NTS LogoSkeptical News for 30 March 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Republicans sending long list of platforms on to state


Staff Writer

The Erath County Republican Platform committee convened Saturday to elect state delegates from Erath County and adopt the year's platforms. With so much to consider, the important work of the committee was still completed in record time, according to GOP County Chair Gaye Lynn Seawright.

"The meeting was very organized thanks to the work of committee chairs and members," she said. "We got our business done in record time, with one vote and enjoyed each other's fellowship."

Elected as delegates were Becky Farrar, Gaye Lynn Seawright, Emily Seawright, Malcolm Cross, Cindy L. Cross, Carroll Cawyer, Leigh Oliver, Bea Marin, Katherine Prater, Kathy Shafer, Dan C. Ballman, Celeste Ballman, Patricia Ballman, Rep. Sid Miller, Debra Miller, Joe Gaither, Scot Darby, Clovis Russell, Larry Ciccarelli and Bethel Baker. Elected as alternates were Mary Curtis, Roderick Curtis, Dwayne Shafer, Betty Key, Gary Key, Debra Ciccarelli, Nat. Wofford, Shirley Wofford, Darrell Hansen, Ruth Hansen, Janice Crawford, Clara Merrill, Dean Scott, LeeRoy Gaitan and John Paul Jones.

Among the many platforms universally adopted by the committee were three life issues, including the right to life, a ban against partial birth abortion and the belief that life begins at fertilization. Similarly, the group adopted family-oriented platforms, such as the belief that parental rights and responsibilities are inherent and protected by the United States Constitution as well as a platform addressing the Defense of Marriage Act.

In lieu of recent controversy in the American culture, the committee addressed in their platform the growing issue of homosexuality, as well as Internet zoning to ensure protection for those against Internet pornography.

The committee adopted several platforms in the realm of education, including the encouragement of abstinence education and the equal teaching of creationism and evolutionism. They also addressed the taxpayers' resolution to strengthen education in Texas, as well as school finance as a whole.

Religious freedom was another topic covering several platforms, including public acknowledgement of God, Christian persecution, government regulation of religious institutions and the sanctity of private property. In regards to the economy, the committee agreed on a platform addressing domestic energy, state tax reform, social security and a balanced budget.

Directly addressing the Texas government, the gathering of Republicans adopted platforms dealing with the direct election of state judges, as well as the accountability of both federal judges and the state legislature. They also urge the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House of Representatives to collaborate to release space to restore a chapel to the original Texas Capitol building. A platform was presented addressing the second amendment right to keep and bear arms.

The Republican Party of Texas rejects any and all forms of amnesty for illegal aliens, and the Erath County committee adopted several platforms in support of this resolution, including the resolution to keep English as the legal and official language of the United States of America.

The committee also adopted platforms to support the U.S. military in the war on terror, as well as a resolution to urge senators and representatives to withdraw funding and support of the United Nations.

Miscellaneous platforms were also adopted, addressing issues such as identity theft, automobile insurance and the support of the re-election of President George W. Bush.

Garner Family Hopes Psychic Can Provide Answers About Teen's Death


Joshua Davis Found Dead Along Road

POSTED: 11:04 a.m. EST February 26, 2004

GARNER, N.C. -- Solving crimes is not always an exact science. A Garner family is hoping a psychic can help police explain how their son died and if it was a homicide. A psychic is being used to help solve the case of Joshua Davis' death.

Dave Davis said he consulted a psychic to get some insight into how his 16-year-old son, Joshua, died.

"We went to the murder scene and stood there and she said she saw the whole crime," Davis said.

Davis said the psychic told him that a car came by with something sticking out of the window and hit Joshua on the head. That same theory is something the Garner Police Department seriously considered.

In fact, Garner detectives ended up talking to the psychic. They said any specific information about the case can be helpful.

Davis admitted that he is skeptical about the psychic's visions, but there is one prediction he hopes comes true. The psychic said police will make an arrest next week.

Alternative Link Launches New Web Site


Multimedia/Internet News
Press release distributed
by PR Newswire

New Site Provides ABC Coding Information and Resources for the Alternative Medicine, Nursing, Integrative and Consumer Driven Healthcare Markets

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., March 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Alternative Link today announced the launch of its new web site - http://www.AlternativeLink.com. The new site provides updated information on ABC codes and other coding-related solutions for alternative medicine, nursing, integrative and consumer driven healthcare.

"The launch of our newly-designed web site is important in supporting the kind of integrative healthcare that today's consumers demand," said Synthia Molina, Chief Executive Officer of Alternative Link. "The site is intuitive so those new to ABC codes can easily see how these and other coding-related solutions support their health-related objectives, for an overall superior online experience."

In addition to a more visually appealing design, the web site's new homepage reflects the role of ABC codes in "a new era in coding," with expanded information on the importance of filling gaps in older HIPAA code sets and the national health information infrastructure (NHII). Visitors to the site quickly learn that ABC codes improve healthcare research, management and commerce. They also gain an understanding of both unregulated and HIPAA- compliant uses of the codes, and learn how ABC codes support comparisons of the outcomes of conventional, complementary and alternative care to advance best practices.

"One new feature that really stands out on the site is our 'hot off the press' screen where visitors can quickly find news and updates on the company, the codes and their favorable effect on U.S. healthcare," said Ms. Molina. "As ABC codes improve healthcare accessibility, quality and cost-management, interested parties (including healthcare practitioners, provider organizations and health plans) need a way to learn from the early successes of others. All of this supports our goal of helping more Americans get access to the right care in the right place at the right time, at a rational cost."

Those wanting to use ABC codes may order reference manuals and electronic files in the "Purchase Products" section of the new web site. This section includes ABC coding manuals; made-to-order superbills or patient encounter forms for integrative healthcare practitioners; reports on the complementary and alternative medicine market; ABC terminology and codes in ASCII flat file formats; more than 600 legal practice guidelines, customized by practitioner type and state; relative values for integrative healthcare; and a comprehensive database of ABC codes, intervention descriptions; expanded definitions; practitioner identifiers, relative values, legal practice guidelines and training standards.

For more information, please visit http://www.AlternativeLink.com.

Alternative Link, the developer of ABC codes, delivers information products and consulting services that help health-promoting organizations and individuals finance, administer and deliver cost-effective care that improves individual and public health, business and industry efficiencies and socioeconomic development.

2004 Silicon Valley Business Ink.

Science: Ignoring the heretics?


Story last updated at 10:46 a.m. Monday, March 29, 2004

MUSC chemist fights silence, but is the system really broken?

Of The Post and Courier Staff

In the beginning, it was just the proteins.

The way biochemist Christian Schwabe saw it, Darwinian evolution should have given closely related animals similar sets of proteins. It was a simple idea, really, just a way to prove the cellular legacy of millions of years of common ancestry.

Only it didn't work.

The mismatched proteins were just a stray thread in the grand tapestry of life, yet the flaw gnawed at the back of the professor's mind -- until one day at Harvard University in 1970, when a new idea struck him in the middle of a lecture. "That's not going to work that way," Schwabe said aloud, and his students watched in bewilderment as their instructor spent the rest of the class working out the first bits of his idea on the blackboard.

What Schwabe began that day would become, by 1984, something he called the "genomic potential hypothesis:" the idea that life on Earth arose not from a single, random-chance event, but from multiple, predictable, chemical processes.

As bold as that idea seemed, it was tame compared with the second part of his theory: that evolution by natural selection -- a cornerstone of Darwinian thought -- was a 19th-century illusion. Rather than a world of diversely adapted species with one common origin, Schwabe saw each modern species as the ultimate expression of its own independent origin. Evolution wasn't about adaptation, Schwabe said, but the perfection of each species' original "genomic potential." He and a colleague published the first paper on the idea in 1984, and the German-born professor settled in to await the inevitable critical response.

It never came. More articles in small academic journals followed in 1985 and 1990, but they, too, failed to provoke debate among his colleagues.

Today, Schwabe is a professor of biochemistry at the Medical University of South Carolina, a federally funded investigator who has accounted for more than $4 million in research funding, much of it related to drugs that regulate blood flow. He has published more than 100 scholarly works and received five patents for his discoveries.

Yet when it comes to his most provocative idea, Schwabe is practically an invisible man. His articles on genomic potential hypothesis -- GPH -- typically are returned without meaningful comment by editors, most recently by the prestigious journal Science, and sometimes it seems as if the only people paying attention to his work are Internet fringe-dwellers.

"I think one of the most brilliant and bravest thinkers in America lives in Charleston, S.C.," said Dr. Ron Landes, a scientific publisher from Texas, "and nobody knows about him."

All he wants, Schwabe says, is a hearing by his peers.

"If they don't like it, they should tell me factually what is wrong," he said during an interview in the suite of labs and offices that constitutes his domain on the seventh floor of the Basic Sciences Building at MUSC. "If they think it's no good, they have the obligation to disprove it."

That's the ideal of science we all learned in grade school. But as Schwabe continues to demonstrate, the practice of science is a bit more complex.


The cliche about one person's opinion being as good as another's may make for good cocktail party diplomacy, but it never is applied to science.It takes an educated specialist to evaluate scientific claims, which is why new discoveries are practically meaningless until they are published in major journals. Publication signifies that the science behind an article is solid and that the idea, right or wrong, is worthy of study.

This system of establishing credibility, called "peer review," is essential to the scientific process, yet not every idea is worthy of serious, high-level peer review.

The journal Science runs a multistep peer-review process that is "among the most rigorous in the scientific community," said Ginger Pinholster, director of the Office of Public Programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Submissions to the journal are screened by Ph.D.-level editors, and those that meet the journal's criteria are circulated to members of the Science Board of Reviewing Editors. Surviving articles are sent out for additional, independent, external peer review before publication. All told, only about 8 percent of the 10,000 manuscripts submitted each year are ever published, Pinholster said.

The process, she said, is designed "to validate the scientific integrity of research findings presented to us in a manner that is strictly independent of any political, ideological or commercial considerations."

Yet the critical question in Schwabe's case isn't whether peer review works -- rather, it's, "Can unorthodox but potentially significant ideas get access to legitimate peer review?"

Landes, founder of Landes BioScience, is skeptical: "The scientific establishment, as represented by the 'name' journals, is like a toll gate. But these keepers of the toll gate won't even consider (Schwabe)."

The history of science is full of theories that were ignored for years before being validated. Yet for every neglected visionary, there are countless crackpots, and the difference between a revolutionary discovery and an enormous waste of time can be too small to spot on casual review. Scientific journal editors must make judgments, leaving them easy targets for criticism.

And though peer review remains an essential element of the scientific method, "It is not a requirement that anyone else pay attention to you," said Jerry Hilbish, professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina.

The editors at Science did not respond to questions from The Post and Courier, directing inquiries to the journal's press office instead. But even Henry Bauer, the Virginia-based editor of The Journal of Scientific Exploration, thinks much of the criticism directed at the big journals misses the point. "The value of the conservatism is that it enhances reliability."

From a credibility standpoint, Bauer said, the big journals have everything to lose by publishing risky material, which usually is left to journals such as his. Though his journal also is peer-reviewed, it typically covers topics familiar to viewers of "The X-Files." Yet the big journals also have a lot to lose by missing out on a big breakthrough.

"We all have a conservative slant," Bauer said. "When we believe something, we have a hard time giving a hearing to something that contradicts it. So difficult ideas have a hard time getting a hearing.

"It is normal in science for new ideas that contradict old ones to be resisted or ignored for a while. Many people in that situation are stunned that they're not being listened to, because science is supposed to be so open to new ideas. But the reality is that (science) is open to new things, but just not things that are too new."

Some scientists think there may even be an observable rhythm to it all.


In the late 1940s, a postgraduate physics student at Harvard University wrote a scholarly paper called "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." The student's name was Thomas Kuhn, and the paper, published as a book in 1962, would sell more than a million copies in 16 languages. It was, said Appalachian State University interdisciplinary studies professor J. Linn Mackey, "one of the most influential intellectual books of the 20th century."

Kuhn's central idea, still controversial after more than half a century of debate, holds that scientific thought evolves through cycles, peaceful periods of "normal" science punctuated by occasional intellectual revolutions.

"Normal" science is characterized by research that is carried out under a dominant, consensus view of how things work, something Kuhn called a "paradigm." During the normal-science stage, the paradigm has been so successful that it persuades scientists to base their own research on it. Inevitably, though, research produces results that don't fit. These anomalies usually are attributed to error, but once enough of them accumulate, scientists begin to feel uneasy about the underlying idea. This leads to a crisis period.

"Sometimes during a crisis period, some scientists -- often a young scientist or an outsider or newcomer to the field -- will put forward an alternative paradigm," said Mackey, a chemistry Ph.D. who has devoted the latter portion of his academic career to studying the interaction between science and society. "Kuhn calls this a stage of 'revolutionary' science. Adherents of the old and new paradigms fight it out."

Eventually, if the new paradigm gains approval from the majority, a new period of "normal" science emerges and the cycle begins again.

Schwabe fits the outsider role, but modern science is "quite satisfied with the current theories of biogenesis and evolution," Mackey said. "Scientists working in these areas might look at Schwabe's theory and say, 'That is interesting speculation, but we have plenty of useful work going on' with the current paradigms."

Bingo. "There is no crisis," said Irv Kornfield, a professor of zoology at the University of Maine and a fellow with the Society for the Study of Evolution. "Anyone who would deny the process of evolution ... is denying the reality of science."


That doesn't mean that scientists aren't interested in a better understanding of natural selection or the means by which life on Earth began, Kornfield said. Biogenesis remains the weakest part of Darwinian theory, and the idea that life arose from predictable chemical processes "is not unreasonable. The general idea that there are certain types of reactions that are favorable (to the formation of organic compounds) ... is generally accepted."

Schwabe's ideas about biogenesis represent what is arguably the strongest part of his theory. So if Kornfield is right, why hasn't that portion of GPH attracted further attention? One ironic possibility: When it comes to modern ideas about biogenesis, Schwabe's theory now may not seem novel enough.

"There is a huge academic enterprise these days related to that question," said Kornfield. "NASA and the National Science Foundation are giving out significant amounts of money to biogenesis research."

The reason: An explosion of interest in the fledgling science of astrobiology. Ever since the 1996 announcement that scientists had discovered "BSOs" ("bacteria-shaped objects") in a martian meteorite, the study of extraterrestrial life has been hot, stirring some unexpected interest in Schwabe's 20-year-old ideas.

But so far, the astrobiological interest in Schwabe is just speculative, said David Darling, author of 2001's "Life Everywhere: The Maverick Science of Astrobiology" and a Ph.D. astronomer. "It's a totally open question, but we just don't know. We need the data now. Everything hinges on that."

So why not test the idea? Schwabe at first shakes his head at the question. The processes he describes would occur over millions of years before producing the first life forms, he says. "Our life is too short."

But what about slices of the theory? Why not set up a solution of organic compounds and see if it starts behaving like the catalytic cycle Schwabe proposes? Yes, that could be done -- someone could test for the creation of nucleic acids -- but that's for his peers to do, Schwabe said.

Schwabe thinks part of the apathy his work has drawn arises from differences in perspective between biologists and other scientists: According to his view, biologists aren't pushing hard enough to explore the how or the why behind their data.

"The biologists have missed their lecture in basic physics," Schwabe said. "They have become too empirical. Biology has moved itself out on the fringe by relying on random chance (for biogenesis). I am arguing that it needs to get back in the fold. If life occurs at all, it should be a likely process."


Schwabe is less explicit when it comes to the mechanisms of evolution he proposes: Each individual genome that leads to a more complex species, he says, will spend most of its history in a simple "survival form" before emerging as the plant or animal we recognize today. But does the lack of "intermediate species" in his theory suggest that humans evolved from smaller versions of ourselves, or that we burst onto the evolutionary scene almost fully formed?

Schwabe shrugs. He really doesn't know.

"I don't have all the answers, but I do have the concept. I'm not giving a recipe, I'm just saying that when you look long enough, you will find these things. It will also exclude some things."

In the meantime, the genomic potential hypothesis will remain an intriguing -- to others, irritating -- idea on the fringes of modern science.

"His proposal is revolutionary and it contradicts one of the most established tenets of Western intellectual thought -- namely, Darwinian orthodoxy," said Landes, a medical doctor whose Texas-based publishing company released Schwabe's book on GPH in 2001. "I don't know if Chris is right, but it's a fascinating idea, and it deserves to be considered by world-class scientists."

So why hasn't that happened?

"It's difficult to say," Schwabe begins, his eyes trailing into the middle distance. "Human nature is one thing. Who wants to be wrong? It's not a pleasant thing."

And somehow, despite the continuing obscurity of his idea, Schwabe projects a relaxed confidence about its future.

He will be proven right, he says, smiling.

"I am not worried about that. (My critics) can bite my butt on this thing as much as they want. I am under the protection of the laws of nature."


If the indifference of a generally accepted paradigm wasn't enough, biochemist Christian Schwabe also faces an additional obstacle: culture war politics.

In modern America, the theories of Charles Darwin represent the armed border between secular science and traditional religion, and for partisans on both sides, there is precious little common ground.

Though Bible-based creationism remains popular within some fundamentalist churches, its crusade for scientific legitimacy has been largely superceded by a new model called "intelligent design." The "I.D." movement -- often championed by credentialed scientists -- contends that the observable universe is so complex that it defies logic to imagine such sophistication could arise via the crude mechanisms of random mutation.

It's the kind of argument that irritates mainstream scientists who say that regardless of whether intelligent design constitutes a meaningful critique of evolution, intelligent design is not science. Why? "Because you can't make predictions from (intelligent design)," said Schwabe, no fan of the movement himself.

Despite his dismissal of I.D., descriptions of Schwabe's theory routinely show up on intelligent-design Web sites. "And this just makes it more difficult, you see," Schwabe said. "They're desperate to get rid of Darwin, and they're misusing (the idea)."

The ongoing sniping may have the net result of making evolutionary biologists less than enthusiastic when it comes to considering unusual ideas.

"They're really just not in the mood," said Irv Kornfield, a zoology professor from the University of Maine. "It's a nuisance, effectively."

Copyright 2004, The Post and Courier

Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Preview The Powerful New Video: Where Does the Evidence Lead?

Part 1. Life: The Big Questions A new challenge to the theory of natural selection.

Part 2. What Darwin Didn't Know Exploring the complexity of the living cell.

Part 3. Molecules and Mousetraps Molecular machines that defy Darwin's theory.

Part 4. How Did Life Begin? Why "chance" cannot explain the origin of life.

Part 5. The Language of Life DNA genetic information, and life on Earth.

Part 6. The Design Inference The scientific evidence for intelligent design.

The video includes insightful interviews with leaders of the Intelligent Design movement including Phillip Johnson, Paul Nelson, Stephen Meyer, Dean Kenyon, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, Jed Macosko and Scott Minnich.

The interviews are brought to life with state-of-the-art computer animation and microscopic photography of living systems. The viewer is transported into the interior of the living cell to explore systems and machines that bear the unmistakable hallmarks of design. Amazing animation footage of the bacterial flagellum provides the viewer with a detailed tour of "the most efficient machine in the universe."

Within the nucleus explore the wonder of DNA, a threadlike molecule that stores instructions to build the essential components of every living organism. It is part of a biological information processing system more complex and more powerful than any computer network.

Where Does the Evidence Lead documents how scientists are abandoning naturalistic explanations for the origin of genetic information and looking to theories of design for new answers.

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

Tuesday, April 6th, 7:30 PM

Monday, March 29, 2004

Evolution education down to a science on Web


UC Berkeley experts offer advice on facing 'pitfalls'

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor

Monday, March 29, 2004

As controversies simmer across the country over teaching evolution, scientists at UC Berkeley are taking the offensive against the modern-day foes of Charles Darwin.

Experts at the university's Museum of Paleontology have created a new Web site designed to offer beleaguered classroom teachers support and guidance through the often slippery attacks they can encounter teaching natural selection and other concepts.

The site, at evolution.berkeley.edu, grew out of a conference that the museum hosted four years ago at which representatives from virtually every national scientific and education organization gathered to consider the growing pressures against evolution curricula.

"We realized we really needed to put new resources into teachers' hands, and that's how the idea of using the Internet emerged," said David Lindberg, chairman of Berkeley's Department of Integrative Biology and former director of the paleontology museum.

The Web site was developed with a $460,000, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, and its creators have another $380,000 grant -- this time from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute -- to develop a version for the general public and another for students.

The new site offers a basic course in the methods of science and, in particular, the mechanics of evolution. It provides a history of evolutionary thought and discusses "misconceptions" and "pitfalls" that teachers may confront in explaining evolutionary concepts.

"Evolution, simply put, is descent with modification," the Web site states in its introduction. "Through the process of descent with modification, the common ancestor of life on Earth gave rise to the fantastic diversity that we see documented in the fossil record and around us today.

"Evolution means that we're all distant cousins: humans and oak trees, hummingbirds and whales."

Lindberg said the site tries wherever possible to show how evolution affects people in everyday life, and he offers flu shots as an example. "The power of the flu vaccine doesn't just wear out year by year," he explains. "But we need new shots each year because new species of the flu virus continually evolve that are resistant to the previous year's strains of the virus that are used in the shots."

Scientists often argue about the detailed processes in evolution -- whether new species emerge slowly or rapidly, or whether Darwin's concept of "natural selection" is the only mechanism for change over time -- but they consider evolution itself to be a fact as solid as gravity or the round Earth.

Opponents, however, insist evolution cannot fully explain how long life has flourished and how its manifold species have come to be. Some are avowed "creationists" who hold the Bible and Genesis as literally true, while others believe in "intelligent design" -- a view that humans, and indeed all organisms, are so complex that only some unknown intelligence must be guiding at all.

Intelligent design advocates include a small body of credentialed scientists. In the past few years, they have virtually supplanted the creationists in dominating the controversies that are ongoing in cities and states from Georgia to California.

Experts at the National Center for Science Education, based in Oakland, say that the teaching of evolution in public schools is under active attack in at least four state legislatures, four state departments of education and five local school boards, including one in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville.

Last month, Larry Caldwell, a Roseville attorney representing a small group of parents, renewed a yearlong dispute over teaching evolution there by filing a complaint against the local Union High School District. Caldwell's complaint contends that the district has unconstitutionally refused to provide students with access to what he maintains are "all sides" of a legitimate scientific debate.

He insists he merely wants Roseville high school biology teachers to "help students develop critical thinking skills in relation to science, by introducing them to scientific evidence that poses challenges to evolutionary theory, as well as scientific evidence that supports evolutionary theory."

To Caldwell, the dispute is basically over the school district's refusal to allow teachers to expose students to what he calls a "dissenting scientific viewpoint" over evolution as opposed to the "orthodox scientific viewpoint," and to provide them with a textbook challenging the standard concepts of evolution.

But Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, which is dedicated to "defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools," insists Caldwell's motives are suspect.

"Evolution is a science, a fact, and it's not something to vote on," Scott said in an interview. "When alternate views on evolution are proposed to be taught, they must be about accepted scientific alternatives, and they need to be appropriate to the knowledge base of the students. Caldwell's proposal in Roseville doesn't meet either of these criteria.

"Let's be grown up about this: We're talking God in this dispute, not real issues in science," Scott continued. "That's what's really unconstitutional about debates over teaching evolution in Roseville."

Caldwell said in an interview that he supports the intelligent design view of how life's complexity has arisen, but seeks only to have that view and others that challenge "orthodoxy" represented in impartial biology classes. The Roseville high school district, Caldwell argues, is unconstitutionally excluding supplemental evolution materials from biology classes.

The new UC Berkeley Web site on evolution contains entire sections on "potential pitfalls" and "overcoming roadblocks" that teachers may encounter as they teach evolution.

To overcome one roadblock, for example, teachers are urged to point out to students that "there are no alternative scientific theories to account for the observations explained by evolutionary theory. Alternative 'theories' that have been proposed for insertion into the science curriculum have not been supported by valid science and are often based on belief rather than science."

And a "potential pitfall," the Web site notes, might come when a student asks whether a biology teacher "believes" in evolution. The recommended answer: "No, I accept the fact that the Earth is very old and life has changed over billions of years because that is what the evidence tells us. Science is not about belief -- it is about making inferences based on evidence."

To Caldwell, the entire Web site is "a shocking misuse of the University of California's resources," and proof that UC's only aim is to "indoctrinate" students rather than offer them legitimate education.

But Judith Scotchmoor, director of education at the UC paleontology museum, said the new Web site is not about indoctrination or religion. Rather, she said, it is a "nonconfrontational way to help biology teachers cope with the confusions their students may have about evolution, and to help students understand the difference between science and religion in the controversies over evolution that keep endlessly cropping up in schools all over the country. "

E-mail David Perlman at dperlman@sfchronicle.com

2004 San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Dublin board revisits 'origin of life' debate


Staff Writer

DUBLIN A second attempt by Dublin Independent School District Board of Education Trustee Garron House to change a resolution regarding teaching students about the "origin of life" failed on a 4-2 vote during Tuesday's regular monthly meeting.

"We've had this resolution presented before and we've talked about it and the board disagrees," House said. "I want to get it resolved."

The original resolution was adopted by the board on July 30, 2002, reads: "Dublin Independent School District calls upon the State Board of Education to require the inclusion of 'Intelligent design' into Texas curriculum. We further require that when discussions of the origin of life are presented, no single theory shall be presented without the discussion of alternative theories."

During the January board meeting, House asked for evidence from DHS Principal Vicky Stone that the "pros and cons of the origin of life" were being presented to all students. Stone and DJH Principal John Grimland concurred that the subject was avoided by teachers in the classroom to avoid controversy.

House prepared informational materials for the board including an updated resolution, statistics, laws and TEKS guidelines, along with research he had done on the proposed new high school biology textbook.

"There are eight pages in this book dedicated to the origin of life," House said, referring to the proposed new biology textbook. "That's a major subject. I just feel like if the teachers are not going to explain it, it doesn't need to be in the book. If you don't want to talk about origin of life, OK. But I'm not going to vote on something that dedicates that much space to the subject."

Superintendent Roy Neff told the board that only if something is in the statewide curriculum, not the textbook, are teachers required to teach that in their classrooms.

"The board policy says if teachers decide to teach any controversial subject than they are required to present the strengths and weaknesses," he said. "If they decide to skip it and not teach it that's their choice. I think it should come from the State, not the school board."

Trustee Mike Journey voiced his concern with requiring teachers to teach origin of life, stating there would be no absolute way to determine if the teachers were actually following through.

"Let's say your requiring teachers to teach this, they are going to teach much more strongly on the side they believe that's human nature," Journey said. "You just know more about what you believe. And how are you going to know if it gets the effect you want? How will you know it is actually being done in the classroom?"

House said he would "depend on the superintendent, who would depend on the principals who would ask for a report from the teachers."

After remaining quiet through the entire 45-minute discussion, Trustee Bill Norris made a motion to disapprove the resolution as presented by House. Due to lack of a second, the motion died.

House made a motion to approve the resolution that was seconded by Trustee Don Keith. In a vote, House and Keith voted for, while Journey, Norris, Trustee Brenda Faulkner and Trustee Travis Barnes voted against the resolution. Trustee Joe Willingham was absent.

The view from 2025: How Design beat Darwin


Cover story: WORLD ASKED FOUR leaders of the Intelligent Design Movement to have some fun: Imagine writing in 2025, on the 100th anniversary of the famous Scopes "monkey" trial, and explain how Darwinism has bit the dust, unable to rebut the evidence that what we see around us could not have arisen merely by time plus chance.

By The Editors

WORLD ASKED FOUR leaders of the Intelligent Design Movement to have some fun: Imagine writing in 2025, on the 100th anniversary of the famous Scopes "monkey" trial, and explain how Darwinism has bit the dust, unable to rebut the evidence that what we see around us could not have arisen merely by time plus chance. Our fanciful historians are:

Phillip Johnson, WORLD's Daniel of the Year for 2003, is a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Darwin on Trial (1991) and many other books, including Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, Reason in the Balance, The Wedge of Truth, and The Right Questions.

Jonathan Wells, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and the author of Icons of Evolution (2000), received both a Ph.D. in biology from the University of California at Berkeley and a Ph.D. in theology from Yale University.

Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, research professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, is the author of more than 100 scientific publications in the fields of neuroscience and psychiatry. His latest book is The Mind and the Brain (released in paperback last year).

William Dembski, associate research professor at Baylor and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, received a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago and is the author of, among other books, The Design Inference (1998) and The Design Revolution (2004).

The new age of information


INTELLIGENT DESIGN: A mechanistic view of science has now (in 2025) given way to an information-theory view in which information rather than blind material forces is primary and basic. This change has affected not only science but worldviews

By William Dembski

AT THE TIME OF THE SCOPES TRIAL, and for the remainder of the 20th century, science was wedded to a materialistic conception of nature. The architects of modern science, from Rene Descartes to Isaac Newton, had proposed a world of unthinking material objects ruled by natural laws. Because these scientists were theists, the rule of natural law was for them not inviolable-God could, and from time to time did, invade the natural order, rearrange material objects, and even produce miracles of religious significance. But such divine acts were gratuitous insertions into a material world that was capable of carrying on quite nicely by itself.

In the end, the world bequeathed to us by modern science became a world of unthinking material objects ruled by unbroken natural laws. With such a world, God did not, and indeed could not, interact coherently, much less intervene. Darwinian evolution, with its rejection of design and its unwavering commitment to purely material forces (such as natural selection), came to epitomize this materialist conception of science. If God played any role in the natural world, human inquiry could reveal nothing about it.

This materialist conception of the world came under pressure in the 1990s. Scientists started asking whether information might not be the fundamental entity underlying physical reality. For instance, mathematician Keith Devlin mused whether information could perhaps be regarded as "a basic property of the universe, alongside matter and energy (and being ultimately interconvertible with them)." Origin-of-life researchers like Manfred Eigen increasingly saw the problem of the origin of life as the problem of generating biologically significant information. And physicist Paul Davies speculated about information replacing matter as the "primary stuff," therewith envisioning the resolution of age-old problems, such as the mind-body problem. Thus he remarked, "If matter turns out to be a form of organized information, then consciousness may not be so mysterious after all."

Such speculations became serious scientific proposals in the first decade of this century as proponents of intelligent design increasingly clashed with Darwinian evolutionists. The irony here is that the very sorts of arguments that Darwinists had been using to try to discredit intelligent design and relegate it to the sphere of religion rather than science ended up discrediting Darwinian evolution itself and exposing its unscientific presuppositions.

To see how this happened, recall how exchanges between Darwinists and the early design theorists used to go. The design theorists would go to great lengths to analyze a given biological structure, show why it constituted an obstacle to Darwinian and other materialistic forms of evolution, and lay out how the structure in question exhibited clear marks of intelligence. To such carefully drawn lines of scientific argument and evidence, the Darwinist invariably offered stock responses, such as, "There you go with your religion again" "You're just substituting supernatural causes for natural causes" "You just haven't figured out how evolution did it" "You're arguing from ignorance" "You're lazy; get back in the lab and figure out how evolution did it."

These responses were effective at cowing critics of Darwinism so long as the scientific community agreed with the Darwinists that science was about understanding the natural world solely in terms of unguided material processes or mechanisms. But in the first decade of this century it became clear that this definition of science no longer worked. Science is, to be sure, about understanding the natural world. But science is not about understanding the natural world solely in terms of material processes.

The problem is that material processes, as understood by the Darwinists and most of the scientific community at the time, could not adequately explain the origin of biologically significant information. Darwinist Michael Ruse saw the problem clearly, though without appreciating its significance. Describing the state of origin-of-life research at the turn of the century, he remarked: "At the moment, the hand of human design and intention hangs heavily over everything, but work is going forward rapidly to create conditions in which molecules can make the right and needed steps without constant outside help. When that happens, ... the dreaming stops and the fun begins."

Sadly for the Darwinists, the dreaming never stopped and the fun never began. Instead, the work of theoretical and applied intelligent-design theorists went forward and showed why scientific explanations of biologically significant information could never remove the hand of design and intentionality. The watchword for science became information requires intelligence. This came to be known as the No Free Lunch Principle, which states that apart from intelligent guidance, material processes cannot bring about the information required for biological complexity.

The No Free Lunch Principle led to a massive change in scientific perspective. One notable consequence for biology was a thoroughgoing reevaluation of experimental work on prebiotic and biotic evolution. Invariably, where evolutionary biologists reported interesting experimental results, it was because "intelligent investigators" had "intervened" and performed "experimental manipulations" that nature, left to its own devices, was utterly incapable of reproducing.

This led to an interesting twist. Whereas Darwinists had been relentless in disparaging intelligent design as a pseudoscience, Darwinism itself now came to be viewed as a pseudoscience. Intelligent design had been viewed as a pseudoscience because it refused to limit nature to the operation of blind material processes. Once it became clear, however, that material processes were inherently inadequate for producing biologically significant information, the Darwinian reliance, and indeed insistence, on such processes came to be viewed as itself pseudoscientific.

What would you think of a chemist who thought that all explosives were like TNT in that their explosive properties had to be explained in terms of electrostatic chemical reactions? How would such a chemist explain the explosion of a nuclear bomb? Would this chemist be acting as a scientist in requiring that nuclear explosions be explained in terms of electrostatic chemical reactions rather than in terms of fission and fusion of atomic nuclei? Obviously not.

Scientific explanations need to invoke causal powers that are adequate to account for the effects in question. By refusing to employ intelligence in understanding biologically significant information, the Darwinian biologists were essentially like this chemist, limiting themselves to causal powers that were inherently inadequate for explaining the things they were trying to explain. No wonder Darwinism is nowadays considered a pseudoscience. It does not possess, and indeed self-consciously rejects, the conceptual resources needed to explain the origin of biological information. Some historians of science are now even going so far as to call Darwinism the greatest swindle in the history of ideas. But this is perhaps too extreme.

The information-theoretic perspective did not just come to govern biology but took hold throughout the natural sciences. Physics from the time of Newton had sought to understand the physical world by positing certain fundamental entities (particles, fields, strings), specifying the general form of the equations to characterize those entities, prescribing initial and boundary conditions for those equations, and then solving them. Often, these were equations of motion that, on the basis of past states, predicted future states. Within this classical conception of physics, the holy grail was to formulate a "theory of everything"-a set of equations that could characterize the constitution and dynamics of the universe at all levels of analysis.

But with information as the fundamental entity of science, this conception of physics gave way. No longer was the physical world to be understood by identifying an underlying structure that has to obey certain equations no matter what. Instead, the world came to be seen as a nested hierarchy of systems that convey information, and the job of physical theory was to extract as much information from these systems as possible. Thus, rather than see the scientist as Procrustes, forcing nature to conform to preconceived theories, this informational approach turned the scientist into an inquirer who asks nature questions, obtains answers, but must always remain open to the possibility that nature has deeper levels of information to divulge.

Nothing of substance from the previous "mechanistic science" was lost with this informational approach. As Roy Frieden had shown, the full range of physics could be recovered within this informational approach (Physics from Fisher Information: A Unification, Cambridge University Press, 1998). The one thing that did give way, however, was the idea that physics is a bottom-up affair in which knowledge of a system's parts determines knowledge of the system as a whole. Within the informational approach, the whole was always truly greater than the sum of its parts, for the whole could communicate information that none of the parts could individually.

The primacy of information throughout the sciences has had profound consequences for religion and faith. A world in which information is not primary is a world seriously limited in what it can reveal about God. This became evident with the rise of modern science-the world it gave us revealed nothing about God except that God, if God exists at all, is a lawgiver. But with information as the primary stuff, there are no limits on what the world can in principle reveal about God. Theists of all stripes have therefore found this newfound focus of science on information refreshing.

Mind transcending matter


INTELLIGENT DESIGN: For a time, cognitive neurophysiology attempted to reduce the mind to brain function. Such a materialist reduction of mind to brain can no longer (in 2025) be reasonably maintained. We've learned that we can control our minds and act responsibly

By Jeffrey Schwartz

LOOKING BACK, IT SEEMS INEVITABLE that advances in brain science during the 20th century led almost all people esteemed as "scientifically literate" to believe that eventually all aspects of the human mind would be explained in material terms. After all, in an era when the unquestioned cultural assumption was "for science all causes are material causes," how could one be expected to think differently? What's more, tremendous advances in brain-imaging technologies during the last two decades of that most materialist of centuries enabled scientists to investigate the inner workings of the living human brain. This certainly seemed to further buttress the generally unexamined and often smugly held belief that the deep mysteries of the brain, and the "laws" through which it created and ruled all aspects of the human mind, would someday be revealed.

Thus arose the then virtually hegemonic belief that human beings and everything they do are, like all other aspects of the world of nature, the results of material causes-by which the elites of the time simply meant results of material forces interacting with each other. While primitive, uneducated, and painfully unsophisticated people might be beguiled into believing that they had minds and wills capable of exerting effort and rising above the realm of the merely material, this was just-as Daniel Dennett, a widely respected philosopher of the day, delighted in putting it-an example of a "user illusion": that is, the quaint fantasy of those who failed to realize, due to educational deficiencies or plain thick-headedness, that "a brain was always going to do what it was caused to do by local mechanical disturbances." Were you one of the rubes who believed that people are capable of making free and genuinely moral decisions? Then of course haughty contempt, or at best pity, was the only appropriate demeanor a member of the intellectual elite could possibly direct your way.

On a societal and cultural level the damage such spurious and unwarranted elite opinions wreaked on the world at large was immense. For if everything people do results solely from their brains, and everything the brain does results solely from material causes, then people are no different than any other complicated machine and the brain is no different in principle than any very complex computer. If matter determines all, everything is passive and no one ever really does anything, or to be more precise, no one is really responsible for anything they think, say, or do.

What's more, if anything they think, say, or do causes problems for them or society at large, then, the sophisticates of that thankfully bygone era believed, the ultimate way to solve the problem would be to make the required changes in the brain that would make it work the way a properly functioning machine is supposed to. This naturally led to the widespread use of drugs as a primary means of treating what generally came to be called "behavioral problems."

After all, if the brain is the final cause of everything a person thinks, says, and does, why bother with old-fashioned and outdated notions like "self-control" or even "making your best effort" to solve a problem? If the brain is the ultimate cause underlying all the problems, then the sophisticated thing to do to rectify things is to give a chemical (or even place an electrode!) that gets right in there and fixes things. "God helps those who help themselves?" Not in the real world, where science knows all the answers, sneered the elites of the time.

Happily for the future of humanity, in the early years of the 21st century this all started to change. The reasons why, on a scientific level, grew out of the coming together of some changes in perspective that had occurred in physics and neuroscience during the last decades of the previous century. Specifically, the theory of physics called quantum mechanics was seen to be closely related, especially in humans, to the discovery in brain science called neuroplasticity: the fact that throughout the lifespan the brain is capable of being rewired, and that in humans at least, this rewiring could be caused directly by the action of the mind.

Work using new brain-imaging technologies of that era to study people with a condition called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) played a key role in this development. OCD is a medical condition in which people suffer from very bothersome and intrusive thoughts and feelings that give them the sense that "something is wrong" in their immediate surroundings-usually the thought or feeling that something is dirty or contaminated or needs to be checked because it isn't quite right.

This is what is called an obsession. The problem the medical condition causes is that although the sufferers generally know this feeling that "something is wrong" is false and doesn't really make sense, the feeling keeps bothering them and doesn't go away, due to a brain glitch that was discovered using brain imaging. Sufferers often respond to these gut-wrenching thoughts and feelings by washing, checking, straightening things, etc., over and over again, in a desperate but futile attempt to make things seem right. These futile repetitive acts are called compulsions.

In the 1990s it was discovered that OCD sufferers were very capable of learning how to resist capitulating to these brain-related symptoms by using a mental action called "mindful awareness" when confronting them. In a nutshell, mindful awareness means using your "mind's eye" to view your own inner life and experiences the way you would if you were standing, as it were, outside yourself-most simply put, it means learning to use a rational perspective when viewing your own inner experience.

When OCD patients did this, and as a result came to view the bothersome intrusive thoughts and feelings just as medical symptoms that they had the mental power to resist, they found they were empowered to direct their attention in much more useful and wholesome ways by focusing on healthy and/or work-related activities. Over several weeks, and with much mental effort and faith in their ability to overcome the suffering, many OCD patients were found to be capable of regularly resisting the symptoms.

This greatly strengthened their mental capacity to focus attention on useful wholesome activities and overcome compulsive urges. The major scientific finding that was discovered using brain imaging was that when OCD sufferers used the power of their minds to redirect regularly their focus of attention in wholesome ways, they literally rewired their own brains in precisely the brain circuit that had been discovered to cause the problem.

In the early years of the current century brain imaging was used to reveal many similar and related findings. For instance, people with spider phobia, or people viewing stressful or sexually arousing films, were found to be entirely capable of using mental effort to apply mindful awareness and "re-frame" their perspective on their experience. By so doing it was clearly demonstrated that they could systematically change the response of the brain to these situations and so cease being frightened, stressed, or sexually aroused, whatever the case may be.

This latter finding was realized by some at the time to be potentially relevant to teaching sexual abstinence strategies to adolescents-for if you have the power to control your brain's response to sexual urges, then practicing sexual abstinence in arousing situations will not only strengthen your moral character; it will also increase your mental and physical capacity to control the workings of your own brain-an extremely wholesome and empowering act!

All this work came together when physicist Henry Stapp realized that a basic principle of quantum mechanics, which because of the nature of the brain at the atomic level must be used for proper understanding of the brain's inner workings, explains how the action of the mind changes how the brain works. A well-established mechanism called the quantum zeno effect (QZE) readily explains how mindfully directed attention can alter brain circuitry adaptively. Briefly, we can understand QZE like this: The mental act of focusing attention tends to hold in place brain circuits associated with whatever is focused on. In other words, focusing attention on your mental experience maintains the brain state arising in association with that experience.

If, using mindful awareness, a brain state arises associated with a wholesome perspective, the sustained application of that mindful perspective will literally, because of the QZE mechanism, hold in place the brain circuitry associated with the wholesome process. Of course, the QZE mechanism would be expected to work the same way to hold in place the brain's response to meditation or prayer, and brain-imaging research in the early years of this century demonstrated that to be the case.

The rest, as they say, is history. Once a solid scientific theory was in place to explain how the mind's power to focus attention could systematically rewire the brain, and that the language of our mental and spiritual life is necessary to empower the mind to do so, the materialist dogma was toppled. We may not have all lived happily ever after in any simplistic sense, but at least science is no longer on the side of those who claim human beings are no different in principle than a machine.

Whatever happened to evolutionary theory?


INTELLIGENT DESIGN: Intelligent design has now (in 2025) become a thriving scientific research program and replaced materialistic accounts of biological evolution (in particular, Darwinism). ID theory led to new understanding of embryo development and the importance of "junk DNA"

By Jonathan Wells

IN 1973, GENETICIST THEODOSIUS Dobzhansky wrote: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." By "evolution," he meant the synthesis of Charles Darwin's 19th-century theory that all living things have descended from a common ancestor through natural selection and random variations, and the 20th-century theory that new variations are produced by mutations in DNA. By 2000, the biological sciences had become almost totally dominated by this view. Millions of students were taught that Darwinian evolution was a simple fact, like gravity. Oxford professor Richard Dawkins even proclaimed that anyone who doubted it must be ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked.

Now, a mere quarter of a century later, Darwinian evolution is little more than a historical footnote in biology textbooks. Just as students learn that scientists used to believe that the Sun moves around the Earth and maggots are spontaneously generated in rotting meat, so students also learn that scientists used to believe that human beings evolved through random mutations and natural selection. How could a belief that was so influential in 2000 become so obsolete by 2025? Whatever happened to evolutionary theory?

Surprising though it may seem, Darwinism did not collapse because it was disproved by new evidence. (As we shall see, the evidence never really fit it anyway.) Instead, evolutionary theory was knocked off its pedestal by three developments in the first decade of this century-developments centered in the United States, but worldwide in scope. Those developments were: (1) the widespread adoption of a "teach the controversy" approach in education, (2) a growing public awareness of the scientific weaknesses of evolutionary theory, and (3) the rise of the more fruitful "theory of intelligent design."

The first development was a reaction to late 20th-century efforts by dogmatic Darwinists to make evolutionary theory the exclusive framework for biology curricula in American public schools. Biology classrooms became platforms for indoctrinating students in Darwinism and its underlying philosophy of naturalism-the anti-religious view that nature is all there is and God is an illusion. In the ensuing public backlash, some people demanded that evolution be removed from the curriculum entirely. A larger number of people, however, favored a "teach the controversy" approach that presented students with the evidence against evolutionary theory as well as the evidence for it.

The U.S. Congress implicitly endorsed this approach in its No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. A report accompanying the legislation stated that students should learn "to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science," and that students should "understand the full range of scientific views that exist" with regard to biological evolution. Despite loud protests and threats of lawsuits from the Darwinists, hundreds of state and local school boards across America had adopted a "teach the controversy" approach by 2005.

In the second major development, students who were free to examine the evidence for and against evolution quickly realized that the former was surprisingly thin. Although Darwinists had long boasted about having "overwhelming evidence" for their view, it turned out that they had no good evidence for the theory's principal claim: that species originate through random mutation and natural selection. Bacteria were the best place to look for such evidence, because they reproduce quickly, their DNA can be easily mutated, and they can be subjected to strong selection in the laboratory. Yet bacteria had been intensively studied throughout the 20th century, and bacteriologists had never observed the formation of a new species.

If there was no good evidence that a Darwinian mechanism could produce new species, still less was there any evidence that a Darwinian mechanism could produce complex organs or new anatomical features. Darwinists discounted the problem by arguing that evolution was too slow to observe, but this didn't change the fact that they lacked empirical confirmation for their theory.

Of course, there was plenty of evidence for minor changes in existing species-but nobody had ever doubted that existing species can change over time. Domestic breeders had been observing such changes-and even producing them-for centuries. Unfortunately, this was not the sort of evidence that evolution needed. After all, the main point of evolutionary theory was not how selection and mutation could change existing species, but how that mechanism could produce new species-indeed, all species after the first-as well as new organs and new body plans. That's why Darwin titled his magnum opus The Origin of Species, not How Existing Species Change over Time.

A growing number of people realized that the "overwhelming evidence" for evolutionary theory was a myth. It didn't help the Darwinists when it became public knowledge that they had faked some of their most widely advertised evidence. For example, they had distorted drawings of early embryos to make them look more similar than they really are (in order to convince students that they had descended from a common ancestor), and they had staged photos showing peppered moths on tree trunks where they don't normally rest (in order to persuade students of the power of natural selection).

In the first few years of this century, the cultural dominance of Darwinism was so strong, especially in academia, that critics were slow to speak up. By 2009, however, when Darwin's followers had hoped to stage a triumphal celebration of their leader's 200th birthday, millions of people were laughing at the emperor with no clothes.

The third and perhaps most decisive development was a series of breakthroughs in biology and medicine inspired by the new theory of intelligent design. Everyone, even the Darwinists, agreed that living things look as though they were designed. Darwinists insisted that this was merely an illusion, produced by the combined action of random mutation and natural selection; but design theorists argued that the design was real. For years the controversy remained largely philosophical; then, in the first decade of this century, a few researchers began applying intelligent-design theory to solving specific biological problems.

One of these was the function of so-called "junk DNA." From a Darwinian perspective, "genes" were thought to determine all the important characteristics of an organism, and gene mutations were thought to provide the raw materials for evolution. When molecular biologists in the third quarter of the 20th century discovered that certain regions of DNA encode proteins that determine some of the characteristics of living cells, and equated these with "genes," Darwinists assumed that their theory was complete. They even proclaimed DNA to be "the secret of life."

Yet molecular biologists learned in the 1970s that less than 5 percent of human DNA encodes proteins. Darwinists immediately declared the other 95 percent "junk"-molecular accidents that had accumulated in the course of evolution. Since few researchers were motivated (or funded) to investigate garbage, most human DNA was neglected for decades. Although biologists occasionally stumbled on functions for isolated pieces of "junk," they began to make real progress only after realizing that the DNA in an intelligently designed organism is unlikely to be 95 percent useless. The intensive research on non-coding regions of human DNA that followed soon led to several medically important discoveries.

Another insight from intelligent-design theory advanced our understanding of embryo development. From a Darwinian perspective, all the information needed for new features acquired in the course of evolution came from genetic mutations. This implied that all essential biological information was encoded in DNA. In contrast, intelligent-design theory implied that organisms are irreducibly complex systems in which DNA contains only part of the essential information. Although a few biologists had been arguing against DNA reductionism for decades, biologists guided by intelligent-design theory in 2010 discovered the true nature of the information that guides embryo development.

All three of these developments-teaching the controversy, educating people about the lack of evidence for evolutionary theory, and using intelligent-design theory to make progress in biomedical research-were bitterly resisted by Darwinists in the first decade of this century. Defenders of the Darwinian faith engaged in a vicious campaign of character assassination against their critics in the scientific community. Meanwhile, their allies in the news media conducted a massive disinformation campaign, aimed primarily at convincing the public that all critics of Darwinism were religious zealots.

More and more people saw through the lies, however, and within a few short years Darwinism had lost its scientific credibility and public funding. By 2015 it was well on its way to joining its intellectual cousins, Marxism and Freudianism, in the dustbin of discarded ideologies. By 2020, Darwinism was effectively dead.

The demise of naturalism


INTELLIGENT DESIGN: Methodological naturalism used to be a regulative principle for science and for all serious academic thought. Not any longer. It is now (in 2025) an outdated dogma, and the Scopes trial stereotype, as depicted in the movie Inherit the Wind, is now effectively dead

By Phillip Johnson

IN 1980, ASTRONOMER CARL SAGAN commenced the influential national public television series Cosmos by announcing its theme: "The cosmos is all there is, ever was, or ever will be." Sagan's mantra was spoken more than 20 years before the landmark Santorum Amendment to the Federal Education Act of 2001 encouraged science educators to teach students to distinguish between testable scientific theories and philosophical claims that are made in the name of science.

In those unsophisticated pre-Santorum years, celebrity scientists like Sagan freely promoted a dogmatic naturalistic philosophy as if it were a fact that had been discovered by scientific investigation-just as previous generations of celebrities had promoted racism, class warfare, and Freudian fantasy in the name of science. The celebrities felt themselves free to ignore both evidence and logic, because the approval of the rulers of science, who had a vested interest in persuading the public to adopt a philosophy that maximized their own influence, was all that was needed to induce the media to report an ideological dogma as a scientific conclusion.

Millions of schoolchildren and credulous adults were led to accept the voice of Sagan as the voice of science and thus to believe that scientists had proved that God does not exist, or at least is irrelevant to our lives. In brief, the message of this government-promoted television series was that philosophical naturalism and science are one and the same. The series did contain scientific information, much of it inaccurate or misleading, but primarily it was an appeal to the imagination, promoting the worship of science and the adventurous vision of exploring the universe.

The perennially popular Star Trek television series further conditioned the youth of America to dream of a technological utopia in which disease and distance were conquered and the great adventure of mankind was to explore the many inhabited planets supposedly existing throughout the universe. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, which we now know as the "century of scientism," the popular media relentlessly pursued the theme that liberation and fulfillment are to be found through technology, with the attendant implication that the supernatural creator revealed in the Bible is a superfluous and obsolete entity doomed to expire from terminal irrelevance.

Social scientists further affirmed this myth with their secularization thesis, which predicted that supernatural religion would steadily lose adherents throughout the world as public education enlightened the multitudes, and as people came to see scientific technology as the only route to health, happiness, and longevity. Problems such as pollution and warfare were acknowledged, but these too could be mastered if we insisted that our politicians heed the advice of the ruling scientists.

The cultural path that led to this apotheosis of scientific naturalism began just after the middle of the 20th century, with the triumphalist Darwin Centennial Celebration in 1959 and the 1960 film Inherit the Wind, a stunning but thoroughly fictionalized dramatization of the Scopes trial of 1925. The real Scopes trial was a publicity stunt staged by the ACLU, but Broadway and Hollywood converted it to a morality play about religious persecution in which the crafty criminal defense lawyer Clarence Darrow made a monkey of the creationist politician William Jennings Bryan, and in the process taught the moviegoing public to see Christian ministers as ignorant oppressors and Darwinist science teachers as heroic truth-seekers. As the 20th century came to an end, science and history teachers were still showing Inherit the Wind to their classes as if it were a fair portrayal of what had happened in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925.

Superficially, it seemed that scientific naturalism was everywhere triumphant at the start of the 21st century. Scientific rationalists were nonetheless uneasy, for two reasons.

First, literary intellectuals had pushed naturalism to the limits of its logic and drawn the conclusion that, since an uncreated nature is indifferent to good and evil, all values are merely subjective, including even the value of science. It seemed to follow that nothing is forbidden, and pleasure can be pursued without limit. Both highbrow literature and popular entertainment became strongly nihilistic, scorning all universal standards of truth, morality, or reason.

Second, public opinion polls showed that a clear majority of the American public still believed that God is our creator despite the heavy-handed indoctrination in evolutionary naturalism to which they had been subjected for several decades in textbooks, television documentaries, and museum exhibits. The seemingly solid wall of Darwinian orthodoxy was crumbling under the pressures described in the accompanying article by Jonathan Wells.

Naturalism was losing its essential scientific backing, and then it also suddenly lost its hold on the popular and literary imagination, as the American public tired of nihilism and began to count the cost of all that had been destroyed during the century of scientism. New historical scholarship reflected in a stunning PBS television documentary exposed the Inherit the Wind portrayal of the Scopes trial as a hoax, kicking off an era of historical revisionism in which book after scholarly book exposed how propaganda techniques had been employed to create a mythology of inevitable progress toward naturalism, similar to the governing mythology of the Soviet Union, which had proclaimed the inevitable replacement of capitalism by communism.

The collapse of the Soviet Union put an end to the Soviet myth, just as the scientific collapse of Darwinism, preceded as it was by the discrediting of Marxism and Freudianism, prepared the way for the culture to turn aside from the mythology of naturalism to rediscover the buried treasure that the mythology had been concealing. A hilarious Broadway comedy titled Inherit the Baloney enacted a sort of Scopes trial in reverse, with the hero a courageous Christian college professor badgered incessantly by dim-witted colleagues and deans who keep telling him that the only way to preserve his faith in a postmodern world is to jettison all the exclusivist truth-claims. They wanted him to admit that Jesus was sorely in need of sensitivity training from some wise counselor like Pontius Pilate, because "nobody can surf the web every day and still believe that there is such a thing as 'truth' or goodness." Overnight, the tendency of naturalistic rationalism to decay into postmodern irrationalism became a national joke.

Then the rise of Islamic extremism at the start of the new century came just as scholars and journalists were finally taking notice of the rapid spread of active, vibrant Christian faith in Africa, South America, and Asia, especially China. The secularization thesis was consistent with the facts only in a few parts of the world where long-established Christian churches had succumbed to complacency and the slow poison of naturalism. Where life was hardest and persecution frequent, the flame of faith burned brighter than ever. For those with a global outlook, the question was not whether God was still important in our lives, but rather, "What does God want us to do?" Once Darwinism had joined Marxism and Freudianism in the dustbin of history, the entire world seemed new and full of exciting possibilities.

The crucial turning point in America came in the year 2004. In that year the "same-sex marriage" explosion, abetted by public officials, brought to public attention the extent to which long-settled understandings of law and morality had been undermined as judges, mayors, and citizens internalized the nihilistic moral implications of naturalistic philosophy. That same year, with the spectacular success of two great movies, The Return of the King and The Passion of the Christ, it became clear that the public was hungering for art and entertainment that affirmed traditional values rather than flouted them. Surprise: The Bible still provided, as it had for many centuries, the indispensable starting point for the artistic imagination.

Artists and humanities scholars recognized that the human imagination had been stunted by blind adherence to a philosophy that denied the artist or poet any sense of the divine power that gives meaning to the realm of nature. As sanity reasserted itself, even the secular intellectuals saw that the fact of creation provides the essential foundation not only for the artistic imagination, but even for the scientific imagination, because science itself makes no sense if the scientific mind is itself no more than the product of irrational material forces.

As that insight spread, naturalism became yesteryear's fashion in thought, and the world moved forward to the more realistic understanding of the human condition that we in 2025 now take for granted. Only the fool says that there is no God, or that God has forgotten us. Folly like that is as dead today as the discredited Inherit the Wind stereotype, which fit the facts of history no better than the secularization thesis. We no longer expect to meet intelligent beings on other planets, for we have learned how uniquely fitted to shelter life our own planet has been created to be. Now we have a much more exciting adventure. We can dedicate our minds and our courage to sharing the truth that makes us free.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Psychic Claims to Have Vision - So Feds Delay Airliner Flight for Search


The Associated Press
Published: Mar 27, 2004

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - A self-described psychic's tip that a bomb might be on a plane prompted a search with bomb-sniffing dogs that turned up nothing suspicious, but forced the cancelation of the flight. American Airlines Flight 1304 at Southwest Florida International Airport was canceled Friday because some crew members had exceeded their work hours by the time the search was finished, officials said.

The purported psychic's call was "unusual," conceded Doug Perkins, local administrator for the federal Transportation Security Administration director.

"But in these times, we can't ignore anything. We want to take the appropriate measures," he said.

None of the 128 passengers had boarded yet for the flight to Dallas when the search was ordered, Perkins said.

TSA officials wouldn't say who the call came from or who received it.

The passengers were placed on later flights, American Airlines officials said.

AP-ES-03-27-04 1127EST

Jury Believes Mom's Voodoo Claim


Found Innocent Of Criminal Negligent Homicide

Mar 23, 2004 12:50 pm US/Eastern

NEW YORK (AP) A Brooklyn mom claims a voodoo spell kept her from getting medical help for her dying son. A Brooklyn jury believed the woman.

So 31-year-old Judith Saint Hillaire was sentenced to probation and ordered to attend parenting class. She was found innocent of criminally negligent homicide but convicted of endangering the welfare of a child.

The woman was charged with the death of her three-year-old son, who was suffering with a 105 fever and an infection back in June 2002.

She claimed a neighbor put a voodoo spell on her to keep her from calling 9-1-1 to help her son.

Conservative student finds some allies


By Richard Halstead, IJ reporter

A 17-year-old Sonoma high school student who has received national publicity because of his conservative political views received a warm reception from a group of Marin Republican women yesterday.

Tim Bueler - who has called his teachers at Rancho Cotate High School "liberal traitors" and angered minority students there with inflammatory language - told the 30 members of Marin Republican Women Federated who turned out to hear him speak that they felt like family.

Bueler, dressed yesterday in a black suit and white open-collared shirt, contends that teachers at Rancho Cotate are failing to provide students with an education that is fair and balanced politically.

"There is a liberal slant in every course I take," Bueler said. "They have rewritten the history my grandfather lived."

He noted that he learned everything he knows from his grandfather, who served in World War II, talk radio and books outside school.

In an effort to drive home his point, Bueler quoted Adolf Hitler: "'When I have your kids I have it all.'"

The Conservative Club he organized at the school last fall has been outlawed because its leaders won't place the club's money in a shared student body account. But Bueler is attempting to start similar clubs at high schools around the country.

"Marin is No. 1 on my list," Bueler said.

Sherry Johanson, a spokeswoman for Marin Republican Women Federated, said her group was interested in hearing Bueler speak because students at some Marin schools share his concerns about teacher bias.

"One of the problems that we're seeing as Republicans is that high school students are not getting a true education," Johanson said.

"They're complaining themselves," she said, noting that she has spoken with students at Redwood High School in Larkspur and Sir Francis Drake High Schoo in San Anselmo. "They feel they're not getting both sides of the story."

The controversy swirling around Bueler, a junior at Rancho Cotate, gained momentum in December when he wrote in a Conservative Club newsletter, "Liberals welcome every Muhammad, Jamul and Jose who wishes to leave his Third World state and come to America - mostly illegally - to rip off our health-care system, balkanize our language and destroy our political system."

"I didn't sugarcoat it," Bueler said yesterday, after repeating the incendiary language. "That set them off."

This invoked a spate of laughter from the audience.

After his article was published, Bueler says he was harassed, threatened and called a "Nazi" by some students. Instead of offering him protection, his principal suggested he go home for several days to allow the storm to blow over.

Bueler's refusal to do so has won him praise and attention from conservatives nationwide - including on Fox television's "The O'Reilly Factor."

"I had every right to be in school," Bueler said.

The school's superintendent assigned security officers to escort Bueler to class for the next two months.

"That's gone," Bueler said.

But Bueler continues to attract the ire of those who don't share his conservative views. He said a Latino student threw a bottle at him two weeks ago.

"Conservatives, by nature, are rebels," Bueler told his audience yesterday, recalling that he recently got in trouble with a group of Sonoma Republicans for criticizing President Bush's push for temporary amnesty for illegal aliens. After Bush announced that policy, Bueler was quoted as saying, "The Republican Party is too liberal for me."

Bueler said he believes creationism should be taught side-by-side with evolution in high schools and he considers homosexuality a sin.

"I'm a Christian, first and foremost," Bueler said.

He told his audience that he appreciated their "lonely" efforts to preserve the republic.

"You must have felt like a minority in your own country," Bueler said. "You are no longer alone; the younger generation is here. Only a more conservative America can survive."

Contact Richard Halstead via e-mail at rhalstead@marinij.com

Anti-evolutionism is subject of lecture


Posted on Thu, Mar. 25, 2004


Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader

On a wall in Eugenie Scott's California office is a list of what she calls "flare-ups."

Those are places where creationism, the "Adam and Eve" theory based on the Bible, is making a run at evolution, the "natural selection" idea first put forward nearly a century and a half ago by Charles Darwin.

When a flare-up happens, Scott's phone rings.

The former University of Kentucky anthropologist is now a full-time creationist buster.

Scott, whose official title is executive director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, will be back in Lexington on Friday to speak at the fourth annual Darwin Lecture sponsored by the Kentucky Paleontological Society.

Her topic: "Anti-evolutionism in the 21st Century."

"She's probably the leading person in the country in this particular controversy," society president Daniel J. Phelps said.

There are fights over whether creationism should be taught in science classes in Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma and a number of other places.

There is controversy over a book being sold in Grand Canyon National Park bookstores that claims the canyon was created very quickly by the Genesis flood, not over millions of years by the Colorado River.

There is a creationist museum going up in Northern Kentucky that will show dinosaurs living alongside humans.

Is the Earth a few billion years old, as most scientists say? Or is it only a few thousand years old, as many creationists believe?

Americans clearly have not settled on an answer.

"This is not typical of other developed countries. We really stand out in terms of anti-evolutionism," Scott said.

Her first "flare-up" began 24 years ago in Lexington.

A group called Citizens for a Balanced Teaching of Origins pressed Fayette County school officials to teach what they called "scientific creationism" in classrooms.

Scott, who had been saving creationist literature throughout graduate school, was one of several university people who pointed out that "scientific creationism really isn't scientific at all."

They were joined by a number of what she calls "mainstream clergy" and eventually persuaded the school board to reject creationism. She has followed that model in other controversies since she took the science center job in 1987.

In dealing with an issue that can generate strong emotions, citing science often isn't enough, Scott said.

"Yes, you have to deal with the science, but you also have to deal with the politics and the social issues and with people's misunderstanding of what science is," she said.

If Charles Darwin were around today, Scott said, he would be extremely impressed by the advancements in all areas of science, including evolution.

"But I think he would be very surprised at the high level of rejection of evolution in the general public compared to its progress in science," she said.

He might also be surprised at President Bush's comment that "On the issue of evolution, the verdict is still out."

When asked about that comment, the president's chief science adviser, John H. Marburger III, replied that "Evolution is a cornerstone of modern biology."

Still, Americans are unconvinced.

Gallup pollsters have been asking people about the issue for a couple of decades, and the answers have remained the same:

About 45 percent agree that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

About 37 percent agree that "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process."

About 12 percent chose "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process."

Ken Ham, a leading creationist whose Answers in Genesis organization is building the museum at Petersburg in Northern Kentucky, knows of Scott and her anti-creationist work.

"Genie Scott wants people to believe we are not scientists, that we don't believe in science," he said, adding that a number of his supporters have advanced degrees in science.

Scott's standard reply is to urge people to go to a library and look through scientific journals for any articles questioning whether evolution took place.

"You won't find it," she said. "That's because the scientific community, as opposed to the general public, is quite convinced that the universe has had a history."

Reach Andy Mead at (859) 231-3319 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3319, or amead@herald-leader.com.

Herbal industry fending off FDA

By Alice Dembner, Globe Staff, 3/26/2004


Despite a recent federal ban of two harmful dietary supplements, the herbal industry retains the clout in Washington that for years helped keep regulation of its products to a minimum, according to many consumer advocates, politicians, and doctors.

Among the signs they cite: Potentially dangerous supplements -- such as kava, an herb linked to liver failure and banned in several European nations -- remain on the market. Recently, the industry got Congress to exclude DHEA, a hormone with more than $47 million in sales, from a pending bill that would restrict steroid-like substances, according to aides to Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Delaware Democrat who is one of the bill's sponsors.

Supplement makers and sellers are also mobilizing the estimated 65 percent of Americans who use these products to oppose a separate bill that would give the US Food and Drug Administration more authority over the industry. The millions of dollars the industry has contributed to members of Congress over the last decade ensures that the companies' views are heard.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican who has been the biggest Congressional advocate for dietary supplements, received $41,750 from the industry for his last reelection campaign. The industry, which Nutrition Business Journal says tallied $19.4 billion in sales last year, also has contributed $10,000 so far this election cycle to President Bush, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"The dietary supplement industry is very powerful politically," said Senator Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who has introduced a bill that would impose more safety rules on supplement makers. "There's a reluctance with this administration to take on the industry."

Durbin and many consumer advocates say the FDA's recent actions to remove ephedra and androstenedione from the market were overdue and only came after evidence of the products' safety problems was so overwhelming that the industry supported a crackdown.

Durbin likens the industry's power to that of tobacco companies. "I think both industries were well aware that their product was harmful and they went to great lengths to prevent the public from realizing it," he said.

But industry spokesmen say their products are safer than most drugs and deserve to remain free of the requirements for safety testing that cover drugs. They say they support the FDA's recent actions because they are addressing serious problems that were damaging the industry as a whole.

"There are very few instances where it's necessary to take these products off the market," said Annette Dickinson, president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition. "Ephedra and andro, yes. But I would be stretched to think of any others."

For years, the FDA has had authority to regulate dietary supplements, but the balance of power shifted dramatically in 1994. Pressed by a massive grass-roots campaign orchestrated by the industry, Congress voted to allow most supplements on the market without tests for safety or efficacy and to require the FDA to prove that supplements are unsafe before halting sales.

Sales of supplements soared. As reports trickled in of deaths linked to use of ephedra as a diet pill, the FDA tried to limit the allowed dosage, but was beaten back by Congress and the industry. Short of money and burdened by other demands, the FDA put its priorities elsewhere.

Hatch, whose district includes many supplement companies and who sponsored the 1994 law, accuses the agency of deliberately dragging its feet in a vain attempt to get Congress to restore its authority over supplements.

Finally, after the industry began abandoning ephedra because of consumer lawsuits, the FDA announced a ban, effective April 12, the first prohibition of any supplement since 1994.

The companies "fight every step of the way, and when the writing is on the wall, they concede the point and stick to their guns on other issues," said Chuck Bell, programs director for Consumers Union, which has published repeated warnings about dietary supplements.

Two weeks ago, the FDA acted again, warning 23 companies to remove the steroid precursor androstenedione from the market or risk severe penalties. The FDA said the supplement, pitched as a muscle enhancer, could stunt growth in children and cause problematic sexual changes in adults. Again, the action came years after problems surfaced and only after the industry endorsed the restrictions.

Asked why the FDA had not acted sooner in both cases, a spokesman for the Bush administration's top health official, Tommy G. Thompson, said the law requires the FDA to compile a lot of evidence.

"If you don't, you can get pushed back, and you've not accomplished anything, " said Bill Pierce, spokesman for Thompson, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

FDA officials this month also proclaimed a crackdown" on unsafe dietary supplements and said they are giving special scrutiny to a stimulant called bitter orange that is being used in some "ephedra-free" products. In addition, they said they are examining two other ingredients in diet supplements, aristolochic acid, a known carcinogen, and usnic acid, which has been linked to liver toxicity. In 2001, the FDA asked manufacturers to stop selling 18 products containing aristolochic acid, but two California cancer researchers reported last year that supplements with the substance were readily available on the Internet. And the Globe was able to find some still for sale.

Aristolochic acid "is the poster child for FDA's ineffectiveness" in the face of a powerful industry and the current law, said Dr. Arthur P. Grollman, a professor of pharmacology and medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Kava is another, Grollman and others said. The FDA warned kava consumers about the potential risk of severe liver damage in March 2002. The herb, promoted for relaxation and premenstrual syndrome, is banned or restricted in Europe, Canada, and Australia. But companies here voluntarily added a warning label and kept selling, recording $30 million in US kava sales last year, according to Nutrition Business Journal.

Joseph Baca, director of compliance for the FDA office that oversees supplements, said the agency was monitoring reports of problems with kava, "as much as we do with any other dietary supplement." The FDA estimates it learns of only 1 percent of the problems with any supplement, making it hard to prove safety risks.

Some consumer advocates are pressing for Durbin's bill, which would require safety testing of all stimulants, mandate that companies report all serious side effects to the FDA, and subject steroid precursors to rules covering drugs. But Durbin acknowledges it faces stiff opposition from the industry.

To rally consumers against the bill, health consultant Beth Clay last summer started Project FANS, or Freedom of Access to Nutritional Supplements, with financial help from the industry. Another industry tactic: signs in some supplement stores proclaiming that "Senator Durbin wants to take away your vitamins," a Durbin aide said.

And one trade group, the National Nutritional Foods Association, uses a lobbying firm founded by Hatch's son to make its views known in Congress.

Hatch and industry representatives say the Durbin bill is unnecessary if the FDA does its job. They say they favor more regulation of bad actors in the industry, and Hatch has advocated small budget increases to help, but he says the current law "gives the FDA ample authority to remove unsafe, adulterated, or mislabeled products from the market."

A bill sponsored by Hatch and Biden to block sales of steroid precursors like androstenedione appears far more likely to pass than Durbin's bill, especially after the hormone DHEA was explicitly excluded from the restrictions.

"There was quite a lobby for DHEA that stalled the House version of the bill introduced in the last Congress," said an aide to Biden, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Dropping it was an important factor in getting the support of the industry."

Five industry trade groups endorsed the bill last fall. Industry representatives say DHEA should be excluded because it is marketed to help ease aging and therefore has little potential for abuse as a performance enhancer.

But Dr. Gary Wadler, a professor at New York University School of Medicine and a member of a foundation that promotes drug-free sports, said excluding DHEA makes no sense. The body converts DHEA into andro and then into testosterone, he said. "It has the same potential for abuse as andro. It should be subject to the same restrictions."

Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

'Divine intervention'
Man in search party prays, then hears child crying

Alan Gathright, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, March 26, 2004
2004 San Francisco Chronicle

URL: sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/03/26/MISSING.TMP

A volunteer searcher looking for a missing 3-year-old in the Santa Cruz Mountains said he had stopped to pray as rain began to fall -- and heard young Aidan Burke crying.

"It was like divine intervention," said Dave Churchill, 45, a San Jose fire captain who lives in Boulder Creek and decided to help search for the missing neighbor boy on his day off.

Realizing the small boy, who'd been gone for nearly 21 hours, probably couldn't survive another night outside in a heavy rain, Churchill said, "I stopped. I said a prayer -- and I swear it was minutes after I said the prayer that I was quiet, and I listened, and I heard crying."

As other searchers gathered around, Churchill wrapped the boy in a blanket.

"I gave him a granola bar. He downed that," he said. The rescuers then rushed the boy downhill to a happy, tearful reunion with his mother.

The barefoot boy was sitting in a redwood grove in an area that searchers had repeatedly tramped through -- but they had missed Aidan because his green shirt and tan shorts blended in with the wooded landscape.

Churchill said the tired, wet boy, who had wandered away from his Brookdale home while playing with his older siblings at about 6 p.m. Wednesday, had apparently been too weary to respond to people calling his name.

"I turned not even 20 yards from me, and the child was sitting right there in the wide open, blending right into the terrain," Churchill said, recounting how he'd found the boy barely 300 yards uphill from his home in a wooded ravine about 2:30 p.m. "I couldn't even see him when I looking at him. I just had to really focus and ... he's right there. He was just sitting there crying."

Later, at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, Shonti Burke, Aidan's mother, thanked the hundreds of searchers and neighbors who had rallied to help find her son.

"On the behalf of my family from the darkest hours to the best day ever, I want to thank everybody," she said. "This is just the best ending we could have. Aidan is well. He's eating."

She said Aidan, who turns 4 in April, only had a bump on his head and some scratches on his abdomen. He was happily wolfing down a hamburger, fries and "double ice cream" in his hospital room. He was expected to be released to his parents Thursday night.

The happy ending capped an anxious hunt that began when Aidan disappeared Wednesday shortly before nightfall as he hunted for banana slugs with his siblings, Will, 8, and Sabrina, 7, and their dog outside the family home near Highway 9.

When the other children came in for dinner without Aidan, his mother frantically called 911, said Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputy Kim Allyn.

Search parties worked throughout the night Wednesday, and the effort mushroomed to about 200 trained members Thursday, including search and rescue teams from six counties. The California Highway Patrol and the Santa Cruz County sheriff's office each dispatched a helicopter to aid in the search, and swift-water rescue teams were exploring the nearby river.

Described as a "rough and tumble" boy, adventurous Aidan told his mom he went for a walk with the family's Doberman pinscher, named Ridge, but slipped on a soggy slope. An hour and a half after the boy was reported missing and deputies arrived, the parents grew alarmed when Ridge returned alone.

Shonti Burke, 31, said the boy appeared to have spent the night on the move. "He talked about walking across rocks, and then he said he was up on the ridge," Burke said. "He got kind of upset-looking when he said he had to sleep on the ground."

Authorities were ecstatic and relieved the boy was found, as a chilling downpour and looming nightfall raised concerns about whether the youngster could survive another night in the elements.

"Think of the odds, think of the weather and a barefoot 3-year-old boy out there all night," Allyn said. "I can't express enough how wonderful this is."

Said Churchill: "It's a great day for everybody who came out here walking the creeks, walking the hills" in search of the boy.

At the hospital, a reporter jokingly asked Shonti Burke whether the boy might get a satellite tracking gadget for his fourth birthday. Yes, the mom shot back, "and a whistle and compass and a cyclone fence."

However, she added: "We promised him he's not in trouble. He looked a little sheepish when we said, 'Daddy's on the way (to the hospital).' "

Geoff Burke, 34, who helped rescuers search for his son, arrived shortly with the rest of the family.

"He's smiling now," Shonti Burke said. "He's got his brother and his sister and all his grandparents there."

In the end, the mother could only say: "We are so grateful."

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

Current News  News Back Issues

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