NTS LogoSkeptical News for 27 May 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, May 27, 2004

AT NEWS: Matthey Trial Ends

1.) Matthey Trial Ends

2.) "Death By Theory" Online

Matthey Trial Ends

In December 1999, 6-year-old Viktor Tulimov escaped a Siberian orphanage via an adoption by a New Jersey couple, Bob and Brenda Matthey. Ten months later, he was dead, apparently (and ironically) from the effects of hypothermia. For most of 2000, he was battered repeatedly -- some might say tortured -- by his adoptive parents. Because of his alleged misbehavior, he was occasionally locked up in a dark, damp, unheated "pump room" in the basement of the Matthey's home.

At death, Viktor Matthey was covered with 40 or more cuts, scrapes and bruises. For their treatment of Viktor, his adoptive parents were convicted this month of three charges of child abuse related to the batterings, each carrying a 5-10 year prison term; they will be sentenced this summer. The Mattheys were acquitted on a witness-tampering charge, and the jury deadlocked, 9-3, on the most serious charges made against the two, manslaughter. Their lawyers vow to appeal the convictions, while prosecutors have not said whether they will re-try the couple on the manslaughter charges.

Manslaughter was charged after Viktor was brought to a hospital in cardiac arrest with a body temperature of only 83.2 degrees and doctors could not revive him. Prosecutors alleged that his condition was the result of being locked overnight in the pump room. An autopsy revealed there was a indigestible mass of uncooked beans in the emaciated boy's stomach.

It took over three years to bring the Mattheys to trial as the defense advanced several alternatives to explain Viktor's condition and death, including prior medical conditions, his maltreatment in Russia, his medications, and his alleged Reactive Attachment Disorder (or Post-Institutionalization). The trial extended over several months.

Viktor's sad story gained national notoriety as another failure of New Jersey's troubled child-welfare system. (See a summary of Viktor's treatment on our website at http://www.ChildrenInTherapy.org/victims/matthey.html, which also has links to some of the major news stories on the case.)

AT NEWS believes the Matthey trial revealed a number of features and associations with Attachment Therapy and AT parenting methods:

1.) ADOPTION AGENCY INVOLVEMENT. The Matthey's adopted Viktor using the services of the Adoption Alliance of Aurora (Colorado) -- an organization that "highly" recommends Attachment Therapy literature. A spokesman also told AT NEWS that the Adoption Alliance holds "occasional classes" on Attachment Disorder and Attachment Therapy.

2.) DIAGNOSIS. Psychologist Anait Azarian, testifying for the parents, claimed Viktor had Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), which led him to need to be "in control." Needing to be in control is not a feature of RAD. The parents, however, reported this behavior and others consistent with the unrecognized diagnosis called "Attachment Disorder."

3.) BLAME THE CHILD The parents claimed Viktor self-inflicted the injuries that covered his body. Expert testimony claimed that some injuries, such as those on the boy's back and buttocks were of the type and severity that could not be self-inflicted.

4.) RESTRAINING DURING TANTRUMS. Viktor's parents claim they held him down (sometimes in bath water) for "five minutes of being still and calm."

5.) AVERSIVES. Viktor was sprayed with cold water for bedwetting. His father admitted to duct-taping Viktor's mouth closed. Viktor was fed foods, such as oatmeal, suggesting AT "soup kitchen" regime. "[Viktor's brother] described a mixture of beans and barley that was used to punish Viktor: he was forced to eat the mixture before a buzzer went off-if he failed to finish, he would not be allowed to have a drink." A pediatrician who saw Viktor in the hospital ER claimed: "He was remarkably wasted. There was muscle wasting. You could see all his bones."

6.) SCREAM ROOM. Viktor was allegedly shut in the basement pump room. AT survivors report long stays isolated in basement "scream rooms."

7.) RE-PARENTING. Mrs. Matthey fed her three adoptive children (ages 4, 4, and 7) with a baby bottle for "bonding time." She claimed to spoon feed Viktor like a baby.

8.) PARENT REACTION. The parents believed Viktor's behavior problems were typical of foreign adoptees, according to their research. This was apparently their explanation for failing to seek medical or psychiatric attention for Viktor.

9.) CHURCH SUPPORT. The parents apparently had the support of their church congregation despite Viktor's deteriorating state. The parents claim they consulted informally with their friends about Viktor; those friends are two physicians who run an "evangelistic medical ministry."

10.) STATE SUPPORT. The State of New Jersey DYFS has created a climate favorable to Attachment Therapy/Parenting. DYFS has itself published a paper favorable to Attachment Therapy and has recommended a number of AT websites to the public.


"DEATH BY THEORY: Attachment therapy is based on a pseudoscientific theory that, when put into practice, can be deadly"
By Michael Shermer
June 2004

AT NEWS sends the latest news/opinions to activists and allied organizations about the many abusive, pseudoscientific, and violent practices inflicted on children by the fringe psychotherapy known as Attachment Therapy, aka "holding therapy" and "therapeutic parenting." Attachment Therapists claim to work with our nation's most vulnerable of children, e.g. minority children, children in foster care, and adoptees. AT NEWS is the publication of Advocates for Children in Therapy. For more information on Attachment Therapy and a film clip demonstrating AT, go to the Utah activists' site at http://www.kidscomefirst.info and ACT's website: http://www.childrenintherapy.org.

Contact: Linda Rosa, RN
Executive Director
Loveland, CO

Panel Finds Mold in Buildings Is No Threat to Most People


May 26, 2004


Stepping into an issue that has alarmed homeowners and led to hundreds of lawsuits and billions of dollars in insurance payments, a government panel of experts reported yesterday that toxic mold in homes did not appear to pose a serious health threat to most people.

Though the experts said mold and indoor dampness were associated with respiratory problems and symptoms of asthma in certain susceptible people, they found no evidence of a link between mold and conditions like brain or neurological damage, reproductive problems and cancer. They based their conclusions on a review of hundreds of scientific papers and reports but warned that the research was limited and that more studies were needed.

The panel, which consisted of epidemiologists, toxicologists and pediatricians, was convened by the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences that advises the federal government on health issues. Its findings come as public concern about mold-related health problems grows, stoked in part by lawsuits and accounts of people driven from their homes and schools by mold. In 2002, insurers in the United States paid out $2.5 billion in mold-related claims.

Yesterday's findings drew criticism from homeowners who say they have experienced the phenomenon.

"I get calls from people every day saying they've had water problems, windows that leak, or water plumbing events behind the walls," said Janet Ahmad, president of Homeowners for Better Building in San Antonio, an advocacy group for people affected by mold. "Somebody in the house usually has nosebleeds. They go away for the weekend and the children stop coughing and having nosebleeds."

But the government panel said even the link between mold and respiratory problems had yet to be demonstrated conclusively.

``We know that when people are in damp spaces they report more upper respiratory tract problems and asthma symptoms," said its chairwoman, Dr. Noreen Clark, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan. "But we don't know that mold is the cause, because dampness is associated with dust mites, bacteria, and can lead to chemical emissions from buildings and from furnishings."

Dr. Jordan N. Fink, an expert on allergy and immunology at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee who was not a member of the panel, disagreed, saying there was strong evidence that dampness and mold cause allergic diseases.

"The allergy literature over the years demonstrates that molds can cause asthma and hay fever," said Dr. Fink, a professor of pediatrics and medicine.

Dr. Fink did agree with the finding that there was no basis to claims that molds could produce nonallergic health problems. In the more than 70 years that scientists have studied molds, he said, "you would think that someone would have reported some evidence of that."

Melinda Ballard, a Texas homeowner who won a $32 million judgment against an insurer in a mold-related lawsuit several years ago (later reduced to $4 million), said her mold-infested home made her family violently ill in a matter of months. Her husband suffered memory loss, had trouble breathing and started coughing up blood. He had brain seizures that were evident in brain scans. Their son developed stomach problems and diarrhea.

A mold expert found that they were breathing in mycotoxins, a mold often caused by water damage, and persuaded them to leave, Ms. Ballard said. Some scientists say mycotoxins can cause brain and lung damage.

The Ballards lived in Austin, not far from a school where large amounts of stachybotrys, another mold linked to health problems, were found in 2000. Some teachers and students became sick as a result.

"When so many people have been exposed to similar varieties of mold and they're all reporting the same symptoms, the bottom line is: Are we all a bunch of pathological liars, or is there something to this?" said Ms. Ballard, who formed an organization called Policyholders of America.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company



May 26, 2004
New Look at Drug's Genesis Offers a Cure for Anonymity
The Story of the Penicillin Miracle

By Eric Lax
Illustrated. 307 pages. Henry Holt & Company

These are good times for the forgotten heroes of science, for the also-rans, for the runners-up. In the last couple of years there have been big and well-received books about Rosalind Franklin, who should have been given more ample credit for her work on the discovery of DNA, and Alfred Russel Wallace, whose work on evolutionary theory matches that of Darwin and who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest." There have been laudatory articles about the work of Fred Hoyle, who figured out where all the atoms in the human body came from, but whose colleague Willy Fowler won the kudos for saying so, and Jocelyn Bell, who discovered pulsars but is all but forgotten beyond astronomy and remains unhonored.

Now in his admirable, superbly researched (and alluringly titled) new book, the Los Angeles-based biographer Eric Lax — rather better known for tackling more obvious subjects like Woody Allen and Humphrey Bogart — has turned his attention to the unsung heroes of the penicillin saga. That saga, perhaps the most exciting tale of science since the apple dropped on Newton's head, is dominated in the public mind by the severe and patrician figure of the Scotsman who first noticed the antibiotic properties of the mold Penicillium notatum, Alexander Fleming.

By reminding us of the stellar contributions to that same story that were made by the Oxford University team of Howard Florey, Ernst Chain and a hitherto utterly anonymous chemist named Norman Heatley, Mr. Lax has performed a service to science of which he should be proud and all must be grateful.

He was prompted to do so in 1999, after reading an obituary of Anne Miller, the first American to have been given the newly-minted wonder drug. She had been injected with it in New Haven in March 1942, after coming down with a furious infection in the aftermath of a miscarriage. She recovered almost immediately, prompting the drug companies that had been toying with the notion of manufacturing penicillin to swing into full-scale production.

Within months all the scourges of war and poverty and dirt — gonorrhea, meningitis, anthrax, diphtheria, gas gangrene, tetanus and a foul complaint of the soldiery called lumpy abscesses — had at last met their match, via a needle and a tincture of mold extract; and until the dread modern concerns of drug-resistance raised their head, so penicillin stood in the vanguard of anti-bacterial drugs, the greatest medical advance of all time.

But what Mr. Lax has done at long last is to hand out the properly deserved degrees of merit to all who were involved in the making of this extraordinary and fugitive piece of magical chemistry. If his prompt came in the form of that brief obituary (and its expansion by Alistair Cooke into a particularly memorable "Letter from America"), it was his adroit realization that there was a mystery to solve, and so probably another story to be told, that led to this book.

The mystery is one that can be readily seen by looking at the index entry for "Fleming, Alexander" in Gwyn Macfarlane's supposedly definitive biography of penicillin's discoverer, published in 1984. The index entry is 87 lines long. A third of these are devoted to Fleming's list of honors and honorary degrees. But between the entry about the discovery of penicillin and one noting the first systemic use of penicillin there are only 14 lines, and one of those is a reference to Fleming's doubt that the drug might ever be useful.

Yet fully 13 years separated the two events: Fleming discovered the mold's effect in 1928, and the first human guinea pig (guinea pigs themselves react badly to the drug; mice were used instead) was injected in 1941. So just what was happening in those 13 intervening years? Why did it take so long to turn an interesting chemical conceit into a life-saving piece of pharmaceutical weaponry? And during those years what contribution exactly did Fleming himself make? What was it that permitted him, primus inter pares, eventually to be buried in St. Paul's Cathedral as one of the most honored and revered Britons of all time?

Mr. Lax sets the record straight. He tells us just what took place following that fate-directed moment in 1938 when an Einstein look-alike from Berlin, Ernst Chain, stumbled across Fleming's 1929 paper announcing the interesting properties of the mold (which he had found in old tennis shoes, among other places). Chain and Florey, then working in Oxford, decided to investigate further. They enlisted the brilliant and modest chemist Norman Heatley to join their team, and then slowly and painstakingly they produced enough pure crystalline penicillin to test on sick mammals.

The results were stunning. Lives were saved in their tens of thousands. American drug companies caught on to the profitability of the drug and made millions. And in a monstrous piece of injustice Fleming's old boss, Almroth Wright, wrote a letter to The Times of London saying that the laurel wreath for the making of the miracle belonged to Fleming.

For years the supporters of the Oxford team tried in vain to have the world honor them as well. And true, Florey and Chain did join Fleming in winning the 1945 Nobel Prize; but the headline in The New York Times said it all: "Fleming and Two Co-Workers Get Nobel for Penicillin Boon." They were regarded merely as the hired help. And these days they are all but forgotten.

As is Heatley, the modest chemist who did all the hardest laboratory work, both in Oxford and in Peoria, Ill., where penicillin was first made commercially. He died in January, in his old Oxford cottage, having in the weeks before spoken at length to Mr. Lax, perhaps the first writer ever to have taken him seriously, as he does in this valuable and eminently readable book.

Simon Winchester, author of "The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary," is working on a book about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

To teach science, try focusing on Intelligent Design


Posted on Wed, May. 26, 2004

Guest Column By David Emmons
for The News-Sentinel

Why is it that they want to teach religion in the public schools? As I hear of the debate going on about teaching evolution or intelligent design, I have to protest. There are those who want to teach creationism from Genesis. No one wants this, as this is not science. Let's leave history to the historians, religion to those trained in theology and science to scientists. I do not want my child being taught religion, of any sort, by anyone but a member of the clergy -- one whom I have approved of. My neighbor may pick someone else. This is as it should be.

When it comes to science, we assume that our children are being taught the scientific method, from the development of a hypothesis, to the gathering of evidence to the formulation of a working theory. Science knows that most things cannot be established as absolute fact. It works with reasonable theories that more often than not hold true under scrutiny. So far, science.

This is the problem: Our children are being taught that evolution is a fact. There simply is not enough evidence to even make it a theory. At best it is a hypothesis. This is fine, but this is not how it is presented. Anyone remember the TV show Cosmos? Carl Sagan said that evolution is a fact. By saying this, he was telling us about his faith and belief, but not science.

Intelligent design is science. Let's take it out and away from Genesis and leave it there so that we can explore scientifically a body of evidence. Even many scientists have decided that life here on Earth was seeded by an alien race, as the data just does not support Darwinian evolution. Not one link to bridge any species-to-species jump has turned up.

Intelligent design is based on information theory. Information theory states that the least bit of randomness introduced to an information system creates chaos and destroys that system. It will never lead to positive change.

Our DNA is an information system, and all life has it. Mathematics sides with design rather than chance. The probability for chance to create such great diversity of life, let alone one strand of DNA, on this planet is very close to impossible. Design, on the other hand, is most highly probable.

All this is science and ought to be taught. Just because it requires a super-intelligence is of no concern to science. There are many things we have discovered that are bigger than we are. Not all things can be known.

I wish humanity would get off this arrogant kick that it can get its little finite and mortal brain around everything.

Why can't there be something far bigger and superior in the universe (or outside it) that we never can explain? Let's deal with what we do have and look at it scientifically.

Evolution has simply become a religion -- the opiate of the masses. It takes faith to believe in something that lacks so much in evidence to support it. Let it become extinct with the dinosaur. We have invested so much time and money into it, but it is time to be honest and let it go. As a great society that leads the world in its information technology, we ought to turn this talent to good use. The wonders of life have the imprint of a great mind, which we ought to be thrilled to investigate.

David Emmons is a resident of Fort Wayne.

© 2004 News Sentinel and wire service sources.

A brief history of bollocks


Article26 May 2004

by Brendan O'Neill

'It was originally going to be subtitled "A Brief History of Bollocks" but the publishers balked', says Francis Wheen, as he bashes open a bottle of Becks for me by hitting it against the corner of Ian Hislop's desk. There's no bottle opener, he explains, because not many people round here drink beer.

The dusty, stuffy offices of the satirical magazine Private Eye, where the unmistakeable whiff of five-hour lunches lingers in the air and a portrait of the late Peter Cook gazes down from the wall, may seem an improbable setting in which to raise the barricades in defence of Enlightenment values. But as well as being the Eye's 'sort of deputy editor', Wheen is author of How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions (previously 'A Brief History of Bollocks'), a jolly rant against contemporary anti-reason and the retreat of rationality before a motley crew of postmodernists, primitivists, Diana worshippers and Deepak Chopra.

Despite the title change the book is full of bollocks, all expertly attacked by Wheen. He berates postmodernists who claim there is no such thing as truth; Islamic fundamentalists who hark back to a pre-Enlightenment medievalism; rural anarchists who hark back even further, to an imagined pre-agrarian Golden Age where men hunted and were happy; cranky creationists who teach kids that God made Adam, Eve, the Earth and presumably the entire solar system 5000 years ago, and that all those pesky dinosaur bones are a conspiracy by The Man; and spineless politicians who not only refuse to criticise the creationists ('it's a sin to pass judgement these days', says Wheen), but subsidise them. 'The sleep of reason brings forth monsters', Wheen whispers, between sips of fizzy white wine.

Wheen reckons we're living through a counter-revolution against the Enlightenment, that revolution in human affairs when reason was elevated over tradition and superstition to become, in the words of one author, 'the arbiter of truth and the foundation of objective knowledge'. 'The Enlightenment brought us out of the dark', says Wheen. 'Now we seem to be heading back in.' In his book he celebrates the Enlightenment's gains - how it led to the 'waning of absolutism and superstition, the rise of secular democracy, the transformation of historical and scientific study'. The Enlightenment put us centre stage, says Wheen, as the makers of history and destiny. 'Yet now, 200 years later, there are people who believe their Tuesday mornings are determined by the alignment of the planets'.

As a good God-fearin' atheist and some time contributor to the New Humanist magazine, Wheen is especially aghast at the apparent rise of the creationist movement. 'Those people', he says, as a full sentence, to indicate that he doesn't much care for the likes of the Christian fundamentalists who in 2002 took control of a state-funded school in north-east England intending to 'show the superiority' of creationist beliefs in their classes. 'Why don't we have schools that teach children there is a tooth fairy or put Santa Claus Studies on the national curriculum, and be done with it?'

Wheen was most struck by prime minister Tony Blair's response to revelations of a creationist takeover of a state-run school. When Lib Dem Jenny Tonge asked Blair if he was 'happy to allow the teaching of creationism alongside Darwin's theory of evolution in state schools', the prime minister said: 'In the end, a more diverse school system will deliver better results for our children.' 'A simple "no" to Tonge's query would have sufficed', says Wheen, 'and perhaps shown that the prime minister of the United Kingdom believes in reason. This is a man whose mantra is "education, education, education". He ought to know better.'

Listening to Wheen talk about crazy creationists who spin yarns about the beginnings of mankind and politicians who ought to know better begs a question: who's driving the anti-Enlightenment? Is it outside forces, virulent strains in the body politic like creationists and other assorted anti-modernists and sects? Or has there been a corrosion at the centre itself, a loss of faith in the 'gains of the Enlightenment' among the political elite and intellectuals which has allowed irrationality to flourish?

Wheen writes of an 'incongruous coalition of postmodernists and primitivists, New Age and Old Testament', the leaders of which have been 'remarkably effective over the past quarter-century'. He says he would have liked to have called his book 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds', except that Victorian journalist Charles Mackay 'bagged that title' back in 1852. Popular delusions and mad crowds? Are they what are driving the retreat of reason? He tells me that one reason why politicians refuse to pass judgement on creationists is because they're afraid they will lose votes from…creationists. So politicians hold back from defending reason and rationality because they feel beholden to the unreasonable and irrational masses?

'I'd say it's a dual process', says Wheen. 'There are doubts about Enlightenment values at the political centre and that does allow these irrational forces to come up. There has certainly been a trahison des clercs. I mean, look at Cherie Blair.'

The prime minister's wife is a favourite punchbag of Wheen's, and it isn't hard to see why. Despite being a practising Catholic, a practising barrister and, whether she likes it or not, part of the British state machinery, Mrs Blair has become infamous for her dalliances with New Age nonsense. She reportedly wears crystals to ward off the evil effects of computers and telephones, and in summer 2001 took part in a sweaty, muddy Mayan rebirthing ceremony (with Tony) while holidaying on the Mexican Riviera, revisited in glorious detail in Wheen's book. For Wheen, Cherie symbolises how weakness at the centre plays a role in the rise of irrationalism; even her apparent devout Catholicism, it seems, is not enough to keep her away from crystal bollocks - which doesn't say much for today's Catholic Church.

Wheen is strong on ridiculing those who have 'abandoned Enlightenment values', but not so strong on explaining how the anti-Enlightenment came about. His book is a riveting read - Thatcher, Bin Ladenites, conspiracy theorists, catastrophists, the Blairs and creationists (of course) all incur his witty wrath. But while it has plenty of sparkle, it has a little less substance. It never fully answers the question of why, over 200 years after the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, we have a prime minister who once covered himself in crap and screamed like a lunatic while surrounded by lizard symbols in Mexico to symbolise the pain of rebirth. Consequently, it sometimes feels as though Wheen is taking potshots at fairly easy targets.

'I wanted to alert people to some worrying developments', he says. Yet there is mumbo-jumbo that is far more mainstream than creationism or Mayan rebirthing. What about environmentalism, which holds that humanity should know its place on the planet? Forget the Enlightenment belief that man should rise above nature and make his own destiny - green-minded writers argue that humans are a virus sucking the planet dry, that, in the words of John Gray, Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics, we are a 'plague' on the planet. What about anti-globalisation, which calls for a return to small-scale production as an alternative to big corporations - something that Marx, the greatest Enlightened thinker and the subject of Wheen's previous book, certainly wouldn't have supported?

Wheen says he doesn't want to be 'nasty' about greens or anti-capitalists, though he certainly lays into them in his book. 'They are a menace but I'm not sure they are a wilful menace', he says. 'I expect most of them are well-meaning…. I respect Monbiot [as in George, the Guardian's green-fingered columnist], though I recognise that he works very much within the system.' This is the same Monbiot who once argued that 'flying across the Atlantic is as unacceptable...as child abuse'; who said the hundredth anniversary of the Wright brothers taking to the skies celebrated earlier this year ought to have been an 'international day of mourning' because planes are 'killing machines'; who wails that 'the world is dying and people are killing themselves with laughter'.

Yet Wheen says that when greenish groups 'get McDonald's or someone to change the way they act and what they sell, I like that'. That's a bit of a comedown, isn't it? From defending the gains of the greatest moment in human history to celebrating the availability of a chicken Caesar salad at a madeover McDonald's?

Wheen hands me another beer across a desk strewn with material for the forthcoming Private Eye - scribbled notes, cartoons, a very cheeky letter written by old Tory journo Peregrine Worsthorne to the Daily Telegraph regarding its former owner Lord Conrad Black and a possible prison sentence, which the Telegraph declined to publish. Wheen assures me that Private Eye has a cleaner, 'though it doesn't seem to make much difference'.

I can't help but wonder what the Eye makes of Wheen's Enlightenment values. The last time I checked, Private Eye was one of the few remaining publications to give credence to Dr Andrew Wakefield, the leading protagonist of the idea that there's a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and autism. Despite a lack of evidence, and the fact that Wakefield's original 1998 Lancet paper that launched the scare has been repudiated by 10 of its 13 co-authors, Private Eye continues to defend Wakefield against what it considers to be an underhand political campaign against him. I notice that on the wall behind Wheen there is a framed letter written by satirist Jonathan Miller to the editors of the Eye in the 1960s, upbraiding them for making a mistake in one of his articles. It begins: 'You stupid irresponsible CUNTS....' Perhaps the same description could be extended to the current Eye for its coverage of the MMR crisis.

Wheen, for one, recognises that anti-science sentiment today is sometimes expressed in 'scares about this and that, a kind of irrational fear'. And 'certainly I am in favour of scientifically testing things and proving whether they are true or not', he says, in our foray into science and cynicism. The subject changes again, and we end up in a heated debate about the Iraq war, which Wheen 'kind of, sort of, a little bit supported'. 'Hold on', he says, nipping out for more beers.

How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World is published by Fourth Estate. (Buy this book from Amazon UK.)

Reprinted from : http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CA53C.htm

Who's up for a creationism debate?


May. 26, 2004 12:00 AM

Your editorial "Faith vs. Fact" May 13 states that religion is about faith in the unseen while science is about observable fact.

This is the basic conflict of teaching evolutionism while not teaching creationism. Although both are religious philosophies about our unobservable origins, our public school systems teach the foundation of secular humanism, Darwinian style evolution, as scientific fact.

World renowned evolutionist L. Luvtrup stated: "It is a great misfortune if an entire branch of science becomes addicted to a false theory but this is what has happened in biology - one day the Darwinian myth will be ranked as the greatest deceit in the history of science."

Since The Republic, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and ASU President Michael Crow have taken the public stance that evolution is science; our community can best be served by your newspaper sponsoring a public debate on "Evolution, Faith or Fact?"

I challenge anyone Horne, Crow or The Republic chooses to debate that Darwinian evolution is science. I will debate that it is a religious belief backed by multiple errors in the textbooks. I doubt if you will get any takers. - Russ Miller, Flagstaff

The writer is with the Creation, Evolution and Science Ministries.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Full Moon Exerts No Pull on Frequency of Epileptic Seizures


Source: University of South Florida

Released: Tue 25-May-2004, 14:40 ET

Medical News


Tampa, FL (May 25, 2004) -- Newswise -- Werewolves notwithstanding, the full moon does not influence the frequency of epileptic seizures, reports a University of South Florida study.

"Contrary to the myth, epileptic seizures are not more common during a full moon," said Selim Benbadis, MD, associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the USF College of Medicine. "In fact, we found the number of epileptic seizures was lowest during the full moon and highest in the moon's last quarter."

The study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Epilepsy & Behavior, is posted in the journal’s online version.

Dr. Benbadis said he decided to investigate the possible relationship between phases of the moon and the frequency of seizures after repeatedly hearing patients claim that their seizures were triggered or worsened by the full moon. "Even some health care professionals believe this, but it's never been scientifically tested," he said.

Dr. Benbadis and his colleagues statistically analyzed 770 seizures recorded over three years in the epilepsy monitoring unit at Tampa General Hospital. Monitoring brain activity in this unit allows physicians to confirm a diagnosis of epilepsy, determine precisely the location and type of seizures a patient experiences and evaluate the best treatment option.

The researchers divided the seizures into epileptic seizures, those caused by electrical disruptions in the brain, and psychogenic nonepileptic seizures, those that are not caused by brain electrical disruptions and tend to be emotional. The most epileptic seizures, 152, were recorded in the moon’s last quarter. The researchers found epileptic seizures decreased to their lowest number, 94, during the full moon.

The full moon appeared to slightly, but not significantly, increase psychogenic nonepileptic seizures.

Other studies exploring the potential connection of lunar phases with heart attacks, birth rates, suicides, and psychiatric hospital admissions have found little or no association. Why then, does the belief persist that the moon may have some mystical gravitational power over our health and well being?

In the past, before physicians recognized that epilepsy was caused by processes in a person's own body, the disease's frightening seizures were associated with demonic possession and witchcraft, Dr. Benbadis said. "Some people still seem to like poetic, mysterious and irrational explanations for puzzling diseases like epilepsy."

- USF -

The online version of this study can be accessed at http://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S1525505004001076

© 2004 Newswise.

Church Investigates Weeping Statues


Tue May 25,11:29 AM ET

Add Oddly Enough - Reuters to My Yahoo!

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Several statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary in an Australian hall have apparently begun weeping and bleeding rose oil, prompting the Catholic Church to launch an investigation, a church official said on Tuesday.

Hundreds of people have flocked to a Vietnamese community hall near St Mary's Church in the Brisbane suburb of Inala after news spread that several statues, crucifixes, tablecloths and a set of prayer beads were oozing rose-scented oil.

"It's one of those matters where you proceed prudently," said Father Adrian Farrelly, who has been appointed by the church to investigate the incident.

The objects, which reportedly began bleeding and weeping a week ago, have been placed behind glass in the hall until investigators can examine them.

"It looks genuine enough, but then I suppose I don't know what a fake one looks like," visitor Mark Power told Brisbane's Courier-Mail newspaper on Tuesday. "I'd like to believe, but (I'll) wait and see what the church says."

Debating Pros, Cons Of Fingerprinting


By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 25, 2004; Page A02

Matching fingerprints involves judgment, skill and training and is extraordinarily reliable when done properly, its proponents say.

Critics charge that fingerprinting is far from infallible and is prone to more error and bias in the criminal justice system than is ever acknowledged.

The fingerprints of Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon lawyer mistakenly linked to the March 11 train bombings in Madrid, may just have been very similar to those of an Algerian man who Spanish authorities ultimately determined is a true suspect, said Simon A. Cole, a skeptic and author of "Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification."

"Or while doing the analysis," he hypothesized, "someone was filled in on the idea that this guy was a Muslim lawyer with sympathies to Muslim groups and that might have biased them toward thinking there is a match."

Unlike DNA technology, said Cole, an assistant professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California at Irvine, no one has quantified the error rate in fingerprinting -- meaning there are no reliable estimates of how often the process implicates the wrong person.

Proponents say fingerprinting is extremely reliable. Joseph Polski, chief operations officer for the International Association for Identification, an organization for forensic scientists, said experts are highly accurate at comparing ridge endings, bifurcations and intervening ridges between two sets of fingerprints and determining whether they match.

Prints from crime scenes are converted into digital images and computers can be used to identify a range of possible matches. But only a human expert, Polski said, can make the final call.

Polski drew an analogy to an experienced pathologist, who can look at a single cell and spot cancer, while a new medical graduate might say only that something looks wrong.

Typically, "you don't find fingerprinting mistakes being revealed," said Roger Kahn, president of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors and the head of Ohio's crime labs. "Fingerprinting is extraordinarily reliable technology."

Cole said courts should demand that fingerprinting experts study the error rate in their technique and reveal it.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

They want to know why the sea dried up


Posted on Tue, May. 25, 2004


Scientists are working to explain why the Mediterranean Sea dried up almost six million years ago and turned into an enormous basin of salt.



WASHINGTON - Scientists are working to explain one of the most spectacular events in Earth's history: the time when the Mediterranean Sea dried up almost six million years ago and remained a desert for hundreds of thousands of years.

Geologists offer several conflicting theories to account for the closing of the narrow passages between Spain and North Africa, where the Strait of Gibraltar now lies. The blockage cut the Mediterranean off from the Atlantic Ocean and turned its sparkling blue waters into a huge basin of salt, far below sea level.


William Ryan, co-chief of the 1970 scientific expedition that first discovered the drying up of the Mediterranean, said the latest evidence shows that the gateway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean closed 5.96 million years ago and reopened about 5.33 million years ago.

The 630,000-year-long ''salinity crisis,'' as it's known, ended dramatically. A waterfall of biblical proportions refilled the inland sea, restoring what would become the cradle of Western civilization and Europe's favorite playground.

Experts will gather on the Mediterranean island of Corsica in July to debate their latest theories on the cause of the ancient crisis that once drained the waters around them.

Ryan, a geoscientist now at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, and his colleague, Kenneth Hsu, a retired Swiss geologist, were laughed at when they announced their astonishing finding following their 1970 voyage on the drilling ship Challenger.

''Our somewhat outrageous idea was naturally greeted with disbelief by many,'' Hsu recalled. Later expeditions, however, have ''basically confirmed'' their finding, Ryan said.


Geologists, a famously contentious group, now accept the desiccation of the Mediterranean. Most believe that movements in the huge tectonic plates on which the continents float were the major cause of the event. But they disagree on the mechanisms.

According to one theory, global sea levels fell sharply as the polar ice caps expanded during an early ice age. As a result, Atlantic Ocean water was unable to pass over the shallow land sill leading to the Mediterranean.

Others say the sea floor at Gibraltar was pushed up above sea level as the plate underlying Africa slid northward against the Eurasian continent. Similar tectonic collisions elsewhere raised the Alps, Himalayas and Appalachian mountains.

Still another view speculates parts of southern Spain and northern Morocco were squeezed together horizontally by the crunch between Africa and Europe, closing the east-west gateway.

A newer theory advanced by Svend Duggen, a geologist in London, and his colleagues suggests that a huge slab of the Atlantic floor peeled off from Spain and North Africa. The western end of the slab was attached to the Atlantic crust; the other end dangled freely and swung back toward the ocean. This action allowed lighter portions of the underlying rock to float upward and close the sea-gate.

The uplift was enough ''to produce one of the largest natural dams in Earth's history,'' Duggen said. ``The Mediterranean Sea was isolated from the Atlantic Ocean, ultimately causing its desiccation.''

Without a steady influx of ocean water, the Mediterranean gradually evaporated.


Eventually, a massive rise in global sea levels, caused by glacial melting at the end of another ice age, allowed Atlantic waters to gush over the Gibraltar threshold into the salt basin far below.

''When the dam broke 5 million years ago, seawater roared through the breach in a gigantic waterfall . . . a thousand times grander than Niagara,'' Hsu wrote in his 1983 book, The Mediterranean Was a Desert.

''Even with such an impressive influx, it took more than 100 years to fill the empty Mediterranean,'' he wrote. ``What a spectacle it must have been!''

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Acupuncture Doesn't Lower Blood Pressure


Popular Eastern Medicine Technique Fails to Control Mildly Elevated Blood Pressure in Small Study

By Peggy Peck
WebMD Medical News
Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD
on Tuesday, May 25, 2004

May 25, 2004 (New York) -- Proponents of acupuncture say it is effective for treating dozens of ailments including allergies, asthma, sports injuries, and migraines, but results of new study show that acupuncture is not effective for treating high blood pressure.

"There are studies that report about 5 billion visits to acupuncture specialists each year. In Texas there are a number of centers that advertise acupuncture for high blood pressure, so we decided to test the treatment in a well-designed, scientific study," Norman M. Kaplan, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, tells WebMD.

The study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. The results were recently reported at the 19th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension in New York City.

Acupuncture's Effects Temporary

Kaplan used ambulatory blood pressure monitors that record blood pressures around-the-clock to measure the effects of acupuncture in a group of volunteers.

Immediately after acupuncture treatment systolic blood pressure, which is the upper number that appears first in a blood pressure measurement, dropped slightly, "but this effect is not sustained," Kaplan says.

Moreover, there was not even a temporary change in diastolic pressure, which is the bottom number that is reported as the second number in a blood pressure measurement.

Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, tells WebMD that it is difficult to draw too many conclusions from Kaplan's study because the numbers are so small -- only 11 volunteers participated in the 4-week-long study.

But Lloyd-Jones, who wasn't involved in the acupuncture study, says that the "evidence from this type of intensive blood pressure monitoring is most compelling. It demonstrates that blood pressure did not change." Moreover, he noted that the study by Kaplan "is one of the first -- if not the first -- studies to test acupuncture in a scientific manner."

Kaplan agrees that with such small numbers the results "should not be overinterpreted and I don't think we should make too broad an implication. But, the fact is that we don't have any other controlled trial data on which to make a judgment, so I think the findings are useful."

A Role for Acupuncture?

Researchers recruited middle-aged volunteers who had normal blood pressure or mild high blood pressure. The average blood pressure at baseline was 135/85 mmHg.

The latest expert recommendations define high blood pressure as 140/90 or higher, while 120/80 or less is considered optimal blood pressure. Blood pressures that fall between 120/80 and 139/89 are now termed prehypertension, which indicates the need for lifestyle interventions such as weight loss, increased exercise, and limiting salt in the diet to lower blood pressure before it becomes hypertension.

The volunteers underwent electrical acupuncture sessions using all the blood pressure acupuncture points identified in traditional Chinese medicine for 30 minutes, two to three times a week, for four weeks. Electrical acupuncture needles were used and the procedure was done by a certified acupuncture specialist.

Kaplan says that the relatively healthy population recruited for the study could explain the lack of effect. "It may be that acupuncture is beneficial for people who have severe high blood pressure," he says. But he says that he doubts the outcome would be different if the baseline blood pressures were higher.

The real lesson from the study is that "there are good and effective treatments for hypertension that have been proven effective in carefully designed studies -- treatments that range from diet and exercise to drug therapies. All of those standard treatments can dramatically reduce blood pressure. There is no need to seek alternative therapies," says Kaplan.

SOURCES: American Society of Hypertension 19th Annual Scientific Meeting, New York City, May 18-22, 2004. Norman Kaplan, MD, University of Texas Southwestern School of Medicine; author, "Lack of effect of repetitive acupuncture on clinic and ambulatory blood pressure," Poster 1. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago.

How did we get here? Are we descendents of Adam and Eve like the Bible says or is Darwin correct?


Did we evolve from ape-like creatures to human beings?

For generations we've been told there's no scientific evidence that a "creator" exists. But now, one researcher says new scientific data backs up an intelligent designer of the universe -- God. The book of Genesis says, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth... and God said let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures… and God said let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds...then God said, let us make man in our image..."

Those are familiar passages from the book of Genesis. The Bible's telling of God's creation. In his book, author Lee Strobel, a former atheist, says recent discoveries confirm his belief God's hand, not Darwin's evolution, is the real intelligence behind life.

"What we're finding, it comes from an intelligent designer," Strobel said. "Slowly, it paint's a portrait that is consistent with a creator who matches a description of the God of the Bible."

"I believe in God, but I accept evolution," said Victor Hutchinson, an expert in the evolution theory, a scientist and retired professor at Oklahoma University. Hutchinson said a vast majority of the scientific community supports evolution and he also said because God is supernatural, there is no scientific way to find scientific evidence about God.

"Science cannot prove God's existence or not," he said. "See, feel, touch and hear."

Hutchinson also thinks the new book is less about science and more the politics of the classroom.

"They have tried to disguise religion as something other than religion," he said.

When asked, the author if this new book is a political tool, he said not really, but he wants both sides presented in the classroom with research that supports God as an intelligent designer.

"Let's teach the controversy," Strobel said. "Let's teach intelligent design as well."

You might recognize the author's name. Lee Strobel wrote the best-seller "A case for Christ." That book was an investigation into Jesus that converted Strobel from an atheist to a Christian.

Guru Maharaji today

[Condensed from http://www.ex-premie.org/pages/faq.htm]

Who is Maharaji?

Back in the mid '70s, Maharaji played a simple game to describe himself - the rules were understood but never mentioned: "You say I'm God... I don't say I'm God... But there again, I don't say I'm not God..."

Guru Maharaj Ji has since dropped the prefix Guru and simplified his name to Maharaji but many of his followers still believe he is God come to lead us to the Promised Land.

How many followers does he have?

The number has fallen dramatically since the highpoint of Divine Light Mission during the mid '70s. The six million figure quoted above is very dubious - the total number was probably nearer a few hundred thousand - the vast majority of these being in India. The organisation came to a virtual standstill in the late '70s when M lost a court case in India against his mother and elder brother for control of DLM. The Ashrams were closed and it wasn't until 1984 that M restarted his mission under the new name of Elan Vital. The organisation today is shrouded in mystery and there's no real way of establishing an accurate figure, but his decision to stop anyone other than himself imparting the four meditation techniques, together with a minimum six month waiting period, must have reduced the number considerably.

Why do people follow him?

Maharaji is a very charismatic and effective speaker. He was brought up since the age of six to think he was something very special and although he probably no longer believes it himself, he is astute enough to play the guru game for all it's worth - and it's worth a great deal of money. He combines a simple message - that meditation will lead to spiritual salvation - with enough new-age doubletalk to mask the obvious contradictions. The meditation techniques are packaged in such a way that they are given a mystical power and people are always attracted to the idea that they are the Chosen Few who will be saved when the world falls into apocalyptic oblivion.

Does he charge money?

Maharaji says he doesn't charge for showing people the meditation techniques, but there is a fairly obvious undercurrent that donations are needed to spread the message and save the planet. Many of the people who followed him with any conviction ended up giving him all their savings and possessions.

Where's the harm?

Many marriages have been destroyed when one partner decided to follow Maharaji. The greatest danger in believing M's message is that the follower gets sucked into an organization with a hidden agenda. Despite what anyone says, M is in it for one thing, and one thing only... the money. He has no interest in his followers beyond the amount of donations he can extract from them. He has a ridiculously expensive lifestyle and it needs a lot of money to keep him and his family in the style to which they have become accustomed.

Maharaji's potential for harm is enormous. He leads his followers to believe he is 'Divine' - just like the Rev Jones and many other cult leaders have done before him.

Where does he live?

He lives in Malibu, California. Scott Perry has been there: "I would easily estimate it's worth at least $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It is a palatial, gated estate sitting atop a mountain with a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean far below." We've also had a report from a local realtor who says the mansion has recently been rebuilt and expanded, and now includes such essentials as heated marble floors, electric windows and a $2,000,000 music studio. His estimate is that it's worth a minimum of $15,000,000.

What's he worth?

Once Maharaji's closest confidant, Bob Mishler said in his radio interview that Maharaji was a very wealthy man. He's certainly owned a collection of very expensive motor cars, including Rolls Royces, Maseratis and Ferraris plus a plane (currently a Gulf Stream 4 Jet worth some $25,000,000) and a yacht which is said to be valued at around $7,000,000.

Changes in a nutshell

The most obvious change has been to the organisation's name - it's been known as Elan Vital for some time. The Mahatmas who used to give Knowledge became 'Initiators', and are now called 'Instructors'. Only Maharaji is now allowed to give 'Knowledge'.

Mayor Tells Sorcerers to Banish Evil Spirits


NIAMEY (Reuters) - The mayor of Niger's capital has ordered "qualified" sorcerers to chase away evil spirits reported to be making terrifying appearances at night. Nightlife lovers in Niamey have repeatedly complained of a woman who appears from nowhere, curses and threatens them before vanishing as if she had "evaporated." Young women in skimpy outfits have been particular targets for the evil spirits.

"Given the rumor which has been circulating for at least three weeks now of strange apparitions stalking people, notably young women, I have ordered all the elderly chiefs of Niamey to resort to the traditional sacrifices, with qualified people, to stop this curse," Niamey Mayor Jules Oguet said Monday.

Animist beliefs and witchcraft are widespread in West Africa and sorcerers often have a big influence on their communities.

"People should be reassured: if there are any evil spirits, they will be dealt with," the mayor told radio station R & M.

Some local marabouts -- Muslim religious leaders who are often credited with magical powers -- have dismissed the apparitions as conmen trying to extort money from frightened people, but Oguet was taking no chances.

Niger, where the majority of the population is Muslim, is one of the poorest countries on earth.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Evolution is not 'true science'


May. 24, 2004 12:00 AM

The "Faith vs. Fact" editorial on May 13 was interesting, but disappointing.

Yes, true "science is about fact," but macro evolution (primordial soup to today's myriad of life) is not true science or fact. We got here by pure chance? The mathematical probability of this happening has been shown by many science and math experts to be absolutely untenable!

There should be millions, billions and even trillions of intermediate, transitional, uncoordinated, grossly looking creatures and their fossilized remains. Where are they?

Even the fantastic complexity of a single cell, the awesome design of DNA, and the human brain are impossible to explain by pure chance.

All scientists, both macro evolutionists and those believing intelligent design, find the same artifacts, fossils, various earth strata and similarities in plants and animals. The difference is the interpretation of those facts! Evolutionists say similarities show evolvement. Intelligent design says similarities show a common designer who even planned the ability to adapt in minor ways to their environment.

Who is operating more by faith - those who believe all this is possible by pure chance or those who believe it was designed? Flat earth theory wouldn't allow challenges - now evolution won't allow challenges! -

Glen Beyeler,
Sun City
The writer is a retired high school teacher.

Demand Grows for Alternative Link's ABC Coding Manual for Integrative Healthcare


Coding Manual Supports Use of Alternative Medicine and Integrative Healthcare in Cash Pay Practices and Consumer-Driven Health Plans

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., May 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Alternative Link, the developer of ABC codes for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), nursing and other integrative healthcare practices, reports increasing demand for its 2004 ABC Coding Manual for Integrative Healthcare, reflecting the growing movement toward consumer-driven healthcare and the continuing need to control costs. "We are pleased with the level of interest in our sixth edition," said Synthia Molina, Chief Executive Officer of Alternative Link. "This is the most comprehensive manual we've had, and the market is more savvy than ever about the need to support consumer choice, document all patient encounters and better manage the quality and cost of care."

"This manual supports a broad range of alternative therapies and opens a whole new world of choice for consumers and practitioners," said Kevin Kunz, a licensed healthcare professional and co-author of three integrative healthcare textbooks.

The 500-page coding manual provides numerous examples of how healthcare organizations, employers, payers, and practitioners can use either the entire code set or just those codes that relate to their particular businesses. Users will find more than 4,000 ABC codes in standard 5-character format, corresponding intervention descriptions and ample instructions. The manual also provides expanded definitions that precisely characterize the delivered care and the required qualifications of caregivers.

Among the supported caregivers are advanced nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, Christian Science practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, doctors of chiropractic, doctors of homeopathy, doctors of naturopathy, doctors of oriental medicine, doctors of osteopathy, holistic dentists, holistic medical doctors, licensed vocational nurses, massage therapists, mental health professionals, minority health specialists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, physical therapists, physician assistants, reflexologists, registered dieticians, registered nurses, registered midwives and others.

Some of the key features in the 2004 coding manual include: - ABC codes that represent nearly 2,000 healthcare services and more than 2,000 healthcare products and supplies, including nutraceuticals and homeopathic preparations.

- Comprehensive intervention indices that support easy identification of relevant codes.

- Tables that map professional certifications and specialties to 2-character "practitioner identifiers" that can be used as code modifiers.

- Maps or "crosswalks" to nursing terminologies in the Nursing Intervention Classification, the Omaha System Intervention Scheme, and the Home Health Care Classification System.

The ABC Coding Manual for Integrative Healthcare is available in a print version and as an interactive PDF on CD-ROM. It may be purchased at http://www.AlternativeLink.com and is supported by a suite of products designed to support healthcare research, management and commerce. The suite includes patient encounter forms and superbills, more than 600 legal practice guides for targeted practitioners in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, a reference book of relative values for integrative healthcare, ASCII files of ABC codes and terminology, industry reports on CAM, and databases that contain the codes, descriptions, expanded definitions, practitioner identifiers/modifiers, relative values and legal practice guidelines.

Alternative Link ( 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.

Ed Emerman

SOURCE Alternative Link
Web Site: http://www.AlternativeLink.com

Man sues guru over raw frog cure


An alternative medicine guru is being sued by a man who almost died after he was told to eat raw frog six times a day to cure a pain in his neck.

The man, identified only as Chen, went to the alternative medicine expert in China's Hunan province because of severe neck pains.

He was told to eat at least six raw frogs a day to get rid of the pain and had scoffed his way through 130 before he collapsed, complaining of stomach pains and headaches.

He is now suing after doctors discovered his body was riddled with parasites that had come from the frogs, the Xinhua agency reported.

News Release


UC Riverside Lecture Series Focuses on Debate Between Evolution and Creationism
The John A. and Betty C. Moore Science as A Way of Knowing" Lecture Set for 5 p.m. Monday, May 24
(May 21, 2004)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) -- Evolution and creationism will be the topic when Eugenie Scott, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, speaks at UC Riverside at 5 p.m. Monday, May 24.

Frequently called upon by the media as a spokesperson for "the scientific view" when conflicts arise between scientific and pseudoscientific explanations, Scott has been invited as the speaker in the fifth annual "John A. and Betty C. Moore Science as A Way of Knowing" public lecture. The talk will be in Life Sciences 1500. Her talk, "Intelligent Design: Good Science, Bad Science, or No Science at All," is free and open to the public.

The National Center for Science Education, Inc. is a science education organization with members in every state. Scott holds a Ph.D. in biological anthropology from the University of Missouri. She has taught at the University of Kentucky and at the University of Colorado. A human biologist, her research has been in medical anthropology and skeletal biology. She is the author of Creationism vs. Evolution: An Introduction.

She has received numerous awards including the Isaac Asimov Science Award from the American Humanist Association, the Defense of Science Award from the Center for Inquiry, the Skeptics Society James Randi Award, the Hugh H. Hefner First Amendment Award, the American Society of Cell Biology's Bruce Alberts Award, the Geological Society of America's Public Service Award, the American Institute of Biological Sciences Outstanding Service Award, the National Science Board's Public Service Award, and the California Science Teacher Association Distinguished Service Award.

The John A. and Betty C. Moore Science as a Way of Knowing seminar series was established in 1997 to bring outstanding scientists to campus who are especially recognized for their contributions to society and especially to science education. John Moore was a professor in the biology department from 1969 until his death in 2002.

John and his wife, Betty, were both graduate students in Zoology at Columbia University working under Lester Barth. John had been an undergraduate at Columbia while Betty was an undergraduate at Radcliffe where she worked with George Wald on vision. John and Betty enjoyed a lifelong collaboration and coauthored several papers together on a wide range of subjects from herpetology to cell biology. John was chair of the department of Zoology at Columbia University and also at Barnard College. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1960) and the National Academy of Sciences (1963).

Professor Moore was also widely recognized for his contribution to the teaching of science. He authored the seven volume series entitled "Science as a Way of Knowing," that is still used by scientists around the world for teaching from the high school to the graduate school level. Moore's last book was "From Genesis to Genetics: The Case of Evolution and Creationism" (University of California Press, 2002).

This seminar is sponsored by the Department of Biology, the GAANN Training Grant in Life Sciences and the Riverside Chapter of Sigma Xi. Past lecturers for this seminar series include: Bruce Alberts, President, National Academy of Sciences; Lynn Margulis, Member, National Academy of Sciences; J. Michael Bishop, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine; Leroy Hood, Member, National Academy of Sciences; Sara Blaffer-Hrdy, Member, National Academy of Sciences; Eric J. Chiasson, Director, Wright Center for Innovative Science Education.

Related Links:
National Center for Science Education
The University of California, Riverside is a major research institution and a national center for the humanities. Key areas of research include nanotechnology, genomics, environmental studies, digital arts and sustainable growth and development. With a current undergraduate and graduate enrollment of nearly 17,000, the campus is projected to grow to 21,000 students by 2010. Located in the heart of inland Southern California, the nearly 1,200-acre, park-like campus is at the center of the region's economic development. Visit www.ucr.edu or call 909-787-5185 for more information. Media sources are available at http://www.mediasources.ucr.edu/.
News Media Contact:
Name: Kris Lovekin
Phone: 909.787.2495
Email: kris.lovekin@ucr.edu

Science, religious deities don't mix


May. 21, 2004 12:00 AM

Granted, there is nothing inherently unscientific in investigating the possibility of intelligent design, but such an investigation has yet to occur.

If it had, the results would be documented in the primary scientific literature, i.e., peer-reviewed scientific journals. They are not. Make no mistake, "intelligent design theory" is simply biblical creationism in disguise.

No matter how unpalatable this might be to the faithful, science deals exclusively with naturalistic explanations of observable evidence. Supernatural entities, including the deities of major religions, have no place in any scientific theory, ever. So, contrary to the claim made in Monday's letter, separating faith from fact in science education is indeed possible. - Dean Wentworth, Flagstaff

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Feng shui offers peace at work

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Chinese art is making its mark on American culture

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Most workplaces are thick with conversations, ringing phones, loud steps, enough stress to shatter glass and usually an imperative to do more and do it with less.

But an ancient Chinese art of object placement, known to proponents as feng shui, suggests that far more is going on in our office and factory spaces than drudgery and despair.

According to this way of thinking, the thoughtful placement of inanimate objects can bring peace to the workplace (or any place) by shaping and directing a mystical force that caresses us all - our jobs, our bank accounts, our clients, customers, employees and bosses.

Proponents of feng shui believe people can harness a universal energy field called chi to relieve stress and brighten a company or individual's future.

Once a doubter, Paul Pearson, a 45-year-old Villa Hills resident, became a convert to feng shui a few years ago when a prospective venture partner told Pearson that Pearson's firm, the Laurel Design Co., was losing money.

The man, a feng shui master, said he knew of the red ink because of what he said was poor flow of energy at Pearson's former three-story house in Newport.

"He said he could tell that a lot of money had been going out of my company and that some things needed to be done pretty quickly," Pearson said.

He recommended that I black out all light from the main door, which was at the bottom of a staircase. All of the energy in the house was coming down the staircase and going out my front door."

Pearson blacked out the door, "and I stopped losing money."

Laurel Design, which sells candy and gifts to major department stores, is just one corporate example of a growing feng shui movement in the region and the nation.

Increasingly, real estate agents, executives and workers are hanging crystals and at the same time wondering: can a mobile, a brass dragon or a painting bring revenue and a competitive edge?

"Clearly, our business in feng shui consultations is increasing," said Dawn Schwartzman, chief imagination officer for Forest Park-based Interior Services Inc., a corporate interior design firm that provides products and services for business, education, health care and retail companies.

Schwartzman charts the growing popularity of feng shui by the increase in sales at their feng shui annex, 1360 Kemper Meadow Drive, Forest Park, of traditional feng shui cures including Mandarin ducks for romance, turtles for protection, a brass three-legged frog for prosperity and the Three Immortals for health and happiness.

Her three-hour feng shui seminars each quarter are routinely sold out and have up to 75 real estate agents enrolled.

"Either Western customers are becoming very literate or they have Eastern clients who are looking for everything from a house with a particular number to a house facing a certain direction," Schwartzman said.

Feng shui 'makes sense'

Sharon Mann, organizational expert for Esselte Corp., a Stanford, Conn.-based maker of office supplies, which employs 6,000 people worldwide in 26 countries and has annual sales of $1 billion, said many workers are drawn to feng shui because the principles "make sense."

"If you brought up the topic of feng shui a few years ago, people looked at you like you were crazy," Mann said. "But people understand it today, and they understand that there are things they can do to have a flow in their life."

Lauren Abel, chief executive of Abel Associates and Creative Consortium in Burlington, Ky., says her home-based marketing communications firm flourished after a feng shui makeover about six years ago.

"There are people who tell you knowledge is power," Abel said. "Anything you can do to make yourself more productive and more comfortable in your corporate life and personal life, well, that is a good thing."

Abel has not simply hung red tassels on everything in sight.

She has a Ba-Gua Map of her office - a feng shui chart that identifies key power zones in the room for success, career, wealth, partnerships and personal journey.

In each area Abel has placed a symbol, perhaps a Luna ornament designed by Edward Casagrande or silk flowers in key colors of pink, purple and red.

The decorative gestures stir up goodwill, good vibes and good money, Abel said.

"I do know I have more comfort in my house - whether mental or real - since I've had it done," she said.

"My business has skyrocketed, and that good fortune has come while other agencies suffered or closed. My business thrived. Was it feng shui? I don't know."

Courtesy can be beneficial

Frank D. Chaiken, partner at Thompson Hine, is not convinced that feng shui actually works in our physical world, but he knows his belief does not really matter.

He sees it this way: a few billion people half a globe away from the Ohio River believe it does work, and their mental state of mind is what counts - particularly for a company that hopes to sell them products or services.

In other words, ignore feng shui in China at your peril.

"It's a matter of cultural literacy," Chaiken said. "Some clients conclude that to make a strong, positive connection you need to adapt to local customs and practices, which are well-known, recognized and highly valued.

"For those reasons alone, it's important to incorporate feng shui into the design of offices, factories or any other place where you'll be interacting in China, and if it really works, well, where's the downside?"

Just as the lack of an office element or component - say no corporate logo at a company entrance - might create a sense of unease with a potential client in America, so, too, an absence of feng shui principals in office decor may turn off a potential customer in China.

Others make a stronger - though anecdotal - case for feng shui.

A few years ago, Cincinnati theme park builder Dennis L. Speigel, president of Cincinnati Theme Park Services, traveled to Asia to advise a client on how to end losses at a Beijing amusement park.

While working on the account for the client - who was also a feng shui proponent - Speigel followed the fortunes of a Singapore hotel. Operator after operator struggled and failed.

"It was a wonderful place, a great structure and a good location, but it just didn't work," Speigel said.

Finally, a new owner brought in a feng shui master, who changed the entrance and made other modifications. Within months, it was the leading hotel in the city.

Today, Speigel has no doubt about the merits of feng shui.

"I will tell you this, I have been in offices of major Asian chief executives where absolutely they've had this done in all their buildings," Speigel said. In one office, he was dawdling with doo-dads on one executive's desk. Finally, the executive reached out and politely asked him to stop.

Each item had a feng shui purpose, and had in fact been placed there by a feng shui master in a deliberative way, and the executive didn't want him to ruin its power.

Said Speigel: "There are things out there that we simply don't know and understand."

E-mail jeckberg@enquirer.com


As surely as the wind blows, say proponents of feng shui, placement of accessories will redirect bad energy, contain good energy, and bring prosperity and health. Here are some fast feng shui approaches:

• Represent five natural elements in your workplace decor and accessories: fire, earth, metal, water and wood. Have pictures, knick-knacks or the actual elements on hand.

• Natural is not necessarily good. At the receptionist's desk, a cactus instead of an orchid, for instance, would bring prickly or thorny energy - not a good impression for guests.

• A corporate logo should be lit, preferably in golden light, and doors should swing inward - symbolizing the flow of ideas inwards.

• Chief financial officers and others involved in finance or corporate decision-making should have offices to the rear of a building.

• Marketing people should have desks or offices closer to the entry because that's closer to the public.

• You can't have too many red fobs hanging on door knobs, mobiles, crystals near stairways or wind chimes hanging on the inside of doors. The tassels reduce any potential conflict in the dynamic of the room and attract good energy.


Abduct My Wallet: Confessions of a UFO Hoaxer


By Lee Shargel
May 18, 2004

The Aliens are coming! The Aliens are coming! Folks don't believe it. The only aliens that are coming are sneaking under a fence somewhere along the Texas border. How can I be so sure? Well, for one thing we've caught a few of them and they don't have tentacles, ray guns or flying saucers. What they do have is bad breath, bad directions and a pocket full of jallopenos. Sorry, no mystery here.

In 1996, I wrote a science fiction novel entitled "Voice in the Mirror." It was a fictional story about the discovery of life on another planet. The other planet was Earth. Yes, they discovered us. Now that's a switch. In my pursuit to find a publisher, I found that I was gathering enough rejection slips to wallpaper my house. Since, my wife felt that the rejection slip pattern did not fit the decor, I decided it was time for a different approach to this publising game. So, Doctor Lee Shargel, Top Secret NASA scientist was born.

I decided that the best way to get the book published was to make the slightest inference that it just might be real. Lo and behold, the NEW AGE publishers were beating down my door. I secured a publisher and a nice (if not small) advance check. I was ready to meet the world as a fictional Top Secret NASA scientist and holder of a PhD in Egyptian Quantum Mechanics. (That degree was made up in a pinch, but it, too, worked) I got an agent and a manager who were only to eager to cash in on the UFO craze. But first it required a plan.

I was booked into a UFO convention in Philadelphia were I presented photos of the actual spacship that had crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. I blew them away with showmanship and P.T. Barnum hucksterisms. And I'll be darned, it worked. I thought, "Hey, there's money to be mined in these Black Hills of Alien Wonder." Note: Around this time our little blue planet had a celestial visitor named Hale-Bopp. So, thinking I should jump on the comet bandwagon, I rode the tail of this comet all the way to the bank and stopped off briefly for a two hour stint on Art Bell's Coast to Coast radio broadcast where I stated with a sci-fi preface that a "Companion" was following the comet. This created quite a stir and unbeknownst to me then, was heard by a small group of people in San Diego, who called themselves, Heaven's Gate. I was invited to be the guest speaker at the International UFO Congress's annual meeting held in Laughlin, Nevada. There I would bring the audience to tears with my tales of abductions, governemnt conspiracies, photos of flying saucers (created in Hollywood of all places) Dolphinoid Aliens (Yeah that was one of my best) and a little piece of alien spacecraft. I saw first hand how these Alien Carnival barkers were picking the pockets (just as I was unashamedly doing at the time) of the thousands of attendees that travelled from all over the world and beyond, (Hey, you never know) to have their ears tickled by speculation and out right lies. As far as I was concerned, this was the height of entertainment. Everything was going fine until it was discovered that I was encroaching on the territory and the profits of this alien mafia.

I was accosted by the UFO congressional leadership, (who voted for these BOZOS anyway?) who threatened my very existence unless I was to cease and desist from this foul game I was playing. They had this turf covered and there was no room for the likes of me. Oh, unless I wanted to share the profits of my alien gotten gain. I refused and was banished to Bogeyland. (That's internet Hell in case you were wondering.)

And so as they say, the rest is history. I was cast into the abyss of the remainder pile at my local bookstore, forced to tolerate the myriad of lies written about me and posted on the internet and finally suffered the greatest of humilations, my publisher took the money and ran! Well, I rebounded in cool New York style. (I am from the Bronx!) I began writing magazine articles and screenplays again. I started a feature film company, FilmWorks LSD ("Indie Filmmaking - It's a Trip!") and I have a new book coming out that has absolutely nothing to do with aliens or the pickpockets that represent them. Now, Ain't that America?

About the author: Lee Shargel is executive producer of FilmWorks LSD, a feature film company. He is also an internationally known science fiction author (Voice in the Mirror). He is also infamous for his International UFO hoax which coincided with the Heaven's Gate tragedy. In spite of the tragedy of those 39 people, Lee Shargel proved his point. The UFO community is a Galactic Crime syndicate preying on the unsuspecting minds, fears, hopes and wallets of millions of people worldwide. His next book due out later this year entitled: "The Christmas Siren" is slated for production as a feature film. You can visit Lee Shargel and FilmWorks LSD at: www.sibotmotion.com

Email: scifiauthor@yahoo.com

Useless-Knowledge.com © Copyright 2002-2004

Advice to the graduate: Be a healthy skeptic

It's the character trait essential for becoming a thinking adult


Special to The Observer

Almost 30 years ago today I graduated from high school. I was third in my class, which isn't particularly impressive in a class of 50. The valedictorian and salutatorian were students more gifted and hardworking than I was, and I don't remember feeling envious of their accomplishments. I was, however, irked that they had the chance to make speeches to the other graduates and the guests while I had to sit mutely in the audience.

The 2004 graduates will probably hear some of the same messages that I heard -- to go forth with confidence, to persevere in the face of adversity, to do their best in all things -- good messages, certainly, but not the one I would deliver if I had the chance to stand before them and their parents. Instead, my graduation speech would be a call to embrace the character trait essential for becoming a thinking adult. I would tell every graduate to become a healthy skeptic.

A healthy skeptic is someone who rejects easy certainty and intellectual laziness, who actively questions what he sees and hears and doesn't let anyone usurp his mind. All of us are skeptical about people we distrust -- we question the accuracy of their data and their motives for sharing it. A healthy skeptic also examines what he learns from his friends and from others who seem to reflect his world view. Even more difficult, the healthy skeptic questions himself, not just what he knows and how he knows, but why he believes what he believes.

Imagine a world of healthy skeptics. We would continue to look at our enemies with a jaundiced eye, surely, but we would be cautious about simplifying their actions into sound bites such as "they hate us because they hate freedom." When I heard President Bush say this recently about the Iraqi insurgents, my heart sank. What exactly does that mean, that someone hates an abstraction such as freedom? Could some of the Iraqis attacking our troops be motivated by religious fanaticism? Could some of them be fighting because the presence of foreign troops is an offense to their sense of sovereignty? Are some of the insurgents criminals fomenting chaos so that they can profit economically, or could other fighters be interested in carving out a fiefdom of loyalists who will support them in the future after the coalition forces leave them to face each other? Wouldn't we be better off rejecting an easy certainty -- "they hate freedom" -- and adapting our strategies to deal with a more complex situation?

In a world of skeptics, politics wouldn't trump science. The FDA wouldn't bow to pressure to ignore the recommendations of their scientific panel to make emergency contraceptives easier rather than harder to get. The environmentalists who worry about global warming wouldn't be scoffed at by lawmakers who accept campaign contributions from polluters. Treasury Department whistle blowers and terrorist experts wouldn't be squelched or fired. Plagiarized documents touting weapons of mass destruction would undergo genuine scrutiny instead of being used to bolster a particular agenda.

Dissent would be valued as an essential part of sorting out the truth. Discussions would be more raucous debate and less rubber stamping. Censorship would cease to be a concern because people who examine many points of view before drawing conclusions neither want nor need to be protected from information. If we made up our own minds after looking long and hard and skeptically, talk radio would be defunct and political pundits would be out of work.

A world of healthy skeptics would be a world where the charismatic Osama bin Ladens and Charlie Mansons would have little power or influence.

Fraud would be harder to perpetrate on people who refused to be gullible. Liars would be found out sooner.

Lovers might hesitate longer before getting married.

Teachers would stop trying to indoctrinate students. Students would hold themselves more accountable.

Most importantly, we would never have a moment when, asked if we could think of any mistakes we might have made, we would draw a blank.

On the last test that I gave my seniors, I realized that they have become healthy skeptics without hearing any graduation speech from me. In one question I asked them to reflect on their growth this year. What have they learned? How have they changed? What are they taking with them as they leave the nine-month gestation of their senior year?

"I learned to read and write more critically," one student wrote, "but mostly I learned how to think."

Several students wrote that they had learned to listen with an open mind.

"I learned to listen more and talk less."

"I learned that everyone is ignorant, but mostly I've learned that I am, too."

"I've always wondered about that saying that the more you learn, the less you know. Now I understand what that means."

"I know why you have `the unexamined life is not worth living' on your bulletin board. It's what you really wanted us to learn."

It is indeed.

Kay McSpadden

Observer columnist Kay McSpadden is a high school English teacher in York, S.C. Write her c/o The Observer, P.O. Box 30308, Charlotte, NC 28230-0308 or by e-mail at kmcspadden@comporium.net


Saturday, May 22, 2004

'Astrology has wide scope'



KATHMANDU, April 21: The second South Asian Astrologers Conference organised with an objective of developing astrology as well as establishing a SAARC Astrologers Federation got under way here today.

The conference organised by the National Astrological Science Service Committee Nepal is being participated in by 500 representatives of various organisations from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives and Switzerland.

The three-day conference also aims to publicise astrology, formulate an action plan and attract the younger generation.

Inaugurating the conference, Chairman of the Raj Parishad Standing Committee Parasu Narayan Chaudhari said although astrology has been based on theology and science since ancient times, it can have adverse effect if not practiced with proper knowledge.

The mathematics of astrology should not be different, otherwise it will be looked upon by the public with a narrow outlook, he said.

Chairman Chaudhari said the conference will give important guidance to the younger generation in its social use.

Nayab Badaguruju Dr. Madhav Prasad Bhattarai highlighted the importance of astrology. Raj Parishad Standing Committee member Dr. Swami Prapannacharya pointed out the need to bring uniformity in astrological forecasts in the changing world context.

Chairman of future point of India Arun Banshal drew the attention of all towards the declining popularity of astrology.

Claim made for new form of life

By Paul Rincon
BBC News Online science staff

Doctors claim to have uncovered new evidence that the tiny particles known as "nannobacteria" are indeed alive and may cause a range of human illnesses. The existence of nannobacteria is one of the most controversial of scientific questions - some experts claim they are simply too small to be life forms.

But US scientists report they have now isolated these cell-like structures in tissue from diseased human arteries.

Their research is described in the American Journal of Physiology.

The team, led by Dr John Lieske at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, conducted an analysis of calcified and non-calcified arteries, arterial plaques and heart valves collected as surgical waste from two US hospitals. In the lab, they stained the specimens and examined them under a high power electron microscope.

The team found tiny spheres ranging in size from 30-100 nanometres (nm - billionths of a metre), which is smaller even than many viruses.

When the tissue was broken up, filtered to remove anything more than 200nm and the filtrate added to a sterile medium, the optical density - or cloudiness - of the medium increased.

This, the researchers argue, means the nanoparticles were multiplying of their own accord.

"I think we've taken a systematic approach to evaluating the participation of these potential nanoparticles, nannobacteria - whatever you want to call them - in human disease processes," co-author Dr Virginia Miller, also of Mayo Clinic told BBC News Online.

Spheres of influence

The particles are also recognised by a dye for DNA and absorbed uridine, a key chemical component of RNA, which the researchers argue is evidence the particles are constantly synthesising nucleic acids.

Viewed with electron microscopy, the particles also appeared to have cell walls.

The nano-scale objects showed up in tissue from patients with calcified arterial aneurysms but not uncalcified samples.

Nannobacteria have been implicated by some scientists in the formation of kidney stones and psammona bodies - calcified (mineralised) structures in ovarian cancer.

But many other scientists dispute that they are actually life forms.

"I don't see any convincing evidence for nannobacteria or DNA [in this study]," Dr John Cisar, of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US, told BBC News Online. "If you know you're dealing with a life form, you can use the staining techniques [they used]. But there are false positives in these types of techniques."

Dr Cisar said in research he had conducted, nanoparticles had tested positive with a stain for nucleic acids. But when he and his team tried to extract these nucleic acids, none had been found.

Previous research carried out by Jack Maniloff of the University of Rochester in New York has shown that to contain the DNA and proteins it needs to function, a cell must be a minimum of 140nm across.

"One of the questions we always get back is: 'well, how do you know it's alive if it doesn't have a unique DNA sequence?' This is true," Dr Miller explained.

"But if you go back to how we defined life prior to our knowing about DNA, our criteria was that things multiplied in culture. This is what we have."

In 1996, nannobacteria came to the attention of the world's media when scientists announced they had found fossils in a Martian meteorite of what appeared to be nano-sized bacteria.

Scientists are now involved in efforts to isolate DNA from the nanoparticles. Dr Miller said it was also important to investigate their role in other diseases.

The research is also reported in this week's New Scientist magazine.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/05/19 22:50:07 GMT


Evolution education update: AL, MN, MO

There was good news from across the country as state legislatures wound down their legislative sessions.


On May 17, the final day of the 2004 legislative session, the Alabama House of Representatives adjourned without voting on SB 336, the so-called Academic Freedom Act. The original version of SB 336, which would have allowed Alabama's teachers to present "alternative theories" of "biological or physical origins," was passed unanimously by the Senate Education Committee and in the full Senate. The bill then went to the House Education Committee, which substituted a slightly modified version that replaced the "alternative theories" language with language protecting the presentation of only "scientific information" on the "full range of scientific views," and then passed it 9-1. The modification was evidently intended to allay concerns that the bill was religiously motivated; its lead sponsor, Wendell Mitchell, was quoted on May 16 as saying, "We are trying to address this in terms of the full range of scientific view [sic]...We are trying to take every step we can to ensure that the people who are operating under this legislation are not challenged on the idea it is a religious effort." Earlier in the year, however, he contended, "This bill will level the playing field because it allows a teacher to bring forward the biblical creation story of humankind."

For more information, see the story in the Montgomery Advertiser:


On May 16, the final day of the 2003-2004 biennial legislative session, the Minnesota legislature voted to adopt the new state science standards -- without any of the changes or amendments proposed by those who wanted to teach "evidence against" or "weaknesses" of evolution. The final standards adopted are those recommended by the original writing committee of teachers, scientists, and citizens. In related news, Cheri Pierson Yecke, the state's Education Commissioner, was not confirmed, and thus immediately removed from office, by the Minnesota Senate in a 35-31 vote. Yecke was quoted earlier in her period in office as asserting that while state science standards should not include creationism, "every local district should have the freedom to teach creationism if that is what they choose." Finally, Senate File 1714 and House File 2003 died when the legislature adjourned; these identical bills contained a version of the so-called Santorum language, which antievolutionists commonly take as a pretext for undermining evolution education.

For more information, see the story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:


On May 14, the last day of the legislative session, House Bills 911 and 1722 died in the Missouri House of Representatives. HB 911, which would have required "the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design" in Missouri's public schools, was introduced in December 2003; it was received unenthusiastically by the legislature, especially because of its provisions that "Willful neglect of any elementary or secondary school superintendent, principal, or teacher to observe and carry out the requirements of this section shall be cause for termination of his or her contract" and that "Each public school classroom in this state from grades eight through twelve in which science is taught exclusively shall post a copy of this section in a conspicuous manner." It was never referred to committee. HB 1722, which omitted those provisions but continued to require equal time for "intelligent design," was introduced in April; although it was referred to the House Education Committee, it never emerged.

For more information, see the story on HB 911 in the Springfield News-Leader:

For more detail on these and other stories, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

Forthcoming in July 2004: Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism:



A Special Report in the current issue of Skeptical Inquirer looks into the ultimate protest by a group of skeptics. They objected to a decision by the major health insurance companies in Belgium to begin covering the costs of homeopathy in response to popular demand. Depressed by the willingness of the insurance companies to encourage quackery, the 23 skeptics resigned themselves to committing mass suicide by drinking a cocktail of lethal poisons including arsenic, snake venom and deadly nightshade. To the horror of the homeopathists, they even increased the potency in true homeopathic fashion by preparing a 30C solution of the cocktail. That means the cocktail was diluted one part per hundred and shaken, which was then repeated sequentially, 30 times. All newspapers and TV stations were invited to watch the death agonies of the 23 deranged suicides, who included a number of prominent citizens and professors of medicine, "and a few normal people armed only with common sense." The media coverage was excellent, but the suicide attempt was a failure.

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