Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
In Cobb County Georgia, a sticker on science textbooks warns that evolution is "a theory, not a fact." It's being challenged in court. The Grantsburg School District in Wisconsin wants "Various theories of origins" (read "intelligent design") taught. The move is overwhelmingly opposed by higher education groups in the state. In Charles County, Maryland, several school board members want creationism on the curriculum and American History to stress our roots as "a Christian nation." They are also considering inviting Gideons to provide each students with a bible. The Washington Post says one board member is a member of Gideons. Another hosts a conservative religious radio talk show. The Raelians http://www.aps.org/WN/WN02/wn122702.cfm note that, "The Theory of Intelligent Design does not lead to a supernatural designer but to an extraterrestrial human- civilization designer."
Fri Nov 12, 6:17 PM ET
Science - Reuters
By Paul Simao
ATLANTA (Reuters) - A public school board in Georgia violated the U.S. Constitution when it placed stickers that challenge the theory of evolution on biology textbooks two years ago, a lawyer for a group of parents said on Friday.
U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper pledged on Friday to try to deliver a speedy verdict.
In closing arguments on the fifth day of a federal trial in Atlanta, attorney Michael Manley accused the Cobb County school district of using the disclaimers to promote religion in its classrooms.
"They are promoting religious dogma to all students," said Manley, who noted the stickers referred only to evolution and not to other alternative theories about the origins of the human race.
The stickers, which appeared after pressure from hundreds of parents, many of them religious conservatives, 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."
Linwood Gunn, a lawyer for the suburban Atlanta school board, said the stickers only advised students to keep an open mind and did not promote religion in violation of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
The American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) sued the school board on behalf of parents who believed the disclaimers pushed the teaching of creationism and discriminated against non-Christians and followers of other religions.
Creationism rejects modern scientific explanations for the origin and development of life, preferring instead the idea of supernatural creation by God. Evolution, which is accepted by virtually all biologists, contends life developed from more primitive forms and was dictated by natural selection.
The U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) ruled in 1987 that creationism could not be taught in public schools alongside evolution.
The Georgia trial occurred about one week after the reelection of President Bush (news - web sites), who won the overwhelming support of religious conservatives with his stands against gay marriage and abortion.
The trial also rehashed memories of the 1925 "Monkey Trial" of John Scopes, a Tennessee biology teacher who was found guilty of illegally teaching evolution.
Posted on Sat, Nov. 13, 2004
The Associated Press
DOVER, Pa. — When talk at the high school here turns to evolution, biology teachers have to make time for Charles Darwin as well as his detractors.
With a vote last month, the school board in this south-central Pennsylvania community is thought to have become the first in the nation to mandate the teaching of "intelligent design," which holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an unspecified higher power.
Critics call the change in the ninth-grade biology curriculum a veiled attempt to require public schoolchildren to learn creationism, a biblical-based view that credits the origin of species to God. Schools typically teach evolution, the theory that Earth is billions of years old and that life forms developed over millions of years.
The state American Civil Liberties Union chapter is reviewing the Dover Area School District case. Its Georgia counterpart, meanwhile, is fighting a suburban Atlanta district's decision to include a warning sticker in biology textbooks saying that evolution is "a theory, not a fact."
"What Dover has done goes much further than what's happened in Georgia," said Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU. "As far as we can tell, Dover is the first school district that has actually mandated intelligent design."
The revision was spearheaded by school board member William Buckingham, who leads the board's curriculum committee.
"I think it's a downright fraud to perpetrate on the students of this district, to portray one theory over and over," Buckingham said. "What we wanted was a balanced presentation."
Buckingham wanted the board to adopt an intelligent-design textbook, Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, as a supplement to the traditional biology book, but no vote was ever taken.
A few weeks before the new science curriculum was approved, 50 copies were anonymously donated to the high school.
Two of the dissenting board members, Carol Brown and her husband, Jeff Brown, were so upset that they resigned after the 6-3 vote Oct. 18.
"We have a vocal group within the community who feel very strongly in an evangelical Christian way that there is no separation of church and state," Carol Brown said.
"Our responsibility is to represent the viewpoints of all members of the community."
Stickers calling evolution 'theory, not fact' at center of case
Friday, November 12, 2004 Posted: 12:20 PM EST (1720 GMT)
ATLANTA (AP) -- First, Georgia's education chief tried to take the word "evolution" out of the state's science curriculum. Now a suburban Atlanta county is in federal court over textbook stickers that call evolution "a theory, not a fact."
Some here worry that Georgia is making itself look like a bunch of rubes or, worse, discrediting its own students.
"People want to project the image that Georgia is a modern state, that we're in the 21st century. Then something like this happens," said Emory University molecular biologist Carlos Moreno.
The federal lawsuit being heard this week in Atlanta concerns whether the constitutional separation of church and state was violated when suburban Cobb County school officials placed the disclaimer stickers in high school biology texts in 2002. The stickers say evolution should be "critically considered."
Earlier this year, science teachers howled when state Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox proposed a new science curriculum that dropped the word "evolution" in favor of "changes over time."
That plan was quickly dropped, but comic Jimmy Fallon still cracked wise on "Saturday Night Live": "As a compromise, dinosaurs are now called 'Jesus Horses'."
Those who support the Cobb County stickers testified this week that they are aiming for a more open-minded education for students.
"I think the (evolution) theory is atheistic. And it's all that's presented. It's an insult to their intelligence that they're only taught evolution," said Marjorie Rogers, the parent who first complained about the biology texts.
Some scientists say they are frustrated the issue is still around nearly 80 years since the Scopes Monkey Trial -- the historic case heard in neighboring Tennessee over the teaching of evolution instead of the biblical story of creation.
"We're really busy. We have a lot to do. And here we are, having to go through this 19th century argument over and over again," said Sarah Pallas, who teaches biology and neuroscience at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
Moreno and dozens of other science instructors, along with the county superintendent, argued that the stickers only make the state look backward. And high school teacher Wes McCoy worried the issue could tarnish his students.
The sticker is affixed to high school biology textbooks in Cobb County, Georgia. "I didn't want college admission counselors thinking less of their science educations, thinking they hadn't been taught evolution or something," McCoy testified.
Moreno recalled how, after graduating from Georgia public schools, he headed north to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, only to find that people were less than kind about his educational roots.
"They felt Southerners were not only less well educated, but less intelligent," Moreno said.
Doughnut shop worker Maria Jordan, 48, said her Atlanta customers were shaking their heads over the latest dispute. "Lord, don't we have more important things to worry about?" she asked. "It's just a flat-out embarrassment."
As for what they are saying elsewhere around the country, she said: "Whatever Georgia's getting up north, we're putting it on ourselves."
Motion for academic study dies in meeting
By Sarah Fox, Journal-World staff writer
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Despite a suggestion that intelligent design could be taught in religion classes, most state Board of Education members Wednesday indicated they weren't interested in creating standards for teaching religion.
The board discussed the idea of standards Tuesday on the request of board member Bill Wagnon, but the discussion went nowhere.
Wagnon, a moderate, said he wasn't advocating religious instruction in public schools but the academic study of religion.
"Americans need to have a clear understanding of what religions are and how they arise and how people are influenced by them," the Washburn University history professor said. "It's all part of dealing with a diverse world."
Schools would not be required to offer religion courses if the board passed religion standards, Wagnon said.
Schools could offer religion as an elective such as debate or music, he said. They would not have to use the standards the board approved.
During the meeting, Wagnon made a motion to take a preliminary step toward the creation of religion standards. Nobody supported the motion, and it died.
Religion standards would be created by a committee and would have to get final approval from the board.
Since last year, the board has been split 5-5 between conservative Republicans and a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats.
However, conservative Kathy Martin will replace moderate Bruce Wyatt in January.
The new conservative majority, 6-4, could alter the state's science standards, which treat evolution as among a few key concepts students must learn.
The current science standards were written in 2001 after a moderate board majority took control and reversed a 1999 decision to delete most references to evolution. That decision had sparked international attention.
Wagnon and fellow moderate Janet Waugh said intelligent design theories would fit into religion classes.
"I see this as a golden opportunity to introduce all the various forms of creationism, intelligent design because they're all based on faith," Waugh said.
Reached by telephone later Tuesday, board member Kenneth Willard said he disagreed.
"If I look at a car, I'm pretty sure that car was designed by somebody," the conservative said. "It doesn't have to do with my religion."
He said he thought intelligent design was more appropriate for a science class than a religion class.
He said he was not prepared to say whether he thought Kansas science standards should include intelligent design.
Some board members pointed out examples of how religion was integrated into social studies -- for example, a high school student learning about Confucianism and Buddhism in a history class.
Wagnon said studying religion integrated in other classes was not enough.
"It is a distinct academic discipline," he said of religion. "To try just to fuzzy it up is to do it a great disservice."
-- Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.
By The Associated Press
November 11, 2004
MOVE OVER, DARWIN: The Dover Area School District school board voted last month to require biology teachers to teach alternatives to the theory of evolution, including intelligent design.
WHAT IS INTELLIGENT DESIGN?: Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an unspecified higher power.
THE REASON: Board members who support the change say students should learn about challenges to Charles Darwin's theory.
THE OTHER SIDE: Critics allege "intelligent design" is a more secular portrayal of creationism.
Posted on Thu, Nov. 11, 2004
DOVER, Pa. - When the talk turns to evolution at the high school in this rural south-central Pennsylvania community, biology teachers have to make room for both Charles Darwin and his detractors.
The Dover Area School District is believed to be the first in the nation to specifically mandate the teaching of "intelligent design," which holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an unspecified higher power.
Intelligent design is singled out in a new ninth-grade biology curriculum that requires students to learn about alternate theories to evolution, which holds that Earth is billions of years old and that life forms developed over millions of years.
Critics say it's a veiled attempt to require public school children to learn creationism, a biblical-based view that credits the origin of species to God.
The state American Civil Liberties Union chapter is reviewing the matter. Its Georgia counterpart is fighting a suburban Atlanta district's decision to include a warning sticker in biology textbooks that says evolution is "a theory, not a fact."
"What Dover has done goes much further than what's happened in Georgia," said Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU. "As far as we can tell, Dover is the first school district that has actually mandated intelligent design."
The district enrolls about 2,800 students. It encompasses the small, rural community of Dover borough, about 20 miles south of Harrisburg, and a patchwork of farmland and newer suburban developments in several surrounding townships.
The revision was spearheaded by school board member William Buckingham, who heads the board's curriculum committee. Buckingham said it all began several months ago, when the board began considering the adoption of a new biology textbook.
"I think it's a downright fraud to perpetrate on the students of this district, to portray one theory over and over," said Buckingham. "What we wanted was a balanced presentation."
Buckingham wanted the board to adopt an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins," as a supplement to the traditional biology book, but no vote was ever taken. A few weeks before the new science curriculum was approved, 50 copies were anonymously donated to the high school.
Although Buckingham describes himself as a born-again Christian and believes in creationism, "This is not an attempt to impose my views on anyone else," he said.
Two of the dissenting board members in the 6-3 vote to approve the new curriculum, Carol Brown and her husband, Jeff, were so upset that they resigned after the Oct. 18 vote.
"We have a vocal group within the community who feel very strongly in an evangelical Christian way that there is no separation of church and state," Carol Brown said. "Our responsibility to is to represent the viewpoints of all members of the community."
Statewide science-curriculum standards approved by Pennsylvania's state Education Board merely ask students to "analyze data ... that are relevant to the theory of evolution."
When the standards were revised three years ago, the board considered language that would have required students to consider evidence that did not support evolution, but the board dropped the idea after critics alleged it would have led to the widespread teaching of creationism in public schools. During that discussion, intelligent design was never mentioned specifically.
Critics of intelligent design contend it is creationism repackaged in more secular-sounding language.
"Creationism in a cheap tuxedo," said Nicholas Matzke, project information specialist for the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., which advocates for the teaching of evolution.
Even the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports scientists studying intelligent-design theory, opposes mandating it in schools because it is a relatively new concept, said John West, associate director of the institute's Center for Science and Culture.
"We're completely against anyone who says you should downgrade or limit the teaching of evolution," West said.
Dover biology teacher Jennifer Miller said the curriculum changes have left her uncertain about how to approach her evolution lesson. She won't get to it until January, when her semester-long biology class concludes.
"If you put the words 'intelligent design' into my curriculum, then I have to teach it," said Miller, a 12-year veteran. "I'm not sure what that means as to how in-depth we have to go. ... I'm looking for more direction from the school board."
School board member Heather Geesey, who also voted for the curriculum change, said school administrators were working on more specific teacher guidelines.
Neither Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa, who oversees the district's curriculum, nor Superintendent Richard Nilsen responded to telephone calls and e-mail requests for comment.
Jonathan Tome, whose three sons attend Dover schools, applauded the measure.
"You can't be hypocritical with these kids, teaching them one thing but not another," said Tome, 43, who was waiting in his truck to pick up his oldest son from the high school.
High school sophomore Courtney Lawton said she didn't have a problem learning only about evolution in biology class last year and doesn't see a need for any changes.
"I just think they should keep it the way it is, and they shouldn't add anything about a higher power. People who believe differently, they might feel like they're being segregated," said Lawton, 15.
Miller said questions of evolution vs. creationism rarely arise in her class, because she emphasizes changes in species over time, rather than the origins of life.
"We take a look at the species that are here, and look at the process of natural selection. I've never taught that a fish became a frog," she said.
ON THE NET
Dover Area School District: http://www.dover.k12.pa.us/doversd/site/default.asp
Discovery Institute: http://www.discovery.org/
National Center for Science Education: http://www.natcenscied.org/
Martha Raffaele covers education for The Associated Press in Harrisburg.
Source: Discovery Institute
Thursday November 11, 6:10 am ET
ATLANTA, Nov. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- "Either this attorney threw the case on purpose," says legal analyst Seth Cooper, an expert on the legal aspects of teaching evolution, "or he simply doesn't know what he was doing. This was a textbook case. Literally. And he blew it."
The defense mounted this week by the Cobb Co. School District's attorney Linwood Gunn is being criticized for not calling expert witnesses to rebut those of the plaintiff. While the plaintiff's attorneys called multiple witnesses including a scientist, Gunn only called one witness, who was not a scientist.
"On Wednesday, Gunn called the defense's only witness to testify, and even that testimony appears to be unhelpful," says Cooper. "A strong defense requires a strong factual record for the judge to base his decision on. The defense appears to have dropped the ball in this regard."
"With the kind of lackluster defense that Gunn mounted, one cannot help but question his commitment to the case," says Cooper. "It causes one to wonder what his personal opinion on this issue is."
Another problem in the case according to Cooper is the plaintiff's efforts to focus the case on supposed religious motives of parents in Cobb County.
"Even if parents in the community happen to be religious," explains Cooper, an attorney with Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, "their motives or perceived beliefs are all but irrelevant to the issue being decided by the judge, which is about the constitutionality of the sticker."
Witnesses called by the ACLU repeatedly asserted that they believe evolution to be a fact, and that there is no scientific debate over the evidence for Darwinian evolution. Cooper points out that two-dozen scientists in the state of Georgia alone have signed an amicus brief acknowledging the importance of students learning about the scientific controversy over neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is a blunder of the first order," says Cooper. "You absolutely can't let the testimony of a scientist go unanswered by a scientist. Gunn could have called two-dozen of them to refute the testimony of the ACLU's witnesses. Why didn't he?"
The trial concludes Friday with closing remarks, but Cooper expressed doubts about the ability of the school district's team to mount an aggressive defense of their client.
About Seth Cooper
Seth Cooper is an attorney and Program Officer, Public Policy & Legal Affairs for Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.
About Discovery Institute
Discovery Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan, public-policy, think tank which promotes
ideas in the common sense tradition of representative government, the free market and
individual liberty. Current projects include: technology, the economy, science and culture,
regional transportation, and the bi-national region of "Cascadia." http://www.discovery.org/
By KRISTINA TORRES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/10/04
Charmagne Quenan said Wednesday she was relieved when Cobb County decided to put stickers in its science textbooks calling evolution a "theory, not a fact."
Now, she thought, kids could raise their religious beliefs in class and she didn't have to ignore them. Then, she could get back to science.
"Before, we weren't supposed to say anything," Quenan testified Wednesday, the final day for witnesses in a federal lawsuit to remove the disclaimers. "I work in a part of the county where a lot of kids come from religious backgrounds. Now, we can answer the questions and move on."
Quenan was called to the stand by the six parents seeking to rid Cobb of the stickers, which were approved two years ago. What she said, however, encapsulates the three days of testimony.
As the six parents have complained, the disclaimers encourage religious conversation in class, something they feel violates the separation of church and state. But, as the school system claims, the stickers don't require teachers to teach, or even discuss, religious theories about the origins of man. Evolution is the rule.
U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper will have to decide if the disclaimers go too far when it comes to religion and the government. He is expected to hear closing arguments Friday, but has set no timetable for when he will issue a decision.
The six parents who sued contend the disclaimers expose students to "alternatives" to evolution that are considered unscientific — and religious — by most scientists.
Scientists who testified during the trial said they viewed the disclaimers as a "warning" to students that evolution was, somehow, suspect or suspicious. All of science is a theory, they said, so why single out just one area?
The five Cobb school board members who testified said they knew when they put disclaimers about evolution in science textbooks, religious ideas of man's origin would be brought up in class. However, they also said they just wanted students to feel comfortable voicing their own beliefs. Teachers still were to teach evolution, they said.
High school teacher Wes McCoy, who is chairman of his school's science department, said students who protest evolution now stand up and point to the disclaimer in the textbooks. However, McCoy testified, he has not noticed an increase in the number of students protesting.
The disclaimers stem from a petition drive begun in 2002 by Marjorie Rogers, a creationist. Rogers collected 2,300 signatures of supporters, prompting the board to stick evolution disclaimers on the inside front covers of science books used in middle and high schools. The disclaimers 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."
Plaintiffs' attorney Michael Manely during the trial hit hard on the fact that a scientific theory is not the same as "theory" applied in everyday life. Biologist and textbook author Kenneth Miller of Brown University in Rhode Island testified, "In science, you don't use the word 'theory' about a stupid hunch. Theories explain facts. They tie it together."
Testimony from most board members indicated they had not distinguished between an everyday use of theory and scientific theory.
School system attorney Linwood Gunn repeatedly noted how Cobb now dealt with evolution. Under his questioning, Superintendent of Schools Joseph Redden testified that, even though he did not want to use the disclaimers in 2002, policy changes made at the same time strengthened the science curriculum.
Quenan, outside the courtroom, said her relief two years ago was about the demise of the old Cobb policies, in which the system urged evolution not be addressed because it could be "inconsistent with family teachings." The Cobb school district as recently as 10 years ago cut out from science textbooks pages that involved evolution, according to court testimony.
Not anymore. Disclaimers or no, Quenan said students ask the questions anyway. "I tell [students] evolution isn't really something you believe in and it's a well-supported scientific theory," she said. If they ask her to address religious concepts, she tells them "that's between you and your parents and your church."
By Michael Shermer
In late 1944, as he cajoled his flagging troops to defeat the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge, General George S. Patton turned to his chief chaplain for help.
Patton: Chaplain, I want you to publish a prayer for good weather. I'm tired of these soldiers having to fight mood and floods as well as Germans. See if we can't get God to work on our side.
Chaplain: Sir, it's going to take a pretty thick rug for that kind of praying.
Patton: I don't care if it takes the flying carpet. I want the praying done.
Although few attribute Patton's subsequent success to a divine miracle, a number of papers have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals in recent years claiming that distant intercessory prayer leads to health and healing. These studies are fraught with methodological problems.
Suspicions of fraud. In 2001 the Journal of Reproductive Medicine published a study by three Columbia University researchers claiming that prayer for women undergoing in vitro fertilization resulted in a pregnancy rate of 50 percent, double that of women who did not receive prayer. ABC News medical correspondent Timothy Johnson cautiously enthused, "A new study on the power of prayer over pregnancy reports surprising results, but many physicians remain skeptical." One of those skeptics was from the University of California at Irvine, a clinical professor of gynecology and obstetrics named Bruce Flamm, who not only found numerous methodological errors in the experiment but also discovered that one of the study's authors, Daniel Wirth, a.k.a. John Wayne Truelove, is not an M.D. but an M.S. in parapsychology who has since been indicted on felony charges for mail fraud and theft, to which he has pled guilty. The other two authors have refused to comment, and after three years of inquiries from Flamm, the journal removed the study from its Web site, and Columbia University launched an investigation.
Scientific prayer makes God a celestial lab rat
Lack of controls. Many of these studies failed to control for such intervening variables as age, sex, education, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, marital standing, degree of religiosity and ignored the fact that most religions have sanctions against such insalubrious behaviors as sexual promiscuity, alcohol and drug abuse, and smoking. When such variables are controlled for, the formerly significant results disappear. One study on recovery from hip surgery in elderly women did not control for age; another study on church attendance and recovery from illness did not consider that people in poor health are less likely to attend church.
Outcome differences. In a highly publicized study of cardiac patients prayed for by born-again Christians, of 29 outcome variables measured only six showed a significant difference between the prayed-for and nonprayed-for groups. In related studies, different outcome measures were significant. To be meaningful, the same measures need to be significant across studies because if enough outcomes are measured, some will show significant correlations by chance.
Operational definitions. When experiments are carried out to determine the effects of prayer, what precisely is being studied? For example, what type of prayer is being employed? (Are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan and shaman prayers equal?) Who or what is being prayed to? (Are God, Jesus and a universal life force equivalent?) What is the length and frequency of the prayer? (Are two 10-minute prayers equal to one 20-minute prayer?) How many people are praying, and does their status in the religion matter? (Is one priestly prayer identical to 10 parishioner prayers?) Most prayer studies either lack such operational definitions or lack consistency across studies in such definitions.
The ultimate fallacy is theological: if God is omniscient and omnipotent, he should not need to be reminded or inveigled into healing someone. Scientific prayer makes God a celestial lab rat, leading to bad science and worse religion.
By MARK BALLARD
Capitol news bureau
A study group looking for a way to regulate voodoo priests, traiteurs, shamans and other natural healers bogged down Tuesday over whether the state should license them like medical doctors.
Practitioners of alternative medicine probably won't be licensed, said state Rep. Sydnie Mae Durand, D-St. Martinville, who chairs the Naturopathic Medicine Task Force.
Instead, she is considering proposed legislation to regulate them and protect them from prosecution, Durand said.
South Louisiana's long tradition of relying on natural remedies to health problems almost was outlawed during the spring session of the Legislature, Durand said.
The task force is charged with drafting proposed law governing alternative medicine to debate during the legislative session beginning in April.
Historically many Louisiana residents may have turned to voodoo priests, traiteurs and herbalists.
Alternative medicine also includes nutritional interventions, yoga, prayer, meditation, herbs, even fad diets.
A National Institutes of Health survey of 31,000 Americans, released in May, found that 62 percent of U.S. adults used some form of alternative medicine.
During the 2004 legislative session, the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners, which licenses doctors, pushed bills that would have made it a felony to practice medicine without its license.
That legislation passed the House.
The bills were being considered in a Senate committee when alternative medicine providers discovered the language that would make them criminals when they do business.
Under the language sought by the medical board, a clerk who recommended a vitamin to combat, say, stress or tension headaches would have broken the law, said Conrad Adams of the Infinity Hypnosis Institute in Baton Rouge.
The clerk would have faced prison, large fines and the loss civil rights, he said.
"The language was the challenge. We were concerned that there was a potential to become a felon because what we do is technically the practice of medicine," Adams said.
Rep. Durand said Louisiana's medical establishment does not want to criminalize a historic tradition but wants to protect the public from quack medicine.
For instance, a federal court on Aug. 25 sentenced Gregory James Caton of Lake Charles to 33 months in federal prison for defrauding customers and skirting federal health laws.
His Internet business, Alpha Omega Labs, made $950,000 selling what were billed as natural remedies, according to federal prosecutors.
But the state medical examiners board had not fully considered the long tradition in Louisiana of relying on herbal, nutritional and other holistic approaches.
Durand said she hopes to draft a proposed law that protects consumers while not harming the centuries-old traditions.
"It was not a witch hunt that the Board of Examiners were going out to get people," Durand said. "There's absolutely no definition in the law at this time."
Durand said she herself has used the services of a traiteur, an old French word that Cajuns still use for a person who uses herbs to treat illness.
Durand said she once suffered from severe headaches, particularly when in the sun. But a Cajun traiteur in rural St. Martin Parish gave her a string to put in her cowboy hat.
"You know what? It worked. I still have that string," Durand said.
At Tuesday's meeting, naturopathic physicians who have attended one of the six colleges in the hemisphere that provide such training ran into opposition from traditional medical doctors and from natural medicine practitioners without the education.
The naturopathic physicians want the legislation to license the practice of natural medicine, which is licensed in 12 other states.
But Louisiana doctors argued that naturopathic physicians have not undergone 12 years of extensive, science-based training. Rather, naturopathic physicians complete four-year curriculums and in some states can hold themselves out as medical doctors that practice holistic medicine.
Naturopathic physician Jeanette Gallagher of Mandeville said she studied at the Southwest College of Natural Medicine in Tempe, Ariz., then spent two years practicing at a clinic on the Navajo Reservation.
Gallagher argued for the need of licensing, saying that the public should know who is trained and who is not.
Noting that Louisiana's rural parishes suffer an acute shortage of physicians, Gallagher said, "I could set up a clinic tomorrow. You have to let me help these people."
Gallagher said that poverty of rural areas can be helped by natural medicine. For instance, the prescription medicine for diabetes is manufactured from sugar cane.
"If they can't afford the drugs in the rural areas but they need to know about the nutrition and the herbs that will work," Gallagher said.
Other practitioners of alternative medicine want the legislation to allow natural medicine alternatives, provided that the practitioners disclose their credentials and their specialties.
"We want to make sure people have the right to choose, as long as they don't do so in a harmful way," said Samuel Bridges with Community Health Foundation of Gonzales.
12:01 am 11/10/04
Religion and public education twice collided in northwestern Wisconsin this past week, and in both cases, decisionmakers took the wrong tack, though in opposite directions.
In Grantsburg, the school board wrongly decided creationism merits discussion alongside evolution. And in Eau Claire, a college committee ill-advisedly approved a policy that would prohibit students from community service involving religion. Both cases take flawed stands based on misconceptions.
The Grantsburg board members are making a grievous error in suggesting that scientific conclusions should be equally weighted with ideologically driven ideas. Evolutionary theory results from the accumulated evidence of 200 years of research, while creationism is the sincere belief of religious adherents.
Unlike some absolutists, we don't have any problem with discussing religious beliefs in school Christian, Muslim, whatever. But it's a matter of context. Religious ideas about creation, and religious philosophies in general, certainly merit classroom discussion in the contexts of history, politics and culture but not science.
Wisconsin law mandates that evolution be taught, but school districts are free to create their own curricular standards. The Grantsburg board misused this license to revise its science curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism. Educators rightly worry about the broader consequences of replacing science with faith, and the Grantsburg board also failed a narrower test, shirking its duty to insulate classroom curriculum from politically motivated intrusions. Creationists are pushing for parity between scientific fact and religious faith in science classrooms across the country.
Meanwhile, the Eau Claire campus is in danger of succumbing to the misinformed notion that the separation of church and state mandated by the First Amendment means public education must steer clear of religion as a rule. A committee voted that Eau Claire students, who must do volunteer work to graduate, cannot conduct, recruit or preach religion to fulfill that requirement. Any project requiring religious membership also would be out of bounds.
That's an unfair restriction based on poor legal advice that claims awarding credit for religious volunteering is a tacit endorsement of that religion. But Kent Syverson, a chairman of the academic policies committee, expressed a more clear-headed view: "If a student wants to teach Sunday school or volunteer for a Muslim youth group, why shouldn't they be able to do that? It seems to me they're picking on a marginalized group, and in the process they're quashing free speech and individual liberties."
In the Madison area and elsewhere, faith-based groups mobilize mentors and other help for ex- prisoners, feed the homeless, and provide other social services. The Eau Claire policy probably wouldn't prevent students from picking up a hammer to help Habitat with Humanity, but it would prevent them from helping faith-based groups in overtly religious activities, including teaching.
That's still a double standard. If religious advocacy is outlawed, the university ought to ban students from partisan politics and other advocacy as well. Yet political campaigning is perfectly acceptable under current policy.
In both Grantsburg and Eau Claire, decisionmakers let dogma obscure rational thinking. Instead of taking sides in the culture wars over religion and "values," our educators should keep a clear head and apply common sense when considering when and how to acknowledge the role that religion plays in American families and institutions.
ATLANTA (AP) -- A metro Atlanta school district under fire for putting evolution disclaimers in biology books is making its case today for why the stickers should stay.
Cobb County has called a single witness in federal court in Atlanta to lay out its defense of the stickers. They were placed on the inside covers of biology books in 2002 after many parents complained the biology books made NO mention of alternate theories of the origin of life.
The head of science education for Cobb County high schools -- George Stickle -- is testifying at this hour that the stickers give teachers more freedom to answer questions in class. Cobb education officials say that only evolution is taught, NOT creationism, but that the disclaimers promote tolerance and critical thinking.
The bench trial began Monday and is expected to wrap up by the end of the day
© 2004 The Associated Press
By Rachel Campbell
By popular demand - which is my way of saying "a bunch of angry e-mails" - I've expanded Tuesday's creationism-in-schools column into today's column, as well. How I managed to draw the ire of so many people with whom I completely agree is, short of miraculous, entirely due to my sloppy and caffeine-shortchanged writing skills that morning. (And most mornings, truth be told.) Therefore, for the purposes of clarification, I will use today's column to address the issue once more.
The biggest argument against my first creationist column was my ambiguous use of the word "theory." Interestingly enough, I originally defined creationist theories in my first draft of that column as "myths," but chickened out lest I anger the devout. Instead, my effort to make everybody happy made no one happy: Alex Fletcher, a biology teacher in upstate New York, wrote that there is a discrepancy between "the difference between the common usage of the word `theory' versus the scientific usage of the same word" that cannot be glossed over or taken for granted. "Commonly `theory' is used synonymously with `guess'," he wrote. "However, scientists reserve the word `theory' for ideas which have a great deal of evidence to support them. ... Scientists are just as sure that evolution occurs as they are that gravity holds us to the planet's surface."
And Douglas Theobald, a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Colorado at Boulder, agreed: "Many nonscientists think of the informal, non-technical usage of `theory' (as) basically equivalent to `some random guess that sounds good at the time.' Thus the frequent criticism of evolution: `It's only a theory, not a fact.' ... In science, however, a theory is the end-all-be-all scientific statement, the end-result of the scientific method. Technically it is `only a theory' that the earth is round, that solar radiation is fueled by fusion of hydrogen to helium, that X-rays cause mutations, that the carrier of genetic information is DNA, etc. - but it is just as valid to call each of these `scientific facts.' The point I'm getting at is that though creationism may be a `theory' in some sense of the word, it is not a scientific one, and science education is the very issue here."
This brings me to the second most popular argument against my piece: my implied promotion of teaching creationism in a science course. As Dr. Theobald pointed out, "It is absolutely morally reprehensible to teach (creationism) in a science class where it is erroneously implied that it is a scientific theory. It is not." That I made such an impression is entirely due to my lack of clarity, so let's be clear: Because creationism is not - indeed, cannot be - subject to the scientific method, by definition it has absolutely no place in a science class (though I still maintain that creationism could be taught in a separate and more appropriate educational context, like a mythology, spirituality, or comparative religion class). Several elements of my column blurred this point considerably (most notably the title, which I did not generate but will be doing so from now on), creating the impression that I advocate teaching spiritual beliefs and leaps of faith in the same class wherein the entire curriculum is based on the principles of logic and reason. That would be akin to teaching Sylvia Plath's "Ariel" poems in gym class: the subject does not fit the logic, thus nullifying them both.
I guess the moral of the story is that I really should find a way to write this column in the afternoons, after I've had four or five cups of coffee in me and am better able to form coherent arguments. Unfortunately, writing it the day before its publication - rather than the morning of - would prevent me from being able to address the timely news du jour: for example, there's no way I could draw your attention to The Onion's Prehistoric Discoveries Infograph in this week's edition (yours for the viewing at TheOnion.com) if I'd written this column last night. Hmm ... have to think about this one.
Online reporter Rachel Campbell can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on: Tuesday, 9 November 2004, 00:00 CST
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.
PIC: DAILY RECORD / SUNDAY NEWS -- PAUL KUEHNEL
Last update: November 10, 2004 at 10:12 AM
Paul Levy, Star Tribune
November 10, 2004
GRANTSBURG, WIS. -- When the Grantsburg school board unanimously passed a resolution last month allowing "various theories/models of origins" to be taught in its science curriculum, the words "evolution" and "creationism" were never mentioned.
But by becoming the nation's only school board to allow theories other than evolution in public school classrooms, the school board created a national controversy.
The resolution has angered some Grantsburg parents and prompted written protests from more than 300 Wisconsin college science professors.
"Did somebody in Grantsburg, Wis., forget about the separation of church and state in public schools?" Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, asked Tuesday from her office in Oakland, Calif.
"Come on, we're talking creationism, and the school board in Grantsburg, Wis., knows it," Scott said. "The Supreme Court says you can't teach creationism in public schools. Other than the theory of evolution, there are no other scientific theories of origin."
But in Grantsburg -- a rural community 100 miles northeast of the Twin Cities -- Joni Burgin, superintendent of the district of 1,000 students, said she was surprised that a "small group has twisted" the board's decision and suggested that "creationism" will be taught.
"I don't understand the fear I'm reading into this," she said. "Promoting the critical thinking of students was the board's objective."
Burgin said response is "divided" in more than 300 e-mails she has received.
Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, spoke to Burgin for nearly an hour last week, asking her if the school board understood the religious implications of its ruling. Zimmerman said he was so outraged when he heard of the board's decision he wrote a letter of protest that has been signed by 312 science professors representing 43 Wisconsin public and private universities and colleges.
"I keep talking to her about science," Zimmerman said of Burgin. "And she keeps talking to me about religion."
Similar arguments are being heard this week in Georgia, where evolution disclaimers placed in textbooks in Cobb County are being challenged in court.
In Ohio, a sharply divided state Board of Education adopted a 10th-grade biology lesson that some scientists fear will allow creationism in high school classrooms. There have been similar controversies concerning teaching alternatives to evolution in Kansas, Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana in recent years.
But Grantsburg is the first school district to act alone in allowing teachings other than evolution in its science classes. Wisconsin law says that evolution must be taught but nothing prohibits theories of "intelligent design" to be taught in biology classes.
The design debate
"Intelligent design" is the term being used to mask the more religious "creationism," say critics such as Ron Numbers, a historian of science and medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Call it intelligent design, and there's no connection to the Bible whatsoever," Numbers said. "It's outrageous. And to call it science is terrible."
The change in the Grantsburg curriculum was not created overnight. Last year, a Minnetonka-based evangelist, Ron Carlson, founder of Christian Ministries International, gave sermons in churches in Grantsburg and the nearby community of Webster, about theories of creation other than evolution.
Carlson said in a statement Tuesday evening that the Grantsburg school board "is simply advocating for academic freedom to teach students critical thinking skills." He compared the evolution vs. creation debate with the competing theories of capitalism and communism in economics class, and with opposing political parties in a political science class.
"If evolution is so scientifically sound, why are they afraid to allow students the freedom to critique the evidence for themselves?" he asked. "It seems that the state of Wisconsin wants only the religion of evolution to be taught and not true science. We must wonder what their agenda is and why they are so threatened by a progressive school board that believes in quality education."
A Web site biography said Carlson travels widely and lectures on "the Christian biblical response to world religions, cults, New Age philosophy, the occult and evolution." He is a graduate of Bethel College and Theological Seminary in St. Paul, the Web site said, listing among other academic accomplishments a doctorate of divinity degree that he received from the Northwest Graduate School of Ministry in Kirkland, Wash.
It was after Carlson's last visit that Grantsburg school board President David Ahlquist began writing the motion that would change the way science is taught, although it's not clear how much Carlson might have influenced the decision. Ahlquist, associate pastor at the Grace Covenant Baptist Church in Grantsburg, was not available to comment Tuesday.
"I think the agenda is religion in this school district, and I believe that's been the agenda all along," said Marilyn Chesnik, a special-education teacher at the high school for 11 years. She cited a scripture reading at the high school Christmas concert, and a Bible study class at school during lunch hour.
"I asked them to stop reading scripture, and the reaction from at least one board member was awful," she said. "You'd think we were asking them to give up God, church and everything else."
For future hires
Joel Prazak, a technology education teacher in St. Croix Falls, taught for seven years in Grantsburg and has two children in the Grantsburg school system. He said the new policy was railroaded without discussion.
"Boom, there it was," Prazak said.
District members were made aware that the science curriculum would be reviewed -- as each curriculum is every six years, Burgin said.
"What caught my eye back in late June was that when the science teachers put together their new curriculum, it was based on the state standards," Prazak said. "But in an article [in the Burnett County Sentinel] Dave Ahlquist said the science teachers' suggestions didn't leave any room for other ideas, like creationism."
Burgin said that Matt Berg, Grantsburg High's biology teacher, will continue to teach "what he's always taught." The board's revision was intended more for future teacher hires, she said.
Paul Levy is at email@example.com.
By KRISTINA TORRES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/09/04
Testimony has ended in federal court in the lawsuit over evolution disclaimers in Cobb County science textbooks.
Closing arguments are expected Friday morning.
Six parents have sued to remove the disclaimers, arguing that the stickers placed on the front inside cover of the textbooks cross the assumed separation of church and state. The plaintiffs contend the disclaimers expose students to "alternatives" to evolution that are considered unscientific -- and religious -- by most scientists.
One of the last witnesses on Wednesday was Charmagne Quenan, an eighth-grade science teacher at Lindley Middle School in Mableton.
Like many of her colleagues, Quenan has followed the controversy since the textbook stickers were approved two years ago.
At the time, she wrote in a post to an online forum, she could present "both sides" in her classroom, especially in light of "good science" being done on "evolution [and] creation science."
"Before, we weren't supposed to say anything," Quenan testified Wednesday, on the third day of the hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper. "I work in a part of the county where a lot of kids come from religious backgrounds. Now, we can answer the questions and move on."
Tuesday, Cobb County school board members said that when they put disclaimers about evolution in science textbooks, they knew religious ideas of man's origin would be brought up in class.
However, board members said they just wanted students to feel comfortable voicing their own beliefs. Teachers were still to teach evolution, they said.
"You needed a sort of balance" for discussion, Betty Gray testified in the second day of arguments in a trial over whether the disclaimers should be removed. Gray described her own beliefs about evolution as "faith-based," and said the board intended for students to feel "an openness to bring up what they needed to."
Six parents have sued to remove the disclaimers, arguing that the stickers cross the assumed separation of church and state because they expose students to "alternatives" to evolution that are considered unscientific — andreligious — by most scientists.
"The main issue here is quality science education," Carlos Moreno, an Emory University molecular biologist, testified Tuesday. He had urged the Cobb school board not to use the disclaimers. "What [the disclaimer] says to students is, 'You don't really have to buy into this.' "
Attorneys for the public school system over the last two days have argued in U.S. District Court that Cobb County was within its right to regulate classroom discussion on a controversial subject, and that included the use of disclaimers in textbooks.
Gray and three other school board members who have testified said they did not intend for teachers to teach anything other than evolution, even if students brought up their own beliefs. Board member Teresa Plenge said it was the job of a teacher to get classroom discussion "back to the subject in the book, and the subject in the book is evolution."
The disclaimers stem from a petition drive begun in 2002 by Marjorie Rogers, who says she is a creationist. Rogers collected 2,300 signatures of supporters, prompting the board to stick evolution disclaimers on the inside front covers of science books used in middle and high schools.
The disclaimers 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."
Cobb Superintendent of Schools Joseph Redden testified Tuesday that he did not want to use the disclaimers but was overruled by the board. He said the board rejected his administration's proposal for the disclaimers to note that a majority of scientists accept evolution and students should think critically about all topics.
Board chairman Lindsey Tippins, who testified after Redden, said the administration's wording was "weak" and that the board rejected the proposal because it had already decided on the wording it wanted.
Tippins said he does not believe in evolution on a large scale. He said the board talked about creationism and other concepts before being told it was illegal to include them in classroom instruction. Still, he said, if a concept such as intelligent design raised scientific issues, it could be discussed.
Intelligent design, a concept espoused by many opponents of evolution, holds that the variety of life on Earth results from purposeful design rather than random mutation and that a higher intelligence guides the process.
However, Tippins said, "I don't think you'll find us teaching intelligent design."
And that seemed to be the point that school board attorney Linwood Gunn was trying to raise in court Tuesday. He asked Tippins and Redden if they had received an increased number of complaints since the disclaimers were placed in the textbooks. Both said no.
Redden, under questioning by school board attorney Gunn, said policy changes made at the same time the disclaimers were approved strengthened the science curriculum. The school system's previous policy urged evolution not be taught because it could be "inconsistent with family teachings." The Cobb school district as recently as 10 years ago cut out from science textbooks pages that involved evolution, according to court testimony.
Now, Gunn said, students are no longer allowed to opt out of classroom discussion involving evolution, and the theory must be taught.
The attorney repeatedly has tried to show that Cobb's policies toward evolution instruction have improved. He noted that at least one biology book contains 101 pages about evolution — enough information, he implied, to learn about it.
Jeffrey Selman, the Cobb parent leading the charge to have the stickers removed, testified that the disclaimers unfairly single out evolution for what he says are religious reasons.
The disclaimer, he said, "usurps my position as parent of [my] child. His faith is my responsibility, not the schools'."
Published on: 11/10/04
Years ago, after creationists lost their crusade to ban the teaching of evolution in the nation's classrooms, they decided to shift tactics, gradually repositioning their religious belief about the origins of life by dressing it up in scrubs, a stethoscope and other scientific garb and renaming it "intelligent design."
But the essence of their argument, that human life is the work of a cosmic designer rather than an evolutionary process of natural selection, remained unchanged.
Two years ago, the Cobb County school board capitulated to the new approach when it ordered that a disclaimer be placed on high school science books. "This textbook contains material on evolution," the disclaimer reads. "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."
Six Cobb County parents then filed a federal lawsuit, charging that the disclaimers restrict the teaching of evolution and use taxpayers' money to promote religious doctrines such as creationism and intelligent design. That case, now being heard in federal court in Atlanta, will be a test of the cherished and hard-won American principle that public schools will not become pulpits and teachers will not become preachers.
In justifying their attack on the theory of evolution, creationists have tried to capitalize on the idea that a theory is merely an assertion that may or may not be true. While that definition of theory may be valid in common usage, however, in scientific terms a theory is a much more concrete concept. In essence, a scientific theory is an explanation that accounts for all known facts.
Faced with that argument, intelligent design proponents counter that natural selection alone falls short of explaining everything about the life around us, thus leaving room for other theories to fill in the gaps. They're right, but those other theories — including gene transfer, symbiosis and chromosomal rearrangement — are also based on known scientific fact. Intelligent design is not.
Although the rhetoric in this current case is far more civil, the Cobb County evolution trial is nonetheless an unfortunate echo of the famed Scopes "Monkey" Trial of 1925. In that case, legal titan Clarence Darrow challenged a Tennessee law that made it unlawful "to teach any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible and to teach instead that man was descended from a lower order of animals."
Defending the Tennessee law, oratorical legend William Jennings Bryan charged that Darrow and others wanted "to cast ridicule on everybody who believes in the Bible." Quite the opposite was true. The effort to keep religious teachings out of public schools is an act of deep respect for religion, because it reserves such training to parents and clergy, where it belongs.
By Naila Moreira, Daily Staff Reporter November 09, 2004
Even after decades of scientific backing, the evolutionary theory of "survival of the fittest" hasn't quite proven itself the fittest everywhere in the contentious arena of science education. The small town of Grantsburg in northwest Wisconsin recently revised its school curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism.
During a review last month of the science curriculum for this district of about 1,000 students, the Grantsburg school board added language calling for inclusion of "various models/theories" of origin in science classes.
Joni Burgin, the Grantsburg superintendent of schools, said science classes "should not be totally inclusive of just one scientific theory."
In response, more than 300 biology and religious studies faculty from across the state have signed a letter asking the Grantsburg school district to reverse its decision. Their message echoes a prior letter signed by 43 deans of Wisconsin public universities.
University ecology and evolutionary biology Prof. David Mindell said creationist theories belong in comparative religions classes rather than science curricula.
"Intelligent design and creationism are simply not science," he said. "The science curriculum in high schools should be scientific."
"Intelligent design" is the notion that Earth's life is too complex for any explanation other than design by an intelligent creator.
He explained that scientific theories require a standard process of inquiry and examination of evidence, which is not followed by proponents of creationism.
"What they posit is supernatural causation, and of course being supernatural, there is no tangible evidence," he said.
Although Wisconsin state law requires that evolution be taught, school districts may design their own science curriculum, said John Donovan, a spokesperson for the State Department of Public Instruction. Creationism can be included.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1987, Edwards vs. Aguillard, struck down a Louisiana law requiring any teaching of evolution to be accompanied by instruction in "creation science." In the majority opinion, Justice William Brennan wrote that the Louisiana statute violated the separation of church and state by purposefully advancing a specific religious belief.
However, the court has not ruled definitively on whether creationism can be taught as part of a science curriculum.
The court's ruling didn't stop Pennsylvania's Dover Area School Board from voting last month to require the teaching of alternative theories to evolution, such as intelligent design.
In March, the Ohio Board of Education also narrowly approved a curriculum some critics claim opens the door to evolution.
The decision to promote creationism in science classrooms by these school districts remains an anomaly nationwide.
However, Mindell said, "we cannot take it for granted that the science curriculum will remain unpoliticized around the topic of evolution in particular."
— Daily News Editor Alison Go and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Posted on Mon, Nov. 08, 2004
A petition against "Darwinism" led a school system to use disclaimers in texts. Some parents sued.
By Kristina Torres
COX NEWS SERVICE
ATLANTA - Cobb County, Ga., schools needed new biology books. The textbook-selection committee chose books recommended by the state. The books included concepts about evolution, a widely accepted scientific theory. The committee, working in March 2002, told the school board to buy nearly $8 million worth.
Enter Marjorie Rogers, a parent for whom evolution is a theory that doesn't fly. Her 2,300-signature petition decrying "Darwinism, unchallenged" prompted the school system to put evolution disclaimers on the inside front cover of the science books used in middle and high schools.
And that, in turn, prompted another group of parents to file a federal lawsuit with potentially national implications.
Arguments start today before U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper in Atlanta in a case that could stir comparisons to the 1925 trial in Dayton, Tenn., when John Scopes was tried for teaching evolution.
The trial is expected to raise these questions:
Is intelligent design, a leading alternate theory espoused by many opponents of evolution, religious? Intelligent design holds that the variety of life on Earth results from a purposeful design rather than random mutation and that a higher intelligence guides the process.
If the theory is found to be religious, do Cobb's disclaimers, which don't mention religion or intelligent design by name, violate the separation of church and state?
Six parents have sued the Cobb school system over the disclaimers, which 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 parents' lawsuit, filed in August 2002, is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. It contends that the placement of the disclaimers restricts the teaching of evolution, promotes and requires the teaching of creationism and intelligent design and discriminates against particular religions.
The suburban Atlanta school system, Georgia's second-largest with more than 102,000 students, contends the disclaimers in science books do nothing more than promote "respectful discourse that is going to naturally arise," system attorney Linwood Gunn said.
Some people don't want the system to "teach evolution as dogma or force people to choose between evolution and dogma," Gunn said. "We do want to encourage critical thinking."
Gunn's attempts to have the lawsuit dismissed were turned down by Cooper in a series of rulings.
The judge in April said he weighed the constitutionality of the issue by applying a three-pronged test handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971. To get the lawsuit dismissed, the Cobb 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 that the disclaimer was adopted for a secular purpose. But he said it could have the effect of advancing or inhibiting religion.
He also found that "the practical effect of students being encouraged to consider and discuss alternatives to evolution" could create concerns about the entanglement of government with religion.
Rogers, who has since enrolled both her children in private schools, views those discussions about alternatives to evolution as only fair. "The whole dispute is about fairness and equal treatment," she said. "Give kids the opportunity to make a decision themselves."
The theory of evolution - that all living things developed from earlier forms through slight variations over time, and natural selection determines which species survive - was propounded by Charles Darwin in 1859.
Americans have long been divided on it, as evidenced by the Scopes trial. Dubbed "the monkey trial," it ended with Scopes' conviction for violating a Tennessee law that made it unlawful "to teach any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible and to teach instead that man was descended from a lower order of animals."
Still, from the 1930s onward, the teaching of biological evolution became standard in U.S. classrooms.
A school board in suburban Atlanta goes to court to defend its textbook stickers saying that evolution is a theory, not a fact.
By Gary Younge
Nov. 9, 2004 | A suburban American school board found itself in court Monday after it tried to placate Christian fundamentalist parents by placing a sticker on its science textbooks saying evolution was "a theory, not a fact."
Atlanta's Cobb County School Board, the second largest board in Georgia, added the sticker two years ago after a 2,300-strong petition attacked the presentation of "Darwinism unchallenged." Some parents wanted creationism -- the theory that God created humans as related in the Bible -- to be taught alongside evolution.
Shortly after the stickers were put on the books, six parents launched a legal challenge, with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union. It started Monday. "I'm a strong advocate for the separation of church and state," one of the parents, Jeffrey Selman, told the Associated Press. "I have no problem with anybody's religious beliefs. I just want an adequate educational system."
The board says the stickers were motivated by a desire to establish a greater understanding of different viewpoints. "They improve the curriculum, while also promoting an attitude of tolerance for those with different religious beliefs," said Linwood Gunn, a lawyer for Cobb County schools.
The controversy began when the school board's textbook selection committee ordered $8 million worth of the science books in March 2002. Marjorie Rogers, a parent who does not believe in evolution, protested and petitioned the board to add a sticker and an insert setting out other explanations for the origins of life. "It is unconstitutional to teach only evolution," she said. "The school board must allow the teaching of both theories of origin."
Her efforts galvanized the fundamentalist community. "God created earth and man in his image," another parent, Patricia Fuller, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Leave this garbage out of the textbooks. I don't want anybody taking care of me in a nursing home some day to think I came from a monkey."
Wendi Hill, one of the parents who signed the petition, said: "We believe the Bible is correct in that God created man. I don't expect the public school system to teach only creationism, but I think it should be given its fair share."
Cobb County achieved what it believed to be a compromise by adding stickers to the books that 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."
But secular parents believed the board had been browbeaten. "I'm shocked Cobb County is handling it this way," said Gina Stubbart, who served on the textbook selection committee. "The average person knows evolution is a widely accepted scientific theory."
This year, Georgia's school superintendent, Kathy Cox, removed the word "evolution" from the state's science teaching standards, but she quickly backtracked after receiving nearly 1,000 complaints.
In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that creationism was a religious belief that could not be taught in public schools along with evolution. Since then creationism has been repackaged as the theory of "intelligent design." This contends that life on earth results from a purposeful design rather than random development and that a higher intelligence is guiding this process. Pennsylvania's Dover-area school board has already voted to teach intelligent design.
The hearing in Georgia will have to establish whether intelligent design is in fact a religious theory, and if so, whether the stickers that mention neither intelligent design nor religion by name violate the separation of church and state.
The issue of creationism in schools has long been a point of contention between fundamentalists and secularists in the U.S. In 1925, John Scopes went on trial for teaching evolution in Dayton, Tenn., in what became known as the "monkey trial." It ended with Scopes being fined $100 for violating a Tennessee law that forbade the teaching of "any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible and to teach instead that man was descended from a lower order of animals."
(Nov. 8) -- Parents in Georgia are challenging the way schools teach evolution versus creationism. The issue concerns textbooks, but goes to the very heart of our national values. Who decides what Clark County students use in the classroom?
Diane Reitz is the Literacy Director for the Clark County School District. She said, "We look at textbooks to age, racial diversity to make sure we have represented our diverse community.
Selecting textbooks for Clark County students is a lengthy process. Ultimately, the State Board of Education makes the final decision. "Nevada state standards outline what's to be covered. The essential skills and concepts, and then we utilize our local curriculum and textbook material to support that," Reitz explained.
In Atlanta, several parents have the joined the ACLU in filing a lawsuit over a sticker in a science book that says evolution is a theory not a fact. They say it's an unlawful promotion of religion.
"There are things you have to be sensitive of because kids say it's creation others say it's evolution." Tracie Mikesell teaches science at Woodbury Middle School. Mikesell says she sticks to her curriculum to avoid any confusion. "You don't want to offend your students or parents. You still have to prepare them for the test they have to take when they graduate from high school whether they choose to believe the theory of evolution. They still have to know about the theory of evolution."
In Texas, the State Board of Education is asking publishers to change their health textbooks to describe marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Texas and 43 other states, including Nevada, do not recognize same sex marriages.
A Clark County School District spokesperson tells Eyewitness News there haven't been any such requests there, nor has there been pressure to bring religious issues to local classrooms
Clark County students are taught the theory of evolution based on Nevada state standards. The school district says it's a widely accepted principle used to help explain diversity and unity among living things.
By Rachel Campbell
This popped up on the state news wire Saturday night: "School officials (in Grantsburg, Wis.) 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." (You can read the whole thing at CNN.com, among other places: "Wisconsin district to teach more than evolution," Nov. 6.) Reading past that inflammatory introductory sentence, it turns out that isn't quite what happened. The Associated Press story continues to report, "Members of Grantsburg's school board believed that a state law governing the teaching of evolution was too restrictive. The science of 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."
In other words, theories other than Charles Darwin's would be allowed into the curriculum. That's it. Still, the story is an excellent one for setting off alarms among liberals who've already programmed their congressmen's numbers into their phones in anticipation of President Bush's theocratic policy implementations.
In what may come as a surprise to all two of the conservative readers my column hasn't quite driven away in disgust yet, I've never really understood the hoopla behind banning creationism from schools. Assuming the teacher addresses the theories as just that - theories, if not good ol' fashioned beliefs - why can't creationism be addressed in public schools? Not everyone buys Freud, but that's still taught in schools right along with other psychological schools of thought.
Closer to the point, I studied Buddhism and Hindu during my public school education, but no one freaked out that I would be converted to one or the other. Seriously, just how stupid do people think kids are? Just because a teacher tells them something doesn't mean the kid is going to believe it, heart and soul. In fact, they'll probably believe it less, being too busy being stressed and/or bored to the point of insanity over how on Earth they're going to memorize all these stupid theories for the exam, plus ace the chem exam, plus write that stupid English paper, all on three hours of sleep and, like, no Mountain Dew whatsoever.
If we're going to teach creationism in public schools, fine and dandy; as long as we adhere to that "various models/theories" qualification of miraculous semantic ambiguity and teach, indeed, various creationist models and theories. I'm talking Judeo-Christian, Islam, Buddhist, and Hindi origin theories, with maybe some World Indigenous theories for extra credit, supplementing Darwin's theory of evolution. Why not? If we can learn about Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, read "Siddhartha," and memorize psychoanalytic theory as an archaic point of Genesis rather than a practical application, why can't various creationist theories be examined?
Online reporter Rachel Campbell, an ignorant sinner if there ever was one, can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By The Associated Press
The Grantsburg, Wis., school board has revised its science curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism, prompting an outcry from more than 300 educators who urged that the decision be reversed.
Meanwhile, in suburban Atlanta, a federal court trial over evolution disclaimers in biology textbooks started today, with a group of parents arguing in a lawsuit that the stickers in the books represent a government endorsement of religion.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987 that creationism was a religious belief that could not be taught in public schools along with evolution.
The Grantsburg school board said a Wisconsin 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.
Scattered efforts around the nation have pushed 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.
In Georgia, suburban Cobb County near Atlanta put stickers in three biology textbooks in 2002, after more than 2,000 parents complained that the books presented evolution as the only explanation for the origin of life.
Cobb County school officials said their stickers simply encouraged students to keep an open mind, but the current lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against the school district claims the warning promotes the teaching of creationism and discriminates against particular religions.
"The religious views of some that contradict science cannot dictate curriculum," said ACLU attorney Maggie Garrett.
Garrett said the stickers were intended to placate parents.
"It's like saying everything that follows this sticker isn't true," Jeffrey Selman, a parent critical of the stickers, said today.
The trial in federal district court is expected to last several 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."
Garrett said the stickers introduced a bias against the material into the text.
"A reasonable observer would think it was a government endorsement of religion," Garrett said, adding the school board "did almost no research on the soundness of evolution."
Garrett said she planned to offer testimony from science teachers and parents.
"It makes the theory of evolution appear unsound, unsupported," said Garrett of the sticker.
A lawyer for Cobb County schools, Linwood Gunn, said he expected the disclaimer would hold up in court.
"This case is not about a sticker which has 33 words on it," Gunn said today. "It's about textbooks that say a lot more than that."
Gunn held up a copy of the table of contents from the book and argued that the text included 101 pages about evolution.
"The sticker doesn't exist independently of the 101 pages about evolution," Gunn said.
U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper asked Gunn why it was necessary to have a sticker clarify evolution as a theory.
"You said the text says that it's not a fact, it's a theory," Cooper said. "Why put a sticker on the book when that's already in the book?"
Gunn said the sticker "provides a unique opportunity for critical thinking." He added that the school board was not trying to endorse religion but sought to accommodate all points of view.
"It doesn't say anything about faith," said Gunn of the sticker. "It doesn't say anything about religion."
Cooper also challenged Garrett, asking, "Are you saying you can't discuss an alternate theory without teaching it? If you talk it, does that mean you're teaching?"
Garrett said no.
The books were adopted by the school board in 2001, and the stickers were added in 2002.
Last system update: Tuesday, November 9, 2004 | 08:32:37
Monday November 8, 6:20 am ET
ATLANTA, Nov. 8 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The courts should not prevent educators from encouraging students to approach the study of evolution with an open mind according to over 30 scientists, including 25 from Georgia, who have submitted a legal brief to the US District Court in the Northern District of Georgia.
The court begins hearing testimony today in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU challenging the Cobb Co. school district's right to insert a sticker into high school biology textbooks which states: "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."
"Frankly, it's astonishing that the ACLU opposes having students study evolution 'with an open mind,'" says attorney Seth Cooper, an expert on the legal aspects of teaching evolution. "The ACLU is supposed to be against censorship and favor the free marketplace of ideas, but here it is dogmatically trying to censor a school district from encouraging an open-minded approach to teaching evolution."
Cooper points out that the textbook sticker does not deal with creationism or even alternative scientific theories to evolution: "It merely encourages students to avoid dogmatism when studying evolution by carefully and critically examining the evidence with an open mind," explains Cooper. "That sort of critical inquiry is the heart of what science is supposed to be about."
While the ACLU claims there is no debate among scientists over Darwinian evolution, Cooper, a program officer with the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, explains that this is simply not true.
"There is a robust and growing scientific controversy surrounding neo-Darwinian theory," says Cooper. "The scientists listed in this brief wanted to correct the ACLU's patently erroneous claim that no scientists question Darwinian evolution."
The brief states "that the science education necessary to equip students for the 21st Century should not censor relevant scientific information about important scientific controversies (such as neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories), but should fully inform students about such debates."
Scientists joining the legal brief include biologists and biochemists from state schools such as University of Georgia, Georgia Southern University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Kennesaw State University, Stanford University, and Ohio State University. Many of the scientists are signatories of the national "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" list of over 300 scientists who are "skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."
Source: Discovery Institute
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time
2004, Anchor; 240p.
creationism, critical-thinking, psi
While this bibliography consists almost entirely of books believed, at least by their authors, to be non-fiction, this remarkable novel deserves a mention. The narrator and protagonist is Christopher Boone, an autistic teenager living in England. While he has many behavior problems (he lists them), he also is gifted in math and physics. In his narrative, he deals with many topics familar to skeptics, including Conan Doyle/ spiritualism and creationism arguments. In all cases his beliefs match the skeptical position. More importantly, this book, winner of numerous prizes, is a wonderful and moving look at the struggles of a person with autism and his very human and flawed family. Highly recommended.
[ Reviewed by Stephen Sloan, email@example.com ]
Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/
Please consider submitting an entry yourself.
Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer
By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press Writer
Originally published November 8, 2004, 11:40 AM EST
WASHINGTON -- Scientists say changes in the earth's climate from human influences are occurring particularly intensely in the Arctic region, evidenced by widespread melting of glaciers, thinning sea ice and rising permafrost temperatures.
A study released Monday said the annual average amount of sea ice in the Arctic has decreased by about 8 percent in the past 30 years, resulting in the loss of 386,100 square miles of sea ice -- an area bigger than Texas and Arizona combined.
"The polar regions are essentially the earth's air conditioner," Michael McCracken, president of the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, told a news conference Monday. "Imagine the earth having a less efficient air conditioner."
Susan Joy Hassol, the report's lead author, said the Arctic probably would warm twice as much as the Earth. A region of extreme light and temperature changes, the Arctic's surfaces of ice, ocean water, vegetation and soil are important in reflecting the sun's heat.
Pointing to the report as a clear signal that global warming is real, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Monday the "dire consequences" of warming in the Arctic underscore the need for their proposal to require U.S. cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases. President Bush has rejected that approach.
In the past half-century, average yearly temperatures in Alaska and Siberia rose by about 3.6 degrees to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit and winters in Alaska and western Canada warmed by an average of 5 degrees to 7 degrees Fahrenheit.
With "some of the most rapid and severe climate change on earth," the Arctic regions' melting contributed to sea levels rising globally by an average of about three inches in the past 20 years, the report said.
"These changes in the Arctic provide an early indication of the environmental and societal significance of global warming," says the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, a four-year study by 300 scientists in eight Arctic-bordering nations, including the United States.
This most comprehensive study of Arctic warming to date adds yet more impetus to the projections by many of the world's climate scientists that there will be a steady rise in global temperature as the result of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels and other sources.
It is based on ice core samples and other evidence of climate conditions such as on-the-ground and satellite measurements of surface air temperatures. Nations participating in the study besides the United States are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden.
"The bottom line is that the Arctic is warming now, much more rapidly than the rest of the globe, and it's impacting people directly," Robert Corell, chairman of the scientists' study panel and a senior fellow with the American Meteorological Society, said Sunday.
The process is only likely to accelerate in the Arctic, a region that provides important resources such as oil, gas and fish, the study finds.
That would wreak havoc on polar bears, ice-dependent seals, caribou and reindeer herds -- and local people such as Inuit whose main food source comes from hunting those animals. Some endangered migratory birds are projected to lose more than half their breeding areas.
The study projects that in the next 100 years the yearly average temperatures will increase by 7 to 13 degrees Fahrenheit over land and 13 to 18 degrees over the ocean, mainly because the water absorbs more heat.
Forests would expand into the Arctic tundra, which in turn would expand into the polar ice deserts, because rising temperatures would favor taller, denser vegetation. The areas of Arctic tundra would shrink to their smallest extent since 21,000 years ago when, humans began emerging from the last Ice Age.
Sea levels globally already are expected to rise between another four inches to three feet or more this century. Longer term, sea levels would rise alarmingly if temperatures continue to rise unabated, in the range of 5 degrees to 11 degrees Fahrenheit over the next several centuries.
In that scenario, the study projects "a virtually complete melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet," which would contribute as much as 23 feet to the world's sea level rise.
Arctic Climate Impact Assessment: http://www.acia.uaf.edu
Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press
Officials in the northern Norwegian city of Tromsø have withdrawn their order that a local farmer tear down an old barn on his property. They accepted his argument that demolishing the barn will anger the ghosts living under it.
The barn is located in Tromvik, on an island on the outskirts of Tromsø township. Local officials had called the dilapidated building a hazard and ordered it to be torn down.
Its owner protested, claiming that he didn't dare go near the barn himself.
"Many years ago, I removed its roof," he wrote in a letter to the building officials. "The result was that I had several encounters with the underworld. And I fell gravely ill.
"There are underworld creatures living in that barn," the man wrote. "My entire family knows about this."
He wrote that he'd be glad to allow others to tear down the building, if they dare to do so. He won't stand in the way of a wrecking crew, but whoever takes on the job must also be willing to suffer the consequences.
That was enough for the building officials to back off, but they still want the structure secured so that it's not a danger to animals or children. The owner agreed to make improvements, and a local university researcher lauded the consideration shown to local beliefs.
"Sometimes we just have to accept that there's more between heaven and
earth than between the files and rules in the township's building
Tromsø building chief Hallvard Thon told local newspaper Tromsø.