NTS LogoSkeptical News for 4 August 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Herbal cures 'can raise risk'

By Clara Pirani, Health Editor
August 04, 2004

PATIENTS who believe herbal remedies and alternative therapies will cure cancer are putting their health at further risk.

Researchers in Britain studied 32 of the most popular health websites that promote alternative therapies.

They found there was no evidence to support claims any of the popular therapies, including shark cartilage, mistletoe and laetrile, could cure or prevent cancer.

The University of Exeter's Professor of Complementary Medicine, Edzard Ernst, said cancer patients were being misled.

"We found that between these 30-odd sites, 118 different cancer 'cures' were recommended - complementary treatment that claimed to be able to cure cancer," Professor Ernst told The Times of London.

"None of these 118 can be demonstrated to cure cancer."

The study found 3 per cent of websites actively discouraged patients from using conventional cancer treatments.

John Zalcberg, a specialist from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, was concerned some patients were using alternative therapies as their only form of treatment.

Professor Zalcberg said some alternative therapies might interfere with other medications.

Two years ago the American Cancer Institute warned that some herbal remedies including St John's wort reduced the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

And the American Heart Association yesterday released a study showing - contrary to claims by vitamin makers - that supplements do not help prevent heart disease.


Tape of Kennedy's Killing Is Getting Digital Analysis


August 3, 2004
WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 - About a year from now, one of the most vexing mysteries in American history may finally be solved: Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone?

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have begun work on a digital scanning apparatus that they believe will be able to reproduce sound from the only known audio recording of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas.

The recording was made through an open microphone on a police motorcycle during Kennedy's motorcade into Dealey Plaza, where the president was shot to death. The sounds were captured onto a Dictaphone belt at police headquarters, but scientific analyses of them over decades proved anything but conclusive, fueling arguments about how many people were actually involved in killing the president.

The federal government's official inquiry into the assassination, the Warren Commission, concluded in 1964 that Oswald was a lone gunman, firing three shots from the Texas Book Depository building high above the plaza. But a House committee that investigated the shooting 15 years later concluded that four shots were fired, including three from the book depository and one from another location, giving rise to all manner of conspiracy theories.

Like old 78 r.p.m. records, the Dictaphone belt became worn and damaged through constant replay for analysis using a stylus. When it became property of the National Archives in 1990, the technical staff recommended that no further efforts be made to replicate its sounds through mechanical means.

That left preservationists with a daunting and historically important challenge: How could the sounds on the old plastic belt be captured for posterity, and if they could, would they provide unequivocal evidence of how many shots were fired?

Leslie C. Waffen, an archivist with the National Archives, said he believed not only that the sound could be captured but also that, using digital analysis to map the sounds, scientists could remove extraneous noise like static and distant voices to reveal gun shots.

"This is big," said Mr. Waffen, whose unit has custody of the belt as well as the original 8-millimeter home movie by Abraham Zapruder, which showed the assassination in color but utter silence. "That's why we called the experts in. They came up with a recommendation to do this."

After a June meeting of the National Archives Advisory Committee on Preservation, the job was left to Carl Haber and Vitaliy Fadeyev of the Berkeley laboratory, who have used a digital optical camera to replicate sounds on fragile Edison cylinders and long-play records. The process involves scanning the grooves of the Dictaphone belt electronically to create a digital image of the sound patterns.

Once that is achieved, Mr. Waffen said, the scientists could "clean it up, like peeling layers off an onion to get down to the sound floor" of the recording. And that, he said, could reveal how many shots were fired.

It is a question that has bedeviled government officials, law enforcement agents and historians since the actual event, leading to an array of conspiracy theories involving the mob, Fidel Castro, Lyndon B. Johnson, Russians or, as the film director, Oliver Stone, would have audiences believe, the "military industrial complex."

Among the strongest and most persistent alternative theories to the Warren Commission report has been the involvement of a second gunman on a sweep of land above the motorcade route that came to be known as the grassy knoll. It gained widespread currency after the 1979 Congressional investigation, which relied, in part, on a graphic comparison of the sounds on the Dictaphone belt and a test of gunshots in Dealey Plaza.

They produced evidence that four shots were fired, with indications that the first, second and fourth shots came from the book depository and the third came from the grassy knoll.

But three years later, in a subsequent acoustical analysis, the National Academy of Science concluded that the noise that others ascribed to gun shots was merely static or something else. That was the last time the belt was played.

Once it became the belt's custodian, the National Archives was faced with two questions: What should be done with it? And how could its evidence be accurately captured and made public?

For years, the questions were unanswered, until it became clear that new technologies might produce evidence that was unreachable through older, less sophisticated analytical methods that risked further damaging the belt.

The advisory commission concluded that the National Archives had a responsibility to provide a true copy of the sound, if not enhance it. That, the panel members said, could be left to the researchers.

"People want to know," said Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which opened in the book depository building in 1989. "The Warren Commission said it was one guy. The House Committee said it was Oswald and someone else. There hasn't been any resolution."

Mr. Waffen said it was about time to get one.

"Scientists have studied these sounds for 25 or 30 years and have still reached different conclusions," he said. "But with today's technology, we can get a better reading and answer the question, one way or the other."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Turning Genetically Engineered Trees Into Toxic Avengers


August 3, 2004

By HILLARY ROSNER Last summer, on the site of 35 former hat factories where toxic mercury was once used to cure pelts, city officials in Danbury, Conn., deployed a futuristic weapon: 160 Eastern cottonwoods.

Dr. Richard Meagher, a professor of genetics at the University of Georgia, genetically engineered the trees to extract mercury from the soil, store it without being harmed, convert it to a less toxic form of mercury and release it into the air.

It was one of two dozen proposals Dr. Meagher has submitted to various agencies over two decades for engineering trees to soak up chemicals from contaminated soil. For years, no one would pay him to try. "I got called a charlatan," he said. "People didn't believe a plant could do this."

He will begin to assess the experiment's success this fall. But his is not the only such experiment with trees.

In laboratories around the country, researchers are using detailed knowledge of tree genes and recombinant DNA technology to alter the genetic workings of forest trees, hoping to tweak their reproductive cycles, growth rate and chemical makeup, to change their ability to store carbon, resist disease and absorb toxins.

The research is controversial. Environmentalists and others say that because of the large distances tree pollen can travel, altered genes will migrate to natural populations, leading to damage to ecosystems and other unforeseen consequences.

Dr. Jim Diamond, a retired pediatrician who is chairman of the Sierra Club's national genetic engineering committee, sees trees as a bastion of the natural world.

"It's quite possible the stands of trees that are left will be domesticated new varieties of trees and the natural varieties will cease to exist," he said. "Where do you draw the line?"

Dr. Meagher's toxic-avenger trees are intended to remove heavy metals from contaminated soils in places where other forms of cleanup are prohibitively expensive. Because mercury is an element, it cannot be broken down into harmless substances; the Danbury trees release the diluted mercury into the atmosphere, where it dissipates and falls back to earth after a few years.

This has opened Dr. Meagher to the charge that he is engaged in a shell game, simply moving toxins from one place to another. He does not disagree, but says the risk of human exposure will be lower if the chemicals are not concentrated in certain areas. In time, he says, such trees may be deployed in places like Bangladesh and India, where mercury- and arsenic-laden drinking water has created a growing health crisis.

"I really believe we're on the way to doing something great, and 20 years from now this is how these things will be taken care of," he said.

Tree geneticists are acutely aware that public acceptance will depend at least partly on whether altered trees can be made sterile or their reproductive capacity tightly controlled.

Dr. Steven Strauss, a professor of forest science at Oregon State University, directs the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative, a group working on strategies for gene containment, including control of flowering cycles and sterility. He is also exploring ways to link desirable traits to traits that make a tree unlikely to spread.

"If you take a gene for herbicide resistance that you don't want to spread, and you link it to a gene that makes a tree shorter and fatter, that's a tree that's not going to be very invasive," he said.

Not everyone is convinced that these containment strategies will work.

"Any number of molecular geneticists will tell you, 'Oh, these things are not a problem, we've got various ways of making sure the genes won't function outside of their intended plants,' " said Dr. Yan Linhart, a biologist at the University of Colorado who studies the ecology and evolution of forest trees. "But just as confident as they are, you will find any number of ecologists and evolutionary biologists like myself who believe in the Missouri motto, 'Show me.' "

Dr. Strauss and his colleagues view genetic engineering as a way to ease the pressure for logging in wild forests. If they can engineer trees in a plantation setting that grow faster and possess other desirable commercial traits, they say, then the industry will have less incentive to go after old-growth trees.

"It is possible," said Dr. Ron Sederoff, a professor of forestry at North Carolina State University, "that we could engineer trees that are so much better for specific purposes that you wouldn't want to cut down a natural tree."

Among the goals is the creation of trees that produce less lignin - a substance similar to plastic that makes wood fibers stiff - so they can be turned into paper and lumber using fewer chemicals. Lignin production is important to trees in the wild, contributing to the strength of their trunks, but less so on a plantation, where trees will be harvested every few years. Researchers have discovered a link between low lignin and faster growth, which could make the engineered trees desirable for plantation foresters.

Still, this has not satisfied critics.

"Perhaps part of growing faster is that it won't put all this effort into useless pine cones," said Dr. Diamond of the Sierra Club, "so there's no sustenance for the chipmunks. What if the tree in your backyard turns out to be a low-lignin tree but just happens to fall on your house or your car in a moderate wind? There are all kinds of risks besides just my aesthetic problem with remaking nature."

Dr. Strauss is also trying to use genetic engineering to address climate change. He wants to create trees that would store more carbon in their root systems - "sequestering" it from the atmosphere, thereby cutting atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas. In a project sponsored by the Department of Energy, Dr. Strauss and colleagues at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are modifying tree architecture and cell wall chemistry to increase the amount of carbon stored below ground.

Much of the research relies on basic tree genetics - made easier by the sequencing of the poplar tree genome, a major effort in forest biotechnology whose results are to be made public this month. Scientists can now study classes of genes that affect absorption of sugars and carbohydrates, which in turn can change the chemical processes that affect the rates at which trees rot and release stored carbon.

"In the U.S., there are about 40 million acres of excess, surplus or idle agricultural land," said Jerry Tuskan, a researcher at Oak Ridge, who led the effort to sequence the poplar genome. "If we could economically capture those and deploy fast-growing trees bred and created for carbon sequestration over a 10-year period, we could reach 25 percent of the Kyoto prescription for the U.S." The Kyoto treaty, never signed by the United States, calls for reductions in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

The aboveground portion of the trees would be harvested every 10 years and used for ethanol, which Dr. Tuskan believes would offset the use of petroleum and, by extension, carbon dioxide emissions.

In another forest biotechnology project that has been making strides, researchers are using genetic engineering to produce a disease-resistant strain of American chestnut, a tree that once dominated Eastern forests but was decimated by the mid-20th century by a fungus introduced from Asia. The American chestnut project has proved among the least controversial, in part because the tree's demise was caused by human intervention.

Elsewhere, researchers are using forest biotechnology to quicken the pace of traditional breeding experiments. At the University of Georgia's Warnell School of Forest Resources, Dr. Jeffrey Dean monitors individual genes to learn how they react to changes like the addition of fertilizer or the presence of a fungus.

Dr. Dean said he had spent the past several years "philosophizing" about the genetic engineering of trees, weighing the pros and cons. "We probably don't want to be thinking about genetic engineering as a magic bullet or cure-all," he said. "There will be times where we may want the magic bullets, but they have to be applied in specific ecological contexts."

Said Dr. Linhart of the University of Colorado: "One always needs to put into the equation biological caution and common sense. It's a case-by-case basis. One has to not make sweeping judgments that say this particular type of activity is all good or all bad."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Greens support alternative medicine report


03 August 2004

Complementary health care practitioners should be integrated into the health system as recommended by a new report, Green MP Sue Kedgley said today.

Health Minister Annette King yesterday released a report from the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Complementary and Alternative Health on alternative medicine and treatment, which took three years to complete.

It recommends that treatments proven to be safe, efficacious and cost-effective be publicly funded, and a unit set up to integrate complementary and mainstream healthcare.

Ms Kedgley backed the recommendations, saying complementary healthcare practitioners should be recognised in the health system.

"They should be working in Primary Healthcare Organisations and in our hospitals, offering complementary treatments where these are appropriate and effective," she said.

"We need to leave behind the narrow mindset that says orthodox Western medicine is the only effective way of treating illness.

"It's time to acknowledge that there are other healing practices which are effective in preventing disease and treating some illnesses in a low-tech, cost-effective way."

Ms King said she was considering the report and had asked the ministry to look at how the recommendations could contribute to improving health care.

Carefully Chosen Words on Antievolutionism


The November 2003 decision of the Texas State Board of Education to reject demands made by antievolutionists is good news for science. However, the report of this decision in the December issue of Physics Today (page 36) uses language that will offend some supporters of evolution and could be useful to the enemies of science.

The article refers to the textbook critics as "antievolutionist," "creationist," and "social conservative." The first two terms are pertinent, since those critics are challenging the correctness of evolution and promoting creationism or intelligent design as alternatives. The term "social conservative" is irrelevant and misleading.

A social conservative may be a supporter of evolution, an opponent of evolution, or a person who is unconcerned about evolution. The number of physicists and readers of Physics Today who think of themselves as social conservatives is not negligible. Use of this characterization gives the appearance of criticizing supporters and potential supporters based on unrelated considerations. Thoughtless language is poor public relations.

The introduction of social and political terminology into the December story aids dangerous opponents of science. The following words, written by science historian Michael Riordan, appear on page 51 of the August 2003 issue of Physics Today: "Without such a rigorous standard of truth, science will have little defense against the onslaughts of the creationists and postmodernists, for whom it is just one of many ways to grasp the world." Darwinian evolution is included in the biology curriculum because it is the accepted scientific interpretation of biological facts. Injecting social and political considerations supports the claim of postmodernists that the conclusions of science are socially determined.

Science cannot avoid interaction and conflict with various forces in society. Riordan's statement calls attention to threats that confront science from two different sources--postmodernism and religious fundamentalism. In addressing these threats, I urge consideration of the following facts. First, postmodernism is a threat to both science and religion. Second, within the sphere of religion, only fundamentalism is a consistent opponent of science. Most people who believe in God accept science as true and regard as allegorical those elements of the Bible that conflict with science. Third, belief systems are not always based on religion--social conservatism is an example--and do not necessarily determine a person's view of science.

Science might have more support if its institutions and centers of power were more diplomatic. I offer two recommendations. First, avoid linking science concerns with unrelated social and political disagreements. Second, when communicating about public issues of concern to both science and religion, avoid extending the conflict with religious fundamentalism to include religion in general.

Stephen Hawking's immensely successful book A Brief History of Time (Bantam Books, 1988) provides an outstanding example of how to achieve that second objective. His text presents physics to a general audience in a manner that avoids showing disrespect for religion and demonstrates sensitivity to its concerns. Perhaps some eminent biologist will write A Brief History of Life in the same spirit.

Robert Levine
Sierra Vista, Arizona

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Warning on complementary therapy


The public must not place too much faith in the ability of complementary medicines, a leading expert has warned.

Edzard Ernst, the UK's only professor of complementary medicine, said most therapies were unproven.

Some of the few that had been vigorously tested did work, but others did not, he told a briefing on Monday.

Professor Ernst highlighted cancer websites peddling potentially dangerous therapies, and the risk of herbal medicines damaging conventional drugs.

He said: "If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Don't believe ridiculous claims."

Professor Ernst, who is based at Plymouth's Peninsula Medical School, said people should never take complementary therapists at face value. Instead they should ask for proof of experience, indemnity cover and probe treatment plans more closely before embarking on a course of complementary therapy.

Cancer websites

An analysis carried out by Professor Ernst's team of 32 popular cancer websites found a extremely variable quality of information on offer.

"It was quite an eye opener and pretty scary stuff," he said.

"A lot of unproven stuff is being recommended to cancer patients.

"Cancer patients, particularly those who are seriously ill, are desperate patients, and desperate patients will cling to any claim and promise that is being made to them.

"Therefore, I think bogus claims for alternative cancer cures are very, very dangerous."

Among the unproven therapies put forward were the use of powdered shark fin, and a preparation based on apricot kernels.

Professor Ernst was also concerned that some sites advised people to stop using orthodox cancer treatments. He said it was certain that some people would have hastened their death by following poor advice on a website.

He called for a seal of approval scheme to highlight sites that gave information that could be trusted.

Heart patients

Professor Ernst also highlighted another study carried out by his team that found some cardiovascular patients were using herbal remedies alongside conventional treatment.

This is despite evidence that some herbal medicines can interact with conventional drugs to reduce their effectiveness.

For instance St John's Wort stimulates the breakdown of the drug Warfarin by the liver, reducing its ability to thin the blood, and raising the risk of a heart attack in patients already at risk.

More worrying still, most of those who took herbal preparations had not discussed the fact with their GP.

It is estimated that there are 40,000 complementary therapists working in the UK. However, many of these are unregulated. It is thought about 25% of the population use complementary therapies every year.

Professor Ernst said there was strong scientific evidence that some therapies did work.

However, he said there was also evidence to disprove some therapies - and the vast majority had never been subjected to any rigorous scientific analysis at all.

"I don't like the term alternative medicine, because these therapies are not an alternative to conventional medicine," he said.

"Complementary medicine is the best phraseology because some of these therapies do have a role alongside orthodox medicine - although that is not a blanket statement."

'Spell' cast by thieves


Vol XXVII NO. 135 Monday 2 August 2004


AN Indian jeweller claims he was hypnotised by three mysterious women, who tricked him into handing over BD580 in cash.

Abdul Hameed, 46, says he was counting out change for the women when they began making strange actions with their hands.

He claims he became suddenly depressed, but says he can't remember what happened next.

The last thing he recalls is watching them leave the shop, but it was only later when he thought about the strange encounter that he realised what had happened.

"I was in the shop with a colleague, while our boss was sitting at the main counter about 20 metres away," said Mr Hameed, who spoke to the GDN on condition that the shop would not be named.

"Three women, who spoke with Saudi accents, came in wearing abayas and veils and asked for change for BD60.

"I took money from the cash box to give the change while my colleague was standing next to me.

"One woman asked him to show her some watches and he took her to the section where watches are kept."

However, when Mr Hameed started counting out the change, he said the two remaining women told him they wanted it in smaller denominations.

"I had a cash bundle with BD880 of various denominations," said Mr Hameed.

"They kept on pulling the rubber band on the bundle and were doing various actions with their hands.

"All of a sudden I had a feeling of depression and did not know what to do.

"Then I saw them leaving. After a while I started to think of what had happened."

Mr Hameed says his boss witnessed the whole incident, but did not realise what was happening because the women had their backs to him.

"Since they were standing in front of me he could not see me," said Mr Hameed.

Mr Hameed says it was a short while afterwards, when he was thinking about what had happened, that he decided to count the money in the bundle.

When he did so he found it contained just BD300.

"I informed my boss and we all ran out to the other shops in the complex to look for the three women," said Mr Hameed. "But we were unlucky."

Mr Hameed said it was impossible to identify the women in the crowd because their faces were covered. "So we informed the police."

Mr Hameed, from Kerala, has worked for the same company for 18 years, but says this is the first time such an incident has happened. Police are investigating.

Ten Commandments monument starts tour at Scopes Trial courthouse


Sunday, August 1, 2004

Associated Press Writer

DAYTON, Tenn. -- The Ten Commandments monument banished from Alabama's state judicial building began a national tour on the back of a flatbed truck on Saturday -- starting outside the courthouse where the teaching of evolution was put on trial almost 80 years ago.

"The ACLU is still the enemy," said June Griffin of Dayton, an outspoken advocate for displays of the Ten Commandments in government buildings.

About 75 people gathered to see the 5,280-pound granite monument outside the site of the Scopes Monkey Trial -- where high school teacher John Scopes was convicted in 1925 of giving lessons on evolution. Many stepped up a ladder to take photos and pose beside the marker.

Ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who lost his job for defying a federal court order to remove his display from the lobby of the judicial building, approved the national tour but is not participating.

A spokeswoman for Moore said he plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the ruling. A federal judge agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups that the display was an unconstitutional government promotion of religion.

Jewell Sneed, 70, snapped photos of her 7-year-old great grandson, Jacob, standing beside the monument.

"I think it was awful for them to make them move it from the courthouse," Sneed said. "That is what our country is based on, is God and the Bible. Why we want to take God out I don't know. I think we are headed for big trouble when we take God out of schools and everything."

The stop at the courthouse and at Rhea County High School -- where Bible classes were taught until a federal lawsuit ended them in 2002 -- were the first in a tour that could crisscross the nation for up to a year.

The tour was arranged by Americans Standing for God and Country, a Texas-based veterans' group looking for congressional support to permanently display the marker at the U.S. Capitol. The group intends to take the monument to Washington on Oct. 22 for an "America For Jesus" rally.

Larry Darby, president of the Montgomery-based Atheist Law Center, Inc., was heckled by some in the crowd Saturday and loudly told, "You're not welcome here."

At one point, John Rocco, 73, of Dayton, bumped his knee into Darby's leg as they passed on the ramp steps to the display.

"That's typical Christianity," Darby shouted. "These people are the lunatic fringe."

Rocco said the knee bump was an accident.

"I'm glad I didn't carry my gun. I'd probably be in jail right now." Rocco said. "I believe in the Ten Commandments and I don't appreciate what people like him are doing to my country."

The courthouse in Dayton became a flashpoint for creationism vs. evolution in 1925, when orator and presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and lawyer Clarence Darrow squared off during the prosecution of Scopes for teaching evolution instead of the biblical story of creation.

Moore's monument was placed in a judicial building closet for almost a year until he accepted the offer by the veterans' group to take it on the road. The group promotes itself as veterans dedicated to battling domestic enemies and protecting "Christian heritage."

"One of our domestic enemies is our failing judicial system," said Jim Cabaniss, president of the veterans' group, a division of American Veterans in Domestic Defense. "Our position is we have removed the monument from a dark room in the Alabama Supreme Court Building and exposed it to the world."

Cabaniss said the tour is not political and is not raising money for the group or Moore.

Although no speaker asked for money, pamphlets handed out at the stadium rally included an application for active membership in the veteran's group, at a cost of $120 a year or $1,000 for lifetime. A representatives of the Foundation for Moral Law, Inc., of Montgomery sold Ten Commandments pins for $5.

Cabaniss said the tour would probably go to Mississippi from Tennessee.

Fact, Fable, and Darwin


By Rodney Stark

I write as neither a creationist nor a Darwinist, but as one who knows what is probably the most disreputable scientific secret of the past century: There is no plausible scientific theory of the origin of species! Darwin himself was not sure he had produced one, and for many decades every competent evolutionary biologist has known that he did not. Although the experts have kept quiet when true believers have sworn in court and before legislative bodies that Darwin's theory is proven beyond any possible doubt, that's not what reputable biologists, including committed Darwinians, have been saying to one another.

Without question, Charles Darwin would be among the most prominent biologists in history even if he hadn't written The Origin of Species in 1859. But he would not have been deified in the campaign to "enlighten" humanity. The battle over evolution is not an example of how heroic scientists have withstood the relentless persecution of religious fanatics. Rather, from the very start it primarily has been an attack on religion by militant atheists who wrap themselves in the mantle of science.

When a thoroughly ideological Darwinist like Richard Dawkins claims, "The theory is about as much in doubt as that the earth goes round the sun," he does not state a fact, but merely aims to discredit a priori anyone who dares to express reservations about evolution. Indeed, Dawkins has written, "It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane...."

That is precisely how "Darwin's Bulldog," Thomas Huxley, hoped intellectuals would react when he first adopted the tactic of claiming that the only choice is between Darwin and Bible literalism. However, just as one can doubt Max Weber's Protestant Ethic thesis without thereby declaring for Marxism, so too one may note the serious shortcomings of neo-Darwinism without opting for any rival theory. Modern physics provides a model of how science benefits from being willing to live with open questions rather than embracing obviously flawed conjectures.

What is most clear to me is that the Darwinian Crusade does not prove some basic incompatibility between religion and science. But the even more immediate reality is that Darwin's theory falls noticeably short of explaining the origin of species. Dawkins knows the many serious problems that beset a purely materialistic evolutionary theory, but asserts that no one except true believers in evolution can be allowed into the discussion, which also must be held in secret. Thus he chastises Niles Eldridge and Stephen Jay Gould, two distinguished fellow Darwinians, for giving "spurious aid and comfort to modern creationists."

Dawkins believes that, regardless of his or her good intentions, "if a reputable scholar breathes so much as a hint of criticism of some detail of Darwinian theory, that fact is seized upon and blown up out of proportion." While acknowledging that "the extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record" is a major embarrassment for Darwinism, Stephen Jay Gould confided that this has been held as a "trade secret of paleontology" and acknowledged that the evolutionary diagrams "that adorn our textbooks" are based on "inference...not the evidence of fossils."

According to Steven Stanley, another distinguished evolutionist, doubts raised by the fossil record were "suppressed" for years. Stanley noted that this too was a tactic begun by Huxley, always careful not to reveal his own serious misgivings in public. Paleontologist Niles Eldridge and his colleagues have said that the history of life demonstrates gradual transformations of species, "all the while really knowing that it does not." This is not how science is conducted; it is how ideological crusades are run.

By Darwin's day it had long been recognized that the fossil evidence showed that there had been a progression in the biological complexity of organisms over an immense period of time. In the oldest strata, only simple organisms are observed. In more recent strata, more complex organisms appear. The biological world is now classified into a set of nested categories. Within each genus (mammals, reptiles, etc.) are species (dogs, horses, elephants, etc.) and within each species are many specific varieties, or breeds (Great Dane, Poodle, Beagle, etc.).

It was well-known that selective breeding can create variations within species. But the boundaries between species are distinct and firm--one species does not simply trail off into another by degrees. As Darwin acknowledged, breeding experiments reveal clear limits to selective breeding beyond which no additional changes can be produced. For example, dogs can be bred to be only so big and no bigger, let alone be selectively bred until they are cats. Hence, the question of where species come from was the real challenge and, despite the title of his famous book and more than a century of hoopla and celebration, Darwin essentially left it unanswered.

After many years spent searching for an adequate explanation of the origin of species, in the end Darwin fell back on natural selection, claiming that it could create new creatures too, if given im-mense periods of time. That is, organisms respond to their environmental circumstances by slowly changing (evolving) in the direction of traits beneficial to survival until, eventually, they are sufficiently changed to constitute a new species. Hence, new species originate very slowly, one tiny change after another, and eventually this can result in lemurs changing to humans via many intervening species.

Darwin fully recognized that a major weakness of this account of the origin of species involved what he and others referred to as the principle of "gradualism in nature." The fossil record was utterly inconsistent with gradualism. As Darwin acknowledged: "...why, if species have descended from other species by fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined?"

Darwin offered two solutions. Transitional types are quickly replaced and hence would mainly only be observable in the fossil record. As for the lack of transitional types among the fossils, that was, Darwin admitted, "the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory."

Darwin dealt with this problem by blaming "the extreme imperfection of the geological record." "Only a small portion of the surface of the earth has been geologically explored, and no part with sufficient care." But, just wait, Darwin promised, the missing transitions will be found in the expected proportion when more research has been done. Thus began an intensive search for what the popular press soon called the "missing links."

Today, the fossil record is enormous compared to what it was in Darwin's day, but the facts are unchanged. The links are still missing; species appear suddenly and then remain relatively unchanged. As Steven Stanley reported: "The known fossil record...offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can be valid."

Indeed, the evidence has grown even more contrary since Darwin's day. "Many of the discontinuities [in the fossil record] tend to be more and more emphasized with increased collecting," noted the former curator of historical geology at the American Museum of Natural History. The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism, Stephen Jay Gould has acknowledged. The first problem is stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear. The second problem is sudden appearance. Species do not arise gradually by the steady transformation of ancestors, they appear "fully formed."

These are precisely the objections raised by many biologists and geologists in Darwin's time--it was not merely that Darwin's claim that species arise through eons of natural selection was offered without supporting evidence, but that the available evidence was overwhelmingly contrary. Unfortunately, rather than concluding that a theory of the origin of species was yet to be accomplished, many scientists urged that Darwin's claims must be embraced, no matter what.

In keeping with Darwin's views, evolutionists have often explained new species as the result of the accumulation of tiny, favorable random mutations over an immense span of time. But this answer is inconsistent with the fossil record wherein creatures appear "full-blown and raring to go." Consequently, for most of the past century, biologists and geneticists have tried to discover how a huge number of favorable mutations can occur at one time so that a new species would appear without intermediate types.

However, as the eminent and committed Darwinist Ernst Mayr explained,The occurrence of genetic monstrosities by mutation...is well substantiated, but they are such evident freaks that these monsters can only be designated as 'hopeless.' They are so utterly unbalanced that they would not have the slightest chance of escaping elimination through selection. Giving a thrush the wings of a falcon does not make it a better flyer....To believe that such a drastic mutation would produce a viable new type, capable of occupying a new adaptive zone, is equivalent to believing in miracles.

The word miracle crops up again and again in mathematical assessments of the possibility that even very simple biochemical chains, let alone living organisms, can mutate into being by a process of random trial and error. For generations, Darwinians have regaled their students with the story of the monkey and the typewriter, noting that given an infinite period of time, the monkey sooner or later is bound to produce Macbeth purely by chance, the moral being that infinite time can perform miracles.

However, the monkey of random evolution does not have infinite time. The progression from simple to complex life forms on earth took place within a quite limited time. Moreover, when competent mathematicians considered the matter, they quickly calculated that even if the monkey's task were reduced to coming up with only a few lines of Macbeth, let alone Shakespeare's entire play, the probability is far, far beyond mathematical possibility. The odds of creating even the simplest organism at random are even more remote--Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, celebrated cosmologists, calculated the odds as one in ten to the 40,000th power. (Consider that all atoms in the known universe are estimated to number no more than ten to the 80th power.) In this sense, then, Darwinian theory does rest on truly miraculous assumptions.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the current situation is that while Darwin is treated as a secular saint in the popular media and the theory of evolution is regarded as the invincible challenge to all religious claims, it is taken for granted among the leading biological scientists that the origin of species has yet to be explained. Writing in Nature in 1999, Eφrs Szathmay summarizes that, "The origin of species has long fascinated biologists. Although Darwin's major work bears it as a title, it does not provide a solution to the problem." When Julian Huxley claimed that "Darwin's theory is...no longer a theory but a fact," he surely knew better. But, just like his grandfather, Thomas Huxley, he knew that his lie served the greater good of "enlightenment."

When The Origin of Species was published it aroused immense interest, but initially it did not provoke antagonism on religious grounds. Although many criticized Darwin's lack of evidence, none raised religious objections. Instead, the initial response from theologians was favorable. The distinguished Harvard botanist Asa Gray hailed Darwin for having solved the most difficult problem confronting the Design argument--the many imperfections and failures revealed in the fossil record. Acknowledging that Darwin himself "rejects the idea of design," Gray congratulated him for "bringing out the neatest illustrations of it." Gray interpreted Darwin's work as showing that God has created a few original forms and then let evolution proceed within the framework of divine laws.

When religious antagonism finally came it was in response to aggressive claims, like Huxley's, that Newton and Darwin together had evicted God from the cosmos. For the heirs of the Enlightenment, evolution seemed finally to supply the weapon needed to destroy religion. As Richard Dawkins confided, "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

Atheism was central to the agenda of the Darwinians. Darwin himself once wrote that he could not understand how anyone could even wish that Christianity were true, noting that the doctrine of damnation was itself damnable. Huxley expressed his hostility toward religion often and clearly, writing in 1859: "My screed was meant as a protest against Theology & Parsondom...both of which are in my mind the natural & irreconcilable enemies of Science. Few see it but I believe we are on the Eve of a new Reformation and if I have a wish to live 30 years, it is to see the foot of Science on the necks of her Enemies." According to Oxford historian J. R. Lucas, Huxley was "remarkably resistant to the idea that there were clergymen who accepted evolution, even when actually faced with them." Quite simply, there could be no compromises with faith.

Writing at the same time as Huxley, the leading Darwinian in Germany, Ernst Haeckel, drew this picture:

On one side spiritual freedom and truth, reason and culture, evolution and progress stand under the bright banner of science; on the other side, under the black flag of hierarchy, stand spiritual slavery and falsehood, irrationality and barbarism, superstition and retrogression.... Evolution is the heavy artillery in the struggle for truth. Whole ranks of...sophistries fall together under the chain shot of this...artillery, and the proud and mighty structure of the Roman hierarchy, that powerful stronghold of infallible dogmatism, falls like a house of cards.

These were not the natterings of radical circles and peripheral publications. The author of the huge review of The Origin in the Times of London was none other than Thomas Huxley. He built his lectures on evolution into a popular touring stage show wherein he challenged various potential religious opponents by name. Is it surprising that religious people, scientists as well as clerics, began to respond in the face of unrelenting challenges like these issued in the name of evolution? It was not as if they merely were asked to accept that life had evolved--many theologians had long taken that for granted. What the Darwinians demanded was that religionists agree to the untrue and unscientific claim that Darwin had proved that God played no role in the process.

Among those drawn to respond was the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, who is widely said to have made an ass of himself in a debate with Huxley during the 1860 meeting of the British Association at Oxford. The relevant account of this confrontation reported: "I was happy enough to be present on the memorable occasion at Oxford when Mr. Huxley bearded Bishop Wilberforce. The bishop arose and in a light scoffing tone, florid and fluent, he assured us that there was nothing in the idea of evolution. Then turning to his antagonist with a smiling insolence, he begged to know, was it through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed descent from a monkey? On this Mr. Huxley...arose...and spoke these tremendous words. He was not ashamed to have a monkey for an ancestor; but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used his great gifts to obscure the truth. No one doubted his meaning and the effect was tremendous."

This marvelous anecdote has appeared in every distinguished biography of Darwin and of Huxley, as well as in every popular history of the theory of evolution. In his celebrated Apes, Angels and Victorians, William Irvine used this tale to disparage the bishop's snobbery. In his prize-winning study, James Brix went much farther, describing Wilberforce as "naive and pompous," a man whose "faulty opinions" were those of a "fundamentalist creationist" and who provided Huxley with the opportunity to give evolution "its first major victory over dogmatism and duplicity." Every writer tells how the audience gave Huxley an ovation.

Trouble is, it never happened. The quotation above was the only such report of this story and it appeared in an article titled "A Grandmother's Tales" written by a non-scholar in a popular magazine 38 years after the alleged encounter. No other account of these meetings, and there were many written at the time, made any mention of remarks concerning Huxley's monkey ancestors, or claimed that he made a fool of the bishop. To the contrary, many thought the bishop had the better of it, and even many of the committed Darwinians thought it at most a draw.

Moreover, as all of the scholars present at Oxford knew, prior to the meeting, Bishop Wilberforce had penned a review of The Origin in which he fully acknowledged the principle of natural selection as the source of variations within species. He rejected Darwin's claims concerning the origin of species, however, and some of these criticisms were sufficiently compelling that Darwin immediately wrote his friend the botanist J. D. Hooker that the article "is uncommonly clever; it picks out with skill all the most conjectural parts, and brings forward well all the difficulties. It quizzes me quite splendidly." In a subsequent letter to geologist Charles Lyell, Darwin acknowledges that "the bishop makes a very telling case against me." Indeed, several of Wilberforce's comments caused Darwin to make modifications in a later revision of the book.

The tale of the foolish and narrow-minded bishop seems to have thrived as a revealing "truth" about the incompatibility of religion and science simply because many of its tellers wanted to believe that a bishop is wrong by nature. J. R. Lucas, who debunked the bishop myth, has suggested that the "most important reason why the legend grew" is, first, because academics generally "know nothing outside their own special subject" and therefore easily believe that outsiders are necessarily ignorant, and, second, because Huxley encouraged that conclusion. "The quarrel between religion and science was what Huxley wanted; and as Darwin's theory gained supporters, they took over his view of the incident."

Since then the Darwinian Crusade has tried to focus all attention on the most unqualified and most vulnerable opponents, and when no easy targets present themselves it has invented them. Huxley "made straw men of the 'creationists,'" as his biographer Desmond admitted. Even today it is a rare textbook or any popular treatment of evolution and religion that does not reduce "creationism" to the simplest caricatures.

This tradition remains so potent that whenever it is asked that evolution be presented as "only a theory," the requester is ridiculed as a buffoon. Even when the great philosopher of science Karl Popper suggested that the standard version of evolution even falls short of being a scientific theory, being instead an untestable tautology, he was subjected to public condemnations and much personal abuse.

Popper's tribulations illustrate an important basis for the victory of Darwinism: A successful appeal for a united front on the part of scientists to oppose religious opposition has had the consequence of silencing dissent within the scientific community. The eminent observer Everett Olson notes that there is "a generally silent group" of biological scientists "who tend to disagree with much of the current thought" about evolution, but who remain silent for fear of censure.

I believe that one day there will be a plausible theory of the origin of species. But, if and when that occurs, there will be nothing in any such theory that makes it impossible to propose that the principles involved were not part of God's great design any more than such a theory will demonstrate the existence of God. But, while we wait, why not lift the requirement that high school texts enshrine Darwin's failed attempt as an eternal truth?

Rodney Stark was professor of sociology at the University of Washington for many years and is now university professor of the social sciences at Baylor University. He is author of For the Glory of God (Princeton University Press) and other acclaimed books on science and religion.

The Miracle of Creation

Freeman Dyson, professor emeritus at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, is a preeminent mathematical physicist, and one of the most wide-ranging thinkers and writers in modern science. These observations are drawn from interviews with Monte Davis and Stewart Brand.

QUESTION: How do we understand the universe at all? Do you agree with Carl Sagan that humans find the mathematics of gravitation so simple and elegant because natural selection eliminated the apes who couldn't understand?

DYSON: Not at all. For apes to come out of the trees, and change in the direction of being able to write down Maxwell's equations, I don't think you can explain that by natural selection at all. It's just a miracle.

QUESTION: You have written that "as we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming." Is that a playful suggestion?

DYSON: It's not playful at all.

QUESTION: Then we seem to be talking about sentiments that most people would consider religious. Are they religious for you?

DYSON: Oh yes.

QUESTION: The dominant tendency in modern science has been to assert that we occupy no privileged place, that the universe does not care, that science and religion don't mix. Where do you fit into those ideas?

DYSON: The tendency you're talking about is a modern one, not old. I think it became almost a dogma only with the fight for acceptance of Darwinism, Huxley versus Bishop Wilberforce, and so on. Before the nineteenth century, scientists were not ashamed of being religious, but since Darwin, it's been taboo.

The biologists are still fighting Wilberforce. If you look now, the view that everything is due to chance and to little bits of molecular clockwork is mostly propounded by biologists, particularly people like Jacques Monod—whereas the physicists have become far more skeptical about that. If you actually look at the way modern physics is going, it's very far from that. Yes, it's the biologists who've made it so hard to talk about these things.

I was reading recently a magnificent book by Thomas Wright, written about 1750, when these inhibitions didn't exist at all. Wright was the discoverer of galaxies, you know, and he writes: "I can never look upon the stars without wondering that the whole world does not become astronomers; and that men, endowed with sense and reason, should neglect a science that must convince them of their immortality."

QUESTION: There's a provocative sentence in your book Imagined Worlds: "The laws of nature are constructed in such a way as to make the universe as interesting as possible." What do you mean by that?

DYSON: It's the numerical accidents that make life possible. I define an interesting universe as one that is friendly to life, and especially one that produces lots of variety.

QUESTION: What accidental numbers make that possible?

DYSON: If you look at just the physical building blocks, there's a famous problem with producing carbon in stars. All the carbon necessary for life has to be produced in stars, and it's difficult to do. To make carbon, you've got to have three helium atoms collide in a triple collision. Helium has an atomic weight of 4, and carbon is 12. Beryllium, at 8, is unstable, therefore you can't go from helium to beryllium to carbon; you have to make helium into carbon in one jump. This means three atoms colliding together.

QUESTION: Which statistically is not so often.

DYSON: No. But Fred Hoyle, who discovered this process, came up with one of the most brilliant ideas in the whole of science. He said that in order to make carbon abundant as it should be, there must be an accidental, coincidental resonance. This means that there's a nuclear state in the carbon nucleus at precisely the right energy level for these three atoms to combine smoothly. The chance of having that resonance in the right place is maybe 1 in 1,000. Hoyle believed it must be there in order to produce the carbon. Of course, the nuclear physicists then looked for this resonance, and found it!

There are other famous cases: The fact that the nuclear force is just strong enough to bind a proton and a neutron to make the heavy isotope hydrogen, but not strong enough to bind two protons to make helium with an atomic weight of 2. Just two protons stuck together is a rather narrow range of strength. So the nuclear force is fine-tuned so that hydrogen doesn't burn to helium right away. If the two hydrogen nuclei did bind, all the hydrogen would burn to helium in the first five minutes. The universe would then be pure helium and a rather boring place. Whereas, if the force were a little bit weaker, so that the neutron and the proton didn't bind, you wouldn't get any heavy elements at all. You'd have nothing but hydrogen. Again, this would make for a boring universe.

Published in One America September 2004

Monday, August 02, 2004

Patient beats cancer, now helps others


Sunday, August 1, 2004

Free of the disease for 8 years, he now is a doctor of oriental medicine at a prominent L.A. hospital

By Hilary E. MacGregor / Los Angeles Times

Evan Ross lost one eye to cancer at age 2, and then nearly lost the other.

Then, 22 years later, doctors told him he had cancer again. This time it was a tumor in his brain.

And this time they told him he would die.

Ross had moved to Los Angeles from New Jersey to follow his dream — to work in the music industry. He was working as a record producer when he started getting severe headaches, experiencing shortness of breath, and twitching. His therapist told him he was having panic attacks. The strange symptoms persisted. He grew weak on his left side. He had trouble keeping food down. One day he passed out on the bathroom floor.

He went to the doctor. They scanned his head, and by the time he got home, there was a message on his telephone answering machine.

"You appear to have a rather large mass in your head," he recalls the doctor telling him when he called back. "It appears to be a glioma." "I didn't even know what a glioma was," he says. The mass in Ross' head turned out to be a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme — a common and highly malignant type of brain tumor. Like many people who battle cancer, the experience would change his life. But it also would change his career. Ten years later, Ross has left his job in the music industry and is a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of oriental medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, helping patients not unlike himself.

Today, cancer-free for eight years, he works closely with teams of doctors in the hospital, visiting patients in the ICU, rehab unit and cancer wards. He sees about 80 patients a week, many of them cancer patients, and about three in four of them are referred by medical doctors.

A decade ago, integrative medicine was little more than talk at most medical centers. But according to a 2003 survey by the American Hospital Association, 17 percent of hospitals offer complementary and alternative medicine, CAM, services.

Ross' ties with top medical doctors at a prestigious hospital give him a badge of legitimacy in a world often unequipped to assess either the effectiveness of alternative medicine therapies or the qualifications of its practitioners.

"It definitely makes a difference having him here at Cedars," says Dr. Edward Wolin, an oncologist at the hospital's Comprehensive Cancer Center who refers patients to Ross. "He has staff privileges. He is able to come to the hospital room, if the person is an inpatient, and he is able to give acupuncture at the hospital. He is treated as part of the medical team. It is a unique relationship with someone in the acupuncture field."

But it is Ross' first-hand experience with cancer, it seems, that makes him even rarer.

Ross spent three weeks researching conventional cancer treatments on the Internet, and many nonconventional ones too. Even while undergoing chemo and other standard treatments, he went on a macrobiotic diet and meditated twice daily. He tried acupuncture, took nutritional supplements, practiced Qigong and was treated with ayurvedic herbs. He kept a journal, to allow his subconscious to speak to him and teach him lessons. He saw a shaman and consulted with a Jewish mystic.

That experience informs his work today. "I don't practice alternative medicine," he corrects during one interview. "I always call it complementary. There is a danger in thinking of it as alternative medicine, because it implies one kind of medicine or the other. Both types of medicine have to be used together."

Latino immigrants fueling demand for indigenous folk medicine


Pungent, white incense smoke wisps into the air from an earthen burner as Maria de Lourdez Gonzales Avila begins a cleansing ceremony with her students.

Gently blowing the perfumed smoke on their heads, arms, legs and into their mouths, Avila aims to purify the students' minds and bodies from negative energies.

Class can now start.

Avila is a Mexican curandera, or healer, invited by the University of New Mexico to participate in a two-week course on the practice of indigenous folk medicine, also known as curanderismo, in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

A steady stream of Latino immigrants is fueling the demand for curanderismo in the Southwest. Often misunderstood as witchcraft, the practice also has piqued the interest of doctors trying to educate themselves about different ways to approach medicine and healing.

Curanderismo is a holistic, spiritual approach to medicine that uses the natural world to heal the mind, body and soul. Curanderas often prepare teas, creams and tinctures from herbs and plants and use massage therapies to treat a wide variety of ailments.

"Mexicans and Hispanics have been doing this type of medicine for centuries," said Eliseo "Cheo" Torres, vice president for student affairs at UNM who started the course. "(Curanderismo) is a mixture of knowledge and ritual and indigenous medicine. Not only is it a healing practice, it is a source of pride for Latinos. It is part of our culture."

Beyond creating plant-derived remedies, curanderas are revered in the Latino culture as people with a gift of healing and supernatural intuition. Such healers often are perceived as holding the fate of their patients in their hands, procurers of life and death.

Marco Antonio Campos Romeu, a curandero from Mexico City, will treat a baby's earache with a drop of hand-mashed garlic oil or recommend a cup of cascara sagrada tea for a patient with digestive problems.

But for psychological ailments such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety or depression, Romeu might try a combination of treatments such as incense, massage, candle rituals and sweat cleansing ceremonies.

"I don't make magic potions or anything like that. I treat people with la vida de las plantas (the life of plants) and the forces of life," Romeu said.

One of the major appeals of curanderismo and folk medicine in general is that it's cheap and accessible, especially for people in rural areas.

Elva Heredia is the founder and president of New Mexico Promotoras Al Alcance, an organization that works with the Latino migrant community in Albuquerque to explain the American health care system and services. She said many immigrants cannot afford to use Western medicine.

"There are more and more and more migrant people every year that come here and don't have insurance or money," Heredia said.

Heredia attended the UNM curandismo course so she could learn what natural remedies are effective for minor health issues, which she could then pass along to her clients.

"(Curanderismo) emphasizes for people to start at home with their health, especially for those who cannot afford the high costs of health care or hospitalization," Heredia said. "Our services reinforce to migrants that they can still practice what they are used to, their remedios (remedies), but other services are available if needed."

Curanderismo is also finding a new audience with people disillusioned with traditional Western medicine, opting instead for a more natural, personal and affordable form of treatment.

As a registered nurse for more than 30 years, Lydia Lopez Vandiver was once skeptical of alternative medicine. Now a doctor of Oriental medicine as well as a nurse, Vandiver said she realizes traditional medicine focuses on treating only the physical aspect of a person and excludes mind and spirit from the healing process.

"In Western medicine, when you go for an appointment, the doctor talks to you for a couple minutes and then gives you a pill. It's fast and incomplete," Vandiver said. "There's no connecting with the spirit, no touching or really talking to a patient. I do believe in Western medicine, but there are a lot of things we should integrate."

To promote the use of curanderismo as integrative medicine, Torres is working with Arturo Ornelas of the University of Morelos in Cuernavaca, Mexico, to bring a curanderismo training program to UNM next year. The program will incorporate aspects of both traditional medical practices and folk medicine.

Ornelas coordinates a certificate program at the Cuernavaca institute that trains curanderas with physicians for three years. The training includes modern medical techniques and medical research, as well as networking sessions with other folk healers. Ornelas said the goal of the program is to bring legitimacy to the role of curanderismo and combine the positive aspects of Western and folk medicine.

"Integrative medicine is our goal. Not to say that one is better than the other, but that they complement each other, work in synergy, to heal people. That is a fantastic concept," Ornelas said.

Yet as the interest in folk medicine grows, some medical professionals are becoming increasingly concerned that people who seek treatment from folk healers aren't getting proper care.

And because of cultural barriers, some physicians are not even aware of what curanderismo involves.

Ben Daitz, doctor and professor emeritus at UNM's Department of Community Medicine who has treated patients who also seek the help of curanderas, said people should use caution with folk medicine in the same way they do with other major health decisions.

"We have to be aware of the limits of curanderismo because there is no evidence to show that treatments are effective, and people can be mislead," Daitz said. "When using herbal remedies, people need to know when they are an effective treatment and when they are not. I worry that people who have diseases like diabetes, hypertension and arthritis are not taking proper steps to ensure proper treatment."

Copyright 2004 Associated Press.

Science and religion


Posted on Sat, Jul. 31, 2004

Noted author Ian Barbour talks about these often warring worlds

By Stephen J. Lee

Herald Staff Writer

Ian Barbour, considered the dean of study of science and religion, spoke this week in Moorhead. He has taught for half a century at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and written several books credited with breaking new grounds for dialogue between scientists and theologians.

In 1999, he was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which included a $1.2 million award, more than a Nobel Peace Prize winner is handed. (Barbour gave away most of the money.)

His 1965 book, "Issues in Science and Religion," often is cited as the first work in the century to address the often warring worlds of science and religion. He's written a dozen other books.

He headlined the recent CHARIS Ecumenical Center's theological conference on God and science at Concordia College, Moorhead. This is an edited version of a recent interview.

You've been at this a long time. What are the changes or trends you have seen in the way science and religion interact?

I do think that the evolution issue has gotten greater prominence in the last few years. Unhappily, it's rather polarized. You get people on one side believing in God but not in evolution, and people on the opposite side believing in evolution but not in God. People in the middle who believe in God and evolution get left out. That is unfortunate. The media likes a conflict, and so the two extremes get the main attention. And I think the people who like mystery, who are trying to say evolution is God's way of creating, get left out so often in the attention given to the two polarized sides.

One of the newest anti-evolution theories is Lehigh University microbiologist Michael Behe's suggestion that at certain molecular levels, there is an "irreducible complexity," that shows evolution couldn't have accomplished what is occurring in nature but points to "intelligent design." What do you think of Behe's work?

Most scientists find it dubious. He knows science pretty well, but I think he brings God in a kind of interventionist way, that God has to kind of step in to introduce complexity along the way. I would much rather think of a continuous creation, not a special. (Behe's theory) is a little too much of the old 'God of the gaps,' who you call in to play when you don't have a scientific explanation.

It's also theologically dubious, to have God sort of intermittently stepping in. I would rather see God work through the whole process.

Behe is a little more respectable (than many anti-evolutionists), but most scientists say that things he says can't be explained, that there are pretty good explanations being worked out for.

The conflict between science and religion often seems to come down to epistemology - how do we know things. The way we arrive at knowledge via science is very different from the way we arrive at knowledge in religion. How do we dialogue across that gap?

I think science is the way to go when you want to find out how events in the world are related to each other. But I think there still are questions that science raises but doesn't answer. Like why is there a world at all, and what do you do with this knowledge? The ethical questions, those are questions that science raises but doesn't answer, some of the more basic questions. The questions of personal meaning, the purpose of the universe, of human nature, who are we, these are not answered by science.

Within its arena, science is very powerful, but there are limitations to science.

A good number of scientists feel a sense of awe and reverence for the universe that goes beyond science.

Some famous scientists, say, Richard Dawkins, the physicist, dismiss religious belief and say that the scientific study of the universe leads only to the conclusion that there is no purpose or design to it and, therefore, no God. Does there have to be some form of "referee" to mediate between science and religion, to give a platform for the dialogue that you say is so important between the two worlds?

I think the ultimate referee is human experience, and that goes beyond science. When Richard Dawkins says there is no purpose to the universe, that is his philosophical position, and I can respect that. He has a philosophy of materialism. What I object to is when he says science proves this, that there is no purpose. I know of no scientific journal that says this. That is his philosophy. He likes to keep his lab coat on and say there is no purpose, but I think he's stepped out of his scientific role. That is a philosophic position, not a scientific conclusion.

And Dawkins helps that polarization thing. What Dawkins says gives encouragement to creationists, because they say if that is what evolution is proving, we have to just say it's wrong.

But I think a little greater humility on both sides would be good. The best scientists have a real sense of awe and sense that they don't have all the answers.

There is a tendency on both sides to be dogmatic. Dawkins and creationists are very dogmatic, and both sides make claims outside their area of expertise both step outside their area of knowledge.

You are credited with being the first, or one of the first in the contemporary world, to develop expertise in both science and religion. Is there enough of that in this age of specialization?

There are a number of people who have degrees in science and theology or philosophy. But certainly, it's a minority. I wish there were more people at least exposed to these things. That is one thing this conference was for, to expose pastors to science, because most pastors feel out of their depth when it comes to science, and say 'I have to avoid that,' and most scientists feel out of their depth when dealing with the theological side.

I think we are whole human beings. I am fortunate to participate in both worlds, and the task has been to try to bring them together, the two halves of my self and the two halves of my life. I want to respect the integrity of both sides but not to keep them in water-tight compartments.

There have been some nice exchanges in the conference here, with pastors from all over this corner of Minnesota and North Dakota. With Arland Jacobson's leadership at CHARIS, it's a very lively group and open to questions, and not everybody agrees. But I think the dialogue is particularly a profitable one at a liberal arts college such as this, because many pastors have had very little background in science, and many scientists have had very little background in humanities.

You were born and spent your early years in China, where your father was a missionary. Have you gone back there?

I went back two years ago and saw my childhood home. They invited me to speak at the University of Beijing, which after two generations of anti-religious teaching, has started a department of religion. And I was asked to come back and give a talk. So, I was really glad to come back.

Is there interest there in science and religion?

Yes, in relation to Christianity, and in relation to some other Chinese religious traditions. With the collapse of communism, there is a search for alternatives, and there is great freedom now, and it's an exciting time. When I got the Templeton Prize in 1999, the ceremony was held in Moscow, in an Orthodox cathedral inside the Kremlin's walls, with people from the Russian academy of science who 10 years before wouldn't have been caught dead in a cathedral.

This interest in science and religion is not confined to Christianity. I was at a conference a year ago in Spain, with Muslims, Jewish and Christian scientists, on science and religion, and it was a very good chance to dialogue. I think it's going around the world.

You also mentioned ecology as a fruitful field for science and religion.

One place the dialogue between science and religion has been accelerated has been in the environmental implications, of how one views nature. Religious traditions have often sort of just dismissed nature, as just a stage on which only human life took its place and only human life mattered. In response, ecological traditions are looking for new ways of viewing nature in their own tradition. In the last 10 years, they have interacted more with churches which realized they have ignored creation and talked only about redemption.

If you use religious terms, creation is just as important as redemption. Any kind of stewardship of the created order is important to religion, as well as to the secular dimension. Because how we view nature affects how we treat nature.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Evolution-design debate rages on


Sunday, August 01, 2004 12:00 am

Scientists say nothing new has been added to the design claim

Most people aren't scientists but nonetheless accept scientific orthodoxy, such as evolution.

Without being able to explain the details, they accept that humans evolved from earlier species without supernatural assistance.

Ask those same folks if an ion-powered rotary engine could evolve, and they'll snicker.

Show them that the little whips — the technical term is "flagellum" — some bacteria use to move around are driven by ion-powered rotary engines capable of more than 10,000 rpm, with bearings and other parts made of intricate combinations of protein molecules.

Some will start to wonder: Could something like this really have evolved?

Board of Evolution?

That question is a big one — maybe the central one — in the State Board of Education campaign in north-central Kansas. The primary election is Tuesday.

Incumbent Bruce Wyatt of Salina ran for the state board in 2000, partially on a platform of reversing the board's controversial 1999 decision to reduce the role of evolution in our public schools' science classrooms. That was done, and now Wyatt is challenged by retired teacher Kathy Martin of Clay Center, who has pledged to work to reinstate those 1999 standards. Those standards, she said "de-emphasized teaching monkey-to-man evolution as fact."

The field is one in which a Ph.D. is a starting point.

Neither Wyatt nor Martin is a scientist.

Wyatt said this past week that the question is a complex academic issue and that the board should "trust the experts, the scientists we asked to come up with the standards."

Martin, however, says that "many" scientists now question evolution and that new advances in biochemistry and mathematics suggest alternative conclusions. Those alternative theories, especially "intelligent design," she maintains, should have a fair hearing.

What is 'intelligent design'?

"I see intelligent design as a scientific hypothesis to explain some of the complexity we see in the cell that we've discovered in the past 50 years or so," said biochemist Michael Behe, professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, author of the 1996 book "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution" and a leading proponent of intelligent design.

"In Darwin's day, the cell was thought to be a pretty simple thing — just a blob of goo — and that it would be easy to get first life," he said. "They're really molecular machines. There are little molecular trucks and buses, carrying supplies from one part of the cell to the other; there are molecular roads, even molecular road signs."

Systems that complex, Behe maintains, can't work until they're complete — in other words, the "road signs" in his metaphor would be useless without the "trucks and buses," which in turn wouldn't be able to move without the "roads." Such a system would have to be complete from its inception, Behe said, because a cell couldn't live without all of those integrated systems up and running.

The principle is called "irreducible complexity," meaning the system couldn't be reduced by even one part and still work.

That bacteria flagellum and the rotary motor that powers it are an example of a system that couldn't have evolved gradually, Behe and other intelligent design advocates say. The 30-something different proteins that make up the motor, the driveshaft, bearings and so on, would be useless unless completely assembled.

A simpler example of irreducible complexity Behe sometimes points to is a mousetrap: If any parts are missing — the spring, the hammer or the base — it won't be able to catch any mice.

Kenneth Miller sometimes sports a tie clip made from the spring of a mousetrap.

The professor of biology at Brown University has written several books and essays countering the intelligent design arguments. He also has testified against its inclusion in state curriculums in Ohio and Kansas. He also is co-author of the high school textbook "Biology," which was used by the Salina schools from 1996 to 2001 and still is used widely in Kansas.

Miller's tie clip is intended to prove a point — parts of the mousetrap can be put to other uses.

Likewise, he said, the various parts of the bacteria flagellum can be found elsewhere in the cell, adapted to other uses.

That includes the ion-driven rotary motor, which is found working as a pump elsewhere in the cell, helping convert one chemical to another for use as fuel.

Behe, writing in the Wall Street Journal in February, countered that "the existence of the ability to pump protein tells us nil about how the rotary propulsion function might come to be in a Darwinian fashion."

Miller agrees that no "step-by-step account" of how the flagellum evolved exists — yet — but says the intelligent design argument is that such an evolution is theoretically impossible, while he's shown that it could happen.

Intelligent design proponents cite other examples in nature as well, such as the complex structure of microtubes, spokes and support rings in the tail of a sperm cell — but Miller points out that eel sperm lack many of those parts and still work just fine. A related mathematical argument is that the probability of the 30-plus proteins in the flagellum evolving on their own is almost zero; Miller's response is that almost zero isn't zero — and that no one thinks it happened all at once anyway.

Despite the disagreement, Behe said, the bottom line is that there's genuine science underlying the intelligent design movement — it's not just based on a literal reading of the creation story in the Bible.

"For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing and have no particular reason to doubt it," Behe wrote in "Darwin's Black Box." "I fairly respect the work of colleagues who study the development and behavior of organisms within an evolutionary framework, and I think the evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world. Although Darwin's mechanism — natural selection working on variation — might explain many things, however, I do not believe it explains molecular life."

He also said he doesn't dispute "monkey to man evolution" but questions whether the evidence is conclusive. Asked whether he thinks current species — humans included — were created just as they exist today, he answered with a simple "no."

"The fundamental difference — if I can say 'fundamental' — is that creationists are motivated by religious considerations," Behe said. "Intelligent design is motivated by scientific ones. We don't start with Genesis — we say here's what we find in science."


"Intelligent design is creationism in a cheap tuxedo," said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. "They're either fooling themselves or trying to fool other people."

The arguments about irreducible complexity, and the probability claims, as well, "are nothing new — just resurrected and couched in new lingo."

"Intelligent design is a resurrection of 'natural theology' from the 19th century," said Arthur Neuburger, professor of biology at Kansas Wesleyan University.

Many trace irreducible complexity back to English theologian William Paley, who wrote that the presence of a watch indicates a watchmaker — and that living creatures are much more complex, so must also have been made. Paley published "Natural Theology" in 1802 and died 55 years before publication of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species." The same kind of reasoning appears in the 1st century B.C. writings of Roman statesman Cicero, in "de Natura Deorum" translated as "The Nature of the Gods." The idea of evolution, too, has long roots, back at least to ancient Greece.

At its core, intelligent design is "about the God of the gaps — using God to fill in the gaps in our knowledge," Neuburger said.

"If you expect to have every step in the sequence before you believe in evolution, you'll never believe in evolution," he said. "It's ridiculous to think we'll ever have a complete sequence."

Appealing to something outside of natural law to explain anything that can't currently be explained "is literally not science," Neuburger said. The process of science, he said, is explaining things that at one time couldn't be explained.

And in fact, it's bad for science, he said.

"It's saying, 'Stop the inquiry, because it won't do any good,' " he said.

"Let's suppose it's 100 years ago," Miller said. "We see the sun emits a certain amount of light and heat, we know how big it is. It's inexplicable in terms of science — it could not, for example, be burning coal or burning oil; it couldn't be any kind of chemical reaction, which were the only reactions known. And it's not getting smaller, which it would do if it were burning.

"The conclusion could have been that it is supernatural. Just a decade later, we started finding out about nuclear reactions."

Intelligent design also lacks "peer review," Krishtalka said.

Peer review is the standard in science; researchers submit articles to niche publications, such as the Journal of Molecular Biology. Experts in the field then review the articles and either approve them, reject them or suggest changes.

Behe has had some three dozen research papers published in peer-reviewed publications such as the Journal of Molecular Biology.

"He has been published in many journals," Krishtalka allowed, "but not in the field of irreducible complexity.

"It's not uncommon to find engineers or biochemists as spokespeople — stepping way outside their areas of expertise. They'll use anybody they can get. A common ploy is to bring in a so-called professional in one area to proclaim in another area in which they're not qualified."

"It's carefully crafted to have the look and feel of science," Miller said.

But Behe says the peer-review system tends to enforce orthodoxy.

"I don't think intelligent design does get a fair hearing in mainstream science," he said. "The people who write about it in mainstream science are often set on eradicating it. The idea is not treated as something that's 'interesting, but I don't think it's true' — it's met with an emotional intensity that belies the claim that they're taking a scientific approach."

And the peer review process isn't perfect.

Thirty years ago, Stephen Hawking's theories on black holes helped make him the world's most famous living theoretical physicist.

Two weeks ago, Hawking announced he was wrong.

What that shows is the healthy progress of science, Krishtalka said.

Hawking's reversal "proves that science works," Krishtalka said, "adding to its knowledge base and improving and refining that knowledge base. It's a process of retesting, reobserving and refining — as opposed to dogma or religion, which are static and, to use a phrase, do not evolve through time ... the story of Genesis has not changed.

"That's the power of science — knowledge grows and changes."

Neuberger is willing to allow for the possibility that evolutionary theory is wrong but said nothing in current science undermines it.

"I tell my students at the beginning of the semester that we're going to talk about evolution as if it's true," he said. "Science does change."

At the same time, he said, "people have been trying — with great motivation — for over a century to show evolution isn't true, and they haven't succeeded."

Behe thinks intelligent design "will become more accepted in time. Fifty years ago, Darwinism looked more believeable than it does today."

All agree the dispute's "emotional intensity" makes it unique among scientific controversies — and the only one constantly surfacing in the political arena.

... and politics

Kansas' 1999 standards didn't proscribe teaching evolution and didn't elevate intelligent design over it. Rather, those standards more innocuously allowed for both. In other states, too, the appeal often is to give all theories a fair hearing or equal time.

Miller says it's misleading even for the debates he sometimes participates in to include equal numbers of scientists for and against evolution, because that leaves audiences with the impression there's two roughly equal "sides" to the issue.

"These theories are not equal," Krishtalka said. "You would give equal time to equal things."

Demanding equal time for intelligent design in science class, Krishtalka said, "is like demanding equal time for the flat-Earth theory in geology or the stork theory of reproduction in a biology class."

Both find the relative scientific merits are ignored when weighed on political scales.

"After everything else, our education system is a political process," Krishtalka said. "They're using the political process to make their gains as opposed to demonstrating that they have science worth teaching."

"I think fair treatment for intelligent design would be for it to go through the scientific process before it's injected into the classroom through the political process," Miller said.

He says the workings of the free market are an apt comparison to what happens in science: "It's a free marketplace of ideas. There's no entrance fee, no ticket, anybody can take part. But what wins the day is evidence — anybody can have a new and novel idea.

"Intelligent design hasn't been able to win in the scientific marketplace and so is looking for support from the government. It's an intellectual subsidy."

If intelligent design supporters were interested in science, Miller said, they'd follow the path taken many times before by what he calls "maverick scientists."

An example is Peter Duesberg, professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley, who believes the HIV virus isn't what causes AIDS.

"I think he's full of it," Miller said. "But he's working to marshal the evidence — doing what a good scientist does, spending time in the lab, going to conferences, trying to win over colleagues. What he's not doing is going to school boards and trying to get his ideas put into textbooks."

But unlike other scientific controversies, looking at the origins of life "uncovers knowledge that makes people feel uncomfortable," Krishtalka said.

"This touches people and who they are," Neuburger said. "Some people just don't want to believe they're evolved from so-called lower forms of life."

More specifically, evolution seems to challenge the word of God.

"Many members of the public who find intelligent design appealing are those who take Genesis literally," Miller said. "They see intelligent design as rescuing those ideas."


Yet many scientists say there's no contradiction between a strong faith in God and accepting evolution — and some even say theories such as intelligent design could undermine faith.

"God and evolution are just as compatible as God and (the planet) Jupiter, or God and relativity," Krishtalka said. "Intelligent design is disrespectful to both religion and science.

"Instead of bashing science, why aren't they revering humans and our intellectual capabilities as a fantastic act of creation?"

Among Miller's works is the 2000 book "Finding Darwin's God: A Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution," and he readily admits how life originated remains a mystery.

"Could life have been the result of a miracle? I'd say sure," Miller said. "I'd also say the '69 Mets were a miracle.

"We have a basketful of unanswered questions. As a Christian, I wouldn't stake my faith on science never figuring this out. Science has a history of figuring things out.

"I think, and lots of scientists who are Christians think, the Darwinian model of evolution through common descent, using the laws of chemistry and physics — the notion of the single of life on Earth starting from a single spark fits much better with the story of Genesis than intelligent design does. There have been 23 different species of elephants in the past 5 million years. If you take the designer model, you have a designer that designed 23 species, 21 of which have gone extinct. Two for 23 won't even get you into single-A baseball.

"This makes you think, 'What is He thinking?' or 'How incompetent can He be?' and you have a designer who's constantly having to putz around with his creation."

Miller carries that same theme further in an essay he contributed for the recently published book "Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA."

"I do not believe, even for an instant, that Darwin's vision has weakened or diminished the sense of wonder and awe that one should feel in confronting the majesty and diversity of the living world," he wrote. "Rather, to a person of faith, it should enhance their sense of the Creator's majesty and wisdom. Against such a backdrop, the struggles of the intelligent design movement are best understood as clamorous and disappointing double failures — rejected by science because they do not fit the facts and having failed religion because they think too little of God."

• Reporter Michael Strand can be reached at 822-1418 or by e-mail at sjmstrand@saljournal.com.

©2004 Salina Journal

Anomalies Found in Roswell Metal

David E. Twichell writes, "In 1996, Linda Moulton Howe, UFO investigator and author, submitted a piece of metal to biophysicist W. C. Levengood, of Grass Lake, Michigan, for analysis. The metallic fragment is alleged to have come from the debris field of the famous Roswell, New Mexico UFO crash of 1947.

"From Electron Microscope and EDS (Electron Dispersive Spectroscopy) studies it was shown that the metal was composed of contiguous layers of pure bismuth (Bi) and layers of magnesium (Mg) containing between 2-3 percent zinc (Zn). The Electron Microscope images disclosed that Bi layers are in the range of 1-4 microns thick and the Mg layers 100-200 microns in thickness. When examined in cross section, it was apparent that the layers were not smooth and straight but rather contained micro-undulations. *

"One of the visits during Linda's Odyssey was at the Carnegie Institute, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, where she arranged for an Ion Microprobe – Isotope analysis of the Bi/Mg sample. In the final report by Dr. Erik Hauri, there are two findings, which stand out as being highly anomalous.

1. The Bi/Mg sample gave a rate of emission of Mg (+) ions, which was over 60 times the rate from the pure Mg metal standard.

2. In the Bi layer the isotope ratio of mass, 208/206, was 2.72. It was pointed out that this ratio is consistent with the known isotope composition of lead (Pb).

"The presence of lead in the Bi layer was suggested as being due to some type of contamination. This, however, can be eliminated as cause of this unusual isotopic ratio in Bi, the reason being, no Pb was detected in the EDS studies. This ion probe work indicates unusual molecular structures in both the Bi and Mg layers. Therefore, it can be concluded that the make-up of this material is far from the 'standard' compositions."

Further studies by Levengood noted a chemical reaction in the sample when subjecting it to a "Charge Density Pulse" test (CDP). The method employed was via a patented device developed by himself and Dr. John L. Gedye for the purpose of detecting very subtle, self-organized groups of "charge density pulses" which are within all living systems. "Further evidence of a possible chemical reaction became apparent when a very active bubble formation was noted within about three minutes after introducing a 90 mg. Bi/Mg sample into the water. If indeed a chemical reaction is taking place we have another very anomalous situation. The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics lists Bi, Mg and Zn as being insoluble (non-reactive) in water.

"Repeated trials of placing the Bi/Mg samples in water consistently disclosed the presence of bubble emission within a very short time after submerging in water. It was surprising to find that bubble emission continued for days. Since the bubbles are an indication that a chemical reaction is taking place, it would be expected that reaction products would be present in the base water. If Mg is being oxidized, a milky precipitate of MgO particles should be formed (a very common industrial compound). Instead, the water in which the reaction took place remained as clear and free of particles as in the initial state."

Levengood tested the metal fragment for the presence of hydrogen by putting a sample in a flask with a weak solution of acetic acid. Immediately the fragment began to bubble as in water. The top of the flask was covered with a double layer of saran wrap. After twenty minutes, the covering was removed and a flame was introduced to the mouth of the flask. The result was a very loud, active explosion inside the flask and at the opening, indicating the presence of a high concentrate of hydrogen. This result was repeated in subsequent tests and filmed by his associate, Ms. Marilyn Ruben.

(*) "If a sample of the Bi/Mg metal is left in the weak acetic acid until the bubbling stops (usually within a couple of hours) it would be expected that reaction products would be found in the acid solution. It was astounding to find that the liquid was still as clear as when first placed in the flask and the only other visible material was very thin, black, spongy flakes from the Bi inter-layers. This experimental sequence was repeated a number of times and in every case the results were the same. The fact that very fine Bi particles remained in the solution clearly indicates that this element acted as a catalyst in the reaction process.

"By comparing the mass of the Bi flakes left in the solution with the total mass of the Bi/Mg particle, it was determined from a number of repeat experiments that between 94% and 96% of the total mass of the original sample was still unaccounted for."

The question, as to the origin of this strange metallic fragment, remains. Many fragments, allegedly found at the Roswell crash site in 1947, have reportedly slipped through the cracks of the Army/Air force's tight security grid. Could this particular fragment be one of them? W.C. Levengood observed in his thesis on the metal; "the high, active output of the hydrogen gas in these reactions, bring to mind obvious applications for use as hydrogen fuel cells. A rapid and complete reaction takes place without leaving behind reaction products which can interfere with the reaction and poison the system."

Could the fragment in question be from an advanced hydrogen propulsion system? Was it indeed recovered from the debris field of a downed exotic craft from elsewhere in the cosmos? In seeking the answers, even more questions have been posed. One fact that, to date, is not in question is that the unusual properties of this alloy remains a mystery to Levengood, as well as many other top-notch scientists who have examined it. An alloy comprised of different elements is not found in nature. It is forged by intelligent beings. After many years of testing, science is unable to determine the basis for this particular alloy's composition... let alone duplicate it!

Copywrite 2004, David E. Twichell.

(*) Excerpt from "Anomalous Energy Transformations in a Bi/Mg Layered Metal." A copyrighted scientific publication by W.C. Levengood.


1. W.C. Levengood & John L. Gedye, Evidence for Charge Density Pulses Associated With Bioelectric Fields in Living Organisms, Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine, Vol. 8, pp 33-54 (1998).

2. W.C. Levengood & John L. Gedye, Method and Apparatus for Detecting, Recording and Analyzing Spontaneously Generated Transient Electric Charge Pulses in Living Organisms, U.S. Patent No. 6,347,238, Feb. 12, 2002.

3. W.C. Levengood & John L. Gedye, Mechanisms Related to Charge Density Pulse Formation in Living Systems, (in Press) 2003).

4. Linda Moulton Howe. Glimpses of Other Realities, Vol. II, pp 11 – 22. http://earthfiles.com/

5. Marilyn Ruben. http://www.abduct.com/

4th Annual Texas Bigfoot Conference

The Texas Bigfoot Research Center
Texas Bigfoot Conference 2004


WHEN: Friday & Saturday, October 22nd & 23rd, 2004

WHERE: The Conference will be held at the Jefferson High School. This is a new, larger, more comfortable facility this year. Better air conditioning.
1 Bulldog Drive
Jefferson, Texas, 75657
Click for map of location

WHO: Featured Speakers include:
Rick Noll
Jimmy Chilcutt
Alton Higgins; http://www.bfro.net
Sue Lindley; http://www.bfro.net
John Kirk III; http://www.cryptosafari.com/bcscc/
Scott Herriott; http://www.squatching.com
Nick Redfern; http://www.nickredfern.com
M. K. Davis

DETAILS: For complete details on The TBRC - Texas Bigfoot Conference 2004 including the activities guide please see our website at http://www.texasbigfoot.com/events4.html This year we are in a new, bigger location, with better airconditioning also.

REGISTRATION: General admission for the Conference is $10 at the door. There are several VIP pre-registration packages which will include activities that will be held in conjunction with the Conference. This will include the private fundraiser dinner Friday Oct. 22 with the speakers in attendance. It will be a chance to meet and talk to them one on one. There will be a special presentation from the speakers given at the dinner. This package will also include reserved seating at the Conference. The cost of this package is $40 if mailed paid prior to the event and $50 at the door. Pay with PayPal at the following url: http://www.texasbigfoot.com/prereg4.html

MAILING ADDRESS: Please send your check or money order payable to -
Texas Bigfoot Research Center
P. O. Box 191711
Dallas, Texas 75219

LODGING: Local Bed & Breakfasts will be offering discounts for guests staying Friday, October 22 and Saturday, October 23. Please check out the following websites for information:


The Inn of Jefferson will also be offering discounted rooms for Conference attendees. Check with the manager, 903-665-3983


ADDITIONAL CONTACT INFO: To schedule an interview, or obtain further information please contact Craig Woolheater at (877) 529-5550 toll-free anytime...
MAIN WEBSITE: http://www.texasbigfoot.com
EMAIL: craigw@texasbigfoot.com

Craig Woolheater
Co-Founder and Director
Texas Bigfoot Research Center

Quote: "...if the skeptics are right and there is no such creature as Bigfoot, then it is a fact that thousands of Americans and Canadians are either prone to hallucinations, or compulsive liars, or unable to recognize bears, deer and vagrants."
- Janet Bord

Psychic 'misled actress to hopeless cancer death'


18 February 2004

AMSTERDAM — Accused of misleading Dutch actress Sylvia Millecam to a "chanceless" death from cancer, psychic medium Jomanda was confronted on Wednesday with news that the Public Prosecution (OM) is set to launch a criminal investigation.

After a Health Inspectorate report claimed on Tuesday that Jomanda was guilty of prosecutable actions, the public prosecutor OM said on Wednesday it will examine the matter and decide at a later date whether to launch an official investigation.

Despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, Millecam never believed she was suffering from the disease. Instead, the actress thought it was a bacterial infection and she died in August 2001, news agency ANP reported.

Her alternative therapists also believed Millecam was not suffering from cancer and shortly after her death, Jomanda said she had discovered from "the other world" that the illness was something other than cancer.

But the Health Inspectorate claims that Jomanda and alternative therapists "misled" Millecam by saying she did not have breast cancer. The therapists had also predicted that the actress would be cured.

Millecam's mother, however, is opposed to the prosecution of Jomanda, claiming that her daughter did not allow herself to be misled and regularly visited normal doctors.

She also said the prosecution of Jomanda would be unjust because Millecam's family had not been consulted about the matter. Millecam died at the age of 45 in August 2001 and the inspectorate launched its inquiry in the summer of 2002. It has lodged a complaint with the public prosecution this week and discussions between the OM and the inspectorate have already taken place.

Leaked to the press on Tuesday, public news service NOS said the report's main conclusions were:

But a spokeswoman for Jomanda said the psychic is confident of being cleared in any potential courtroom battles. Jomanda has not yet been made aware, however, of the precise nature of the allegations leveled against her.

Claiming to be acting on the insistence of Mary, the mother of Jesus, she has refused to comment further until 29 March as a form of "penance" for a "misguided" Dutch nation.

Jomanda claims she not give medical advice to Millecam — known for her roles in several films and the Ook dat nog! consumer justice television series — and instead allegedly urged her to see a doctor.

According to the inspectorate, the actress visited 28 therapists and doctors, including Jomanda. Some therapists face disciplinary action and criminal prosecution.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Official wants creationism to be taught


But another Madison board member says policy is sufficient


MADISON - A Madison County School Board member has made a plea to his colleagues to include creationist teachings in the life-sciences classroom.

C. Douglas Farmer, a third-year board member and ordained Baptist pastor, said creation by divine order should be considered as much of a science as evolution, given equal classroom teaching time and offered to students in an insert in the life-sciences textbook.

"If we're going to approve textbooks that are biased toward evolution, there should be some sort of appendix glued in the front cover that emphasizes or points out that this text seems to be slanted toward the origin of species as strongly supporting evolution," he said.

He would like a committee formed to study the legality of such a move, but the School Board unanimously approved a new science textbook without an insert and has not discussed forming a committee on the matter.

The board's policy on religion states that its schools will stay neutral in matters of religion. "The division also recognizes that one of its educational responsibilities is to advance the students' knowledge and appreciation of the role that religion has played in the social, cultural and historical development of civilization," it states.

School Board member James L. Nelson Jr. said that he thinks the policy on religion is sufficient and that he would have to know more about the purpose of a potential committee before agreeing.

Superintendent Brenda Tanner said there is "no indication that there is anything that prohibits the students from expressing their belief about issues." That includes discussions about what students learned from home and at church about the origins of man, she said.

Since he was elected to the School Board, Farmer has monitored the life sciences and American history textbooks, he said.

"I discovered editing and authorship that is very much slanted toward the fact that the origin of the species concept is based on evolution," he said.

An appendix could include a section explaining that the school district encourages teachers and students to give equal learning time to the creationist point of view, he said.

"It doesn't make sense to me to teach character and responsibility and then turn around and teach kids that they came from a monkey," Farmer told the School Board at its July 12 meeting.

Farmer said he has come forth on behalf of others in the community who feel apprehensive about approaching the subject. He said he thinks people in the more conservative hamlets of rural Madison may have removed their children from public school over the issue.

"There's a constituency of people who have mentioned this to me," he said. "I'm not standing on a leg by myself on this. There's a good representation of folks out there."

Olympia Meola is a staff writer for the Charlottesville Daily Progress.

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