Professor Karl Nickel, Russian Scientists such as Marina Pankova and now a prominent scientist and physicist Bernard Haisch thinks that the theory may explain some UFOs.
Peter F Coleman 75 Wychbury St Christchurch phone 960-9905
Copyright (c) Scoop Media
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Time: 8:09:30 AM EST
By Jessica Burchard, email@example.com
Washington County schools are in the early stages of deciding how to add new science standards to the curriculum.
The Ohio School Board approved optional lesson plans March 9 for schools. The plans are meeting with criticism for including elements of "intelligent design," the theory that a non-specified higher power designed life because of its complexity.
Marietta City Schools curriculum coordinator, Jennifer Machir, said that the curriculum council, science teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade, were beginning to discuss the change.
"We're reviewing academic content standards and we're also in the process of aligning our program with the state's," Machir said
Machir said Marietta High School will get new science books, but the middle school and elementary schools may not.
Washington County Educational Services Center supervisor Laura Warren said Fort Frye Local Schools district began its textbook search last spring when the new standards were approved.
"We used the new standards to select textbooks. We created new courses, including human anatomy (senior level)," Warren said.
Warren added that the students and parents were pleased with the new lessons.
"Our students and parents are delighted with the program. It's informative and colorful," Warren said.
Warren High School science department chair, Nancy Ruth, said the new lesson plans offered teachers more options.
"It is an optional lesson plan. It does give our teachers more freedom to introduce the idea (of intelligent design)," Ruth said.
Ruth added that Warren will not get new books until 2006. The school does its textbook and curriculum review at the same time.
But not everyone is pleased with the new option because intelligent design remains a controversial topic.
Dave McShaffrey, an associate professor of biology at Marietta College, said that as a scientist he was worried about the new lessons.
"Look at how organisms are designed, it's anything but intelligent. It goes against what scientists who study organisms actually think," McShaffrey said.
Rebecca Sammons, mother of three Fort Frye students, said that the new lessons give more facts, and she agrees with including intelligent design.
"I don't believe in evolution. It sounds better to me. It has more facts," Sammons said.
Sammons said that she just wants her children to pass the school exams, but to stay rooted in their religious beliefs.
Ruth said that the lesson plans won't change how Warren teaches science.
"We believe that each student has the right to their own personal beliefs, we encourage them to investigate their beliefs, but don't want to force the students to change their opinions," Warren said.
Marietta Schools will have more discussions when it's taken to the curriculum council on May 10, Machir said.
The new science standards will be put on the Ohio Graduation Test for the next academic year.
The Associated Press contributed.
Copyright © 2004 The Marietta Times
The state board of education spent two years working on the plan.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN New optional state lesson plan guidelines for teaching evolution which some critics say put God into the classroom already have one scientist talking about leaving Ohio.
Dr. Gary Walker, an associate professor of cell/molecular biology at Youngstown State University, said he is so concerned about this new lesson plan that he is considering moving to western Pennsylvania so that his children, who will soon be in high school, will not have to take part in the critical analysis of evolution.
The state board of education voted 13-5 last week to approve the optional lesson plans. The plans can be used for districts as they teach new science standards.
Several critics say the lesson plan, called Critical Analysis of Evolution, which would be taught to high school sophomores, includes elements of intelligent design. Intelligent design is the theory that a nonspecified higher power designed life because of its complexity.
Those who support the lessons say the plan offers scientifically valid ways to examine evolution.
"I feel very strongly opposed to this," Walker said. "I think this plan has a negative impact on all of us who try to work hard to make Ohio less remedial."
Making it tougher?
He added that the new lesson plan may make it harder for community leaders to attract high-tech businesses to the state. He noted that biotechnology companies depend on a highly educated work force.
"Remedial content in our schools can only act as a major disincentive for high tech firms thinking of locating to Ohio," Walker said.
Deborah Owens Fink of Akron, a state school board member, whose district includes Trumbull County, voted in favor of the new plan and said she believes students should know how scientists today critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.
"This is not something we came up with quickly," Fink said. "We spent two years on this plan. There has been a lot of interest on this subject and the board listened to over 30,000 comments on this one issue."
She also said she does not think the plan contains the intelligent design elements raised by critics.
Part of the plan asks students to describe why scientific critical analysis of evolution is important, to describe three major pieces of evidence used to support evolution, and explain why these pieces are important. Also, they are to describe three major pieces of evidence used to challenge evolution and explain why these pieces are important.
Against the plan
The National Academy of Sciences and other scientific organizations have opposed the plan. Fink, however, noted that many scientists are in favor of the plan.
Marilyn Parks of the Columbiana County Educational Service Center said she has not seen the actual lesson plans but believes the plan is an exercise in analytical thinking.
"If education is about creating well-informed problem-solving citizens, then don't we want them to look at all the research and give them the tools to make a well-informed decision of their own?" asked Parks. "I have a concern in education when we limit what children are allowed to learn."
Bill Mullane, principal of Warren G. Harding High School, said he knows the approval by the state board of the new evolution lesson plan is highly political but it's on the bottom of his critical issues.
"There are a lot more issues important to me, like making sure students graduate," Mullane said. "I encourage diverse, multiple points of view. I think we should put out as many options as possible and let the students come to their own conclusions."
© 2004 The Vindicator
While Ohio schools have been locked in controversy over new lesson plans for teaching evolution, the issue remains dormant in Kentucky schools. Ohio's state board of education approved a lesson plan Tuesday called "Critical Analysis of Evolution," which supporters say offers scientific ways to analyze evolution, but critics say is religious theory masked as science.
The lesson plan includes elements of a theory called "intelligent design," which states a higher power, such as God, must have been involved in the creation of life. Critics say they expect to file a lawsuit, although Ohio students will not be tested on intelligent design.
While Ohio can mandate such lessons on the state level, there is no state-mandated curriculum in Kentucky, said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education.
"We leave it up to the school districts," she said.
However, Kentucky does have a core curriculum, which contains all the information students will be expected to know when taking the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System. Intelligent design is not mentioned in the state's core curriculum.
Jill Willingham, science department head at Greenwood High School, said her biology classes only spend about three days of the year talking about biological changes over time the word "evolution" is never used.
"It's not even mandated in our curriculum," Willingham said. "It's kind of a non-issue in Kentucky."
Willingham said the absence of the word is not because of the controversy surrounding it, but because "biological changes over time" is an easier description of the concept.
Tara Coomes, biology teacher at Bowling Green High School, said students are taught concepts associated with evolution also called biological changes over time.
"It's an easier way of explaining it," she said. "Concepts in biology are so broad and not easily explained. 'Biological changes over time' is a self-contained description."
At Bowling Green High, students don't spend a lot of time discussing biological changes over time. Coomes said the topic is so broad that teachers briefly address it and then move on, leaving it to students to find out more in college if they choose.
Although they do not have to consider state lesson plans, private Christian schools such as St. Joseph Catholic School still teach students about evolution, middle school science teacher Christy Stahl said.
At St. Joseph, teachers talk about evolution as they do all other concepts in science: It is a theory that cannot be definitively proven. Although students receive biblical perspectives on the origin of life in their religion classes, they also receive all the evidence supporting evolution in their science classes, Stahl said.
"It's not my job to say, 'You should believe this,' or 'You shouldn't believe this,' " Stahl said. "We don't take a position."
Contrary to the area's public schools, teachers at St. Joseph actually use the word "evolution" as well, Stahl said.
The issue of evolution has come up elsewhere recently as well. In January, Georgia State Superintendent Kathy Cox proposed that the word "evolution" be replaced with "biological changes over time" to avoid the controversy surrounding the word. She called it "a buzzword that causes a lot of negative reaction."
Cox's proposed change caused an outrage among many Georgians, including former President Jimmy Carter, who lives in Plains, Ga.
"As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox's attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia's students," Carter said in a written statement.
The proposal was met with such outrage that Cox let the matter drop, and evolution is still taught as it was before in Georgia schools.
Jason G. Damron
March 15, 2004
On Tuesday, March 9, 2004 the Ohio State School Board approved by a vote of 13-5 a scientific statewide curriculum that enjoins evolutionary theory with a theory of intelligent design. Their new curriculum "Critical Analysis of Evolution" presents an optional set of lesson plans that entreats to students to consider that a higher power must have been involved with the creation of life and, thus, the process of evolution.
One does not need to convince me that something big is happening here, so to speak. In many ways I follow the master and commander of popular science, Carl Sagan, as he marveled at the wonder of the universe in his book "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" and elegantly concluded that something beautiful was happening at the bequest of evolution. His judgment, though, did not necessitate a violation of the very evolutionary principles that led him to this conclusion. The beauty, for Sagan, was in the expansive unknown. The splendor was in the billions of stars and potential worlds that blinked across every sky in every known and unknown universe. And in this he was content to wonder and to explore the own reaches of his decidedly effusive imagination. This has been denied to the students of the State of Ohio.
Imagination, wonderment and self-illumination are very often the derivative of the remarkably simple, yet remarkably refined, study of evolutionary theory. The thirteen board members who favored placing God at the center of a scientific study of evolution have both denied the students the opportunity to grapple with the haunting questions of evolution on their own, and have also violated the students freedom to worship at the altar of their choice (and this includes science).
The board members' decision also regretfully masquerades as a "critical thinking" exercise. They argue that scientists have critiqued evolutionary theory from the very beginning and they, the School Board, are only offering critical tools to assess the principles underpin evolution. In reality, it is well understood that the founding principles of evolutionary theory have always been in contention with religiously dogmatic creation narratives. It is quite another thing to compel students to consider the possibility of "intelligent design" when the mainstream high-school curriculum never precluded that possibility in the first place.
Evolution, simply, is what it is: a set of principles about the development and change of life over time. There was always room for God if one wished to superimpose the two. Now, however, the Ohio School Board instructs its own set of evolutionary principles using religious cravings to construct the science. They must consider 'intelligent design' to be in reference to their own curricular adaptation, because at every other scientific level it profoundly fails.
Yet, life has a way of evolving-as can be attested to in the many misfires, mis-starts and extinctions of a myriad of species throughout the archaeological, paleontological, and paleoanthropological record. Here intelligent design does not seem so "intelligent," after all. This, ultimately, raises the unholy specter that evolution may be filled with... mistakes. A higher power who makes mistakes? God only knows what the Ohio State School Board will do with that.
March 15, 2004, 9:09 a.m.
A scholar's attack on a student writer and academic freedom.
By Hunter Baker
Legal philosopher Brian Leiter of the University of Texas is a self-proclaimed disciple of Nietzsche who fiercely champions a Darwinian materialist vision of the world from his weblog, The Leiter Reports. Having a blog on which to hold forth about the rights and wrongs of the world without the benefit of an editor doesn't make Leiter unique or particularly noteworthy, but one of his other sidelines does. Leiter is the author of The Philosophical Gourmet Report which ranks graduate philosophy programs "in the English-speaking world." His rankings are respected and followed. Accordingly, Leiter is a powerful figure in the academy who is invited to speak by peers who may find him personally objectionable but too important to offend or ignore. The respect for his rankings has perhaps caused him to place a correspondingly high value on his opinion in other matters, which is the only explanation for the story I'm about to tell.
Writing for the January 2004 issue of the Harvard Law Review, student editor Lawrence VanDyke gave scholar Francis Beckwith's book, Law, Darwinism, & Public Education, a positive review. The book makes constitutional arguments for the potential acceptability of including intelligent-design arguments in high-school science curricula. VanDyke found Beckwith's arguments convincing and said so in his book note.
Such a sin could not go unpunished or unpublicized by those who hold to the inerrancy of the Darwinian scriptures. The Book of Scopes, 2:12-14 reads, "Thou shalt not admit that any explanation of origins outside the neo-Darwinian synthesis may have merit. Verily, thou must proclaim that any alternate explanation is of the same religious origin as witch burning and will be struck down by the Establishment Clause before ever being discussed in a public school."
VanDyke's temerity in giving prime real estate in one of America's most respected legal publications to Beckwith's work was particularly galling to Brian Leiter. Intelligent design? Francis Beckwith? In the Harvard Law Review? It was all too much for Leiter, which may be why he risked his prestige to make this petty, but deadly serious attack on VanDyke:
The author of this incompetent book note . . . is one Lawrence VanDyke, a student editor of the Review. Mr. VanDyke may yet have a fine career as a lawyer, but I trust he has no intention of entering law teaching: scholarly fraud is, I fear, an inauspicious beginning for an aspiring law teacher. And let none of the many law professors who are readers of this site be mistaken: Mr. VanDyke has perpetrated a scholarly fraud, one that may have political and pedagogical consequences (italics mine).
One doesn't need to work very hard to read between the lines. Leiter seems to be threatening VanDyke's career if he should dare to set foot in the academy. The tone of his post makes clear that he means this student editor of the Harvard Law Review harm. Leiter's statement is the equivalent of an academic temper tantrum and is likely to backfire. The attack by a high-powered academic on an intellectually open law student is not the stuff of which great reputations are made. Leiter's peers, some of whom may actually have believed all the hype about academic freedom, will probably wonder just how this sort of proposed blacklisting squares with long-cherished ideals.
Francis Beckwith, who has been the object of attacks by Leiter before, is shocked the University of Texas professor would respond to a student's work so uncharitably. Beckwith expresses appreciation for Leiter's scholarly work, but adds, "Leiter's apparent intention to employ his own celebrity and academic stature to crush a young man's spirit and his future job prospects in the legal academy, and to do so by means of blacklisting and mean-spirited McCarthyesque intimidation tactics, is absolutely unjustified."
For his part, VanDyke is not backtracking. He defends the substance of his book note and charges that Leiter's attack represents "an effort to make sure all students recognize that if they step outside the bounds of Leiter's orthodoxy, their careers will be in serious jeopardy." He adds, "This is pretty amazing considering my book note actually talks about the 'hostility and censorship of the evolutionary establishment.' If anything, Mr. Leiter acts as if it his goal to prove me correct."
Unless he gets his temper under control, Brian Leiter won't continue to have the influence in the academy he currently enjoys. Threatening the career of a young law student because he dared to differ is a sorry spectacle. Let's hope a chastened Leiter will get a lesson in freedom of inquiry and expression from his fellows and then will be man enough to apologize to the promising student whose destruction he proposed.
Hunter Baker is a freelance writer in Texas.
By Crystal Harden
Post staff reporter
Many Greater Cincinnati science teachers who warily watched the state debate a controversial lesson plan for evolution say they cringe at the thought of encouraging theories that are based more on religion than science.
The Ohio Board of Education included the hotly debated 10th-grade lesson critiquing evolution this week as part of a 547-page science lesson plan for all grades. School districts can use the model lesson plans to teach concepts that will be on state achievement tests.
But they are not required to use the plan, though the state may put the critique of evolution on the test as a concept.
Several district administrators and science teachers said they likely won't change what they have been teaching or planned to teach.
"We'll probably teach it (evolution) as we always have, as a scientific theory," said Steve Collier, superintendent at Norwood City Schools. "I don't think we'll change what we're doing -- teaching it as a theory of evolution -- I just hope we can continue to do what we've done in the past and that is to be very cautious about how we present the material -- to let students know that there are other theories, but we don't go into those other theories."
Cincinnati Public School employees said the district already has solid courses and lesson plans that address what the state expects students to know about science. The state adopted new science standards in 2002, which specified evolution as the only life concept that would be covered on the tests.
"After the new standards came out, teachers were charged with developing lesson examples that could be used to address those standards and indicators," said Kevin Stinson, district science curriculum manager. "Those lessons are research-based, tried and true, and fleshed out. The standards themselves haven't changed. In terms of what is taught and tested, that's evolution."
When the state standards were approved, the state school board included wording that required students to critically analyze British naturalist Charles Darwin's theory that life evolved by natural processes.
The new lesson plan will serve to help students analyze the theory of evolution, supporters say. Critics -- including the Ohio Academy of Science, the National Academy of Sciences and the faculty senate of Case Western Reserve University -- said the lesson plan includes elements of intelligent design, a theory that life is so complex that a higher being must have created it. The lesson plan refers students to printed materials and Web sites on the intelligent design concept.
Many science teachers, like Constance Brandon, are uncomfortable with the thought of leading discussions on theories they believe have no place in a science classroom.
"I've been teaching 32 years, and in all those years we have pretty much taken the stance that the kids have to understand there is more than one theory, but we are qualified, because of our training in the scientific method, to teach scientific theories," said Brandon, a biology teacher and department chairwoman at Norwood High School. "If they want to know about non-scientific theories, I advise them to go to their rabbi, their minister or their priest.
"I've never been trained in creationism and intelligent design. I always thought (those ideas) would be better taught in world religion class or social studies -- Science is experiment-and research-based. When trying to teach something faith-based, I'm out of my field. I can do it, but it doesn't make me comfortable."
Rebecca Heckman, a biology teacher and department chairwoman at Princeton High School in Sharonville, said she feared the inclusion of the controversial lesson plan would lead to broader instruction on alternative theories.
"As a biology teacher and as a scientist, I would not be incorporating intelligent design instruction into my classroom," she said. "We do critically analyze. We have laws and theories that are up for debate, using experimentation and testing with the scientific method. Intelligent design does not allow for that. It is a religious view. It's church doctrine, church dogma. It cannot be tested with experimentation or scientific inquiry standards."
Heckman allows her students an opportunity to offer their opinions on the theory of evolution. "I'll let them discuss it," she said. "If someone brings up other theories, students will ask how scientific is it. Often they'll be getting into an argument about: Is it testable and what is faith -- . We talk about the merits."
She believes the new evolution lesson is the result of politics more than good teaching.
"I graduated from Roger Bacon High School," she said. "I never had creationism crammed down my throat. I learned about natural selection at a Catholic school here in Cincinnati 20 years ago. -- I feel like we're going backward."
John Rowe, a science teacher at Clark Montessori School and member of Cincinnati Public's Science/Health Curriculum Council, said teachers already offer critical assessments of scientific theories, whether the topic is evolution or plate tectonics.
"That's true in any scientific theory," he said. "Science is about taking that current best information and trying to interpret it.
"We tend to get these lightning rods in the public eye, evolution being one, and we draw fire. We lose sight of the fact that this is just a minute piece of what we're teaching in science courses. What we should be focusing on is raising our children to be competent adults."
Publication Date: 03-15-2004
10:24 PM CST on Monday, March 15, 2004
By DAVID TARRANT / The Dallas Morning News
Early in his campaign for the presidency four years ago, George W. Bush was asked in a debate which political philosopher he most admired.
He replied: Jesus Christ "because he changed my heart."
At the time, his answer caused a stir. Christian conservatives cheered, but political experts wondered whether his response was wise, or perhaps less than presidential.
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Today, as he campaigns for a second term, the president's unabashed candor about his faith is hitting the mark among an emerging group of voters: young conservative Christians.
"It comforts me to know that President Bush is a man who walks with the Lord," says Allison Hicks, 19, a sophomore political science major at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
In contrast to Mr. Bush, John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, is a practicing Catholic whose religious views are less a part of his public bearing.
"You wear it in your heart and in your soul, not necessarily on your sleeve ... [It's] not something you ought to push at people every single day in the secular world," Mr. Kerry told the Washington-based Interfaith Alliance in January.
Nevertheless, on college campuses and in youth-oriented organizations across the United States, the ranks of Christian conservatives are growing. Many say they are inspired and emboldened by Mr. Bush's example.
"President Bush is a Christian man, and he's not afraid to talk about it," said E. Paige McAleer, president of the Dallas County Young Republicans.
When it comes to their faith, "a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about it. President Bush has broken that barrier by not being afraid in a public setting to talk about how a higher being has affected his life," said Shelby Ricketts, also a member of the local Young Republicans. "That makes him attractive to a lot of young people."
Presence is growing
Indeed, studies and polls show that a substantial number of college students are expressing strong interest in religion, along with a more socially conservative outlook.
Enrollment at conservative Christian colleges and universities is growing rapidly. Even on secular campuses, membership in religious clubs has skyrocketed.
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "On Thursday nights, you can't find a large lecture hall that doesn't have a religious group using it," said Dr. Christian Smith, a sociologist and director of the National Study of Youth and Religion.
Campus Crusade for Christ has chapters on more than 1,000 campuses up from about 300 in the early 1990s, said Nathan Dunn, the group's communications director. There are 200 chapters in Texas. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has chapters on 560 college campuses, including about two dozen schools in Texas.
What this generation of students wants, Mr. Dunn said, is "authenticity in every area of their lives. They're looking for what's real and what's true."
They look for genuine qualities in their leaders, he said.
"They want to be able to trust who they're putting their faith in," he said, "and they are drawn to leaders who are not hesitant to talk about what they believe."
While Mr. Bush appears to benefit from the increased interest in religion among college students, the political implications of the trend are unclear.
"The Republicans by no means have a monopoly on religion. They just have an advantage with the public that goes to a house of worship regularly," said John Green, professor of political science and director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron in Ohio.
In the last decade, exit polls have shown a growing gap between weekly worshippers, who tend to vote Republican, and less frequent worshippers, who tend to vote Democratic.
But an increase in religious values among young people doesn't necessarily translate to more votes for Republicans.
Indeed, 70 percent of Southern Democrats say religion is very important in their lives compared with 55 percent of Democrats outside the South, according to the Pew Research Center.
Then there is the problem of trying to define exactly what is a young conservative Christian.
Colleges with strong Christian communities form a bedrock of support for the conservative social agenda. Gay marriage has emerged as this year's significant social issue. The Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family are pushing hard for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Christian perspective At Bob Jones University in South Carolina, students call themselves the West Point of Christian conservatives. They take the Bible as the literal truth of God, including belief in creationism. Gay marriage, as well as homosexuality in general, is condemned.
At the University of South Carolina, senior Jay Stinson, 21, also sees politics through a Christian conservative lens.
"I look for the Christian perspective on issues," he said, adding that he is against gay marriage.
Down the road, at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., students who described themselves as Christians expressed more moderate views on social issues.
"The overall student body is conservative, but there is a fair amount of diversity" in lifestyle and opinions, said Michael Harris, 22, a senior communications major at the private liberal arts school.
His college life has been overshadowed by the 9-11 terrorist attacks. "There is broad support for the actions in Iraq," Mr. Harris said.
But politically, "I wouldn't call myself conservative or liberal," he said. He sees himself as more tolerant on social issues, including homosexuality. "On a lot of social issues, I think the Christian conservatives hold views that are old-fashioned."
Dr. Smith, who has devoted years to researching religion and youths at the University of North Carolina, said young Christian conservatives are not a unified voting bloc for the right wing.
'Diversity of views'
"I think there is a lot of diversity of views," said Dr. Smith. His book, Christian America: What Evangelicals Really Want, disputes the view that evangelical Christians are marching in tight formation.
But some students see this election as a clear opportunity to support a president who has cast his political leadership as faith-based.
At USC, Ms. Hicks said her faith "shapes a big part" of her political views, especially on a politician's character.
She describes herself as "very interested" in politics she works as an aide in the state legislature and supports Mr. Bush wholeheartedly. "I think our president should be held to a high standard, especially with morality," she said.
The Young Conservatives of Texas, a student political group, draws many of its members from the ranks of conservative Christians, said communications director Mark McCaig, 21, a junior at Texas A&M.
He believes the debate over gay marriage will spur many religious conservatives on campus to get more involved in politics.
"They're going to view this as the government attacking their religious values, and I think they're going to fight back."
But it might not be that easy. "The Christian political groups have not been very successful organizing on campuses," said John C. Green, director of the nonpartisan Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. "Younger people tend to be more tolerant."
Expression of beliefs
Recent national polls find young people divided on the issue of gay marriage. In an Annenberg Public Policy Center poll last month, 58 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds opposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage but 52 percent opposed a state law allowing it. In a January Newsweek poll, 50 percent of young people said gay marriage should be legal and 47 percent said it shouldn't.
Whatever its political impact, the willingness of students to discuss and debate their religious views distinguishes them from other generations.
"What is different today from a decade ago is that students are more concerned about public expression of their beliefs," said Robin Lovin, the Cary Maguire professor of ethics at Southern Methodist University.
That a public figure like Mr. Bush "would be open about religion would be normal to young people today," Dr. Lovin said.
March 14, 2004
by Amber Pawlik
Most people agree there has been a severe decline in the moral character and quality of our population. Most still in the dating pool will tell you there is a shortage of marriageable mates. Employers will tell you there is a shortage of employable employees including many that can't even read or write. Professors will tell you there is a lack of serious students. People put the blame on all sorts of places, but usually fail to ask: what are we being taught?
In the latter half of the 20th century, the education system has been influenced heavily by one man: John Dewey, father of "Progressive Education."
Think people today are lacking in manners? From John Dewey's Experience and Education:
"Visitors to some progressive schools are shocked by the lack of manners they come across. One who knows the situation better is aware that to some extent their absence is due to the eager interest of children to go on with what they are doing. In their eagerness they may, for example, bump into each other and into visitors with no word of apology."
Think people are ignorant of basic facts such as facts of history? From John Dewey's Moral Principles in Education:
"History is vital or dead to the child according as it is, or is not, presented from the sociological standpoint. When treated simply as a record of what has passed and gone, it must be mechanical, because the past, as the past, is remote."
Think our society is plagued by dishonesty, such as the Jayson Blair scandal? From John Dewey's The School and Society:
"The mere absorbing of facts and truths is so exclusively individual an affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat."
And, finally: think that people are a bunch of blank, vapid dolls anymore, willing to believe anything people tell them? From John Dewey, circa 1899:
"You can't make Socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming, where everyone is interdependent."
Progressive education boasts that it is "child-centered." This may sound good, except that "child-centered" doesn't mean to think of what is in the best interest of the child (including discipline, correction of errors, encouragement of ability and skill, etc.), but rather it means to cater to the whims and emotions of any child.
In Progressive schools (when they existed), both the children and the teacher are considered to be in a "democracy," and the teacher simply has one vote amongst all the children in that democracy. A child's "self expression" is considered paramount therefore correcting his errors or enforcing any kind of proper way of acting is considered tyrannical.
The primary job of educators, according to John Dewey, was to develop a student's "social life" not to develop the intellect. According to Dewey, the purpose of the school is not "science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography but the child's own social activities."
Was the school structure envisioned by John Dewey copied and implemented exactly in the public schools? Of course not. If schools turned into the nightmare of children running around barefoot (out of respect for their "self expression"), bumping into random strangers without apologizing (in the name of "enjoyment of the moment"), and if children started to run the school more so than teachers (in the name of "democracy"), the public would run in frightened horror. But the spirit of Dewey haunts literally all public schools.
In many grade schools, instead of giving grades, they give out satisfactory or unsatisfactory marks. Public schools put just as much, if not more, emphasis on a child's "social skills" than they do his intellectual skills. When two students get into a dispute, educators today are likely to make them both apologize to one another regardless of who was right or wrong. In many high schools, particularly in classes like English, students sit in circles to discuss their arbitrary opinions instead of learning. All of these things are a result of John Dewey.
Given students aren't taught to master anything except to be "social," educators had to come up with some way of making the students feel proud and accomplished. Introduce: the "self esteem" movement. Students are taught not to develop pride through achievement, but automatically and causelessly for no other reason than being them.
All of this creates for an explosive mix. From K 12, students are fed a daily diet of "social skills" not intellectual skills; feel-goodness not judgment; self-expression not discipline; inflated egos not achievement. The result is wild, chaotic hooligans, who cannot perform the simplest math or tolerate the slightest criticism. This is why there are no marriage mates or employable employees or serious students.
But what can you expect from an educational philosophy that was not designed to raise competent children but to turn them into socialists? (See above quote).
All the previously mentioned affects the intellectual and moral composition of students, which is the most important aspect and should be focused on first. But the content of what is being fed into their brain is not unimportant either. If I had to name the two most destructive subjects taught in public schools today, I would name: evolution and sex education.
I am opposed to teaching evolution in public schools. I say this not as a religious person but as a completely secular atheist. I certainly don't believe in creationism, I lean towards evolution, but I have to admit: much of the scientific "evidence" surrounding evolution has been wholly made up.
The question that has to be asked: what benefit does the study of evolution have for man? Chemistry, biology, physics, etc., have clear benefits to man. But I propose evolution does not, and in fact does more harm than good.
The study of evolution projects the image of man as being an animalistic beast driven by nothing but instinct. This cuts right into and denies the need for the moral development of men. To evolutionists most of whom regard evolution as more of a religion, i.e. something meant to guide man, than a science the evolutionary process selects those traits that are best suited for survival naturally, by various means, therefore whatever species that is produced is naturally perfect. Therefore, there is no need to develop any kind of moral character in man.
I have heard some people say they believe that our morals are developed based on evolution that through evolution, we developed some kind of knowledge that murder is wrong. If this is true, why should we bother teaching that murder is wrong? More dominant though, are men who use evolution as an excuse for not picking women of moral character, instead rationalizing that, by nature, evolution forces them pick only women of youth and attractiveness. Said men are also apt to say that marriage is not in the nature of man, nor is staying loyal to one's wife, all because of evolution. If this is true, what can we do about it? Clearly, men must only be capable of seeking out multiple women, to be used for one purpose with no further desire for relationship. Still yet are some more extremists who say that the entire capitalist existence should be torn down because man's technology prevents him from evolving according to nature's stimulus. If evolution would create a more perfect species, why build or produce? The lack of morality and rationality that springs from the evolution way of thinking is obvious.
The study of evolution is destructive to man. It projects the image of man the beast, which fits right into the Dewey agenda because the ultimate domesticator of man the intellect is denied.
The second most destructive subject taught today is sex education.
Children who are put through the public school's sex education program have a tendency to come out with a completely de-mystified and mechanical view of sex. They usually regard their right to attain immediate pleasure as paramount, and feel it is an almost duty that they be having sexual relationships at young ages. The practical result can be seen in the modern day "hook up" scene on college campuses.
Talk show host Charles A. Morse sums up the public schools nicely in an article of his called "The Communist Public Schools":
"The goal of Dewey, Foster, and their followers, known as the 'frontier thinkers', or 'change agents', was to teach young people not to think for themselves. They sought to accomplish this evil agenda by replacing such 'bourgeois affectations' as literacy, science, math, American history, language, and other disciplines, with content vacant and mentally dissonant whole language, social studies, sex education, values clarification and guessing. They replaced character development and conceptions of morality with moral relativism. They 'molded' our young people into semi-lobotomized cogs of the corporate State."
This quote is chilling, because it's true. But, rest assured, there is a solution.
First, let me give what the best, and ultimately, only effective solution is: to completely privatize the public schools. Even if you wanted to provide some type of funding for students (which I do not support), unless the government-run monopoly of public schools is broken up, and competition and free market principles are allowed to reign, we will continue to get education that is worth what we are paying for it: $0. The goal is not to "get the federal government out of schools" or even "school vouchers," (which are nothing more than efforts of the religious right to shuffle students into schools that preach their agenda) but to completely privatize the industry. And let me say what schools I think are the best schools, which I believe would win in a free market system: the Montessori schools.
However, that is not an option not for the general public anyway, which struggles daily to meet budgets let alone with an expensive education to pay for. Given the public schools are so inexpensive (free) and easily accessible, another school would find it difficult to compete or provide a reasonably priced education (not to mention the fact that the teacher union is so insistent on shutting down any competition). But here is what you can do: home school your children.
There is a home schooling revolution in this country. And the leftists know it. And it drives them nuts.
The reason people choose to home school their children are much as I listed above. They don't want to send their children to the anarchy known as public schools, where justice, truth, and intellect are slandered daily.
The person who home schools their children doesn't believe that education is about the "social," obviously, but rather to develop the mind and various skills.
The idea that the purpose of a school is to develop the "social skills" of a student is absurd. Social skills are the easy part. I am not sure why they think that dating or socializing are Herculean efforts to overcome. They are not. Dating and socializing are leisure and should be simple and fun. Industriousness, reason, discipline: these are the hard parts, and should be prodded of students. And it is almost laughable to think that the students coming from public high schools have even an ounce of "social skill" competence.
The people I know who home school do not raise children who are socially inept. The ones I have met fit in quite well they are honest and spunky and look people in the eye when they talk. They also know how to sew and cook and balance their own checkbook things kids from the public schools increasingly cannot do. Home-schooled children are also grounded in principles and morals, something anathema to the left.
The success of the home schools drives leftists nuts. First, it proves one does not need to be an "expert" to do something as simple as teaching a child K 12 course material. Leftists become increasingly unable to make parents feel inferior in parenting and raising their own children. Most of all, though, leftists know one thing: home-schooled children tend to come out Republican.
On March 8, the New York Times ran an article called: "College for Home-Schooled is Shaping Leaders for the Right."
The college they are talking about is Patrick Henry College, the first college that accepts primarily home-schooled children. According to the New York Times, "Of the nearly 100 interns working in the White House this semester, 7 are from the roughly 240 students enrolled in the four-year-old Patrick Henry College, in Purcellville." It is interesting what the New York Times points out as a reason for why people choose to home school their children: the teaching of evolution and sex education.
The ultra-leftist magazine The Economist ran an article in their Feb 28 edition on home-schooling, which had the haunting title, "George Bush's Secret Army," and the equally haunting sub-title, "A revolution is happening in American education. As it grows in size, it should frighten teachers everywhere." According to the article: "According to the HSLDA, 76% of home-schooled young people aged 18-24 vote in elections, compared with 29% in that age group in the general population. Home-schoolers are also significantly more likely to contribute to political campaigns and to work for candidates-normally Republican ones."
The title and sub-title of The Economist article are downright funny. Oh no!!! Watch out: an army of home-schooled little children is going to take over the world! A crop of children who haven't been brainwashed by the public schools about the religion of evolution or the wonders of gay sex what are leftists going to do?
You don't have to be a fundamentalist Christian to realize the decrepit nature of our public schools, and want to provide some kind of alternative for your child. I wouldn't let my child near the moral relativist, irrational, feminist, liberal public schools as they exist today. And, I know, because it wasn't too terribly long ago that I was in the public school system.
The home school revolution brings a huge sigh of relief to the irrational world of education, as it exists today. It is one step closer to providing children with what the precious little dears deserve: a rational education.
Plain Dealer Reporter
Bob Lattimer sounded a lot like a prophet when he spoke to fellow "intelligent design" believers last November in Minneapolis.
The Hudson chemist predicted Ohio would adopt a controversial 10th-grade biology lesson that encouraged students to challenge evolution, Charles Darwin's widely accepted theory that life on Earth descended from common ancestors.
"Now, as I say, the opposition is trying to get this removed, and we're reasonably confident they won't be able to get it removed " Lattimer said at the Intelligent Design Network symposium Nov. 15 at the University of Minnesota. "The debate this year has been very quiet, it's not been in the news, and that's good."
Eventually, the lesson plan, "Critical Analysis of Evolution," made big news. When the Ohio Board of Education voted, 13-5, last week to include it in the state's curricula, it was a national story.
To critics, the lesson plan promotes a new form of creation science, which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled is illegal to teach in public schools because it endorses a religious belief.
"Ohio is now ground zero for the explosion of creationism that is sure to follow," said Patricia Princehouse, an evolutionary biologist at Case Western Reserve University.
Nonsense, say supporters of the new lesson plan. They argue it contains no direct references to creationism or intelligent design, which maintains life is so complex that a higher being must have had a hand in its creation. The lesson plan simply encourages students to have a rigorous debate about aspects of evolution, supporters say.
"I am not aware of any other states that have officially encouraged this kind of lesson," said John Calvert, a retired Kansas City, Mo., lawyer who heads the Intelligent Design Network.
But the board's action left some wondering how the 19-member body, which collectively said 15 months ago that it was not endorsing intelligent design, could adopt a lesson plan many scientists say is lifted directly from the best-known texts of that movement.
There is no consensus about how the lesson plan, castigated by mainstream groups such as the National Academy of Sciences and the Ohio Academy of Science, gained such strong support. Instead, people who observed and participated in the debate and the behind-the- scenes machinations say several factors made the plan's adoption possible.
Writing team members
During his Minnesota talk, Lattimer said intelligent-design advocates were able to get only four of their people on the 40-member science-writing to compose the lesson plans. But, Lattimer noted, three of those ended up on the crucial, seven- member subgroup assigned to write 10th-grade biology lessons.
"And they have had a great influence on the group," said Lattimer, who co-founded the pro- intelligent design Science Excellence for All Ohioans (SEAO).
One of those three, a high school teacher who wrote the initial draft of the controversial "Critical Analysis of Evolution," testified in support of intelligent design at hearings before the state board in 2002.
Some members of the writing committee were shocked.
"My first impression of the critical-analysis lesson was one of disbelief," said John Neth, a retired teacher and a fellow member of the subgroup.
But SEAO hardly stacked the deck, Lattimer said last week. He added that a fair representation of intelligent-design advocates on the subgroup was not improper represented the majority opinion of Ohioans.
"The last I heard, three out of seven is not a majority, so I'm not sure what the complaint is," Lattimer said. "After all, 75 percent of Ohioans in the 2002 public input phase said they wanted this kind of lesson."
Makeup of the board
The board that adopted the critical-analysis lesson plan has four people who were not members in December 2002 when it unanimously approved new standards.
But it's difficult to judge the effect of that change.
Two new members, Sam Schloemer of Cincinnati and Rob Hovis of Millersburg, were staunchly against the lesson plan.
Hovis sponsored an amendment to remove the critical-analysis plan from the curricula. That failed, 10-7, with one abstention.
A third new member, John Griffin of West Carrollton, supported Hovis' amendment to remove the plan, but voted for it after the amendment failed. Griffin has been involved in Democratic Party politics, but is viewed as an independent on the board whose votes are difficult to predict.
The fourth new member, Stephen Millett of Columbus, supported the critical-analysis lesson plan. He is a nationally renowned expert on technologies and products of the future and is a longtime staff member of the prestigious Battelle Memorial In stitute, the world's largest independent not-for-profit research center.
He disappointed some scientists, who viewed him as a potential swing vote.
"It reflects poorly on an institution like Battelle," said Lynn Elfner, chief executive of the Ohio Academy of Science.
Millett said that's unfair and presumptuous. He said that as an at-large board member appointed by the governor, he represents Ohioans, not Battelle.
He also said the lesson plan the board adopted contained a variety of changes suggested by the National Academy of Sciences.
"I saw this not as the interjection of religion into the classroom," Millett said. "I saw it as freedom of thought. . . this is subject to feedback and revision for at least a year."
While Gov. Bob Taft stayed out of the debate, his eight appointments supported the critical- analysis lesson plan. Conversely, all seven board members who voted to remove the plan from the curricula were elected to serve geographic districts.
Factor 3: Leadership
In this case, silence was golden.
Taft's silence was interpreted by critics as a tacit approval of the plan, although the governor's staff argued he was just letting the school board do its job.
Board President Jennifer Sheets of Pomeroy said little, but clearly and consistently supported the plan.
Likewise, State Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman kept a poker face, but sounded satisfied with the curriculum after it passed last week.
"The lesson plan is extremely explicit that those issues are to be discussed using the scientific method," Zelman told the Associated Press.
Michael Cochran of Blacklick, a board member who supported the lesson plan, replaced the more moderate Joe Roman of Fairview Park, whose term expired, as chairman of the standards committee. That's the committee that considers and amends the plans and moves them for a board vote.
Only the board's vice president, Richard Baker of Hollansburg, mixed it up publicly with critics.
"These scientists, they don't care about wasting their own time or anybody else's time," Baker said. "(They're) just a bunch of paranoid, egotistical scientists afraid of people finding out (they) don't know anything."
Elfner saw it differently.
"It reflects a lack of educational leadership in Ohio, from the governor on down," he said.
Factor 4: The Wedge
The school board's discussion about how to best teach the origin and development of life on Earth began in January 2002. That's when Calvert, head of the national Intelligent Design Network, spoke to the board standards committee during a meeting at a suburban Columbus motel on a cold Sunday night.
Calvert was not present when the board adopted the critical- analysis lesson plan, but Seth Cooper was. A member of the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute, he came in from Seattle to observe, and waited patiently as the board voted.
Ohio was seen by intelligent- design backers as a state to test "The Wedge Strategy," a plan designed to replace the "destructive moral aspects" of scientific materialism with a theistic view that human beings and nature were created by God.
While the controversial concept is not mentioned in the new lesson plan, advocates claimed victory and opponents vowed to fight the matter in court.
"It is the thin edge of wedge," Hovis said while urging board colleagues to remove the critical- analysis lesson. "It will set a precedent."
Opponents of the plan complained last fall they had trouble getting copies of the proposal, and they failed to generate much media attention. By the time they were able to drum up interest, the plan was nearing a vote.
"Hopefully, it'll stay out of the news," Lattimer told the intelligent-design symposium last fall. "We don't really think it deserves a big flap."
© 2004 The Plain Dealer
Published March 14, 2004
By Wes Johnson
Lawrence, Kansas One can almost feel Peter Gegenheimer cringe as he recalls the upheaval over evolution that shook Kansas in 1999.
That year, the Kansas Board of Education voted to de-emphasize teaching many aspects of the theory of evolution in public schools.
No more lessons about the "big bang" theory of how the universe was created. No more references to the Earth being "billions of years old."
Students, instead, would learn the Earth developed "in the past," then be left to interpret on their own what that meant.
Further changes, critics contended, subtly introduced the concept of "intelligent design" as a plausible explanation for how the Earth and its life forms came to be.
The board's action prompted headlines around the world, implying that Kansas was turning its back on science-based evolution theory.
"It made us, temporarily at least until voters exerted their muscle a national laughingstock," Gegenheimer recalled. "There were educational institutions that said maybe we shouldn't accept students from Kansas because they're uneducated in science."
Gegenheimer, associate professor of molecular biology at the University of Kansas, said Missouri can expect a similar controversy if a bill that forces public schools to teach intelligent design becomes law.
"I will guarantee that if a bill like this were ever passed, the state of Missouri would feel international humiliation that would make Kansas look like a nonevent," Gegenheimer said.
The battle begins
Kathy Toelkes, spokeswoman for the Kansas Board of Education, agreed that the board's decision drew outrage from scientists, educators and journalists.
Yet much of their concern was misplaced, she said.
"Nowhere did they (the school board) refer to teaching creationism or intelligent design," Toelkes said. "Nobody was barred from teaching evolution. What the board did was very much misunderstood, and no matter what we said, the headlines always came out 'Kansas bans the teaching of evolution.'"
The 10-member board never took that stance, she said.
In Kansas, state school board members are elected, and they review state curriculum standards every three years.
During a review of the science curriculum standards in 1999, board member Steve Abrams said he was concerned about how evolution theory was being taught to Kansas students.
Abrams was among a handful of conservatives who got elected to the board. That group forced a review of Kansas science standards that ultimately led to a de-emphasis on teaching evolution theory.
"We were trying to get them to talk about some of the things that do not support evolution," said Abrams, an Arkansas City veterinarian. "They were teaching evolution as fact, when many scientists say it is not."
Abrams said he pushed for changes in the Kansas teaching standards so that "both sides would be taught."
In a 6-4 vote, the board adopted the revised science standards. They were recommendations only. In Kansas, local school districts have the power to decide what they teach their students guided by state board recommendations.
The resulting furor over the new state science standards was well-deserved, according to KU's Gegenheimer.
"What attracted media attention to Kansas was the idea that everyone thought this issue had been settled," he said. "People know you can't teach creationism in a science class. But here we were in Kansas dealing with intelligent design. As one of my colleagues put it, 'Intelligent design is creationism in a cheap tuxedo.'"
The state board's new science standard didn't last long.
During the next round of elections, Kansas voters ousted two conservative members who supported the standards. Another conservative member opted not to run.
Sue Gamble, a Shawnee, Kan., teacher who grew up in Springfield, ran against and defeated Linda Holloway, a conservative.
That was enough to shift the board's makeup back to a more science-oriented view.
In 2001, the board reviewed the controversial science standards and rejected them. It adopted earlier standards which included teaching evolution submitted by the Science Standards Writing Committee composed of teachers and educators.
Gamble said the brief inclusion of intelligent design thinking in the science standards was a wake-up call for educators.
"Many of them just assumed everybody would know that science was science and creationism was not science," she said. "I never had a problem teaching creationism just not in a science class."
Most Kansas public schools continued to teach evolution theory in their science classes.
But the state board's 1999 decision to de-emphasize evolution prompted at least one school district to consider a similar teaching standard.
The controversy that resulted "seems like a bad dream," said Denise Roebkes, Pratt High School librarian and president of the Pratt teacher's association.
She said several conservative board members wanted the district to include the controversial "Pandas and People" book as a supplemental textbook.
The book, science educators contend, is filled with factual errors that support a belief in creationism or intelligent design.
The board sought opinions from the community, and one who agreed to present an intelligent design viewpoint was a Kansas Wildlife and Parks biologist, Chris Mammoliti.
"I proposed options for them to consider," he said. "It was very clear they were not going to address this on any level it was going to be evolution alone taught in the classroom."
He said evolution theory excludes any notion that an intelligent designer could have played a role in how life came to be.
"There are some things that are not explainable through naturalistic options, like the origin of matter," he said. "I think we should let students examine all options."
However, Lu Bitter, director of the Pratt Science Department at the time, said there isn't good scientific evidence that backs the religious concept of intelligent design.
Pratt's discussion drew intense media coverage. Bitter said the media's focus on Pratt kept the curriculum issue from ever coming up for a vote.
"We pretty much taught what had to be taught," she said. "Kids coming out of our school will take national tests the ACT, SAT, ASVAB that include evolution concepts in them. Our kids had better have an understanding of it before they take it."
Contact reporter Wes Johnson at wjohnson@News-Leader.com.
Copyright © 2004, The Springfield News-Leader
Published March 14, 2004
Even those whose beliefs match its sponsor's see difficulties at Capitol.
By James Goodwin
Jefferson City - Hanging in front of the desk of Rep. Wayne Cooper is a framed image of a Bible, eyeglasses, a kerosene lamp and a pocket watch, a still life symbolic of devoted Christian scholarship.
But a secular search for knowledge fuels Cooper's criticism of the theory of evolution, he said. And it's prompted him to sponsor legislation calling for the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution in public elementary and secondary schools.
"What I want is for people to not teach evolution as fact. That's mainly the gist of this bill," said Cooper, a Republican from Camdenton who is a physician by trade.
"We just want people to quit passing on their philosophic bias as though it is the truth when it's not proven."
Unlike evolution theory, which proposes that humans derived from other forms of life, the theory of intelligent design suggests that an unidentified form of intelligence devised humans, whose structure has changed little over time.
The importance of the distinction reaches well beyond the classroom, Cooper said. He holds that people's views on the origin of humans guide their perception of themselves, their world and their place in the world.
"If we're just a piece of matter in a meaningless universe, you're going to treat yourself different than if you're a designed product," Cooper said.
The existence of a supernatural being, no matter the identity, is the center of a debate as old as humans' ability to ponder. But the formalized theory of intelligent design is a relatively new addition to the issue.
And it's not a common subject at the state Capitol, where House Bill 911 has received a lukewarm response.
The legislation would require that where evolution is taught in public classrooms, intelligent design must accompany it. And new textbooks addressing human origin would eventually have to devote an equal number of pages to each theory.
Who knows best?
To many people, intelligent design smacks of a less specific form of creationism. And courts have ruled that the teaching of creationism in public classrooms violates the U.S. Constitution.
As if challenging traditional science and constitutional law weren't difficult enough, Cooper also finds himself defending his bill against the almost sacred belief that school boards are the best judges of what should be taught.
Cooper has revised his bill since he filed it in December in hopes of making it more palatable to teachers. But the core requirement β" that intelligent design be taught along with evolution β" remains the same.
That has some science teachers concerned.
"In science, we try to stay very much away from beliefs," said Denise Fredrick, science curriculum director for Springfield public schools. "That's outside of the realm of science."
Fredrick, who taught biology for 15 years, said science teachers are not trained in the viewpoint of intelligent design. "If that's going to be required, we're going to have to send all our science teachers back to school," she said.
Even people who share similar religious beliefs with Cooper find problems with the proposal.
Peter Herschend, vice president of the State Board of Education and a former member of the Branson Board of Education, said he would support a public school board's decision to go beyond the theory of intelligent design and require the teaching of creationism in science classrooms. But he doesn't like the state legislature dictating the specifics of any curriculum, he said.
Herschend offers reading instruction as an analogy. There are various methods for teaching a student to read, including phonics, but making phonics the only option for teachers would not be good policy, Herschend said.
"It is equally poor legislation that proscribes any curriculum," he said. "I realize (the debate over evolution and intelligent design) is touched much more with the controversy of religions versus science. But I would be every bit as opposed to it β" and I'm a strong and believing Christian β" and if the legislation said only creationism would be taught, I would be against it."
The Missouri School Boards' Association and Missouri National Education Association also oppose attempts by lawmakers to legislate curriculum.
"We don't want them to get in the habit ... of tying the hands of school districts and teachers," said Otto Fajen, a lobbyist for the Missouri NEA, which represents employees of public school districts.
Cooper's bill wouldn't be the first piece of legislation affecting elementary and secondary curriculum or the content of textbooks.
One state law requires public grade schools to offer phonics-based reading programs for students in kindergarten through the third grade. Missouri also requires that physiology books include at least one chapter on dental hygiene. The sale of any such textbook not containing a chapter on dental hygiene is a misdemeanor offense.
State statute also requires American history teachers to mention events of the racial equality movement or risk being fired.
The original version of Cooper's bill also threatened the firing of teachers and school administrators who didn't comply. He has since removed the penalty and a requirement that intelligent design be given equal teaching time as evolution.
"I wanted to change the bill so that teachers wouldn't be defensive," Cooper explained.
Never mind the bill; Jill Raitt finds fault with the theory of intelligent design. The founder of the Center for Religion, the Professions and the Public at the University of Missouri-Columbia, she believes the concept is rather arrogant.
"I think the main problem with much of this kind of discussion is not only distrust of the human mind but a failure to understand that God is bigger than our small efforts to understand," said Raitt, a professor emerita of religious studies.
"God gives us every help, but when we start declaring against everyone else what is the case, that is in my mind making ourselves God."
Cooper objects to what he sees as the stranglehold that evolution theory has on the scientific community and academic organizations. Scientists should be open to any and all theories until they are proved wrong, he said.
"They want to always paint the other side, myself primarily in this regard, as being a person who is trying to push my view on other people," Cooper said. "And what I really want to say is I just want people to consider the whole spectrum of evidence and search for what is true."
Cooper said his bill is outside the realm of religion because it doesn't identify any form of intelligence. The intent, he said, is to further scientific inquiry. Cooper believes many science instructors teach evolution as fact. Even if they don't, the lack of alternate theories in the classroom amounts to endorsement, he said.
While Cooper says the theory of intelligent design is outside the realm of religion, many scientists say the theory is outside the realm of science.
"As far as we're concerned, it's creationism in a disguised form," said Larry Banks, dean of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences at Southwest Missouri State University.
Cooper's bill will go nowhere without some support from House leadership. House Speaker Catherine Hanaway said she would refer the bill to committee around May 1, two weeks before the session ends. The timing would practically guarantee that the bill would not make it to the House floor for debate this session, even if a majority of committee members favored it.
Asked if she wanted the bill to receive a hearing, Hanaway, R-Warson Woods, said, "That is completely up to the chairman" of the committee. The speaker could assign the bill to any committee she wanted. Cooper thinks the Education Committee would be most appropriate. There, it would be under the direction of Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, who said she didn't know if there would be time for a hearing. "We'll have to see what the schedule is," Cunningham said.
Cooper isn't surprised that his bill hasn't received much support outside its six co-sponsors. "It's a polarized subject," he said. "And for people in politics, that's a dangerous thing to do, to take on a polarized bill."
The mere mention of intelligent design on the House floor might also counter Missouri's efforts to expand its economic base by recruiting life sciences businesses to the state.
There are also legal questions that would accompany passage of a bill such as Cooper's.
William Fisch, a professor emeritus at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, said he wasn't aware of any lawsuit that addressed intelligent design specifically.
But an argument would likely be made that, though the law didn't identify the presumed form of intelligence, intent behind the law should be considered. A suit could be filed alleging a violation of the constitutional prohibition of laws respecting establishment of religion, Fisch said.
"The challengers would have to show that it amounts to an endorsement ... of a religious belief," he said. "... That's what the court would have to find in order to strike it down. And they did find that with respect to creationism."
In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an appellate court decision finding unconstitutional a Louisiana law that prohibited the teaching of evolution unless creation science were also taught. In Edwards v. Aguillard, the court concluded the Louisiana Legislature intended "to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind."
Said Fisch: "In substantial part what they based the finding on who was advocating the hypothesis of creation and whether it had any ... scientific foundation independent of religion. I know the argument was made that there is independent scientific foundation for it, but the courts found that argument to be unsatisfactory."
Joe White, a St. Charles resident, coordinated the drafting of HB911. He won't discuss his religious beliefs, saying they're irrelevant to the topic. But he does claim membership in the Missouri Association of Creation. The group supports "a view of a literal supernatural creation by God," according to its Web site.
White and Cooper came in contact last summer after White lobbied other lawmakers about sponsoring the bill. White got little response, he said, until he talked to Cooper.
Neither man finds a plausible theory outside intelligent design to explain, for example, how the whole of biological life evolved from a single-celled organism created from inorganic matter, as evolution suggests.
"Some people have said we only demand natural explanations," said White, an engineer at Boeing. "We're saying a better definition is you look for logical explanations."
Cooper said there are some in the intelligent design community who aren't interested in laws that require the teaching of the theory. They would rather work within academic circles, he said. In deference to them and because he has bills to work on that more directly affect his constituents, Cooper hasn't been pushing HB911, he said.
Cooper might reintroduce the bill next year if he is unsuccessful with it this session. In the meantime, he hopes to survey science instructors about their thoughts on teaching intelligent design and possibly offer workshops to teach them how to teach students.
"If I can work things through a method such as that, there might not even be a need for a statute change. It's not that I'm opposed to a statute that would change things. But ... the art of politics is the art of compromise."
Contact reporter James Goodwin at jgoodwin@News-Leader.com.
Copyright © 2004, The Springfield News-Leader
March 4, 2004
By ANAHAD O'CONNOR
Ten of the 13 scientists who produced a 1998 study linking a childhood vaccine to several cases of autism retracted their conclusion yesterday.
In a statement to be published in the March 6 issue of The Lancet, a British medical journal, the researchers conceded that they did not have enough evidence at the time to tie the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, known as MMR, to the autism cases. The study has been blamed for a sharp drop in the number of British children being vaccinated and for outbreaks of measles.
"We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient," the researchers said in the retraction. "However, the possibility of such a link was raised and consequent events have had major implications."
The study came under fierce criticism last month when the editor of the Lancet said that the lead author of the report, Dr. Andrew Wakefield had failed to reveal that he had a conflict of interest when he conducted the research. At the time, the journal editors said, Dr. Wakefield was also gathering information for lawyers representing parents who suspected their children had developed autism because of the vaccine.
In a statement published on the Lancet's Web site on Feb. 23, Dr. Richard Horton, the journal's editor, wrote: "We regret that aspects of funding for parallel and related work and the existence of ongoing litigation that had been known during clinical evaluation of the children reported in the 1998 Lancet paper were not disclosed to editors."
After the 1998 study appeared, British health officials pleaded with parents to continue vaccinating their children, and a number of other studies were unable to confirm a link between autism and the MMR vaccine.
Dr. Wakefield, who could not be immediately reached for comment, hired a lawyer to demand an apology from the Lancet after the journal released its statement last month, said Dr. Jeff Bradstreet, a colleague.
Dr. Bradstreet, director of the International Child Development Resource Center in Florida, said that Dr. Wakefield had not become involved with the lawyers representing the parents until after the study had essentially been finished. "This has been blown way out of proportion," he said.
In the statement released yesterday, the researchers said that they could not reach one author of the study to ask if he wished to participate in the retraction. Two other authors, including Dr. Wakefield, did not sign the statement, according to the Lancet.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company