NTS LogoSkeptical News for 8 November 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Monday, November 08, 2004

'We were suckered in,' widow says of doctor


Posted on Sun, Nov. 07, 2004

Alternative medicine Dr. James Shortt of West Columbia under scrutiny in 2nd death


Staff Writer

A heralded, retired Boeing engineer dying of prostate cancer went to a West Columbia alternative medicine doctor last year believing unconventional therapies would prolong his life.

Instead, what Mike Bate received from Dr. James M. Shortt was a treatment that might have fed his cancer, instructions on how to find and use an illegal cancer drug, a false assertion he had Lyme disease and a $26,000 bill, according to his widow, doctor and medical records.

A proud, accomplished man, Michael Andrew Robertson Bate died July 21 at age 66, feeling a fool.

"It's unbelievable to me how an articulate, well-read man could be duped like this," said his widow, Janet Bate of Columbia, also a patient Shortt treated for Lyme, a disease caused by tick bites. "We were suckered in."

"If he's taken in," said her Columbia attorney, Richard Gergel, "what hope is there for people less sophisticated?"

Janet Bate, 65, wants to warn others about the perils of desperation medicine.

The alternative medicine doctor declined interview requests made through his Columbia attorney, Ward Bradley. But about a half-dozen of his patients have written The State newspaper with testimonials of how Shortt has helped, even saved them.

"I owe you my life," wrote patient LuAnn Theinert, a former registered nurse who said Shortt treated her for infections.

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said he has opened an investigation into Bate's death and has subpoenaed his medical records.

The state Board of Medical Examiners is trying to suspend Shortt's license. The board cites Shortt's treatment of Bate and a Minnesota woman, Katherine Bibeau, who died March 14 after Shortt infused her with hydrogen peroxide to treat her multiple sclerosis.

Watts ruled Bibeau's death a homicide. No charges have been filed at this time.

After authorities raided his office files Sept. 22, Shortt defended his hydrogen peroxide infusions, saying they are "incredibly safe." He also said he has treated 2,200 patients with them. He has said little else publicly.

The state's efforts to suspend his license are cloaked in secrecy in the closed proceedings of the S.C. Administrative Law Court. State law keeps disciplinary actions against doctors confidential until a final decision is made.

Meanwhile, the board lists Shortt as a physician in good standing, with no disciplinary violations. He continues to treat patients.


Mike Bate always talked about living "to at least 130," his widow said.

His father died at age 96 and his mother, now 91, is in good health in their native Canada.

"After the (cancer) diagnosis, he was on the Internet four to eight hours a day looking up everything he could about alternative medicine so that, as he put it, he could stay above ground," Janet Bate said, fighting tears and smiling at his macabre humor.

Phillip Baldwin, Mike Bate's Columbia oncologist, said Bate was not resigned to the ugly medical reality of his incurable condition.

"Mr. Bate was one of those who was looking for magic and miracles," Baldwin said. "The Internet is full of miracles, and that made him prime prey."

Bate was an electrical engineer whose profession and nature were to research, analyze and solve intricate problems.

He worked 37 years for Boeing, becoming a senior company representative to the Federal Aviation Administration, a spokesman for Boeing said. He had two master's degrees.

Bate was a Type A personality: intelligent, take-charge, intense, quick-witted. He was not the type to let life happen to him.

A voracious reader, he especially consumed books on health — collecting 200, Janet Bate said in interviews last month.

Mike Bate didn't mind bucking mainstream notions.

His fashion sense — especially his taste for powder blue, polyester leisure suits — stood out among the sea of black-and-white attire of other engineers, said Boeing colleague Kelly Kronberg.

"I just can't believe anything would slip by him unless he was just desperately vulnerable," said Kronberg, who worked with Bate for six years in Everett, Wash.

In June 2002, the Bates retired to Northeast Richland, and the warmth of South Carolina, to be near Janet Bate's children from a first marriage.

They were shocked to learn a year later Mike Bate had prostate cancer that had spread into his bone marrow.

There seemed to be little hope.


Bate's first meeting with Shortt was a chance encounter.

During autumn 2003, Bate visited an office at 3901 Edmund Highway, thinking he would be seeing a West Columbia natural healer recommended to him.

Instead, Bate was greeted by Shortt, who had taken over the office space near Columbia Metropolitan Airport and opened his Health Dimensions practice, Janet Bate said.

The foot-tall block letters on the brick exterior announced: "LONGEVITY PHYSICIAN," precisely what Mike Bate was seeking.

Her husband had remembered Shortt's name from some of his Internet searches and had planned to consult him later, Janet Bate said.

She said the doctor told her husband he didn't treat cancer patients, though a summary of Shortt's medical practice posted as part of a 2001 speakers list on the Cancer Control Society's Web site says the opposite.

The doctor, who was dismissive of conventional treatment methods, promised no cures, Janet Bate said.

But Shortt offered that he could help Bate become healthier and live longer by flushing toxins from his body, she said.

Her husband came home excited at the prospects. He was impressed with Shortt's manner and encyclopedic knowledge.

"He was always offering hope. That's the one thing Dr. Shortt did right," she said. "He provided the hope that kept Michael going — false hope, we now know."

Bate began twice-weekly infusions. At least eight of them were hydrogen peroxide, called oxygenation treatments, Janet Bate learned after her husband's death, when she reviewed the records he kept of his treatments.

Alternative medicine advocates say hydrogen peroxide kills toxins in the bloodstream when taken internally or intravenously. But mainstream medicine says it can attack the body's coagulating functions.

Bate had barely survived hemorrhaging caused by his cancer just months before he began seeing Shortt. Shortt knew that, Janet Bate said.

Bate's heavy bleeding was the worst Baldwin, his oncologist, had seen in 25 years as a physician.

Janet Bate became a Shortt patient later, after a lab test he ordered showed she had Lyme, a disease with symptoms similar to her chronic fatigue. She released a copy of the positive test results to The State.

She had been debilitated by more than 20 years of battles with asthma, infections, acid reflux disease and general pain.

Conventional treatments had helped only a little, she said.


Just inside the door at Shortt's office, patients are escorted into an "infusion room" for their 1½- to 3-hour intravenous treatments, Janet Bate said.

Four large French-blue recliners anchor the corners of the room. About a dozen black, vinyl lounge chairs equipped with optional massage and soothing heat fill the rest of the room.

Shortt and his staff tell patients their treatments work better if they are prone.

The infusions were described to patients as various combinations of nutrients, hydrogen peroxide, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and other bacteria-fighting, immune-boosting compounds, according to police, Janet Bate and other patients.

DMSO is an anti-inflammatory liquid the skin absorbs quickly. It generally is used externally on horses and other animals for lameness.

The Spartan infusion room has few distractions, so patients talked with each other and became almost like family, Janet Bate said.

"It was an atmosphere where I felt so connected," she said. "There was a sense of total trust."

The staff, particularly the primary infusion nurse, created a friendly atmosphere with humor, compassion and consummate salesmanship, she said.

Patients got reams of handouts — reports that spoke to the rewards of alternative medicine, she said. Some were transcripts of testimony before Congress.

"When you read those things you think, 'That makes sense, and it was said before Congress.'

"That's when you think doctor Shortt is a forward-thinking doctor," Janet Bate said.

She said she later realized much of the literature came from Web sites and cited science questioned by mainstream medicine.

But in winter 2004, the Bates had no doubts about Shortt. They trusted him when he told Janet Bate she had Lyme in April, and Mike, in May.

Shortt prescribed more infusions. Each time the couple was infused, they received one to three bags of compounds intravenously, she said.

Each treatment cost between $75 and $350.

Supplements and immune boosters were offered for sale —joint revitalizers, dandelion root, coloidal silver and una de gato (Spanish for cat's claw), among others.

Shortt also advised his patients his treatments would not be covered by insurance, Janet Bate said. They could pay by cash, check or credit card. Patients did not leave without paying, she said.

During eight months of treatment, beginning Nov. 13, 2003, Mike and Janet Bate paid at least $25,836, she said.

That does not include prescriptions and other supplements.


During the first months of treatment by Shortt, the Bates felt better, especially Mike.

"You would not have known he had cancer," his wife said. "He looked good, like he used to."

He had regained the ability to walk unassisted. He traveled.

But by May 2004, after 40 treatments, his pain was intensifying and he was back to using a walker.

To treat the pain, Shortt wrote Mike Bate a prescription for testosterone cream to be rubbed into the skin, Janet Bate said. She released a copy of the prescription to The State.

After the first time her husband used it, his gray hair began darkening at the roots and he grew new hair. He applied the cream twice more, his wife said.

A little more than a week later, Mike Bate had his weekly test from his oncologist to track the blood protein that indicates cancer growth. His reading had shot up by more than five times, his wife and doctor said.

Oncologist Baldwin said conventional treatment had dropped Bate's protein reading to a near normal rate in early November 2003, about a week before he went to Shortt.

By late June 2004, Baldwin said the reading had "skyrocketed," though it was still lower than before the conventional therapy, which inhibits testosterone production, began.

The oncologist couldn't explain the dramatic jump, Janet Bate said. She and her husband had kept the testosterone treatments a family secret.

The prostate gland is important in male sexual performance, and studies show testosterone, the male sex hormone, stimulates cancer in that organ.

"You don't ever give them testosterone," Baldwin said of prostate cancer victims. "That's an appalling, irrational choice of therapy."

Bate lived 13 months after he learned in June 2003 his condition was terminal, Baldwin said. On average, he said, men in Bate's situation would live about two years.

Yet Baldwin, interviewed last month with Janet Bate's permission, stopped short of saying Shortt's testosterone treatments hastened Bate's end. Coroner Watts said his investigation is incomplete.


Mike Bate's desperation also drove him to seek the illegal cancer drug Laetrile, often referred to as B-17, she said.

He had read about intravenous treatments given in Mexico.

Laetrile is made from the kernels of fruits or nuts. It contains cyanide, and several poisoning cases have been reported, according to the American Cancer Society's Web site.

When the Bates asked Shortt how to get it, Shortt explained "hypothetically" that a doctor could be prosecuted for helping a patient get the drug, Janet Bate said.

"At that point, doctor Shortt wrote something on a piece of paper and slid it across the table," she said. "Mike and I both looked at it and recognized it as a phone number."

On the advice of Gergel, her lawyer who is preparing a malpractice lawsuit, she would not release the number of the Laetrile source or the source's location.

Mike Bate called the number from their home and told the man who answered he had gotten it from Shortt, she recalled.

The man on the line "interrogated me to be sure I was not a fed (federal agent)," Janet Bate said her husband told her.

Within three weeks, two bottles containing 100 pills each arrived at the Bate home.

But the drug had no instructions on dosage or when to take it.

Shortt told them he would have to learn more and later wrote down the instructions and gave them to Mike Bate, Janet Bate said. She kept the note, turned it over to authorities and gave a copy of it to The State.

She also said Shortt told her husband Laetrile was effective generally in the early stages of cancer and when taken intravenously.

Neither applied to Mike Bate.


In Bate's final weeks — after he realized his decisions had worsened his life — he was crushed, Janet Bate said.

Baldwin had told him tests showed his cancer had grown very aggressive.

"He walked around the house crying, and said, 'Now I'm dead, Janet. Dead man walking,'" she said.

But her husband did not want his oncologist to know about the testosterone treatment. "He swore me to secrecy because he thought he would be a complete fool," she said.

Mike Bate also feared that if Medicare found out, the government would demand repayment for his conventional treatments.

When he went into Palmetto Health Richland's cancer center for the last time in June, Mike Bate decided to be re-tested for Lyme.

Shortt's staff, employing tests he ordered from an out-of-state laboratory, told the couple during the spring that the disease can be contracted through sexual contact as well as other means, Janet Bate said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the disease can be transmitted only by ticks. The Bates had not been bitten by ticks.

Until Mike Bate's final hospital stay, the couple had no reason to doubt they had Lyme, she said.

"I actually told the nurses he had an infectious disease and that they needed to wear gloves when they took his blood," she said. "That's how convinced I was."

When the new test results came back, Mike Bate learned he did not have Lyme, records Janet Bate released to The State show.

Still, she trusted Shortt enough to return for another treatment after her husband's June 21 death.

After the initial shock and grief of the loss of her "soul mate," Janet Bate decided to have herself re-tested for Lyme.

On Sept. 10, she learned she, too, did not have the disease, even though Shortt had continued to treat her for it, she said. She released a copy of the negative test to The State.

Even if the Bates had been cured by Shortt's treatment, the new tests would have detected antibodies from such a recent encounter with the disease, said Dr. Jerry Gibson, state epidemiologist and director of the Bureau of Disease Control.

When Janet Bate thinks back, she can't believe how far she and her husband dropped their guard. "We thought of ourselves as bright, articulate people."

Yet they accepted Shortt's dismissal of conventional medicine. They never got a second opinion.

They believed their doctor.

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664 or cleblanc@thestate.com.

Cobb County's evolution stickers face court challenge


Posted on Sun, Nov. 07, 2004

Associated Press

ATLANTA - Science textbooks in suburban Cobb County warn students that evolution is "a theory, not a fact." The controversial disclaimer faces a court challenge Monday from a parent who argues the stickers promote the teaching of creationism.

Cobb school officials will defend their 2002 decision to place the stickers in textbooks, which they say simply encourages students to keep an open mind. The trial, in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, is expected to last four days.

The stickers read, "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

They didn't go over well with at least six parents, who filed a lawsuit with the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"I'm a strong advocate for the separation of church and state," one of the parents, Jeffrey Selman, told the Marietta Daily Journal. "I have no problem with anybody's religious beliefs. I just want an adequate educational system."

In his lawsuit, Selman and the ACLU argue that evolution has been singled out for religious reasons. Gravity, they point out, is also a theory, but there's no sticker about that in science books.

The Cobb school board adopted the stickers because three science texts they adopted in 2002 were criticized by some parents for presenting evolution as fact. More than 2,000 people signed a petition opposing the biology texts because they did not discuss alternative theories, including creationism.

Seven months later, Cobb school officials approved a policy allowing "broad-based curriculum" in schools, including creationism. The decision brought national media attention to the county.

Evolution has long been a hot topic for Georgia schools. Earlier this year, Georgia Secretary of Education Kathy Cox said a new state science curriculum would drop the word "evolution" and replace it with "changes over time." Cox and state school officials quickly changed their minds after a storm of criticism from science teachers and national media.

A lawyer for Cobb County schools, Linwood Gunn, said he expects the evolution stickers will hold up in court.

He said the stickers "improve the curriculum while also promoting an attitude of tolerance for those that have different religious beliefs."

© 2004 AP Wire and wire service sources. http://www.macon.com

Rewrite Dover science policy


Sunday, November 7, 2004

Because I write curriculum, I have been conducting informal research about what people remember about their educations. Surprisingly little, if my survey is representative.

Ransacking my own high school memories, a few classes stand out. One was black literature. I vaguely remember books we read, but I'll never forget the day we arranged our chairs like seats on a bus. I don't recall whether I sat in the front or the back of the bus, but I left class in tears.

I scarcely remember the presentation I gave on Jeremy Bentham in political science, but I vividly remember our discussions of Charles Reich's "The Greening of America" with its predictions that barefoot hippies in bellbottoms would usher in the third consciousness. I'll never forget the day Rick Bergman (who fought for corporate America then but now works as a liberal talk show host in Pittsburgh) and Jerry Strauss (peace-loving antiestablishmentarianist) jumped out of their seats, screaming at each other with raised fists.

During my first biology class, the teacher announced homework, "Devise an experiment to prove/disprove the existence of God." I was eager for that second biology class until the teacher said, "Since you can't prove or disprove the existence of God, no one will mention God during this class." That's the only thing I remember about the 150 hours I spent in that class.

Every curricular objective should be evaluated for wording and content. In assessing an objective's content, these questions are vital: Does this objective enhance learning? Is it something teachers will actually do behind closed doors? Will it engage students? How should student understanding be assessed? In evaluating Dover Area School District's recent revision of its biology curriculum, another question has surfaced: Is it legal?

Dover's new biology objective passes some of these tests and fails others.

Its wording is ambiguous: "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." It seems to label intelligent design as an "other theory of evolution." I've spent decades interpreting, scrounging through people's words to understand their meanings, but I can't decipher that phrase. More broadly, the objective seems to advocate teaching students about the problems in Darwinian theories but not the problems in intelligent design theories, which is inappropriate, and probably illegal.

If a political science teacher presents the problems of the Democratic and Republican parties and makes students aware of the Libertarian party, without critiquing that party's strengths and weaknesses, that teacher has overstepped constitutional bounds. If a teacher makes students aware of the problems of heterosexual marriage and uncritically presents an alternative in same-sex relationships, that teacher is in trouble. Public school science curriculum that assesses the weaknesses of Darwinism must also assess the weaknesses of competing theories.

Perhaps, however, the school board wants students to learn about the unanswered questions prompted by Darwinian theory, intelligent design and other theories. If so, it could be worded more clearly: Students will analyze theoretical models that attempt to organize data and answer questions about (fill in the blank with fossil records, genetics, the origin of species or even the origin of life, which Dover has opted against teaching). Such an objective would be legal, since Edwards v. Aguillard affirms, "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction."

Would such an objective truly enhance science instruction? The essence of science is problem-solving, through hypothesis and experimentation. That is why the National Science standards have changed their emphases: "From knowing scientific facts and information," to "Understanding scientific concepts and developing abilities of inquiry"; "From activities that demonstrate and verify science content," to "Activities that investigate and analyze science questions." Discussing the unanswered questions posed by Darwinism and intelligent design and researching studies that explore those unanswered questions is effective science instruction.

And it will engage students. Note the passionate debate this topic has sparked in the newspaper for many months. Readers have tracked down quotes, looked up facts and sorted through research. Why would we want anything less for our students?

The school board should consult their teachers since this objective will flounder without their support. The teachers should reword the objective and develop a tool for assessing student understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of both theoretical models. Then the teachers should referee student debate. I guarantee no one will sleep through class that day.

Nancy Snyder lives in York City.

Court Challenge on Evolution Opens Monday


November 7, 2004 By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ATLANTA (AP) -- School officials in suburban Cobb County go to court Monday to defend themselves against a lawsuit accusing the district of promoting religion by requiring that science textbooks warn students evolution is ``a theory, not a fact.''

The trial in U.S. District Court is expected to last four days.

The lawsuit argues that the disclaimer restricts the teaching of evolution, promotes the teaching of creationism and discriminates against particular religions.

County school officials said their warning, in the form of stickers inserted in science books, simply encourages students to keep an open mind.

The stickers read: ``This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.''

The lawsuit was filed by six parents and the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

``I'm a strong advocate for the separation of church and state,'' said one of the parents, Jeffrey Selman. ``I have no problem with anybody's religious beliefs. I just want an adequate educational system.''

The school board adopted the disclaimer after three science texts it adopted in 2002 were criticized by some parents for presenting evolution as fact. More than 2,000 people signed a petition opposing the biology texts because they did not discuss alternative theories, including creationism.

A lawyer for Cobb County schools, Linwood Gunn, said he expects the disclaimer will hold up in court.

He said the stickers ``improve the curriculum while also promoting an attitude of tolerance for those that have different religious beliefs.''

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism was a religious belief that could not be taught in public schools along with evolution.

In April, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper refused to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the school district's disclaimers could have the effect of advancing or inhibiting religion.

The judge applied a test handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971. In order to get the lawsuit dismissed, the school board had to show that the disclaimer was adopted with a secular purpose, that its primary effect neither advances nor inhibits religion, and that it does not result in an excessive entanglement of government with religion.

Cooper said the school board satisfied him only on the first issue.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Creationist sees clear proof in volcano


Ex-pastor's small museum lets doctrine speak for itself

Saturday, October 9, 2004


SILVER LAKE -- So near the mountain, as close to the wrongheaded center of secular geology as a red-light-district preacher is to vice, the creationist admits he'd expected a little more business when Mount St. Helens began acting up.

For the past few days, the Seven Wonders Museum has been quiet as motorists -- Lloyd Anderson calls them "thrill seekers" -- speed east, right past his roadside marquee along state Route 504 on their way to see the mountain vent steam and ash.

"This is where they can get the truth," said the former pastor and now curator of the region's only museum devoted to creationist doctrine. "I wonder, are they really looking for true science when it comes to the historicity of the Earth?"

Founded in 1998, the two-room, 1,400-square-foot museum is Anderson's attempt to make a counterpoint to the visitors centers, bookstores, gift shops, eruption theaters and conventional geologists swarming around the country's most active volcano.

On the shelves in the museum, in a small, neat, main room, are DVDs and books by leading creation theorists with titles such as "Darwinism and Design" and "Scopes: Creationism on Trial." The newly completed den in the rear is for the slide shows Anderson gives to religious and homeschools that visit.

The centerpiece is the Seven Wonders display on the walls, with photos and text written by Anderson.

It shows in stages that the events after the 1980 eruption -- forests laid bare, new lakes -- demonstrate that evolution is the wacky idea, not creation.

St. Helens is proof positive, Anderson asserts, that the world was built just as the Bible says. Six 24- hour days. Notice the speed of the destruction, only hours to take down half a mountain. Look at the valleys carved in the Toutle Canyon, plowed in an afternoon.

"Gosh, I was hoping a reporter would stop by," the tall, smiling, gregarious Anderson said, walking forward quickly with his hand extended as a visitor approached his otherwise empty place. "You're talking to one of the most knowledgeable guys on the mountain."

Anderson is what is known as a "young-Earth creationist" -- people who largely interpret the Bible literally and who see the Earth as 6,000 to 10,000 years old. Yes, Noah's Ark existed. Yes, the flood covered the planet. Old-Earth creationists agree with evolutionary theory, that the world is 4.5 billion years old, but assert that God started the ball rolling.

A 69-year-old former Ballard resident, Anderson speaks emphatically and fast, marshaling details like soldiers on a forced march through each sentence.

Past conversations are recalled not only for content but for time. A 45-minute prayer session that led to the museum's start. A 95-minute phone call that told him how to begin.

Admission to the museum is free. If people ask, he'll drive with them to the mountain to show them how the sedimentary layers that formed quickly after the post-eruption mudflows match those in the Grand Canyon and didn't take millions of years to form, as "secular geologists claim."

He's off and running now. An avalanche of words connecting dinosaurs to DNA theory to tougher human diseases to a weakened planetary magnetic field to former President Reagan pauses only for a deep breath. Anderson is a man used to pushing his point to people who might not believe as strongly as he does.

People such as his own children, particularly his daughter, Michelle.

A Seattle resident who works in the finance department of Swedish Medical Center's Ballard branch, the 42-year-old said she's happy that in retirement, her mom and dad have found something meaningful and rewarding.

Although unsure of her own beliefs in a deity, she said she's "proud" of her father for following his faith so closely that he founded a museum.

"I'm happy for them," she said. "They love what they do."

Which is true, Anderson agrees. Although he despairs for those who don't believe as he does, he's convinced that God directed him to St. Helens for a reason: so he could be in a better place to show people that creationism makes sense. The 1980 eruption "was not a message of judgment, it was a message of instruction."

He points out that he and his wife bought their property -- their small home is attached to the Seven Wonders Museum -- the same year that the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument opened its Johnston Ridge Visitors Center.

"It just seems like the timing of God," he said, walking back out to the garage. "I'm sure we'll get busier."

P-I reporter Mike Lewis can be reached at 206-448-8140 or mikelewis@seattlepi.com

© 1998-2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Adventists offer reaffirmation on creationism


Posted on Sat, Nov. 06, 2004

By Richard N. Ostling
Associated Press

In a society where young adherents often face challenges to their beliefs, the top world authorities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church have reaffirmed the faith's insistence that fidelity to the Bible requires belief in "a literal, recent, six-day creation," no matter what conventional science says.

Recent means that life on Earth began over the relatively short time period suggested by a strictly literal reading of the Bible, "probably 7,000 to 10,000 years," though some Adventists think the planet itself could be billions of years old, explains Angel Rodriguez, director of the church's Biblical Research Institute.

And six days means just that – "literal 24-hour days forming a week identical in time to what we now experience as a week," the Adventist decree says.

The church's statement came last month, after three years of special conferences on the issue of creation. It was approved at a meeting of the Adventists' 293-member Executive Committee at the Silver Spring, Md., headquarters of the church. The faith has 13.6 million members internationally and 936,000 in the United States.

The church's Geoscience Research Institute – which develops materials to support Genesis literalism – inaugurated the conferences, but no particular event sparked it, Rodriguez said. Rather, church leaders are aware that increasing numbers of Adventists worldwide face questions at college and "need to know how we deal with these complex issues." The statement is meant to stand as a definitive directive.

It follows decades of debate over Darwin's evolution theory in American churches and schools – and certainly won't be the last word.

Skeptics and liberals see Genesis as outright myth, while many religionists meld the Bible's account with Darwinism. The creationist movement, launched by Adventists and others in the 1960s, champions the "young earth" timescale. Other critics of Darwin consider creationism an implausible distraction scientifically, and pursue evidence for an "intelligent design" in nature that implies a divine cause.

The Adventist church's very name proclaims its strict observance of Saturday as the Sabbath, which is fused with a literalism on creation. That, in turn, "interlocks with other doctrines" – as the new statement puts it – creating the foundation for Adventist belief.

Editor Bonnie Dwyer of Spectrum, an independent Adventist magazine, calls it a doctrinal domino theory that hinges on creationism.

Why is this one belief so particularly strong for Adventists?

The answer stems from the faith's special belief that founder Ellen G. White was a modern prophet who correctly interpreted the Bible. White (1827-1915) was a native of Maine and prolific writer who reported more than 2,000 divinely given visions and dreams. In one, White wrote in 1864, she was "carried back to the creation and was shown that the first week, in which God performed the work of creation in six days and rested on the seventh day, was just like every other week."

Ronald L. Numbers, a University of Wisconsin science historian who was raised Adventist, notes that even in the 19th century, White's position was at odds with prevailing science. Early in the 1800s, experts had agreed upon a vast age for the Earth and for life forms found in fossils, later reinforced by techniques such as radiometric dating. In Darwin's "On the Origin of Species," published five years before White's writing, the hugely ancient earth allowed time for natural selection.

Many conservative Christians were shocked by evolutionary theory but had little trouble accommodating an old earth with biblical faith. In 1909, both the Vatican and the "Scofield Reference Bible," hugely influential among fundamentalists and evangelicals, said Genesis is literal history – but without requiring a young Earth or 24-hour days.

Today, there are few young Earth creationists among the 1,800 evangelical scientists in the American Scientific Affiliation, a non-denominational group that believes in God as creator and "the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible."

ASA President Martin Price reasons that God revealed himself both through the Bible and "through the creation which he made. Correctly understood, these can't be in conflict." So, if science has solid evidence against 10,000 years or six days, such interpretations of Genesis need reconsideration, he suggests.

© 2004 Journal Gazette and wire service sources.

Creation, evolution back on agenda


Posted on Sat, Nov. 06, 2004

The state school board prepares to begin considering guidelines for teaching religion in Kansas public schools.
The Wichita Eagle

One of the opening skirmishes in the State Board of Education's battle over whether science standards should require creation to be taught alongside evolution will be held next week.

The board will consider drafting guidelines for teaching about religion, which would help public schools deal with the topic without violating the separation of church and state, said board member Bill Wagnon, who suggested creating the guidelines.

But Wednesday's discussion has close ties to the coming science debate.

"I've been motivated by a deep-seated concern that people who want to have religion covered in school have gone about it in the wrong way by trying to get it into science standards," Wagnon said.

As a history professor at Washburn University, Wagnon said he often talks about religion in his American history classes.

If religion is going to be taught in public schools, Wagnon said, it should happen in social studies or a comparative religion class. In his view, the theory of intelligent design belongs in theology class, not science class, he said.

Board members Ken Willard of Hutchinson, Carol Rupe of Wichita and Steve Abrams of Arkansas City all said they think drafting standards for teaching religion might be a good idea. And they see it as a separate issue from the science debate.

"I think this is important because I think some history teachers are afraid to discuss religion because they don't know how to handle it," Rupe said.

Willard agreed.

"Right now we don't even recognize that religion has a place in life," Willard said. "We're afraid to even mention a God."

But if Kansas schools aren't interested in or can't afford to teach about religion, the standards may prove unnecessary, Abrams said.

"This may be a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," Abrams said.

Wagnon and Rupe, who are part of the board's moderate block, differ with conservatives about whether teaching the theory of intelligent design constitutes teaching religion.

Conservatives on the board think both intelligent design and evolution should be taught as scientific theories.

"They both have a place," Willard said. "Neither of them should be taught to the exclusion of the other."

And come January, the moderate view that creationism is not good science will once again be the minority view on the 10-member board.

The last time conservatives controlled the board, in 1999, Kansas endured ridicule nationwide when the board voted to de-emphasize Darwin's theory of evolution in science classes.

Voters gave moderates a 6-4 edge in the 2000 election, and the 2002 election left the board with the current 5-5 split.

Primary election victories by Abrams and Kathy Martin of Clay Center this year gave conservatives a 6-4 majority. When Wagnon narrowly won re-election this week, that ensured the ratio would not increase.

One thing that both the conservative and moderate board members can agree on is that they will debate the role of evolution and intelligent design in science class.

"That discussion will come," Willard said.

Wagnon, who originally hoped to head off the science debate with religious standards, acknowledged he hasn't succeeded.

"This is not going to solve our problems with science," he said. "We're still going to have this fight on evolution."

The board is scheduled to review and possibly revise science teaching standards, which include evolution, over the next nine months.

A draft of the science standards will be presented to the board in December. Public hearings will be held statewide in January and experts will review them in February, with the board slated to approve them in July.

Reach Josh Funk at 268-6573 or jfunk@wichitaeagle.com.

© 2004 Wichita Eagle and wire service sources.

Wisconsin district to teach more than evolution


Saturday, November 6, 2004 Posted: 9:36 PM EST (0236 GMT)

GRANTSBURG, Wisconsin (AP) -- School officials have revised the science curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism, prompting an outcry from more than 300 educators who urged that the decision be reversed.

Members of Grantsburg's school board believed that a state law governing the teaching of evolution was too restrictive. The science curriculum "should not be totally inclusive of just one scientific theory," said Joni Burgin, superintendent of the district of 1,000 students in northwest Wisconsin.

Last month, when the board examined its science curriculum, language was added calling for "various models/theories" of origin to be incorporated.

The decision provoked more than 300 biology and religious studies faculty members to write a letter last week urging the Grantsburg board to reverse the policy. It follows a letter sent previously by 43 deans at Wisconsin public universities.

"Insisting that teachers teach alternative theories of origin in biology classes takes time away from real learning, confuses some students and is a misuse of limited class time and public funds," said Don Waller, a botanist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Wisconsin law mandates that evolution be taught, but school districts are free to create their own curricular standards, said Joe Donovan, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Instruction.

There have been scattered efforts around the nation for other school boards to adopt similar measures. Last month the Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania voted to require the teaching of alternative theories to evolution, including "intelligent design" -- the idea that life is too complex to have developed without a creator.

The state education board in Kansas was heavily criticized in 1999 when it deleted most references to evolution. The decision was reversed in 2001.

In March, the Ohio Board of Education narrowly approved a lesson plan that some critics contended opens the door to teaching creationism.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Mystic Ghost's investigators are on the case


By Liz Stevens

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

In the corner of Michelle DePaul's living room stands a ghastly figure with googly eyes and a wicked smile. Next to the television, a disembodied head floats in a cauldron. The walls are draped in black.

The ghoulish decorations are preparation for DePaul's Halloween party, but the decor seems especially fitting in her Keller house. DePaul is a ghost hunter -- or, rather, a paranormal investigator, seeking out what most of us prefer to avoid like the plague.

DePaul, Kira Connally and Michelle W. (who asked that her last name not be used because of professional considerations) make up Mystic Ghost, a Tarrant County- and Web-based group that wants to prove -- to itself and to you -- that, yes, Virginia, there is an earthbound afterlife.

The trio of amateurs is pretty convinced that the evidence it's got can't be explained by conventional science: blue orbs and white mists showing up in photographs, green gaseous forms floating across video screens, bizarre dips and rises in temperature, both indoors and out.

Since forming a year ago, they've investigated (free of charge) numerous hotels and cemeteries, a Dallas restaurant and Barber's Bookstore. Even DePaul's own house.

"I really don't think that anyone can jump in and be a ghost hunter," says DePaul, 36. It takes fortitude and the ability to shut down the panic response. Negative energy feeds off fear, say the investigators, and the last thing you want to do is provide a four-course meal to an angry ghost.

Spread out on DePaul's dining room table are a thousand dollars' worth of ghost-detecting equipment. There are the basics, like cameras (from digital to disposable), flashlights and a compass. And there are the more technical items, like electromagnetic field (EMF) sensors, an infrared thermometer, shown below, digital voice recorders and video cameras with night vision.

Michelle W. explains the "theory that spirits, ghosts are just a ball of energy, so anything that has energy is going to generate an EMF around it." Even compasses are thrown off by strong EMF presences, she says.

The group was recently at the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, a favorite of ghost hunters. "At the time, some relatives of the people who built the hotel back in 1930 were there," says 27-year-old Connally, "and there was a compass sitting on the floor, spinning, poltergeist style."

DePaul sets up her video camera and plays a minute-long section of tape that she took recently in a Tarrant County cemetery. Using night vision, the camera captures an amorphous green blob, which appears momentarily, disappears and then reappears. Then the video camera begins zooming out. Except that DePaul hadn't been touching it.

"You guys," she's heard saying urgently on the video, "something really freaky is happening to my camera!"

Connally flips through a photo album she keeps with pictures from their investigations. Numerous blue and white orbs float in the pictures. DePaul plays an audiotape she made at the Baker. When she asks the spirits if they want the group to leave, she swears she hears the unearthly reply, "Not just yet" -- "clear as day," she says -- though a visitor has a hard time making anything out.

But when she plays a videotape that she took in her own darkened living room with the night-vision camera, strange white, cometlike apparitions are clearly visible, occasionally zipping across the screen. The cats seem to be watching something over their heads, too.

Mystic Ghost's members don't associate the spirits that they encounter with religious ideas of good and evil. They just believe that, for whatever reason, these spirits haven't moved on to wherever.

"I've always felt love is the deepest human emotion that you can feel," says Michelle W. "If anything is going to bring someone back, it's love."

But Connally disagrees. Other strong emotions might be a motivator, too.

"There's good and bad people. Why wouldn't there be good and bad ghosts?" she says. "If you're [infamous murderer] Charles Manson, and you die and you come back, you're not going to be Little Mary Sunshine."

Well, we can always hope.

How to look for ghosts . . . if you dare

Best not to go in search of the paranormal without doing your homework. Mystic Ghost members Michelle DePaul, Kira Connally and Michelle W. have kindly provided the following guidelines:

• Never go alone. Not necessarily because you'll be in danger from ghosts, but because you'll probably go to dark places at night and you never know whom you might run into.

• Don't drink or smoke. For one thing, cigarette smoke can look like ghosts in photographs. For another, you want your wits about you at all times.

• Act professionally. Do not trespass onto private property.

• Respect the ghosts. Don't start taking pictures or videotaping right away. Say a prayer or invocation introducing yourself and explaining why you're there. Ask permission to record their presence.

• Bring a notebook. Record your surroundings before you start. Find where the natural electromagnetic field readings are, what the ambient air temperature is and how the place sounds and feels.

• Make sure your equipment is clean and working properly. Lenses should be free of dust, fingerprints and camera straps. Pull long hair back: In photographs, close-ups of hair shafts can look like a ghost "vortex."

• Don't fool yourself. Don't take flash photographs of shiny or reflective surfaces. Don't shoot into the sun.

• Try to capture electronic voice phenomena. Allow a fresh audiotape to run for about 20 minutes. Ask questions of the spirits to evoke responses.

• Stay positive. Skeptical and/or panicked reactions generate negative energy.

• Say a prayer or invocation of protection before leaving. "We don't want those pesky ghosts following us home!" states the group's guidelines.

-- www.mysticghost.com

Liz Stevens, (817) 390-7795 lstevens@star-telegram.com




Benny Hinn was born Toufik Benedictus Hinn in the coastal city of Jaffa in Israel in 1952. He was one of eight children born to an Armenian mother and a Greek father. The family was Greek Orthodox. In 1968, they emigrated to Canada settling in Toronto and Benny, who by this time was a young teenager, began attending Georges Vanier High school, north of Toronto.

While at school, Benny befriended a group of religious students who introduced him to prayer meetings and teaching of the Gospel. Benny eventually became a Born Again Christian, despite concerns and initial opposition of his family. When he was 21, he attended a healing service in Pittsburgh headlined by evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman. She would become a major influence on his life, so much so, that he emulates her style to this day.

Benny Hinn began his healing ministry in Toronto by hosting his own evangelical program on local television. His success in Canada inspired him to travel with his healing missions. In Orlando, Florida he met and married Suzanne, the daughter of a local pastor and it was there that Benny Hinn began to build his evangelical empire.

Today he is known as Pastor Benny . Without doubt he is one of the best known and possibly richest televangelists in the world. Each year he travels the world conducting so-called miracle healing crusades that are very closely patterned to a rock concert tour.

He produces a daily television show called "This is Your Day" from his studios based in California and has written several books about his life and ministry, which he markets and sells, along with video tapes of his crusades, music CDs and bibles.

Benny Hinn is also a proponent of the Prosperity Gospel or the Word of Faith movement. As is implied by the name "Prosperity Gospel" the supporters believe that faith works as a mighty power or force. That it is through their faith that they can obtain anything they want – such as health, wealth, or any form of personal success. However, this force is only released through their faith. According to Pastor Benny if a person expresses their faith by sowing a sufficient monetary seed into his ministry - that person will be granted divine physical healing.

Some Christian groups have been critical of Benny Hinn for preaching the Prosperity Gospel and for misinterpreting scriptures on a number of occasions. Read more on the Apologetics Index , an online resource on religions

He has also been criticized by a number of Christian watchdog groups for not joining the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability . The Council is the leading accreditation agency that helps Christian ministries earn the public’s trust through adherence to seven standards of accountability. It has over 1,100 members, including Pat Robertson and Billy Graham. Benny Hinn refuses to join.


Under U.S. tax laws the Hinn Ministry is not legally obligated to makes its finances public because it is a religious organization.

Although most major American churches and ministries release financial information voluntarily there are no public records for how much the Hinn ministry makes or how that money is spent.

Benny Hinn insists that every penny is spent on God's work. But the fifth estate obtained confidential financial records from inside the Hinn ministry. These documents were provided by individuals who say they want the public to know how Benny Hinn spends the money entrusted to him.

The fifth estate asked Roddy Allan, a forensic accountant, to review the minstry's expense and travel records. He says, "I'm a mere bean counter, but it would be hard to persuade me that you had to incur that kind of expense in order to accomplish a business objective."

Here is a very small sampling of financial records from the summer of 2003. At that time Hinn had crusades in St. Petersburg, Russia and Stockholm, Sweden then departed for a four day whirlwind trip to Italy and London, billing it as a simple layover.

A hotel bill for room service and chauffeur services at the Lanesborough Hotel in London (see bill .pdf) Tips given to staff at Lanesborough Hotel in London after a one day stay (see chit .pdf) Tips given to the staff at the Savoia Hotel in Milan, Italy (see chit .pdf) $5000US dollars cash given to Pastor Benny Hinn (PBH), no details for the reason (see chit .pdf) A gift from Benny Hinn to a 'homeless woman with a baby' of $20US (see chit .pdf)


Justin Peters was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The influence of two Christian parents coupled with the challenges of Cerebral Palsy led Justin to begin inquiring about Jesus at an early age. In fact, he became a born again Christian at age seven.

As a teenager, Justin visited faith healers, hoping to be healed himself, but his hopes were unfulfilled. In November 1995, while attending Mississippi State University, Justin decided that his calling was to enter the ministry and become an evangelist. With that goal in mind, he set off to study theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

His Master's thesis, completed at the end of 2002, was an examination of the life and ministry of Benny Hinn. As research for his thesis, Justin attended several Benny Hinn Crusades. However, his requests for interviews with Benny Hinn were denied. READ part of Justin's thesis (.pdf)

Justin is now a staff evangelist at the First Baptist Church in Vicksburg, Mississippi but he travels often to preach to other congregations across the United States. He is an avid hunter and fisherman. READ his interview with the fifth estate (.pdf)


Trinity Foundation Inc - leading watchdog of religious media

Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability - focuses on financial transparency, integrity in fund-raising, and proper use of charity resources in Christian ministries

Ministry Watch - online database with profiles on more than 400 of the largest church and parachurch ministries in the United States

Rick A. Ross Institute - a database of information about cults, controversial groups and movements, specific information about Benny Hinn

Apologetics Index - an online resource on religions

The Door Magazine - satirizes the church and people of faith

Air Force report calls for $7.5M to study psychic teleportation

Fri Nov 5, 6:33 AM ET

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

Star Trek fans may be happy to hear that the Air Force has paid to study psychic teleportation.

But scientists aren't so thrilled.

The Air Force Research Lab's August "Teleportation Physics Report," posted earlier this week on the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Web site, struck a raw nerve with physicists and critics of wasteful military spending.

In the report, author Eric Davis says psychic teleportation, moving yourself from location to location through mind powers, is "quite real and can be controlled." The 88-page report also reviews a range of teleportation concepts and experiments:

"It is in large part crackpot physics," says physicist Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University, author of The Physics of Star Trek, a book detailing the physical limits that prevent teleportation. He describes the Air Force report as "some things adapted from reasonable theoretical studies, and other things from nonsensical ones."

Some experts have long criticized what they see as a military sweet tooth for junk science. A "remote viewing" project, for example, undertaken by defense intelligence services and declassified in 1994, sought to see whether psychic powers could be employed to spy on the Soviet Union. The teleportation report "raises questions of scientific quality control at the Air Force," the FAS' Steven Aftergood says.

Davis, a physicist with Warp Drive Metrics of Las Vegas, couldn't be reached for comment. The Air Force paid $25,000 for the report, part of a $20.5 million advanced rocket and missile design contract. The report calls for $7.5 million to conduct psychic teleportation experiments.

"The views expressed in the report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Air Force, the Department of Defense (news - web sites) or the U.S. Government," says an Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) statement sent to USA TODAY. "There are no plans by the AFRL Propulsion Directorate for additional funding on this contract."

Explaining why the lab sponsored the study, AFRL spokesman Ranney Adams said, "If we don't turn over stones, we don't know if we have missed something."


Creationism May Explain Skeletal Remains Better Than Darwinism


By Mary Rettig
November 5, 2004

(AgapePress) - The president of a creation apologetics group says the dwarf skeleton of a supposedly primitive man recently found on an island in Indonesia may confound evolutionists, but it is easy for creationists to explain.

Answers in Genesis founder Dr. Ken Ham says he is always amazed by the reactions of evolutionists whenever a new, so-called "humanoid" bone is found. Inevitably, he says, the evolution proponents say with the finding of a new fossil that creationists have lost their age-old argument with Darwinists.

But Ham says this is not so. "The interesting thing is that, really, from a creationist perspective, we have no trouble at all explaining variation within human kind like this," he explains. "I like to help people understand that by saying, 'Look -- eight people got off Noah's ark, and as they increased in number, and then you have the Tower of Babel, and you split up the human gene pool.'"

When this happens, the science expert continues, the result is "different combinations of genes moving in different directions. You can get certain features in a particular group that might be unique to that particular group." Thus, he concludes, are the so-called "evolutionary" differences in the features of human skeletons explained.

But Ham says evolutionists are even arguing among themselves about whether the Indonesian skeletal remains found are even really those of a human. Meanwhile, he says creationists understand that there are some differences between modern man and the ancient skeleton, and that this is just another example of God's creativity in designing people.

Also, Ham says the skeleton was found with stone tools, suggesting some intelligence. But evolutionists' dating methods have caused problems here as well. He says the evolution scientists claim the dates range "from 18,000 to 38,000 years, supposedly -- and of course that's assuming their dating methods are correct, which are all based on assumptions."

This creates a problem, the AIG spokesman says, "because then they dated the stone tools at 800,000 years. So they say maybe the tools were used by somebody else, and then these particular humans came later -- or something like that."

Ham says evolutionists simply do not know what to do with this conflicting information. But he says these die-hard Darwinists will fit all their contradictory conclusions into their faulty evolutionary framework anyway.

© 2004 AgapePress

Evolution education update: NCSE in Chicago, and reviews to peruse

NCSE is packing its bags to visit Chicago! And two new book reviews to peruse.


Are you attending the annual National Association of Biology Teachers convention, November 10-13 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Chicago? NCSE is! NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott -- and a host of other luminaries -- will be taking part in the special two-day symposium on "Evolutionary Science and Society: Educating a New Generation," cosponsored by NABT, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study.

NCSE will also have a booth in the Exhibitor Hall, so be sure to come by to visit, pick up brochures and pamphlets, sign up for sample copies of RNCSE and for the NCSE weekly news listserve, and perhaps even buy a bumpersticker or a book! We will also be giving away free copies of the November 2004 issue of National Geographic -- with the cover story on evolution -- while supplies last.

For details on the "Evolutionary Science and Society" symposium, visit: http://www.aibs.org/special-symposia/ and for details on the conference in general, visit: http://www.nabt.org/sub/convention/2004_convention.asp


Paul R. Gross's review of Why Intelligent Design Fails (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004), edited by Matt Young and Taner Edis, appeared in the e-Skeptic newsletter for October 30, 2004. "Why Intelligent Design Fails is a patient assessment of all the scientific claims made in connection with ID," Gross writes, adding, "This is honest, technically competent -- patient -- inquiry; the critique of the newest form of creation science is devastating." He concludes his review with a call for more along the same lines: "So it seems a trouble for busy scientists to give their time to truth-squads, examining (scrupulously, as do the WIDF contributors) the incessant nay-saying of creationists, and now of creationists who use the language of science and mathematics comfortably. But it must be done. There will be more anti-evolution, religiously motivated nay-saying, and there must be more books like WIDF. The stakes are high. Nothing less hangs in the balance than the hope that some fraction of the next generation -- of our children -- will get serious education in science, and that they will be capable of speaking truth not only to power, but to and for all their peers." Gross is University Professor of Life Sciences, emeritus, at the University of Virginia, and coauthor, with Barbara Forrest, of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

To read the complete review, visit: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic10-29-04.html#2 and to purchase Why Intelligent Design Fails directly from Rutgers University Press at a 20% discount, visit: http://press-nt.rutgers.edu/acatalog/____1147.html


NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 2004) received a generally favorable review from a surprising reader: the founder and president emeritus of the Institute for Creation Research, Henry M. Morris. To be sure, Morris was not entirely uncritical of the book, taking issue with its title, a few of the details in the chapter on the history of modern creationism, and what he described as Scott's "self-serving refusal to recognize that scientists who believe in creation are true scientists." And, predictably, in discussing the point/counterpoint section of the book, he judged that "the creationist side is much more impressive in each case." But he also credited Scott with having "conscientiously tried to be objective in discussing this inflammatory subject" and praised her book as "one of the most authoritative" of its kind and as "well written," adding "creationists can read it with interest and appreciation."

To read the complete review, visit: http://www.icr.org/pubs/btg-a/btg-191a.htm and to purchase Evolution vs. Creationism from Amazon.com (and benefit NCSE in the process), visit: http://tinyurl.com/25tcf

Thanks for reading! 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.

What's New



The winner of the Excalibur Prize, was the Black Hole Weapon or BHW, nominated by George Wallerstein. Too dangerous to use on Earth, it's designed for use against any alien planet suspected of harboring weapons of mass destruction. If we're wrong, who's to complain? George will now receive WN without charge for an entire year.

The Excalibur Prize http://www.aps.org/WN/WN04/wn101504.cfm was inspired by bold "outside-the-box" pioneers at the Pentagon, NASA and CIA, who gave us the Excalibur X-ray laser, the Podkletnov gravity shield, and remote-viewing. Other brilliant ideas in past years included the neutrino bomb, which had an acoustic device to let victims know they'd been zapped by trillions of neutrinos.

Our panel of experts faced an ethical crisis when former WN intern Paul Gresser, who is not exactly svelte, nominated the Atkins bomb. When detonated, the A-bomb coats the target area with bacon grease, reducing everyone to skin-and-bones with high blood pressure. The countermeasure is carbs, applied with a device called a carburetor. Would picking Paul's idea be viewed as conflict-of-interest? One panelist, General Persiflage, scoffed: "At the Pentagon we always award contracts to friends; you gonna do favors for your enemies?" Another idea was nano voodoo dolls; trillions of them on a single chip. Jim Dukarm explained, "It amplifies Murphy's law based on quantum theory or something. In tests it dropped a tree on a troublemaker with at least partial effectiveness."


Don't count on it. Passage of the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act largely freed the industry from government oversight. A couple of celebrity deaths has turned up the heat on the FDA http://www.aps.org/WN/WN04/wn040904.cfm, but this is a powerful industry, and it will change when the law changes.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Moderate wins over conservative on state board


By: Elaine Bessier, Sun Publications November 04, 2004

In the early hours of the morning on Wednesday, moderate Democrat Bill Wagnon of Topeka pulled ahead of his conservative challenger, Robert Meissner of Topeka, to retain the District 4 seat he has held for eight years on the Kansas Board of Education.

With all of the 266 precincts reporting, Wagnon edged out Meissner by a vote of 59,681 to 57,032 (51 percent to 49 percent). Wagnon will serve four more years representing the district that includes Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties and parts of Douglas and Osage counties.

Wagnon credited Lawrence with the deciding votes. "I expected Lawrence to be a heavy player," he said Wednesday. Late Tuesday, Meissner had held a 51-49 majority. When Wagnon got up at 1:30 a.m., the race had narrowed to 70 votes. "The absentee early voting represented a lot of votes," he said.

Wagnon, 65, a history professor at Washburn University, said, "The people responded to my experience. The majority recognized that I've been doing good work for the last eight years. My goals of adequate funding, better pay for teachers and a vigorous curriculum are what they wanted to hear.

"Another thing that helped was that I ran a very positive campaign. I talked about me. Voters are tired of hearing negatives. I just ran on my record, and I plan to support those ideas over the next four years."

Meissner, 53, a dentist who served for 12 years on the Shawnee Heights School Board, is in Guatemala for a two-week teaching conference. His wife, Sharon, on Wednesday morning released the following statement from the candidate:

"I am personally disappointed by my defeat but am more disappointed for my loyal supporters who have given so much effort to my campaign. I wish Dr. Wagnon well and will appreciate his service this next four years on the Kansas Board of Education."

Sharon Meissner added, "The voters have spoken. It appears we had won Shawnee, Wabaunsee, and Osage counties, but Douglas County, which is more liberal than the others, took it away from us."

She noted that, four years ago, Douglas County was not a part of the district. "If we had to deal with just the older district we might have had a chance. We were hoping we would get enough votes out of Douglas County. We tried."

Lawrence is in Douglas County.

When the new board is seated in January, it will represent a 6-4 split with conservatives holding the edge over moderates as a result of Kathy Martin, a conservative Republican from Clay Center, defeating moderate incumbent Bruce Wyatt of Salina in the Republican primary. Meissner had hoped to enlarge that majority to 7-3.

In his campaign, Meissner said, "We simply cannot rest on our laurels and 'live with' a slim majority of one on the board. A 6-4 majority is great, but it's still too close for comfort."

The rebalance of power on the board in January will follow presentation of the science standards committee recommendations expected in December.

Wagnon supports the teaching of evolution in science classes, whereas Meissner believes that students should be taught all credible theories on the origins of life, including intelligent design, and presented the evidence for each.

Wagnon predicts that the board will receive two versions from the standards committee. "I predict we will be seeing Darwin and intelligent design and the board will have to decide between the two. Intelligent design is not science, so it doesn't belong in science."

Wagnon said he is a strong proponent of teaching religion in the schools, and the board next Wednesday will discuss the need for developing standards for such a curriculum.

"That's where intelligent design belongs, in a curriculum that talks about what religion is and how it has unfolded," Wagnon said. "It doesn't belong in the benchmarks for state assessments under science."

Sue Gamble, moderate board member from Shawnee who was re-elected to the board in the August primary, said, "I'm glad to see Bill re-elected, and I look forward to the next four years. We will all try to work together and build good policies and continue to have excellent schools for kids. I hope we will have more things in common than we have uncommon and not allow ourselves to create the same kind of atmosphere that was present on the board in 1999."

That year, the conservative majority approved science standards that de-emphasized evolution. Those standards were overturned by a 6-4 moderate majority in 2001.

©The Johnson County Sun 2004

Alternative medicine knowledge gap found Nov 4 2004


Madeleine Brindley, Western Mail PATIENTS and doctors are "crying out" for more and better information about complementary medicine.

Despite big support for Welsh Secretary Peter Hain's plans to make alternative therapies available free on the NHS in Wales, there is still a large knowledge gap in the treatments' safety and efficiency.

Research by the health education charity Developing Patient Partnerships (DPP) found that seven out of 10 patients and 82% of health professionals want more information about complementary medicine.

Despite the growing popularity of alternative therapies - we spend £1bn a year on such treatments - more than a quarter of people in Wales feel their GP would disapprove.

The findings come at the launch of a new DPP campaign today to provide more information about complementary medicine.

Dr Terry John, a spokesman for DPP, said, "Patients and health professionals are crying out for more information on complementary medicine. It is crucial that health professionals have this information"

It is understood that Health Minister Jane Hutt has agreed to back plans for a pilot project to offer free complementary medicine to NHS patients.

Are we afraid of complementary medicines? See Health Wales on Monday

Indian astrologers find it hard to explain Bush's victory


Friday November 5 2004 00:00 IST


NEW DELHI: With George W Bush returning as US president for a second term, Indian astrologers who predicted that the stars and planets favoured John Kerry are somewhat red-faced.

New Delhi-based astrologers S R Krishnamurti and Lachhman Das Madan, who had forecast a win for Kerry, were hard put to explain what went wrong.

"The sub-period of Mercury in the main period of Mercury, which was in operation for Senator Kerry for the last five-sixth months, appears to have been not strong enough to take him to victory," said Krishnamurti, who not only predicted a Kerry win, but had also said he would usher in an era of world peace.

"Two other planets, the Sun and the Moon, that were earlier on Kerry's side, also appear to be not favouring him," added Krishnamurti, a mystic, seeking cosmic reasons for the turnaround.

Lachhman Das Madan, known as Jyotish Samrat (king of astrologers) and a favourite of the Indian political class, was unwilling to throw in the towel. "I will wait till the final results are out," he said, shortly before Kerry conceded defeat.

Madan, who had been most forceful in the pro-Kerry prediction, had earlier said, "I reveal the cosmic writ — George Bush cannot become the president of the US again."

Ajai Bhambi, who had said, "Kerry will not only have an edge over his rival but is likely to defeat him," was away in the US and could not be reached for comments.

Forming a pre-election minority ahead of the elections was Pandit Uma Shankar Shukla, who had contended that Bush would serve a second term in the White House.

Shukla had predicted that the "Mercury, the eighth Lord, has done Senator Kerry the favour of bringing him out of semi-obscurity and into the limelight." But, the astrologer had added, this alone would not ensure his victory.

Weather hots up under wind farms


10:34 04 November 04 Special Report from New Scientist Print Edition. Wind farms can change the weather, according to a model of how these forests of giant turbines interact with the local atmosphere. And the idea is backed up by observations from real wind farms.

Somnath Baidya Roy from Princeton University, and his colleagues modelled a hypothetical wind farm consisting of a 100 by 100 array of wind turbines, each 100 metres tall and set 1 kilometre apart.

They placed the virtual farm in the Great Plains region of the US, an area suitable for large wind farms, and modelled the climate using data from Oklahoma.

During the day, the model suggests that wind farms have very little effect on the climate because the warmth of the sun mixes the lower layers of the atmosphere. But at night, when the atmosphere is stiller, the wind turbines have a significant effect.

"At hub height the turbine gives an extra input of turbulence to the wind, which increases the vertical mixing," explains Baidya Roy. This brings down to ground level the warm night air and higher wind speeds that are normally found at 100 metres.

At 3 am the average wind speed in Oklahoma is 3.5 metres per second, but it increased to around 5 m/s in the model wind farm. The model also suggested that the temperature would increase by around 2°C underneath the 10,000 turbines. Over the course of a day this averages out to an increase in ground-level wind speed of around 0.6 m/s and a rise in temperature of around 0.7°C.

Heat of the night

How such a change might affect local wildlife and agriculture is not clear.

The findings are backed by real observations. Neil Kelley, a meteorologist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, has gathered data from a wind farm in California.

"Although the wind farm was more dense and the turbines smaller we still found that the turbines tended to pull down heat and momentum from above, particularly during the night-time hours," he says.

Meanwhile, Gustave Corten from the Energy Research Centre in Petten in the Netherlands is carrying out experiments with a model wind farm inside a wind tunnel. "I think the study is of much interest and I can confirm that large wind farms will affect the microclimate," says Corten.

Baidya Roy says it may be possible to modify the wind turbines so that their effect on the weather is not so extreme. "If engineers can reduce turbulence then the turbine would become more efficient and the environmental impact would be reduced," he says.

But no amount of engineering will change the fact that energy is being removed from the wind. "People tend to think that renewable energy is for free, but it isn't. There is a price to pay for all kinds of consumption, including renewable energy," says Baidya Roy.

Journal reference: Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres (DOI: 10.1029/2004 JD004763).

Kate Ravilious

© Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Excavations reinforce Golb's contention of where Dead Sea scrolls originated


By William Harms
News Office

Discoveries in Israel now reinforce the view of Norman Golb that the Dead Sea Scrolls were not written exclusively or even largely by the Essene sect of antiquity, famous for its abstemious celibacy. Golb, the Ludwig Rosenberger Professor of Jewish History and Civilization in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and the College, contends that the scrolls were the product of many hands and represent a broad range of perspectives rather than just the thinking of a tight-knit religious group.

Excavations by archaeologists Itzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg now show that the inhabitants of Khirbet Qumran, the archaeological site close to the caves where the scrolls were found, were evidently not poor ascetics like the Essenes, but actually prosperous. Golb has long contended that the people inhabiting the Khirbet Qumran site in antiquity were not members of an Essenic or any other radical Jewish sect.

The two archaeologists, both seasoned researchers, spent 10 seasons at Qumran conducting the most extensive excavations at the site in the past 50 years. They discovered jewelry, imported glass and expensive stone cosmetic containers, which were apparently part of a trade based on balsam perfume produced from plantations adjacent to the site, and on stone vessels manufactured there.

Their findings add strong new voices to the chorus of archaeologists who, during an international conference at Brown University two years ago, pointedly questioned the original Qumran-Essene theory, Golb said. Haaretz, a daily paper in Israel, has recently characterized Golb's 1995 book on the scrolls as pivotal in the steady emergence of new ideas on the scrolls' origin and importance.

Ever since the scrolls were first discovered in 1947, the Qumran-Essene theory—or as Golb has called it, "the myth of Qumran"—has taken on a life of its own and is still strongly defended by many.

A Bedouin youth discovered the first scrolls in one of the caves and, as word leaked out, the find captivated the interest of people around the world. The scrolls include the oldest known copies of biblical texts as well as many other manuscripts, including some containing Essene views.

The first scholars to study the scrolls, when only several were known, believed they were of Essenic origin and had been written at Khirbet Qumran. They based these contentions in large part on the discovery of several inkwells there, and of a cave scroll known as the "Manual of Discipline," which described how a group similar to the Essenes was expected to conduct their lives. Only later, however, did it become clear that none of the scrolls actually espoused celibacy.

Christian writers have been attracted to the mystique of the Essenes because of the connections they can draw between Essenic anti-materialistic beliefs and the teachings of Christianity, which discourage an interest in worldly wealth. The Essenes also espoused predestination, a belief adopted by Calvinists during the reformation in support of a biblical interpretation that some people are chosen by God for salvation, while others are not. Many Jewish scholars also have supported the Qumran-Essene theory.

As a result, reference works still often refer to the scrolls as being the product of Essenes who lived at Khirbet Qumran.

Golb, a specialist in manuscript studies, began to question this perspective over 30 years ago when he noticed the scrolls contained many different and even contradictory ideas. "Once the scrolls were published in facsimile over a decade ago, I could tell by the handwritings that at least 500 scribes contributed to the writing of the discovered texts," Golb said.

Furthermore, he said that no legal documents related to Qumran residents or other documents on the day-to-day activity of the people living at the site have been found. This suggests that texts found in the caves came from elsewhere and did not constitute a library of manuscripts produced at Qumran. He pointed particularly to the documentary Copper Scroll discovered in Cave 3, with its detailed descriptions of treasures and scrolls cached in many Judean wilderness hiding-places, as decisive evidence pointing to the various scrolls' place of origin.

This, as well as the large bulk of evidence that has accumulated now—which, Golb emphasized, the early researchers could not have foreseen—led him to infer that the scrolls were gathered in caves for safekeeping by the Jews of Jerusalem just prior to the Roman siege of 70 A.D.

"As the product of diverse writers representing a broad spectrum of ideas, the scrolls tell us very much indeed about the contemporary culture of the Palestinian Jews at a period marking a crossroads in world history and religious and social thought," Golb said in the Tuesday, Sept. 21 San Francisco Chronicle.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Subverting Science


The New York Times
October 31, 2004

The Bush administration's well-deserved reputation for tailoring scientific information to fit its political agenda was reinforced last week when James Hansen, the government's pre-eminent climatologist, said that he had been instructed by Sean O'Keefe, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, not to discuss publicly the human contribution to global warming. The charge came as part of a broader indictment, delivered in a speech in Iowa, of the administration's refusal to confront the consequences of climate change or to do anything meaningful about reducing the industrial emissions that contribute to it.

NASA officials said that Mr. O'Keefe had no similar recollection and that Dr. Hansen may have misinterpreted a cautionary comment about the complexity of the issue as a direct order not to discuss it. But this administration has a depressing history of discouraging robust discourse on climate change. In 2002 and 2003, the White House censored reports from the Environmental Protection Agency discussing the risks of warming and linking it to human activity. A recent article by Andrew Revkin of The Times suggests that the selective use of evidence to suit predetermined policy goals began even earlier. In March 2001, for example, the White House chose a single, narrow economic analysis to help President Bush build his case that regulating greenhouse gas emissions, as required by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global climate change, would inflict unacceptable damage on the American economy. Meanwhile, other studies drawing more optimistic conclusions about industry's ability to limit emissions were swept under the rug.

The net result is that while most of the industrialized world has ratified the Kyoto agreement, and committed itself in general terms to mandatory cuts of carbon emissions, America is saddled with a passive strategy of further research and voluntary reductions.

Dr. Hansen said he knew he was risking his credibility and possibly his job by criticizing Mr. Bush in the final days of the campaign, but had decided - properly so, in our view - that the risks of silence were greater.

Wrong impression of theory


Sunday, October 31, 2004

I am concerned with the impression fostered by your article "Intelligent design vote in" YDR, Oct. 19. I am the originator of the notion that natural-systems and their intelligent design can be scientifically analyzed. The theory of general intelligent design (GID) generates cosmologies. That is, physical theories of everything. Any statement that such a theory is mainly concerned with introducing creationary religious notions into our school systems is false.

Almost all scientific theories, and especially cosmologies, can be theologically interpreted. GID has a complete physical interpretation as well as one using the language of intelligent design. GID gives students a choice as to the interpretation. Those who fight so hard against GID and present their false scare tactics do so for but one reason. They wish to force, through lack of knowledge, an individual to accept a weaker theory, which does not predict all physical behavior, rather than to even consider GID, a theory that predicts how every natural-system within our universe behaves.


Raelians endorse ID


Sunday, October 31, 2004

For your reader's sake they should consider that the Raelian movement thinks that teaching intelligent design theory in the public school science curriculum is an excellent idea. In case you don't remember, the Raelians are the ones who announced several months ago that they had cloned human beings. They also promote the "theory" that life on earth, especially mankind, developed from the experimental efforts of highly advanced aliens. Since intelligent design "theorists" say that intelligent design is not a direct reference for the God of the Bible, the Raelians naturally embrace intelligent design and expect their theory to be included in science classes — after all, the aliens are by definition intelligent designers.

Since the Dover Area School Board's decision requires the teaching of alternative "theories" to evolution, we may have put our science teachers in the position of explaining how intelligent aliens created life on earth along with every other half-baked theory that has been put forward. If parents thought teaching their children "godless" evolution was bad, imagine their reaction when their child is assigned to write a paper on how these intelligent design aliens created mankind.

Please remember this: Science requires a very high standard of evidence and explanation for a hypothesis to be accorded the status of a theory. Part of that standard is to force hypotheses to prove their worth before inflicting them on the public. The poorly thought out resolution of the Dover school board may open a Pandora's Box of sloppy pseudo-science that I am afraid they may regret. If they insist on teaching Intelligent Design pseudo-science in the classroom, don't be surprised when the Raelians and other similar groups demand "equal time."


New entry for SKEPTIC Bibliography (Bloom: Descartes' Baby)


Descartes' Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human
Paul Bloom
2004, Basic Books; 304p.

Bloom examines a wealth of clever experiments on babies and children to answer about babies the question posed more often about disreputable politicians: "What do they know, and when do they know it?" The answers provide an entertaining and informative evaluation of what we might be able to tell about souls. As we have come to know better about what brains do, and what broken brains cannot do that whole brains can, and what computer programs can do that brains cannot and vice versa, science is approaching what Frances Crick called "the astonishing hypothesis": what makes me me and you you is nothing more than brain processes. Not only are the neuroscientists chipping away at anything mystical that goes on in our brains to make ourselves us, but Bloom argues that evolution itself has made us into dualists. We are wired to perceive material objects and mental manifestations as separate entities, and so naturally we think of the two as separate realms. That might be used by some as a justification that dualism is correct, but Bloom shows that our innate knowledge about such things often betrays us. Wonderful experiments described here show how baby minds grasp physical nature. Our tendency to divide the physical world off from the mental (or spiritual/soul) one, Bloom asserts, comes as an accidental consequence of brain functions that we use to interpret the thoughts and behavior of other people. Those who would expect a materialist also to be a pessimist will be disappointed; he declares himself to be a "morally optimistic materialist," and gives examples of moral improvement (like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) that would have made little sense to our forebears.

[ Reviewed by Rob Hardy, robhardy@earthlink.net ]

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

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

Intelligently re-design school board


Sunday, October 31, 2004

Once again the Dover School Board has disregarded the opinions of school district staff, administration and residents, and have railroaded through their own personal agenda. The text of "Of Pandas and People" was made available at no cost as a reference for students. Theories other than Darwin's evolution were to be presented as part of the biology curriculum. These are compromises that should have satisfied both sides of the issue. However, the last-minute addition of the wording in the curriculum, "intelligent design," indicates that Christian creationism must be taught.

Many agree that Christian ideas and principles should be returned to the public school classroom. However, if we override the "separation of church and state" laws, we must allow Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist etc. theologies to be taught. In an effort to improve cultural understanding and tolerance, I believe teaching cultural and religious differences, not theologies, should be part of the curriculum. In the science classroom, discussions of all theories of evolution, including creation, would be appropriate. But science, not religion, should be taught.

Will this issue adversely affect Dover students? Probably not. For years the Dover students have risen above the adversity, embarrassment and chaos that our school board has handed them. I have confidence that they will rise above it again. As for me, I am a proponent of the new concept of "intelligent re-design." In future elections, I plan to make an effort to intelligently re-design the Dover school board, by using my vote to remove the current board members from office. I encourage fellow Pandas to join me.


Physics News Update 707

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 707 November 3, 2004 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

ACCELERATOR FOR BECs. Two research groups have banged quantum gases together at record high velocities. Both groups begin by cooling clouds of rubidium atoms to ultralow temperatures. Next, through magnetic manipulation the clouds could be split into two separate clouds, each containing a native population with a characteristic spin value. Physicists in the Netherlands (FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics and the University of Amsterdam) further cool the clouds to produce Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC) before using the same magnetic control over the atoms to urge the clouds back together again at an increasing speed. Earlier experiments had managed to "collide" separate BEC samples at slow speeds of mm/sec (slow in relation to the velocity of sound in the BEC---several mm/sec) in order to observe characteristic interference stripes, and affirm the intrinsic wavelike nature of BEC as a whole. Now, the Dutch experiment is able to achieve speeds of 20 cm/sec; in effect their apparatus is a linear accelerator for BECs. The respective clouds are about 10 microns in size; the relative size of the clouds and their initial separation (up to record distances of 4 mm) is analogous to the separation of two tennis balls on opposite sides of a tennis court. When the two "tennis balls" collide, a spherical interference pattern shows up (see animation at staff.science.uva.nl/~walraven/walraven/Highlights.htm). Why is the higher speed important? It's because below sound speed, the superfluid BEC behaves like one giant matter wave, while above sound speed the BEC behaves like a collection of individual atoms. So in this experiment it is more accurate to think of 100,000 atoms (in the one cloud) scattering with 100,000 atoms (in the other cloud) rather then to think of two interacting clouds. Furthermore, because the speeds are still slow, the atom-atom collision can still be thought of as being the collision of two waves (like separate ripples in a pond passing through each other). In other words, the experiment probes the interaction between atoms rather than between BECs. In the BEC accelerator, matter waves of atom pairs are scattered out of the clouds at an energy of 10^-7 eV. (Compare this to Fermilab's 10^12 eV energy scale.) These matter waves are a superposition of spherical-shaped "s" and dumbbell-shaped "d" waves and hence show quantum mechanical interference. This interference is being directly imaged for the first time (Buggle et al., Physical Review Letters, 22 October 2004; contact Jeremie Leonard, jleonard@science.uva.nl), and yields accurate measurement of the interaction properties between ultracold atoms. Comparable observations are being reported by physicists from the University of Otago in New Zealand, although in this experiment the atoms were at microkelvin temperatures but did not constitute a BEC. (Thomas et al., Physical Review Letters, 22 October 2004; contact Niels Kaergaard, nk@physics.otago.ac.nz)

COOPER PAIRS UNPAIRED. In a low-temperature superconductor electrons don't travel singly but in weakly tethered pairs, Cooper pairs. In a new experiment at the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe in Germany, physicists have been able to send the two partners from Cooper pairs down separate wires spaced more closely than the effective size of the Cooper pairs themselves (see figure at www.aip.org/png). The Cooper pairs (which have the property that if one electron's spin is up, then the spin of its partner must be down) start out in a piece of superconducting aluminum and proceed to a frontier where they can travel down either of two normally-conducting and magnetized iron wires. (In general, when Cooper pairs move from a superconducting into a normally-conducting material they can maintain their pair status for a bit into the new material---a distance referred to as the normal-metal coherence length---before breaking up.) By magnetizing the wires so as to filter out pairings of any electrons that don't have the characteristic Cooper opposite-spin-orientation, and by varying the distance between wires, and by measuring the resistance across the iron wires, the experimenters can learn specific things about the Cooper pairing mechanism (such as how large the pair is under various circumstances). This work is part of the larger study of spintronics---the exploitation of electron spin for performing high-control electronics---and entangled states---the quantum behavior in which two spatially separated objects have a correlated behavior. (Beckmann et al., Physical Review Letters, 5 November 2004; contact Detlef Beckmann, detlef.beckmann@int.fzk.de, 49-7247-82-6413

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.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Topeka incumbent Bill Wagnon trails in Kansas Board of Education race


Posted on Wed, Nov. 03, 2004


The Kansas City Star

Democrat Bill Wagnon of Topeka was trailing his Republican challenger Tuesday as the two vied for a seat on the Kansas Board of Education.

With 184 of 266 precincts counted, Wagnon, the incumbent, had 47 percent of the vote compared with 53 percent for Robert Meissner of Topeka. The winner will serve four years. He will represent the 4th District, which includes Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties and parts of Douglas and Osage counties.

Wagnon, 65, a history professor at Washburn University, is seeking a third term. He was endorsed by the Kansas National Education Association and the Mainstream Coalition. Meissner, 53, is a dentist who served for 12 years on a suburban school board in Topeka. He was endorsed by the Kansas Republican Assembly, a group that promotes conservative candidates.

Wagnon and Meissner differed on the state's science standards, which have been an issue for the board for more than five years.

Wagnon supports the teaching of evolution — the theory that living things share common ancestors but have changed over time — as the best explanation for life's diversity. He opposed a 1999 vote led by conservatives that downplayed the teaching of evolution. In 2001, after moderates regained control of the board, he voted to reverse the 1999 vote.

Meissner, who says he is conservative on some issues and moderate on others, says he supports the teaching of evolution. However, he said, he still is studying whether he also should support discussions in science classes about other theories, such as intelligent design. That theory says life came about by intent. Moderates have opposed the inclusion of such theories, saying they should be discussed at home or church, or in classes other than science.

The board has 10 members, and half are up for re-election every two years. Sue Gamble, a moderate Republican from Shawnee, had no opposition in the August primary or on Tuesday. Neither did Carol Rupe, a moderate Republican from Wichita.

Steve Abrams, a conservative Republican from Arkansas City, beat his moderate Republican challenger in the primary. He had no opposition Tuesday. Also in the primary, conservative Republican Kathy Martin of Clay Center ousted moderate Republican Bruce Wyatt of Salina. Martin had no opposition Tuesday.

The board has been ideologically split since the 2002 election. But Martin's win this year gives the conservatives a majority. The science standards are expected to be one of the first issues the new board takes up when it is seated in January.

James Randi's "$1 Million Challenge"

Source: Alternative Science



Most people have heard of the challenge by James Randi offering $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate psychic powers.

On the face of it, Randi's challenge must be a good thing mustn't it? There's a million dollars just sitting there waiting to be picked up, and all anyone has to do to win it is perform under controlled conditions the kind of claim we read about every day in the newspapers - spoon bending, mind-reading, remote viewing.

So doesn't the mere fact that no-one has won Randi's challenge prove that such things are impossible? As usual in the murky world of "skepticism", things are not exactly what they appear to be.

Randi's $1M challenge was unveiled on 1st April 1996. You can read its terms in full at the website of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) the organisation administering the challenge.*

A quick glance through the provisions seems to show an eminently reasonable and fair challenge. But now go back and look again a little more carefully, this time with the kind of critical eye that Randi brings to exposing cheats and frauds. What you find are some ambiguities that are likely to make any serious claimant uneasy to say the least.

The first such ambiguity is contained in the preamble where it says, "Since claims vary greatly in character and scope, specific rules must be formulated for each applicant."

This means, quite reasonably, that the rules for any particular attempt cannot be finalised until a claimant steps forward and announces what he or she is going to do - bend spoons, read minds or walk on fire. But it also means that Randi will fomulate the rules for each individual attempt at his challenge on an ad hoc basis. And, of course, the claimant has to agree to these ad hoc rules. If he or she does not agree, the contest will not take place at all.

The second ambiguity is in Clause 4, which says that "Tests will be designed in such a way that no "judging" procedure is required. Results will be self-evident to any observer, in accordance with the rules which will be agreed upon by all parties in advance of any formal testing procedure taking place."

This means, quite reasonably, that there will be no interminable arguments by 'experts' over statistical measurements. Either the spoon bends or it doesn't: either the claimant reads minds or he doesn't. The written rules, agreed up front, will decide.

But it also means that there will be no objective, independent judging or adjudication, by scientific criteria, carried out by qualified professional scientists. Randi alone will say whether the terms of the challenge have been met - whether the metal was bent psychically, or the electronic instrument deflected by mental power, or the remote image was correctly reproduced. In the event that the claimant insists the written terms have been met, but Randi disagrees, then it will be Randi's decision that prevails.

Not only will Randi be the sole judge of whether the claimant is successful, but even if a claimant appeals on scientific grounds that he has met the agreed terms of the challenge, Randi will be the sole arbiter of any appeal as well. Randi says there will be "no judging". In reality, he is both judge and jury - not only of the claimant's cause but of his own cause as well.

With these two major ambiguities in the rules it would not be surprising if Randi never found a serious claimant to accept his challenge. Any potential claimant who reads the rules carefully will be concerned about two things.

First that the terms enable Randi to draw up specific rules that are unwinnable - and hence that no claimant would agree to -- and then enable him to claim that "no-one has won the prize".

Second there is Randi's own objectivity. His position can be understood from his own writings such as this.

"The scientific community, too, must bear the blame. When a Mississippi inventor obtained the signatures of some thirty Ph.D.'s (most of them physicists) on a document attesting that he had discovered a genuine "free-energy" machine (essentially a perpetual motion device), and when the U.S. Patent office issued a patent in 1979 to another inventor of a "permanent magnet motor" that required no power input, there was little reaction from the scientific community. The "cold fusion" farce should have been tossed onto the trash heap long ago, but justifiable fear of legal actions by offended supporters has stifled opponents."

Click here for the real scientific facts:


"These absurd claims, along with the claims of the dowsers, the homeopaths, the colored-light quacks and the psychic spoon- benders, can be directly, definitively, and economically tested and then disposed of if they fail the tests."

It doesn't seem to have occurred to Randi that the thirty Ph.D.'s who attested to the new machine might know a little more about physics than he does.

Given uninformed and prejudiced views such as these, the concern will be that Randi, as sole judge of success, will never accept that paranormal phenomena have been demonstrated because his position is that he knows on a priori grounds that the paranormal is impossible and hence whatever the claimant has demonstrated must be merely an unexplained trick of some kind.

I put these ambiguities in the rules to James Randi. He dismissed them, saying only that I should "read the rules", and suggesting that I am a "nitpicker" and "pedant".

Randi is a non-scientist who has announced that - by some undisclosed but non-scientific means - he knows that such anomalous claims are farcical and 'absurd', and should be 'tossed on the trash heap.'

The real facts are that Randi is doing exactly what he has accused some scientists of: he has conducted no properly designed experiments, has published no empirical results (reproducible or otherwise) and has not submitted himself to any peer-review process. Yet he expects us to accept his conclusions as having some scientific significance and meriting attention.

Randi says, "There seems to be a certain quality of the human mind that requires the owner to get silly from time to time. Sometimes the condition becomes permanent, a part of the victim's personality."

Here, at least, are words that no-one can disagree with.

* Find out what happened when a serious challenger applied to take Randi's "challenge":


Board of education race could alter teaching of science


By Andy Hyland
Kansan staff writer

The two candidates for the state board of education in the Fourth District will likely face another vote on the fate of science standards in Kansas.

Bill Wagnon, the Democratic incumbent, said that he supported keeping evolution in the classroom.

He said that evolution was key to understanding science, and that other arguments such as intelligent design belonged in religion classes.

The argument for intelligent design is that life was designed by some higher being, and did not simply appear by a series of chance occurrences.

He anticipated the subject of science standards would be brought up again this term.

"I'm disappointed. It sends very mixed signals," he said.

His challenger is Republican Bob Meissner.

He said he supported the teaching of evolution.

"Evolution is a scientifically credible theory that needs to be taught," he said.

Meissner said he was open to considering the teaching of other scientifically credible theories, possibly including intelligent design, as well.

He said he didn't want to "dig into this point" quite yet, and would study the available material at length and then make a decision.

Hume Feldman, associate professor of physics and astronomy, helped bring a forum to the University of Kansas earlier this semester to ensure that evolution continue to be taught in high school science courses.

"Intelligent design is completely not credible," he said. "It needs a supernatural being β€" intelligence. Once you bring the supernatural into science, it's not science."

He said intelligent design was a perfectly legitimate belief-based argument, but belonged in churches.

"The main problem with intelligent design is that they know the answer before they do the research," he said.

He thought the state board of education should not take up the issue again.

Others are pushing for intelligent design's inclusion.

John Calvert is a geologist and lawyer, and is a managing director of IDNet, a group devoted to promoting intelligent design with offices in Kansas, New Mexico and Minnesota.

He said intelligent design and evolution were competing hypotheses, and intelligent design should not be ignored in science classes.

He suggested a curriculum that included a debate between intelligent design and evolution and let students make up their own minds.

He said suppressing the disagreement would convert evolution into a kind of dogmatic ideology.

He said there were numerous arguments that suggested intelligent design was a credible theory, including that the statistical probability for the origins of the universe happening completely by chance are so small to make them statistically impossible.

State Board of Education for Kansas' Fourth District

Bill Wagnon

Bill Wagnon is the Democratic incumbent on the State Board of Education for Kansas' Fourth District. He supports evolution being taught in science classes. "It's key to understanding science," he said. "The place for intelligent design is in a classroom on religion." He said he thought the subject of science standards would come up again during this term of the board. He wants to close the gap of performance for students and wanted to push for adequate school funding.

Bob Meissner

Bob Meissner is the Republican challenger for the Fourth District of the State Board of Education. He supported teaching evolution in schools. "Evolution is a scientifically credible theory that needs to be taught," he said. He said he would be open to "considering the possibility of other scientifically credible theories," such as intelligent design, if they were recommended by the science standards committee. "I have made it a point to maintain my unbiasedness," he said. He said he wanted to build on his 12 years of experience on school boards to push for more state funding. Also, he wants to close the gap of performance. "It's important to do that from the bottom up," he said.

Edited by Johanna M. Maska

'Design' bedevils school board


Article Last Updated: Tuesday, November 02, 2004 - 11:35:40 AM EST

Member demands apology, quits meeting

By HEIDI BERNHARD-BUBB For The York Dispatch

Dover Area School Board's decision two weeks ago requiring intelligent design theory to be included as a high school biology reference text dominated last night's board meeting with former board members criticizing the move and one denouncing others on the panel and quitting the meeting.

Noel Wenrich stormed out of what would have been his last meeting as a board member after he demanded an apology from fellow board member William Buckingham. Wenrich said that he and residents in the audience had been personally attacked and insulted at the last meeting by Buckingham and by the board.

"I was referred to as unpatriotic, and my religious beliefs were questioned. I served in the U.S. Army for 11 years and six years on this board, 17 years of my life have been devoted to public service ... and my religion is personal, its between me, God and my pastor," said Wenrich.

Board president Alan Bonsell told Wenrich he was out of line and making comments of a personal nature, which he had asked the public to avoid at the beginning of the meeting, saying that he was disappointed in the conduct of some board members and residents at the meeting two weeks ago. Nearly 50 people attended the meeting.

Wenrich was asked to leave the podium and shouted from the front of the room that he had enjoyed his service, but could "no longer sit with these people" and left the meeting.

Buckingham made no comment.

Wenrich and Jane Cleaver resigned last month because they are moving out of the district. They were joined by Casey Brown and Jeff Brown, who resigned at the last meeting in protest against the board's choice to require the teaching of intelligent design.

Casey Brown and Larry Snook last night took a more conciliatory tone than Wenrich, but still questioned whether the board was heading in the right direction.

Snook said the board was dividing the community and should disclose the identity of members of the community who donated 50 copies of the intelligent design text "Of Pandas and People," the text supporting intelligent design, to the district to be available as a reference.

Brown suggested that the board rescind its decision on intelligent design, but offer an elective class on religions of the world so that students could be exposed to all of the world's faiths.

At the last meeting, the board voted 6-3 to add intelligent design theory to the district's biology curriculum as a reference text..

The decision could make Dover a national test case over what can be taught in public schools. Stakeholders on both sides of the argument are now watching to see what will happen, with opponents saying they may sue the district unless it changes its policy.

The move came just two weeks after the district announced that 50 copies of the intelligent design text would be included in biology classes as a reference text only.

-- Reach Heidi Bernhard-Bubb at 854-1575 or news@yorkdispatch.com.

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