NTS LogoSkeptical News for 18 September 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Experts Study New Sign Language System


By Associated Press

September 16, 2004, 3:19 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- A new system of sign language developed by deaf children in Nicaragua may hold clues about the evolution of languages.

When the country's first school for the deaf was established in 1977, children were not taught sign language but developed a system of signs to communicate.

That method of communicating now shows similarities to other languages, researchers say in Thursday's issue of the journal Science.

Language experts have argued for years about whether the basic traits of all languages are hard-wired in the human brain or have developed by trial and error over the years.

The paper's lead author, Ann Senghas of Barnard College of Columbia University, and her colleagues suggest that even if children are not born with a mental blueprint for language, they can move from a simple communication system to a true language in a short time.

In the Nicaraguan sign language, older members of the group used relatively basic gestures while younger children divided the movements into separate words with which they formed into sentences.

As additional groups learn the language, they expand on it, making it more useful.

"We're seeing evolution in action, but what's evolving here isn't an organism, it's a language system," Senghas said in a statement.

The study was funded by the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the National Institutes of Health and the Turkish Academy of Sciences.

In a separate study reported Thursday, researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health said that young children learn vocabulary in fundamentally the same way, regardless of the language being taught.

Their study involved 269 mothers of children who were 20 months old and lived in various countries.

The children were learning to speak Spanish, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Italian, Korean and American English. The mothers filled out a questionnaire designed to gauge the extent of their children's vocabularies.

The major part of the children's vocabularies turned out to be nouns, followed by adjectives, the researchers said in the journal Child Development.

"This study shows that while languages may differ greatly, the sequence by which young children learn the parts of speech appears to be the same across different languages," said Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the child health institute.

"By learning about the normal progression of language development, we may be able obtain information that will help children who are having difficulty learning language," Alexander said.

The mothers in every country reported that their children learned significantly more nouns than other types of words. The researchers said this held true regardless of whether the language emphasized nouns, as does American English, or verbs, as does Korean.

Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press

Time traveler or wingnut, you decide.

From: "Terry W. Colvin"

We draw your attention to "John Titor." He claims to be a time traveler. His predictions (or factual accounts from the future) include the office of the U.S. President will split into five or six; after a civil war the U.S. will fragment into the USA and the American Federal Empire; Omaha, Nebraska becomes the U.S. capitol; and in a more bizarre rant - "How many companies in the United States still manufacture bicycle tires today? Anyone who still has a bike in 2008 will find out."

One web site dedicated to his raves, I mean, communications is:

http://www.johntitor.com, a frames site.

Bramhall's Indiana Jones off to find Yeti

BRAMHALL'S very own part-time Indiana Jones has taken flight to a jungle island hoping to prove the existence of the infamous Yeti.

Explorer Adam Davies set out on his travels to Sumatra in Indonesia to hunt the creature down and capture it on film.

Three years ago Adam and a colleague from Newcastle brought back what they claimed was a footprint and hairs from the island, with test by experts at Cambridge University and in Australia later confirming they do not belong to any known species.

They believe it is evidence of the orang pendek, also known as the Sumatran Yeti.

Civil servant Adam who flew out last Thursday, now hopes to bring back photographic proof that the mythical half-ape, half-man really exists during his three-week adventure.

"What we want to do is capture it on film," said Adam, 35, who spends his holidays hunting down the mythical creatures. I appreciate it is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but I'm determined to give it a good go."

Tales of the orang pendek -"little man of the forest" - are part of the folklore of tribespeople in Sumatra.

The creature is said to be about five foot tall, chocolate brown or orange and able to walk upright.

According to folklore, it has incredible strength and speaks a language all of its own.

Adam hopes that by proving the creature's existence it will make the orang pendek a protected species.

Adam added: "The rainforest is being chopped down. We hope that if we can get the pictures, we will be able to help protect it from illegal logging."

Adam's wife Laura said: "He's grown up with the idea that he'd one day like to be an explorer and ever since he was a child he has been interested in exploring.

"We've got a five-year-old who thinks his dad is Indiana Jones!"


Scientology: Church now claims more than 8 million members


By Elaine Jarvik
Deseret Morning News

The Church of Scientology is 50 years old this year, having survived its skeptics and detractors, an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and John Travolta's box-office flop, "Battlefield Earth," based on a science fiction novel by the church's founder L. Ron Hubbard. The church's 50th anniversary makes it a young religion as far as religions go but also attests to its staying power.

According to Scientology headquarters in Los Angeles, the church now claims more than 8 million members in 159 countries. The current president of the Church of Scientology International is a former Utahn, Heber C. Jentzsch, who grew up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and attended the University of Utah. As he once explained to TV interviewer Larry King, Scientology provided him with answers to questions such as "Who am I? What am I doing here? What are these other people doing here?"

The Salt Lake Church of Scientology numbers between 200 and 300 parishioners, according to lay minister the Rev. Phillip Parke. It operates out of a two-story office building in Sugar House that includes "auditing" rooms, a sauna and a small chapel where services are held on Sunday mornings. Attending a Sunday service for the first time provides only a tiny glimpse of the church's complex philosophy.

The service begins with a reading of the "Creed of the Church of Scientology," written by Hubbard, a short treatise on integrity, written by Hubbard, and a sermon from a large, gold leaf copy of "The Background, Ministry, Ceremonies and Sermons of the Scientology Religion," also written by Hubbard. The founder of Scientology was a prolific man. Before he died in 1986, at age 74, he had written not only more than 200 science fiction novels but 31 church-related books, including "The Road to Truth" and "All About Radiation."

After the sermon comes the heart of the Sunday service — "group processing" — which on a recent morning included the following exercise, also written by Hubbard. Minister Judy Steed, a cheerful, intense woman, instructed us to find the floor, to locate the chair we are sitting in, to observe the front wall, the side walls and the wall behind us. We did this again and again, finding the floor, the chair, the walls, the ceiling, observing the distance between ourselves and the ceiling and walls.

"Now," the Rev. Steed said, "find the distance between yourself and your eyeballs." The Rev. Steed never drew any conclusions for us, but the implication was that if we can separate ourselves from our eyeballs, in the same way we can separate ourselves from the material world around us, we can realize that we are not our bodies but something else. If this sounds a lot like the mind-body dualism philosopher Rene Descartes postulated 350 years ago, Hubbard was quick to point out that Scientology is the one religion to have figured out the real truth: man's real self is neither body nor mind but spirit. And if that sounds a lot like what other religions might call a soul, Hubbard explained his difference: a thetan — the Scientology term for the spiritual essence that is each person — survives not in some nebulous Afterlife but again and again on Earth, not reincarnated as another person or another life-form but coming back as itself in a different body. Scientology is the first religion to understand death, Hubbard said.

Scientologists are not afraid of hyperbole. The Church of Scientology International, which authored "What Is Scientology?" based on the writings of Hubbard, notes that between 1970 and 1973 Hubbard made "the first significant advances on the subject of logic since ancient Greece" and that Hubbard "has become one of the most beloved men in history."

Four years before Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology he wrote a book called "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health," in which he outlined his theories of the mind, and a "technology" that can help a regular person ruled by fears, doubts and lousy communication skills progress into an enlightened person known as a "Clear."

Most people, Hubbard writes, are ruled by their "reactive" mind, which unconsciously stores mental pictures ("engrams") of distressing experiences. In a sense, says Salt Lake Scientologist Rob Magiera, these engrams act the way post-hypnotic suggestions do, commanding our subconscious to respond, in this case with fear or anger or a host of other irrational emotions. Auditing, the Rev. Parke explains, "gradiently improves a person's ability to confront" these repressed experiences and to "refile" them in what Hubbard called the "analytical mind."

Little by little, the person is helped to confront difficult experiences, starting with minor hurts (a burned finger, for example) and eventually more painful experiences, until these no longer have an effect on him, Rev. Parke explains. The full explanation of the process required many hundreds of pages in "Dianetics," he adds.

Don't confuse auditing with psychotherapy, he says. "If I go into a psychotherapist's office, they won't have a chart like this," he says, pointing to an intricate poster called "The Bridge to Total Freedom" that lists the dozens of steps between now and "Clear" and beyond, to a state Hubbard calls Operating Thetan XV. An Operating Thetan "is able to control matter, energy, space and time."

The main difference between auditing and psychotherapy, says Rev. Parke, is that auditing is "spiritual counseling."

Typical psychotherapy "doesn't give you anything immediate," Scientologist Joava Good says, whereas "Scientology is a philosophy and a religion you can apply today and get results." Scientologists are especially opposed to psychiatry and its overuse of psychotropic drugs. In 1969, the church established the Citizens Commission on Human Rights to eliminate what it calls "harmful practices in the field of mental health."

The CCHR has long lobbied against antidepressants and electroshock therapy, and against the use of Ritalin for children with ADHD. It also contends that depression, hyperactivity and other mental and behavioral problems are largely incorrect diagnoses that "cover symptoms and don't handle the real problems," which may be physical or spiritual, says Sandra Lucas, executive director of the Utah Chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

The church's auditing sessions are conducted using a Hubbard invention called the electropsychometer, or e-meter. Scientologists refer to it as a "religious artifact" and explain that since engrams have "weight and mass," the e-meter can measure them and their effect on a person's mental state. The e-meter consists of a gauge and two metal rods, held in each hand, that emit a small electrical current. Church dogma, the Rev. Parke says, is that no one is allowed to alter the auditing technology.

Auditing doesn't come cheap. Sold in groups of 12 half-hour sessions — "fixed donations," the church calls it — the entire auditing process could easily cost $100,000, he says. But all churches raise money one way or another, he notes.

"A couple of years ago I added up how much I spent," says Rob Magiera, who has been a Scientologist for 26 years, "and it added up to about how much a person would tithe to his church, or a little less."

The money raised by the auditing sessions and by classes to train auditors is used to run the worldwide church, pay staff members and fund charities such as the "drug-free marshals" program for children and humanitarian programs such as its current relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Ivan, the Rev. Parke says. The church operates retreats, The Saint Hill College for Scientologists in England, a 444-foot ship, and lavish "Celebrity Centres" in Hollywood, Paris and other cities.

The church's most famous celebrities include John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Nancy Cartwright, who is the voice of Bart Simpson. Locally, says the Rev. Parke, the church counts among its members people who are LDS and Catholic.

Scientology is an "applied religious philosophy" so it's possible to be both a Scientologist and any other religion, he says. Hubbard's credo on integrity reminds that "nothing in Dianetics and Scientology is true for you unless you have observed it and it is true according to your observation." Members can decide for themselves whether they believe in God — what Scientologists typically refer to as a Supreme Being. The Rev. Parke guesses that more do believe than don't.

Where most Western religions are about faith, church member Magiera says, Scientology is about "bringing change through doing and applying." Some have argued that this makes Scientology not quite a religion, but several courts have disagreed, and in 1993 the IRS recognized the tax-exempt status of the church.

A religion, says local church member Lora Mengucci, director of Special Affairs, is an entity that has "a belief in some Ultimate Reality" that transcends the here and now of the secular world; religious practices directed toward "understanding, attaining or communing with" this Ultimate Reality; and a community of believers who join together in pursuing this Ultimate Reality.

Fifty years after its founding, the Church of Scientology continues to inspire controversy. In California earlier this summer, the head of the state's public schools hired a research group to evaluate the Narcanon anti-drug program, in use in some of the state's schools. School officials worry that the program is scientifically unsound and that it is tied too closely to Scientology teachings. Church officials say that Narcanon is a non-sectarian program but do acknowledge that Narcanon employees tend to be Scientologists and that the curriculum was developed by Hubbard. That curriculum includes Hubbard's beliefs that drugs accumulate indefinitely in body fat and thus must be detoxified by saunas and doses of niacin.

"The drug program is quite successful," argues Dr. J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion and considered an expert on new and non-conventional religions. "It has a very high non-recidivism rate. And their literacy program changes the life of the people who go through it," says Melton, the author of "The Church of Scientology," published in 2000 by Signature Books of Salt Lake City.

Melton says Scientology's early critics, in the 1960s, accused it of practicing medicine without a license because of the auditing sessions and the e-meter. So the church set up an entity known as the Guardians Office, Melton recounts. "The Guardians Office tried to get government files, and when they couldn't, they started a project to infiltrate government offices: the CIA, the FBI, the post office, the IRS." In the end, he says, "the people who did this were convicted only of stealing Xerox paper; it was a technical charge." After that, in the early 1980s, the church "cleaned house," he says, and some of those who were fired from the Guardians Office became some of the church's harshest critics.

"One of the questions we continually talk about," says Melton, "is the intensity of the opposition to Scientology." The reason for it, he guesses, is the church's success — and the fact that, as he says, "the church fights back. I tend to think they make a mountain out of a molehill. It's like a pitbull: if you attack, it will come back at you."

Sandra Lucas, the director of the Utah chapter of the church's Citizens Commission on Human Rights, thinks the opposition to Scientology had its roots in the group's views on mental health, which galvanized the mental health community against the church. "Like all new ideas, Scientology has come under attack by the uninformed and those who feel their vested interests are threatened," is the way the church's 737-page "What Is Scientology" explains criticisms of the church and its ideas.

Melton, who has been criticized by some for being too easy on Scientology, and has been criticized by the church for being too harsh, says that the church's estimates of its membership numbers — 4 million in the United States, 8 to 9 million worldwide — are exaggerated. "You're talking about anyone who ever bought a Scientology book or took a basic course. Ninety-nine percent of them don't ever darken the door of the church again." If the church indeed had 4 million members in the United States, he says, "they would be like the Lutherans and would show up on a national survey" such as the Harris poll.

In an effort to spread the word about its religion, the church is expanding its outreach program. In Salt Lake City that means not just a church in Sugar House and a mission downtown but a new, bright yellow van and a bright yellow tent. The tent is currently pitched at the Utah State Fair, where the church's "volunteer ministers" are spreading the gospel according to L. Ron Hubbard.

E-mail: jarvik@desnews.com

Friday, September 17, 2004

Dembski to head seminary's new science & theology center


Sep 16, 2004
By Jeff Robinson

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. announced Sept. 16 the establishment of the Center for Science and Theology along with the appointment of renowned philosopher of science William A. Dembski as its first director.

Since 1999, Dembski has served as associate research professor at Baylor University's Institute for Faith and Learning. He also serves as a senior fellow for the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in Seattle, Wash., and is executive director of the International Society of Complexity, Information and Design.

Mohler said that the new center, along with Dembski, will represent a major component of Southern Seminary's commitment to develop and articulate a comprehensive Christian worldview. Dembski, who will begin June 1, will serve as the Carl F.H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science.

"[The center will be] a representation of our commitment to be very serious about the task of the Christian worldview, its development [and] its application," Mohler said. "... Arming this generation of Christian leaders and ministers with all that will be necessary, given the challenges of a technological and scientific age to be ready to confront those issues with Christian truth and the undiluted resources of the Christian worldview."

Having Dembski as the center's director is a major development, not only for the seminary, but also for the Southern Baptist Convention and the evangelical world at large, Mohler said.

"Dr. Dembski is one of the most skilled philosophers of science in this generation," Mohler said. "He is a primary theorist of intelligent design as well as a primary opponent of Darwinism and evolutionary theory ... His name is well-known in the scientific world. This is a new thing for a theological seminary and it is a great thing. We look forward to having Dr. Dembski on this campus."

Dembski said he desires to help students understand how science should be understood in terms of Christian theology. Theology, he said, underpins all of his views of science and intelligent design.

"I started out as a straight research mathematician but got into these questions of philosophy and theology because I was so exercised in my spirit about the unbelief I saw in the academy [and] why it seemed so reasonable to disbelieve the Christian faith," Dembski said. "That is what really motivated me to work on Christian worldviews and apologetics and it is in the background of my work on intelligent design as well.

"Theology is where my ultimate passion is and I think that is where I can uniquely contribute ... I am looking forward to engaging students and theological students have always been my favorite to deal with because for theology students, it's not just a job, but a passion, especially at a place like Southern, because they want to change the world."

Dembski and other evangelical scholars such as Phillip E. Johnson have used arguments of intelligent design to loosen the stranglehold that Darwinian naturalism has held over contemporary science and academic thought.

"Intelligent design is not tantamount to the biblical doctrine of creation," Mohler said. "Theologically, intelligent design falls far short of requiring any affirmation of the doctrine of creation as revealed in the Bible. Nevertheless, it is a useful and important intellectual tool, and a scientific movement with great promise.

"The real significance of intelligent design theory and its related movement is the success with which it undermines the materialistic and naturalistic worldview central to the theory of evolution."

A mathematician and philosopher, Dembski is the author of a number of influential books, including "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology," "The Design Inference," and his latest, "The Design Revolution," published by Cambridge University Press. Dembski previously taught at Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Dallas.

Dembski holds seven degrees, including two Ph.D. degrees -- one in mathematics from the University of Chicago and the other in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a Master of Science degree in statistics. In addition, Dembski has done postdoctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago and in computer science at Princeton.

Russell D. Moore, dean of the Southern Seminary School of Theology and senior vice president of academic administration, said Dembski's appointment is significant.

"Bill Dembski's appointment to the Southern Seminary faculty is an historic event in Southern Seminary's long heritage of equipping Christians to engage the culture with a Christian worldview," Moore said.

"Dembski is the preeminent proponent of Intelligent Design, known throughout the world by both his admirers and his naturalistic critics. Dembski will help us to prepare a new generation of Christians to confront fearlessly the reigning Darwinian orthodoxies of our confused era.

"Through the scholarship and teaching of Bill Dembski, we plan to equip Christians to communicate one of the most basic and glorious aspects of the Gospel -- that human beings are not accidents or machines, but creatures with purpose and design."

During his time at Baylor, Dembski became a focus of controversy, with some members of the Baylor faculty charging that Dembski's work, and that of the center he directed, would embarrass the university by implying that its science faculty was not fully committed to the theory of evolution.

"Our students and faculty are thrilled that Bill Dembski is joining us, and we are proud that he will be teaching in the classroom and directing the work of this very important center," Mohler said. "This is a proud day for Southern Seminary and for Southern Baptists."

Said Dembski:

"I think the opportunity to deal with students and getting them properly oriented on science and theology and the relation between those is going to be important because science has been such an instrument used by the materialists to undermine the Christian faith and religious belief generally."

"This is really an opportunity," Dembski added, "to mobilize a new generation of scholars and pastors not just to equip the saints but also to engage the culture and reclaim it for Christ. That's really what is driving me."

'Anti-Darwin' Serb minister quits


Serbia's education minister has resigned after causing outrage by telling schools to restrict teaching of Charles Darwin's evolution theory.

An official statement said Ljiljana Colic was stepping down because of "problems that had started to reflect on the work of the entire government".

Mrs Colic had said Darwin's theory was no more legitimate than the idea that God created all creatures in the world.

Her policy was quickly reversed after a storm of protests.

The Glas Javnosti newspaper on 7 September quoted Mrs Colic as saying that in future Charles Darwin's theory would only be taught alongside creationism.

Teachers would have to skip a chapter in biology textbooks on Darwin until a new curriculum was worked out, she said.

Ms Colic said the two theories were equally dogmatic.

Later media reports said she had argued against compulsory teaching of foreign languages and computing.


Correspondents say the anti-Darwin move shocked educators in a republic where religion only recently began to be taught.

Biologist Nikola Tucic described the ruling as "outrageous" and said it showed Serbia's Orthodox Church was interfering in politics.

Creationism is the belief that the Old Testament account of God's creation of the world is true.

Darwin's theory of evolution is the dominant explanation of man's origins within the scientific community.

Deepak Inspires Crowds At SOU Raider Stadium


Thursday, Sep 16, 2004

By Cindy Blankenship For SoOregonNews

Ashland, Oregon -- One of the world's leaders in mind body medicine, Deepak Chopra, spoke to a full house at Southern Oregon University's Raider Stadium for the first annual World Wellness Weekend on Sunday.

After filling in for Bernie Siegel, MD, who was unable to make it to Ashland, Chopra spoke to a packed grandstand from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, during which a religious protestor yelled angrily until security removed her. Even so, Deepak spent intermission, a short break sharing hugs and handshakes and listening to those from the audience who visited him on the lawn near the stage.

"Deepak is like that. There's no separation for him," said the events producer Jud Schwartz of Beach Avenue Productions.

Also during his break, Chopra graciously explained to SouthernOregonNews.com why he chose to include Ashland in his out-of-town speaking engagements that this month were limited to the Omega Institute in New York; Miami; Lima, Peru; and Quito, Ecuador.

"It's a great place to be. There are so many people seeking," he said, adding with a sincere smile, "This is a beautiful environment, and there are so many conscious people here and so many people thinking out of the box. And there are many great books authored here..."

Chopra was in Ashland for a public television fundraiser about five years ago.

A little background on Chopra: In 1999, he was selected in 1999 by Time magazine as one of the 100 "icons and heroes" of the century, describing him as "the poet-prophet of alternative medicine."

Chopra's more than 45 books have been translated in 35 languages with over 20 million copies sold worldwide. His best-sellers include How to Know God: The Soul's Journey into the Mystery of Mysteries, Perfect Health; Ageless Body, Timeless Mind; The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Grow Younger, Live Longer: 10 Steps to Reverse Aging and The Path to Love.

Chopra's theories and practices are based in solid science and given his quantum physics, not so solid science. After serving as chief of staff at Boston Regional Medical Center, Chopra built a successful endocrinology practice in Boston in the 1980's with teaching affiliations included Tufts University and Boston University Schools of Medicine.

He envisioned a medical system based upon the premise that health is a lively state of balance and integration of body, mind and spirit.

Melding modern theories of quantum physics with the timeless wisdom of ancient cultures has brought him much acclaim, and 1992, he served on the National Institutes of Health Ad Hoc Panel on Alternative Medicine.

Chopra co-founded the Chopra Center for Well Being, which brings together western medicine and natural healing traditions in an approach Chopra calls "integrative medicine."

On Sunday, Chopra began with a meditation of remembrance, the "Gift of Love," by the Persian mystic Rumi. "It is a remembrance of who we are," Chopra said, referring to the soul.

He talked about the paradigm shift, saying we are all part of the current conflict in the world and in our mind. But he doesn't see the results of this conflict as being all negative: "If there is a crisis it is a crisis of perception...Without resistance, there is no experience. Without opposition and contrast the experience can't happen..." continued.

"A lot of people today are more conscious than ever before," Chopra continued. "In contrast, there are people who don't want to look at themselves. We are polarized: people who want to change and people who don't want to and don't want you to... A divine discontent to encourage growth. In the face of those forces, we need to be accepting, tolerant, compassionate," spoke Chopra.

Using theories of quantum physics, Chopra talked about the interactions between mind, body and soul, cells and the subatomic particles of atoms that are shared by people, nature and the universe, that will after colliding continue to correleate even if they move to to opposite ends of the universe.

Chopra include a good sprinkling of humorous anecdotes, including some from his early years in the United States and as a doctor.

Chopra had just completed medical school in India at the time that many physicians in the United States were serving in Vietnam. A hospital in New Jersey recruited him and he arrived in America with only $108. His first day in the United States, he saw for the first time color television, and he saw a bank robbery shootout. Some were killed, others injured and taken to an emergency room, which he recognized as the one in hospital where he was to report to duty in two hours.

"Of course I knew everything there was to know about medicine," said Chopra, adding with a chuckle, " - from books."

But he was told they didn't need his help yet, then a nurse called saying they had an "expiration." He was surprised to find out the patient was dead and more surprised they wanted him to "pronounce the patient." He figured it was a belief here that the soul couldn't leave until the body was pronounced. Then needing a flashlight in his British English he asked for a "torch." The nurses figured he wanted to cremate the body.

"My first dark night in New Jersey," Chopra said, evoking laughter from the audience.

But the darkness quickly lifted -- he was able to use his surgical skills. He recalled working 48 hours and being so high from the adrenalin he couldn't sleep and was watching color TVs in the window of a store. He didn't have the money for one, but when the store keeper found out he was a surgeon at the nearby hospital all Deepak had to do was "sign a paper." More long shifts and more adrenalin rushes.

"So I went to a car lot and asked to "sign the paper" so he could have a car. "I drove out with a brand new automobile my second day in the U.S....It took me six months to become an expert surgeon, but I was a lousy healer because I knew nothing about the soul," said Chopra.

He went on to talk about how ancient methods that can be proven through modern science and which transformed his practice of medicine.

We can understand the physical universe and our place in it in three ways he said: through the senses, through the mind or intellect, and through the "eyes of the soul."

After giving many examples of thing that are not as they seem to the senses ("My senses tell me this ground I'm standing on is stationary when we're spinning at tremendous speed through space"), Chopra talked about how quantum physics shows that the particles in the atom aren't things, but rather a wiggle, an energy wave ("What we call matter is not matter" and endless possibilities that are influenced by us.

To summarize and probably oversimplify, Chopra talks was about becoming conscious of these and many more "laws" of quantum physics and ancient wisdom, including the importance of intention as well as attention, in order to improve health for the mind, body and soul.

Synchronicity or the uncanny and helpful timing of events that are more than coincidence, is another outcome of becoming more conscious, he said, again giving several examples for his own and other's lives.

Before Chopra began speaking, cards were handed out and then later placed in a drawing. Many won free seminars and workshops at the Chopra Center.

Chopra is currently producing a Soul of Healing, a Public Broadcasting Service special. In a press release, Chopra said, "There is no integrated model that bridges and connects science, healing, biology, and spirituality," and that he wants to make it easy for those not familiar with science to understand his concepts. Thank you Deepak!

For coverage of the World Wellness Weekend, click on www.grantspassnews.com/articles/index.cfm?artOID=224217&cp=4274

To learn more about Chopra's teachings and receive his free newsletter, Namaste, click on www.chopra.com

Chopra's latest book, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence (Harmony Books) is in stores now.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Scientist: Darwinists Trying to Squelch Intelligent Design Debate


CSC Spokesman Claims Evolution Theorists Want to Censor What They Can't Spin

By Jim Brown and Jenni Parker
September 14, 2004

(AgapePress) - A pro-Darwin lobbying group is being accused of trying to censor a published and peer-reviewed scientific article that deals favorably with the theory of intelligent design.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) claims the article by Dr. Stephen Meyer is "substandard science" and should not have been published by the peer-reviewed biology journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. But Dr. John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture (CSC), says the NCSE has flip-flopped just like a politician.

"The refrain of Darwinists up till this point has been intelligent design isn't science because its proponents don't publish peer-reviewed articles," West says. "That has always been false; in fact, scientists have been publishing peer-reviewed articles about their ideas on intelligent design." Now, however, he says the scientists who want to exclude intelligent design and promote Darwinist science cannot ignore West's paper, because it has appeared in "a very standard, peer-reviewed biology journal."

In the article, titled "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," Meyer argues that the theory of intelligent design explains the origin of the genetic information in early animal forms better than current materialistic theories of evolution. But when his work appeared in Proceedings, the executive director of the NCSE claimed it was "too bad" the biology journal saw fit to publish Meyer's paper, since it was scientifically substandard.

However, the editor of Proceedings, which is published at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, confirmed that the article was put through the standard peer-review process and that the three reviewers were eminently qualified. However, since the article appeared, the journal's editor (Richard Sternberg) and the publication itself have been attacked from several quarters.

The Biological Society of Washington has distanced itself from the article and from Sternberg, accusing him of bad judgment. Meanwhile, a recent report in Nature describes Proceedings as a "low-impact journal" and quotes a Brown University biologist as saying "peer review isn't a guarantee of accuracy."

Dr. Meyer himself has noted the double standard being applied to his article. "Until a few days ago," he says, "Darwinists have argued that intelligent design isn't science because it hasn't been published in peer-reviewed journals. But now that an increasing number of scientists are making their case for design in scientific publications, Darwinists are ready to disown peer review -- temporarily, I'm sure."

Although most scientists claim to espouse objectivity in the interest of truth, the CSC's Dr. West says this controversy over Meyer's article exposes the basic "intolerance of Darwinian fundamentalists who want to stop the discussion in science even before it starts," and he is forced to wonder, "What are they afraid of?" According to the CSC spokesman, pro-Darwin groups like the NCSE want to squelch scientific debate because Meyer's article flies in the face of their entrenched evolutionary thinking.

"These groups typically say that the evidence is so overwhelming for Darwin's theory of evolution that there can't be any serious question about it," West says, "but then, apparently, they're afraid of even allowing one article that would be critical of it, even if it passes peer review. It's so dangerous they can't even allow it."

The Center's associate director finds it ironic that the NCSE has criticized pro-intelligent design scientists ad nauseum for failing to publish in respected and peer-evaluated scientific journals. Now, when that condition has been met, West says the pro-Darwin group wants to argue that the article should have been censored, simply because the NCSE cannot spin it out of existence.

© 2004 AgapePress

Alternative medicine offers health option


by Brian Park
September 15, 2004

An increasing number of people who find themselves in need of health care or pain relief may be straying away from standard Western medicine.

Factors that have contributed to a rising interest in "alternative medicine" include dissatisfaction with doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and the ever-increasing notion that one must take antibiotics and drugs, said Mark Kelley, an acupuncturist at Kelley Healing Arts Center, 209 E. Swallow Road.

Some people see it as a way to feel at peace with their body and in charge of their own life by using natural products, instead of using antibiotics, Kelley said.

Carol Cole, the vitamin manager at Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers, 4318 S. College Ave., believes people are becoming disenchanted with modern Western medicine. Vitamin Cottage has been open for five years and maintains steady business, Cole said.

"(People are) getting fed up with doctors and want to go back to the basic things like good nutrition and respecting one's body," Cole said. "Business is great."

Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats, as well as more traditional stores such as King Soopers and Rite Aid, also sell herbal and organic medicine

Chiropractics is another area of healing arts concerned with the human health and disease process, said Kenna Venecamp of Fort Collins Chiropractic, 1217 E. Elizabeth St. According to Venecamp, 15 percent of the United States uses chiropractic care.

"More and more people are buying into the idea of being in charge of their own life," said Venecamp, who has been a chiropractor for 16 years.

Venecamp said chiropractics works because it lets people get in touch with their bodies without taking pills.

The Fort Collins Yellow Pages lists more than 90 chiropractors. People will keep coming back because it is the oldest organized form of alternative medicine, Venecamp said.

Acupuncture is another age-old form of alternative medicine. According to the American Chiropractic Association's Web site, www.amerchiro.org, the Chinese invented acupuncture more than 1,000 years ago. The Chinese mapped out specific points all over the body where needles can be inserted to treat specific health problems.

The goal of acupuncture is to have the body in constant balance, Kelley said. If the body's balance is thrown off, the mind and body must work together to restore it.

"Acupuncture has entered into the mainstream world of health," Kelley said. "It has taken awhile for acupuncture to be accepted because people and doctors alike do not want to give up on Western ideals."

While Colorado has a large number of practitioners, Kelley said it is not necessarily a nationwide trend.

"In Boulder, for instance, there are 125 acupuncturists while, in some parts of the Midwest, there are barely any," Kelley said.

Acupuncture can be used to treat an assortment of problems such as body pain, alcohol, tobacco and drug addiction as well as stress and depression.

Since the early 1990s massage therapy has increased. The number of massage therapists in Fort Collins has nearly doubled since 1994, said Laura Koch, a massage therapist at Rocky Mountain Therapeutics, 612 S. College Ave.

"(Massage therapy) accesses things manually that a pill cannot," Koch said.

Koch believes massage therapy should be a patient's first option instead of his or her last, and she hopes in the future massage therapy will be used before a patient chooses surgery or drugs.

Koch hopes that as alternative medicine becomes more available, it will become more accepted and respected.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


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Will Pennsylvania join Kansas as an educational embarrassment?

From the "Nanovirus" blog....

The Dover Area School Board of York County, Pennsylvania, is considering purchase of a companion textbook to teach creationism as part of the district's high school biology curriculum.

Superintendent Richard Nilsen said the book -- Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins -- is under review by the school board, staff and district curriculum committee, but he said he had no idea when the issue would come up for a vote.

It took two votes after a heated discussion last month for the divided school board to approve the 2004 edition of Prentice Hall Biology, which had offended several board members because it teaches evolution without reference to creationism.

You might recall that in 1999 Kansas deleted the teaching of evolution from the state's science curriculum. It was restored in 2001.

posted by Nanovirus @ 21:45

Darwin Survives, After All


Vesna Peric Zimonjic

Belgrade, Sep 14 (IPS) - Within a few days of declaring that Darwin's theory of evolution was being banned from Serbian schools, the government has reversed the controversial decision.

''I have come here to confirm that Charles Darwin is still alive,'' deputy education minister Milan Brdar told reporters.

Last week, as the school year began, education minister Ljiljana Colic sent a decree to all the schools that Darwin's theory -- about the survival of the fittest -- ''was full of voids'' and thus should be dropped from eighth grade biology curriculum.

The order said that Darwin might be rehabilitated next year but not to the exclusion of the creationist view.

The 19th century evolution theory of British scientist Charles Darwin says that life evolved over billions of years through natural selection. Man and modern apes share a common ancestor, the theory says.

Creationism is the Biblical idea that God created the universe, including man, in seven days.

Darwin's theory was the only one taught in Serbian schools for 60 years.

In the Balkans, only Croatia dropped Darwin's theory from textbooks in 1992, under the pressure of influential Catholic Church. The decision was reversed a year later, due to a strong public outcry.

While education minister Colic remained unavailable for comment, sources close to Serbian government confirmed to IPS that her controversial decision was reversed only after a meeting with Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

Kostunica's conservative government replaced a pro-reform one six months ago. The pro-reform government, the first non-communist government since World War II (1939-45), came into power four years ago, after it toppled the decade long regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

Colic's order to drop Darwin's theory caused unanimous and unprecedented public outcry in Serbia. Researchers, teachers, Serbian Academy of Science and Arts and some 40 non-government organisations and human rights groups voiced their concern over such a move.

Their efforts were rewarded -- and have in fact put the spotlight on Serbia's educational policy.

University professor of biology Nikola Tucic told IPS that ''teaching biology without Darwin was senseless'', adding that ''Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) clearly had a definite say in this matter''.

''This was an appalling decision,'' said Gaso Knezevic, former education minister in the pro-reform government. ''And it was just the tip of the iceberg,'' he told IPS.

Under Knezevic, Serbia introduced educational reforms that would synchronise its outdated schooling system with Europe. Nothing had been done in this respect for more than 25 years.

However, all the reforms were suspended by Colic six months ago, after a short span of three years of life.

Among them was the teaching of English from first grade, with modern and sophisticated methods. Instead, religious teaching was introduced as a compulsory subject from the first grade.

''We're slowly turning into a theocratic state as, in the 21st century, we're going back to the Bible,'' Tucic said.

Colic remained firm in the suspension of English classes, despite criticism from teachers and education groups, who said that ''without English, there is no entrance into the modern world of knowledge''.

Hundreds of English teachers were simply laid off this September due to the suspension of English classes from first grade. English will be taught from fifth grade, with a programme similar to the one dating back to schooldays of first graders' grandparents.

''This is not about Darwin or English,'' former finance minister Bozidar Djelic said. ''It's about the general direction of education in Serbia. And I know what I am talking about.''

Djelic (40) is a French educated financial expert, with the Harvard doctorate in economy. His parents took him to France when he was 10 and his brilliance pushed him through the top schools in his adoptive country and the U.S.

After having served as an executive for many international companies and as an expert for the World Bank, Djelic returned to Serbia in 2000 to help the first pro-reform government. When his term ended six months ago, Serbia was left with the completely restructured tax system, practically non-existent under Milosevic, and the biggest annual budget in its history of some six billion dollars.

"Beside the profound reform of educational system, which should be synchronised with the rest of Europe, Serbia needs more financing in the field,'' Djelic said. ''Some 4.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) goes for education, which is not enough if we want to catch up with the world.''

According to Djelic, only three countries in the region, Greece, Romania and Albania, are spending less on education than Serbia (3.9, 3.1 and 2-7 percent of their GDP respectively). Neighbouring Croatia and Bosnia stand at 4.2 percent, like Serbia.

However, he says, what one should do is to look at Hungary or Israel, where 5.2 and 7.6 percent of GDP are allocated to education.

''Then it will not be about Darwin, religious teaching or making a U- turn to 50 years back,'' he concluded. ''The young are able to face challenges here like everywhere else. They just deserve a fair chance.''

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, September 10, 2004



Two years ago WN related the tale of PC-SPES, a mixture of seven Chinese herbs sold by Botanic Labs to promote "prostate health" (WN 06 Sep 02). WN learned about it from Paul Goldberg, editor of the Cancer Letter, a Washington publication. Sunday's Washington Post carried a front-page account of the PC-SPES disaster with new details. Thanks to the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994, PC-SPES was marketed without testing, since no claim was made that it could cure any disease (WN 09 Apr 04). But it seemed to work as well as prescription drugs for prostate cancer. That's because the mish-mash of herbs was laced with prescription drugs. Patients were grateful to have a "natural" product. At least they were until their penis shrank and their breasts grew. It seems PC-SPES included a synthetic estrogen. There was also a problem with blood clots, but Botanic fixed that by adding warfarin, a blood thinner widely used as rat poison. We'll come back to passage of the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act.




September 14, 2004 -- The expert chosen by CBS to check Dan Rather's disputed National Guard documents got his start as a graphologist analyzing "Spirituality in Handwriting" and lacks recognized document training, The Post has learned.

Analyst Marcel Matley lists "Spirituality in Handwriting" and "Female/Male Traits in Handwriting" on the Web site for a foundation he serves as librarian. They were privately printed, but another analyst provided portions to The Post.

In "Spirituality in Handwriting," Matley assesses a woman's "libidinal energy" based on her handwriting.

"She has an excellent and rich animate nature with a healthy, instinctual libidinal energy which, when integrated, will propel her into dynamic and fruitful activity and self-fulfillment," Matley wrote in 1989.

In "Female/Male Trait in Handwriting," the San Francisco-based Matley said he could analyze a woman's handwriting "to show her how she can have her womanly qualities fully realized."

The article continued: "For your male client, you will be able to recognize the facade of machismo — and also recognize the hurt boy- child who uses that as a defensive hiding place."

The Post obtained the documents from California-based David S. Moore, who is certified by the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners.

In addition, in a 1995 California court deposition obtained by The Post, Matley acknowledged that he had no formal training in a document lab, in identification of papers, inks or "machines, typewriters, photocopies." He also acknowledged he'd had no training from the U.S. Secret Service, FBI, U.S. Army, California Department of Justice or any other law-enforcement body.

Matley didn't respond to messages left for him.

CBS spokeswoman Sandy Genelius said the network regards Matley as a reputable handwriting expert but declined to say why they chose him.

Extinctions disprove intelligent design

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

In your recent article about the ongoing controversy in the Dover school district regarding teaching creationism versus evolution, it is proposed that the concept of "intelligent design" be taught as part of high school biology. "Intelligent design" is the "view that life forms are too complex to have occurred randomly and therefore must have been created by a divine being."

Intelligent design?

The fossil record shows an enormous number of extinct varieties of plants and animals — from single-cell bacteria, to giant sloths, to dinosaurs. Indeed, more than 96 percent of the life forms that once existed are now extinct. Assuming all these life forms were "intelligently designed," this is not a very impressive rate of success. If an engineer did this poorly, he'd be fired.


Monday, September 13, 2004

MIT team explains yin-yang of ginseng

Elizabeth A. Thomson, News Office
August 31, 2004


In work that emphasizes the need for stronger regulation of herbal drugs, an international team of MIT scientists and colleagues has unraveled the yin and the yang of ginseng, or why the popular alternative medicine can have two entirely different, opposing effects on the body.

Conflicting scientific articles report that ginseng can both promote the growth of blood vessels (key to wound healing) and stymie that process. The latter is important because preventing the formation of blood vessels can be enlisted against cancer. Tumors are fed by blood vessels; cutting off their supply can kill them.

In the Sept. 7 issue of Circulation: the Journal of the American Heart Association, the researchers from the United States, England, the Netherlands and Hong Kong explain these dual effects for the first time.

Chemical fingerprints of four different varieties of ginseng—American, Chinese, Korean and Sanqi--show that each has different proportions of two key ingredients. Additional studies showed that a preponderance of one ingredient has positive effects on the growth of blood vessels; more of the other component tips the scale the other way.

"We found that this composition really matters for the ultimate outcome," said Shiladitya Sengupta, a postdoctoral associate in MIT's Biological Engineering Division.

Further, the team found that the way ginseng extracts are processed can also alter the compositional ratio. "This is a very clear-cut example of why we need regulations standardizing herbal therapies through compositional analysis," said Professor Ram Sasisekharan of MIT's Biological Engineering Division. With the new results, "we can now rationally isolate the components to focus on a specific effect, such as promoting blood-vessel formation."

In the United States, herbal medicines are currently regulated under the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act, which does not require standardization or prior approval from the Food and Drug Administration. "You can basically crush it and sell it," Sasisekharan said.

The new results could also lead to medicines patterned after ginseng's key components. As the researchers write in Circulation, the identification of one of these in particular "opens up the exciting possibilities of harnessing [its] chemical scaffold as a prototype for wound-healing compounds."

Sasisekharan emphasizes the importance of Sengupta's interdisciplinary approach to the work. "He had the foresight to integrate the biology of cancer and blood-vessel formation to the pharmacological behavior of this drug and its structure."

MIT's role in the collaboration grew from Sasisekharan's expertise in complex sugars, which turn out to be key to ginseng's activity. "The sites where sugars are attached and how they are attached are unique for each of the molecular constituents, the ratio of which are distinct among the different varieties of ginseng," he explained. In 1999 Sasisekharan's lab developed a new tool for characterizing complex sugars.

Sengupta and Sasisekharan's colleagues in the work are from the University of Cambridge (T.P. Fan, Sue-Anne Toh, Lynda A. Sellers and Jeremy N. Skepper), Gaubius Laboratory, TNO-PG, Leiden, the Netherlands (Pieter Koolwijk), and Hong Kong Baptist University (Hi Wun Leung, Hin-Wing Yeung and Ricky N.S. Wong).

This work was funded by the Cambridge Nehru Trust, the U.K. Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, Hong Kong RGC, the Dutch Cancer Society, and the U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences.


Elizabeth A. Thomson, MIT News Office
Phone: 617-258-5402, E-mail: thomson@mit.edu
URL: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2004/ginseng.html

news office
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room 11-400
cambridge, ma 02139-4307

How did a benign symbol become such a cultural flashpoint?


Published September 10, 2004

By Christine Rook
Lansing State Journal

There's a theological debate, or rather an ichthyological slapfest, going on these days.

It's the war of the fish, and it's being waged on every street via car and SUV and pickup bumper.

If you've sat in traffic and spotted a fish symbol stuck on the back of someone's car, well, you know what we're talking about.

"It kind of got a little ugly in the war," said Jared Shirkey, an MSU student who happily displays a pro-evolutionist fish on his sedan. "There were some casualties."

The fight began with an unobtrusive emblem, a centuries-old symbol of Christianity - a fish. Affixed to a bumper, it was meant to spread evangelical joy across four lanes of rush-hour traffic.

But not everyone saw it that way. Was it religious joy or hard-core conservative creationism?

Behold. There came a rebuttal: a fish with legs, an evolved fish, the kind on Shirkey's car. It was a secular foil to what people viewed in the 1990s as a fundamentalist reading of biblical creationism.

Most drivers probably didn't notice - too busy talking on cell phones or pretending they could sing - but scales and fins were flying and still are.

Creationists retaliated to the usurping of their emblem. They issued a new fish - a fish with the word "truth" on it devouring a smaller, legged "Darwin" fish.

Darwin, of course, referred to Charles Darwin, the 19th-century British naturalist who theorized about the causes of evolution.

Evolutionists wanted blood, a gill for a gill. Naturally, they selected a newly evolved critter, a "Reality Bites" fish eating a smaller Christian fish.


Bumper crop of fish

It's a disappointing development to a person such as Jenny Block, a 20-year-old Michigan State University student who just wanted to profess her faith with her "Jesus Is Lord" fish. Silver and shiny, it's a little beacon on the back of her Dodge Neon.

"When I see another fish or something that is pro-Christianity, it makes me smile," she said. "I love that. I love to know I'm in company with other people."

The leggy fish, though, is a Christian downer. She interprets the evolved fish to be a sign that the driver doesn't believe in God.

"They've chosen not to believe in the creator of the world," she said.

An optimist might view the fish war as a healthy debate, but there's really not much debating.

"Each talks to their 'own people' and wishes to outsmart the others," said Genevieve Zubrzycki, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan.

She specializes in nationalism, religion, culture and politics and has watched the fish war take shape. The fish symbols are all about making a statement, not about encouraging a discussion.

It is therefore no shock that each side has tried to own the fish symbol and smite the other.

"It's like the abortion issue," said Dorothy Tappenden, whose Ford Windstar sports a "Darwin" fish sticker. "There aren't a lot of people who are ambivalent."

The war may have been inevitable.

After all, the simplicity of the original Christian fish was its beauty but also its flaw. The design failed to capture the varied hues and nuances of Christianity and forced viewers to invent their own interpretations.

Inevitably, someone decided the fish symbol referred to a fundamental creationist brand of that religion.

The original fish has "been a Christian symbol that's been around since the early days of the church; so, I think it encompasses a broad range of the Christian church," said John Hyatt, who works at the Gift & Bible Center in Delta Township where the fish are sold.

Once the Darwin fish got noticed in the '90s, the Christian fish really began to symbolize something more conservative.

In truth, only the fish owner knows what his bumper emblem means. A "Darwin" fish might signify the driver is a pro-evolution atheist, or he could be a pro-evolution Christian.

After all, Darwin was a churchgoer.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the fish symbol has morphed into cultural cuteness. These days you can buy a "Sushi" fish and a "Gefilte" fish and an "Alien" fish. You'll have to look hard to find a religious or secular message in those.

Thom Glasovatz, for example, has a fish on his Chevy Trailblazer. It's a "Science" fish with rocket fins. There's nothing spiritual about it. He's simply the physics teacher at Waverly High School.

"It's just a love of science," he explained.

Block isn't about to abandon her "Jesus Is Lord" symbol for any mutant fish.

Her bumper makes a statement and she's sticking with it. The alternative would be a bit tricky while making a left turn in traffic.

"I can't just roll down my window and say, 'Hey.' "

Contact Christine Rook at 377-1261 or clrook@lsj.com.

Evolution education update: ID paper continues to attract scrutiny

Two recent news articles describe the ongoing controversy about the publication of "intelligent design" advocate Stephen C. Meyer's article "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories" in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.

In "Peer-reviewed paper defends theory of intelligent design", which appeared in Nature, Jim Giles reports a number of now-familiar facts: that PBSW is a low-impact journal, that scientists fear that the article's publication will be cited in attempts to introduce "intelligent design" into public school science curricula, that Richard Sternberg, the editor of PBSW at the time the article was accepted, is associated with Bryan College's Baraminology Study Group, and that the failings of the paper were extensively described at the Panda's Thumb weblog. Giles also interviewed Brown University biologist Kenneth R. Miller, who noted, "Peer review isn't a guarantee of accuracy ... That is especially true of review articles" (such as Meyer's). Evidently the story was written before the BSW's repudiation of Meyer's article.

For the complete article, see Nature's web site (registration required): http://www.nature.com/news/2004/040906/full/431114a.html

Richard Monastersky's "Biology journal says it mistakenly published paper that attacks Darwinian evolution," which appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, began with the BSW's repudiation of Meyer's article: "A small scientific society has publicly distanced itself from a paper, published last month by its journal, that challenges Darwinian evolution." The president of the BSW, Roy McDiarmid, explained that the topic of Meyer's article was inappropriate for the society's journal, which specializes in descriptions of newly discovered species of animals and plants. "My conclusion on this," he said, "was that it was a really bad judgment call on the editor's part." Monastersky reports, "opponents of intelligent design and creationism say that Mr. Meyer should have submitted his paper to one of the several journals that normally deal with the origin of animal forms" and quotes NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott as saying, "People who would be appropriate to review the paper would be evolutionary biologists, and I doubt that any evolutionary biologists reviewed the paper."

Monastersky notes that Meyer is affiliated with Palm Beach Atlantic University, "which describes itself as a Christian institution"; more to the point, however, is PBAU's requirement that its faculty and staff "must believe that man was directly created by God." Sternberg's association with the Baraminology Study Group is not mentioned, but his status as a Fellow of the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (motto: "Retraining the scientific imagination to see design in nature") is. According to the article, Meyer "said he had chosen the journal because Mr. Sternberg attended a conference where Mr. Meyer gave an oral presentation advancing the same arguments. The two discussed the possibility of publishing the work." Although the conference is not named in the article, it is likely that it was the Research and Progress in Intelligent Design Conference, held at Biola University in October 2002, at which Meyer spoke on "The Cambrian information explosion: Evidence of intelligent design" and Sternberg spoke on "Causal entailments in convergently developed, irreducibly complex organ systems." Only advocates of "intelligent design" spoke at the RAPID conference, and at least one critic of "intelligent design" was expressly forbidden to attend.

For the complete article, see the Chronicle of Higher Education's web site (subscription required): http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/09/2004091003n.htm

In the Chronicle of Higher Education's story, Meyer is also reported as claiming that the publication of his article is "the first time that proponents of intelligent design have published an argument for the theory in a peer-reviewed scientific publication." This raises the question of why the Discovery Institute and its Fellows have labored so strenuously in the past to suggest otherwise. (For example, William A. Dembski claimed in 2003 that "intelligent design research is in fact now part of the mainstream peer-reviewed scientific literature," and the web site of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture poses the question "Is research about intelligent design published in peer-reviewed journals and monographs?" and answers "Yes."). Here is what might be aptly called a flip-flop. In any case, peer review -- as scientists know -- is necessary but not sufficient for scientific respectability. Devoid of original scientific research and laden with errors, omissions, and misrepresentations, Meyer's paper is unlikely ever to be of scientific value. But as grist for the "intelligent design" propaganda mill, it promises to be endlessly fruitful.

For NCSE's previous coverage of the story, see:

For a newly assembled collection of commentaries on Meyer's article on the Panda's Thumb weblog, see: http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000484.html

And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.


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

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available:

Déjŕ vu All Over Again


How did the Intelligent Design movement publish in a peer reviewed biology journal? A similar--and notorious--story from climate science sheds light on the question.

Chris Mooney; September 13, 2004

This is how it begins: Proponents of a fringe or non-mainstream scientific viewpoint seek added credibility. They're sick of being taunted for having few (if any) peer reviewed publications in their favor. Fed up, they decide to do something about it.

These "skeptics" find what they consider to be a weak point in the mainstream theory and critique it. Not by conducting original research; they simply review previous work. Then they find a little-known, not particularly influential journal where an editor sympathetic to their viewpoint hangs his hat.

They get their paper through the peer review process and into print. They publicize the hell out of it. Activists get excited by the study, which has considerable political implications.

Before long, mainstream scientists catch on to what's happening. They shake their heads. Some slam the article and the journal that published it, questioning the review process and the editor's ideological leanings. In published critiques, they tear the paper to scientific shreds.

Embarrassed, the journal's publisher backs away from the work. But it's too late for that. The press has gotten involved, and though the work in question has been discredited in the world of science, partisans who favor its conclusions for ideological reasons will champion it for years to come.

The scientific waters are muddied. The damage is done.

This basic story-line describes not one, but two high profile incidents in the past two years. One concerns climate science, the other evolutionary biology. Both are highly politicized fields, and in each case, the incentive to get something into print is considerable for those who want to carry on their political and scientific fight against the accepted, mainstream view.

Take the climate science storyline first. The most definitive account of what happened appeared in a Chronicle of Higher Education article by Richard Monastersky; the New York Times and Wall Street Journal also covered the story.

In early 2003, the small journal Climate Research published a paper by climate change "skeptics" Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, which challenged the established view that the late twentieth century saw anomalously high temperatures. The paper didn't present original research; instead, it was a literature review. Soon and Baliunas examined a wide range of "proxy records" for past temperatures, based on studies of ice cores, corals, tree rings, and other sources. They concluded that few of the records showed anything particularly unusual about twentieth century temperatures, especially when compared with the so-called "Medieval Warm Period" a thousand years ago.

Soon and Baliunas had specifically sent their paper to one Chris de Freitas at Climate Research, an editor known for opposing curbs on carbon dioxide emissions. He in turn sent the paper out for review and then accepted it for publication. That's when the controversy began.

Conservative politicians in the U.S., who oppose forced restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, lionized the study. Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe called it literally paradigm shifting. The Bush administration attempted to edit an Environmental Protection Agency report's discussion of climate change in order to include reference to the Soon and Baliunas work. None of this should come as a surprise: The paper seemed to undermine a key piece of evidence suggesting that we can actually see and measure the consequences of human-induced climate change.

Soon mainstream climate scientists fought back. Thirteen authored a devastating critique of the work in the American Geophysical Union publication Eos. After seeing the critique, Climate Research editor-in-chief Hans von Storch decided he had to make changes in the journal's editorial process. But when journal colleagues refused to go along, von Storch announced his resignation.

Several other Climate Research editors subsequently resigned over the Soon and Baliunas paper. Even journal publisher Otto Kinne eventually admitted that the paper suffered from serious flaws, basically agreeing with its critics. But by that point in time, Inhofe had already devoted a Senate hearing to trumpeting the new study. However dubious, it made a massive splash.

Now shift to Intelligent Design. The story is newer, and far from over. But already it's looking like Climate Research parte deux, down to the coverage by the Chronicle of Higher Education's Richard Monastersky.

Recently, ID advocate Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute published a review article in a little known taxonomic journal called the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (that's D.C.). Focusing on the well-known "Cambrian Explosion," Meyer argued that evolutionary theory could not account for the appearance of new organismal forms in a relatively short period of geological time. Instead, Meyer concluded by suggesting that "intelligent," "rational" agents may have been responsible for the "origin of new biological information." It was the first time the intelligent design movement has published in a peer reviewed biology journal.

Meyer had sent his article to an editor, Richard Sternberg, who sits on the editorial board of the Baraminology Study Group, which studies "creation biology" and is based at Bryan College, a fundamentalist Christian school in Tennessee named (fittingly enough) after anti-Darwin crusader William Jennings Bryan. Sternberg--who is reportedly no longer editor of the Proceedings--sent the paper out to three unnamed reviewers and claims they recommended publication.

Now comes the controversy. The pro-ID Discovery Institute has trumpeted the study, media coverage has begun, and evolution defenders predict ID advocates will use the study to try to get critiques of evolution into public schools by claiming they're based on published science.

Not surprisingly, mainstream scientists are fighting back. Several have authored a devastating critique of Meyer's paper on the blog The Panda's Thumb and are preparing a more thorough version, presumably for publication. The critique charges that Meyer's article systematically ignores relevant scientific literature and contains serious "errors in facts and reasoning." The Biological Society of Washington, meanwhile, has already issued a statement noting that the article represented a "significant departure from the nearly purely taxonomic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 124-year history" and was "inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings."

But once again, the damage has been done. The Discovery Institute defends Meyer's work and will undoubtedly continue to do so. In response to the statement from the Biological Society of Washington, Discovery has accused the group of imposing a "gag rule on science" (never mind that Meyer's article was beyond the scope and traditional subject matter of the Proceedings). Meanwhile, evolution defenders claim the article in question wasn't even particularly original to begin with.

The political battle over this highly questionable paper will continue for some time.

What conclusions can we draw from these two case studies in the publication of dubious science by peer reviewed journals?

The first is that we shouldn't exaggerate the benefits of peer review or pretend it's an absolute guarantor of scientific truth. On the contrary, the forms, methods, and merits of peer review vary widely both by journal and by standards of practice. Peer review is an important norm in science, and groups who make scientific claims without publishing in the peer reviewed literature should be regarded skeptically on the grounds that they're not actually engaging in the scientific process. But that doesn't mean successfully publishing a single peer reviewed article in a little known journal ensures scientific credibility.

Another conclusion is that in scientific debates with intense political and policy relevance, we shouldn't be surprised that both camps want to claim that the evidence lies on their side. In order to do so, scientists on the fringe will inevitably seek to bolster their credibility through peer reviewed publications. Obscure journals working in controversial areas should therefore enforce rigorous quality standards, while remaining careful not to censor new ideas or limit legitimate scientific debate. They should take the stories of Climate Research and the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington as a serious warning. These journals have now had their reputations dragged through the mud.

Finally, politicians and policymakers need to decrease the incentives for science abuse by showing that they're unwilling to aid and abet it. So long as the James Inhofes of the world devote entire Senate hearings to single, controversial scientific papers, and announce that they shift the scientific paradigm, we will have Climate Research and Proceedings-type controversies. Instead of contested studies hot off the presses, politicians should generally restrict themselves to relying upon the conclusions of major scientific consensus documents, such as reports from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. In the long run, it would save them considerable embarrassment.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Darwin's expulsion sparks protests


BELGRADE - Serbia's Education Minister was ridiculed in cartoons and pelted with resignation demands on Thursday for ejecting Darwin from school classrooms in favour of Old Testament 'creationism'.

The minister, Ms Ljiljana Colic, had forecast some opposition to her order to stop teaching evolution theory this year, but it triggered a deluge of protest, casting doubt on her position.

The Social Democratic Union youth party asked President Boris Tadic to have her removed from office for a step that 'takes us centuries back by putting an equal sign between the scientifically founded Darwin theory and church dogma'.

The Civic Alliance political party demanded Ms Colic resign. The Centre for the Rights of the Child said she was breaking the law as she had not consulted the National Education Council. -- Reuters

Virgin Mary Statue Survives Church Explosion


POSTED: 1:56 PM EDT September 10, 2004
UPDATED: 2:02 PM EDT September 10, 2004

Church Is Destroyed

COLCHESTER, Conn. -- Residents in the Connecticut community of Colchester were shaken from their beds Friday morning by a loud explosion at St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church, NBC TV station WVIT in Hartford, Conn., reported.

The church was leveled by the force of the blast and debris from the church was scattered over a large area.

There were no reports of injuries.

Colchester Fire Department spokeswoman Maryellen Harper said that the church was destroyed.

"The firefighters are working at the church now to remove as many (relics) as they can," Harper said.

Harper said that a cleaning woman scheduled to be at the church in the morning was delayed and not in the church at the time of the explosion.

Many of the witnesses at the scene expressed their amazement that a statue of the Virgin Mary located in the church courtyard was undamaged by the blast.

The Rev. Kiril Manolev, of St. Marys, said that he was very relieved when he saw the statue still standing.

"It's a miracle," he said.

The explosion happened at about 6:45 a.m., and was reported heard at least five miles away.

The church, built in 1955, serves 55 families. Members had been preparing for a Ukrainian festival in Stamford this weekend.

Distributed by Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Serb schools told to drop Darwin


Serbia's education minister has ordered schools to stop teaching the theory of evolution for the current school year, a leading newspaper has reported.

The paper, Glas Javnosti, quoted Ljiljana Colic as saying that in future Charles Darwin's theory would only be taught alongside creationism.

Ms Colic said the two theories were equally dogmatic.

Correspondents say the move shocked educators in a republic where religion only recently began to be taught.

Ms Colic said current material on evolution would remain in textbooks but would not be taught.

It was not clear how the ban would be enforced in schools.

Biologist Nikola Tucic described the ruling as "outrageous", and showed Serbia's Orthodox Church was interfering in politics.

"We are slowly turning into a theocratic state and in the 21st Century we are going back to the Book of Revelations," he told the newspaper.

"There were attempts like this in several US states, but they were rejected. It turns out that our fundamentalists are much more successful."

Creationism is the belief that the Old Testament account of God's creation of the world is true.

Darwin's theory of evolution is the dominant explanation of man's origins within the scientific community.

Serbia strikes blow against evolution Creationism put on equal footing with Darwinism


Updated: 12:54 p.m. ET Sept. 7, 2004

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro - Serbian Education Minister Ljiljana Colic has ordered schools to stop teaching children the theory of evolution for this year, and to resume teaching it in future only if it shares equal billing with creationism.

The move has shocked educators and textbook editors in the formerly communist state, where religion was kept out of education and politics and was only recently allowed to enter the classroom.

"(Darwinism) is a theory as dogmatic as the one which says God created the first man," Colic told the daily Glas Javnosti.

Colic, an Orthdox Christian, ordered that evolution theory be dropped from this year's biology course for 14- and 15-year-olds in the final grade of primary school. As of next year, both creationism and evolution will be taught, she said.

Darwinism and dogma

Creationism teaches that a supernatural being created man and the universe. Most scientists regard “creation science” as religious dogma, not empirical science.

"Both theories exist in parallel and legitimately in the rest of the world," Colic asserted. "The evolutionist, which says man is descended from the ape, and the one which says God Almighty created man and the entire world."

Courts in the United States have quashed repeated attempts by Christian fundamentalists to have the teaching of evolution banned from schools or countered by lessons in creationism.

Kansas scrubbed all mention of evolution and Big Bang theory from its curriculum in 1999, but does not ban their teaching.

"Theocratic state?"

Belgrade University biology lecturer Nikola Tucic called the education minister's ruling a "disaster."

"This is outrageous ... We are slowly turning into a theocratic state and in the 21st century we are going back to the Book of Revelations," Tucic told Glas Javnosti, referring to the final section of the Christian Bible.

"Where did the minister get the idea that Darwin's theory was dogmatic? There were attempts like this in several U.S. states, but they were rejected. It turns out that our fundamentalists are much more successful," he said.

Colic said it was "normal that a minister's personality leaves a mark," adding: "This is my mark, and time will tell if I was right."

There would be no censorship of existing textbooks, she said. "That particular lesson (evolution) will stay in the textbook, but will not be taught. At the same time, pupils can choose whether they'll take religious classes or not."

Religion was not taught in the school system of communist Yugoslavia. It was introduced to Serbian classrooms after socialist strongman Slobodan Milosevic was toppled in 2000.

Lecturer Tucic suspected Colic's order was a move by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to bolster his conservative party's flagging political strength by winning church support.

"This was a political decision which clearly shows the church is not minding its own business, but is deep into politics," he said.

Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited

Fire walk puts seven in hospital


Seven people were taken to hospital with severe burns to their feet after walking over hot coals as part of a self-help seminar.

The seminar held in Rohrbach, Austria, urged the participants to walk barefoot over hot coals, promising them it would mobilise their energy reserves.

The course motto was: "If you can walk over hot coals, you can do anything".

However, those walking across the too-hot 32-foot-long bed of glowing embers soon realised something had gone terribly wrong when they felt excruciating pain and their feet began to burn

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Bold venture


A physicians' group with a lease on the former Woodland Park Hospital foresees a bright future for a doctor-owned facility that incorporates alternative treatments

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Bankrupt, and unused since January, Woodland Park Hospital in the Gateway area of Northeast Portland appears suspended in time. In darkened hallways, idle carts bear supplies. Polished surgical instruments lay in neat rows near the operating rooms. Emergency room beds stand empty, fitted with fresh sheets and supplies.

But one room of the moribund facility is a hive of activity on a recent evening. The new owners, four doctors who had worked at Woodland Park, gather two or three nights a week to advance a vision that might seem far-fetched.

In a health care industry increasingly dominated in Portland and across the nation by powerful multihospital companies, the doctors are attempting to launch a community hospital as a stand-alone business. In its competition with Portland's larger hospitals, Woodland Park has endured two bankruptcy proceedings in four years. The abrupt closure of the hospital in January left 245 nurses, technicians and other employees out of work.

The venture, aiming for a November opening, is drawing the attention of local physicians and surgeons who are intrigued by the idea of practitioners as owners and having more say in hospital management. Doctor-owned community hospitals were once common, but few have survived the cost-cutting turmoil and waves of consolidation in recent decades.

Nevertheless, Dr. Timothy Treible, an orthopedic surgeon and one of four co-owners, expresses confidence at challenging the dominance of Portland's hospital market by such nonprofit companies as Providence Health System and Legacy Health System.

"When the employers that purchase insurance coverage for their employees are well-versed in our capabilities to provide health care at a very, very high level of quality, but at reduced cost over some of the supposedly nonprofit organizations, the employers will insist that this hospital be included in their health plan," Treible says.

"It's something that consumers are going to want to have access to," chimes in Bryce Milam, a chiropractic doctor and another co-owner. The new company, Physicians' Hospital, a limited liability corporation, bought the assets of Woodland Park and assumed its long-term lease in July.

To carve a niche for the $4 million venture, the doctors say Physicians' Hospital will have several defining features:

Alongside medical doctors in the hospital, chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists and other alternative medicine providers will care for patients as part of the team.

An advanced computer information system will be built into operations from the beginning, integrating health records, billing, and accounting more thoroughly than most hospitals have achieved to increase efficiency, prevent errors and cut costs.

Eventually, everything from staff training to interior design will be guided by the philosophy of the Planetree organization, a nonprofit group that pioneered "patient-focused" care and the importance of comforting, homelike surroundings, patient dignity and the involvement of families in care.

Prices will be lower than those of larger competitors in the Portland market.

For competitive reasons, the physician owners did not want to further detail their business plan until they are closer to opening.

"What we see are niches that are poorly served at this point," Treible says.

Challenges remain

Still, the small hospital faces formidable challenges in competing with established companies and winning insurance contracts to ensure a flow of paying patients.

"I think there is plenty of room for another hospital; the question is and always has been, will the big boys allow them?" says Jeff Heatherington, president of Family Care Inc., a health plan that serves low-income residents enrolled in state-funded coverage.

The last owner of Woodland Park, Symphony Health Care of Nashville, Tenn., talked confidently of taking the hospital "to the next level" after acquiring the business out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in 2002. The hospital had been operating with more empty beds than the state average for about three years.

After the financial meltdown in January, Symphony's chief executive, Ken Perry, said Portland's economy and hospital market undermined Woodland Park and its sister institution, Eastmoreland, which is closed permanently. Perry also said the small hospitals lacked clout to gain contracts -- and patients -- from two large Portland-area health plans: Regence BlueCross BlueShield and Providence Health Plans.

The leaders of Physicians' Hospital acknowledge that their biggest challenge will be negotiating contracts with health plans.

"As an independent hospital, it is an uphill battle," says Kerry O'Leary, a registered nurse and former consultant who is chief executive of the new hospital. But with significant crowding and delays for elective surgeries at many Portland-area hospitals, O'Leary says, there is a place for an additional community hospital.

"Most of these facilities are enormously busy with elective procedures scheduled for morning being delayed until midnight," she says. "We have an opportunity to change that."

Treible says reopening an existing hospital will provide the community with 200 additional hospital beds for a fraction of the cost of building new and expanded facilities. Treible and his partners acquired Woodland Park's lease and equipment for $450,000 after former employees forced Symphony into bankruptcy court. The court allowed the new owners to assume the hospital's existing long-term lease, which is at the below-market rate of $28,000 a month.

While Physicians' Hospital is spending about $25,000 a bed to reopen, Legacy Health System is spending more than $800,000 a bed to build a new hospital in Clark County, Wash., and Oregon Health & Science University is spending $2 million a bed on a new patient care building.

"Somebody is going to wind up having to pay for that," Treible says.

Health plans silent

Regence BlueCross BlueShield executives declined to comment on the venture, as did executives at Providence Health Plans.

A spokesman for Adventist Medical Center, about two miles away from Physicians' Hospital, said his company is not concerned about the prospect of renewed competition. But he raised questions about the for-profit venture's commitment to serving the poor, considering that it will no longer run an emergency room.

"I think that's a concern. That would mean that they might not be taking their share of uninsured patients by doing that," says Monty Knittel, a vice president for marketing at Adventist Medical Center.

O'Leary says the decision to drop emergency room service was not made to avoid uninsured patients, but because the hospital will not have enough surgeons and cardiologists, at least at first, for the required 24-hour staffing. Over time, O'Leary says, the hospital intends to reopen its ER. She points out that to help with the shortage of inpatient mental health care, the reopened hospital will include 30 beds for psychiatric patients.

The hospital's new owners are recruiting doctors to work at the hospital and to invest in expanding its services.

Mark Metzger, an orthopedic surgeon in Portland, attended a recent planning meeting for Physicians' Hospital but has not invested in it.

"It is a risk to try something like this," Metzger says. "I'm curious to see what these innovative philosophies are, and to see if it's something that's going to work."

Bankers ready

At this point, the most promising indicator for the venture is the eagerness of bankers to lend money.

The Portland Development Commission helped get the ball rolling by providing a $500,000 loan at 3 percent interest as part of the Gateway urban renewal effort.

The PDC, as part of its due diligence report, concluded that the hospital fell into a death spiral in 2003 after the hospital's billing department began to shift large amounts of cash to projects owned by Symphony Health Care directors.

Perry, the former chief executive who now runs a health care information-technology business in Nashville, declined to comment on that claim, deferring to Edward Hostmann, a Lake Oswego business consultant hired by Symphony to usher the failed company through bankruptcy. Hostmann disputes the PDC report.

"I have not seen any evidence of money being upstreamed and going outside the Portland area," he said. "I've looked, and the creditors committee has looked. If it was being done, I'd want to know about it and I'd want it corrected."

Whatever happened in 2003, the hospital made significant profits in 2001 and 2002, and officials with the PDC are confident that the hospital can become profitable again under new ownership. The PDC, in its due diligence, found the investors to be credit-worthy, with collateral of $4.37 million at the time of the loan in combined accounts receivable for their work as doctors.

In late July, the doctors announced that they had lined up a $3 million line of credit with Chicago-based GE Healthcare Financial Services, one of the largest providers of capital for the health care industry in the United States. Since that announcement, several other banks have come forward with competing bids, according to the PDC and hospital partners.

"Once the story broke, it was amazing how many lenders came out," said Mike Rasmussen, the PDC's senior project program coordinator for small business loans.

Now the backers of Physicians' Hospital are entertaining competing bids for the $3 million in startup money -- and offers for additional financing on top of that.

"I think we were able to identify a wasted resource in this community," Treible says.

Joe Rojas-Burke: 503-412-7073; joerojas@news.oregonian.com

Copyright 2004 Oregon Live

Drawing on wellness

September 5, 2004

Deepak Chopra visits Ashland with a message on the potential to feel positives through pain

Mail Tribune

Deepak Chopra was selected in 1999 by Time magazine as one of the 100 "icons and heroes" of the century, describing him as "the poet-prophet of alternative medicine."

It is that approach to healing he'll bring to Ashland next week, when he appears at Southern Oregon University's Raider Stadium as one of two keynote speakers for the World Wellness Weekend Sept. 11 and 12.

"We picked those dates specifically," says event producer Jud Schwartz of Beach Avenue Productions in Ashland. "We want to make this 9-11 a call for healing, not just help."

Chopra and alternative medicine physician Bernie Siegel will headline the weekend devoted to healing on the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks. A religious observance of the anniversary also is planned.

For Chopra, the disturbing events in the daily news are very much on his mind. But in his view, terrorism's effects don't have to be entirely negative.

"Terrorism, economic problems and social injustice are the chaos providing the birthing of the next quantum leap in human creativity," he says. "It is the nutritive soup.

"A lot of people today are more conscious than ever before. In contrast, there are people who don't want to look at themselves. What is happening in the world is a mirror of what is happening inside them. We are polarized: people who want to change and people who don't want to and don't want you to. There are forces that hold one back. A divine discontent to encourage growth. In the face of those forces, we need to be accepting, tolerant, compassionate."

Chopra adds that without resistance, there is no experience. "Without opposition and contrast the experience can't happen. It's the nature of evolution. Experience is through contrast. Creativity and chaos. You can't have up without down. You can't have hot without cold."

If Chopra doesn't always sound like the doctor next door, his ideas are firmly grounded in medicine. Born in India in 1947, he became chief of staff at Boston Regional Medical Center, built a practice as an endocrinologist and taught at Tufts University and Boston University Schools of Medicine.

Most people, however, know his name from elsewhere. He has written more than 45 books, which have been translated into 35 languages. He is also the author of more than 100 audio and videotape series, including five programs on public television.

He also is CEO and founder of the Chopra Center for Well Being, which he started with Dr. David Simon in 1966 in Carlsbad, Calif. The center brings together western medicine and natural healing traditions in an approach Chopra calls "integrative medicine."

"There is more integration between many holistic approaches," Chopra says. "We have American Medical Association physicians taking certified courses at the Chopra Center. They love it. We've trained thousands over the past 10 years."

It's an approach that makes sense, says one Ashland family physician.

"I'm actually encouraged by having alternative things brought into contemporary medicine and hopefully getting mainstream medical people looking for other directions," says Dr. Andrew Kuzmitz, who describes himself as a pragmatist when it comes to medicine. "Chopra is a good influence. He's getting people aware of health and talking about it. If nobody was interested in this type of thing, he wouldn't be as famous as he is."

As a physician who speaks regularly to both lay audiences and the medical profession, Chopra says he is acutely aware of the deep hunger and yearning among the general population and the medical profession for a rational and logical model that explains the process of healing. He has found in the world of quantum physics a fitting description of the nature of reality and the nature of being human.

By exploring the arcane world of subatomic physics, he is discovering how our relationship to this world can help us understand the mechanics of non-material aspects of ourselves: the intuitive, creative, sacred and visionary.

"That is the contribution of science," Chopra says. "For the first time we glimpse that realm of soul or spirit. Science calls it non-locality."

Non-locality is a characteristic behavior observed in quantum mechanics in which subatomic particles, called quanta, have the uncanny ability to affect one another even if they are not nearby. Another mainstay of quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, states that it is impossible to measure or predict precisely where a subatomic particle is or will be at the same time you are determining how fast it is moving.

Hence, quanta — and by extension, we humans — exist in a world of infinite possibilities. But simply knowing that about ourselves does not necessarily imply that we live consciously with that in mind.

Chopra would like us to change that.

"We need to open our life to a field of infinite possibilities," he says. "Every human being is a domain of pure potential."

"The brain is an instrument. The soul is the user of that instrument. Mind is the expression of soul. It is unbound, unlocal, omniscient and can't be squeezed into a body and a lifetime. Mind localizes through the brain and body. It is virtual thought which collapses as a wave function in the brain. The body is a sensitive instrument. We need the body; otherwise, the spirit remains non-local."

In a press release for "The Soul of Healing," a Public Broadcasting Service special he is producing, Chopra says: "I have realized that the understanding of complementary approaches to healing is fragmented. There is no integrated model that bridges and connects science, healing, biology, and spirituality." Part of his goal, Chopra says, is to make sure people who are not familiar with science easily grasp his concepts.

That goal is shared by the organizers of the World Wellness Weekend, which hopes to attract a diverse crowd.

But if what he does is seen as only preaching to the choir, Chopra is not deterred. Instead he recommends resetting the goal to: "Increase the size of choir. Do what you have to do. Be a good example." Or, he adds, quoting another motivational figure from India, Mahatma Gandhi, "be the change you wish to see in the world."

World Wellness Weekend calendar

World Wellness Weekend events next weekend will run from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at Raider Stadium on the Southern Oregon University campus in Ashland.

The event, organized by Southern Oregon Women's Access to Credit, will include talks by physicians Deepak Chopra and Bernie Siegel, both known for their work in integrative medicine, as well as a observance of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

It also will include 87 booths representing a wide range of healing approaches. Talks and workshops conducted by 63 presenters will be offered at locations around the grounds and in classrooms. Lecturers will alternate with performers on a main stage throughout both days.

The third annual Havurah 9/11 Memorial Celebration, featuring Southern Oregon religious leaders and poets and hosted by Rabbi David Zaslow, will take place from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Siegel will give a keynote address from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and Chopra will give a keynote address from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Both talks take place on the main stage at Raider Stadium.

Ashland Family YMCA will host children's activities both days and provide child care.

Tickets are $50 in advance for a weekend pass and $60 at the door. Single-day passes are $30 in advance and $35 at the door, if available.

Tickets are on sale in Ashland at The Music Coop, Paddington Station and the Ashland Racquet Club; in Medford at Bad Ass Coffee and in Grants Pass at The Music Shop. For online tickets, see www.ticketswest.com or call 800-992-TIXX.

VIP tickets to the event, which include admission to a reception with Chopra at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the Ashland Hills Windmill Inn, also are available for $95 per person. Light refreshments will be served at the event. VIP tickets also provide admission to World Wellness Weekend and VIP seating for the weekend's events. VIP tickets are $175 for two people.

For more information, call 779-3992.

Reach Tempo editor Richard Moeschl at 776-4486, or e-mail rmoeschl@mailtribune.com

You can find this story online at:

Copyright © Mail Tribune

Alternative medicine doctor to give keynote address

September 5, 2004

Mail Tribune

If you had 15 minutes to live, what would you do?

It's one of Bernie Siegel's favorite questions, and it contains within it the whole of his philosophy.

Siegel, a retired surgeon well known for his television appearances, public talks and popular books, will bring his philosophy to the World Wellness Weekend in Ashland Saturday when he gives an evening keynote address on the theme, "What is Wellness?"

"Your greatest teacher is death," Siegel says. "When you know you're mortal, you pay attention to time. "

With degrees from Colgate University and Cornell Medical College and surgical training at Yale University, Siegel has spent nearly three decades as an untiring and uncompromising champion of complementary and alternative medicine.

A former president of the American Holistic Medical Association, he has appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "20/20" and many other television programs as well as giving public talks to medical professionals and the public.

Siegel's first book, "Love, Medicine and Miracles," sold more than 2 million copies and went to the top of The New York Times Bestseller List. His other books are "Peace, Love and Healing," and "How to Live Between Office Visits."

Siegel says that illness can be seen as a gift, as it forces us to look profoundly at how we are living our lives.

"Your body is saying: Stop. Ask the illness — what do you want of me? The disease allows us to say: Help. I'm not fine."

Key to Siegel's approach is the notion of making lifestyle and attitudinal choices that directly affect your health.

"Many people didn't want to get well," Siegel says of his patients. "They need the illness to get your attention. You can ask for your needs without being ill."

In 1978, Siegel and his wife, Bobbie, founded the Exceptional Cancer Patients program for cancer survivors. The program is a combination of group and individual therapy based in New Haven, Conn.

Since retiring from clinical practice in 1989, Siegel, working with Bobbie, has focused on humanizing medical care and teaching other healthcare professionals about mind-body connections.

"We are here to love, to serve," Siegel says. "If that's how you choose to live, you will have an easier life. If you're here to get something, you're in for a hard life."

Reach Tempo editor Richard Moeschl at 776-4486, or e-mail rmoeschl@mailtribune.com

You can find this story online at:

Copyright © Mail Tribune

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