NTS LogoSkeptical News for 23 June 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

WHO warns on alternative medicine

The World Health Organization warns the unregulated use of alternative medicines can cause unpleasant or potentially dangerous reactions.

It has issued new guidelines advising consumers on therapies ranging from acupuncture to herbal medicines and food supplements.

They are aimed at helping those who buy complementary medicines over-the-counter and do not tell doctors.

The WHO said such medicines were not "good for everybody all of the time".

There are a lot of examples of people who not only suffer but die because of drug interaction or non-proper use of traditional medicine Vladimir Lephakin, World Health Organization As increasing numbers of people in industrialised and developing countries use alternative medicines, there are increasing reports of adverse and even fatal reactions.

The WHO said that, although there were no global statistics on reactions to the medicines, individual countries were reporting problems.

It said that in China, there were 9,854 cases of adverse reactions were reported in 2002 alone, more than double the number registered during all of the 1990s.

Xiaorui Zhang, WHO's coordinator for traditional medicines, said that consumers often assumed that "natural means safe", but lacked knowledge about using such products properly.

She added: "Most countries have no regulations to control herbal products. More than 90 countries sell them over-the-counter."

Some countries are taking steps to limit the risk to consumers. In December, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about dietary supplements containing ephedra, also called Ma huang, a natural substance used in China to treat people for coughs.

Sales of ephedra are already restricted in the UK.

'Lack of knowledge'

Vladimir Lephakin, WHO assistant director-general for health technologies and pharmaceuticals, said: "It is not true that good, traditional medicines are good for everybody, every time in big quantities. This is a big mistake"

He added: "There are a lot of examples of people who not only suffer but die because of drug interaction or non-proper use of traditional medicine."

He said food supplements, which are not often regulated as medicinal products, also lacked quality controls.

Mr Lephakin added some studies had found that some products in different countries contained toxic heavy metals and in extreme cases there were traces of narcotics to make the products addictive.

He said: "There is a need for strengthening control of food supplements in all countries."

An EU directive, due to come into force on 1 August 2005, will harmonise the rules on vitamins and food supplements across the European Union.

It includes a list of vitamins and minerals which can be used in food supplements. It also includes upper limits on certain vitamins.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/06/23 09:06:54 GMT


God, science and Darwin can co-exist


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

On June 6, I was at Dachau, a concentration camp in Germany.

I cannot describe the reality of the horror that took place there.

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam displays a photograph of the statue that stands outside the museum: an artist's rendering of Anne Frank.

A swastika in red spray paint defaces its base.

The caption asked visitors to realize, as inconceivable as it may seem, that this animosity against different beliefs still exists.

I came home to read in the newspaper that a community member feels there are only two religions, "atheism and Christianity."

I came home to read that this country was founded on Christian morals — the only morals worth being taught.

A student's mural hung in my old biology classroom.

It has since been destroyed, the victim of a violent act against a system of beliefs.

I have a question for Mr. Buckingham and those who agree with his actions taken against updating the biology books: Have you read Darwin?

I ask that you try — with an open mind.

I ask that for a moment, all egotism and religious fervor be set aside.

I ask for a moment, you contemplate the possibility that God, science, Darwin and knowledge can coexist.

People once believed that God decreed the Earth as flat and as the center of the universe. Galileo was blasphemous.

There is more than one creation story. "Creationism" may be a broad term in the attempt to eliminate the validity of all other beliefs.

The destruction of the mural and the swastika on Anne Frank both stem from the same animosity and lack of understanding for other beliefs.

It is disappointing to recognize these parallels in a community that I hold in my heart as my home.


A mainstream doctor finds a place for alternative medicine


By Dr. Darshak Sanghavi | June 22, 2004

The poor toddler had been hospitalized in the cardiac intensive-care unit for months for his heart defects, and neither his parents nor his doctors could help his irritability. He'd cry for hours at a time, and clutch his head in pain. Once in a while, the boy would smile, but then the headaches returned. Often, the on-call doctors gave him high doses of narcotics for the pain.

We needed help. At the parents' request, we consulted the ''alternative medicine" team at Children's Hos pital. The recommendation: small magnets attached behind the toddler's ears. So on morning rounds, we discussed the size of his pulmonary arteries, surgical management, various cardiac parameters, metabolic needs, detailed medication orders -- and then the magnet therapy. A few eyebrows were raised, and sardonic looks exchanged. It seemed a little wishful, sticking some magnets to the child's head at one of the highest-technology units in the hospital.

There was no miracle cure: The child's parents thought the magnets helped a bit and were grateful the doctors had made an extra effort, but the headaches persisted and the narcotics continued.

The case made me wonder: Why do doctors and parents sometimes turn to alternative medicine for children? How should we feel about using these therapies?

As with our toddler's irritability, use of alternative therapy may indicate the lack of any better ideas. In other cases, their use reflects a lack of resources. For example, Masai children in Kenya (where I worked a few years ago) have unusual smiles, because they have some lower teeth ritually removed. The reason: Kids occasionally get tetanus, or ''lockjaw;" if the teeth are missinga straw can be pushed through the gap to allow feeding. Here, of course, we have tetanus vaccines.

Occasionally, a pediatrician's or parent's use of, say, acupuncture for asthma means they are ill-informed about current medical practice. Other times, alternative therapies reflect powerfully held cultural or generational beliefs (my mother, an Indian immigrant, subjected me mercilessly to menthol steam baths for any illness, just as her mother had done to her). Finally -- and most concerning -- a parent's refusal of pediatric vaccines or avoidance of well-child care, for example, sometimes means doctors failed to provide care they can understand.

Perhaps that's why a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that almost 42 percent of Americans use herbal or dietary supplements and visit alternative practitioners, at a cost of $27 billion per year. Many bemoan impersonal medical care and believe that herbal remedies or ancient treatments are more effective and less toxic;They point to the uses of foxglove for heart ailments, cinchona bark for malaria, and coca leaves for altitude sickness.

To evaluate its worth, one ultimately must define ''alternative" medicine. Some medical literature suggests, for example, that magnetic fields can help foot pain and bone healing. Are magnets now an alternative therapy or a modern pharmaceutical? The National Institutes of Health doesn't offer much help; it says ''alternative" means medicine that is not ''practiced by holders of M.D. [degrees] and by their allied health professionals." By this definition, anything a doctor does can't be ''alternative."

To frame this debate constructively, in 1998 the Journal of the American Medical Association editorialized, ''There is no alternative medicine. There is only scientifically proven, evidence-based medicine supported by scientific data or unproven medicine, for which scientific evidence is lacking. Whether a therapeutic practice is 'Eastern' or 'Western' [is] largely irrelevant."

Thus, the useful way to classify therapies is not alternative vs. conventional, but proven vs. unproven. This is a relatively new way of evaluating health care. The controlled clinical trial--where carefully selected patients are given novel medications and then compared to those who either take placebos or undergo the usual therapies--was not practiced until the mid-1900s. Without clinical trials, dangerous and useless practices flourish.

During a botanical research project in Kenya, I interviewed healers about treatments for chira, a common wasting disease. In an area with epidemic AIDS, tuberculosis, and parasitic infections -- which all cause weight loss -- chira was a catchall diagnosis. Different healers used varying doses of herbs, dissimilar methods of preparation, and an inconsistent nomenclature to identify plants. A systematic evaluation of the herbal remedies was impossible, but every healer reported perfect success. Until the advent of clinical trials, American medicine was much like this.

Well-informed physicians are usually open to, say, the clinical trial-supported use of St. John's Wort for mild depression or acupuncture for certain pain syndromes, but are suspicious of aura fluffing for cancer or magnets for headaches. Likewise, they endorse the proven use of penicillin for strep throat but don't support the unproven practice of treating viral respiratory in fections with amoxicillin.

In addition to creating a misleading distinction between ''alternative" and ''modern" medicine, some people also advance the metaphysical notion that the root of disease is mental or spiritual weakness. People like best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil think illness is largely within our control -- when we lose control of our lives, we get ill; when we pay close attention to our bodies, we can overcome most diseases. I spend most of my work life helping children who were born with deformed hearts, so I find this an odd notion.

Of course, mental well-being is critical to health. At its core, the popularity of unproven therapies arises from the need for hope and human connection. And this is where we doctors have a chance to improve care.

Though the holistic doctors at Children's Hospital may endorse unusual therapies, they also spend an extraordinary amount of time exploring the patient's belief system. They pull up a chair and don't look hurried. They enter the patient's world. Their reports often contain information other doctors never uncover -- fears about spirits, unusual beliefs about side effects, and more.

I remember how my father, who suffered from a terminal lung disease, once took me along for his acupuncture appointment. The man made us tea , and spent an hour talking with my father before inserting the thin needles. As he lay quietly, my father's face had a solemn peace that no doctor had ever produced.

Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, a clinical fellow at Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, can be reached at sanghavi@post.harvard.edu.

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

Employee loyalty comes first, the rest will follow'




Deepak Chopra, who gave the West alternative medicine, links business wellness to mind, body and spirit harmony. The man, who mentors corporate and political leaders the world over, tells Nilanjana Bhaduri Jha, that a leader has to be aware and context-oriented. Motivational guru, poet, prophet, pioneer of alternative medicine, inspired philosopher β€" which epithet would Deepak Chopra use to define himself?

I am neither motivational, nor am I a guru, the rest are labels. I am an explorer of a domain of awareness people call consciousness. Just like people climb mountains, I explore the mind. Then I report my findings. My background is in neuro-endocrinology -- the study of brain chemicals. I am a physician by training. So I have a great interest in how consciousness differentiates cognition, moods and emotions, perceptions and behaviour, biological functions, social interaction, personal relations, environmental situations and even our interaction with nature.

How does the Soul of Leadership apply to business well-being? The Soul of Leadership evolved in an interesting manner. I was teaching a course, the Soul of Healing, at the Harvard Medical School. That’s when I got a call from students of the Mobius Forum for something on leadership. So I started to prepare, the response was huge and then I started getting calls from other business schools. I did this initially for students β€" a different way of looking at leadership. Then the Dean at the Kellogg school asked me to do it for executives. So I started getting serious, looked at data and what I discovered is that successful businesses have loyalties from three constituencies -- employees, customers and investors.

Of all these three, data showed, employee loyalty came first. If you had enthusiastic employees, you could build a great team. And customer loyalty and investor loyalty came along. So I focused on what creates a good team, looked at companies that have been good examples in the last 25-30 years of building a great team. That led to mapping responses for companies. I did that for Starbucks, Pepsicola, Pizza International, companies in Germany, Brazil, Europe and England.

Once in a while, I bring corporate leaders to California for a week’s training on, say, building an effective brand and how a brand captures collective imagination. A year ago, I was invited by the government of Singapore, where we helped it create brand name recognition. You say a true leader is the soul of a community. Who would you describe as true leaders in the present context?

There aren't many. Al Gore had a great opportunity. He had the makings of a great leader, till his admirers led him astray. Nelson Mandela, but he is not active any more. Oscar Arias of Costa Rica -- he ran for President twice and won the Nobel Peace Prize. He's expressed qualities of great leadership. Americans, of course, are so disgusted with the worst leader in George W Bush. Kofi Annan is a reasonably good leader, he sticks to his principles, but he gets so bullied by our idiot President. There is Lula from Brazil; given a chance he will lead Brazil in a dignified way. There are very few great leaders, considering there are over a 150 countries in the world, but these guys are good. Nelson Mandela is an outstanding visionary and a great leader.

New entry for SKEPTIC Bibliography


The Robot's Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin
Keith E. Stanovich

2004, University of Chicago Press, xvi+358p.
critical-thinking, psychology, religion, science, skepticism

A very interesting, thought-provoking book which should be read by any skeptic concerned about the nature of rationality. According to Stanovich, the thesis that we are vehicles for two separate replicators, genes and brain states which end up generating functionally equivalent states in other brains called memes, is largely correct. His main theme is that the reproductive interests of the replicators does not always coincide with human interests, and that we should be able to break free of the demands of the replicators by cultivating critical rationality. In arguing his case, Stanovich also presents a fascinating tour of some current ideas in cognitive science. A very readable and yet philosophically sophisticated book which anyone concerned with rationality and meaningful human goals will enjoy.

Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/
Please consider submitting an entry yourself.

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

Psypioneer newsletter available online

From: Terry W. Colvin

Several years ago, Psychic Pioneer website carried a wealth of information on early spiritualism, psychical research, and related topics.

Leslie Price has begun to relaunch that project. He is posting copies of Psypioneer, an electronic newsletter (in PDF format). The material is of high quality.

Back issues of the newsletter can be downloaded at--


George P. Hansen
The Trickster and the Paranormal

Climate film put to computer test


By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

A worldwide experiment to test the plausibility of the disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow starts on 22 June.

Computer users across the world are being invited to download and run a climate model of what may happen this century.

The test will see how predictions may change if the behaviour of the Gulf Stream is affected, as the film shows.

The project is the work of climate prediction .net, a consortium of UK universities and the Met Office.

Extreme scenarios make great films, but for practical planning we need to know how likely it is that such events will actually happen Dr Mat Collins, Met Office Last September the group launched a global online effort to generate "the world's most comprehensive probability-based forecast of 21st century climate".

Visitors to its website were able to download a unique version of the Met Office's climate model, simulating several decades of global climate at a time.

That experiment has recruited 49,000 participants in 130 countries, but the new one aims to go further.

Dr David Frame, the project coordinator, said: "So far we have been asking people to simulate how the climate could respond to rising carbon dioxide levels.

"Now we are extending the project to investigate how predictions might change if the thermo-haline circulation in the oceans were to slow down, altering the flow of the Gulf Stream."

'Physically plausible'

Dr Mat Collins of the Met Office said: "Extreme scenarios make great films, but for practical planning we need to know how likely it is that such events will actually happen."

The University of Oxford scientist leading the experiment is Nick Faull. He said: "We are not trying to predict the odds on a shut-down of the thermo-haline circulation, but we are asking: 'If it did happen, what are the chances it would offset the warming due to rising greenhouse gases and cause a cooling?

What consequences would it have for the atmosphere and oceans?'" Anyone wanting to join the experiment can download a secure software package, including a version of the Met Office's state-of-the-art climate model, from the climate prediction .net site.

Each model, the organisers say, is a slightly different but "physically plausible" representation of processes going on in the atmosphere, land and near-surface ocean.

The model will run for a few weeks as a background process on an ordinary desktop computer without interfering with other computing tasks.

Interactive graphics will let participants watch as their computer calculates how the weather in their model responds, first to a rise in carbon dioxide and then to a thermo-haline shut-down.

The results are finally sent back to the organisers on the internet. Carl Christensen, the project's chief computer scientist, said: "There is no way we could complete an experiment this size even using the world's biggest supercomputer.

"The project has really captured the world's imagination: anyone can join in."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/06/22 05:42:28 GMT


Campaign 2004: Kerry gets support of 48 Nobel-winning scientists


Tuesday, June 22, 2004


DENVER -- Democrat John Kerry, backed by 48 Nobel Prize winners, yesterday accused President Bush of allowing ideology rather than facts to determine science policies and repeated his pledge to overturn the ban on federal funding of research on new stem cell lines.

"We need a president who will once again embrace our tradition of looking toward the future and new discoveries with hope based on scientific facts, not fear," Kerry told hundreds who braved a cold rain to hear him speak at an outdoor amphitheater.

In a letter endorsing Kerry, 48 scientists who have won a Nobel Prize said the Bush administration is undermining the nation's future by impeding medical advances, turning away scientific talent with its immigration practices and ignoring scientific consensus on global warming and other critical issues.

"Unlike previous administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, the Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare," their letter stated.

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt asserted Bush's budget increases research and development to $132 billion in 2005, a 44 percent increase since taking office.

Kerry's campaign said he will invest in research to foster discoveries to protect the economy as well as to help cure diseases. He also will rely on scientific leaders and expert advice when making decisions, the campaign said, and will allow stem cells to be researched in full under the appropriate ethical oversight.

Kerry made a stop in Aspen for a $500,000 fund-raiser at the home of Michael Goldberg, president of Miami-based airline leasing company Aerolease International.

Kerry Vows to Lift Bush Limits on Stem-Cell Research


June 22, 2004
DENVER, June 21 - Backed by the unusual endorsement of 48 Nobel laureates, Senator John Kerry on Monday accused the Bush administration of letting ideology trump science, and promised to lift the limits on federal financing of stem-cell research and to build an economy "based on innovation, ingenuity and imagination."

Mr. Kerry and his scientific supporters echoed a 38-page report issued in February by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which accused the administration of "manipulation, suppression and misrepresentation of science" on issues like biotechnology, global warming and nuclear power.

Mr. Kerry vowed to "listen to the advice of scientists" and make their advisory reports open to the public. The group of scientists had complained that the White House heavily edited a report by the Environmental Protection Agency to remove almost any finding pointing to a human link to global warming.

Mr. Kerry also invoked the recent death of President Ronald Reagan from Alzheimer's disease and echoed Nancy Reagan's call for stem-cell research "to tear down every wall today that keeps us from finding the cures of tomorrow."

"We need a president who will again embrace the tradition of looking toward the future and new discoveries with hope based on scientific facts, not fear," Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, told thousands of people here at Civic Center Park, many of whom waited for hours on a rainy 50-degree day to see him.

"Presidents are supposed to think big and dream big and help our nation to do so," he said, citing Franklin D. Roosevelt's creation of the national laboratories, John F. Kennedy's commitment to put a man on the moon, and Bill Clinton's support for mapping the human genome. "When America sees a problem or a possibility of greatness, it is in our collective character to set our sights on the horizon and not stop working until we get there," Mr. Kerry said.

On Monday night, Mr. Kerry decided to upend his schedule, canceling a fund-raiser and speech on Tuesday in New Mexico to allow him to fly back to Washington overnight for a possible vote on an amendment to make health care financing for veterans mandatory. Mr. Kerry has rarely interrupted his campaign activities for Senate business, but veterans' health care is a signature issue in his campaign.

Burton Richter, who received the Nobel in physics in 1976 for discovering a subatomic particle and who helped Mr. Kerry's campaign collect his colleagues' support over the last 10 days, told reporters that "Nobel laureates tend not to use their names for anything outside of science," adding, "I hope you take that as a sign of how seriously all of us think the errors of our present course are."

Mr. Kerry's speech, beginning a week focused on science and technology, was his first public appearance in Colorado, a Republican-leaning state that the Democrats hope to win. He noted, as he has in television advertisements, that he was born at an Army hospital nearby. It also reflected his increasing attention to stem-cell research, an issue for which Democrats believe they have public support.

Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for Mr. Bush's re-election campaign, did not respond to the criticism of the president's policy prohibiting research on stem cells harvested since his order in 2001. The issue has split his party, with many Republicans signing on to legislation to lift the limits, particularly since Mr. Reagan's death. Mr. Schmidt answered the attack by pointing out that 22 of the 48 Nobelists who signed the pro-Kerry statement also signed a statement in January 2003 opposing war in Iraq, and 16 had given money to Democratic candidates.

In addition, 13 of the 48 were part of the group that released the February report criticizing the administration's approach to science.

"Only John Kerry would declare the country to be in scientific decline on a day when the country's first privately funded space trip is successfully completed," Mr. Schmidt said in a statement, referring to the rocket plane SpaceShipOne's journey 62 miles from earth and back.

Mr. Schmidt said the administration had increased the budget for research and development 44 percent since 2001, to $132 billion next year, and pointed to the president's plans to develop hydrogen fuel cells, promote clean coal technologies and modernize the electricity grid.

The Union of Concerned Scientists charged that the administration had often dismissed experts or selected others for scientific advisory panels based on their views on contentious subjects. The Bush administration has called most of the accusations made in the organization's report inaccurate and has said that the E.P.A. draft on global warming was dropped because more voluminous reports on climate change were in the works.

But in a conference call, three of the scientists supporting Mr. Kerry said that Mr. Bush had let America lag behind Europe and Asia in terms of patents, advanced degrees and publications in scientific journals.

"Where are the new things of tomorrow going to come from?" Dr. Richter asked. "This isn't about what's going to happen next week, it's what's going to happen next decade."

Harold Varmus, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1989 for his discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes and headed the National Institutes of Health under President Clinton, accused the Bush administration of taking a "cavalier attitude in the way it receives advice from the scientific community." Mario J. Molina, a 1995 Nobel laureate for his work in atmospheric chemistry, said he was concerned that Mr. Bush "overplays politics to scientific information."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Residents join creation debate


A school board member's objection to evolution raises worries about curriculum.
For the Daily Record/Sunday News
Thursday, June 10, 2004

Robert Bowman of Dover is a Christian man. But after reading about the Dover Area School Board's desire to have theories of creation taught alongside of evolution in his daughter's biology class, he still saw a potential for problems in the classroom. "It seems like Bill (school board member William Buckingham) wants more of a church thing to be going on in school," Bowman said. "But there are a lot of different beliefs even among those that call themselves Christian. Which school board member is going to declare whose version is right?"

During this past Monday night's board meeting, board members Alan Bonsell, Noel Wenrich and Buckingham spoke aggressively in favor of having a biology book that includes theories of creation as part of the text.

"All I'm asking for is balance," Buckingham said.

Asked if he thought this might violate the separation of church and state, Buckingham called the law, "a myth."

Resident Richard Cherry suggested parents who want religion taught as part of a science curriculum enroll their children in Christian or Catholic schools funded by private tuition, not tax dollars.

"Muslims pay taxes, too," said Bowman. "To shoot down their faith and beliefs by saying it's not as important as Christianity isn't fair."

But fellow resident Tom Jackson, who said he was a Christian, said he saw no problem with offending others with different beliefs.

"There really are no other religions," he said. "There's atheism and Christianity. That's it."

Jackson also said he felt there was a way to teach creation without necessarily talking about God or a creator, thereby avoiding problems with the law.

Bethany Yenner, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, said creation can be taught in the science classroom under the state's current Academic Standards for Science and Technology.

"But it (creation) has to be taught without attitudes and values," Yenner said. "It's up to each district to decide how they want to apply the standard.

In 2000, Pennsylvania was one of four states to get an "A" from a national organization of scientists grading how well evolution is included in state education standards. Lawrence S. Lerner, who compiled the report for the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, called creationism "a pseudoscientific rival to evolution that the courts have repeatedly held to be thinly veiled religion."

Overall, creationism has not fared well in the courts.

In 1981, Louisiana passed the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act, which was designed to ensure evolution and creationism were taught together in the sciences.

The act was ultimately struck down in 1987 by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Edwards vs. Aguillard. "The Act violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because it seeks to employ the symbolic and financial support of government to achieve a religious purpose," Justice William Brennan wrote in the majority opinion in that case.

In 1994, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an attempt to introduce creationism into the classroom by claiming evolution was itself a religion (Peloza vs. The Capistrano School District).

And in 1997, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana rejected the idea that teacher-read disclaimers would make teaching creationism acceptable in public schools (Freiler vs. The Capistrano School District).

Regardless of its potential legal ramifications, any move to implement a book that mandates the study of creationism worries Bowman.

"Once these types of religious themes are introduced into a classroom, it puts a lot of pressure on kids," he said. "I worry that students will feel intimidated to talk with teachers or their fellow classmates if their belief system is different from the version of creation that is being taught."

On Wednesday afternoon, Noel Wenrich, a member of the Dover Area School Board, said students needn't worry about that because the board's goal is not to say that students must believe in creationism or the existence of a creator. But he also said that creationism does imply the existence of an intelligent life force ultimately responsible for all life.

Then he stressed again that no one will be required to believe in creationism or a creator any more than they are currently required to believe in evolution.

"What I am saying is that when you teach only one theory (evolution), that theory becomes a fact," Wenrich said. "I'm not saying that students must believe in creation, but I do believe they must consider the possibility."

Pennsylvania's Academic Standards for Science and Technology, which allow for the teaching of creationism, can be found at

Making Noise, Getting Well


`Sound Healing' Gains Acceptance Among Users, Awaits Scientific Tests

June 21, 2004
By GARRET CONDON, Courant Staff Writer

Twenty women and three men were singing, humming and grunting in a darkened room on a recent night at the St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center's Enfield satellite office. Their eyes were closed. Most sat on chairs that formed a circle. Others stretched out on yoga mats. One man in the back went through tai chi movements.

At the head of the circle was Edie Jemiola, who ran a wand around the rims of two large translucent white-quartz bowls at her feet. The result was a crystalline, ringing sound that formed the background for the symphony of sighs and impromptu chants. The practice of chanting simple, prolonged vowel sounds without formal music is called "toning."

Jemiola's clear voice dominated, but she was not the conductor. Any vocal contribution - from pure notes to coughs - was welcome.

As the bowls sang on, Jemiola asked participants to visualize their problems and pains, to put them in imaginary bubbles and, toward the end of the hourlong session, to imagine those bubbles filled with clear, white light.

This was not a sing-along; it was a "sound healing" session.

"It just gives you a sense of peace and makes you feel that you can help yourself through a lot of emotional and physical issues. It makes you feel that you have that power," said Betty Sanville of Suffield, who was attending her third session with Jemiola.

Sound healing, or sound therapy, as it is also called, is taking its place among other alternative or complementary medical practices such as ayurvedic medicine, herbalism and other less-mainstream health-care practices. A Web search turns up thousands of sites for crystal or metal singing bowls, tuning forks, CDs, books and practitioners.

Sound therapy is not the same as music therapy, says Al Bumanis, a spokesman for the American Musical Therapy Association. In musical therapy, he said, clinical therapists and patients use music to achieve a non-musical goal, such as restoring speech to a stroke victim.

For those who like their health practices to conform to accepted science, sound healing offers relaxation and the many widely accepted, stress-relieving and immune-building qualities of meditative calm. For those who subscribe to a more Asian view of the body as an energy field, the right sound or sounds can rebalance and unblock energy and, by doing so, promote physical, emotional and mental health.

"I believe in the philosophy that we're all made of energy and that sound is energy and that through sound we can heal ourselves," says Glenn Maynard of Enfield, an on-and-off tai chi student for two decades who has attended several programs led by Jemiola.

Jemiola, a middle-aged woman who lives in Willington, came to sound healing from her initial training as a Reiki practitioner. Reiki is a synthesis of Asian healing concepts in which a practitioner places his or her hands just above a client's body and uses hand movements to direct and clear the body's energy. Jemiola, who worked in information technology at Hartford Financial Services Group for three decades, became involved with Reiki as she struggled to overcome the death of her 8-year-old son, who was hit by a car while riding his bike in 1988.

As she worked on clients and hospital patients who asked for her help, she said that "sound just started coming out," and she decided to take a course in sound healing.

Before starting the actual healing session in Enfield, she described the seven chakras, or energy centers, with specific functions that are well-known to yoga practitioners. She said that each chakra, from the "root" chakra at the tip of the tailbone to the "crown" chakra at the top of the head, corresponds to a specific note, from C for the root, up the scale to B for the crown. Her bowls are tuned to D, for the second chakra, which governs sexuality and creativity, and F for the fourth, which governs love and emotions.

These same tones are the basis for chakra-tuning tunes on the album "Chakra Suite" by Steven Halpern. The California composer, who also has a background in psychology, has written and recorded music specifically to help rebalance the jangled energy systems of stressed-out listeners. "The music assists the body to get into a place where healing can occur," he says.

Tryshe Dhevney, an actress and sound healer from Tucson, Ariz., uses what she calls "primordial tones" that she learned from Sufi masters in the 1960s and first put into use in the 1980s while working on theater projects with children. She believes her toning practice helped rid her of hepatitis C. Dhevney and others in the field speak of sound vibrations that can return sick cells to their natural, healthy state.

Some experts in the white-coat world of mainstream medicine have written about research that appears to support such claims. Dr. Mitchell L. Gaynor, a New York medical oncologist, has described his success using sound therapy with patients and has written about both ancient musical-healing traditions and contemporary studies that suggest various scientific explanations.

But Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and director of integrative medicine at Griffin Hospital in Derby, said there isn't enough evidence to support health claims based on energy waves or vibrations. And the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the federal agency that supports alternative medicine research, is not funding any studies involving sound healing.

"The science is in its infancy," Katz said, but he added that music is known to affect key body indicators, like heart rate and blood pressure. "Clearly one of the critical mechanisms in physical medicine is the quality of [blood] perfusion and circulation," he said. "Whereas much of this [regarding sound healing] has been inadequately studied, you can make the case that it's not terribly far from some things we understand pretty well."

Boulder, Colo., composer, performer and theorist Don Campbell, who has written extensively on the "Mozart effect," said he doesn't subscribe to the idea that a given note or piece of music will produce the same effect in everyone. Music is not a magic potion, he said, but it's still powerful, and he has worked extensively at integrating it into health care.

"It has a cohesive power to bring mind, body, emotion and systems into alignment," he said. "If you are tense, and if you are angry, your body does not heal as quickly."

Eileen Robertson of North Granby clearly was not concerned with whatever theories might explain what happened at Jemiola's healing session in Enfield. Her baby is due in about eight weeks and seemed to approve. "A lot of movement," she said, motioning to her belly. "And right away, too."

Edie Jemiola can be reached at ediejem@aol.com.

What exactly is complementary and alternative medicine?


21 Jun 2004

From aromatherapy to yoga, the use of complementary and alternative medicine is on the increase. It is one of the most confusing areas in health care - how do you choose which line of treatment is best for you?


The term complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is used to describe the diverse mixture of health-orientated disciplines and treatments that are not currently regarded as part of conventional medicine.

Some of these therapies are provided in conjunction with mainstream medical care (complementary) and others are seen as a substitute to conventional care (alternative) although the line between the two is often blurred. Many complementary and alternative medical systems originated in ancient or oriental systems of medicine (including the Indian practice Ayurveda, Chinese herbalism and yoga) and some are used as part of mainstream practice in the country of their origin to this day.


As 'healthcare consumers' we tend to be more demanding these days when it comes to finding a course of treatment that suits us.

Complementary and alternative approaches generally share one major principle: it is not the symptom but the person who is treated, and care and time is taken to see the patient as a 'whole' person with physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs. Practitioners aim to promote wellness for the whole person, rather than just specific symptoms in a certain area of the body. This approach appeals to many people, especially those who are feeling generally 'under the weather', or those with chronic conditions which are not completely cured by conventional medicine.


Some doctors dismiss much of alternative medicine as unproven and potentially dangerous nonsense. This view is an extreme one! However, it certainly helps to be aware of potential problems with CAM.

Perhaps the biggest issue is the lack of clinical trials conducted throughout the area. This has a number of implications. When your GP prescribes you a medicine, his choice will be backed up by evidence supporting the effectiveness of the medicine, documenting its side-effects, and advising the amount of drug that is safe. If you take herbs given to you by a Chinese herbalist, none of these safeguards exist. Training and regulation of practitioners throughout CAM is often poor, so this is another problem you need to look out for.


Lack of clinical evidence does not mean that there isn't lots of anecdotal evidence to support many complementary and alternative practices. Many people swear by the benefits of different therapies, and have even found them to be a life-changing experience. Maybe in the future these personal experiences will be backed up by clinical trials. In the meantime, your best bet is to choose your therapy wisely. Supporting your conventional therapy with a weekly yoga class is unlikely to do you harm, and may well make you feel better.

Dropping conventional treatment to consult with a herbalist is a much more questionable strategy, especially if you have a serious medical condition. In fact, going entirely 'alternative' is probably a bad idea altogether - you should always keep your doctor informed about any complementary treatments you are undergoing, and use them as an adjunct to conventional practice.


In November 2000, a House of Lords Select Committee (Science and Technology Sixth Report) presented a big study on complementary and alternative medicine in the UK. It makes interesting reading for anyone interested in CAM and also talks about the evidence for different therapies - you can find the study at: http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk

The Institute of Complementary Medicine administers the British Register of Complementary Practitioners (BRCP) - a list of registered practitioners. You can contact them via telephone on 020 7237 5165, or on their website.

This article comes from BUPA, a UK medical insurance company

Alternative medicine makes its presence felt in the Toledo area
2 health systems open centers for unconventional therapy


Article published June 21, 2004

Dr. Mounir Elkhatib, right, talks about supplements with his patient, Crystal Ellis, former Toledo schools superintendent. ( THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY )


Crystal Ellis and his doctor were stumped.

Test after test failed to discover why the former Toledo Public Schools superintendent was short of energy. And he needed energy.

An avid golfer and self-described busybody, Mr. Ellis, 71, was filling in as principal of Libbey High School in Toledo. He prided himself on being active.

"I can run up the stairs faster than the kids can," he boasted.

So, when his physician Dr. Mounir Elkhatib suggested trying a vitamin with herbal supplements blended with it, he agreed. Dr. Elkhatib said it might help his body metabolize food more efficiently, and boost his energy levels.

And it worked: "I think I hit the golf ball farther now," he said. "The supplements helped me function. To be able to stay active gives me a high quality of life."

Mr. Ellis isn't alone in trying what is often referred to as "alternative" or "complementary" medicine. A government study released last month found 36 percent of Americans are using some form of alternative therapy.

Definitions of just what is considered alternative or complementary medicine vary, but in general the terms refer to any practice or product not considered to be part of conventional medicine.

Everything from praying for recovery to massage therapy to taking herbal supplements has been described as alternative therapy.

Many physicians are skeptical of these treatments. But realizing patients are using alternative medicine regardless of what doctors think, northwest Ohio's two largest health systems are devoting facilities to alternative or complementary therapies.

Last week in Sylvania Township, ProMedica Health System opened the Great Lakes Center for Integrative Medicine, where Dr. Elkhatib is director. Mercy Health Partners will next week open the Mercy Center for Complementary Medicine in West Toledo.

The moves by ProMedica and Mercy are one signal of the growing acceptance of alternative therapies by more mainstream institutions such as hospitals. The American Hospital Association surveyed hospitals nationwide last year and estimated 17 percent of hospitals offered some sort of alternative therapy, up from 8 percent in 1998.

Mercy and ProMedica officials said they've offered some forms of alternative therapies for several years, but opening the centers gives patients a one-stop shop for such services. Therapies offered at the centers include acupuncture, massage therapy, and, at ProMedica's, herbal supplements.

"This is not alternative medicine. This is mainstream medicine for 80 percent of the world," Dr. Elkhatib said. "What we're offering is not a substitute for [conventional medicine], it's just another component."

Dr. Ronald Shapiro, a kidney specialist who will practice at the Mercy center, began using acupuncture more than 20 years ago for some of his patients who were in pain and was startled to see how effective it was.

"I tried it a couple of times and their pain stopped immediately," he recalled. "Now, it's become more widely understood and accepted. Doctors realize it can be effective."

Well, not all doctors.

The American Medical Association, whose members represent about one third of the nation's physicians, takes a dim view on alternative therapies.

The official AMA policy on alternative medicine in part states: "There is little evidence to confirm the safety or efficacy of most alternative therapies."

"I think the general medical community consensus is we're waiting to see better medical evidence," said Dr. Philip Stiff, Jr., a cardiologist and president of the Academy of Medicine of Toledo and Lucas County. The Academy is a professional group representing physicians within Lucas County.

Dr. Stiff said he thinks many complementary therapies are "risky" and he and many of his colleagues "want to make sure any therapy helps, rather than hurts, the patient."

Hard to ignore

Dr. Elkhatib was a skeptic.

When he was growing up in the Middle East, his grandparents often relied on herbs and other therapies used for hundreds of years.

But after attending medical school and setting up practice in Toledo more than 20 years ago, he decided folkloric remedies weren't worth examining. He was proud of his new medical degree and had shelves full of medical textbooks to consult if he needed information.

Then a patient came into his office and mentioned to him she was taking some supplements for her illness.

"I told her to throw them away, and that they were rubbish," he recalled. "She said, 'Oh, so you know a lot about these?' "

Silence filled the exam room.

"I was so embarrassed to make a judgment without knowing anything about it," he said.

So he decided to begin investigating on his own what others had written about herbal supplements.

"I figured, if it's happening right under my nose, I better learn about it," Dr. Elkhatib said. "Putting our head in the sand won't help us at all."

It was a smart decision, according to Dr. Steven Bolling, a cardiac surgeon and director of the Michigan Integrative Medicine Center at the University of Michigan.

"This is a $35 billion to $45 billion industry in the United States. It behooves all of us to know about it," Dr. Bolling said.

Dr. Jeffrey Bachtel, president of the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians, agreed.

"Some doctors think it's voodoo, but a lot of us are looking at it with an open mind. Millions of Chinese have been using these therapies for years, so they can't be totally wrong. Look at all the medicines in our war chest that are derived from plants, aspirin for example [which comes from the bark of the willow tree]," said Dr. Bachtel, who practices near Akron.

All physicians should become educated about alternative therapies and ask their patients if they're using the therapies, Dr. Bachtel said.

That's because many treatments can have dangerous side effects, especially when mixed with prescription drugs, Dr. Bolling said.

Common supplements, such as St. John's Wort, can interfere with antiviral medications and other medications, making their use potentially deadly in some heart patients.

"There are so many herbs people take that interact, just in my area, with blood thinners, and that can be very dangerous," he said.

Though many physicians support at least considering alternative therapies, most are concerned there's little regulation of the therapies, especially supplements.

"You could go out and mow your lawn and [save the clippings] and sell it," Dr. Bolling said.

His lab's research has found a wide variation in what's in - or not in - common supplements. For example, a test of the supplement hawthorne found some bottles, even some from the same manufacturer, had no hawthorne while others had hundreds of times the dose listed.

Evidence-based treatment The federal government isn't ignoring the growing influence of alternative and complementary medicine. In 1998, Congress established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine as part of the National Institutes of Health. The center's main goal is to evaluate alternative therapies using established scientific testing to see which therapies are safe and effective.

"From our point of view, very few of these therapies have been adequately shown to be effective, though there are certainly some promising areas," said Richard Nahlin, senior adviser for scientific coordination and outreach at the center.

Dr. Bolling said his center, which is supported in part by an NIH grant, said it's critical that whenever possible complementary therapies be evaluated.

For example, he asks whether garlic lowers your cholesterol. After all, thousands of Americans take it believing so, and yet "no study has ever shown it works," he said.

Garlic, other than bad breath, won't kill you, he pointed out, so he's not that concerned about patients using garlic, unless they're using it instead of proven therapies.

Other therapies aren't just unproven, they're proved dangerous. Natural does not mean safe, Dr. Bolling said.

One therapy involves the substance laetrile, which contains material from apricot pits and other fruits. Sound harmless? Sure, other than the fact that those pits can contain the deadly substance cyanide.

Nevertheless, many cancer patients have traveled to Mexico seeking such treatment, he said. Doctors in the U.S. studied the material and found it not only didn't work, it made patients die quicker.

If it works, try it Tina Ferner convinced her hospital, St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, to support massage therapy with a simple pitch: It works and it saves money.

Ms. Ferner, integrated therapy coordinator at the hospital, and her staff did a study on cancer patients who had massages compared to those who didn't. The study found that the hospital saved $3,000 per patient because massage patients didn't need as much anti-nausea medications and decreased their time in the hospital.

The hospital now offers massage therapy or other therapies - such as healing touch - free of charge to all cancer patients.

"I've been surprised. We haven't gotten any negative reaction. The [cancer physicians] provided letters of support to us," she said. "We work within mainstream medicine, along side it."

Anne-Marie Scott, who lives in Maumee, doesn't see what the big deal is. In her native France, lots of people relied on alternative therapies like acupuncture. So when Dr. Shapiro recommended trying it for back pain, along with massage therapy for a torn Achilles tendon, she didn't think twice.

She said both therapies helped her.

Her tendon healed naturally, without surgery as another doctor was suggesting, and her back feels better.

"There definitely is a big difference," she said.

Contact Luke Shockman at: lshockman@theblade.com or 419-724-6084.

The Fabrication of Aboriginal History


The Sydney Line

Keith Windschuttle

[See The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists are Murdering Our Past and
Whitewash: On Keith Windschuttle's Fabrication of Aboriginal History and
Scientific Irrationalism: Origins of a Postmodern Cult.]

Paper to NSW Higher School Certificate History Extension conference, June 2 2004

History is an intellectual discipline that goes back to the ancient Greeks. The first real historian, Thucydides, did a remarkable thing. He set out to distance himself from his own political system and to write a work that examined critically what happened to Greece in the Peloponnesian Wars. He not only told of his own side's virtues and victories but of its mistakes and disasters. Thucydides also distanced himself from his own culture and religion. Instead of the mythical tales that all previous human societies had used to affirm their place in the cosmos, he faced the fact that the Greek oracles could not foretell their future and that the Greek gods could not ensure their fortunes. In short, what was remarkable about Thucydides, and all those who have followed him, was that they made a clean break with myths and legends. Instead, they defined history as the pursuit of truth about the past.

The ability to stand outside your own political system, your own culture and your religion, to criticise your own society and to pursue the truth, is something we today take so much for granted that it is almost part of the air we breath. Without it, our idea of freedom of expression would not exist. We should recognise, however, that this is a distinctly Western phenomenon, that is, it is part of the cultural heritage of those countries -- Europe, the Americas and Australasia -- that have evolved out of Ancient Greece, Rome and Christianity. This idea was never produced by either Confucian or Hindu culture. Under Islam it had a brief life in the fourteenth century but was never heard of again. Rather than take the idea of history for granted, we should regard it as a rare and precious legacy that is our job to nurture and to pass on to future generations.

Until about fifty years ago, the overwhelming majority of the history books written in the West were about two subjects: politics and warfare. The main characters who bestrode the historical stage were those men who ruled the political systems and who commanded the armies and navies. The reason was that history was written largely as a narrative of causes and consequences. Readers wanted to know how kingdoms, empires and republics had come into being, and why many of them had subsequently gone out of existence. Historians saw the social life of ordinary people as something that could flourish only under organized systems of political authority. They also recognized that successful warfare could expand a particular form of social life well beyond its origins, as happened under the Roman Empire, but also that military defeat could snuff out a social system and a culture literally overnight. So the writing of history was largely about trying to understand the major causes that operated in the human world, and these major causes were seen as politics and warfare.

In the last few decades, all of this -- the entire intellectual heritage of history writing -- has come under challenge within our universities. Academic historians have argued that the attempt to distance themselves from their own political system cannot be done. According to many, history is "inescapably political". In tandem with this has come the notion that history cannot be objective because there are no independent vantage points from which one can look down on the past. We can only see the world through the lenses of our own culture, so what we see is inherently subjective. And if that is so, then the pursuit of something as objective as the truth becomes a mere pipe dream. And we have to give up the idea of truth as an absolute concept and substitute a relative idea of truth. Under this notion, different cultures and even different political positions each have their own truths, even if they are incompatible with the truths of other cultures. This stance generally goes under the name of postmodernism.

Along with this critique has come a reconfiguring of the subject matter of history. In most university history departments, political and military history are now minor parts of the curriculum. The pre-eminent position is now held by the new field of social history, which celebrates the achievements not of great men but of ordinary people, especially those minority or disadvantaged groups supposedly outside the mainstream such as women, homosexuals, blacks and immigrants.

Overall, then, in the writing and teaching of history today, the views that are in the ascendancy are those that support a skepticism about the pursuit of objectivity and truth, and those that want to replace political and military history and their focus on great men, with social history and its focus on minority or disadvantaged groups.

I want to argue today that the direction history is now taking is a big mistake.

I'll start with the postmodernist view of historical truth and quote one of its advocates, the Manning Clark Professor of History at the Australian National University, Anne Curthoys, who has written:

Many academics in the humanities and social sciences … now reject … the notion that one can objectively know the facts. The processes of knowing, and the production of an object that is known, are seen as intertwined. Many take this even further, and argue that knowledge is entirely an effect of power, that we can no longer have any concept of truth at all.

There are two things wrong with this view. First, if we can no longer have any concept of truth, that is, if there are no truths, then the statement "there are no truths" cannot itself be true. It is an obvious self-contradiction. Second, this is a silly thing to say because we have very good knowledge not only about some things that happened in history but many thousands, perhaps even millions of things. For instance, we know all the names of all the leaders of all the nations for at least the past two hundred years and most of the leaders for many centuries before that as well. We know for certain the historical fact that John Howard has been Prime Minister of Australia since 1996 and that John Curtin was Australia's Prime Minister for most of World War II. We have the same degree of certainty about a great many of the events of history. For example, the statement: "The United States and its allies defeated the Japanese in World War II" is true. It is not a statement about which there can be any doubt at all. The Japanese not only signed a surrender in 1945 but the world would not be the way it is today if this statement wasn't true. Moreover, this is not a statement that is dependent upon some particular cultural vantage point. It is true in American culture, Australian culture, Japanese culture, indeed in every culture on the planet. There is nothing relative about historical truths of this kind.

Let me now turn to the rise of social history and use as an example the National Museum of Australia, which opened in 2001. It was always going to be a museum of history but in the debates over what its contents should be, the view that won out was that it should be a museum of social history. One of its most influential documents argued:

The impact of postmodernism has meant that … triumphalist stories of national progress are no longer intellectually tenable. Many museum practitioners now see their work as a critical practice, committed to drawing out the ways in which constructions of race, class and gender (and sometimes sexuality and age) have shaped national histories.

The result is that most of the people celebrated in the museum's exhibits are those who fit within the categories of "interest group" politics, that is, the politics of feminism, gay liberation, radical environmentalism, and the politics of Aborigines and ethnic groups. The white males who established Australia's political, legal and educational institutions and those who played major roles in building our economy barely rate a mention. The museum has a big electronic map showing the historical spread of introduced pests like rabbits, foxes and prickly pear. But there is no map of the spread of farming, grazing, mining or industry. One of the museum's exhibits celebrates a man who designs dresses for the Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney. Others include environmental activists, anti-nuclear campaigners and the trade unionists who vandalised Parliament House during a riot in 1996. Responding to criticism that the nation had better heroes than these to commemorate, the director took a relativist position: "Heroism," she said, "is in the eye of the beholder."

There are very good reasons, however, why history once paid only a small degree of attention to many of the groups the museum now celebrates, and why it focused so much attention on Anglo-Celts of the male sex. To show why their society took the form it did and how it responded to its major challenges, historians once invoked causes of a political, military, economic and legal nature. Most of the now favoured sexual and ethnic identity groups played only small roles in this account. This was because for most of the time most of these people were not causally effective: they were the objects rather than the agents of history; they were on the receiving end of major historical events, not their instigators.

Now, none of this is meant to argue that you cannot write acceptable histories of women or ethnic groups. It is perfectly legitimate, for instance, to write an account of the history of the domestic activities of Australian women in the First World War, even though those women had little impact on the outcome. Similarly, ethnic histories are obviously important to members of those ethnic groups and there is nothing inherently unscholarly about producing them. However, for a national history or a national museum obliged to tell a national story, the social history approach has serious drawbacks.

For a start, histories of this kind are never, in themselves, sufficient to provide a complete explanation of the lives of the people discussed. Minority groups do not live in cocoons of their own making. Their lives are governed by the great political, legal and economic structures of Australian society. Any attempt to tell a national history, in either a book or a museum, is obliged to explain these major influences on the lives of all the nation's members. This means focusing on these major structures and the key decision-makers who brought them into being or changed their direction.

Another problem for social history is lack of coherence. By abandoning the traditional approach to history based on a narrative of major events and their causes, in favour of interest group politics, history loses its explanatory power. There is no integrated story that links events into an intelligible framework. In short, the attempt to use social history to tell national history becomes incoherent and unintelligible. This is the major problem of the historical displays at the National Museum and in most of the Australian history written by people employed by our universities today.

However, when historians indulge in the politics of their favoured minority groups by far the worst outcome is that they abandon the very objective that history was founded to pursue: the search for the truth.

Most of the authors who have written Aboriginal history in Australia over the past thirty years have not been overt postmodernists. Nonetheless they have accepted that history is "inescapably political" and they have taken the view that evidence can be treated in a cavalier fashion and that what matters is the 'big picture" or the political ends served. Authors like Henry Reynolds and Lyndall Ryan have dedicated their work to what they see as Aboriginal political interests, especially the justification of Aboriginal political sovereignty.

In her book The Aboriginal Tasmanians Lyndall Ryan claims that British colonists killed 100 Aborigines in Van Diemen's Land between 1804 and 1808. Last year, on Channel Nine's program Sunday, Ryan confessed she didn't have any evidence for the figure. I had pointed out that the source her book quoted, the diary of the colony's chaplain Robert Knopwood, only recorded four Aboriginal deaths. Ryan, however, claimed that footnote was a mistake and her real source was a report by the explorer John Oxley in 1810. But if you look up Oxley's report, there is no mention in it anywhere of 100 Aborigines being killed. Pressed on the issue by journalist Helen Dalley, Ryan said: "I think by the way Oxley wrote that he seemed to think there had been a great loss of life from the Aborigines." Helen Dalley then asked: "So, in a sense, it is fair enough for [Keith Windschuttle] to say that you did make up figures? You're telling me you made an estimated guess." Ryan replied: "Historians are always making up figures."

Like everything else Ryan has said on this subject, however, this statement was not true either. All historians do not make up figures. To do so is a corruption of their profession. Historians must have evidence for their claims. And if they can't produce evidence they shouldn't produce figures. Ryan would have been more accurate if she had said: the historians of Aboriginal Australia are always making up figures. That statement would have been true.

The biggest single invention was made by Henry Reynolds in his book The Other Side of the Frontier. He claimed that 10,000 Aborigines were killed in Queensland before federation. The source he provides is an article of his own called "The Unrecorded Battlefields of Queensland", which he wrote in 1978. But if you look up the article you find something very strange. It is not about Aboriginal deaths at all. It is a tally of the number of whites killed by Aborigines. Nowhere does it mention an Aboriginal death toll of 10,000. Reynolds gave a false citation for his evidence.

For most of my adult life I was a true believer of the story of Aboriginal genocide and frontier warfare. I had never done any archival research in the field but nonetheless used the principal historical works of Henry Reynolds, Lyndall Ryan, Charles Rowley and others in lectures I gave in university courses in Australian history and Australian social policy. I used to tell students that the record of the British in Australia was worse than the Spaniards in America. However, in 2000 I was asked to review a book by Perth journalist Rod Moran about the infamous Forrest River Massacre in the Kimberley in 1926. Moran convinced me that there had been no massacre at Forrest River. There were no eyewitnesses and no bodies found. The charred remains of bones at first thought to be of Aborigines shot and cremated were shown by forensic examination not to be of human origin. They probably belonged to kangaroos and wallabies. So-called "massacre sites" were nothing but old Aboriginal camp sites. A list of Aborigines gone missing from the local mission, and suspected to have been murdered, turned out to be a fake, concocted by the white clergyman running the mission. Many of those on his list were recorded alive and well years later.

On reading this I decided to investigate the overall story I had long accepted by checking the footnotes of the principal authors.

In the three years since then I have found a similar degree of misrepresentation, deceit and outright fabrication. The project began in Tasmania, or Van Diemen's Land as it was known until 1855, about which I originally expected to write a single chapter. However, in going back to the archives to check what happened there, I found such a wealth of material, including some of the most hair-raising breaches of historical practice imaginable, that Van Diemen's Land has become the subject of the first of what will eventually be a three-volume series entitled The Fabrication of Aboriginal History.

There are two central claims made by historians of Aboriginal Australia: first, the actions by the colonists amounted to genocide; second, the actions by the Aborigines were guerilla tactics that amounted to frontier warfare.

Lyndall Ryan claims that in Tasmania the Aborigines were subject to "a conscious policy of genocide". Rhys Jones in his film The Last Tasmanian labels it "a holocaust of European savagery". However, at a conference last year at the University of Tasmania, one of the senior figures of Australian historiography, Geoffrey Bolton, who is no supporter of mine, nonetheless said historians should stop using the term "genocide" in Australian history because the evidence is not there to support the charge. So, a little bit of progress has been made in the debate over genocide.

On the question of frontier warfare, however, the orthodoxy refuses to budge. So let us examine some of its major claims.

Lyndall Ryan says the so-called "Black War" of Tasmania began in the winter of 1824 with the Big River tribe launching patriotic attacks on the invaders. However, the assaults on whites that winter were made by a small gang of detribalized blacks led by a man named Musquito, who was not defending his tribal lands. He was an Aborigine originally from Sydney who had worked in Hobart for ten years before becoming a bushranger. He had no Tasmanian tribal lands to defend. Musquito's successor as leader of the gang was Black Tom, a young man who, again, was not a tribal Aborigine. He had Tasmanian Aboriginal parents, but had been reared since infancy in the white middle class household of Thomas Birch, a Hobart merchant. Until his capture in 1827, he was Tasmania's leading bushranger but, as with Musquito, his actions cannot be interpreted as patriotic defence of tribal Aboriginal territory.

From 1828 to 1830, tribal Aborigines emulated these predecessors by raiding white households, assaulting and killing their occupants and stealing their contents. The man who knew the Aborigines best, George Augustus Robinson, said he had information from the Aborigines themselves that a group known as the Port Davey band was the most active in murdering and robbing white settlers in 1829. However, no one had taken the Port Davey band's land or disturbed their hunting grounds. Indeed, they had no hunting grounds. They lived almost entirely on the rocky shoreline of Tasmania's south and south-west coasts, living off shellfish and seals. There was no white settlement in their area in 1829 and, in fact, there is still none, even today. The hinterland is mountainous, barren and equally useless for hunting, farming or grazing. The Port Davey band crossed the island to assault, rob and murder white settlers on the east coast. They had no patriotic or territorial motives for their actions. Neither Reynolds nor Ryan, however, mention this group's activities. To do so would spoil their frontier warfare thesis.

Henry Reynolds claims Lieutenant-Governor Arthur recognized from his experience in the Spanish War against Napoleon that the Aborigines were using the tactic of guerilla warfare, in which small bands attacked the troops of their enemy. However, during his military career Arthur never served in Spain. If you read the full text of the statement Reynolds cites, you find Arthur was talking not about troops coming under attack by guerillas but of Aborigines robbing and assaulting unarmed shepherds on remote outstations. Reynolds edited out that part of the statement that disagreed with his thesis.

Reynolds claims that Arthur inaugurated the notorious "Black Line" in 1830 because "he feared 'a general decline in the prosperity' and the 'eventual extirpation of the colony'". Reynolds presents that last phrase as a verbatim quotation from Arthur. However, Arthur never said this. Reynolds altered his words. When confronted by journalists of the Sydney Morning Herald with this charge from my book, Reynolds replied: "I've never said that. That's quite, quite misleading. How could the Aborigines destroy the colony? … Nowhere did I suggest that Arthur thought they could wipe out the colony. That would be a silly thing to say." However, six days later, after journalists sent Reynolds the page in his book Frontier where he did quote Arthur saying exactly that, he finally conceded what he had done. He said: "It's a bad mistake. I obviously didn't know it existed, far from it that I had done it deliberately to distort the story … All historians are fallible and make mistakes."

Indeed they are and indeed they do, but the so-called mistakes made by the historians of Aboriginal Tasmania have set a standard for error that is unlikely to be surpassed. Let me give some more examples.

Lyndall Ryan cites the Hobart Town Courier as a source for several stories about atrocities against Aborigines in 1826. However, that newspaper did not begin publication until October 1827 and the other two newspapers of the day made no mention of these alleged killings.

Ryan claims that frontier warfare in Tasmania's northern districts in 1827 included: a massacre of Port Dalrymple Aborigines by a vigilante group of stockmen at Norfolk Plains; the killing of a kangaroo hunter in reprisal for him shooting Aboriginal men; the burning of a settler's house because his stockmen had seized Aboriginal women; the spearing of three other stockmen and clubbing of one to death at Western Lagoon. But if you check her footnotes in the archives you find that not one of the five sources she cites mentions any of these events.

Between 1828 and 1830, according to Ryan, "roving parties" of police constables and convicts killed 60 Aborigines. Not one of the three references she cites mentions any Aborigines being killed, let alone 60. The governor at the time and most subsequent authors, including Henry Reynolds, regarded the roving parties as completely ineffectual.

Lloyd Robson claims the settler James Hobbs in 1815 witnessed Aborigines killing 300 sheep at Oyster Bay and the next day the 48th Regiment killed 22 Aborigines in retribution. However, it would have been difficult for Hobbs to have witnessed this in 1815 because at the time he was living in India. Moreover, the first sheep did not arrive at Oyster Bay until 1821 and in 1815 there is no evidence the 48th Regiment ever went anywhere near Oyster Bay.

The whole case is not just a fabrication, it is a romantic fantasy derived from academic admiration of the anti-colonial struggles in South-East Asia in the 1960s, when its authors were young and when they absorbed the left-wing political spirit of the day. The truth is that in Tasmania more than a century before, there was nothing on the Aborigines' side that resembled frontier warfare, patriotic struggle or systematic resistance of any kind.

It was a similar story on the white side of the frontier. The infamous Tasmanian "Black Line" of 1830 is now described by Reynolds as an act of "ethnic cleansing" and it is commonly regarded as an attempt to capture or exterminate all the Aborigines. However, its true purpose was to remove from the settled districts only two of the nine tribes on the island to uninhabited country from where they could no longer assault white households. The lieutenant-governor specifically ordered that five of the other seven tribes be left alone.

The so-called "Black War" turns out to have been a minor crime wave by two Europeanised black bushrangers, followed by an outbreak of robbery, assault and murder by tribal Aborigines. All the evidence at the time, on both the white and black sides of the frontier, was that their principal objective was to acquire flour, sugar, tea and bedding, objects that to them were European luxury goods. We have several statements to that effect from the Aborigines themselves.

Unlike Lyndall Ryan, Reynolds does not himself support the idea that the colonial authorities had a conscious policy of genocide against the Aborigines. Instead, Reynolds's thesis is that it was the settlers who wanted to exterminate them. He claims that throughout the 1820s, the free settlers spoke about and advocated extirpation or extermination. However, even on the evidence he provides himself, only a handful of settlers ever advocated anything like this. And they spoke of it not in the 1820s but only in the immediate aftermath of Aboriginal killings of whites in 1830 and 1831.

In 1830, a government inquiry into Aboriginal affairs conducted a questionnaire survey of the leading settlers to determine their attitudes. It was possibly the first questionnaire survey ever conducted in Australia. Reynolds knows this survey existed because he has quoted selections from the settlers' answers in at least two of his books. However, he has never mentioned the survey's existence in anything he has written. Why not? Well, obviously, if his readers knew there had been a survey they would want to know the results, that is, all the results not just a handful of selected quotations. I examine the full results in my book. They show that in 1830, at the height of Aboriginal violence, very few of the settlers were calling for the extermination of the Aborigines. There were fourteen respondents. Seven of them still wanted to pursue a policy of conciliation towards the Aborigines. Five of them were against violence but wanted to remove the Aborigines to a secure location, such as a peninsula or island. Only two of them seriously advocated exterminating the Aborigines.

The full historic record, not the selective version provided by Reynolds, shows the prospect of extermination divided the settlers deeply, was always rejected by government and was never acted upon.

In the entire period from 1803 when the colonists first arrived in Tasmania, to 1834 when all but one family of Aborigines had been removed to Flinders Island, my calculation is that the British were responsible for killing only 120 of the original inhabitants, mostly in self defence or in hot pursuit of Aborigines who had just assaulted white households. In these incidents, the Aborigines killed 187 colonists. In all of Europe's colonial encounters with the New Worlds of the Americas and the Pacific, the colony of Van Diemen's Land was probably the site where the least indigenous blood of all was deliberately shed.

Why, then, have the historians of Tasmania told this story about genocide, frontier warfare and widespread bloodshed. I suggest several of the reasons in my book: to make Australian history, which would otherwise be dull and uneventful, seem more dramatic than it really was; to assume the moral high ground and flatter their own vanity as defenders of the Aborigines; in some cases to pursue a traditional Marxist agenda or to indulge in interest group politics of gender, race and class. But the greatest influence on them has been not so much a commitment to any specific political program but the notion that emerged in the 1960s that history itself is "inescapably political". This is a phrase Reynolds used in 1981 in the introduction to his book The Other Side of the Frontier. Without this concept, there might have been less licence taken with historical evidence and a greater sense of the historian's responsibility to respect the truth. The argument that all history is politicised, that it is impossible for the historian to shed his political interests and prejudices, and that those who believed they could do so are only deluding themselves, has become the most corrupting influence of all. It has turned the traditional role of the historian, to stand outside his contemporary society in order to seek the truth about the past, on its head. It has allowed historians to write from an overtly partisan position and to justify this both to themselves and to anyone who dared challenge them.

In contrast, the proper role of the historian is to try to stand above politics, difficult though this always will be. Historians should assume a public responsibility to report their evidence fully and accurately, to cite their sources honestly, and to adopt as objective a stand as possible. To pretend that acceptable interpretations can be drawn from false or non-existent or deceptively selective evidence is to abandon the pursuit of historical truth altogether.

Since the publication of my book in November 2002 it has been the subject of a heated debate in the press.

Some non-academic commentators were concerned at my book's findings -- for instance, the journalist Michael Duffy wrote in the Courier Mail (December 14 2002) "allegations of scholarly fraud on this scale are virtually unknown". However, university-based historians tried to dismiss them as unimportant. Raymond Evans of the University of Queensland wrote in the Courier-Mail (December 20 2002) that all I had uncovered in the work of Henry Reynolds, Lyndall Ryan and Lloyd Robson was "a clutch of regrettable mistakes", including no more than "half a dozen alleged gaffes" in Ryan's book The Aboriginal Tasmanians. Ryan herself in the Australian (December 17 2002) described these as "a few minor errors that can easily be rectified".

However, as I've already indicated, Ryan's book goes well beyond a few forgivable gaffes. There are at least seventeen cases where she either invented atrocities and other incidents or provided false footnotes, plus another seven cases where the number of Aborigines she claims were killed or captured is either outright false or exaggerated beyond belief. Lloyd Robson committed a similar degree of fabrication.

Ryan's response to me critique has taken a postmodernist view of historical truth. She contrasts her view and mine about what happened in Tasmania. She writes: "Two truths are told. Is only one 'truth' correct?" She puts the word "truth" in quotation marks to indicate she thinks it is only a relative concept not something absolute. However, if two different interpretations of history are incompatible, as they are in this case, they cannot both be truths. The truth of one entails the falsity of the other.

Ryan also writes (Australian, December 17): "responsible scholars realize that no one can claim a final and complete 'truth'." Again, she puts "truth" in quotation marks. It is not difficult, however, to show that there are some truths in this debate that can be very easily established as final and complete. For example, Ryan claims that Rev Knopwood's diary recorded 100 Aborigines killed between 1804 and 1808. Anyone can check this by going through his diary and making a count. If you do this you will find that I have told the truth when I say there are only four Aboriginal deaths recorded in the diaries in that period. Ryan's fall-back position, that she made a mistake in referencing the diary and should have quoted John Oxley's 1810 report, is in the same position. Nowhere does that report mention 100 Aborigines killed by the colonists. So her claim that the evidence shows 100 were killed is definitely false. The same method can be applied to determine, once and for all, the truth or falsity of the other examples I gave earlier.

The overall conclusion I want to draw from the history of Tasmania is this: in line with the current fashion for interest group politics, Tasmanian historians have pursued political ends. They have decided the political interests they want to support and have then gone looking for evidence that fits their aims. However, the proper pursuit of history differs from this in the respect it gives to evidence. While it is true that almost all historians come to their task with the aim of establishing a certain point, or of solving a certain problem, one of the most common experiences is that the evidence they find leads them to modify their original approach. When they go looking for evidence, most will find things they had not anticipated. If the historian is honest, then this unexpected evidence will suggest alternative arguments, interpretations and conclusions, and different problems to pursue. In other words, the evidence often makes genuine historians change their minds, quite contrary to the practice of politicised historians, whose aim is primarily to find evidence that fits their preconceptions. For the politicised historian, if the evidence poses problems for his conclusions, it is the evidence itself that has to be ignored, rejected or explained away. For the genuine historian, in the end it is the evidence itself that determines what case it is possible to make.

None of this means you cannot draw political conclusions from history. Indeed, history remains one of our best teachers of political lessons. But it can only teach us well if we set out to seek the truth. If we start historical research with our political minds already made up we are doing no more than re-circulating our existing political prejudices.

Let me finish by emphasizing that all historians have a public responsibility to report their evidence fully and accurately and to cite their sources honestly. To pretend that facts do not matter and that acceptable interpretations can be drawn from false or non-existent evidence is to abandon the pursuit of historical truth altogether. Historians who do so betray their professional duty to preserve the integrity of the ancient discipline of history itself.

Monday, June 21, 2004

FTC: No love for baby bug device http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/06/21/ftc.love.bug.reut/index.html

Monday, June 21, 2004 Posted: 2:16 PM EDT (1816 GMT)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. regulators Monday challenged a California company's claims that its electronic device called "the Love Bug" could protect babies from mosquitoes by simulating the wingbeat of a dragonfly.

The Federal Trade Commission said it had reached a settlement with Prince Lionheart Inc. that requires the company to provide evidence before claiming its ultrasonic "Love Bug" device can repel mosquitoes.

The battery-operated device, designed to be clipped to a baby stroller, emits a barely audible tone that the company said mimics the sound of a dragonfly, which preys on mosquitoes . It was marketed through catalogues and baby products stores as an alternative to chemical mosquito repellents.

According to the FTC, Prince Lionheart falsely claimed that the Love Bug could help protect against the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus.

"Love Bug repels mosquitoes by electronically duplicating the wingbeat of the dragonfly -- the mosquito's mortal enemy!" one statement from Lionheart said, according to the FTC.

A spokesman for Prince Lionheart was not immediately available for comment. God's Number Is Up http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&colID=13&articleID=000E350F-2F66-10CF-AD3D83414B7F0000

Among a heap of books claiming that science proves God's existence emerges one that computes a probability of 67 percent

By Michael Shermer

In his 1916 poem "A Coat," William Butler Yeats rhymed: "I made my song a coat/Covered with embroideries/Out of old mythologies/From heel to throat."

Read "religion" for "song," and "science" for "coat," and we have a close approximation of the deepest flaw in the science and religion movement, as revealed in Yeats's denouement: "But the fools caught it,/Wore it in the world's eyes/As though they'd wrought it./Song, let them take it/For there's more enterprise/In walking naked."

Naked faith is what religious enterprise was always about, until science became the preeminent system of natural verisimilitude, tempting the faithful to employ its wares in the practice of preternatural belief. Although most efforts in this genre offer little more than scientistic cant and religious blather, a few require a response from the magisterium of science, if for no other reason than to protect that of religion; if faith is tethered to science, what happens when the science changes? One of the most innovative works in this genre is The Probability of God (Crown Forum, 2003), by Stephen D. Unwin, a risk management consultant in Ohio, whose early physics work on quantum gravity showed him that the universe is probabilistic and whose later research in risk analysis led him to this ultimate computation.

If faith is tethered to science, what happens when the science changes?

Unwin rejects most scientific attempts to prove the divine--such as the anthropic principle and intelligent design--concluding that this "is not the sort of evidence that points in either direction, for or against." Instead he employs Bayesian probabilities, a statistical method devised by 18th-century Presbyterian minister and mathematician Reverend Thomas Bayes. Unwin begins with a 50 percent probability that God exists (because 50–50 represents "maximum ignorance"), then applies a modified Bayesian theorem:

The probability of God's existence after the evidence is considered is a function of the probability before times D ("Divine Indicator Scale"): 10 indicates the evidence is 10 times as likely to be produced if God exists, 2 is two times as likely if God exists, 1 is neutral, 0.5 is moderately more likely if God does not exist, and 0.1 is much more likely if God does not exist. Unwin offers the following figures for six lines of evidence: recognition of goodness (D = 10), existence of moral evil (D = 0.5), existence of natural evil (D = 0.1), intranatural miracles (prayers) (D = 2), extranatural miracles (resurrection) (D = 1), and religious experiences (D = 2). Plugging these figures into the above formula (in sequence, where the Pafter figure for the first computation is used for the Pbefore figure in the second computation, and so on for all six Ds), Unwin concludes: "The probability that God exists is 67%." Remarkably, he then confesses: "This number has a subjective element since it reflects my assessment of the evidence. It isn't as if we have calculated the value of pi for the first time."

Indeed, based on my own theory of the evolutionary origins of morality and the sociocultural foundation of religious beliefs and faith, I would begin (as Unwin does) with a 50 percent probability of God's existence and plug in these figures: recognition of goodness (D = 0.5), existence of moral evil (D = 0.1), existence of natural evil (D = 0.1), intranatural miracles (D = 1), extranatural miracles (D = 0.5), and religious experiences (D = 0.1). I estimate the probability that God exists is 0.02, or 2 percent.

Regardless, the subjective component in the formula relegates its use to an entertaining exercise in thinking--on par with mathematical puzzles--but little more. In my opinion, the question of God's existence is a scientifically insoluble one. Thus, all such scientistic theologies are compelling only to those who already believe. Religious faith depends on a host of social, psychological and emotional factors that have little or nothing to do with probabilities, evidence and logic. This is faith's inescapable weakness. It is also, undeniably, its greatest power.

Michael Shermer is publisher of Skeptic (www.skeptic.com) and author of The Science of Good and Evil.

Protest over new academy


Parents and pupils have staged a protest over plans to have their school taken over by a foundation that promotes the teaching of creationism.

Northcliffe School in Conisbrough, near Doncaster, was judged to be failing by school inspectors earlier this year.

Now the Emmanuel Schools Foundation wants to turn the school into its fourth college in the north.

It has colleges in Middlesbrough and Gateshead and plans to open another one in Thorne, also near Doncaster.

The foundation is part of the Vardy Foundation, set up by entrepreneur Sir Peter Vardy, who made his fortune with a chain of car dealerships.

Sir Peter, a committed Christian, has defended the way that the foundation's schools present both the Bible account of creation and the Darwinian theory of species evolving over time.

He insists both views are presented to the children, encouraging them to consider the claims of the Bible alongside the standard national curriculum, allowing them to make up their own minds.

But parents and teachers are concerned there will be no local representation over the running of the new academy-style school.

The project is currently under consultation and public meetings will be held later this month and throughout July.

Some parents, students, teachers, governors and other worker at the school held a public protest on Saturday, with banners saying "save our schools".


The National Union of Teachers representative for the school, Matthew Bailey, said the union was concerned about the privatisation of education.

Mr Bailey said the foundation would have a huge say in the running of the school for a relatively small stake in it.

"And as head of science at the school, I object to the way the foundation urges its schools to place equal weight on creationism over the theory of natural selection," he said.

"Parents' concerns are mixed, broadly about privatisation and beyond that they're concerned the needs of the local community won't be met."

But the local mayor, Martin Winter, said he wanted to see more of the independent but state-funded city academies in Doncaster.

"The new state-of-the-art academy will have an enormous impact on the communities of Conisbrough and Denaby, forging new opportunities and prospects in an area that has faced challenges over the years," he said.

Raising standards

Sir Peter's organisation aims to improve the level of education for young people in inner-city areas.

"The young people of Conisbrough and Denaby are growing up in a severely deprived area," he said.

"Education can make an enormous difference to their futures and they deserve to be given fresh opportunities through high quality education in school buildings that are the best we can provide.

"Doncaster is a forward-thinking local authority and has always understood what the foundation is trying to do to raise educational standards in the North of England.

"Like us, they are determined to offer the best possible future for Doncaster's young people."

Teach religion in church, not school


Monday, June 21, 2004

In response to the arguments about a new biology textbook for Dover High School, I'd like to point out that creationism has nothing to do with biology and, therefore, it's irrelevant to ask that the course textbook be more balanced in its presentation of evolution and creationism. School board member William Buckingham said it's inexcusable to teach from a book that says man descended from apes and monkeys. But why is such an idea inexcusable when there is scientific proof supporting the theory of evolution? Belief in creationism relies on faith, and it is science, not faith, that is being taught at Dover.

The theory of creationism is purely Christian. I'm not trying to disregard creationism, but I feel, as a Christian theory, it should be taught in church, not school. As Max Pell pointed out at the board meeting, teaching creationism may cause problems concerning the separation of church and state. Board president Alan Bonsell disagreed, saying creationism would only be presented as a theory. However, teaching creationism is essentially teaching Christianity. In a public school system where students are free to practice any religion, the school cannot govern that choice. Teaching creationism would allow the school to do just that. Not only would it influence students' choices about religion, it may, as Robert Bowman noted, insult non-Christian taxpayers by deeming their beliefs as unimportant.

In all the years I received an education at Dover High School, I was always taught America was founded as the land of the free, not the land of the Christians. People came to America to escape religious persecution and practice their beliefs openly.


Buckingham wrong on text


Sunday, June 20, 2004

As a parent in the Dover Area School District, I must convey my shock and utter dismay at William Buckingham's comments regarding the search for new biology texts for the high school. I am especially upset with Mr. Buckingham's comments as quoted in Wednesday's York Daily Record: "This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. This country was founded on Christianity, and our students should be taught as such."

This statement is in direct contradiction to the mission statement for Dover schools: in partnership with family and community, to educate students. We emphasize sound basic skills, and nurture the diverse needs of our students as they strive to become lifelong learners and contributing members of our global society. What a slap in the face to many of the parents and taxpayers of the Dover area. How sad that a member of our own school board would be so close-minded and not want to carry on the mission of Dover schools. His ignorance will not only hold back children attending Dover Area Schools but also reinforce other communities' views that Dover is a backwards, close-minded community.

If this was simply a matter of selecting a text that gives two contradicting scientific theories equal time, that would be an entirely different matter. But it's not; creationism is religion, plain and simple. Mr. Buckingham's comments offend me not because they are religious in nature, but because it is my duty to teach my children about religion as I see fit — not the Dover Area School District during a biology class.


Common sense prevails


Sunday, June 20, 2004


THE CONSEQUENCES of illicit drugs are so dangerous and well- documented it's unnecessary -- perhaps even foolish -- to embellish on the inevitable outcomes for those reckless enough to abuse them.

Drugs can cause immense physical, mental and emotional damage for users, and immeasurable suffering for families and friends, too. Clearly, the best defense against substance abuse is education and examples to illustrate the personal devastation.

That's why the uproar over Narconon Drug Prevention and Education, the popular anti-drug program that is administered for free to public schoolchildren in San Francisco and elsewhere, is so disturbing.

After 13 years, Narconon, funded and staffed by the Church of Scientology, is being accused of using misleading and inaccurate information -- "irresponsible . . . pseudoscience'' is what a host of medical experts are calling it.

Among the debunked teachings are Narconon claims that drugs are stored in body fat, creating cravings and flashbacks that can be remedied with perspiration and vitamins.

But worse than flawed science are indications that lessons are imbued with religion -- "all the Scientology . . . basics," according to church data obtained by The Chronicle.

Narconon denies the charges. Still, schools chief Arlene Ackerman has given Narconon until June 24 to revise parts of its curriculum or be barred from the district, and state Superintendent Jack O'Connell wants the program probed.

Ackerman and O'Connell have rightly moved swiftly to makes sure students get sound scientific information about drugs without any hype or hint of theology.

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