NTS LogoSkeptical News for 20 March 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization Bigfoot researcher to visit Fort Berthold

By: Eloise Ogden
Regional Editor

- A member of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization is expected to visit the Fort Berthold Reservation about the recent sightings of Bigfoot there.

Kelly Berdahl, a field investigator from Bozeman, Mont., for BFRO, an international network of people researching Bigfoot, said he plans to be in the area in the next few days and hopes to talk to people who say they have seen the legendary creature. He also plans to visit the locations of the recent sightings.

Berdahl, a high school band director in Bozeman, has been with the Bigfoot group for about five years.

In February several Fort Berthold residents reported seeing what appeared to be an ape-like animal described as a Bigfoot in the New Town and the Mandaree areas

Matt Moneymaker, ("yes," he quickly says, "that's his real name.") of Dana Point, Calif., president of BFRO and who organized the group in 1995, said people who see a Bigfoot in North Dakota should not fear it.

That's "Bigfoots" or "Sasquatches," not "Bigfoot" or "Sasquatch," because there's "definitely more than one," Moneymaker said.

"There's nothing to fear from them, except for the shock of an unexpected encounter," he said. "They will walk away as soon as they see you. Some credible witnesses who have crossed paths and almost bumped into them in forests have described them screaming and running away. They try to avoid humans, and they do a good job of it most of the time."

The BFRO has more than 3,000 members who, on a voluntary basis, research the subject, Moneymaker said. When he's not researching, Moneymaker runs a consulting firm that deals with computers, marketing, legal and business issues.

BFRO members are those in the network. "They provide relevant information, reports and check things out for us in their areas when we call upon them to do so," Moneymaker said.

He said the main objective of the organization is to understand more about these animals and provide that information to the public. "Documenting incidents and evidence serves this objective," he said.

Moneymaker, who has been interviewed about BFRO in national publications including National Geographic News and Outside magazine, said no one knows the number of these animals, although estimates range from roughly 2,000 to 6,000 in North America.

Fort Berthold sightings

He said a few elements make the Fort Berthold sightings significant. He said one is the relatively open and level terrain in many areas, which is ideal for spotting them from aircraft, and/or tracking them on the ground.

Moneymaker said it's not uncommon to have sightings within a few days and then none.

"This is not uncommon in certain regions," Moneymaker said. "In non-mountainous parts of the Midwest and the South, there will occasionally be several reports within a few days' span, where people will see one on the move in the daytime and out in the open. In these instances there will be a handful of very credible reports, often with multiples observes for each 'sighting,' but the sightings will eventually cease as quickly as they began, within a few days or weeks."

"When the locations are mapped they usually show a clear progression in some direction, and appear to generally parallel or track a long landmark such as a river," Moneymaker said.

He said the one seen on Fort Berthold was likely heading south, generally paralleling the Missouri River. "It may be continuing in that direction at present, or it may have already arrived in the unpopulated habitat area it was trying to reach," Moneymaker said.

He said it happens more often than one might assume that many different people sight a Bigfoot in an area.

"But I wouldn't call it normal," Moneymaker said. "These animals are usually less active in daylight when they are near to human settlements. Sometimes they seem to feel safe enough to keep moving during the daylight. That's when many people will see them. It seems to be more common when they're on a long haul and won't be around long enough in the area to be threatened."

Prey upon deer

He said the sightings and track finds tend to occur in areas where there's a deer overpopulation problem. "There's evidence to suggest that Sasquatches prey upon deer," Moneymaker said.

When someone asks why have no remains of the animal ever been found, Moneymaker said the short answer is "because 'we' have never looked for these kinds of remains." He said there is more physical evidence of these animals than people realize, naming tracks, hairs, scat and tree damage that are all physical evidence.

He said people often don't say they have seen a Bigfoot, but there are many reasons why people should believe those who say they have seen one.

"Would you go around seriously telling people you've just seen a Bigfoot if you haven't? Why not? For the same reasons other people wouldn't do it either. They aren't going to run around telling everyone in sight that they've just seen a Bigfoot unless they are really, really sure about it," Moneymaker said.

When people are skeptical about Bigfoot, Moneymaker said he replies:

"I tell them that we're much better skeptics than they are. We take the time to find the eyewitnesses and talk to them. We collect the evidence and have it analyzed by the best scientific specialists in the U.S. and Canada. We know which explanations to be skeptical about."

Moneymaker said more experts are saying Bigfoot is real, including Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee researcher who in 2002 publicly said in an interview that she was sure these primates exist.

People who want to know more about the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization can check its Web site at (www.bfro.net).


Girl Survives 45-Foot Fall From Fla. Overpass; Family Sees 'God's Hand Lowering Her to Ground'

Mar 16, 2004

By Vickie Chachere
Associated Press Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - A 12-year-old girl was catapulted through a window in the family's SUV during a two-vehicle crash, and survived a 45-foot fall from a freeway overpass.

Doctors said Amanda Young - who is 4 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 65 pounds - had to have her spleen removed, and suffered a broken leg and a fractured eye socket after she was tossed from her mother's sport utility vehicle. She was recovering Monday in the pediatric intensive care unit at Tampa General Hospital.

"I think almighty God saved her," said the girl's mother, Nancy Young. "What else would you think?"

"I see God's hand lowering her to the ground," added the girl's aunt, Peggy Moss.

Amanda suffers from rickets, a disorder that has weakened her bones and delayed her development, her family said. She was adopted at 2 - and is now one of nine children in the household, six of them adopted.

"She's very fragile, but her will to live is not fragile at all," Moss said.

Nancy Young was driving the little girl and two siblings from church Sunday when a car hit the back of Young's vehicle. Amanda, sitting in the third row of seats, was catapulted through one of the car's windows as it rolled and spun, eventually coming to rest teetering over a guard rail.

The two other Young children in the car, brother Joel, 10, and sister Ashelyn, 11, escaped "without a scratch," Nancy Young said. It was not known if Amanda was wearing a seat belt.

The driver of the second car, Joshua Sheppard, 53, was charged with careless driving.

AP-ES-03-16-04 0011EST

This story can be found at: http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGAVXN3JVRD.html

The New York Review of Books

March 25, 2004

One in a Million
By Freeman J. Dyson
Debunked! is short and highly readable. It tells good stories about human foolishness masquerading as science. It offers useful assistance to citizens trying to tell the difference between sense and nonsense. When it was published in France,* the title was Devenez sorciers, devenez savants, which means literally, 'Become magicians, become experts,' or more freely translated, 'Learn to do magic and learn to see through it.' The English title misses the point. The book is saying that the best way to avoid being deceived by magic tricks is to learn to do the tricks yourself.

The name of Georges Charpak brings back memories of fifty years ago, when I was living on the side of a mountain above the village of Les Houches, in the high alpine region of France close to Mont Blanc. I was teaching physics at the Les Houches Summer School, an institution that was then three years old and is now still flourishing. It was founded by Cécile DeWitt, who was then a young postdoctoral student, with the avowed purpose of rejuvenating French physics. Cécile is no longer running the school, but she is still very much alive and helping to keep the enterprise going. In 1951, when she founded the school, theoretical physics in France was at a low ebb, with academic jobs in the leading universities monopolized by old men out of touch with new developments. Cécile raised her own meager funds and built her school in a faraway corner of France, out of reach of the mandarins in Paris. She bought an abandoned farm and made the buildings more or less habitable as best she could. Students flocked to the school from all over Europe. The class of students that I taught that summer were the best I ever had. Many of them later became famous as scientific leaders in their own countries. The brightest of all was Georges Charpak.

We lived together in a cowshed and the students listened to lectures in a barn. I gave a tough course with the title Advanced Quantum Mechanics. I worked hard teaching and the students worked hard learning. But the formal lectures were the least important part of the school. Much more memorable were the informal sessions, the meals and the hikes, the daily hardships of mud and rain that we all shared. In a few short years the school became a prime mover of the renaissance of physics, not only in France but all over Europe. It has continued to be a cen-ter of excellence, bringing together gifted young people and giving them the opportunity to work together and learn together, creating friendships that last a lifetime. The cowsheds have long ago been replaced by solid permanent buildings, the muddy farmyard by a terrace ornamented with modern sculpture. In the year 1954 when I was at Les Houches, all of us, Cécile and the lecturers and the students, were young. We were intoxicated with joie de vivre. We were Europeans, we had survived the war and the dismal years of impoverishment that followed it, and now we finally saw Europe rising from the ashes and rebuilding itself. Les Houches was a visible symbol of the rebuilding, which was spiritual as well as physical. We knew we were lucky to be a part of it.

Somewhere on the farm, Georges Charpak found an old skull of a bull with horns attached, and he liked to wear these horns on his head. The horns fitted well with his bull-like physique and character. I have a vivid memory of Georges roaring around a muddy field with the horns, pretending to be a bull. His newly wed wife Dominique, armed with a long spoon from the school kitchen, was pretending to be a matador. For most of his life, Georges has been a leader of experiments at CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research, on the border between France and Switzerland. CERN is not far from Les Houches and is another symbol of the scientific rejuvenation of Europe. It came as no surprise in 1992 when I heard that Georges was the first of our students to win a Nobel Prize for physics. It comes as no surprise to meet him again in this book, fighting fiercely against the enemies of scientific reason.

Henri Broch, the second author of this book, is a professor of physics at the University of Nice. He is not as famous as Charpak as a physicist, but he is famous as an investigator of paranormal phenomena such as extrasensory perception and telepathy. He has investigated many claims of people who believe that they possess paranormal powers. His success in demolishing paranormal claims is owing to his skill as a magician. He has mastered the art of doing magical tricks, so that he can reproduce the alleg-edly paranormal phenomena in public demonstrations.

Henri Broch plays the same role in France that the Amazing Randi plays in America. Like Broch, the Amazing Randi is a skilled magician. He challenges any possessor of psychic powers to perform wonders that he cannot duplicate. I once participated in a session in San Diego at which the Amazing Randi confronted the famous Israeli spoon-bender Uri Geller. Geller gave a public performance at which he bent metal objects such as spoons and keys without touching them, using his psychic powers. To make his performances more impressive, he used the word "telekinesis" to describe what ordinary people call spoon-bending. The session was conducted in a big public auditorium, and a large crowd came. I took my family along to see the show.

Following his usual routine, Geller invited volunteers from the audience to come up on stage, bringing spoons or keys with them. My daughter Emily, then twelve years old, volunteered and went up with an old key that we had brought with us. The key was no longer in use, and we did not mind if Geller succeeded in bending it. Geller examined the key carefully and handed it back to Emily, telling her to hold on to it and not let go. Then he chatted with the audience about telekinesis. He described to us how the atoms in the key were rearranging themselves in response to his psychic powers, while Emily stood waiting on the stage. Then he turned suddenly to Emily and said, "Now, let's look at your key." She handed him the key, and there it was, bent. He gave it back to her, and she came down to show it to the audience. She said she could have sworn that she was watching the key the whole time and never let it out of her sight. After that, Geller continued with other volunteers, bending various other objects. Then Geller departed and Randi's performance began.

Randi went through the same rituals as Geller and was equally successful. A succession of volunteers went up on stage, and came down as mystified as Emily had been. Then Randi explained how he did it. The actual bending of the key was the easy part. He bent it with one hand, inserting the tip into a hole in a second key and squeezing the two keys together. This was done while he was chatting with the audience about psychic powers. The more difficult part of the trick was the exchange of keys. The exchange had to be done twice. At the beginning when the volunteer first handed him the key, and at the end when he gave it back to her, he quickly exchanged her key for a similar key that he had hidden in his hand. Each time he made the exchange, he distracted her attention and the attention of the audience with a loud remark or a sudden movement of the other hand. The essential skill of the magician is the ability to distract attention at the moment when the trickery is done. Emily said that if she had not seen Randi's demonstration she would not have believed that she could be so easily deceived. After Randi had reproduced all of Geller's tricks and explained how they were done, he entertained the audience with a number of even more amazing tricks which he did not explain.

Henri Broch describes, in a section of the book entitled "Practice Telepathy," a splendid demonstration of his ability to send information telepathically to an accomplice a few miles away. The demonstration is made in a private house where a group of friends, in no way involved in the trickery, are gathered. First Broch invites the group to provide a deck of cards, to shuffle them thoroughly, and to pick a card at random. Broch sits in the room while this is done, so it is obvious that he could have had no influence on the picking of the card, and no prior knowledge of which card would be picked. Let us suppose that the five of clubs is picked. Broch then glances at an address book that he carries in his pocket, writes down the name and telephone number of the accomplice on a piece of paper, and asks the friends to choose a representative who goes to another room to call the number. While the call is made, Broch sits in his chair gazing at the card with a look of intense concentration, groaning with the effort of exercising his telepathic powers. The accomplice answers the phone and says, "We have several brothers living here, which of us do you want to talk to?" So the friend gives the name and the accomplice says, "Speaking." The friend explains that a card has been picked and that Broch is trying to transmit the image of the card telepathically. After a suitable pause for dramatic effect, the accomplice says, "The card you picked is the five of clubs," and the friend rushes back to tell Broch and the rest of the assembled company that the message has got through.

Hardly anyone who witnesses this performance and is not an expert magician can see through it. To the uninitiated it looks like good solid scientific evidence for telepathy. The essential clue, which almost everyone misses, is the address book that Broch glances at before writing down the name of the accomplice. The address book contains a list of the 53 cards in a standard deck, each paired with a common French first name. The accomplice has another copy of the same list. As soon as the accomplice hears the name, he knows the card.

The book also has a good chapter on "Amazing Coincidences." These are strange events which appear to give evidence of supernatural influences operating in everyday life. They are not the result of deliberate fraud or trickery, but only of the laws of probability. The paradoxical feature of the laws of probability is that they make unlikely events happen unexpectedly often. A simple way to state the paradox is Littlewood's Law of Miracles. Littlewood was a famous mathematician who was teaching at Cambridge University when I was a student. Being a professional mathematician, he defined miracles precisely before stat-ing his law about them. He defined a miracle as an event that has special significance when it occurs, but oc-curs with a probability of one in a million. This definition agrees with our common-sense understanding of the word "miracle."

Littlewood's Law of Miracles states that in the course of any normal person's life, miracles happen at a rate of roughly one per month. The proof of the law is simple. During the time that we are awake and actively engaged in living our lives, roughly for eight hours each day, we see and hear things happening at a rate of about one per second. So the total number of events that happen to us is about thirty thousand per day, or about a million per month. With few exceptions, these events are not miracles because they are insignificant. The chance of a miracle is about one per million events. Therefore we should expect about one miracle to happen, on the average, every month. Broch tells stories of some amazing coincidences that happened to him and his friends, all of them easily explained as consequences of Littlewood's Law.

A large number of people calling themselves parapsychologists have tried to study paranormal phenomena using rigorous scientific methods. Their favorite tool is a little deck of twenty-five cards, with one of five symbols on each card. The five symbols are squares, circles, stars, crosses, and squiggles. An ideal telepathy experiment is done with two people, the sender and the receiver, sitting in separate rooms, with careful controls to eliminate all possibility of communication between the two of them or between them and the experimenter. The sender and the receiver synchronize their activities with accurate clocks. At fixed times agreed in advance, the sender picks cards from a well-shuffled deck, gazes at them one at a time, and records the sequence of cards gazed at. At the same times, the receiver guesses the cards and records the sequence of guesses. At the end of the experiment, an impartial witness, not the experimenter, compares the two records and finds the percentage of correct guesses. If telepathy is not operating, the percentage should be close to twenty. If the percentage is persistently higher than twenty, the experimenter may claim to have found evidence for telepathy.

If this idealized picture of a telepathy experiment were real, we should long ago have been able to decide whether telepathy exists or not. In the real world, the way such experiments are done is very different, as I know from personal experience. When I was a teenager long ago, parapsychology was fashionable. I bought a deck of parapsychology cards and did card-guessing experiments with my friends. We spent long hours, taking turns at gazing and guessing cards. Unlike Henri Broch, we were strongly motivated to find positive evidence of telepathy. We considered it likely that telepathy existed and we wanted to prove ourselves to be telepathically gifted. When we started our sessions, we achieved some spectacularly high percentages of correct guesses. Then, as time went on, the percentages declined toward twenty and our enthusiasm dwindled. After a few months of sporadic efforts, we put the cards away and forgot about them.

Looking back on our experience with the cards, we came to understand that there are three formidable obstacles to any scientific study of telepathy. The first obstacle is boredom. The experiments are insufferably boring. In the end we gave up because we could not stand the boredom of sitting and guessing cards for hours on end. The second obstacle is inadequate controls. We never even tried to impose rigorous controls on communication between sender and receiver. Without such controls, our results were scientifically worthless. But any serious system of controls, stopping us from chatting and joking while we were gazing and guessing, would have made the experiments even more insufferably boring.

The third obstacle is biased sampling. The results of such experiments depend crucially on when you decide to stop. If you decide to stop after the initial spectacularly high percentages, the results are strongly positive. If you decide to stop when you are almost dying of boredom, the results are strongly negative. The only way to obtain unbiased results is to decide in advance when to stop, and this we had not done. We were not disciplined enough to make a decision in advance to do ten thousand guesses and then stop, regardless of the percentage of correct guesses that we might have achieved. We did not succeed in overcoming a single one of the three obstacles. To reach any scientifically credible conclusions, we would have needed to overcome all three.

The history of the card-guessing experiments, carried out initially by Joseph Rhine at Duke University and later by many other groups following Rhine's methods, is a sorry story. A number of experiments that claimed positive results were later proved to be fraudulent. Those that were not fraudulent were plagued by the same three obstacles that frustrated our efforts. It is difficult, expensive, and tedious to impose controls rigorous enough to eliminate the possibility of fraud. And even after such controls have been imposed, the conclusions of a series of experiments can be strongly biased by selective reporting of the results. Littlewood's Law applies to experimental results as well as to the events of daily life. A session with a noticeably high percentage of correct guesses is a miracle according to Littlewood's definition. If a large number of experiments are done by various groups under various conditions, miracles will occasionally occur. If miracles are selectively reported, they are experimentally indistinguishable from real occurrences of telepathy.

Charpak and Broch see the modern growth of astrology and other pseudosciences as a rising menace that they are called upon to fight to the death. They are horrified by the prevalence of unscientific thinking among students in France today. They sum up their response to these irrationalities in another elegant Gallic sentence: "The question is inescapable: Isn't scientific thought the indispensible companion to wisdom, to clear thinking, and to the love of those virtues, which is expressed not only in vain incantations to the sky but also in logical actions?" They have here touched on a question which goes to the heart of the matter. What are the proper limits of science?

There are two extreme points of view concerning the role of science in human understanding. At one extreme is the reductionist view, holding that all kinds of knowledge, from physics and chemistry to psychology and philosophy and sociology and history and ethics and religion, can be reduced to science. Whatever cannot be reduced to science is not knowledge. The reductionist view was forcibly expressed by Edward Wilson in his recent book Consilience. At the other extreme is the traditional view, that knowledge comes from many independent sources, and science is only one of them. Knowledge of good and evil, knowledge of grace and beauty, knowledge of ethical and artistic values, knowledge of human nature derived from history and literature or from intimate acquaintance with family and friends, knowledge of the nature of things derived from meditation or from religion, all are sources of knowledge that stand side by side with science, parts of a human heritage that is older than science and perhaps more enduring. Most people hold views intermediate between the two extremes. Charpak and Broch are close to the reductionist extreme, while I am close to the traditional extreme.

The question of the proper limits of science has a strong connection with the possible existence of paranormal phenomena. Charpak and Broch and I agree that attempts to study extrasensory perception and telepathy using the methods of science have failed. Charpak and Broch say that since extrasensory perception and telepathy cannot be studied scientifically, they do not exist. Their conclusion is clear and logical, but I do not accept it because I am not a reductionist. I claim that paranormal phenomena may really exist but may not be accessible to scientific investigation. This is a hypothesis. I am not saying that it is true, only that it is tenable, and to my mind plausible.

The hypothesis that paranormal phenomena are real but lie outside the limits of science is supported by a great mass of evidence. The evidence has been collected by the Society for Psychical Research in Britain and by similar organizations in other countries. The journal of the London society is full of stories of remarkable events in which ordinary people appear to possess paranormal abilities. The evidence is entirely anecdotal. It has nothing to do with science, since it cannot be reproduced under controlled conditions. But the evidence is there. The members of the society took great trouble to interview first-hand witnesses as soon as possible after the events, and to document the stories carefully. One fact that emerges clearly from the stories is that paranormal events occur, if they occur at all, only when people are under stress and experiencing strong emotion. This fact would immediately explain why paranormal phenomena are not observable under the conditions of a well-controlled scientific experiment. Strong emotion and stress are inherently incompatible with controlled scientific procedures. In a typical card-guessing experiment, the participants may begin the session in a high state of excitement and record a few high scores, but as the hours pass, and boredom replaces excitement, the scores decline to the 20 percent expected from random chance.

I am suggesting that paranormal mental abilities and scientific method may be complementary. The word "complementary" is a technical term introduced into physics by Niels Bohr. It means that two descriptions of nature may both be valid but cannot be observed simultaneously. The classic example of complementarity is the dual nature of light. In one experiment light is seen to behave as a continuous wave, in another experiment it behaves as a swarm of particles, but we cannot see the wave and the particles in the same experiment. Complementarity in physics is an established fact. The extension of the idea of complementarity to mental phenomena is pure speculation. But I find it plausible that a world of mental phenomena should exist, too fluid and evanescent to be grasped with the cumbersome tools of science.

I should here declare my personal interest in the matter. One of my grandmothers was a notorious and successful faith healer. One of my cousins was for many years the editor of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. Both these ladies were well educated, highly intelligent, and fervent believers in paranormal phenomena. They may have been deluded, but neither of them was a fool. Their beliefs were based on personal experience and careful scrutiny of evidence. Nothing that they believed was incompatible with science.

Whether paranormal phenomena exist or not, the evidence for their existence is corrupted by a vast amount of nonsense and outright fraud. Before we can begin to evaluate the evidence, we must get rid of the hucksters and charlatans who have turned unsolved mysteries into a profitable business. Charpak and Broch have done a fine job, sweeping out the money-changers from the temple of science and exposing their tricks. I recommend this book to believers and skeptics alike. It is good entertainment, whether or not you believe in astrology.


[*] *Paris: Éditions Odile Jacob, 2002.

Physicists To Speak On Science And Faith Topics
March 24-26


March 17, 2004
by Judy Long

Dr. Deborah Haarsma and Dr. Loren Haarsma will present the Templeton Foundation Lectures on issues in science and theology March 24 through 26 on the Baylor University campus. The series is sponsored by the office of the vice provost for research, the department of physics and the Institute for Faith and Learning. Deborah Haarsma, a radio astronomer in the department of physics and astronomy at Calvin College, will open the series with the topic "A Universe of Wonder" at 2 p.m. Wednesday, followed by Loren Haarsma speaking on "Where is God in Science?" at 3:30 p.m., both in Kayser Auditorium of the Hankamer School of Business.

On Thursday, March 25, Deborah will speak on "Speaking to Your Church about Science" at 2 p.m., and Loren will focus on "Evolutionary Psychology and Divine Revelation" at 3:30 p.m. in Kayser Auditorium.

The series will conclude Friday, March 26, with Deborah discussing "Current Research in Gravitational Lensing" at 2 p.m., followed by Loren on "Why Should a Scientist Believe in God?" at 3:30 p.m. in room 202 of the Marrs-McLean Science Building. Deborah Haarsma finished her bachelor's degree in piano performance and physics and completed doctoral work in physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She taught at Haverford College in Philadelphia before joining the faculty of Calvin College in 1999. Her writings include articles and book chapters co-authored with her husband, Loren, on topics in faith and science.

Loren Haarsma, whose specialty is biophysics, received his bachelor's degree from Calvin College, his master's degree from University of Washington and his doctorate from Harvard, all in physics. He has published extensively in scientific journals on neuroscience and physics topics and written numerous book chapters and journal articles on science and faith topics.

The John Templeton Foundation was established in 1987 by renowned international investor Sir John Templeton to encourage a fresh appreciation of the critical importance — for all peoples and cultures — of the moral and spiritual dimensions of life. The foundation seeks to promote a standard of excellence in scholarly insight to encourage further worldwide explorations of moral and spiritual dimensions and human potential.

The primary goal of the Templeton Research Lectures is to promote the constructive engagement and original research between the physical, biological, and human sciences and those modes of inquiry and understanding generally found within theology, religious studies and philosophy.

For more information, call the office of the vice provost for research at 710-3763.

Guest Opinion: Presenting a slightly different perspective on evolution



In his March 16 article, the writer, Mr. Cluff, articulates his educated opinion quite well and is to be commended. However, with respect, I would like to offer a slightly different perspective. First, the writer is simply offering "his" opinion regarding the subject of biological evolution. The fact is, opinions vary, and many scientists disagree with Mr. Cluff. So what do we teach our children? Just one side or do we, like Paul Harvey, teach "the rest of the story."

Recently in Ohio, 30 scientists, representing various fields like biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, medicine, and physics, have endorsed the state's proposal to teach more evolution, offering students a "Critical Analysis of Evolution." This lesson has been approved and adopted by the State Board of Education by a vote of 13-5. These scientists reaffirm that, "Allowing students to study disagreements over parts of evolutionary theory is a healthy part of a first-rate science education. Censoring such disagreements from the classroom would be a disservice to genuine science and a setback to good science education."

In fact, more than 300 scientists, including faculty members at Yale, Princeton, MIT, and the University of Georgia, have signed a national "Scientific Dissent from Darwin" statement. This statement reads, "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

The Darby proposal seeks objectivity, this is what existing policy on "academic freedom" requires, what our state standards support and what our Congress encourages.

Next, I believe the writer is unknowingly misleading the reader with regard to our "founding fathers" opinions, especially in the area of science in the public schools.

An example, in 1797, Thomas Paine, arguably one of the "least religious" of our founding fathers, harshly criticized what the French were then teaching in their science classes – especially the "philosophy" they were using.

In "The Study of God," Paine writes, "It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of Divine origin.

Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles. He can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author...The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of the creation to the Creator himself, they stop short, and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of His existence." While I agree with the writer, we should "trust our founding fathers," clearly, to do so would be illegal.

Despite this fact, some scientists stubbornly and desperately cling to an antiquated materialistic philosophy that only serves to obstruct the pursuit of good science.

Recently, Linda McCulloch, our state schools superintendent, was quoted as saying she "criticized the effort" to have "philosophies put into our (Montana's) curriculum."

The question must be asked, "is it philosophy in general that she opposes or is it an opposing philosophy, other than naturalism?" For example, a local paper quoted Fred Allendorf, University of Montana Professor of Biological Sciences, to say, "As soon as you posit a supernatural creator...you move outside the realm of science".

This statement is clearly not based in science but rather in philosophy. Mr. Allendorf is basing his definition of what is or is not science, not on observable data, objectively interpreted, but on a metaphysical assumption that cannot be falsified, tested or observed.

His narrow definition of science is influenced by a philosophical presupposition that "natural" or "material" causes are all that exist. This is the naturalistic approach to science that was criticized by our founding fathers.

If a scientist's observations are subject to his bias and evidence is filtered through the same philosophically biased lens then the conclusions drawn must inevitably reflect the same bias. Therefore, all conclusions drawn must logically be void of any possibility of the supernatural.

As a result we are left not with a "true" search for the truth, but with a modified search, limited within the context of the scientist's definition of truth or within his system of beliefs or philosophy.

Take wildfires for example. Our state can give witness to fires started from both natural causes (i.e. lightning strikes or unintentional) and other than natural causes (i.e. design or intentional).

If any responsible arson investigator began his search for the "true" cause of the fire with the working assumption that there are no causes other than natural, he would inevitably conclude that the fire must have started from "natural" causes and not an intentional act of arson.

No rational person, except possibly the arsonist, would conclude that this investigation was reliable because the investigator's version of "truth" was established before the investigation even began.

According to Henry Schaffer, Ph.D., five time Nobel nominee and author of more than 1000 scientific publications, the most visible problem with Darwinism, once clear of its philosophic smoke and mirrors, is that "there remains no plausible scientific mechanism for the origin of life."

As we consider the question of biological origins and the controversy between the longstanding paradigm of Darwinism and the currently emerging scientific challenges to its supremacy, we should not shrink from the numerous discoveries of 21st century science.

The scientific search for truth should and must be, objective, unbiased, and void of philosophical prejudice, even if the evidence is found to be antagonistic toward an "unintentional occurrence" and consistent with an "intentional design.

After all, the Montana Constitution does not shrink away from such a possibility, but rather is established on such, as can be clearly seen in its Preamble:

"We the people of Montana, grateful to God for the quiet beauty of our state, the grandeur of our mountains, the vastness of our rolling plains, and desiring to improve the quality of opportunity and to secure the blessings of liberty for this and future generations do ordain and establish this constitution."

Curtis L. Brickley lives in Darby.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Copyright © 2000-2004 Ravalli Republic and Lee Enterprises.

Cosmologist receives $1.4 million religion prize


Thursday, March 18, 2004
S. African activist known for writing on apartheid wins Templeton award
By Greg Barrett / Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON — To hear George Ellis tell it, science and religion ultimately are united in the way they divide. Christian, Islamic and scientific fundamentalism all have the same effect: They polarize. "You claim partial truth as the whole truth and you therefore dismiss the partial truths that other people might offer," said Ellis, a South African theoretical cosmologist and winner of this year's $1.4 million Templeton Prize.

"Religious fundamentalists are like scientific fundamentalists who think science is everything. What I am really about is trying to get people not to have fundamentalist positions."

The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, religion's version of the Nobel Prize, is the world's largest annual monetary award to an individual.

Ellis, a Quaker and a mathematician at the University of Cape Town, said at a Wednesday news conference in New York that he will use half his winnings for retirement and half for philanthropic causes, such as aiding South African welfare and education programs. The Duke of Edinburgh will give Ellis the prize May 5 in a ceremony in London's Buckingham Palace.

The 64-year-old Ellis is known for his activism and critical writings on apartheid. A scientist and the son of atheists, he credits the resilience and hope shown by the black majority in South Africa with giving him a sense of faith.

It defies belief, he said, that South Africa did not "decay into a racial holocaust."

"In facing our individual and communal lives, we always need faith and hope, as well as rationality, and indeed the real issue is how we can best balance them against each other," he wrote in a statement prepared for the Templeton announcement.

As a cosmologist, Ellis studies the origins and evolutions of the universe. He specializes in general relativity, a study made famous by Albert Einstein. Ellis' recent work deals with the idea of infinity and whether there was an actual beginning to the universe.

Explaining the theory to lay people can sound like the script from a Cheech and Chong movie:

"Perhaps the universe was there forever, just sitting there," Ellis said in a phone interview. "This is a very, very old universe. Maybe it was just sitting there forever and ever and one day it got bored and came back to life. Or as scientists might say, 'A fluctuation took place.' " Scientists eager to avoid seeming gullible label this sort of speculative science metaphysical research. Ellis said, with a laugh, that the term could be a euphemism for faith.

He was drawn to the Quakers' Religious Society of Friends because of its belief that partial truths are gleaned to make up the whole and that neither science nor any one religion has all the answers.

In a writing career that spans three decades, Ellis has authored books about the plight of homeless people in South Africa, as well as dense texts about time, space and relativity, such as "The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time," co-written with Stephen Hawking.

Past winners of the Templeton Prize, which was established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton, include Mother Teresa (1973) and the Rev. Billy Graham (1982). Recently, the award has gone mostly to scientists and researchers.

Spooky mystery at Bergen Museum


Ancient Egyptian shabti - funerary figures that represent servants in the afterlife - are causing unease for those working at Bergen Museum. Professor Henrik von Achen says colleagues don't like working there at night, and the figures appear to be moving in their glass cases, newspaper Bergens Tidende reports.

BT reporters toured the museum one dark evening and found the Egyptian exhibit disguised a few creepy tales.

"They have behaved strangely since we took them up out of the cellar in 2001," said museum guard Richard Saure. He was the first to notice that small stone figurines, whose job was to work for the dead, were not like other relics.

"They were neatly packed in a case when we brought them up. When we came to work the day after, they were lying all over the place, except for two - two false shabtis," Saure said.

"The exhibition opened in May 2001. Since then these small figurines have moved. Some of them have turned 90 degrees. They stand in glass cases that are sealed and locked but you can see it in the trails in the dust," Saure said.

"I'm a skeptic, but I have to believe what I see. I don't understand this. If it is because of vibrations in the floor, like some claim, why don't other objects move?" the guard wondered.

Professor von Achen has nothing to add to dampen the mystery. "Someone has made them and laid them in a grave. Now they are out of the grave's darkness. What do they bring? If we ask, maybe they answer, that is the magic of the museum," von Achen said.

UFO streaks through Martian sky

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

The US Spirit rover on Mars has seen a UFO streak across the Red Planet sky. Astronomers say it could be the first meteor seen from the surface of another world, or a redundant orbiting spacecraft sent to Mars 30 years ago.

"We may never know, but we are still looking for clues," said Dr Mark Lemmon, from Texas A&M University.

Whatever it was, Spirit was lucky to catch sight of the UFO as the rover's main mission is to look downwards to study rocks and soil on the planet.

Unidentified Object

Only occasionally does it raise its sights towards the sky to study the atmosphere of Mars.

But it was on just such an occasion when Spirit was observing the sky with the green filter of its panoramic camera that the roving geologist came across the surprise - a streak across the peach-coloured Martian heavens.

Mission controllers say the streak was probably the brightest object in the sky at the time.

If the UFO was not a shooting a star then it could have been one of seven out-of-commission spacecraft that still orbit Mars.

From the object's motion, scientists do not think it was the Russian probes Mars 2, Mars 3, Mars 5, or Phobos 2; or the American probes Mariner 9 or Viking 1.

That leaves Viking 2, which has a polar orbit that would fit with the north-south orientation of the streak.

In addition, only Viking 1 and 2 are in orbits that could produce the type of motion as fast as that seen by Spirit.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/03/18 14:59:09 GMT


Friday, March 19, 2004

Scientist attacks alien claims on Mars


By Robert Roy Britt
Thursday, March 18, 2004 Posted: 5:25 PM EST (2225 GMT)

Richard Hoagland claims that NASA refuses to acknowledge evidence of alien "artifacts" on Mars.

(SPACE.com) -- Astronomer Philip Plait is tired of radio personality Richard Hoagland's claims.

He's had enough of Hoagland's assertions that NASA is covering up evidence of extraterrestrial life, that the infamous Face on Mars was built by sentient aliens and, of late, that otherworldly machine parts are embedded in the Red Planet's dirt.

And then there's the mile-long translucent martian worm.

On Hoagland's Web site, there are several images from various space probes said to possibly show evidence for ETs. Recent Mars rover photos include not just rocks, Hoagland and other contributors maintain, but common objects that might tell of an alien civilization -- a bowl, a stove, a piston.

Since 1983, Hoagland said he has led "an outside scientific team in a critically acclaimed independent analysis of possible intelligently-designed artifacts" on other worlds, using spacecraft data from NASA and other missions.

Plait, author of "Bad Astronomy" (Wiley & Sons, 2002), which debunks space myths and common factual misconceptions, had for years not countered Hoagland directly, because he did not want to give a man he calls a "pseudoscientist" the "air time that he so desperately seeks."

But last week Plait took his intellectual gloves off.

Shapes in the clouds Plait has two words for the latest claims of alien objects on Mars. The first is "garbage." The second and more scientific word is "pareidolia." This is the same phenomenon that makes us see animals or other familiar objects in clouds.

"It's pretty common," Plait said of pareidolia. "Just a few months ago, a water spot on my shower curtain took on the uncanny form of the face of Vladimir Lenin." Plait took a picture of the liquid Lenin and uses it illustrate his contention that, though objects on the surface of Mars can sometimes take on interesting shapes, they are just a bunch of rocks.

"Hoagland's claims irritate me because he is promoting uncritical thinking," Plait said. "He doesn't want you to think about what you're seeing. He's trying to bamboozle you into believing what he's saying."

Critical thinking is the foundation of science, but Plait thinks it's also an important skill for anyone trying to navigate modern society. "Hoagland is eroding away at that ability."

Hoagland said the names given to objects shown on his site are nicknames, just as the rover scientists came up with "blueberries" to describe small spherical objects on Mars.

"We are not saying there are stoves or pistons on Mars," Hoagland said in a telephone interview. "Absolutely not. When we began looking at these objects, what struck us was how remarkably symmetrical, how remarkably designed-looking, how remarkably manufactured some of these things looked."

Hoagland's site, however, does not make this distinction with many rover images. A headline on the home page flatly states that some objects on Mars are non-natural: "Spirit Sees (and Still Ignores) More Artificial Junk." And the caption to one reads, plainly, "an Unmistakable Machined Fitting." Another caption reads: "When is a Rock Not a Rock? When They Come in pairs!" And another: "A Collection of Mechanical Bits."

Hoagland said he suggested to scientists on the rover team that they go study the objects up close to determine their composition. "NASA chose not to," he said. "So we have a hanging mystery. We don't know what these things are. We'll never know what these things are."

Hoagland is routinely critical of Stephen Squyres, a Cornell University astronomer who is mission manager for the Mars rover mission. Squyres did not respond to a query regarding Hoagland's claims.

It should be pointed out that NASA is not in the practice of commanding its rovers based on suggestions from people outside the agency or from beyond the Spirit and Opportunity science teams, which together include dozens of leading geologists and other scientists from inside the agency and from universities around the country.


Philip Plait is an astronomer who develops space-related classroom materials at Sonoma State University in California and also works in public outreach on various NASA missions. He spends his spare time working to right the cosmic wrongs -- big and small -- promulgated by the popular media and around the Internet. He is frequently invited to talk to large gatherings of astronomers, who appreciate his efforts to correct mistakes in the popular media.

Lately, Plait has heard Hoagland explain his views frequently on the late-night Coast to Coast AM radio show, which is heard on hundreds of stations. Meanwhile, a phenomenal flow of images from NASA's Mars rovers has created a cottage industry in scientific speculation about the Red Planet, at Hoagland's site and elsewhere.

"I've let this fester long enough," Plait wrote recently on his site, badastronomy.com. "This kind of pseudoscience is like a virus. At low levels, it's no big deal, but when it reaches a certain threshold it becomes sickening."

Plait works to debunk several specific alien-related claims made on Hoagland's site, enterprisemission.com. (Not all of the scenarios are suggested by Hoagland himself.)

Here are snapshots of two arguments:

An image from the Mars Global Surveyor is said on Hoagland's site to be a gargantuan, glass-like worm that's a mile long. Plain as a pig in the clouds, the image does indeed evoke the shape and features of a worm at the bottom of a canyon. Evenly spaced arcs even resemble ribs. Plait said the most likely explanation for the rib-like features is that they're sand dunes, created by wind blowing through the valley.

An apparent bit of spacecraft debris from the rover mission, photographed by Spirit, was dubbed a "bunny" by some. Hoagland later said the bunny had been optically removed by NASA. Plait points out that NASA scientists said the object appeared to be lightweight, and thinks "it is far more likely it simply blew away in the martian wind."

Credentials questioned

Plait and other scientists question Hoagland's credentials and say he is prone to inflating his accomplishments.

Hoagland did not graduate from college. "I didn't actually get a degree," he said last week. He said he was "possibly the youngest museum curator in the country" in the mid-1960s at age 19. He is a science writer with a keen interest in space.

Hoagland lists among his awards having received the Angstrom Medal for Excellence in Science. But there's a catch.

Uppsala University in Sweden, with approval from Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, gives out the Angstrom Prize, which includes a medal and a cash award, given in the honor of 18th Century Swedish scientist Anders-Jonas Angstrom. Hoagland's medal, however, came from the separate Angstrom Foundation Aktiebolag (AFAB). This is a privately-owned company with no connection to Uppsala University or the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

"There were no scientists involved in that decision," said Ralph Greenberg, a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington. Others who have researched Hoagland's medal say it carries little if any merit and was not awarded by scientists or a scientific organization.

Greenberg began looking into Hoagland's background for another reason.

In a January 1980 article in the popular magazine Star & Sky, Hoagland wrote of the possibility of an ocean of water under the ice of Jupiter's moon Europa and that life might have arisen there. Hoagland said that the article presented "a radical new theory," and his site states Hoagland "is the originator of this remarkable idea." The site also states Hoagland "became the first to propose ... the possible existence of deep ocean life under the global ice shield perpetually surrounding the enigmatic moon of Jupiter, Europa."

Greenberg heard Hoagland's claim and did a review of scientific literature (Star & Sky, now defunct, was not a scientific journal) and other writings and lectures. Greenberg found that the ideas of water and life under Europa had both been put forth before January 1980.

The first known suggestion that Europa might harbor a liquid ocean was in a 1971 paper by John S. Lewis in the widely respected science journal Icarus. The idea was discussed in other papers in the mid-1970s by Lewis and by other scientists.

The possibility of that Europa's hypothesized ocean could support life was discussed in June 1979 -- six months before Hoagland's article -- by Benton Clark at a conference at NASA's Ames Research Center.

"It's clear that [Hoagland] deserves no credit for proposing an ocean under the ice on Europa," Greenberg said. And regarding the notion of life: "Others before him wrote on the same topic with more merit."

Greenberg said Hoagland deserves some credit for helping to popularize the Europa ideas. But he is bothered that Hoagland does not make an effort to set the record straight.

"He never made it quite clear that this was not his original idea in any sense," Greenberg said. "I think it's really shameful that he hasn't been willing to make it crystal clear."

Greenberg continues: "I don't think [Hoagland] really has any scientific credentials. He's not a trained scientist in any sense. He knows some facts. I don't think he has any depth of knowledge. But he's a good talker, and maybe gives the impression that he knows more and understands more than he really does."

Hoagland said Greenberg's comments "are obviously being viciously spun for the blatant political purpose of destroying my credibility at this key moment -- when our criticisms of NASA and the current rover mission are gaining legs. This is what someone is apparently quite concerned about."

Hoagland said via e-mail over the weekend that his claim to an ocean at Europa was the first to be based on Voyager 1 and 2 imagery of Europa, from flybys in March and July 1979, and that his 1980 article was specifically referring to a previous paper that said any water on Europa had likely become frozen.

"The question of who's first is tricky," Hoagland said. "Clearly, I was not the first [nor have I ever claimed to be] to propose an original liquid ocean for Europa. But I do maintain I was the first to recognize in the new Voyager data that it might still be liquid."

Greenberg points to the astronomer Carl Sagan as someone who had discussed the Europa ideas with other scientists in the mid-1970s. "But, I knew Carl -- and worked with him -- for decades," Hoagland said. "And he never once told me I was trespassing on his turf, even after the Star & Sky piece was published." Hoagland also said the author Arthur C. Clarke has mentioned him as the originator of the life-on-Europa idea.

The Face on Mars

Hoagland is perhaps best known for promoting the Viking Orbiter's "Face on Mars" image as evidence for an alien civilization. Interestingly it was NASA that started discussion over the face-like features. Here's how NASA's original caption read when the image was released in 1976: "Shadows in the rock formation give the illusion of a nose and mouth. Planetary geologists attribute the origin of the formation to purely natural processes."

Hoagland finds interest in much more than the Face itself. He maintains that drawing lines between features in the Cydonia region around the face creates angles that involve complex mathematical formulas and geometric relationships that could only point to intelligent construction.

His site's mission statement argues that the Face is surrounded by "crumbling high tech pyramids ... possible former environmental arcologies left by someone who tried to make Mars home... long before our fleeting, recent visits." The statement then said there is disturbing evidence "of a profound, deliberately politically-motivated cover-up of this important data by both major spacefaring nations."

Plait analyzes the math and methodology. He said the precision of angles and distances that Hoagland claims is greater than is possible given the images from which Hoagland works. Moreover, Plait wonders why Hoagland picks certain hills to include in his diagrams instead of other nearby hills that appear indistinguishable. Hoagland could be benefiting, he said, by picking the points that, through random chance, indeed form patterns.

"Any random set of numbers, when played with as Hoagland did, will yield many coincidental mathematical relationships," Plait said. "His mathematical analysis is so full of holes, flaws, and misdirection that it is completely worthless."

Hoagland, in response, said Plait should talk with others who have checked the math and shown it to be solid.

"There is a reasonable hypothesis that there could have been an ancient civilization on Mars," Hoagland said, adding that the idea has a lot of adherents around the world. "At no point has NASA chosen to address this scientifically."

His beef with NASA is that the space agency should conduct systematic studies -- based on standards that he would be involved in setting -- to answer the questions he poses.

Hoagland said that as his group's effort has come closer to figuring out "the truth regarding the science and politics of 'extraterrestrial artifacts in the solar system,'" the opposition has become "rabid and relentless."

Copyright © 1999-2004 SPACE.com, Inc.

Alternative therapies 'may harm patients'


Health news

March 19, 2004

By Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor

WOMEN with breast cancer are enthusiastic users of alternative therapies, even though few are beneficial and many are harmful, the European Breast Cancer Conference will be told today.

Gillian Bendelow, a medical sociologist from the University of Sussex, said that doctors need to be aware that the use of such therapies is widespread and is increasing.

Surveys have shown that in England, up to 70 per cent of breast cancer patients used complementary or alternative therapies. A German study found similar levels of usage and in Sweden the levels were as high as 85 per cent.

Users tended to be bettereducated, richer and younger than non-users, Dr Bendelow said. They were more health-conscious than non-users, and often decided to use alternative therapies without consulting their doctors.

"Patients appear to be turning to complementary and alternative medicines in increasing numbers, and doctors need to take account of what other therapies their patients are using, or may use in the future, when they are considering treatment options," she said.

Edzard Ernst of Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, Britain's leading expert on the scientific study of complementary and alternative medicines, said that thay had a useful role to play in palliation for cancer patients but there was little evidence of their effectiveness in preventing or treating breast cancer.

"If an effective alternative treatment or preventive measure emerged, say a herbal medicine, it would instantly be taken up by mainstream oncology, as has happened with taxol, which comes from the yew tree," he said.

"It follows, almost automatically, that all existing alternative 'cancer cures' are bogus.

"However, in palliation, our main aim is to improve quality of life and many complementary and alternative methods, such as massage, relaxation, aromatherapy and reflexology, are potentially useful for that purpose.

"They can ease the adverse effects of orthodox cancer therapies; for instance, acupuncture can reduce nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy," Professor Ernst said.

"Several of these alleged cancer 'cures' are associated with significant risks," he said. "The risks include the adverse effects of herbal remedies, the contamination or adulteration of herbal remedies, their interaction with prescribed drugs, and patients choosing to use an ineffective alternative medicine instead of lifesaving conventional treatment".


Professor Ernst was critical of many alternative medicines that are promoted for cancer prevention or cure. He cited examples such as Essiac (a Canadian herbal mixture), Di Bella therapy (a complex treatment developed by an Italian doctor), Hoxley formula (herbal mixture), mistletoe, laetrile (derived from the seeds of bitter almonds and apricots) and shark cartilage.

Copyright 2004 Times Newspapers Ltd.

House gives nod to science standards


Posted on Fri, Mar. 19, 2004

EDUCATION:The science standards were amended slightly to appease the creationists.



The Minnesota Department of Education's new social studies and science standards were approved by the Minnesota House on Thursday, but only after lawmakers amended the document to reflect the views of critics of evolution.

In a long debate that harkened to the Scopes monkey trial 80 years ago, the collision of science, religion and public policy aroused strong feelings and rhetoric.

"What this is, is religion masquerading as science," said Rep. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park. "This teaching doesn't belong in our classrooms, but in our homes, churches and synagogues and maybe comparative religion classes."

But proponents said the changes were minor and that opponents were making too much of the changes.

"Rep. Latz, I think you're seeing black helicopters," said Rep. Barb Sykora, R-Excelsior. "I'm trying to understand what the threat is."

The future of the amended science standards and the much-debated social studies standards approved Thursday night by the House remains unclear. The Republican-controlled House conducted a five-hour debate on the issue while two floors below in a Capitol hearing room, the Senate Education Committee was listening to testimony on the issue. The Senate, where the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has the majority, has yet to take a vote on the topic.

While the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires states to adopt science standards, it does not have such a requirement for social studies. That means lawmakers may delay a social studies decision this year, leaving the science standards as the main topic of consideration.


The Minnesota Department of Education's original science standards were created by a citizen committee over six months and contained a full endorsement of evolution. That sparked a minority report from four members of the committee who sought to add language seeking to show "how scientists continue to critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." Eight decades after Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan debated the issue of evolution in the landmark trial of Tennessee teacher John Scopes, the debate raged anew in Minnesota's Capitol.

The change adopted by the House said students will be able explain how new technology and evidence "can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models, including, but not limited to, cell theory, theory of evolution and the germ theory of disease." Similar language already was in the standards but it was placed in the section on the history of science. The amendment placed the language in the life science section.

To opponents of the amendment, the section for those words was important context. The state is considering starting a new high school biology test for all public school students. So critics of the amendment fear that criticism of evolution may have to be taught, since it could be included on the state science test.

"Worst-case scenario is that teachers believe students will be tested on it and so they will have to teach it," Latz said. "In a science class, all it does is sow confusion." The amendment was introduced by Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba, DFL-Long Prairie. It passed 86-45 with Republicans providing most of its support. Supporters said the amendment wasn't about creationism but only about skeptical inquiry.

"Students should be exposed to all sides," Sykora said.

"This is the basis of all doctorate programs at the universities in the country -- that scientists will question theories," said Rep. Karen Klinzing, R-Woodbury.


Since September, when the Department of Education released its first version of standards, the social studies standards raised most of the controversy. Critics said it was politically biased to conservative causes and would require extensive and expensive revamping of school curriculums. After two new versions, some of that criticism was reduced. Democrats, however, sought to delay implementation of the new standards, but their efforts were voted down. The final bill passed 73-55.

© 2004 Duluth News Tribune and wire service sources.

Evolution lesson renews intelligent design dispute


By: MARILYN H. KARFELD Staff Reporter

Ohio's controversial new 10th-grade biology model lesson plan, approved last week by the state school board, has attracted national attention.

The scientific community, from the prestigious National Academy of Science to the science faculty of Case Western Reserve University, has criticized the lesson for allowing intelligent design, a pseudo-scientific version of creationism, to creep into high-school biology classrooms.

Last week, the Ohio Board of Education approved the 547 pages of science lesson plans, including the controversial 22-page lesson, "Critical Analysis of Evolution."

Scientists oppose the biology lesson because it uses intelligent design concepts to suggest that evolution is a supposition. They note that evolution is a firmly accepted scientific theory that has withstood repeated tests over time. While there are numerous scientific theories in the state lesson plans, only the one on evolution asks students for critical analysis.

"It's quite clear when you look at the history of this fiasco that it's driven entirely by religious motivation," says Patricia Princehouse, an evolutionary biologist at Case Western Reserve University. "The science lesson tells lies about science, errors that come straight out of Christian fundamentalist, creationist literature."

The Jewish community has been largely silent on the model lesson plan, despite what critics say are the conservative Christian beliefs underlying it. Not one Jewish person has mentioned the science lesson to her, says Joyce Garver Keller, the Jewish community's lobbyist in Columbus.

While the American Jewish Committee has a long standing opposition to creationism in the science classroom, John Hexter, the organization's area director, suggests the community is preoccupied today with Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" or the violence in Israel.

The new science lesson "nips around the edges" of creationism and belongs in a class on comparative religion, not biology, says Hexter. "When you lose those boundaries, you erode that division between church and state that has stood us so well."

The "wedge theory" is at work here, says Bettysue Feuer, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. If you teach that there is a controversy over evolution, intelligent design advocates get their foot in the door. "This goes beyond pseudo-science. It's religion."

The model lesson plan, says Princehouse, uses concepts based on Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells, and Darwin's Black Box, by Michael Behe, both intelligent design proponents.

Intelligent design supporters say that the origins of life are too complex to be explained by evolution; therefore, a higher being or intelligent designer must play a role. The Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, a Seattle-based think tank that challenges evolution, praised Ohio's 10th-grade biology lesson plan.

Florida State University constitutional law Professor Steven Gey, who testified against the lesson before the state school board and spoke on the issue recently at Case, describes the plan as "not only bad science, it is illegal." The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1968 and 1987 that it is unconstitutional to require educators who teach evolution to also teach creationism.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio "is preparing this matter for litigation," says litigation coordinator Gary Daniels. He says the board of trustees, meeting at the end of the month, will decide whether or not to bring a lawsuit.

While evolution can be legitimately debated and addressed in science class, he adds, "the way this model lesson plan is presented is a way for people to inject their religious beliefs into science class."

The state Board of Education insists the lesson is not about intelligent design. But, Daniels says, "even if you don't see the words intelligent design, the fingerprints are all through the lesson plan."

The Ohio controversy began in 2002, when Ohio Board of Education members supporting intelligent design attempted to add its precepts to the curriculum standards for science. The state proficiency exams, which students must pass to graduate from high school, are based on these science standards.

Ultimately, the board came up with a compromise. They included a benchmark that scientists continue to critically analyze evolutionary theory. A disclaimer says the standard does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.

However, Princehouse says the 10th-grade lesson plan was written by a high-school teacher who testified in favor of intelligent design in the 2002 education standards debate.

Proponents of the lesson plan say it rightfully exposes students to views opposing Darwinian evolution, which they claim many scientists have challenged. Polls show that nearly half of all Americans believe in the literal truth of the book of Genesis: that 6,000 years ago, God created the world in six days. Only 10% accept evolution as the sole force behind the world's existence, according to a survey in the Los Angeles Times.

Ohio is the first state in the country to pass a model lesson plan challenging evolutionary theory, says Rich Benz, an award-winning biology teacher at Wickliffe High School.

Asking students to debate or argue about "one of the main tenets of biology" is not good teaching because 10th-graders are just learning what the concepts are. They don't have the background to debate evolution.

"I was appalled" at the lesson, says Benz, a 31-year teaching veteran who is on the state advisory board for the development of the science curriculum. "I knew the writers, I knew they had a personal agenda as supporters of intelligent design."

The state Board of Education field-tested its high school graduation exam this week. On Thursday, after the CJN went to press, Wickliffe students were to take the science portion of the exam.

While Benz says the model lesson will not change how he teaches evolution, he's concerned about other teachers, especially young ones, who do not have his background. "If there's a lesson that's not good education and not good science, it shouldn't be part of a good curriculum."

Copyright 2004 Cleveland Jewish News

Should students be taught alternatives to Darwinism?


The Ohio state board of education recently voted to approve the controversial "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan for 10th-grade biology students. Critics say it is a religious wedge to introduce the tenets of intelligent design, a theory that argues a creator is responsible for the universe's existence. Supporters countered that the lesson plan strikes a blow for academic freedom because it encourages debate about Darwinism. But some critics say it opens the door for teaching creationism in the public schools. Should educators have the option to teach lessons that challenge Darwin's theory of evolution?

I am saddened to see controversy over evolution raise its head again in our public schools. Discussion? Debate? Fine. But this does not belong in a high school biology class. And if such a curriculum change is to be considered, let it be vetted by the National Academy of Sciences. These folks have no religious ax to grind.

Theology and science are separate disciplines. The Bible is a wonderful piece of literature, and many of us would claim that it is a revelation of divine truth. But it is not a science textbook. We would assert that the Bible reveals the "why" of existence, not the "how." There might be ethical questions raised concerning the uses to which some scientific discoveries are put, but not about basic scientific discovery itself.

Since the time of Charles Darwin, we now know the biochemical and genetic principles undergirding his "Theory of Evolution." We have never heard any credible counterargument to these scientific foundations. Our schools are not the place for ideological meddling by religious folk with a theological agenda.

Associate rector
St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, Claremont

Darwin's theory of evolution is not perfect and it will probably be improved upon as we continue to learn more about the world in which we live, but it is not antithetical to the Creation narrative of Genesis. I believe that the lessons of the first chapters of the book of Genesis are these: the greatness of our Creator, the way in which humans are imbued with the spirit of God, how humans interact with God's authority and the beginnings of independent human action and its consequences. The account of the creation in Genesis is not, and should not be held up as, a literal depiction of what happened when the world came into being. Those who look to it for that purpose miss the point of the text, which is to give us a religious, not a scientific, understanding of our beginnings.

I suspect that the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan uses the language of science to argue its points, but is probably just an excuse to forward the aims of "creation science," which do not stand up to any test of scientific truth.


The Office of the Chaplains
Claremont University

The argument against teaching intelligent design is silly. Particularly in light of the fact that Darwin's theory is just that — a theory, and one he proposed for discussion only. This issue has been fought for decades by the secular humanists who control our education system. They fear the thought of children being offered a reasonable explanation that they can weigh for themselves against Darwinism because many will see Darwinism for the foolishness that it is. Their complaint that this will allow religious teaching in the public school causes us to stop and consider: Do we want to teach our children that murder is OK (laws against murder come from the Bible); or that there is no such thing as scientific studies of wind and weather patterns (they are discussed in the Bible); and so on.

There is much more scientific fact backing intelligent design than backing Darwinism, and new books are coming out of academia every year that offer more evidence in support of creationism. Even Darwin was shocked that people took his hypothesis and tried to assume it was fact. Darwin renounced his own theory and accepted Jesus and the biblical account of creation before his death. At least Darwin, after reasonable investigation, had the intelligence to recognize truth.

Arise America Ministries,

I believe that any subject that teaches religious beliefs, disguised or otherwise, has no place in our schools. This opens the door for all manner of dogma and doctrine to creep in. It occurs to me that there are literally millions of religious belief systems on this planet. All churches and people are entitled to their own beliefs about creation. Would they like to give equal time to all? Often we become so tunnel visioned that we think ours is the only way to believe. I have said before and will continue to say that God is too big for any one religion.

Senior minister, Claremont
Church of Religious Science

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Interview With Jerry Falwell


Aired February 1, 2004 - 08:21 ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Here in Georgia, the state superintendent of schools is getting a lot of flack for suggesting that the word "evolution" be stricken from textbooks. Students would still learn about it in science class, they just wouldn't be able to call it that. CNN's Brian Cabell traces the "evolution" of the controversy.


BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Evolution," it's a word that may soon disappear from science classes in Georgia's public schools.

KATHY COX, GEORGIA SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: That is a buzz word that causes a lot of negative reaction. It also causes people to jump to conclusions.

CABELL: Kathy Cox, Georgia's school superintendent, has proposed a curriculum that does not mention "evolution." Instead, it substitutes the phrase "biological changes over time." One state senator is outraged by the proposed change and likens it to the dispute over the Confederate battle flag.

CONNIE STOKES, GEORGIA STATE SENATOR: It's the same kind of issue. People are looking at us thinking, what are they talking about doing in Georgia?

CABELL: Actually, five other states currently do not contain the word "evolution" in their science curriculum. They include Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Cox, who insists she has no religious agenda, said Georgia's new curriculum would include Darwin's teaching of evolution, just not the word itself. But she wants the state's students to be open to all theories, scientific, religious for otherwise.

COX: I don't like to sit and think, well, we've got one accepted model of science and these other scientists are out there and they don't know what they're doing. Every major scientific breakthrough has been done by an individual who was shunned by the rest of the scientific community.

CABELL: Critics say, however, that Georgia students will be shortchanged if Cox has her way.

CARLOS MORENO, EMORY UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: Students who don't understand what evolution is are going to be at a real disadvantage when it comes time for them to go to college.

CABELL: The controversial curriculum is now posted on a Web site. Education officials asking for feedback have so far been hit by a torrent of criticism.

(on camera): The board of education votes on the proposed curriculum in May. That's when changes can be made if educators and the public demand changes.

Brian Cabell, CNN, Atlanta.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The Reverend Jerry Falwell is a devout creationist, but he takes exception to the proposed curriculum change in Georgia. Reverend Falwell is joining us now from Lynchburg, Virginia, to share his thoughts on this issue.

Reverend, thanks for being with us this morning. Sure do appreciate your time.


COLLINS: This is an interesting perspective that you have. Tell us about your thoughts. You think that it's actually OK to teach evolution and, if you will, a little bit of both.

FALWELL: I do. You know, Heidi, the battle we've been fighting for all of these years as creationists is academic freedom. We propose that, as here at Liberty University, with 15,000 students, we teach both evolution and creation, both models. And amazingly, when you give the information on both models, overwhelmingly the students come down on the side of creation.

The problem we have in the public schools is not what they're trying to do in Georgia. It is the total exclusion of any mention of creationism in the public classroom, including higher learning institutions, colleges, universities.

COLLINS: Why do you think that's happening? Why is it OK for sometimes the creationism idea to be left out entirely?

FALWELL: Because -- well, as a matter of fact, there is a total blackout of creation instruction in the public schools of America, and in most of the colleges and universities, because I think the scientists who, under the guise that this is not true science, are afraid to expose their theory, their model to the creation model. And to me, that is a violation of academic freedom.

Way back in 1925, in the Scopes trial, it was just the reverse. A law was passed there to fire a teacher because he mentioned creationism, and they won at the lower level, lost later. That's the opposite of what we want.

We don't want to fire anybody of teaching evolution. We just want to allow the teaching of cretin and other models in the classroom so that academic freedom prevails in the science classroom like it does in every other discipline.

COLLINS: Let me ask you a personal question, if I may. I know that your daughter who is going through medical school of course had to deal with evolution in going through that training. How did she handle that, given the upbringing that she had?

FALWELL: Well, we have two boys and a girl, a doctor, a preacher, and genius surgeon. She's a professor of surgery now for the Medical College of Virginia, and she is also a practicing surgeon.

But back during medical school days, she, likewise, a creationist, would be asked a question that proposed an answer based upon the Darwinian model. And she would give the answer just like the professor, in her mind, wanted it, and then she would simply state, "This is not my personal conviction. I do believe it's the information you want." And they smiled and let her get by with that.

COLLINS: All right. It's the last question for you, sir. Do you really believe that scientific beliefs and religious faith can actually coexist in the classroom?

FALWELL: I do, indeed. As a matter of fact, I think creationism is creation science.

And I believe that people like Dr. Kenneth Ham (ph) at Answers in Genesis in Florence, Kentucky, Dr. Henry Morris at the Institution Creation Research out in San Diego, and thousands of scientists -- Dr. Harmash (ph) used to head the Department of Civil Engineering here at Virginia Tech -- they're all creationists. And there are thousands like them who teach creationism as science and science as creationism, and likewise, teach the evolution model. Young people, when they hear the facts on both sides, or what are proposed to be facts, overwhelmingly, like 80 percent of the American people, accept and adopt creationism.

COLLINS: Well, we should let everyone know that the board here in Georgia is expected to rule on this issue on these proposed changes.

FALWELL: That won't stand in Georgia. The governor came out today, Governor Perdue, opposed to it. And he should.

COLLINS: OK. I'm just saying that this decision is going to be made in May. I want to let everybody know that.

Reverend Jerry Falwell, we appreciate your time this morning. Thanks so much.

FALWELL: Thank you.


If it's unregulated, watch out


The Gazette

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

That diploma on the wall might not mean everything, but it means something, as more than 1,100 Quebecers have discovered to their dismay. They are the clients and former clients of an unlicensed Plateau acupuncturist who disinfected but did not sterilize needles. The Quebec Public Health Department has contacted as many of these unlucky people as could be found and urged them to have a blood test for AIDS.

The nine-year-old Quebec Order of Acupuncturists portrays this practitioner of 25 years as the one who got away. Probably she is. Most people involved in alternative medicine are keenly aware of their long battle for acceptance and acquire all available accreditation. Still, there are bound to be exceptions. Without a professional order to establish standards and discipline offenders, there would surely be many more.

It is worth noting this self-accredited acupuncturist also practiced osteopathy, a therapy based on bone manipulation that has no meaningful regulation in the province.

Being an osteopath, legally, is not much different from calling yourself one. The sooner the osteopaths and other alternative-medicine providers get their act together, the better for everyone.

The unfortunate fallout of any story such as this is the disrepute into which the entire discipline temporarily falls. From its Eastern origin, acupuncture is now widely accepted in the West as a safe and useful therapy. Properly trained acupuncturists - with accreditation on the wall - use disposable needles.

If there is an upside, it is the fact many more people are now aware of this basic safeguard and will expect it to be observed. They will also be more motivated to inspect the qualifications of all alternative-medicine providers.

© Copyright 2004 Montreal Gazette

Opening Doors for Closed Minds



Vim and Vinegar

Patrick Henry College, located in Virginia, has approximately 240 enrolled students with a mean SAT score of 1320. The school receives no government funding, and charges about $15,000 in tuition. Students can choose from four majors: Government, Classical Liberal Arts, History, and Literature. Home-schooled teens are encouraged to apply -- that is, home-schooled teens who tend toward evangelical Christianity, because Patrick Henry College's self-reported mission is to "train Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding." The school was founded in 2000 by Michael Farris, the president and founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, as a measure to counteract the increasing push for pesky home-schooling regulations -- such as requiring the teacher-parents to pass certification exams or have high-school diplomas.

Perhaps this isn't what Ezra Cornell was picturing when he envisioned "an institution where any person can find instruction in any study." But underneath the superficial differences between Patrick Henry and our dear old Cornell lurk a wealth of similarities.

For example, Cornellians are expected to adhere to a strict Academic Integrity policy. Similarly, students at Patrick Henry are obligated to sign a Statement of Faith and share the beliefs set forth in the school's Statement of Biblical Worldview, which includes the provisions that "any sexual conduct outside the parameters of marriage is sin" and that "husbands are the head of their wives just as Christ is the head of the church." At Cornell, Gannett encourages abstinence by selling vibrators, most engineers are expected to be chaste, and while we might not be encouraged in class to follow traditional gender roles, hey, that's what the Greek system is for.

Speaking of the Greek system, you probably assume that -- just because drinking is forbidden without parental supervision and a guy is expected to call a girl's father to ask for permission to court her -- Patrick Henry students lack social lives. Well, you couldn't be more wrong. Though they don't have frat parties, they do have an annual Liberty Ball, where students dress up in formal (and don't forget modest!) attire and engage in English Country Dancing. Students can also engage in various extracurricular activities, such as the Eden Drama Troupe, which performs a selection of plays that demonstrate Christian values -- nearly analogous to Risley's yearly presentation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There is a student chorale, which is no doubt similar to Cornell's countless a capella groups, though perhaps the chorale's repertoire features slightly less dry-humping of microphone stands and slightly more singing of church hymns.

And Patrick Henry's policy on public affection -- the only physical display allowed in public is walking while holding hands, and if a couple stops walking they must immediately separate -- echoes a similar protocol at Cornell. Here, public copulation is generally frowned upon unless both parties are sufficiently drunk; and if a couple stops walking, it's usually a good idea for them to separate so one doesn't get splattered with the other's vomit.

As at Cornell, the most popular major at Patrick Henry is Government, selected by two-thirds of the student body. Many students want to go on to hold positions of great political power, in order to better the world. One student told the New York Times: "I would definitely like to be active in the government of our country and stuff." Patrick Henry has a debate club and a moot court organization, which, like Cornell's model U.N. and debate team, aim to give students experience in rhetoric and politics.

Of course, future leaders of the country need to be exposed to a wide range of viewpoints, and neither institution is lacking in this area either. Cornell has classes about evolutionary biology, classes about Eastern religion, classes about interpreting the Koran. Patrick Henry also tries to cover all the bases; bio professors are expected to "provide a full exposition of the claims of the theory of Darwinian evolution, intelligent design and other major theories while, in the end, teach creation as both biblically true and as the best fit to observed data."

The Patrick Henry College Library is conspicuously missing any books by Al Franken or any other anti-conservative author, and a search of the library catalog for books having to do with liberalism results in a smattering of books by Ann Coulter '85, Rush Limbaugh and the like, but let's give the school the benefit of the doubt and assume that they're still expanding their collection.

Because at the heart of both schools is a real desire for diversity. We've all heard Cornell's motto, "Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds." Patrick Henry harbors a similar inclusiveness, asserting in their Statement of Biblical Worldview that "All human beings are created in God's image, and all are precious and equal in His sight … Therefore, it is appropriate that government forbid discrimination in commerce, education, and employment based upon ethnicity, national origin, or skin color." They seem to have omitted a few categories, but maybe they ran out of space. And sure, all of the students at Patrick Henry are white, but they once had a black student (who later left).

Cornell University and Patrick Henry College are indeed eerily similar institutions, in terms of both academic and social life. There is one big difference between the two, however: Patrick Henry's miniscule student body is currently providing seven of the 100 interns in the White House. Talk about "open doors."

Elise Kramer is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. She can be contacted at eak32@cornell.edu. Vim and Vinegar appears Wednesdays.

Copyright © 2004 by The Cornell Daily Sun, Inc.

Guest Opinion: Trust our founding fathers; keep God out of the classroom



For 200 years or so, people have been using increasingly sophisticated instruments to answer questions about the origins and structure of Earth and the universe, in disciplines ranging from astronomy to organic chemistry and physics to zoology.

The scientific method, a peer-reviewed process whereby hypotheses (i.e. answerable questions) are tested through experiments that have readily measurable outcomes, has allowed discoveries which led to the development of countless technologies we take for granted every day. None of these accomplishments was achieved through guesswork and supposition; each required thousands of small experiments conducted by a multitude of scientists, each seeking the truth about some small aspect of reality.

Using the same scientific method that allowed these great discoveries and inventions, investigators from the same diverse range of disciplines, often with no idea that their findings might support the concept of evolution, have provided overwhelming evidence that the universe started from a single point in a "big bang" approximately 15 billion years ago, that the earth formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago, that life arose as single-celled organisms approximately 3.5 billion years ago, and that the extremely slow process of natural selection, driven by the ability of DNA to mutate and thereby promote adaptation of organisms to new environments, led to the evolution of a constantly changing variety of highly-specialized species, including humans.

The evidence for these conclusions is not tucked away in some great vault, accessible only to scientists with a secret code; it's available to anyone who is curious and knows how to read. I urge people who think like Andrew Larson, who has expressed his views in this newspaper several times and falsely claims no evidence for evolution exists, to open both books and their minds. The transitional forms they seek have been found in the fossil record in spades and are described in enough books to fill a substantial library.

Like all theories that are eventually proven to be true, such as the "theory" that the earth revolves around the sun, the scientific community now considers evolution to be a fact. There is no real controversy (or conspiracy) in this regard, no matter how many times fundamentalists say otherwise.

Granted, arguments continue over certain aspects of evolution, such as whether natural selection works at the level of the individual or the population, or whether the process works gradually or in spurts, but those who have analyzed the data from even a fraction of the available multi-disciplinary studies conducted to understand Earth's history unanimously agree that evolution is sufficient to account for all complex structures observed in biology and is the only driving force behind the appearance of new living species.

Keep in mind, science has provided no information regarding how or why the universe began, and it probably never will. I personally believe God set the ball in motion at the moment of the big bang knowing that sentient beings would eventually appear. In fact, most of the people I've spoken with who agree that evolution occurs also believe God created the universe.

If the idea can be considered that the stories in the Bible were written as allegories by men of God, and not God himself, then God can still be considered the creator whose goal was human existence, with the caveat that he used an extremely elegant biological system and the process of evolution to get us here. The bottom line is that creationism and evolution are not mutually exclusive.

Regardless of what you believe, public school science class is a place where students should only learn about the scientific method and the information generated by it. The idea that God created the universe is not currently amenable to hypothesis testing, so it remains a belief. Beliefs with no data to support them are religion, not science. Religion, for reasons well understood by our brilliant founding fathers, must remain separate from government (and, hence, the public school system). Please respect the foresight of the great men who wrote the one document that binds us together as a nation, the United States Constitution, and leave God out of the classroom.

For those who would like to learn more about natural selection and evolution, I recommend a recently published book by Ernst Meyer titled "What Evolution Is." Also, for those who have a hard time believing that complex biological structures like the eye could evolve, I recommend a book by Richard Dawkins titled "The Blind Watchmaker." Both are written with the layperson in mind and each is a good jumping off point for those who want to learn more about one of the greatest discoveries of all time, evolution.

Christopher W. Cluff, Ph.D., DVM, lives in Hamilton, Montana.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Copyright © 2000-2004 Montana Standard and Lee Enterprises.

Ohio Lesson Plan Pleases Parents, Irks Liberals


by Phyllis Schlafly
Posted Mar 18, 2004

"Why is it important for scientists to critically analyze evolution?" That's the first question in the "student reflection" portion of an optional new 22-page section called "Critical Analysis of Evolution," which is part of Ohio's 547-page science curriculum.

How could anybody object to such an innocuous question? Newspapers report a steady stream of news that scientists are questioning such dogmas as good cholesterol vs. bad cholesterol, vaccine links to autism, the causes of breast cancer, even fluoridation for children's teeth. Isn't the nature of science to question assertions and seek the proof from evidence?

The Ohio State Board of Education approved the new curriculum by a vote of 13-5 after being persuaded by 22 Ohio scientists that the new lesson plan promotes academic freedom and that it is good for 10th grade students to have an inquiring mind about evolution. "Are we about teaching students how to think, or what to think?" asked one parent supporter of the lesson plan.

And it's all optional; no teacher will be required to teach criticisms of evolution, and no students will be tested on the criticisms. So what's the big deal?

To some people, it's a very big deal, and the ACLU is ominously threatening a lawsuit. The opposition to the new lesson was led by Case Western Reserve University lecturer Patricia Princehouse (whose academic position is philosophy not science) who said, "It's sad day for science in Ohio."

Another non-scientist, Florida State University law professor Steven Gey, flew in to warn Ohioans that the lesson is unconstitutional and would almost certainly be struck down if it reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Maybe he is seeking an activist judge to rule that the Constitution prohibits allowing students to question anything in science class.

Gey's notions of constitutionality are unusual. He thinks that "moral relativism" is a "constitutional command," that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional, and that nude sunbathing should be given "constitutional protection."

There is nothing religious, or about creationism, or even about intelligent design in the new Ohio standards. What is controversial is giving students the opportunity to question evolution; it's the inquiry and debate aspect that some people find so threatening.

The new lesson encourages students to consider both supporting and "challenging" evidence for evolution. The challenges to the theory are understated and are backed up with facts.

For example, the lesson says that the fossil record supports evolution with its increasing complexity of living forms. But the lesson also observes that "transitional fossils are rare in the fossil record" and "a growing number of scientists now question that ... transitional fossils really are transitional forms," and notes that some changes in species occur quickly in the fossil record relative to longer stretches that manifest no change.

The new lesson plan presents the overused English peppered moth story found in most textbooks, which teaches that black moths survived because they rested on trees blackened by soot, while white moths were eaten by the birds. The lesson points out that "peppered moths do not actually rest on tree trunks," and that "no new species emerged" as evolutionists have long implied was the result of the soot.

The new lesson plan invites students to take a fresh look at evolutionary claims of common ancestry. The lesson observes that different genes and development have created similar anatomical structures, suggesting different ancestries.

Can it be that this kind of balanced information is so dangerous for high school students to hear that it must be censored out of textbooks? Or that it rises to the level of a Supreme Court case where judges might declare it unconstitutional?

The diehard evolutionists have enjoyed censorship of any criticism of their beliefs for a hundred years, and they won't willingly give up their academic turf. Their censorship demands became so irrational that the Ohio Board's vice president, Richard Baker, called them "a bunch of paranoid, egotistical scientists afraid of people finding out [they] don't know anything."

Ohio has become the cutting edge in the long-running evolution debate. Georgia, New Mexico, Minnesota, West Virginia, and Kansas have all wrestled with science standards and curricula on evolution in recent years.

The Alabama Senate Education Committee last week approved the "Academic Freedom Act," which says that no teacher or professor in public schools or universities may be fired, denied tenure or otherwise discriminated against for presenting "alternative theories" to evolution. The bill would also prohibit any student from being penalized because he held "a particular position on biological or physical origins" so long as the student demonstrated "acceptable understanding of course materials" which include evolution.

Mrs. Schlafly is the author of Feminist Fantasies (Spence Publishing Co). Copyright © 2004 HUMAN EVENTS

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