NTS LogoSkeptical News for 26 March 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Friday, March 26, 2004

Evolution education update: MS, NCSE supporters, The Panda's Thumb

The latest news on evolution education in Mississippi, along with information on new supporters of NCSE and a valuable new resource.

MISSISSIPPI

On March 9, 2004, House Bill 1288 died in the Education Committee of the Mississippi House of Representatives. If enacted, the bill would have required that any textbook discussing evolution have a disclaimer inserted inside the front cover, describing evolution as "a controversial theory some scientists present as an explanation for the origin of living things" and as an "unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced living things." The proposed disclaimer also states that "any statement about life's origin should be considered a theory" and mentions several "unanswered questions about the origin of life that are not mentioned in your textbook," including the Cambrian explosion and the supposed lack of transitional forms in the fossil record. Most of the wording of HB1288's disclaimer was derived from the textbook disclaimer formerly in use in Alabama. The bill, introduced by Representative Carmel Wells-Smith and cosponsored by 19 other legislators, died after it failed to meet a deadline to be reported out of committee.

For the text of HB1288 in PDF format, see the Mississippi legislature:
http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2004/pdf/HB/1200-1299/HB1288IN.pdf

NEW SUPPORTERS OF NCSE

We are pleased to announce that the following distinguished scientists, scholars, and educators have joined NCSE's list of supporters.

Alfred G. Gilman, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and corecipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Medicine:
http://www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/1994/

Keith B. Miller, Research Assistant Professor in Geology at Kansas State University and editor of Perspectives on an Evolving Creation (Eerdmans, 2003):
http://www.eerdmans.com/shop/product.asp?p_key=0802805124

Bill Nye, "The Science Guy":
http://www.billnye.com/

Richard Stucky, Vice President of Museum Programs at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science:
http://www.dmns.org/

We are also pleased to announce that Barbara Forrest, Professor of Philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University has agreed to join NCSE's board of directors. Forrest is a previous recipient of NCSE's Friend of Darwin award; with Paul R. Gross, she is the author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2003):
http://www.selu.edu/Academics/ArtsSciences/CAS_Endowed%20Chairs/doc/ForrestGrossBookDescription.pdf

THE PANDA'S THUMB

The Panda's Thumb is a new, collectively authored blog (short for "web log") devoted, in its words, "to explaining the theory of evolution, critiquing the claims of the anti-evolution movement, and defending the integrity of science and science education in America and around the world." Those blogging there so far include Andrea Bottaro, Matthew Brauer, Ed Brayton, Reed Cartwright, Wesley R. Elsberry, Skip Evans, Richard Hoppe, Gary Hurd, Matt Inlay, Jack Krebs, John Lynch, Nicholas Matzke, Ian Musgrave, P. Z. Myers, Mark Perakh, Steve Reuland, Jason Rosenhouse, Timothy Sandefur, Dave Thomas, Pim van Meurs, John Wilkins, and Matt Young. The Panda's Thumb is rapidly shaping up to be a valuable resource for all those interested in defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools.

Be sure to visit The Panda's Thumb at: http://www.pandasthumb.org

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

U.S. Will Give Cold Fusion Second Look, After 15 Years

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/25/science/25FUSI.html

By KENNETH CHANG

Published: March 25, 2004

Cold fusion, briefly hailed as the silver-bullet solution to the world's energy problems and since discarded to the same bin of quackery as paranormal phenomena and perpetual motion machines, will soon get a new hearing from Washington.

Despite being pushed to the fringes of physics, cold fusion has continued to be worked on by a small group of scientists, and they say their figures unambiguously verify the original report, that energy can be generated simply by running an electrical current through a jar of water.

Last fall, cold fusion scientists asked the Energy Department to take a second look at the process, and last week, the department agreed.

No public announcement was made. A British magazine, New Scientist, first reported the news this week, and Dr. James F. Decker, deputy director of the science office in the Energy Department, confirmed it in an e-mail interview.

"It was my personal judgment that their request for a review was reasonable," Dr. Decker said.

For advocates of cold fusion, the new review brings them to the cusp of vindication after years of dismissive ridicule.

"I am absolutely delighted that the D.O.E. is finally going to do the right thing," Dr. Eugene F. Mallove, editor of Infinite Energy magazine, said. "There can be no other conclusion than a major new window has opened on physics."

The research is too preliminary to determine whether cold fusion, even if real, will live up to its initial billing as a cheap, bountiful source of energy, said Dr. Peter Hagelstein, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has been working on a theory to explain how the process works. Experiments have generated small amounts of energy, from a fraction of a watt to a few watts.

Still, Dr. Hagelstein added, "I definitely think it has potential for commercial energy production."

Dr. Decker said the scientists, not yet chosen, would probably spend a few days listening to presentations and then offer their thoughts individually. The review panel will not conduct experiments, he said.

"What's on the table is a fairly straightforward question, is there science here or not?" Dr. Hagelstein said. "Most fundamental to this is to get the taint associated with the field hopefully removed."

Fusion, the process that powers the Sun, combines hydrogen atoms, releasing energy as a byproduct. In March 1989, Drs. B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, two chemists at the University of Utah, said they had generated fusion in a tabletop experiment using a jar of heavy water, where the water molecules contain a heavier version of hydrogen, deuterium, and two palladium electrodes. A current running through the electrodes pulled deuterium atoms into the electrodes, which somehow generated heat, the scientists said. Dr. Fleischmann speculated that the heat was coming from fusion of the deuterium atoms.

Other scientists trying to reproduce the seemingly simple experiment found the effects fickle and inconsistent. Because cold fusion, if real, cannot be explained by current theories, the inconsistent results convinced most scientists that it had not occurred. The signs of extra heat, critics said, were experimental mistakes or generated by the current or, perhaps, chemical reactions in the water, but not fusion.

Critics also pointed out that to produce the amount of heat reported, conventional fusion reactions would throw out lethal amounts of radiation, and they argued that the continued health of Drs. Pons and Fleischmann, as well as other experimenters, was proof that no fusion occurred.

Some cold fusion scientists now say they can produce as much as two to three times more energy than in the electric current. The results are also more reproducible, they say. They add that they have definitely seen fusion byproducts, particularly helium in quantities proportional to the heat generated.

After a conference in August, Dr. Hagelstein wrote to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, asking for a meeting. Dr. Hagelstein; Dr. Michael McKubre of SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif.; and Dr. David J. Nagel of George Washington University met Dr. Decker on Nov. 6.

"They presented some data and asked for a review of the scientific research that has been conducted," Dr. Decker said. "The scientists who came to see me are from excellent scientific institutions and have excellent credentials."

Scientists working on conventional fusion said cold fusion research had fallen off their radar screens.

"I'm surprised," Dr. Stewart C. Prager, a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, said. "I thought most of the cold fusion effort had phased out. I'm just not aware of any physics results that motivated this."

ABORTION'S LINK TO BREAST CANCER DISCOUNTED

from The Washington Post (Registration Required)

Having an abortion does not increase a woman's risk of getting breast cancer later, according to the most comprehensive and definitive analysis conducted on the controversial issue, scientists said yesterday.

The conclusion was based on 53 studies involving 83,000 women in 16 countries. For the first time, researchers compared all the studies according to the quality of their methodology: Better-designed studies found no link between abortion and breast cancer. Studies using weaker designs were inconsistent, but on average, they found a link.

Currently, several states, including Texas, Minnesota and Kansas, tell women considering an abortion that it may increase their risk of breast cancer. Other states are debating whether to require doctors to warn women of a risk. The federal government also had suggested that abortion might raise the risk, but it recently dropped that information from an official cancer information Web site.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25076-2004Mar25.html

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 678 March 26, 2004 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

CARBON NANOFOAM IS THE FIRST PURE-CARBON MAGNET. Discovered a few years ago, carbon nanofoam is the fifth known allotrope of carbon, the others being graphite, diamond, fullerene (e.g., C-60 molecules), and carbon nanotubes. The foam is, along with aerogel, one of the lightest known solid substances (with a density of ~2 mg/cm^3). But at this week's APS March Meeting in Montreal, physicists announced an even more interesting property: though made entirely from carbon atoms that are normally considered nonmagnetic, the foam nevertheless can act like a ferromagnet. Blasting a high-power laser at disordered solid carbon, a Greece-Australia-Russia research collaboration (John Giapintzakis, University of Crete/IESL-FORTH, giapintz@iesl.forth.gr and Andrei Rode, Australian National University, avr111@rspysse.anu.edu.au) creates a gossamer web made of carbon-atom clusters (with an average diameter of 6-9 nanometers) randomly interconnected. The foam has other interesting properties: it also is a semiconductor, making it attractive for device applications.

The most salient property of carbon nanofoam, however, is its magnetism. Unlike other forms of carbon, such as graphite and diamond, freshly produced carbon nanofoam is ferromagnetic; that is, it is initially attracted strongly to a permanent magnet at room temperature. Although the room-temperature ferromagnetic behavior disappears after a few hours, it persists at lower temperatures. Consequently this "ferromagnetic semiconductor" might have very useful applications for spintronics, the emerging field of devices based on a material's magnetic properties. Addressing the initial skepticism about pure carbon having ferromagnetic properties, the researchers acknowledged that they found traces of iron and nickel impurities in their foam, but calculated that the small amounts of these magnetic materials could only account for 20% of the strength of the ferromagnetic fields in the foam. Researchers have concluded that the observed novel magnetic behavior is an intrinsic property of the carbon nanofoam and can be traced to its complex microstructure. Namely, carbon atoms in the foam forms heptagon structures, 7-corner, 7-edge polygons that have an unpaired electron, one that does not form a chemical bond and has a magnetic moment which may lead to the magnetism. The researchers also have preliminary indications that the novel magnetic behavior also occurs in another nano-compound made of boron and nitrogen, two other elements that are ordinarily non-magnetic. Speaking at an APS news conference, theoretical collaborator David Tomanek of Michigan State (tomanek@pa.msu.edu) said that he hoped that the carbon nanofoam and similar compounds would remove what he termed a "magnetic prejudice," the idea than an element should be stereotyped as either magnetic or nonmagnetic. One possible application of the carbon nanofoam is in biomedicine, as tiny ferromagnetic clusters that could be injected in blood vessels may significantly increase the quality of magnetic resonance imaging pictures. (Paper A17.005)

TUNABLE SURFACES. In a new experiment conducted at Bell Labs/Lucent, a liquid drop was maneuvered around a special surface consisting, at the microscopic level, of a forest of tiny stalks. The blades of this "nanograss" can be selectively electrified so as to move the drop from place to place or to cause it to lose its spherical shape and to wet the surface below. Lucent scientist Tom Krupenkin, also speaking at the APS meeting, said that the conversion of the surface from hydrophobic (the drop staying aloof at the top of the blades) to hydrophilic (the drop collapsing and flooding the plain between the blades) could result in many potential applications. Heat mitigation is one example. Drops could be delivered to hot spots on microchips, where the drop could douse the troubled area (sort of like an airborne drop of water during forest fires), absorb the heat, and then depart. Optical properties of a surface could be switched from one state to another through electronically controlled wetting. Microfluidics applications include combinatorial chemistry in microreactors, drag reduction, or altering the friction of channels. In microbatteries, electrochemicals could be kept isolated until energy was actually needed, thus extending the battery's working life and saving energy for moments of peak activity. (Paper Y22.6)

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


Thursday, March 25, 2004

FTC sues QVC over weight-loss products

http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/diet.fitness/03/24/qvc.ads.ap/index.html

Thursday, March 25, 2004 Posted: 1:43 AM EST (0643 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal regulators sued the QVC home shopping network on Wednesday, charging the channel with making deceptive claims about weight-loss products it sold on the air.

The complaint from the Federal Trade Commission accused QVC of falsely advertising "For Women Only" weight-loss products such as zero-fat and zero-carb pills. It also alleged unsubstantiated claims about "fat fighting bars" and other Lite Bite products, as well as Bee-Alive dietary supplements.

"We're seeking substantial civil penalties in the millions of dollars," said Joni Lupovitz, assistant director for enforcement at the FTC's bureau of consumer protection.

The products were advertised on the network beginning in the summer of 2000 and continuing into 2003, the agency said.

The FTC says QVC violated a June 2000 order that barred the company from making false or unsubstantiated claims about dietary supplements.

Calls seeking comment from the Pennsylvania-based QVC were not immediately returned.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.

Energy Therapy Used To Treat Childhood Autism

http://www.nbc4.com/healtharchives/2946527/detail.html

Healers Use Balance Of Electromagnetic System, Light Touch

UPDATED: 2:03 p.m. EST March 24, 2004

BALTIMORE -- Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits how a child communicates or responds to the things or people around them. It can be mild or devastating, and there's no cure -- but some are using an alternative treatment called energy therapy.

Ian Haupt is almost 6 years old. When he was 2, Ian was diagnosed with autism. He recently had an energy therapy session at Baltimore's Kennedy Krieger Institute. It's a form of alternative medicine that involves the body's electromagnetic system, using the hands of a healer, like practitioner Charnan Koller.

"Energy has a vibration, a vibration they can feel so it calms them," Koller said.

As the session began, Koller couldn't even get close to Ian because he was anxious and unhappy. But she and Ian's mom, Jennifer, kept at it.

Koller said that through the hands of a healer, the electromagnetic system that surrounds the body is balanced by light touch, and Ian eventually began to calm down.

Last summer, Ian took part in a three-week study at Kennedy Krieger where he had sessions several times a week.

"He said his first word during those three weeks. He had never said anything, and was so much more manageable" after treatment, Jennifer Haupt said.

Ian's first word was "mommy," and while he doesn't speak now, there have been some lasting results to energy therapy in his mom's eyes.

"He pays attention to things, notices things more. It was almost like it woke up his brain, that's what I think," Haupt said.

Researchers said the response from autistic children was mixed, but many had positive effects like Ian.

Ian's mom said his sleeping through the night may be the most dramatic improvement that Ian made. He used to be get up during all hours of the night. His improved sleeping habits have also improved the quality of her life, she said.

San Diego-Based Insurer Gets Oklahoma's Nod to Offer Complementary Health Plan

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/business/national/8266535.htm

By Elizabeth Camacho Wiley, The Daily Oklahoman Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Mar. 24 - American Specialty Health Insurance Co., based in San Diego, recently received approval from the state Insurance Department to offer complementary health care plans to large employers in Oklahoma.

Formerly coined "alternative medicine," complementary health care includes nontraditional medical services such as chiropractic, massage and acupuncture therapy and dietetic counseling.

Such health care plans are "complementary" because they often are used "in conjunction with traditional medical care," American Specialty spokeswoman Lisa Freeman said.

It's estimated that more than half of the American population uses some form of complementary health care every year, Freeman said.

A 1998 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association attests to a 47 percent increase in total visits to alternative medicine practitioners in the 1990s -- from 427 million in 1990 to 629 million in 1997.

"It's a $40 billion market, and that's grown from $21 billion in the early 1990s," Freeman said.

Complementary health care has been slower to catch on in the Midwest, including in Oklahoma, said George DeVries, chief executive officer of American Specialty.

"It does seem a little more popular on both the East and West coasts. However, the growth of popularity of complementary health care is growing across the nation," DeVries said. "We're excited to be launching this in the state of Oklahoma."

David Fleet, a vice president at Oklahoma City-based Horton Insurance Agency -- which sells American Specialty plans -- said he estimates less than 25 percent of companies in the Midwest offer complementary health plans.

"It's too soon to tell" how Oklahoma employers will respond to such plans, he said. "Although, with the interest in consumer-driven health plans, in time, I believe Oklahomans will become more health conscious and more in-tune to alternative medical services," Fleet added.

Complementary health plans are an enhancement of employee benefits that are often not covered under group medical plans, he said.

According to a Journal of the American Medical Association study, nearly two-thirds of companies who responded to a survey said they added complementary health care to their benefits plans because of employee requests.

American Specialty only offers complementary plans to employers with 51 or more employees. Employers can choose from about 15 different combinations of benefits and 25 different benefit plans.

For example, one employer may choose to offer only acupuncture and chiropractic therapy benefits to employees, while another may choose to offer a greater range of complementary benefits, DeVries said.

In-network benefits range from 20 to unlimited practitioner visits per year with copayments ranging from zero dollars to $20 per visit, he said.

Fleet said employers do not have to purchase comprehensive, traditional health care plans to purchase complementary plans.

To see more of The Daily Oklahoman, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.newsok.com

© 2004, The Daily Oklahoman. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

Citizenship 'Under God'

http://www.beliefnet.com/story/142/story_14286_1.html

To declare we are 'one nation, under nothing' is the ultimate act of hubris.

By Chuck Colson

Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court holding that under God in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court, absent Justice Scalia, who has recused himself, will hear arguments today as to whether to uphold the ruling or allow children and others to continue to recite those familiar words.

In yesterday's New York Times, columnist David Brooks made a great suggestion for the justices. He assigned as bedtime reading the book "A Stone of Hope" by David L. Chappell.

Chappell's thesis is that without America's religious beliefs, we never would have had a successful civil rights movement. Chappell argues that there were two groups involved in the civil rights movement. First, there were "mainstream liberals, often white and Northern," who "tended to have an optimistic view of human nature"-these are the utopians who believe that, with government help, public awareness, and education, all the world's ills can be mended. The second group, "mostly black and Southern," were religiously motivated. They included Martin Luther King, Jr., who saw that in a fallen world, justice can only be achieved by a commitment to religious beliefs.

One only has to read King's speeches to see his constant references from the Old Testament prophets. And in his Letters from a Birmingham Jail he cited Augustine and Aquinas to show that an unjust law is no law at all and that God's law sets men free.

Brooks, writing as a Jew, says that whether you believe in the Bible or not you have to agree that it has a deeper and more accurate understanding of human nature than secular social scientists.

In addition to Chappell's book, I recommend that the justices also read "For the Glory of God" by Rodney Stark, an eminent secular social scientist at the University of Washington. Stark shows how Christianity led to great advances in science, the reformation of human behavior, and the end of slavery.

You see, the real question raised by this case is one posed by Phillip Johnson, the Berkeley law professor and founder of the Intelligent Design movement. "If we are not to declare ourselves one nation under God," Johnson asks, "what are we under? The universe? The UN? The goddess Gaia? Or the Supreme Self?" The editorial board of the New York Times, which, despite Brook's superb column, favors the elimination of the words under God, presumably leaving us as one nation under nothing.

But that is the ultimate act of hubris. We declare ourselves free from any moral law or governor higher than the imperial self, and so we become gods. I cannot imagine a more frightening prospect.

Now the fate of the republic doesn't hang on two words, but still this is no small matter. We've seen the steady erosion of Christian influence in American life over the years and a growing hostility to those who hold that the one, true sovereign God called us into being and reigns over us. The Court's decision will be one more step toward the official establishment of secularism as American religion. And it will tell much about our values, humility, and our capacity to love and respect one another.

Brooks suggests that the most important thing at the moment is to try to understand what the phrase one nation under God might mean. "That's not proselytizing," he concludes, "it's citizenship." To that I say, Amen.

Copyright (c) 2004 Prison Fellowship


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Local Activists Face Off in Creationism Debate

http://www.berkeleydaily.org/text/article.cfm?issue=03-23-04&storyID=18523

Berkeley Daily Planet

Edition Date: Tuesday, March 23, 2004

By RICHARD BRENNEMAN (03-23-04)

With the battle over teaching evolution in America's schools erupting yet again, two Berkeley activists stand at the vanguard of the opposing sides on the legal, legislative, and mass media battlefields of the nation.

At the forefront of the fight to reinstate the image of a divinely created humanity in public school textbooks and the public imagination stands Phillip Johnson, emeritus professor of law at UC Berkeley. Speaking of that nationwide effort, Johnson says, "My fingerprints are on it."

Leading the effort to keep creationism out of public schools is Eugenie Scott, a physical anthropologist and Berkeley resident.

Scott has headed the Oakland-based National Center for Science Education since 1987, the year the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws mandating textbooks give creationism equal time with evolution. Four years later, Johnson entered the fray with the first in a series of anti-Darwinian books. With Darwin on Trial--"which," he says, "has sold a few hundred thousand copies and has been translated into a few languages"--the Berkeley legal scholar established himself as the leading advocate of what he calls Intelligent Design.

Johnson's efforts are being funded by Roberta and Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., the couple to whom he dedicated his second book (Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds). Heirs to the Home Savings of America fortune, the Ahmansons are Christian Reconstructionists, a sect who have been accused of believing that their co-religionists should impose a reign of biblical law in America that would demand death for non-Christian proselytizers, adulterers, gays, witches and rebellious children.

While the law and public policy have favored Scott's side in recent years, repeated polling has revealed the United States as the most religious nation on earth. According to a 1991 poll of the U.S., 16 European countries, Israel and the Phillipines conducted by the International Social Survey Program, only in Poland and the Philippines were more people convinced of the existence of God than in America. Americans led in belief in miracles, hell, and the devil--and only the Irish topped the Americans in belief in heaven. In no other country besides the United States did a smaller percentage of the populace accept evolution as a fact (the now-defunct East Germany topped the list of evolutionists, followed by Great Britain and West Germany, all with more than twice the rate of America.)

Repeated polling also shows that belief in evolution rises with education and income level.

Johnson's creationist views are being challenged by who he calls the "high priests" of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), "the entire scientific hierarchy which has a tremendous interest in maintaining belief in a naturalist, materialist creation story and who say your only source should be the mandarins of science."

In October, 2002, the AAAS board declared that "the lack of scientific warrant for so-called ‘intelligent design theory' makes it improper to include as part of a science education." And in a Feb. 9 letter to Ohio state officials, NAS President Bruce Alberts declared that "Intelligent Design is not scientific because its ultimate tenet that life on earth is the result of some intelligent being is scientifically untestable and therefore cannot be invalidated through scientific means."

Johnson's greatest obstacle is that Intelligent Design hasn't made the slightest headway in the scientific literature.

"Nobody is using Intelligent Design in applied science," Scott says. "Nobody's using it to understand scientific phenomena, which is the only purpose of a scientific theory. They're not being accepted in the scientific community." In addition, Scott adds, no public schools have yet mandated teaching Intelligent Design.

"They've had more success in getting pieces in newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post," Scott acknowledges. "It sounds much more attractive than Young Earth creationism."

But the real battle lines are drawn around the nation's schools, where Scott has another ally in Berkeley.

To Molleen Matsumura, who serves on the national board of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSC), the classroom evolutionary battle is but one skirmish in a broader cultural war, in which the struggle over faith-based initiatives is an even greater concern.

While creationism remains the standard in the increasingly cash-strapped public schools, moves to implement school vouchers at the national and state levels could move more students into taxpayer-funded religious schools, where Darwin is banned and Bishop Ussher reigns. "This is the real battleground," Matsumura says.

AUSC also worries about federal judicial nominations, "because a lot of these [church/state] issues get decided in the courts," Matsumura said.

And it was in a courtroom, during the first great multimedia "Trial of the [20th] Century," that the most famous battle between science and creationism was waged when Dayton, TN, public school teacher John Scopes was prosecuted 79 years ago for the "crime" of teaching Darwin.

While the law under which Scopes was convicted was revoked in 1967, it took a federal court ruling two years ago to end Bible classes in Dayton's public schools.

For more information on the web, see the National Center for Science Education's site at www.natcenscied.org, the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture at www.discovery.org/csc/ and Americans United for Separation of Church and State at www.au.org.

Spiritual preoccupation a good cultural sign

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/living/8256936.htm

Posted on Wed, Mar. 24, 2004

VERN BARNET

On the last Sunday before I left my home church for seminary, my pastor brought me into the pulpit with him to share a dialogue sermon. One question he asked seems particularly curious after these 39 years.

"Why would a young man like you, with many options before him, choose to go into a dying field, religion, which is increasingly irrelevant to society?"

I answered: "Humans are inherently spiritual beings, so the work is to help others realize this."

His question, however, was in the tradition of the 18th-century French philosophes, who thought that religion was superstition and that it would, with increasingly widespread education and the rise of science, fade away.

Forty years ago you might find a shelf of religious volumes in a bookstore, but today there are thousands. Universities have found religious groups multiplying and flourishing.

In popular entertainment, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is an overwhelming commercial success. The number of political issues debated from religious viewpoints is staggering: abortion, gay marriage, the Iraq war, to name a few.

And the one arena the philosophes especially saw freed from faith, science, is now intimately intertwined with religion. Two events this week here illustrate this point.

The Kansas City Religion and Science Dialogue Project brings Ronald L. Numbers, University of Wisconsin professor of the history of science and medicine, to Second Presbyterian Church at 7:15 p.m. Thursday to speak on "Intelligent Design: Revolutionary Science or Creation Science?" This is a topic where religion, science and politics intersect. For information, visit kcrsdp.org.

The Cornell Club brings a pioneer of stem cell research, Robert H. Foote, to speak at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Barstow School on "An Update on Cloning, and Can Stem Cells Hear Your Cry for Help?" For information, visit kcplazarotary.home.att.net/ccma04.html.

Rael in Las Vegas Press Conference

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/040324/nyw039_1.html

Wednesday March 24, 7:01 am ET

Human cloning is about to rid humans of the ultimate disease: DEATH

NEW YORK, March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- On Friday March 26 at 11:00 AM, His Holiness Rael, spiritual leader of the International Raelian Movement, will give a press conference at the Bellagio Hotel, 3600 Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas to reveal how the latest research on memory transfer technology associated with human cloning is on the verge of changing our society forever by ridding humans of the ultimate disease: death.

Rael will be accompanied by Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, head of the CLONAID project, who has successfully cloned thirteen babies, including world famous cloned baby Eve, born in December 2002. She will report on the progress made by the Clonaid team and present the work of the Stemaid project members who use stem cells produced through cloning for therapeutic applications, especially in the fight against aging.

With eternal life now within reach, His Holiness Rael will present developments that are about to play an essential role in the future of our society, including the necessity of using Genetically Modified foods, nanotechnology and the importance of practicing meditation and non-violence.

His Holiness Rael draws the exceptional accuracy of his scientific and humanitarian vision from the Message He received in 1973 from the Elohim, a very advanced race of human beings from a distant planet within our galaxy. The Elohim created all life on Earth scientifically using DNA (including humans in their image) and were mistaken for God, which explains why the name Elohim is present in all original Bibles. The Bible is, in fact, an atheist book describing the scientific creation of life on Earth. The new concept of "Intelligent Design" fits perfectly with this explanation of our origins. Thirty years ago the Elohim explained to Rael that human cloning coupled with memory transfer would one day allow humans to live forever on Earth. Today this prediction is close to becoming a reality, as it has been for millennia on the Elohim's planet. It is, in fact, how the Elohim resurrected Jesus, their messenger, as well as many others whom they sent to guide humanity and who now live on their planet.

Today human cloning, genetically modified organisms, robotics, the Internet and nanotechnology are creating a totally revolutionary new world and environment; a world in which the Dark Age spirituality and guilt from traditional monotheist religions do not fit at all. This explains why more and more people claim to be atheists. Indeed, recent survey shows that for the first time 20 % of Americans say they don't believe in god and 45 % never attend any religious service.

His Holiness RAEL brings a new godless spirituality that embraces new technologies and helps human beings prepare themselves for a new world in which, thanks to cloning and stem cells, they will live forever young. In addition, they will no longer have to work, thanks to robotics and nanotechnology, and they will enjoy a society free from sex-related guilt, thanks to the separation of sex and reproduction, the development of virtual sex through the Internet and the disappearance of traditional religions.

His Holiness Rael and Dr. Boisselier will also give a public lecture on March 30 at 7:00 PM, at the UNLV Student Union to which the media will also be invited.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact our public relations office at 305-690-9800 or donnajn@bellsouth.net www.rael.org/press

Source: Raelian Movement

Curious structures on the surface of Mars

Science Frontiers, No. 152, Mar-Apr, 2004, p. 2

http://www.science-frontiers.com

ASTRONOMY

Several camera-carrying spacecraft have landed successfully on the surface of Mars. The pictures they radio back to our gaping, dish-like antennas show mostly just rocks, dirt, and some hills in the distance. Great for geologists, but not too exciting for laymen. Photos from artificial satellites circling Mars can be more interesting. The evidence for flowing water and even glaciers is becoming more and more convincing. Again, the geologists are are ecstatic, but it's Dullsville for most folks who want sure signs of Martian life.

But, hold on! A few of the multitudinous satellite photos show some oddball structures. Pyramidal shapes are surprisingly common; then, there's that famous "face." If you are patient and go through these photos systematically, there are many images to ponder over---structures for which we have no ready explanation.

T. Van Flandern has collected some of these suspicious structures in an article in his *Meta Research Bulletin*. We reproduce here the one that *seems* to us highly suggestive of a geodesic dome. Actually, it looks like a half-buried golf ball, but it is really miles in diameter. Artificial or trick of Nature?

(Van Flandern, Tom; "Forbidden Shapes on Mars," Meta Research Bulletin, 12:49, no. 4, December 2003)

[Science Frontiers is a bimonthly collection of digests of scientific anomalies in the current literature. Published by the Sourcebook Project, P.O. Box 107, Glen Arm, MD 21057. Annual subscription: $8.00.]

The Future of Intelligent Design & Neo-Darwinism: A Philosophical/Historical Perspective

A lecture meeting, free and open to the general public, will be conducted at the University of Texas at Dallas. This lecture meeting will concern "origins".

If possible, please share the following information below. This meeting will be of particular interest to those who are interested in origins science and the philosophy/history of science.

Sponsored By - Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Club Chapter at UT Dallas.

Website: http://www.utdallas.edu/orgs/idea

Are you interested in the future of origins science? If yes, don't miss out on this upcoming IDEA club sponsored event. Dr. Robert C. Koons, Professor of Philosophy at UT Austin, will conduct a lecture meeting on the future of the origins controversy between neo-Darwinism and Intelligent Design theory. Free up your schedule, and join us for this provocative and intriguing lecture! All are welcome!

MEETING INFORMATION:
DATE: Friday, March 26th
TIME: 2:00PM - 5:00PM
LOCATION: Cecil H. Green Hall - GR 3.420
TITLE: The Future of Intelligent Design & Neo-Darwinism: A Philosophical & Historical Perspective
MEETING TYPE: Guest Lecturer Meeting
COST: Free - Open To University & General Public

VISITOR INFORMATION:
http://www.utdallas.edu/orgs/idea/news.htm
DRIVING DIRECTIONS:
http://www.utdallas.edu/directionstoutd-index.html
PARKING INFORMATION: http://www.utdallas.edu/parking/
CAMPUS MAP: http://www.utdallas.edu/campusmap.html
INFORMATION ABOUT DR. ROBERT C. KOONS:
http://www.iscid.org/robert-koons.php


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

'Silver Fleece' Awards Warn Consumers of Anti-Aging Misinformation

http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/503478/

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago

Released: Thu 26-Feb-2004, 18:20 ET
Embargo expired: Fri 05-Mar-2004, 17:00 ET

Libraries
Medical News

Keywords
SILVER FLEECE, AGING, ANTI-AGING, LONGEVITY, LIFESPAN, HOAX, QUACKERY
Contact Information
Available for logged-in reporters only
Description
The third annual "Silver Fleece" Awards, which expose the most outrageous or exaggerated claims about slowing or reversing human aging, will be announced March 6.

Newswise - The third annual "Silver Fleece" Awards, which expose the most outrageous or exaggerated claims about slowing or reversing human aging, will be announced March 6.

Aging expert and author S. Jay Olshansky will announce the winners as part of a presentation at the International Conference on Longevity session "Anti-Aging Medicine: The Hype and Reality" in Sydney, Australia at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Olshansky, professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, will present two awards, one for a product and one to an organization.

The award -- a bottle of vegetable oil labeled "Snake Oil" -- will be presented (in absentia) to each award winner.

The awardees were selected by three leading scientists in the field of aging: Olshansky; Leonard Hayflick of the University of California, San Francisco; and Bruce Carnes of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Olshansky and Carnes are authors of "The Quest for Immortality: Science at the Frontiers of Aging" (Norton, 2001). Hayflick is author of "How and Why We Age" (Ballantine, 1996). The three will be presenting scientific papers at the plenary session of the conference.

And the winners are:

The Silver Fleece Award for an Anti-Aging Product goes to a suite of anti-aging substances created by Ronald Klatz and Robert Goldman, co-founders of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) based in Chicago, and sold on the Internet by Market America, Inc.

A short-term supply of the entire suite of anti-aging nutraceuticals, Prime Blends(TM), and cosmeceuticals, Timeless Prescription(TM), costs more than $560 when purchased through Market America.

According to Market America's website, "Prime Blends(TM) is a family of newly developed anti-aging nutraceuticals that work to help maintain healthy levels of hormonal activity and metabolism as we age. All three products, Ultra Prime(TM) Secretagogue, Prime Factor(TM) and Prime Dreamz(TM) Sleep Assist, represent the most advanced, natural anti-aging products in the world."

Product details include other bold statements such as "Release HGH and help free yourself from the aging process with Prime(TM) Ultra!" and "Turn back the clock and release the youth within through Ultra Prime, one of the Prime Blends family of scientifically advanced nutraceuticals!"

This award is given annually to "the product with the most ridiculous, outrageous, scientifically unsupported or exaggerated assertions about intervening in aging or age-related diseases," says Olshansky.

"Market America uses clever hype and pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo to convince consumers that 'nutraceuticals' and 'cosmeceuticals' can alter the aging process," says Olshansky. "Klatz has stated in recent television interviews that he does not personally endorse any anti-aging products."

The criteria for this award included an evaluation of the purported health and longevity benefits, claims about scientific evidence supporting the product, the degree to which legitimate scientific research is exaggerated -- and the profit potential for those selling it.

"There are no known dietary supplements that have been proven to alter the aging process or increase the body's production of growth hormone," Olshansky said.

"About the only thing these anti-aging products do is fatten the wallets of those selling them."

The Silver Fleece Award for an Anti-Aging Organization goes to the International Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine.

This award "honors" the organization that contributes the most to disseminating misinformation or products associated with the claim that human aging can now be stopped or reversed.

The International Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine is a publication of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), the recipient of the first Silver Fleece Award for an organization in 2001.

"This alleged 'journal' is particularly misleading because it gives the false impression that it is a genuine scientific journal and that what is published in it is peer-reviewed," says Carnes. "It is little more than an advertising vehicle for every conceivable anti-aging product."

"The International Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine is not a recognized scientific journal," says Hayflick, the former editor of the respected scientific journal Experimental Gerontology and a top authority on the biology of aging.

"What I find reprehensible about this 'journal' is that advertisers who publish in it can then claim there is scientific evidence to support their outrageous assertions by pointing to the publication in an alleged scientific journal."

Says Carnes: "It's unfortunate that so much anti-aging quackery is surfacing just when scientists are making substantive progress on understanding the processes of aging. I believe that the research being done today will eventually give rise to interventions with the capacity to modify the biological rate of aging in humans."

As authors of hundreds of scientific articles on aging, Olshansky, Hayflick and Carnes are thoroughly familiar with both the legitimate, ongoing research in the fields of aging and the anti-aging claims that have been made historically and in recent years.

Olshansky, Hayflick and Thomas T. Perls are co-editing special issues of the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences on the topic of "Anti-Aging Medicine: The Hype and Reality," which will be released this summer. The special issues will feature the latest developments in the scientific efforts to understand and eventually modify the biological rate of aging in humans, as well as the hype behind the current anti-aging movement.

In 2002, a paper authored by Olshansky, Hayflick, and Carnes and endorsed by 51 leading scientists in the field of aging presented a position statement warning the public that "no currently marketed intervention has yet been proved to slow, stop or reverse human aging." The three also warned consumers in their article entitled "No Truth to the Fountain of Youth," which appeared in Scientific American.

"The entrepreneurs, physicians and other health care practitioners who make these claims are taking advantage of consumers who cannot easily distinguish between the hype and reality of interventions designed to influence the aging process and age-related diseases," said Olshansky.

The first annual Silver Fleece Awards were given to Clustered Water(TM) and the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in Chicago.

The second annual Silver Fleece Awards were given to Longevity by Urban Nutrition and CLONAID(TM).

For more information about UIC, visit http://www.uic.edu

2004 Newswise

Tropical Beverage Receives First Orders for VIVO in Europe -- Company Anticipates Shipping over 5 Million Cases in First Year

http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20040322005170&newsLang=en

March 22, 2004 06:00 AM US Eastern Timezone

SANTA ANA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 22, 2004--Tropical Beverage Inc. (Pink Sheets:TPBV), a manufacturer and distributor of value-added water-based beverages, today announced it has received initial orders for its VIVO clustered water product in Europe. A new distributor with an extensive network throughout Europe has made a large financial commitment and is now ready to begin receiving product according to Chris Lotito, chief financial officer of Tropical Beverage. Although terms of the agreement were not disclosed, Tropical anticipates it will ship over 5 million cases of VIVO in Europe in the first year.

"Europe like Japan is a burgeoning market for VIVO's clustered water and brisk sales are expected," said Lotito. "We are receiving a very enthusiastic response and believe that our presence in Europe will further strengthen the VIVO brand on our way to creating worldwide distribution for this incredible product."

Lotito indicated Tropical will produce and ship the initial orders of VIVO to Europe shortly in an effort to begin fulfilling demand. Tropical Beverage has the exclusive manufacturing rights to VIVO(TM). Currently, VIVO is sold domestically at Albertsons, SAV-ON, Jewel and OSCO stores. More information may be obtained about VIVO(TM) at www.csibeverages.com.

Tropical Beverage develops and distributes value-added water-based beverages. Their extensive product line includes flavored waters, vapor distilled waters, ultra pure purified waters, micro clustered waters and waters with additives (including oxygen, caffeine, electrolytes and other enhanced minerals and vitamins). In addition to development and production, the company is in the process of further developing distribution and marketing strategies to further launch its products nationwide. In addition, Tropical Beverage continues to seek acquisitions of related companies that will enhance their product development and to build a network of subsidiaries across the nation.

Disclaimer: The company relies upon the Safe Harbor Laws of 1993, 1934, and 1995 for all public news releases. Statements, which are not historical facts, are forward-looking statements. The company, through its management, makes forward-looking public statements concerning its expected future operations, performance and other developments. Such forward-looking statements are necessarily estimates reflecting the company's best judgment based upon current information and involve a number of risks and uncertainties, and there can be no assurance that other factors will not affect the accuracy of such forward-looking statements. It is impossible to identify all such factors. Factors which could cause actual results to differ materially from those estimated by the company include, but are not limited to, government regulation, managing and maintaining growth, the effect of adverse publicity, litigation, competition and other factors which may be identified from time to time in the company's public announcement.

Integrative medicine melds science with ancient wisdom

http://www.charleston.net/stories/032204/sci_22integrate.shtml

Story last updated at 8:48 a.m. Monday, March 22, 2004

BY JULIE DEARDORFF
Chicago Tribune

Two weeks after discovering she was pregnant, 34-year-old Lynette Bisconti was diagnosed with breast cancer. Six doctors across the country advised her to end the pregnancy so she could begin chemotherapy. Six times Bisconti said no.

Bisconti, a Rockford, Ill., native, wanted natural options. She wanted nutritional advice. And she wanted a voice in her health-care decisions. It wasn't until she walked into an unusual cancer center in Zion, Ill., that she found the answer to her prayers: integrative medicine.

A controversial medical practice that is changing the face of health care, integrative medicine melds modern science with ancient wisdom. Cancer, for example, might be treated by blending the best of Western medicine -- chemotherapy, radiation and stem-cell transplants -- with complementary approaches that could include mind-body therapies, acupuncture, nutrition, herbs and massage.

This best-of-both-worlds approach is still criticized by mainstream physicians who argue that most complementary therapies have no scientific basis. Some call them a waste of money; others say they can actually cause harm, especially if patients use alternative methods in place of conventional care, which is not what integrative medicine advocates.

"It's contributing to the public confusion about health, disease and how it should be approached," said longtime critic Arnold Relman, professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. "The main thrust of complementary and alternative medicine is to soften the brain, confuse logic, deny scientific evidence and encourage people to turn away from conventional medicine. Unfortunately, it's making a lot of money."

For Bisconti, however, the integrated approach offered by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Hospital in Zion, one of the pioneering integrative medicine centers, was worth risking her life.

"I believed if I didn't change everything, I wouldn't make it," said Bisconti, now 40, free of disease and the mother of a 5-year-old son, Frank.

The movement, popularized by Harvard-trained physician Andrew Weil, has gained unprecedented support during the past five years. Consumers now can find integrative practitioners at hospitals, clinics and private practices. Several of the nation's top medical institutions have opened integrative care centers.

Insurance companies increasingly are covering complementary therapies. And in April, the University of Arizona will begin training 40 Defense Department physicians in integrative medicine.

Though skeptics say studies are poorly designed and there is no evidence that integrative medicine works, the federal government is funding research through the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which has a budget of $111.7 million for 2004.

These developments alarm Donald Marcus, a professor of medicine and immunology at the Baylor College of Medicine, who called integrative medicine a "Trojan horse of belief-based medicine." "By having these things in academic centers, which ought to be upholding scholarly standards, they're legitimizing dangerous and useless practices," Marcus said.

But Weil and others call integrative medicine the future of health care, thanks to a gulf between what consumers want from physicians and what medical schools are offering.

Today's patients are looking for doctors who listen, won't just push pharmaceuticals, can guide them through the maze of nutrition and can address chronic illnesses, not just crisis situations, Weil said.

"My motivation is to close that gap," Weil said. "But I can't do it myself."

MOVEMENT SPREADS

In 1997, when his colleagues were just beginning to take him seriously, Weil created a two-year post-doctoral fellowship program for integrative medicine at the University of Arizona. So far, the program has trained 28 medical doctors.

Another 160 physicians have enrolled in the distance-learning program (84 have graduated), now the dominant training method. Like foot soldiers, they have fanned out across the country, opening centers from Maine to California.

"Integrative medicine stresses the belief of the body to heal itself, with some facilitation," said Karen Koffler, director of the Integrative Medicine Program at Evanston (Ill.) Northwestern Healthcare and a member of the program's first graduating class.

Opened in 2001, Evanston Northwestern's center initially treated cancer patients. Today 350 people come each month with problems from infertility and headaches to heart disease and anxiety. In addition to Koffler, a critical-care specialist, the staff has 13 practitioners who offer Chinese medicine and acupuncture, body work such as massage, nutrition, yoga, meditation and mind-body therapies.

A massage therapist might treat patients and family members waiting for a loved one.

Koffler, like many conventionally trained physicians, turned to integrative medicine when she realized she was treating the same patients again and again. "I saw we were never taught how to keep people well or prevent disease in the first place," she said.

Though Americans have been treating themselves using alternative methods for years, a 1998 study by David Eisenberg, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard, found that 42 percent of Americans used some combination of complementary or alternative therapies in conjunction with conventional medicine -- today's integrative medicine.

But patients weren't telling their doctors what herbs and supplements they were taking, putting them at risk for adverse herb-drug interactions. Meanwhile, armed with more information than ever, patients began demanding a different relationship -- a partnership -- with their doctors.

"It's causing a certain kind of revolution," said Victoria Maizes, executive director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.

NOT 'ALTERNATIVE'

Relman acknowledges that integrative medicine could be correcting flaws in the medical system, including impersonality and a focus on drugs, procedures and expensive tests. But he also believes its popularity stems from a yearning for magic, miracles and a belief in the supernatural.

"There's no way to solve (life's problems) through faith, mysticism, supernatural belief and prayer," he said.

Often lost in the debate is that integrative medicine differs from "alternative" medicine because it embraces Western techniques. Proponents would not treat cancer with acupuncture alone. But doctors might use acupuncture to relieve post-operative pain or nausea after chemotherapy, an approach endorsed by the National Institutes of Health.

For Bisconti, now living in Menomonee Falls, Wis., the frank talk she had with her surgeon at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America made all the difference in the world. She agreed to monthly chemotherapy sessions during her second trimester, but instead of two-hour treatments, they were spread over three days -- a controversial approach known as fractionated dose -- and her body was flushed with water.

Bisconti breast-fed her son for six months and then agreed to radiation, almost a year and a half after her original diagnosis.

"What turned for me was when my surgeon said, 'I know you don't believe in chemotherapy, but unfortunately, it's the best and only thing we have. It won't ultimately be the cure for cancer.'

"When he respected me enough to tell the truth, relief washed over me," she said.

Copyright © 2004, The Post and Courier


Monday, March 22, 2004

Correction note from a reader:

Hello Webmaster

I am writing about a posting were I am mentioned in regards to The Durango Herald article dated October 25th and written by Patricia Miller (Durangoan Reports He Saw UFO).

The writer of this article never interviewed me and lifted several fragments from a story in the silverton standard, in which I describe viewing Mars over the local mountain and I make specific mention to not attribute my viewing to a UFO.

Therefore i feel my comments very misrepresented and blatantly false in the article posted on your web site and request that my name be removed from the article.

I know you are a reputable site and only want to have truthful information listed on the site, so i would like to thank you in advance from removing my name from it.

Chris Tousimis
[See http://www.ntskeptics.org/news/news2003-11-28.htm#ufo.]

Alternative cures for cancer 'are all bogus'

Daily Mail Friday March 19, 2004:

From Jenny Hope j.hope@dailymail.co.uk
Medical Correspondent, in Hamburg

Cancer patients are being duped by 'criminal and fraudulent' claims that alternative therapies can cure their disease, says the nation's only professor of complementary medicine.

Some therapies are 'positively dangerous' but desperate patients are misled into using them instead of conventional treatments which have the backing of medical research, according to Professor Edzard Ernst.

He said some complementary therapies such as massage can improve a patient's quality of life.

But he warned: 'The lie that there is an alternative cancer cure is misleading people and costing lives.

'In terms of treatment and prolongation of life, not only is the use of alternative and complementary medicine not supported by data, it is very often fraudulent and even criminal.

'It can be quite dangerous from the patient's point of view. Many give up conventional treatment and this predictably leads to disaster.'

Surveys show increasing numbers of cancer patients are turning to complementary therapies - many of them found on the Internet, ranging from herbal remedies to acupuncture.

Up to three-quarters of breast cancer patients in England use such therapies, according to research being presented today at the 4th European Cancer Conference in Hamburg.

Sarah Parkinson, wife of comedian Paul Merton, rejected conventional medicine after having surgery for breast cancer in February 2002.

She refused chemotherapy, after discovering the cancer had spread because she feared it would make her infertile, and relied on yoga, acupuncture and healthy eating. She died at the age of 41 in September last year.

Professor Ernst, of Exeter University, said there are half a million Internet sites promoting complementary therapies for cancer. The 'cures' were all bogus, he said.

Such therapies included mistletoe, laetrile - derived from the seeds of bitter almonds and apricots - and shark cartilage.

'Anyone who thinks there is an alternative cancer cure must suppose all oncologists are sadists because they know about it and are keeping it secret,' the professor added.

De Eric Winter, associate professor of medicine at Harvard University, told the conference that not a single cancer patient had been cured by complementary therapy.

He said ingested therapies posed the most serious threat as they can interfere with orthodox treatment.

But Dr Winter and Professor Ernst stressed that complementary therapies can support patients having treatment and give them a sense of control, especially massage therapy and relaxation techniques.

http://www.femail.co.uk/pages/standard/article.html?in_article_id=210070&in_page_id=169

Study: Theory of Smell Fails Sniff Test

http://www.newsday.com/news/science/wire/sns-ap-smell-test,0,413077.story

By ANDREW BRIDGES
AP Science Writer

March 21, 2004, 4:35 PM EST

LOS ANGELES -- A controversial theory of smell celebrated in a recent book that engaged the reading public but enraged scientists fails the sniff test, said researchers unable to find any evidence to support it.

Human experiments failed to produce results that would suggest the so-called "vibration theory" of smell can explain the last of the five senses to be unraveled by science. Details appeared Sunday on the Web site of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

"We didn't disprove the vibration theory. We just didn't find anything to support it," said study co-author Leslie Vosshall.

Vibration theory, first proposed in the 1930s, suggests the nose interprets odors by sensing the molecular vibrations of whatever chemical it sniffs. Many scientists discredit the idea and instead believe the shape of a molecule determines its scent. That theory also remains unproven.

Vibration theory received a splashy boost in 2002, with the publication of Chandler Burr's "The Emperor of Scent." The popular and widely reviewed book triumphed the work of biophysicist and scent expert Luca Turin's struggle to have vibration theory accepted by mainstream scientists.

Vosshall and colleague Andreas Keller, both of Rockefeller University in New York, published their study only because of "the extraordinary -- and inappropriate -- degree of publicity that the theory has received from uncritical journalists," according to a Nature Neuroscience editorial accompanying the study.

The study relies on three smell tests carried out with several dozen human subjects. The subjects were asked to sniff a variety of chemicals to determine in part whether molecules of different vibrational frequencies could be distinguished on the basis of their scents. The results instead were consistent with the shape theory of smell, the authors said.

Turin, in a telephone interview, stood by vibration theory and scoffed at the new study, saying it "tells you more about the subjects tested than the truth of the assertion."

On the Net: http://www.nature.com/neuro/

Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press

Ancient knowledge gets a modern makeover

http://www.thejakartapost.com/detailfeatures.asp?fileid=20040321.E02&irec=5

A new government policy on paranormal and alternative healing therapies is expected to be unveiled in the near future. In a similar way to other countries which have recognized certain nonscience-based health care therapies like acupuncture, the Ministry of Health is now taking a close look at its own indigenous alternative medicine, including paranormal therapies.

"The Ministry of Health recognizes that it has some limitations in providing health treatment to the community. That's why we are making partnerships now with alternative medicine associations," said Dr. Agnes Maureen Loupatty, head of the traditional health standardization section under the ministry's Directorate General of Community Health.

"Our policy has three approaches: We will introduce stricter regulations, develop partnerships with alternative medicine associations and start to categorize and analyze the different methods used."

According to Dr. Agnes, the ministry will work with the associations to develop criteria for assessing therapies, such as whether there is a body of printed research on the therapy, proof that it is safe and a credible reason to believe that it is effective in about 50 percent of cases.

The ministry is looking at four categories of traditional healing: physical methods such as massage and reflexology; traditional medicines such as herbs and jamu (herbal medicine); supernatural and paranormal techniques; and techniques based on religious beliefs.

While it may never be possible to prove without a shadow of a doubt that an alternative therapy works, metaphysical practitioners say that the same argument applies to modern medicine.

"You have to recognize that modern medicine cannot cure every disease and that some paranormals are successful, so it's not all about superstition," said Sita Sudjono, one of the founders of the Indonesian Communication Forum for Paranormal and Alternative Healers, which has already begun working with the Ministry of Health on classifying and codifying therapies.

Sita, a teacher of "Orhiba", the Indonesian abbreviation for "New Life Exercise", a discipline which is said to charge the body with cosmic energy with a few minutes of daily practice, helps to organize monthly metaphysical discussions in Jakarta which bring together a range of paranormal practitioners.

"We try to explain metaphysical things in a scientific way, although we known we cannot explain everything," she said, adding that it's important to see metaphysical practice as communicating with God, rather than what she sees as the current obsession in the tabloid press with the occult and superstitious beliefs.

The forum attracts more than 200 participants each month to its metaphysical study group and boasts over 1,000 members. Its chairman Sabdono Surohadikusomo has been a lifelong advocate of what he calls "rational approach" to the paranormal and has lobbied government to help impose some order in the field of paranormal and alternative healing.

"Our forum encompasses a wide variety of methods such as reiki, prana, acupuncture and also faith healing," said Sabdono.

He is determined to change the image of healers as being mystical or magical and to protect the welfare of consumers. According to his colleague Sita Sudjono, his efforts in the past were often marred by the egos of traditional healers.

"He tried before to raise the level of practice of dukuns (traditional healers or shamans). But it was very difficult to get them to follow any rules as each of them felt that they were better than the others!"

This time around, Sabdono is upbeat about the chances of success.

"We are preparing a decree with the ministry which will say that all paranormal healers should get a permit and a reference from an accredited association. There's no law at the moment, so it's difficult to protect consumers -- that's why we are working on this."

-- David Kennedy

contents copyright © of The Jakarta Post

The real health scare

http://www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2004/03/21/dl2101.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2004/03/21/ixopinion.html

(Filed: 21/03/2004)

Towards the end of last week, there were two health scares. Coca-Cola announced that it was temporarily withdrawing its new brand of purified and bottled water, Dasani, after it was found to contain slightly elevated levels of bromate, chronic exposure to which has been linked with cancer. And at the European Breast Cancer Conference it was revealed that as many as 70 per cent of British breast cancer patients are compromising their chances of survival by using alternative remedies which either do not work or are actually harmful.

There are no prizes for guessing which of the two scares gained the most media attention. In an age when big business is increasingly viewed as a conspiracy against the environment and human health, the sight of a multinational drinks company humbled into removing its products from supermarket shelves was judged to make the more appealing story. Moreover, several newspapers have invested heavily in 'expert' columnists to expound the virtues of mistletoe seeds and shark cartilage; perhaps it is understandable that they should not want to undermine their good work with a front page splash on the hazards of alternative therapies.

As the late John Diamond eloquently explained in his book Snake Oil, the life of a cancer-sufferer these days is a constant stream of false hopes: lotions, potions and energy beads which promise salvation without pain but whose claimed benefits have failed to stand up to empirical scrutiny. Many cancer-sufferers go to their graves still believing in the various herbal preparations they have taken religiously throughout their illness. The fact that devotees of alternative therapies have a tendency to die rather more quickly than those who accept conventional treatment goes largely unspoken.

In recent years, proponents of alternative medicine have subtly attempted to cover up its shortcomings by rebranding it "complementary medicine", suggesting that just because you want to try a herbal remedy doesn't necessarily mean you have to give up your chemotherapy. In some ways this has made matters worse. One of the most alarming revelations to emerge from last week's conference on breast cancer was the number of patients who do not tell their doctors they are taking an alternative therapy on top of a conventional one, and who do not know that the two can react badly with each other.

As argued at last week's conference by Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, alternative medicine is by definition ineffective. Conventional medicine is entirely pragmatic and draws constantly from natural sources. If a herbal remedy shows any sign of effectiveness, it will quickly be subjected to controlled medical trials. Should the alleged benefits of the remedy stand up to this thorough examination, it will be readily adopted by conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is what is left of herbal remedies after conventional medicine has cherry-picked the winners.

For a long time, doctors tolerated alternative therapy as a harmless eccentricity. Increasingly, however, alternative medicines are proving to be far from harmless. To take but one example, two years ago the US Food and Drug Administration was moved to issue a warning that kava kava, a popular South American herbal remedy for insomnia and menopausal symptoms, can cause severe liver damage.

Had kava kava been a conventional medicine, there would have been Panorama programmes, petitions, class actions in the courts. Instead, kava kava was discreetly removed from health store shelves and remains available through dozens of websites. Our columnist Christopher Booker is right to point out today that the EU regulations governing herbal supplements are hopelessly complex. But we take respectful issue with his claim that products such as kava kava are safe.

That the public should apply different standards of expectation to alternative medicine than they do to conventional medicine is pure Luddism. It is to believe that natural is necessarily superior to synthetic, that the pre-industrial societies (from which come many alternative therapies) were intrinsically wiser than our own. The difference between cancer-sufferers who shun conventional medicine and the Luddites who took to smashing machines in the early industrial age is that today's non-believers in progress tend to be drawn from the higher social classes and they include, as we have said before, the heir to the throne.

It should be no surprise that users of alternative medicine are relatively well off. Conventional medicine in Britain is free to the consumer at the point of delivery. Alternative therapies, by contrast, are often highly-priced; it is hard to believe that the little pots of herbs lining the shelves of health stores do not sell for profit margins greater than those available on conventional drugs. That alternative medicine has itself become a big business seems not to worry those who have an innate mistrust of pharmaceutical giants. In the public's attitude to medicine, blind belief has taken over from common sense.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.

SCIENCE AND SOCIAL STUDIES STANDARDS

http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/news/politics/8231727.htm

The House passed science and social studies standards Thursday, but not before adding some controversial wording to the science standards sought by critics of evolution. No, the word "creationism" didn't come up, but the new language asks biology students to understand how new evidence can challenge accepted theories such as germ theory or the theory of evolution.

Analysis: Critics call the new wording bad science. The Senate likely will place it in their crosshairs when a House-Senate conference committee meets later this session to work out a standards compromise.

— John Welsh


Sunday, March 21, 2004

Legendary creature 'Bigfoot' sightings reported

By: Eloise Ogden
Regional Editor

NEW TOWN - Paul Danks, administrator of the Natural Resources Department for the Three Affiliated Tribes, now has a Bigfoot-sighting map in his office.

On the map are marked the sites where people have reported seeing a Bigfoot-type creature in recent days on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

"There were several reports. They started last Sunday (Feb. 22). People south of New Town said they'd seen basically, I guess ... Bigfoot," Danks said Monday.

A resident of a mobile home park at New Town told Glenda Embry, who is in charge of tribal public affairs, about that Sunday incident:

"She said all the kids were playing outside in the trailer court and they were the ones that first saw it. They (the children) all started screaming so she came outside but by the time she got outside, they had scared it. She said it was walking away. She said it was huge. She said, 'I don't know how big it was but it just pushed through those trees like you're going through bushes' and it was moving fast." The resident said she was still shaken days after the incident occurred, Embry said.

There was also another sighting that day farther south of New Town.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, there was another sighting, although unconfirmed, in the Mandaree area.

On Wednesday, Feb. 24, two area men reported they were driving on N.D. Highway 22 near the Lost Bridge when they came upon a Bigfoot-type creature walking on the road. The Lost Bridge is southwest of Mandaree.

They reported it went into the ditch where it continued to walk. Another vehicle on the road also stopped but quickly left, they said. The two men left the area and got several other people to return to the area to look for the creature, but they were not successful in their search. They said its footprints showed it had "almost 5-foot strides."

The Natural Resources office investigated the incident in the Lost Bridge area and Dennis Fox Jr., of the tribes' Independence Program, took pictures of tracks there which the Natural Resources office has. But officials said the snow had melted and there could be a lot of different explanations for the tracks found.

However, one Fort Berthold Reservation resident definitely doesn't think there's anything unusual about the recent reports of Bigfoot sightings.

Phyllis Lincoln remembers when she and her three sisters saw such a creature about 30 years ago near Twin Buttes. Lincoln was 17 at the time.

"I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was scary," Lincoln said.

Lincoln, who lives at Mandaree, works for the Three Affiliated Tribes in New Town. She was raised at Twin Buttes, about 100 miles south of New Town.

Lincoln said that she and her three sisters, Michaela, the oldest, Corrine and Janice, their youngest sister who was 13 at the time, were on their way home to Twin Buttes late on a summer night after going to a movie in Halliday, about 15 miles away.

"I don't remember the movie, but I know what I seen," Lincoln said, relating the incident this week.

Lincoln said it was "not really, really dark" that night. On the way home she said one of her sisters wanted to stop along the road for a "restroom stop," but the others sisters wanted her to wait until they got home.

"We were driving my dad's old International pickup - it was the standard shift. I was in the middle shifting. I was teaching the second to the oldest one, Michaela, how to drive," Lincoln said. "We were kind of talking and laughing, and we pulled to the side of the road."

She said they pulled over on the road at a spot below the twin buttes where there's a coulee or ravine.

"When we pulled over to the side of the road, the thing sat up. And when it sat up, (then) it stood up. It was really tall," Lincoln said. She said the creature must have been resting or lying in the ditch.

"We thought, 'what the heck was that?' We turned to look and when it stood up it was like, I would say, about 8 feet tall. It didn't look at us or anything, but I remember the color of it was like kind of a mouse-colored... grayish. It had real long hair. "

"It took one, two, three steps and it cleared a fence, like the fence was about 3-feet high to it," Lincoln said.

"We were all screaming: 'what is that? what is that?' and getting excited," Lincoln recalled.

"The girls locked the doors and I told my sister, 'Don't kill the engine whatever you do, just ease up on the clutch and put your foot on the foot feed and give it some gas.' And we went in first all the way home. My dad wasn't too happy about that," Lincoln said.

"We were all excited when we ran in the house, telling our parents," she said.

Later, Lincoln said their grandfather, the late Alfred Morsette Sr., told them these creatures have been around for years but they have never hurt anyone. "Once our grandpa said they've been around for years. We thought it's just one of those things," she said.

"This happened back maybe '69 or '70," Lincoln said. "When they said they've had sightings again, I thought, 'Well, I've seen it before and I know it's true, they're out there."

I tend to believe them because I've seen things like that," she said. "I do believe they were around a few years back, too."

According to files of The Minot Daily News, in October 1979, two Dunn County men reported seeing an ape, a Bigfoot, when they were driving a mile south of Werner, a community a few miles west of Halliday. It was standing on the road, the men said. A Halliday area man also claimed he saw a Bigfoot two weeks earlier north of Halliday.

In 1977, numerous sightings of a Bigfoot-type creature caused a stir in the Little Eagle and McLaughlin areas in South Dakota, catching the attention of media from all over. Reports said a huge hairy thing - some reports said more than one - was roaming the countryside along the Cannonball River that stretches from the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota into north-central South Dakota. Within about 2 1/2 months, at least 28 sightings were reported.

The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, which says it is a scientific organization probing the Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery, lists a Ward County sighting on its Web site. A hunter reported that in April 1962 he and another hunter who had been out rabbit hunting were stalked by "a great ape" just outside a mobile home park near Minot. When the creature began to move in their direction, he said they ran as fast as they could and didn't look back.

The Bigfoot organization's Web site reports a few sightings of Bigfoot in every state around North Dakota - Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota.

People who hear about the recent sightings in western North Dakota have varying beliefs about it, as well as not believing it. Some tribal members will also say they believe it could be a type of warning. Some also feel it is a spiritual being, they said.

http://www.minotdailynews.com/daily/FMPro?-DB=page.one.a.fp5&-lay=main&-Format=detail2.html&story_two.fix=3/3/2004-2&week=10&-Max=1&-Find

Bigfoot makes appearance in Levittown

Bucks County Courier Times

Stuart Caesar likes to hunt in the wilderness of upstate Pennsylvania.

And over the years, he's heard Native American legends of Bigfoot, the creature that roams the woods rustling sheep and deer, and sometime letting loose terrifying screams.

These sightings occur in remote places like Towanda and Wyalusing and Tioga.

But Caesar believes he has evidence that Bigfoot is stalking Levittown.

He snapped pictures to show doubters.

He says he's a Bigfoot skeptic. Still, he won't dismiss the creature's existence completely, mainly because of his eerie experiences while hunting.

In the hinterlands of Wyalusing and Towanda, he says he's seen and heard things that can't easily be explained.

He and fellow hunters have had rocks hurled at them by unseen hands (or paws).

He's heard screams in the night, too.

"Deer and elk make a bellowing noise. I know what that sounds like. But this is a scream. It's definitely not an animal. If it is human, what is someone doing in the middle of a mountain, screaming?

"I'll see stick stackings against trees. I'll see branches broken off eight or nine feet in the air, cleanly snapped. I've always wondered what is causing this. These are very isolated areas. You're on top of a mountain. You're in 'Deliverance' country."

Bigfoot, the shy, hairy giant of the woods, known to some as Sasquatch, has fascinated Caesar, 42, since he was a kid.

But by the mid-1980s, after never seeing one himself, or seeing evidence that would allay doubt, he decided Bigfoot was fake.

"If it was real, we would have it by now," he said.

However, a few years ago he heard about the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society, which is based in Jeannette, southeast of Pittsburgh.

He was surprised to hear that the creature had been spotted frequently throughout western Pennsylvania in recent years.

"When I was kid, that was unheard of. You never heard of Bigfoot in Pennsylvania," Caesar said.

As a hunter, it makes sense, though, he said.

Animals that were rarely spotted in Pennsylvania a few years ago, like cougars and mountain lions, are seen more frequently now.

"It's a change in weather patterns that's causing these animals to search for food. I figure it's the same with Bigfoot."

He doesn't expect to convince hard-core non-believers. However, he points out that Indian tribes native to Pennsylvania have remarkably similar legends about a great mysterious beast that lurks in the state's vast and largely unpopulated forests.

"Indians believed in Bigfoot. They considered him a spirit of the forest. They considered him to be a spiritual creature, and many Indian tribes still hold true to the story. They would leave him food and he would give them firewood in return, stacking it against trees," he said.

According to legend, Bigfoot is intelligent, on a parallel with humans. But what accounts for Bigfoot's terminal shyness?

"If it is intelligent, this makes perfect sense," Caesar said. "Eight, 9 feet tall, covered with hair. Man's reaction even to humans with different skin colors causes people to act with fear and suspicion.

"Now imagine an intelligent creature, which is larger than us and stronger than us, and lives in the woods and off nature. The obvious reaction from the general public would not be good.

"Confirmation of this creature's existence would cause a lot of Beavis and Butthead types to search for it and kill it. People tend to react in panic to things they don't understand," he said.

Which brings us to Caesar's photos, which he snapped in December behind a shuttered Halloween supply store on New Falls Road near Levittown's Magnolia Hill section.

Caesar said his girlfriend discovered large Bigfoot-like tracks while showing her daughter a sledding hill she played on as a kid.

Caesar got his camera and followed the tracks through a fence topped with barbed wire and down to a small creek, where they vanished.

"There were toe markings ... the tracks were smooth, indicating a heel and ball of a foot," he said.

The footprints were 16 inches wide.

And why would Bigfoot come to Levittown?

"Why would a deer be in Levittown? Why would a bear be in Levittown?" he asked. "If you live in a location where deer and bear can appear, it's food migration."

I like legends, and mysteries, especially when well told.

But if you ask me, after examining some of the photos, it looks like Bigfoot was wearing L.L. Bean snow boots as he rooted for grub.

J.D. Mullane can be reached at 215-949-5745 or at jmullane@phillyBurbs.com. His column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/219-03022004-256522.html

Healer jailed for selling 'cancer cure'

Daily Mail Sat 6 March 2004:

An alternative therapist who sold a treatment machine to a dying man falsely claiming it would "kill" his cancer was jailed for 12 months today.

Reginald Gill, 69, of Wilson Road, Bournemouth, was convicted of making a false statement about services provided to terminally ill Stephen Hall on May 10, 2002, and supplying goods with a false description on May 17, 2002.

Sentencing Gill, Recorder Lorraine Morgan said: "Mr Hall was a man in his early forties.

"A man in the prime of his life when he received the diagnosis that he was suffering from a most severe form of cancer. One can only imagine the fear he must have felt.

"You exploited that fear for your own financial gain."

She added: "On your false claims you must have filled the last months of his life with false hope while you were taking his money.

"You denied Mr Hall the brief opportunity to come to terms with his fate."

Healer sold machine for £2,500

The trial at Bournemouth Crown Court earlier heard how Gill provided four treatments to 43-year-old Mr Hall, a voice coach of Flint, North Wales, using an IFAS high frequency treatment machine.

He then sold the machine, which emits a high frequency electric current at a low voltage, to Mr Hall for £2,500, having bought it from an Australian company for under £200, the court had heard.

Mr Hall's condition worsened and he died 10 weeks later, leaving his widow Rhiannon.

The Recorder described the case as "most curious and unusual".

She told Gill: "When I first began to hear this case, I considered and wondered if you might be a sincere but misguided eccentric.

"As the evidence has developed I did change my view.

"I find that in your evidence you demonstrated a disturbing level of callousness and cynicism towards Mr Hall."

Gill, a former Royal Marine, denied he had told Mr Hall the machine would cure his cancer. He claimed he told him it would help the body heal itself.

Warning to 'alternative healers'

Mr Hall's mother, Sheila Cracknell, said outside court that the case would serve as a warning to "so-called alternative healers".

"My message to other so-called alternative healers is we are on your case," she said.

"If you provide false hope to people with terminal illnesses, be aware of the sentence that was just passed on Mr Gill."

She added: "I feel justice was more than done today. I think the judge gave considered thought to a very difficult case.

"My son was denied the chance to come to terms with his illness because of the false hope.

"I have come to terms with the fact my son died. What we wanted to do was save other families from going through the horrendous time that we had."

Gill, speaking outside court before he was sentenced, said he had trained in "healing and nutrition" while working as a hospital cook and nutritionist in the army.

He said: "I never use the word cure. The body is metabolic. If you find deficiencies in the body and understand that it's the body that does the healing."

Gill said both he and his wife were disabled and that he would appeal if he received a jail sentence.

He said: "I am appealing. I have got a new solicitor. The prosecution told a pack of lies - the cost of the machine at £200. I paid 4,800 dollars (£2,630) with a discount."

The case against the self-proclaimed "traditional healer", formerly of Poole, Dorset, came to court after a complaint was made to the Medical Devices Agency and Poole Borough Council's trading standards department.

http://www.femail.co.uk/pages/standard/article.html?in_article_id=209249&in_page_id=169

NASA deluged by civilians' Mars `discoveries'

By Faye Flam
Knight Ridder Newspapers

PHILADELPHIA -- Forget about ancient traces of water on Mars. There's a little white bunny up there.

And stone tools.

And dinosaur fossils.

Plants, art, even letters of the alphabet.

While NASA scientists pore over the latest Red Planet images for shreds of evidence that it might have supported algae or pond scum, thousands of earnest civilians are scanning the same pictures and pointing out all sorts of things the professionals missed or haven't acknowledged.

Ever since the robot rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January, NASA has been flooded with hundreds of daily calls and e-mails from people eager to share their own dramatic discoveries.

Medford, N.J., resident George Filer says he has spotted letters similar to E and G, written on Martian rocks. Filer and his associates at MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) believe these are the creations of intelligent beings. He's been trying to tell NASA, without success.

"They keep a lot from the public," said Filer, a retired Air Force pilot.

Another observer called The Philadelphia Inquirer to report he'd seen fossils of dinosaurs and their eggs, and a multitude of marine fossils -- whales, fish and giant squid. "You have to know how to look," he said. Others have seen rocks they say appear to have been fashioned into primitive stone tools.

Never before have earthlings had such sharp pictures from another world, or such easy access to chat rooms, Web sites and virtual communities to discuss the fossils, tools, letters and the bunny. Especially the bunny.

A white rabbitlike image appeared in some of the first pictures beamed back from Opportunity, caught in three-quarter profile, long ears erect.

"Some Web sites have detailed spatial analysis on the bunny," said project scientist Phil Christensen of Arizona State University.

Christensen says he saw the bunny in the early shots beamed back from Opportunity. He said he lobbied to have the rover take a closer look, but the bunny disappeared.

NASA scientists believe the "bunny" was probably a piece of the landing air bag or some other bit of human-generated trash, Christensen said. On one Web site, an outraged writer accused NASA of intentionally running over the bunny with the rover.

The notion of bunnies on Mars may seem far-fetched now, but it wasn't all that long ago that even eminent scientists speculated about Martian trees, animals, even intelligent beings. In the 1960s, popular astronomer and author Carl Sagan talked up the prospect of life on both Mars and Venus.

A closer look at Venus showed it was more than 800 degrees at the surface. And then in 1965, the spacecraft Mariner 4 flew by Mars and snapped the first close-up pictures of Mars -- which were both amazing and disheartening. They revealed nothing but a dry, dead landscape.

"There was nowhere to hide large, conspicuous organisms," said Harvard biologist Andrew Knoll.

But Sagan and other scientists didn't give up hope; perhaps life was there in a more subtle form.

When the Viking spacecraft landed on Mars in 1976, it ran a series of tests for life. A robotic arm on Viking mixed nutrients with the Martian soil to see whether any microbes would metabolize them and spit out telltale gases. The tests came back positive.

Scientists waffled for months over whether the tests could possibly indicate life. Meanwhile, pictures came back that showed a rock etched with a shape similar to a letter B, said Christensen, who worked as a NASA intern at the time.

The NASA guys thought it was funny, he said, but many in the public believed the B was carved by Martians. "We learned our lesson," said Christensen. "For a lot of people, this wasn't funny."

NASA scientists did more analyses of the Viking landing site and found surprises in the chemistry of the Martian soil. They decided it was an unanticipated chemical reaction that made their life-test come out positive. Adding to the bleak picture, they determined that the atmosphere was less than 1 percent as thick as ours.

According to "Captured by Aliens, by Joel Achenbach, Sagan pretty much killed the B theory when he told talk-show host Johnny Carson it was very unlikely that Martians would use the same alphabet as Americans.

But in 1976 NASA did it again. In pictures beamed back from the Viking Orbiter, it noticed a hill that looked like a huge face with a solemn expression. The agency printed and released the picture: a cute artifact of light. It got little attention at first.

Eight years later, in 1984, the face stared out at millions of supermarket shoppers from the cover of the Weekly World News. Former CBS science consultant Richard Hoagland wrote a book speculating that the face, as well as several pyramids, were carved by an ancient Martian civilization.

Thousands of people still believe aliens made the face, though a later view of Mars from the Mars Global Surveyor found that, from a different angle, it just looked like a hill.

George Filer is not deterred. In a boulder photographed by Spirit on its 44th Martian day, he said, there's a distinct white E and a G, though the E may be closed off at the top, like a P. The letters appear to be 3 to 4 inches tall, Filer said.

In his living room, he enlarged the picture on his wide-screen television. He still had to point out the E and the G. They looked like they might have been chiseled or spray-painted or they might have been created by streaks of light that happened to look like letters.

"I could see easily how NASA would miss them," he said. "What we do is blow them up, so to speak, on the computer, using Photoshop and the like. If you believe there's something out there, you look for evidence."

Christensen said NASA can't make announcements about such observations unless scientists rule out more mundane explanations. They have to be wary of belief. As physicist Richard Feynman once said: The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool.

Some people at NASA probably know about the letters and much more, Filer said. "I was in the military and there are a lot of things you can't talk about." He believes NASA is trying to hide that Mars and the universe are teeming with life.

NASA's Michelle Viotti, the agency's manager for Mars public engagement, said she's not ignoring Filer; it's just that the phones are ringing off the hook, and the space agency is still sorting through the more than 15,000 e-mails it got from the public in January. NASA is not hiding anything, she said.

"Secretly, deep down, we all hope there's life beyond our own home planet."

http://www.magicvalley.com/news/worldnation/index.asp?StoryID=7982

Defying Psychiatric Wisdom, These Skeptics Say 'Prove It'

March 9, 2004

By ERICA GOODE

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/09/health/psychology/09SKEP.html?pagewanted=print&position=

They have been called assassins and parasites. They receive hate mail from the proponents of a variety of popular psychotherapies. The president-elect of the American Psychological Association has accused them of being overly devoted to the scientific method.

But the ire of their colleagues has not prevented a small, loosely organized band of academic psychologists from rooting out and publicly debunking mental health practices that they view as faddish, unproved or in some cases potentially harmful.

In journal articles and public presentations, the psychologists, from Emory, Harvard, the University of Texas and other institutions, have challenged the validity of widely used diagnostic tools like the Rorschach inkblot test. They have questioned the existence of repressed memories of child sexual abuse and of multiple personality disorder. They have attacked the wide use of labels like codependency and sexual addiction.

The challengers have also criticized a number of fashionable therapies, including "critical incident" psychological debriefing for trauma victims, eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing, or E.M.D.R., and other techniques.

"These guys are sort of the Ralph Naders of psychology," said Dr. David Barlow, director of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University.

Yet the psychologists are hardly cranks. Their criticisms reflect a widening divide in the field between researchers, who rely on controlled trials and other statistical methods of determining whether a therapeutic technique works, and practitioners, who are often guided by clinical experience and intuition rather than scientific evidence.

"I started to become very concerned by the practices that I was seeing our field tolerating and, in some cases, actively embracing," said Dr. Scott Lilienfeld, a professor of psychology who has emerged as a de facto leader of the group.

In 1988, a group of researchers, concerned that the American Psychological Association, the dominant professional organization, was not placing enough emphasis on science, split off and formed the American Psychological Society. The society now counts close to 15,000 members, its executive director, Dr. Alan Kraut, said. The association has 155,000 members.

Dr. Lilienfeld, who resigned from the psychological association in 2001, after a dispute over the organization's handling of a journal article he had written, says many clinical psychologists are out of touch with research findings.

"As in the case of medicine, practitioners have to be informed about the most recent and most credible findings," he said.

One survey, according to Dr. Lilienfeld, who is an author of the 2003 book "What's Wrong With the Rorschach," found that a vast majority of practicing psychologists did not read even one scientific journal article a month and that some doctoral programs in clinical psychology no longer required research training.

"Many practitioners, because they don't keep up with the scientific literature, may be using suboptimal and, in some cases, even dangerous treatments," Dr. Lilienfeld said.

Two years ago, he founded The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, a journal whose stated goal is to present "objective investigations of controversial and unorthodox claims in clinical psychiatry, psychology and social work."

Two issues of the journal have been published. In it, authors have examined "fact and fiction" in the treatment and investigation of autism; a paper evaluated "neurotherapy," a technique used for attention deficit disorder; and a critique by Dr. Eric Mart, a forensic psychologist in New Hampshire, questioned the scientific and legal basis of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which parents, usually mothers, make their children sick to draw attention to themselves.

In a "mission statement," the journal's editorial board notes that "a wide variety of unsubstantiated or untested treatments" and psychological tests have flourished in recent years.

"Although some of these techniques may ultimately prove to be effective," the statement continues, "it is disturbing that the frequency of their use greatly outstrips their evidentiary base."

The muckraking has not always been welcomed by others in the field.

Dr. Richard McNally, a professor of psychology at Harvard who has conducted research on repressed memories, E.M.D.R. and other problems, said he had received threatening letters, e-mail messages and telephone calls from angry practitioners.

"All you're doing is your science," Dr. McNally said. "But in the trauma field, you're going to make somebody upset, period."

Dr. Mart, author of "Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy Reconsidered," has drawn fire from psychiatrists who defend the diagnosis.

Dr. Marc Feldman, a psychiatrist in Alabama who has written extensively about Munchausen's, said Dr. Mart "makes his career" out of defending accused mothers.

"He has a powerful financial interest," Dr. Feldman said.

Dr. Mart said he did not disagree that some mothers abused their children by making them sick. But the term Munchausen's by proxy "has taken on a life of its own," he said, and the condition is grossly overdiagnosed. In most cases, Dr. Mart said, the proper term is simply "medical abuse." He added that Munchausen's experts like Dr. Feldman also received fees for testifying in court.

"I would be a much richer man today if I had gotten in on the pro-Munchausen side of things," he said.

Dr. Lilienfeld said he welcomed such give and take. "If you criticize people, you have every right to expect criticism in return," he said.

Still, his Rorschach assessment, written with Dr. James Wood of the University of Texas at El Paso and Dr. Howard N. Garb of the Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, drew angry responses.

An irate therapist, Dr. Lilienfeld recalled, wrote in an Internet posting that the the authors deserved "one bullet for each of the three assassins."

Such intense reactions, Dr. Lilienfeld and others in the group said, are not surprising.

"Many of the practitioners of these methods resent the notion that researchers should dictate or constrain what they do," he said.

That resentment, some experts said, has grown stronger at a time when psychotherapists are under increasing financial pressure and insurers are loath to underwrite the cost of talking therapies.

Some experts, among them Dr. Barlow of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, have argued that psychologists can counter such pressures by building up the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of different forms of psychotherapy.

Like medicine, these experts contend, psychology should have clinical practice guidelines, and psychotherapists should favor treatments that are backed by evidence from controlled clinical trials over treatment whose effectiveness is supported by anecdotes and case histories only.

In fact, more than 50 leading doctoral programs in clinical psychology have joined to promote their training in "empirically supported" psychotherapies. At least two forms of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, have been demonstrated in studies to be effective for a variety of disorders. The two therapies have been standardized in manuals that describe how they are practiced.

Some clinicians say that their work with troubled patients can never be captured by experimental trials and that traditional science has little relevance in the consulting room, where psychotherapists often deal with problems far more complex than those addressed by "cookbook" psychotherapies.

Dr. Ronald Levant, president-elect of the American Psychological Association, said Dr. Lilienfeld and others had gone overboard in their enthusiasm for scientific vetting of therapeutic techniques.

"Their fervor about science borders on the irrational," Dr. Levant, a professor of psychology at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, said. "The problem in clinical psychology is that we don't have science to cover everything we do, and that's true for medicine, as well."

He added that psychologists "recognize that we need to find a way to show we are being accountable," but that many practitioners "question the very narrow standards that are being raised."

In fact, at an annual meeting of the psychological association, a Canadian psychologist reportedly began a session by asking, "How can I escape from the clutches of the psychotherapy police?"

The association, Dr. Lilienfeld said, has not done enough to shore up scientific standards and weed out pseudoscientific or potentially harmful therapies.

"The A.P.A. has been exceedingly reluctant to impose ethical limitations or sanctions on members who engage in either unvalidated or potentially harmful mental health practices," he wrote in the first issue of the new journal.

A spokeswoman for the association, Rhea Farberman, responded: "We do have an ethics code and we do have an ethics education and enforcement program. We put a lot of resources into educating our members about their ethical obligations and enforcing the code through a complaint procedure."

The debate is likely to continue, and the push for stronger evidence will gain ground.

"People resist change," Dr. Barlow said.

But the efforts of psychologists like Dr. Lilienfeld, he added, ensure that important questions are discussed.

"On some things, we'll come down on one side," he said. "On some, we'll come down on the other. But at least these things are seeing the light of day."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


Contacting the North Texas Skeptics
The North Texas Skeptics
P. O. Box 111794
Carrollton, TX 75011-1794
214-335-9248 Skeptics Hotline (current information)
E-mail

Current News  News Back Issues


What's New | Search | Newsletter | Fact Sheets
NTS Home Page
Copyright (C) 1987 - 2008 by the North Texas Skeptics.