NTS LogoSkeptical News for 25 October 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Monday, October 25, 2004

Navy approves first ever Satanist


The British Armed Forces has officially recognised its first registered Satanist, according to a newspaper report.

Naval technician Chris Cranmer, 24, has been allowed to register by the captain of HMS Cumberland.

The move will mean that he will now be allowed to perform Satanic rituals on board the vessel.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cranmer realised he was a Satanist nine years ago.

At the time he stumbled across a copy of the Satanic Bible, written by Church of Satan founder Anton Szandor LaVey.

He said: "I then read more and more and came to realise I'd always been a Satanist, just simply never knew."

Mr Cranmer, who is from Edinburgh, is now lobbying the Ministry of Defence to make Satanism a registered religion in the armed forces.

A spokesman for the Royal Navy said: "We are an equal opportunities employer and we don't stop anybody from having their own religious values."

The Church of Satan was established in San Francisco in 1966.

LaVey was its high priest until his death in 1997.

Followers live by the Nine Satanic Statements, which include "Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence", "Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek" and "Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification".

Requiring digital photo on licence violates religious rights, court told


Andrew Flynn
Canadian Press

October 22, 2004

TORONTO (CP) - An Ontario farmer who's convinced digital photograph databases are the work of the devil was in court Thursday to challenge a law that forbids him a driver's licence without a digitized picture to go with it.

George Bothwell, a devout fundamentalist Christian, said his long battle to avoid having his digital picture taken has been well worth it, even though it has crippled his organic farming business.

"It's had a price, but I think it's leading me down the right road," Bothwell said outside the Ontario courthouse where prominent Toronto criminal lawyer Clayton Ruby was arguing his case on his behalf.

"So I feel good about it. It'll lead me in a new direction and if this is a requirement to drive, I guess I won't drive."

Bothwell doesn't want his picture added to the Ministry of Transportation's digital database on the grounds that it's against his religion. His application for relief under the ministry's little-used exemption clause was denied two years ago.

"The government has an obligation when it creates a religious exemption, as it did for the photo driver's licence requirement, to do it fairly and openly," Ruby said outside the courthouse.

The Transportation Ministry allows drivers to apply for a religious exemption, but requires that the religion be held by a congregation with a leader who can vouch for its beliefs in writing.

That, said Ruby, is unconstitutional.

"You've got to belong to an organized religion," Ruby said. "The government gets to decide if that religion's a good one and they recognize the ones they like and not the ones they don't like."

Since the exemption was introduced in 1986, only 75 applications have been made and none have ever been granted, Ruby noted. "That's not an exemption, that's a trap, that's fake, that's the government not respecting religion."

The 58-year-old Bothwell, who has recently been attending an Amish community church, said he believes the technology allows central control over people's behaviour, which the Bible warns against.

He believes that biometrics - the use of physical identifiers such as fingerprints, retina scans and face recognition - are specifically cited in the book of Revelations as the work of agents of the devil.

Ministry lawyers don't dispute that Bothwell is a sincere Christian. But they do call into question whether his objection is a religious one or based instead on his concerns about privacy issues.

"This case is about the applicant . . .wishing an ID on his own conditions," lawyer Shaun Nakatsuru told court.

"There's no question the applicant is sincere in his religion; the question is, is the religious objection to the photo identification sincere?"

Bothwell can't claim that his rights are being violated by being refused a driver's licence, because driving is a privilege, not a right, Nakatsuru argued.

"He may truly believe that it is evil, he may call it Satanic, but it is not a religious objection."

Bothwell's organic farm and liquid manure spreading business in Owen Sound, Ont., 200 kilometres northwest of Toronto, have been shut down because he can't drive, he said.

Bothwell first took to the road in 1962 with a licence that allowed him to drive commercial trucks. When the province introduced photo cards in 1986, he was allowed to provide a Polaroid, which he still has on the licence he carries in his wallet.

But in 1997, after the Ministry of Transportation introduced one-piece licence cards that require a digital photo, Bothwell refused to have his picture taken and spent the next several years trying to get an exemption from the ministry.

The ministry argues that licence photos are used by police and other licensing authorities as a quick, accurate means of identification.

"It's being used . . .for identification," Ontario Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar said Thursday.

"It's also being used to prevent fraud and it's for safety reasons, and that's why we insist that there should be pictures on the driver's licences."

© The Canadian Press 2004

Curtain goes up on Scientology


At last, audiences can discover the secrets of Scientology without being zapped by the fabled electropsychometer, writes Dan Glaister

The Guardian, London
Friday October 22, 2004

It is the show that has everything: music, dancing, children, celebrities. Hey, it even has threatening phone calls and the hint of divine retribution.

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant opened in Los Angeles last week after a successful run in New York at the end of last year.

The play is pretty much what the title implies: an unauthorised pageant performed by - but not necessarily for - children that tells the story of the life of Church of Scientology founder and main man L Ron Hubbard. And before you ask, the L, we learn, stands for Lafayette.

The venerable New York Times critic Ben Brantley lent the production the sheen of respectability when he opined that the show was the "gutsiest gimmick in New York theatre for 2003" that "provides a cult-hit blueprint for a young generation that prefers its irony delivered with not a wink but a blank stare". That man should be in advertising.

He was not alone. The arch New York Observer called it "hilarious", Time Out New York found it "wonderfully weird", while the Village Voice went all intellectual and said that it promised to do for Hubbard what Brecht had done for Hitler in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.

With all this and a Village Voice OBIE (off-Broadway) award under its belt, the show packed up and headed for what Andrew Barrett-Weiss, the artistic director of the tiny Powerhouse theatre in Santa Monica, calls "Scientology's Jerusalem": Los Angeles.

But the show hit something of a glitch when it arrived in Los Angeles. While New York officials of the Church of Scientology took a decidedly liberal view of the production in public - it's such a little, insignificant thing in the cosmic scheme of things, they declared, that we're just going to ignore it - behind the scenes it made it clear that it was less than happy with the production. Church officials visited rehearsals; they helpfully produced documentation of court cases where the Church of Scientology had successfully prosecuted those seeking to disparage the Church's methods. "It was terrifically wonderful and intimidating," notes the show's creator and director Alex Timbers.

A similar formula has prevailed in LA: don't give the production the oxygen of publicity. But behind the scenes the wheels of organised religion were spinning. As soon as the Church got wind of an LA Times piece on the production, several editors on the paper received calls from the guardians of L Ron's flame urging them to pull the article. Nothing unusual about that, as any entertainment PR will tell you. But things took a more sinister turn when the phone calls started.

"The parents of one of the kids in the cast were called by members of the entertainment industry that were Scientologists," says Timbers. "They were told that if they were to continue with the show that it might be bad for their future career."

The parents, troupers to the last, stood up for the universal values of showbusiness. "They said, 'We read the script, and we don't think it is mean-spirited'," says Timbers. "'We understand your concerns, but we don't share your concerns.'"

In a single-industry town where leading lights such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley are members of the Church, these things can cause an impressionable nine-year-old to pause. That particular holy trinity of Hollywood are all depicted in the production, paying testimony to the role that Dianetics has played in their success. (The Tom Cruise character merely says, "I'm Tom Cruise", but you know what he's getting at.)

Regardless, the show went ahead, and so Los Angeles audiences have a chance to discover the secrets of Scientology without being zapped by the fabled electropsychometer. They also have a chance to witness a wide-eyed, straight-faced, scrappy and touching telling of the story of L Ron set to a cheesy electro-pop score. See the great man, clad in a white Plyphonic Spree-style gown, wander from inquisitive soul to wounded war veteran to writer of pulp science fiction to leader of world religion. Sort of. Actually, the chorus, in the form of Angelic Girl, played by Katherine Ellis, puts it better. She recites the litany "teacher, author, explorer, atomic physicist, nautical engineer, choreographer and horticulturist", each time L Ron's name is mentioned at the beginning of the 50-minute play.

And the production dodges the intellectual property rights problem inherent in its script by acknowledging at the outset that Scientology, L Ron Hubbard and Dianetics are all registered trademarks of the Church of Scientology. On the advice of lawyers, the word "unauthorised" was added to the title.

It may be unauthorised, but a little inside knowledge goes a long way. The flavour of the show - and perhaps the religion - is spelled out in the opening number: "The snow is falling/All the flowers are dead/But don't give up yet/It's all inside your head." All together now.


Two women convicted in scam after jury rejects `Lord made me do it' defense

By Larry Neumeister, Associated Press, 10/22/2004 15:42 http://www.boston.com/dailynews/296/nation/Two_women_convicted_in_scam_afP.shtml

NEW YORK (AP) Two women were convicted of running a religion-laced scam that duped more than 1,000 investors out of nearly $2 million by promising a cut of the late Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos' fortune.

A jury found Roberta Dupre and Beverly Stambaugh guilty of wire fraud, rejecting Dupre's claim that the Lord had encouraged her to lure the investors with pledges that $1,000 could become $1 million if a secret bank account were unlocked.

The pair claimed to need the investments to cover document fees, travel expenses and bribes to Filipino officials, prosecutors said.

The women quoted from scripture and urged investors by e-mail to pray for the release of the funds. Dubious investors were directed to Proverbs 3:5-6, ''Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.''

Meanwhile, Dupre had been living in a $5,000-a-month room at a posh Manhattan hotel since 1999, using the investors ''like a personal ATM machine,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Bret Williams told jurors.

She and Stambaugh, of Montrose, Colo., could each face up to 20 years in prison at sentencing Jan. 21. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote revoked their bail.

The God-made-me-do-it defense, while occasionally used in state trials involving violent crimes, is rarely found in federal white-collar cases.

The case also was unusual because many victims still believe Dupre's claims and fear prosecutors are spoiling their chance at riches, said Dupre's lawyer, Robert Baum. He said two investors called him after Wednesday's verdict.

''They were shocked at the conviction,'' he said. ''They wanted to know if they could do anything to help Ms. Dupre.''

The judge has forbidden contact between investors and the defendants.

Prosecutors said the secret Marcos account did not exist. But the claim did not seem so farfetched, in part because Marcos and his wife were once federally indicted in New York for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars to buy property. Marcos died before the trial; Imelda Marcos was acquitted in 1990.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Swearing can make men impotent


Too much swearing can make men impotent and women develop male characteristics including facial hair and extra muscles.

According to research by Russian scientist Gennady Cheurin and his team at the Centre for Ecological Safety and Survival in Yekaterinburg, the research was based on the popular belief that water has a type of "memory" that can be influenced by positive and negative forces.

Cheurin said that his team had sworn at a glass of water for several hours and then poured it over wheat seeds. Only 48 per cent of those seeds which were watered with the "foul" water sprouted as opposed to 93 per cent of seeds watered with holy water taken from natural springs.

Cheuring said: "We then looked at heavy swearers and others who never used bad language, and found whenever men use these words in their daily life, this immediately leads to sexual dysfunctions, i.e. impotence. If a woman uses these words in her daily speech, she slowly begins transforming into a man, getting more hair and muscles."

A paper recently published in the reputable journal Physica A by Swiss chemist Louis Rey found that even though they should be identical, the structure of hydrogen bonds in pure water is very different from that in homeopathic dilutions of salt solutions.

Poisons, Begone!


The dubious science behind the Scientologists' detoxification program for 9/11 rescue workers.
By Amanda Schaffer
Posted Thursday, Oct. 21, 2004, at 9:25 AM PT

In September 2002, the New York Rescue Workers Detox Project began to offer free "detoxification treatment" to firefighters, police officers, and others exposed to high levels of toxic debris in the aftermath of the World Trade Center's collapse. The detox programâ€"based on the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and detailed in his book Clear Body, Clear Mindâ€"purports to "flush" poisons from the body's fat stores using an intensive regimen of jogging, oil ingestion, sauna, and high doses of vitamins, particularly niacin. Funded largely by private donationsâ€"most notably from celebrity Scientologist Tom Cruise, as has been widely reportedâ€"treatment is provided at a clinic on Fulton Street in Manhattan as well as at a newer clinic on Long Island. Roughly 240 rescue workers and 80 downtown residents have undergone the program; most have paid nothing, although a few non-rescue workers have been asked to contribute $5,000 apiece.

Critics contend that the regimen lacks any scientific basis. But some former participants, with whom I spoke during a daylong visit to the clinic, believe that the program has dramatically improved their health and are lobbying local officials, as well as members of Congress, to support it with public funding. (To date, at least $30,000 in city money has been allocated; this money appears in the most recent city budget, and an additional $300,000 from city sources is potentially in the offing, according to Councilwoman Margarita Lopez. The program has also received $2.3 million in funding from private donors, including Cruise.) Program advocates, including former patients, staff doctors, and spokespeople for the clinic, are also reaching out to physicians by setting up informational meetings in an effort to gain mainstream acceptance.

Is the Hubbard method medically defensible? And if not, how can we explain the compelling endorsement it receives from many who've undergone it, as well as from a handful of physicians?

To begin with, let's take a closer look at the regimen itself. The central premiseâ€"as codified by the late L. Ron Hubbard and repeated to me, almost verbatim, by Dr. A. Kwabena Nyamekye, the associate medical director of the downtown clinicâ€"is as follows: Toxic substances (including pollutants, pesticides, and various pharmaceuticals) are stored largely in the body's fatty tissues. Detoxification is thus made possible by "mobilizing" fat reservesâ€"that is, by releasing portions of stored fat that contain dissolved toxinsâ€"into the bloodstream, and then eliminating these toxins, mainly through sweating. In order to "unleash" fats, participants take increasing doses of niacin (up to a whopping 3,500 mg to 5,000 mg per day), along with other vitamins and minerals such as calcium and magnesium. They ingest two daily tablespoonfuls of oil (a blend of soy, walnut, peanut, safflower, and evening primrose oils) to replace the fats that have been mobilized and to maintain weight: Advocates are clear that weight-loss is not to occur. Participants also spend a half an hour jogging, followed by two-and-a-half to five hours in a sauna (while drinking ample water), to eliminate contaminants through sweat. The program generally runs seven days a week for three to four weeks, or until the patient no longer "feels the effects of past drugs or chemicals" and reports a "marked resurgence of overall sense of well-being." That is the model regimen, at least.

Some favorable articles have been written about this approach by apparently well-credentialed physicians. However, according to James Dillard, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and clinical director of Columbia's Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, there is a "disconnect" between the studies described in many of these articles and the conclusions presented. The studies themselves typically lack adequate sample sizes, well-matched control groups, randomization, and other basic elements of experimental design; Dillard calls them "anecdotal," at best. (And some report particularly peculiar findings; according to this study, after roughly three weeks of detox, program participants' IQ scores rose by an average of 6.7 points.)

A number of well-credentialed doctors also sharply criticize the scientific reasoning offered by Hubbard supporters. (This article focuses on Nyamekye and Hubbard's interpretation, but for other theories about how the program works, click here.) Consider first how the regimen purports to mobilize fat reserves. While it is possible to release stored fat through weight loss, the specific emphasis on weight maintenanceâ€"and the daily spoonfuls of oilâ€"make it unlikely that significant reserves will be broken down. The use of niacin, too, is open to significant question. Robert Knopp, professor of medicine and director of the Northwest Lipid Research Clinic at the University of Washington, says that niacin is often used clinically (in doses of 1,000 mg to 3,000 mg) to lower patients' blood-lipid levelsâ€"the very opposite of what the Hubbard method seeks to achieve. Dr. Knopp adds that at doses above 3,000 mg there is a real risk of niacin toxicityâ€"particularly of liver damage. To prescribe such high doses for any reason is "totally irrational and dangerous," said Knopp.

Furthermore, the assumption that virtually any toxin can be eliminated effectively through sweat is also questionable. The dust at Ground Zero contained a wide array of poisons, including lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, and asbestos, in addition to pulverized cement and glass. Some doctors do argue that small quantities of metals, including lead, may be released in sweat. Larger, lipid-soluble toxins such as PCBs, PAHs, and dioxins, however, are generally not eliminated this way, in part because sweat is a water-based medium. (It may be possible to detect traces of fat-soluble toxins in skin oils, though this does not mean that bulk quantities of these substances are removed by this route.) And certainly asbestos, which lodges in the delicate tissue of the lungs, cannot be removed by heavy sweating. Indeed, even Keith Miller, spokesman for the New York Rescue Workers Detox project and a long-time Scientologist, concedes that the regimen was never meant to address toxins or irritants in the lungs or to help patients with respiratory problemsâ€"the complaints most prevalent among former rescue workers.

The fact remains, however, that many participants believe that the program has helped them. Some who previously needed asthma inhalers say they no longer require them. Others say they are able to sleep again or have returned to work after long absences. How to make sense of these positive responses?

Certainly there are elements of the Hubbard method--exercising daily, drinking large quantities of water, cutting out alcohol and drugs--that would promote health. But a psychological argument, rather than a physiological one, may best explain the program's successes. There is strong resonance between the Hubbard method and other rituals of purification found in so many cultural and religious traditions, in which cleansing of the body allows for mental and spiritual renewal. There are also clear parallels between Hubbard's language and that of psychotherapy: During detox, patients are said to experience "manifestations" of old traumas or toxins; they taste or smell long-forgotten chemicals or drugs; they re-experience symptoms, allergies, and wounds that "turn off" again when toxins are "flushed" from the body. Hubbard himself was notoriously hostile to psychiatry; but what his method seems to offer is a potent physiological analogue to talk therapy. (It's worth noting that at high doses niacin can cause dilation of peripheral blood vessels, redness, and skin irritation, so patients may experience at least some "manifestations" for this reason.)

As William Michael Moore, a master sergeant with the New York Air National Guard who worked in rescue and recovery at Ground Zero and underwent the detox program in May 2004, told me, the Hubbard method wasn't designed to "hide the symptoms" (as other treatments, such as asthma inhalers, do). Instead, it allowed him to "know the full thing"--to experience his symptoms completely, and then begin to heal.

Some participants also said they were helped--and greatly relieved--by the program's forthrightness about environmental toxins. Several told me that staff members validated their concerns about Ground Zero exposure in a way that most public discourse (at least until very recently) did not. Indeed, advocates for the Hubbard method often dwell on government's sluggish response to environmental disaster--its propensity for "denial, damage control ... [and] guarded disclosures of information"--and cast themselves as a frank alternative, in which public health is paramount and information on toxins is made easily available. This streak of activism reflects a humanitarian impulse in the Scientology detox campaign, however dubious the science behind it.

Amanda Schaffer is a science writer living in Brooklyn, New York.

Evolution education update: ID in PA, NCSE and Working Assets, NCSE and the Grand Canyon

The big news is a new requirement to teach "intelligent design" in the Dover Area, Pennsylvania, School District -- followed by information about ways to support NCSE by talking on the telephone and cruising down the Colorado River.


In a surprise move, a Pennsylvania school board recently voted to include "intelligent design" in the district's science curriculum. At its meeting on October 18, 2004, the Dover Area School Board revised the science curriculum to include the following: "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life will not be taught." The district is now apparently the first school district in the country to require the teaching of "intelligent design" -- a move that prompted two school board members to resign and that is likely, locals fear, to result in a lawsuit.

Casey Brown, a ten-year veteran of the school board who resigned over the vote, commented, "There seems to be a determination among some board members to have our district serve as an example; to flout the legal rulings of the Supreme Court, to flout the law of the land. They don't seem to care. I think they need to ask the taxpayers if they want to be guinea pigs," adding that the board has already spent almost one thousand dollars in legal expenses. The York Dispatch editorialized, "When it comes to including that mantra ["intelligent design"] as part of an official school curriculum it's a case of religious zeal playing with taxpayers money, and it's just plain wrong."

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott told the York Daily Record, "Intelligent design is just a sham to get creationism into the curriculum," explaining that "even if [its advocates] haven't convinced the scientific community, they have been able to convince the politicians ... And that's too bad for the students in Dover." Concerned readers who are in, or who have family or friends in, the Dover, Pennsylvania, area are urged to get in touch with Nick Matzke (matzke@ncseweb.org) at NCSE.

For a story on the vote in the York Daily Record, visit:

For further coverage on NCSE's web site, visit:



NCSE is again slated to be a beneficiary of Working Assets, the telephone company established "to help busy people make a difference in the world through everyday activities like talking on the phone. Every time customers use one of Working Assets' donation-linked services (Long Distance, Wireless, Credit Card or Online), the company donates a portion of the customer's bill to nonprofit groups working to build a world that is more just, humane, and environmentally sustainable." Every year, the donation pool is allocated among the groups supported by Working Assets in proportion to the customers' votes. The more votes NCSE gets, the more money we get!

If you're already a Working Assets customer, you can vote on-line until December 31, 2004:

If you're interested in becoming a Working Assets customer, visit:


First, a correction to last week's e-mail, which said that "A spokesperson for the NPS told the Washington Post that the policy review was previously expected to be completed in February 2005, but now is expected not to be completed until some time after that." The date of the previously expected review was February 2004.

While I'm on the subject of the Grand Canyon, though, let me remind you about NCSE's next excursion. In the summer of 2005, NCSE will again explore the wonders of creation and evolution on a Grand Canyon river run conducted by NCSE's Genie Scott and Alan ("Gish") Gishlick. Because this is an NCSE trip, we offer more than just the typically grand float down the Canyon, the spectacular scenery, fascinating natural history, brilliant night skies, exciting rapids, delicious meals, and good company. It is, in fact, a unique "two-model" raft trip, on which we provide both the creationist view of Grand Canyon and the evolutionist view -- and let you make up your own mind.

For further information on the Grand Canyon trip, visit:

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.

Believers mix with doubters at annual Bigfoot conference



JEFFERSON — Most were believers, but skeptics also were represented at a daylong conference held Saturday at Jefferson High School.

They weren't attending a church conference or political rally.

They were among the 200-plus participants at the fourth annual Texas Bigfoot Conference.

Craig Woolheater of Dallas, group director and co-founder of Texas Bigfoot Research Center, isn't offended that there are people who question the existence of Bigfoot — or sasquatch — a huge, hairy, humanlike creature.

Everyone who reports a sighting isn't truthful, Woolheater said. That's the reason the first instinct is to be skeptical "until you talk to them and find out exactly what they saw." Woolheater is a believer. He reported a sighting near Alexandria, La., in 1994.

He said the conference held Saturday was a gathering for Bigfoot enthusiasts, researchers and the curious.

Eric Jusino of Corsicana has been a believer since about 5:40 p.m. on a rainy day in December 2002. Before that day, Jusino said he wasn't even skeptical or curious. And it's not what he saw that day that had such an effect on him. It's what he heard.

While deer hunting near Streetman in Freestone County, Jusino said he was sitting near a creek when he heard a "tremendous scream, extremely loud ... a scream like nothing I had ever heard." Then he heard something "crashing through the woods running toward me, like a rhino going through the brush."

He was prepared to shoot, when the running sound stopped at the edge of the woods. Then, Jusino said, he heard "breathing — extremely, extremely deep breathing."

Jusino said he started walking back to his truck, which was parked nearby. Whatever was in the woods followed him, but never left the tree line.

"When I stopped, it stopped. When I walked, it walked," Jusino said, adding that the unknown creature took "massive steps."

The Corsicana businessman said he didn't know what he had encountered until about six months later when he told his story to friends. They referred him to a Web site — www.texasbigfoot.com. He got enough information to convince him that he had encountered Bigfoot.

"We're raised to think that this stuff does not exist," Jusino said. "I got the shock of my life when I came face to face with something that is not supposed to exist. They're out there, I believe. You may call me crazy, but I believe they're out there."

Wayne and Pam Harrington of Longview have mixed views about Bigfoot. She's a believer. He's not.

Pam Harrington said she's been a believer since about age 12 when she saw "The Legend of Boggy Creek." The movie is described as a semi-documentary. It describes Bigfoot sightings near Fouke, a tiny Arkansas town between Texarkana and Shreveport.

"I believe he's out there," she said.

"I'm kinda interested in what they have to say," the husband said of the experts who were scheduled to speak during the conference. "I'm not looking for them to change my opinion on it, but it doesn't mean that I'm not interested in listening to them."

A mother and daughter from Dallas also expressed different views before the conference.

"I don't know yet," said 19-year-old Ashley McCoy. "I don't know if I believe or that I don't."

Her mother, Debbie, is a believer.

"I've always been interested in the unusual and unknown," Debbie McCoy said. "Yes, I do believe."

What did she want to learn at the conference? "Proof," she responded.

Martha Nix of Kilgore said she was "sorta mixed" on whether a Bigfoot creature exists. Nix said she wanted to leave the conference with "more proof."

Bill and Susie Honeycutt of Burleson came to the conference after reading about the event in a Fort Worth newspaper.

They've got to see to believe.

"I'm more skeptical," Bill Honeycutt said. "It's the same with UFOs."

"Nothing is impossible," his wife said, "but I wouldn't believe it even if Bill said he saw it. I'd have to see it with my own eyes."

The first speakers acknowledged the skeptics, then provided documentation that Bigfoot is alive and well, especially in the Piney Woods and Big Thicket of East Texas. Their documentation included pictures of twisted tree limbs and other damage to trees, descriptions by witnesses, molds of tracks, recordings of Bigfoot screams and statistics.




October 24, 2004 -- LOS ANGELES - Sitting in the crowded classroom, I listened to Madonna's kab balah coach promise me love, money, a soul mate - and the ability to see into the future. All these things were guaranteed to come, said Rabbi Eitan Yardeni, if we fully devoted ourselves to kabbalah - and became comfortable shelling out big bucks for his teachings.

"All of us have the potential to be psychic," he said. "You will be able to see the light."

Sayings like these became commonplace over the three weeks I spent studying the 4,000-year-old Jewish mystical philosophy at the high-profile Los Angeles Kabbalah Center in Beverly Hills - where Madonna, Britney Spears, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are students.

At the end of the three weeks, I had whipped through more than $600 and I definitely couldn't see into the future.

But I did see Lucy Liu - who had stopped kicking ass in "Charlie's Angels" long enough to take notes and laugh loudly - and her buddy, Soleil Moon Frye, who played TV's Punky Brewster. Britney Spears' older brother Brian also showed up.

And I did meet followers who claimed kabbalah had helped them in mysterious ways - like curing their friends of cancer and helping them save their businesses.

The classes are held in a white, Spanish-style, one-story structure surrounded by palm trees on Robertson Boulevard.

Cameras have never been allowed inside and non-students have a hard time entering.

The classes are shrouded in secrecy and employees are reluctant to reveal any information, unless you have paid your fees.

Before I gained entry into this secretive world, I paid $195 to attend a one-day intensive class and then another $250 for the advanced course at the Los Angeles Kabbalah Center.

I approached the heavy metal gated entrance and rang a buzzer.

"Who is it?" a voice asked.

I said I was there for my first class at the center and was buzzed in. I walked a few steps to my classroom, the middle one of three spare, white-painted rooms labeled Classrooms 1, 2 and 3.

The prying eyes of about 10 volunteers watched my every step.

At the glass classroom door, a volunteer standing behind a podium took attendance.

In the belly of the building is a large temple with rows upon rows of wooden pews.

TO the left of the temple is a bookstore that sells all the fa miliar kabbalah trinkets - red bracelets, special kabbalah water and piles of kabbalah books.

To the right of the temple is a small office with a row of desks and phones set up like a mini-telemarketing firm. This is where about six volunteers sit, constantly dialing people who have shown an interest in attending classes.

"Isn't kabbalah great?" they ask. "Did you love it?"

My classroom was a small room, packed with people sitting at four round tables and on metal chairs with navy blue fabric seats lining the back wall.

Since the course was "Kabbalah Two," many of the students had known each other previously.

When Rabbi Yardeni walked in, a hush descended over the room. He is regarded among his celebrity followers as the best kabbalah teacher in the world.

He stood in front of a white board and, with an electric blue marker, wrote the theme of the class: our ego.

Yardeni, a good-looking, soft-spoken man, drew a diagram to describe what kabbalah is.

He scribbled an empty bowl - to represent an empty human who wants good - and drew three arrows trying to enter the bowl. These stand for "the light" trying to enter the human being.

Yardeni summed up what kabbalists believe: that the world is divided into two parts - a 1 percent realm, which is our everyday reality, but also an "illusion" - and the other 99 percent, the spiritual realm, where all the unexplainable exists.

He told us the 99 percent is the "light," which kabbalists are trying to get closer to in order to rid themselves of negative traits.

Kabbalah teaches you to believe in reincarnation, that none of your bad traits is a result of your parents, that negative energy in the universe can break us down and make us physically ill, that our purpose in life is to rid ourselves of our ego and all our negative traits, that there is no such thing as accidents or luck and that any action for the self alone is bad.

Everyone in class nodded when Yardeni claimed we can "transform our creation" and, with kabbalah, "become a different human being."

"You should be telling yourselves, 'I'll do whatever it takes to transform,' " he said. "Kabbalah is truly, 'I want to feel good about myself. I want to rid myself of my selfishness.' "

And then he mentioned money.

He said, "Money for the purpose of you alone is selfish, it is meant to be shared.

"Give whatever makes you feel uncomfortable, break that barrier. If you are uncomfortable giving money away, give more."

WHICH is what Kenny, 62, a business consultant, has been doing happily for the last six years.

In the beginning, Kenny was skeptical about handing over money to the center.

"A lot of people can't break through their comfort zone, whatever that may be," he said.

"Giving my money was too much effort for me. Now I don't even worry about the money."

Between classes and Shabbat dinners - held every Friday night and Saturday morning at the center - Kenny said he spends about $600 a month at the center.

But he said he doesn't question what his money is being used for because he believes kabbalah has worked for him.

Like the time he healed his own excruciating toothache - or helped cure his friend's bladder cancer.

Yardeni teaches that when negative energy builds up too highly, it can cause illness. By meditating on this area, you can relieve yourself or others of the pain.

"Headaches and stomachaches are the light fighting to get in," Yardeni says. "Cancer is masses of negative energy.

"I know it's tough to believe. Doubts are typical," he says.

Kenny believes.

"I needed a root canal and when I meditated, it went away," he said. "And after months of concentrating my energies on my friend, he went into remission."

There are other "tools" kabbalah uses to get closer to the light - and they are sold in the Kabbalah Center bookstore.

Rabbi Philip Berg, 76, the leader of the modern kabbalah movement (who was paralyzed last month by a severe stroke), has made a fortune selling the "tools." These include the "Zohar," a book written in Aramaic and originally restricted to Jewish men over 40. Non-Jews were not supposed to read it.

Berg's form of kabbalah welcomes everyone to read the Zohar and "find all the answers to the universe." The 23-volume set costs $415 in the bookstore.

A kabbalah devotee, Doly, 49, explained to me after class one day that she used the Zohar to help bring her 80-year-old mother back from the brink of death two years ago.

Doly had been studying kabbalah and had purchased the ancient book at the suggestion of a rabbi she knew.

A doctor told her that her mom was about to die from a kidney infection that had spread to major organs.

"I asked the rabbi for help and he told me to scan the Zohar," she told me, explaining that she was to run her fingers over the Aramaic letters.

"I sat by my mom's bedside every day for weeks scanning and scanning and one day she just walked out better."

Doly couldn't understand the writing, but kabbalists believe that simply scanning the letters - without even knowing their meaning - will help you achieve certain things you want; like health, success or love.

MOST books sold at the center are written by Berg and his two sons, Yehuda and Michael.

Most followers buy products from the center's store, like the familiar red yarn bracelets - seen on Madonna's wrist - to help "ward off negativity."

Followers drink kabbalah water, at $3.80 a bottle, for "cleansing."

Tamra, a full-time volunteer at the bookstore, said the molecular structure of the water actually changed after it was "infused with kabbalistic meditations."

"The rabbis here at the center pray and meditate good energy into the bottles," she said. "It's the closest thing humans can get physically to the light or the universe."

Regulars at the center also attended Shabbat services to gain positive energy for the upcoming week.

Alison, a volunteer, said she "cannot live" without coming to the service every Friday night.

At the services, the men wear all white "to attract positive energy."

The dress code was very loose, usually white track pants or sweat pants, white T-shirts and baseball hats. Some wore white yarmulkes with gold glitter and sequins sewn on. They looked like break dancers.

The women and men sat apart, as in a traditional Orthodox Jewish service.

For more than two hours, a few rabbis stood in the front part of the temple and read aloud in Hebrew from the Shabbat prayer book.

One of them shouted the page number he was on - "Page 399!" - so you could find where he is and scan the letters quickly like a speed reader.

During pauses in the readings, there were certain things to say, chants the regulars knew by heart, and shouts like, "Aaaayyyyyyyyaaaaahhhh!!!" Everyone sat, stood, yelled and flapped their right hand in the air.

Britney Spears' older brother, Bryan, 27, was an enthusiastic participant.

When I asked Alison, the volunteer, what all of this meant, she said it was just another exercise for "gaining good energy."

"All the things we do in here put life and positivity out there into the world," she said.

The familiar faces at the center stay for meals after the services, held in a back room. The banquet tables are set like an elaborate wedding reception.

Seating is arranged prior to the meal, which costs $30, and an additional $10 if you don't reserve a spot a few days ahead of time. They eat a few courses, all kosher. A meal is usually salad, salmon or chicken and desserts like cookies.

Well-known cult expert Rick Ross has been watching Berg's kabbalah group since the '70s.

He calls Berg a "brilliant" businessman who has mastered the sale of a line of products. "That's his genius," he says.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Psychic to help in Oxford case

Saturday, October 23, 2004

By Matt Leingang
Enquirer staff writer

Charles E. Capel

OXFORD - Information from a "psychic detective" will help Oxford police search Sunday for a retired Miami University professor who's been missing more than five months.

Noreen Renier, 67, a Virginia woman who assisted in the hunt for Laci Peterson and claims to have participated in 400 police investigations over 25 years, told Oxford police this month that she believes Charles E. Capel is within eight walking-minutes of his house.

Capel, an 81-year-old retired mathematics professor who has Alzheimer's disease, left his house sometime before 8 a.m. May 21.

Oxford police are stymied by the lack of clues in the case. They hired Renier several weeks ago with permission from the Capel family, said Sgt. Jim Squance.

Police mailed Renier a map of Ohio and some of Capel's personal items, including a pair of white sneakers and several toothbrushes.

Speaking from her home near Charlottesville, Va., Renier said her methods involve "reading" objects that missing people leave behind.

Turning to a psychic is unconventional but worth a shot, Oxford police said.

With or without Renier's help, Oxford police had intended to resume searching for Capel this fall, once the leaves had fallen from trees and field brush had dried up, increasing visibility.

Previous searches in May and June covering a 10-mile radius around the Capel house turned up nothing.

The search for Charles E. Capel begins 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Police ask that volunteers register beforehand at www.cityofoxford.org.

Police seek volunteers who are at least 18 and are capable of walking through dense brush and over rough terrain. Other volunteers are needed to assist with registration.

They should contact Lt. Bob Holzworth at (513) 524-5247. Sunday, volunteers will gather in the parking lot of the Miami University Credit Union, 420 Wells Mill Drive, Oxford. Registration will begin at 12:30 p.m.

E-mail mleingang@enquirer.com


Science standards rule BOE talk, despite attempt to downplay


By Alicia Henrikson, Journal-World

Friday, October 22, 2004

Washburn history professor Bill Wagnon and Topeka dentist Robert Meissner say they don't consider the hottest political issue to be the most important one in the race for the 4th District Kansas State Board of Education seat.

But the state's science-teaching standards for public schools and the pending recommendations for defining them from a 25-member committee continue to come to the forefront when the two debate.

Both men say evolution should be taught. But Meissner said he didn't rule out the possibility of competing theories such as "intelligent design."

Intelligent design proponents believe a higher being was involved in the biological makeup of the earth. Critics consider the theory by another name: creationism.

"The idea that we would have alternative views that are supernatural as opposed to natural takes science into areas that science never claimed to address, and in that sense weakens what kids ought to understand are the appropriate boundaries for science," said Wagnon, the incumbent Democrat.

Meissner said it would be closed-minded for him to say he would automatically exclude alternate theories to evolution without first reviewing the standards recommended by the committee.

"I'm not going to say I will rubber-stamp the standards provided by the committee," he said. "But it is worth serious consideration."

The committee reviewing state science standards is expected to present proposed changes to the state school board in 2005.

Because of a power shift on the board signaled by the August primary, there's a good chance for renewed debate about evolution and the possibility of including other theories in the science standards.

Current board member Bruce Wyatt, a moderate Republican, lost his 6th District seat to Kathy Martin, a conservative Republican. That means in January, the board -- regardless of the 4th District outcome -- will have a conservative Republican majority. If Wagnon retains the seat, the balance of conservative Republicans to moderate Republicans and Democrats will be 6-4.

Wagnon, seeking a third term, said he wasn't against religion being taught in school, but didn't think intelligent design belonged in science classrooms. Instead, he has proposed that the state school board come up with standards for teaching religion in schools. Some parents want their children to be able to study their religious heritage at school, he said.

"They ought to be able to have that educational experience," Wagnon said.

Meissner, a Republican who served on Topeka's Shawnee Heights school board for 12 years, said evolution needed to be taught in schools, but he wouldn't oppose the inclusion of "other scientifically credible theories."

Copyright 2004 The Lawrence Journal-World.

Teach The Controversy


Mullenax News Columns

By Peter and Helen Evans
Friday 22nd of October 2004 09:19 AM MST

The old controversy between the "creationists" and the "evolutionists" has re-emerged, but with a new twist... this time, the evolutionists are on the defensive. In the cover story of the October, 2004 issue of Wired magazine, Evan Ratliff outlines the basic positions of the two sides of this issue. His own position is indicated by the title; "The Crusade Against Evolution," but his bias is not so distorting as to prevent the reader from gaining a valuable insight into the largely unacknowledged battle for the minds of America's rising generation. "http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/evolution.html"

A little background: following Charles Darwin's 1859 publication of "On the Origin of Species," revolutionary scientists of the period seized upon its ideas to attack the monopoly of the religious establishment over the question of "the origin of everything." Their belief became known as the "theory of evolution" and, over the next seven decades, swept all before it. The famous "Scopes monkey trial" of 1925 seemed to nail down the coffin lid of Creationism and relegate the idea of Divine Creation to the realm of "un-scientific superstition."

The 'revolutionary' scientists of the late 19th century have since evolved into an established priesthood, with their own monopoly over today's scientific discourse. This may sound like an innocuous, even progressive, development except that the central tenet of their dominant world view is what's known as "radical materialism." Essentially, this is the belief that, by chance mutation and "natural selection," minerals evolved into plants; plants into animals; animals into humans and that human self-consciousness is merely the latest evolutionary spin off. Simple; no God required. If this concept rings a bell, it should. It is the same deterministic materialism which inspired Karl Marx and the whole, thoroughly-discredited Socialist movement and its horrific mutant offspring, Communism.

Today, we are ridding the world of the last vestiges of the political application of radical materialism. It was just recently blasted out of Iraq and still lingers in North Korea, Communist China, Cuba and, in a watered-down form, in Euro-socialism. But we can't relax yet. Radical materialism is firmly established right here at home in our universities and school system. As recently as 1987, the Supreme Court struck down the Louisiana statute that had, briefly, given "creation science" equal time in that state's schools. And it did so not because radical materialism has a better answer for how "life, the universe and everything" began. No, the Supreme Court ruled that teaching creation science violated the so-called "separation of church and state" as interpreted from the First Amendment, because it is based on the Bible instead of, presumably, "On the Origin of Species" and, thus, "lacked a clear secular purpose."

Enter "Intelligent Design" or ID. Its proponents say that ID opens new ways of thinking about life, its origins and its development. It claims that the enormous complexity of the structures of life (think; eye, wing) couldn't have evolved by the blind incremental 'push' of simpler forms from below, but rather, that evolution must be 'pulled' from above (or beyond) by an intelligence that precedes its physical manifestations.

Now, it seems to us that 'real' scientists would be willing to debate the opposing theories on their merits. That's what scientists are supposed to do, aren't they? But that hasn't been what the establishment materialists have done. Complacent in the continuing superiority of their numbers in the scientific community, they seem content to confront the new revolutionaries with sneering and name-calling. The established priesthood of self-styled 'real' scientists attempt to dismiss it by calling it names like "Creationism in a lab coat" and claiming that it doesn't further our understanding of anything and that "it isn't real science."

Scientific rigor demands proof of its testable hypotheses, but politics just demands numbers, expressed as votes, and by attracting the votes of school board members, Intelligent Design is making significant inroads into the schools, notably in Ohio. More notably, perhaps, its promoters have done so without resorting to God or the Bible, but by drawing attention to the un-supportable over-reach of the evolutionary materialists. While the ID folks admit that natural selection, for example, should still be taught for its importance to understanding how species adapt to changing conditions, but say that 'scientific' claims that the "big questions" are all answered by the theory of materialist evolution are simply bogus. They say that ID offers a legitimate alternative theory and the mantra of their push for ID's recognition in schools is, "Teach the Controversy."

Let's be intellectually honest here. Materialist science emphatically does not have the final answers. It has some theories, like that of "the big bang" that describe with some plausibility "how" the universe developed, but offers nothing to the persistent question "why?" that is the root of human morality, and which can only be answered by an intelligence greater than our own. We have already witnessed the totalitarian horror that results from the belief that materialist science is "all we need to know." For far too long this narrow version of truth has been exercising a dangerous stranglehold on our rising generations and our whole society. We should applaud Intelligent Design in our schools as a step toward breaking free.

About the writers: More about Peter and Helen Evans can be found at "http://peterandhelenevans.com. This husband and wife team - freelance writers and speakers - teach a philosophical approach to conservatism. They are also real estate agents in the Washington, DC area.

Copyright © 2003-2004 Mullenax News

Intelligent Design--A "Plot" to Kill Evolution?


Friday, Oct. 22, 2004 Posted: 10:58:00AM EST

Intelligent Design is in the news again, this time in the form of a cover story in the October 2004 issue of Wired magazine. The magazine's cover announces "The Plot to Kill Evolution: Inside the Crusade to Bring Creationism 2.0 to America's Classrooms."

Put simply, Intelligent Design is a scientific theory that affirms a level of specificity and complexity in the universe that cannot be explained by any blind natural process, but can be explained only by intelligence behind the design.

The Intelligent Design movement is a relatively new development in the scientific world, though the roots of ID thought go deeply into the history of Western civilization. The leading proponents of Intelligent Design are well-credentialed scientists who are both articulate and persuasive in arguing that evolution is a theory in crisis. Scientists and other leaders of the ID movement have punctured the arrogance and ideological inflexibility of the modern evolutionary establishment, and the evolutionists don't like it one bit.

The cover story in Wired magazine is the latest evidence of ID success. Written by Evan Ratliff, the article proves that the panic attack experienced by evolutionists is only deepening in intensity.

As the article begins, Ratliff takes the reader into an auditorium in downtown Columbus, Ohio, where the state's Board of Education is considering "the question of how to teach the theory of evolution in public schools." As the school board met two years ago, four experts engaged in a debate before the assembled school board members, considering "whether an antievolution theory known as Intelligent Design should be allowed into the classroom."

Ratliff is apparently shocked and outraged that the debate even took place. "This is an issue, of course, that was supposed to have been settled long ago," he explains, "but 140 years after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, 75 years after John Scopes taught natural selection to a biology class in Tennessee, and 15 years after the US Supreme Court ruled against a Louisiana law mandating equal time for creationism, the question of how to teach the theory of evolution was being reopened here in Ohio."

Eventually, the Ohio State Board of Education decided to allow "optional" lessons on Intelligent Design as a supplement to the schools' biology curriculum. The ID proponents were successful in persuading the school board that teaching students the theory of evolution in a way that raised none of the significant questions posed by other scientists was neither good education nor good public policy.

This, evolutionary theorists insist, is nothing less than mindlessness and a return to religious fundamentalism. In the Wired article, Ratliff portrays a conspiracy led by scholars and scientists associated with Seattle's Discovery Institute. According to Ratliff, ID advocates operate with a strategy to "create the impression that this very complicated issue could be seen from two entirely rational yet opposing views." As he quotes Discovery Institute scholar Stephen Meyer, "When two groups of experts disagree about a controversial subject that intersects with the public-school science curriculum, the students should be permitted to learn about both perspectives." Meyer and his colleagues call this teaching method the "teach the controversy" approach.

But the evolutionists do not want the controversy taught. To the contrary, they have strapped themselves into an ideological straitjacket and have constructed the theory of evolution so that it is a comprehensive worldview impenetrable by outside criticism.

Ratliff goes on to explain that the Intelligent Design movement can be traced back to two seminal books: Darwin's Black Box by Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe and The Design Inference by William Dembski, a philosopher and mathematician currently at Baylor University, and recently appointed the Director of the Center for Theology and Science at Boyce College and Southern Seminary. According to Ratliff, Dembski's work "proposed that any biological system exhibiting 'information' that is both 'complex' (highly improbable) and 'specified' (serving a particular function) cannot be a product of chance or natural law." In other words, Dembski argued that the facts of specific and highly organized complexity in a biological system could not be explained by mere chance or the operation of purely natural forces. Dembski points to the specific and highly complex information that is demonstrated, for example, in the genetic structure of the human cell.

But if purely natural forces and chance cannot explain the presence of such complex information, what can? Ratliff describes the ID response in this way: "The only remaining option is an Intelligent Designer--whether God or an alien life force." Dembski's contribution, along with Behe's theory of "irreducible complexity," throws the evolutionary mainstream and its ideologues into apoplexy.

But even armed with effective scientific arguments, the Intelligent Design movement needed something else in order to project itself into the public square--and that something else was an articulate public advocate. That advocate emerged in Phillip Johnson, a now-retired law professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Johnson, a former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, brought impeccable academic credentials, boundless energy, and winsome courtroom effectiveness to his mission of exposing the pretensions and weaknesses of evolutionary theory.

In a series of best-selling books, Johnson directed his intellectual guns at "scientific materialism," the affirmation that the material world must be entirely self-explanatory. Using the argument of Intelligent Design as a "wedge," Johnson, along with scientific colleagues in the movement, took their case to the public.

The evolutionists have responded with dismissal, condescension, outright opposition, and worse. Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at Florida State University, simply dismisses Intelligent Design by labeling it theology in disguise. "Ultimately, they have an evangelical Christian message that they want to push," he says. "Intelligent Design is the hook." Of course, this ignores the fact that, in dismissing Intelligent Design with this unscientific argument, Ruse and his fellow evolutionists discount anyone positing any level of design in the universe, for whatever reason.

Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University, a defender of evolution, warns his fellow evolutionists that they had better not underestimate the threat represented by Intelligent Design. "Where the scientific community has been at fault," he says, "is in assuming that these people are harmless, like flat-earthers. They don't realize that they are well-organized, and that they have a political agenda."

For years, the evolutionists have been virtually alone in playing their own political game, intimidating school boards and political officials into giving them a virtual free rein over the academic process and hegemony in the teaching of subjects like biology.

Evan Ratliff portrays Intelligent Design as a serious threat to the evolutionary establishment. By referring to the ID movement as "Creation Science 2.0," he signals the tech-savvy readers of Wired magazine that the Intelligent Design movement is something they should oppose and observe with growing concern.

Nevertheless, Wired also ran a side article by George Gilder, identified by the magazine as "the technogeek guru of bandwidth utopia." Gilder is also a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, and one of the major figures behind the movement. As Gilder argues, "The Darwinist materialist paradigm . . . is about to face the same revolution that Newtonian physics faced 100 years ago. Just as physicists discovered that the atom was not a massy particle, as Newton believed, but a baffling quantum arena accessible only through mathematics, so too are biologists coming to understand that the cell is not a simple lump of protoplasm, as Charles Darwin believed."

According to Gilder, "Intelligent Design at least asks the right questions. In a world of science that still falls short of a rigorous theory of human consciousness or of the big bang, Intelligent Design theory begins by recognizing that everywhere in nature, information is hierarchical and precedes its embodiment." Students who are merely fed the dominant evolutionary model are, Gilder asserts, "imbibing the consolations of a faith-driven 19th-century materialist myth."

While Wired magazine sounds its alarm, a similarly panicked approach is evident in The Washington Monthly's October 2004 issue. Chris Mooney, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect, argues that the Intelligent Design movement is an effort by "the religious right" to "combat mainstream science."

Mooney minces no words, using vitriolic language in an attempt to dismiss the movement out of hand. He suggests that "Christian conservatives have . . . adopted the veneer of scientific and technical expertise instead of merely asserting their heartfelt beliefs." As he portrays the conflict, uninformed, uneducated, and Bible-thumping fundamentalists stand opposed to the enlightened, educated, and entirely sophisticated scientific establishment. Mooney lumps together the proponents of abstinence-based sex education, scientists who believe that abortion is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, and advocates for Intelligent Design. The naturalistic scientists are always identified positively. Mooney refers to "the respected International Society for Stem Cell Research" and "our nation's distinguished scientific community."

This is evidence of weak argument and irresponsible journalism. This degree of editorializing has no place in what is presented as serious journalism, and Mooney's real secular agenda is clear when he drops his guard.

Christian conservatives, he argues, "have gone a long way towards creating their own scientific counter-establishment." He further claims that "the religious right's 'science' represents just the most recent manifestation of the gradual conservative Christian political awakening that has so dramatically shaped our politics over the past several decades."

Mooney's attempt to dismiss the Intelligent Design movement as nothing more than an appendage of the "religious right" demonstrates once again the irritation of the evolutionary mainstream. In desperation, they want to have it both ways. Mooney dismisses Intelligent Design as science because he claims that ID proponents believe in a divine Designer, "a claim naturalistic science can neither confirm nor refute." Yet, just a few paragraphs later, he quotes Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller as saying, "The scientific community has not embraced the explanation of design because it is quite clear, on the basis of the evidence, that it is wrong." Miller flatly dismisses the idea of design in the cosmos--the very claim Mooney had just asserted science could "neither confirm nor refute."

The house of evolution is falling. Its various theorists are increasingly at war with each other over the basic question of how evolution is supposed to work, and its materialistic and naturalistic foundation is becoming increasingly clear. The evolutionists tenaciously hold to their theory on the basis of faith and as an axiom of their worldview. The publication of these two articles in influential magazines indicates that proponents of evolution see the Intelligent Design movement as a real threat. They are right.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to mail@albertmohler.com. Original copy from Crosswalk.com

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Christian Post Columnist

No equal billing for science, faith


Friday, October 22, 2004

I agree that schools should consider "more than one side of the subject" (YDR, Sept. 20). But teaching more than one side does not mean that both sides of the question are equal. There can be a range of interpretations about any question, but this cannot fairly or honestly include all opinions. It may be a person's opinion (and right) to say that creationism is a science, but that does not make it so.

Justice William Overton's landmark ruling against Arkansas' 1981 law calling for a balanced treatment of "creation science" with "evolution science," made clear that creationism was not a science: "A scientific theory must be tentative and subject to revision. . . . A theory that is, by its own terms, dogmatic, absolutist and never subject to revision is not a scientific theory."

The creationists' methods do not take data, weigh it against the opposing scientific data and thereafter reach the conclusion stated. Instead they take the literal wording of the book of Genesis and attempt to find scientific support for it. As one anthropologist said, evolution is proofs without certainty; creationism is certainty without proofs. That one cannot "prove" either does not mean that both deserve equal billing on the stage of science. Only one of them is a science. The other is an archway to Christian faith. No amount of tweaking the language will change or disguise that fact.

I happen to think it is important to teach about creationism appropriately in a history class. It is not, however, a subject meant for scientific inquiry. Creationism does not ask and answer questions on the origins of humans and the universe; instead, it provides selectively culled evidence to support a conclusion already arrived at. This is not the definition of education. It is the definition of indoctrination.


Keep creationism out of our schools


Friday, October 22, 2004

This letter is a response to the Dover school board and school administrators regarding the push to teach creation theory in our schools. It seems that we are being coerced into an agenda that one school board member wants to promote.

It must be your job to represent all Dover district citizens and not the views of one defined religious group. Every culture and religion has a creation story in its history. There are many of them. They have been handed down through the generations. They have been taught in our churches, mosques, temples and homes as religious instruction. Why would just one be chosen and promoted in our schools as science?

Our public schools are subject to separation of church and state. This is for the protection of the government and the church. Why are the board and administration even considering this agenda?

I for one do not want to see my tax dollars being spent on the possible future defense of these rights. Let us channel our time, money and effort into the established curricula for our deserving and diverse student population.


Scientologists Sent Packing from Beslan — Police


Created: 22.10.2004 16:14 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 16:59 MSK


At least 20 Scientologists will be forced to leave a region in southern Russia surrounding Beslan Friday, where over 330 people were killed in a three-day hostage drama in September, the Interior Ministry announced.

Regional police summoned 22 Scientologists Thursday, informing them that they were forbidden to offer their religious and psychological services in the region, and that they must leave the region within 24 hours.

The Interior Ministry agreed to an earlier request from the regional Health Ministry for help in shutting down the activities of such "sects" as the Church of Scientology in the republic of North Ossetia, and in particular in Beslan, the Interfax news agency reported.

The ministry believed that the church's activities — which include psychological "auditing" and rejection of traditional psychology — were dangerous for the children, who were still traumatized after the terrorist attack on their school.

Moreover, the Ministry of Justice discovered that the Church of Scientology is not registered as a religious organization, and its representatives are not licensed to act as spiritual aides or psychologists, the news agency reported, citing the regional Interior Ministry spokesman, Ismel Shaov.

The Church of Scientology, however, says that it was registered in Russia in 1994.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Ig Nobel awards pay tribute to world's oddballs


David Adam, science correspondent
Friday October 1, 2004
The Guardian

The great and the good gathered to honour the goodness gracious last night, as the 14th annual Ig Nobel award ceremony rewarded its usual distinctive mix of oddball research, scientific satire and the downright silly.

In front of a paper-airplane-throwing audience of 1,200 people at Harvard University, Ig Nobel prizes were given to sociologists who unravelled a link between country music and suicide, physicists who have earnestly explored and explained the dynamics of hula-hooping, and an ingenious bald man who patented the infamous "Bobby Charlton" combover hairstyle.

Coming a week before their more noble cousins are announced in Stockholm, the awards have become a keenly contested, globally reported event. Real Nobel prizewinners turn up to hand out the prizes, to be challenged to explain their work in 30 seconds, and to be booed off stage.

The Ig Nobel prizewinners turn up at their own expense to be given worldwide recognition for their extraordinary observations and what the organisers describe as "prizes made of extremely cheap materials and a medallion that's pretty awkward to wear".

Other awards this year include the public health prize for a school student who investigated whether food dropped on to the floor is safe to eat if retrieved within five seconds, the peace prize went to the Japanese inventor of karaoke, and Coca-Cola in Britain received the chemistry award for the debacle of its Dasani branded mineral water, which turned out to be bottled tap water.

But after 14 years, is the joke wearing a little thin? "It's not exactly a joke," said Marc Abrahams, creator and organiser of the awards and editor of the journal Annals of Improbable Research. "Someone once described this as found satire, and I think that's a pretty good description".

Winners are given the chance to turn down the prizes before they are announced publicly. Only a handful do, worried about what laboratory chiefs or research funders might say. Many nominate themselves.

Steven Stack, the sociologist at Wayne State University in Detroit, who together with colleague James Gundlach of Auburn University in Alabama won this year's medicine Ig Nobel for their 1992 country music and suicide study, said: "I'm happy about it. It gives you some national recognition for your work." He chose not to travel to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the ceremony.

Other winners are unable to attend even if they wanted to. "Some years we've not been able to get in touch with the economics prizewinner because they have a previous five- to 15-year engagement," Mr Abrahams said. Nick Leeson, the trader who brought down Barings bank, is a past economics winner.

Donald Smith, who together with his late father Frank Smith won this year's engineering Ig Nobel for patenting the combover, approves: "It's all done in good taste, and I think it's funny as hell."

The roll of (dis-) honour

Steven Stack and James Gundlach: The effect of country music on suicide
An analysis of US radio playlists revealed that as the amount of country music played went up, so did the white suicide rate

Ramesh Balasubramaniam and Michael Turvey: The dynamics of hula-hooping
Seven people span a hoop while having their movements carefully tracked. The rather obvious conclusion: it's all in the hip, knee and ankle movements

Public Health
Jillian Clarke: The validity of the five-second rule about the safety of eating food dropped on the floor
According to Clarke, a high-school student in Chicago, 70% of women and 56% of men believe this. E coli could, if present, easily colonise a fallen gummi bear within five seconds

Coca-Cola: Using advanced technology to convert liquid from the Thames into Dasani
Coke admitted earlier this year its new brand of bottled water, Dasani, was tapwater subjected to reverse osmosis

Donald Smith and his father, the late Frank Smith: Patenting the comb-over
US Patent 4,022,227, for the hairstyle for people with no hair on top, was issued in 1977. It has failed to make the Smith family, of Orlando, a dime

The American Nudist Research Library, Florida: Preserving nudist history so that everyone can see it
Visitors are welcome, and clothes optional, at Cypress Cove Nudist Resort's archive

Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris: When people pay close attention to something, it's all too easy to overlook anything else
Subjects concentrating to count basketball passes all missed a woman walking through the room with an umbrella, and a man dressed as a gorilla

The Vatican: Outsourcing prayers to India
A shortage of Catholic priests prompted western churches to send out requests for mass intentions to Indian churches

Daisuke Inoue: Inventing karaoke - and an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other
The Japanese drummer developed karaoke machines in 1971. He failed to patent his idea, and has made hardly any money from a Ł6bn business

New entry for SKEPTIC Bibliography


Talking To The Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism
Barbara Weisberg
2004, HarperCollins, 336p.
psi:history, religion:history, survival:history

A fantastic read, this book examines the history and the rise and fall of Spiritualism. It discusses how the movement began with Maggie and Kate Fox (the Fox Sisters), and how Spiritualism grew in a time period where the Quaker way of life ruled. Weisberg also goes into detail about the Fox Sisters' experiences very intimately, including the "things" or entities they saw and heard that affected their whole little town. Recommended for anyone that loves to read about ghosts, the paranormal or the unknown, or just for fun.

[ Reviewed by Eve Hall, WitchingHourAve@aol.com ]

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

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

Physics News Update 704

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News Number 704 October 13, 2004 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein A REALISTIC LASER-OPERATED MOLECULAR LOCOMOTIVE has been proposed by a Texas A&M researcher (Zhisong Wang, nargate@jewel.tamu.edu). For those designing materials at the smallest workable scales, a major dream is to build nano-locomotives that would move through a molecular-scale track to perform various tasks, such as transporting building blocks for nanomachines. Earlier proposals have outlined some innovative designs for these nanoengines (for example, see http://www.aip.org/pnu/2000/split/pnu490-1.htm). While nano-locomotives are still in the blueprint stage, a new model brings the idea closer to reality by incorporating the latest working knowledge of nanomaterials as well as the probabilistic, jiggly nature of the molecular world. In Wang's design, a nano-locomotive would have a main body consisting of cars each made up of a linear polymer chain. Either end of the train would have a chemically tailored "head" group that could bind to or break from a track, which could be a cylinder-shaped microtubule found in biology. Either end of the locomotive could attach via covalent bonds to special molecular groups on the track. Laser pulses would move the train: one light pulse would break the bond from one of the train's ends and another laser pulse would cause each car of the train to change its molecular configuration, and expand its size to reach the next part of the track. Thermal fluctuations of the motor itself and the environment play a vital role, for example as the train's head seeks the next binding site on the track. Wang has proposed a multistep "optomechanical work cycle" that precisely outlines the laser steps needed to move the train, and even reverse its direction. The locomotive would work not only as a motor, but a powerful molecular engine that could generate a pulling force 10 times greater than of the natural biomotor kinesin. Such forces, of about 100 piconewton, could allow the nano-locomotive to break molecular bonds and help in constructing nanomaterials while delivering cargo. (Wang, Physical Review E, 15 September 2004; also see http://focus.aps.org/story/v13/st27).

FINDING A VEIN, necessary for administering intravenous solutions, can often be difficult. A new device, called a Vein Contrast Enhancer (VCE), uses sensitive infrared sensing to find the vein beneath the skin and then also projects the rather spooky vein image back onto the patient's wrist. This makes it appear as if the veins were lying right on top, making it easy for a nurse to make an injection. How does it work? An array of light emitting diodes shines infrared light at the subject, and one depends on the fact that red blood cells scatter light differently from surrounding fatty tissue. The scattered light passes through some filters and then is captured by a CCD TV camera, processed by computer, and rendered as a sort of movie at a rate of 30 frames per second. These images can be projected onto the subject through a careful aligning process to register the surface projection with subcutaneous anatomy (see figure at www.aip.org/png). Herbert Zeman and his colleagues at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis have done extensive clinical trials with VCE devices and are now doing trials with the projection capability. The general spatial resolution of the process is about 0.1 mm. Veins as deep as 8 mm have been imaged. This work is being presented at this week's Frontiers in Optics meeting in Rochester, co-sponsored by the Optical Society of America (OSA) and the American Physical Society (APS). (http://www.osa.org/meetings/annual/. See also http://www.conenhill.com/)

SURPRISING PROPERTIES OF SUNLIGHT is another highlight of the Frontiers in Optics meeting. Greg Gbur, now at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (gjgbur@uncc.edu), and his colleagues reexamined 19th-century-physics-based estimates for the coherence of sunlight and found that an assumption used in those estimates is technically inaccurate, but the results are surprisingly correct. Generally, we only think of a highly controlled source such as a laser as producing coherent light. All light, however, including sunlight, has some degree of spatial coherence, i.e. some extent to which its fluctuations at different points in space are correlated (have precise interrelationships). In 1869, Emile Verdet derived a rough estimate for the area within which sunlight falling on the Earth's surface may be considered spatially coherent. Verdet implicitly assumed, however, that the Earth is in the "far zone" of the Sun, which was conventionally understood to be the distance at which the Sun appears as a point object. Of course, this is not true on the Earth, as we are 10^15 km too close, and this raised the question of whether Verdet's results, and those which followed, are accurate. Gbur and colleagues performed new simulations of filtered light emanating from an incoherent spherical source, standing in for the Sun. Surprisingly, they found that the light behaved as if it were in the far zone even when viewed only a few wavelengths from the source. So Verdet's assumption is correct, but only because the far zone for an incoherent source is much, much closer than expected. One of Gbur's co-authors on this study is the University of Rochester's Emil Wolf, a key developer of the modern theory of coherence, and the other is Oklahoma State University's Girish S. Agarwal, another influential figure in the development of coherence. (Paper FTuF6 at meeting; also Agarwal, Gbur, and Wolf, Optics Letters, March 1, 2004.) After publishing their Optics Letters paper, the authors discovered that a little-appreciated paper (Leader, Journal of the Optical Society of America 68, 1978) made similar findings but did not discuss the results in the context of sunlight.

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. It is provided free of charge as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists. For that reason, you are free to post it, if you like, where others can read it, providing only that you credit AIP. Physics News Update appears approximately once a week.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Ancient fungus 'revived' in lab http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3754090.stm

Fungus from a deep-sea sediment core that is hundreds of thousands of years old can grow when placed in culture, scientists have discovered.

Indian researchers say the fungi come from sediments that are between 180,000 and 430,000 years old.

The finding adds to growing evidence for the impressive survival capabilities of many microorganisms.

They are the oldest known fungi that will grow on a nutrient medium, the scientists say in Deep Sea Research I.

The core was drilled from a depth of 5,904m in the Indian Ocean's Chagos Trench.

Like other ocean trenches, it is oriented parallel to a volcanic arc and is one of the deepest regions of the Indian Ocean.

On board their research vessel, Dr Chandralata Raghukumar and colleagues from the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa, India, and the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology in Hyderabad carefully deposited 5cm-long portions of the core into plastic bags which they then sealed to avoid contamination with present-day microbes.

The scientists then attempted to isolate bacteria and fungi from the middle of the 5cm-long "subsamples", because this region had not been in contact with the pipe used to extract the core - and therefore any modern microorganisms on it.

Blown away

Diluted malt extract agar was used as a nutrient medium to grow the fungus on. The team was able to culture fungi from six out of 22 subsections of the core.

At core depths of between 15 and 50cm, the scientists found fungus of a type that does not produce spores.

At a depth of 160cm (corresponding to an age of 180,000 years ago) they found high densities of a type of spore-producing fungus known as Aspergillus sydowii.

Considerable densities of this fungus were also found at depths of 280-370cm, corresponding to an age between 180,000 and 430,000 years ago.

The researchers think the microbes may be blown off the land into the sea. They then sink to the sea floor and are covered in deep-sea ocean sediments.

The oldest microorganisms found alive are thought to be bacteria isolated from 25-40-million-year-old bees trapped in amber.

In 2000, US researchers claimed to have found bacteria that had remained in suspended animation for 250 million years in salt crystals. But the claim was disputed almost as soon as it was made.

Microbiologist Dr Scott Rogers, of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, US, was unsurprised by the study, saying his own team had obtained similar dates for ancient fungal organisms they had recovered in ice.

Viable and perhaps actively growing microorganisms are also thought to survive in the depths of Lake Vostok in Antarctica. If so, they may have been isolated from outside communities of microorganisms for up to one million years.

Studying the distributions and numbers of fungal organisms in cores could tell scientists about past climatic conditions on Earth, say the authors of the study.

Project Aims At Genetically Engineered God


SF artist tries to find Almighty on tree of life beside bacteria, slime mold

by Jeanne Carstensen, SF Gate

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Researchers in San Francisco have announced that they are on the verge of genetically engineering God.

Hailing the effort as a "major simultaneous breakthrough in the fields of science and religion," the International Association for Divine Taxonomy (IADT) has "developed a novel method of genetic engineering that may soon allow scientists to place God on the tree of life alongside every other species, including slime molds, fungi and humans."

The goal is "accurate placement ... of all deities worldwide, including the god commonly known as Yahweh, Jehovah and/or Allah," -- or, for scientific purposes, Divineus deus -- in order to end centuries of often violent conflict between faith and reason.

No, this isn't something out of an article from The Onion. It's the latest "thought experiment" by San Francisco art critic and conceptual artist Jonathon Keats, 33, whose recent projects include selling shares of the 6 billion neurons in his brain ("Brain Trust," 2003) and trying to convince the Berkeley City Council to pass an unbreakable law, Aristotle's A=A (Every Entity Is Equal to Itself, 2002).

In his newest brain game, "The God Project," which opened at the Modernism gallery in San Francisco on Sept. 29, Keats reappropriates the core principles of science and religion in the name of art. Part process-based art (the artist conducted lab experiments, met with scientists and created and administrated the IADT), part documentation (the final work includes meticulous photographs and charts and a lab installation as art object) and part Dada-esque performance (read further), "God" manages to reduce the Almighty behind today's headlines of violent holy wars and creationism vs. evolution to a few slimy splotches in a petri dish; it skewers the godlike pretensions of genetic science as well.

It all began about three years ago, when Keats was pondering the "simple question" of the taxonomy of God.

If religion claims that there is a God and that "God is material and has an ontological status equivalent to this table," the artist reasoned, and science holds that the scientific method can be used to understand everything about anything -- "anything material," that is, since science doesn't recognize a spiritual realm -- then God must be scientifically quantifiable and therefore phylogenetically locatable on the tree of life.

A lesser mind might have folded up his tent at this point, grappling as he was with the schism between religion and science that has befuddled humankind for centuries, especially because the artist admits knowing absolutely nothing about the disciplines involved. But Keats was undeterred, because, as he says, "a sort of profound ignorance is a good working methodology, at least for me."

"In the case of God, we didn't have any DNA," Keats explains in his Nob Hill home, which doubles as the office of the International Association for Divine Taxonomy (IADT), the organization he created to pursue his research. Dressed in his signature suit, vest and bow tie, with wisps of red hair falling foppishly across his wire-rimmed glasses, he sits at a small wooden desk of the kind Darwin might have used to jot down notes about beaks of finches from the Galapagos Islands. Cluttered bookshelves fill the walls of the small office, along with an antique wood-and-glass cabinet containing the artist's collection of absinthe spoons, opium pipes and other curiosities.

Opposite the desk, Keats' experiment, the first-ever attempt to genetically engineer God, is under way. A rather low-tech affair, four bell-shaped glass containers sit in a neat row on a small wooden shelf under a fluorescent plant light. The containers are connected by wires to a row of four cassette-tape recorders on a shelf above.

"Gene sequencing is the basis for the phylogenetic tree as it now stands," Keats continues, so, without access to God's DNA, "the question is, How could I be modern -- how could I genetically engineer God?"

The tree of life includes three domains -- bacteria, archaea (organisms similar to bacteria), and eucarya (animals, plants, fungi) -- but Keats believes a fourth, divinea, should be added that would include not only Divineus deus but also Brahma, Zeus and all the other gods, pagan and otherwise. "For the sake of preventing the arguments that take place when you pit one god against another, I am accepting any and all gods until proven otherwise," Keats says.

"My hypothesis is that the gods pertain to a domain unto themselves different from the others," he continues, but the question is, where?

Luckily, Keats had access to "the extensive field notes about God left by Jesus, Mohammed and other experts."

"According to most accounts, God came first, and God created heaven and earth," the artist says, "and blue-green algae, or cyanobacterium, is the first species in the fossil record," so he believes it makes sense that God could be genetically similar to the single-celled waifs. On the other hand, he adds, "lots of people were pointing out to me that God created man in his own image, according to the Bible," which would place God closer to the animals in the eucarya domain, phylogenetically speaking.

To test his hypotheses, all that remained was to get ahold of some Divineus deus DNA. Coincidentally, Keats stumbled onto a standard genetic-engineering technique called continuous in vitro evolution, a process used to accelerate useful mutations in bacteria, such as to metabolize oil, by exposing them to favorable conditions.

But for Keats, the procedure had much greater possibilities: if he were to expose a species with godlike attributes, such as cyanobacterium, to "conditions that were amenable to God," he could examine the organisms for signs of "omnipresence," or population growth, and thus mutate the most godlike species into God.

"By general agreement, worship is considered amenable to God," Keats explains, gesturing to the cassette machines, which are steadily exposing each bacteria sample under the bell jar to a different tape loop of religious chants -- the Jewish Shema, the Christian Kyrie and the Muslim Allahu Akbar; the fourth bell jar, the control group, gets a secular soundtrack of live talk radio.

Keats also wanted to run another experiment exposing humans to worship, but, he says, "humans just don't reproduce quickly enough, and they don't do so in ways that conform to laboratory standards -- plus, you have to feed and clothe them." So the artist decided he would try to mutate fruit flies into God instead, because they are close genetic cousins to human beings.

Both cyanobacterium and fruit flies, it turns out, exhibited active omnipresence when exposed to worship for 14 days. Interestingly, in both of the IADT's initial pilot studies, the Kyrie seemed to be "an especially effective prayer," although Keats is quick to point out the limitations in his methodology. "It would be scientifically irresponsible to say that the Christian prayer is better than the Muslim and Jewish, because you have only one prayer for each of the religions. It may be that within the Jewish tradition, for example, the Shema isn't the best prayer for genetic engineering -- nobody said that it was."

The results of these two pilot studies can be studied in detail in the "Annals of the International Association for Divine Taxonomy," available from the Modernism gallery for $40; an IADT membership is included in the purchase. The hardbound book includes black-and-white photographs of the cyanobacterium and fruit-fly experiments, as well as diagrams of Keats' versions of the phylogenetic tree with the Divinea domain, surely the greatest contribution to taxonomy since Linnaeus.

"The God Project" was also documented by San Francisco filmmaker Paul Lundahl in stereoscopic video (QuickTime).**

Needless to say, Keats' discovery that "continuous in vitro evolution has the potential to mutate known species into gods," as he writes in the "Annals," is an invitation to further experimentation.

For example, Keats wonders whether using higher-quality prayer recordings -- MP3 files, say, instead of the analog versions played on old answering-machine cassettes that he used in his pilot studies -- would induce faster mutations and, he adds, "come up with something more godlike than what I'm getting."

"Remember that for an organism to achieve true omnipresence, it would need to reproduce at the speed of light or faster," he points out. "Otherwise, from the big bang to the present, it would be impossible for a being that has been here from the beginning of time to be everywhere."

But Keats himself won't be heading back to the lab anytime soon; he sees his role from here on out as purely bureaucratic. "I will remain executive director of the IADT, which remains the world central clearinghouse for this kind of research," he says, but he adds that it's up to others "to emulate it or develop different methodologies at a much more fine-grained level."

For copies of the "Annals of the International Association for Divine Taxonomy" and other information about "The God Project," contact Modernism, 685 Market St., SF, CA 94105; (415) 541-0461.

**To view stereoscopic video in its full bicameral wonder, the left video needs to be isolated to the left eye and the right video to the right eye. One simple way to do that is to use "binoculars" made from toilet-paper rolls. Or buy a viewer, available from this stereophotography specialty Web site. Some people, however, can "freeview" without glasses -- do an online search for "3D parallel-viewing method cross-eyed method" for advice.

Paul Lundahl's "The God Project" is available in a limited-edition DVD equipped with a foldout Loreo Lites viewer.

Dover curriculum move likely a first


Even some supporters of intelligent design suggest the board might have overstepped.

Daily Record/Sunday News
Wednesday, October 20, 2004


When the Dover Area School Board voted to require the teaching of intelligent design Monday night, it likely became the first district in the United States to do so.

Until now, the battleground over intelligent design — the theory that all life was created by a divine being — has been largely fought in states such as Kansas and Ohio.

But with Dover's 6-to-3 vote in favor of teaching alternative theories to evolution, "including, but not limited to, intelligent design," the battle lines might have shifted to include York County.

Eugenie Scott, director of the California-based National Center for Science Education, an organization that closely monitors challenges to evolutionary theory, has been following the issue in Dover since June.

Both she and her counterparts at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute — a staunch proponent of intelligent design — say this is the first time they know of where a school district has required the teaching of the theory.

Scott said she believes intelligent design proponents are now looking for a test case to defend the issue in court.

"And Dover may be that guinea pig," she said.

School board member Bill Buckingham is the chief architect of Dover's newly revised biology curriculum that states "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life will not be taught."

The devout Christian admitted that before presenting the revised curriculum to the board, he had been talking to a conservative Michigan law firm that is interested in defending an intelligent design legal challenge.

But he said those on the other side of the debate are also interested in a battle on the issue as well.

"We just happen to be at the head of the pack right now," he said. "So it might be us."

Buckingham said Tuesday night that he has been promised legal support by the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, a law firm that champions such issues as school prayer and "promoting public morality."

But those at the Discovery Institute, who have also advised Buckingham on the issue, said the board member might have overstepped his bounds.

John West, Discovery's associate director for science and culture, said intelligent design is still a fairly new concept. Consequently, he said, his organization prefers that school districts require the full, fair teaching of evolution, including the flaws.

"We don't endorse or support what the Dover School District has done," West said. "This is not what we recommend."

Buckingham agreed he had been in touch with the Discovery Institute, but when the idea of establishing intelligent design as part of the curriculum emerged, he turned to the law center.

No one at the Thomas More Law Center returned phone calls for comment Tuesday.

However, both the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State — who say they are closely monitoring the situation in Dover — point out that if the school district were to lose a legal battle, its taxpayers could end up footing the plaintiff's costly legal bills.

"My response to that is what price is freedom?" Buckingham said. "Sometimes you have to take a stand."

* * *

The issue began in June when Buckingham rejected a biology textbook because, he said, "it was laced with Darwinism."

Soon after, he suggested the book, "Of Pandas and People: The Central question of Biological Origins" be used in biology class as a supplement to any textbook.

Two weeks ago, after much controversy, anonymous sources donated 50 copies of the "Pandas" book to Dover Area High School to be used as a reference materials.

At the same time, the board curriculum committee met several times with Assistant Supt. Michael Baksa and a group of teachers over the past six months. They talked about everything from the "Pandas" book, intelligent design and evolution.

Board members directed the teachers to come up with a change in the curriculum that would open the door for discussion about competing theories to evolution, Baksa said.

They also said they wanted to change the curriculum to say there were problems with Darwin's theory of evolution.

But the sentence about intelligent design was added by committee members Buckingham, Alan Bonsell and Sheila Harkins at a meeting not attended by district staff.

After seeing the revision, Baksa said, teachers took it out, but board members put it back in before Tuesday's meeting.

Ultimately, Scott said, the problem is that the theory of intelligent design depends on a creator.

"They're not talking little green men, this is God," she said. "Intelligent design is just a sham to get creationism into the curriculum."

However, Scott said, the curriculum requirement is so poorly worded that teachers who oppose teaching intelligent design can take advantage of it.

The way the sentence reads, teachers appear to be actually required to teach the "gaps/problems" in intelligent design, she said.

Scott said the intelligent design movement is politically motivated and has little standing with the mainstream scientific community.

"But even if they haven't convinced the scientific community, they have been able to convince the politicians," she said of Buckingham and other school board members across the country.

"And that's too bad for the students in Dover," Scott said.

Reach Lauri Lebo at 771-2092 or llebo@ydr.com.


The concept of "intelligent design," is the idea that many aspects of life are too complex to have occurred randomly and therefore must have been created by a divine being. Its supporters say teaching it in the classroom is about fairness, giving equal time to competing theories.

But others argue intelligent design is an attempt to introduce creationism through the back door and violates the First Amendment's prohibition against the state establishment of religion.

The U.S. Supreme Court last ruled on the subject in 1987, when it determined a Louisiana law requiring creationism to be given equal time to evolution was unconstitutional "because (the law) lacks a clear secular purpose."

The concept of intelligent design emerged after the 17-year-old ruling, and its teaching in the schools has not yet been addressed by the courts.

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

Current News  News Back Issues

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