NTS LogoSkeptical News for 17 November 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

SRAM Articles Lead to Alternative Medical Doctor's Resignation - Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine - Brief Article


Skeptical Inquirer, July, 2000

A nationally prominent alternative medicine advocate, Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona, was forced to resign from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in early February, just days after an embarrassing exposé in the local Pittsburgh press. MehlMadrona is a close friend and protégé of Andrew Weil, the leader of the Integrated Medicine movement.

The front-page feature article published February 6 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette announced that Mehl-Madrona was the focus of a special investigation by UPMC. The investigation was due in part to the recent publication of three articles highly critical of his beliefs and activities in the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine (SRAM). The articles were written by a Pittsburgh health consumer advocate, Patrick Curry, who had been upset at UPMC's hiring of Mehl-Madrona in October 1997 as the Medical Director of UPMC's newly established Center for Complementary Medicine.

Curry is quoted in the article, saying, "I'm very concerned that rational thinking not be undermined" and that "it's important that religion and science operate on separate planes. If they don't, people will be less and less able to distinguish between evidence-based medicine and charlatanism."

The Post-Gazette article described Mehl-Madrona's claims in his book Coyote Medicine to have cured advanced ovarian cancer by removing traumatic memories from a woman s pelvis and to have channeled Native Indian spirits to cure prostate cancer. The reporter, at Mehl-Madrona's invitation, prepared for this story by attended a sweat-lodge ceremony in the Pittsburgh suburbs. A Roman Catholic cancer patient who believed she had been a Native American in a previous life was treated by Mehl-Madrona with sweat-lodge prayers carried to heaven on tobacco smoke. She told the reporter that she was convinced she was cured.

This apparently was too much for UPMC. Mehl-Madrona was asked to resign. As part of the settlement, Mehl-Madrona agreed not to discuss the circumstances of the resignation. He further stated he is in negotiations with two other academic medical centers about running complementary medicine programs similar to that at UPMC.

When Curry, a retired computer systems engineer, read Mehl-Madrona's book in 1997, he says he was appalled. The book contained many accounts of mystical healing claims and a seeming contempt for modern science. As Curry researched Mehl-Madrona, he was further disturbed by his long involvement with the Transpersonal Psychology movement, a product of the psychedelic mysticism of the 1960s and 1970s. He was especially disturbed that Mehl-Madrona had become a major presence in Pittsburgh, lecturing on his book, on herbal treatments, and proselytizing for alternative medicine throughout the community.

Curry wrote a lengthy complaint about Mehl-Madrona to the chairman of the Department of Medicine at UPMC-Shadyside Hospital, where the complementary center is located. His complaint went unanswered. He contacted the local press, but found only alternative medicine sympathizers. He could find no academics or medical professionals willing to look into this matter. Finding no local support, he sought aid from the national skeptical and anti-health-fraud communities, eventually making contact with Wallace Sampson, editor of the recently established Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. At Sampson's invitation, Curry wrote a book review of Coyote Medicine, a short history of the UPMC Center for Complementary Medicine, and "The Making of a Complementary Medicine Man," tracing Mehl-Madrona's bizarre career path under the tutelage of a number of New Age gurus.

In late summer of 1999, Curry renewed his complaint, bringing the articles and additional supporting materials to the leadership of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Responding to Curry's persistent urging, UPMC created a blue ribbon panel in December headed by the senior vice president and the medical director to investigate Mehl-Madrona and to review UPMC's entire alternative medicine program. This investigation was in progress when the Post-Gazette article was published.

Curry told SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, "I can't overstate my appreciation for the information and support I've received from the national skeptical community. I'm now a subscriber both to SKEPTICAL INQUIRER and The Skeptic and I have used the skeptical and anti-health-fraud Web sites to help in my research." Curry says one of the most important morale-boosters he had during this period was the April 1998 publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association of 11-year-old

Emily Rosa's debunking of Therapeutic Touch. "I figured if Emily can do that, then this Pittsburgh situation shouldn't be all that difficult, after all."

Postscript: By the end of March, Mehl-Madrona had accepted an offer to be the program director of newly established Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. This complementary medicine center will be affiliated with Albert Einstein School of Medicine. He was gloating that his position is an improvement over his old position at UPMC.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

On-line reading and handouts for
A Scientific Look at Alternative Medicine


Thomas J. Wheeler, Ph.D.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
University of Louisville School of Medicine


January 6: Overview: science and pseudoscience; health fraud and quackery [reading, handout]
January 13: Chiropractic; osteopathy, massage [reading, handout]
January 20: Cancer and AIDS treatments; chelation therapy; allergy; arthritis; misc.[reading, handout]
January 27: Herbs; mind-body medicine [reading, handout]
February 10: Dietary supplements; weight loss [reading, handout]
February 17: Traditional Chinese medicine; Ayurvedic medicine [reading, handout]
February 24: Homeopathy, naturopathy, and other holistic approaches [reading, handout]
March 2: Faith healing; prayer; political developments [reading, handout]

NEW! Handout on dietary supplements and weight loss added (10/21/04)
NEW! Handout on eastern approaches added (11/3/04)

Rituals of healing - Native Intelligence - Native American sweat lodges and spiritual healing


Natural Health, Feb, 2004 by Samantha Dunn

American sweat lodges help you purify the body, integrate the physical and the spiritual, and reconnect with the earth.

"For a Native American, a healing is a spiritual journey," declares Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., author of Coyote Medicine and a descendent of the Lakota and Cherokee tribes. "What happens to the body reflects what is happening in the mind and spirit."

The integration of the physical and the spiritual is at the heart of the tradition of sweat lodges, a Native American ceremony believed to be the most widely practiced indigenous healing ritual. "For us, it's sort of like going to church, something to practice on a regular basis," says Mehl-Madrona, research coordinator for the program of integrative medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. A sweat can be used as its own ceremony, to cleanse oneself and reconnect with Mother Earth, or as preparation for other important undertakings, such as the Vision Quest or the Sun Dance.

The particulars of the rituals vary from tribe to tribe and from family to family, says Mehl-Madrona. Yet the central concept is always to purify body, mind and soul through intense heat generated by pouring water over hot rocks. Some form of this ancient practice is found in cultures around the world, from the Finnish sauna to the Russian bania, and from the Jewish shvitz to the Turkish hamman.

"You're essentially generating a fever in the body," Mehl-Madrona explains. The physical benefits of this have been enumerated in study after study, he says. A body temperature of 102 to 106 degrees ("which is what we suspect is generated in a sweat lodge") creates a hostile environment for bacterial and viral infection.

Sweating flushes toxic metals, such as copper, lead and mercury, and removes excess salt, a benefit for those with mild hypertension. The heat and sweating also helps ease soreness and stiffness, and dilates capillaries, increasing blood flow to the skin.

Mehl-Madrona participates in sweat lodge ceremonies with Native American patients and others who feel they might benefit, but the physical rewards are only one small reason. A sweat lodge can't be separated from its context as a spiritual ritual or it loses its power.

"If you just want to feel better sweating, go take a sauna, but don't call it a sweat," he insists. "Healing comes on a spiritual level. We have to make ourselves available to the spiritual realm. Ceremony and ritual provide the means of making ourselves available."

a ceremony and song

Almost every aspect of a sweat lodge has a symbolic meaning, says Edward Albert, the California state commissioner for Native American lands. Lodges are usually round or oval, reflecting the shape of the womb, and the experience is likened to being reborn in healing energy. The flap or door of a lodge is generally built very low, forcing people to enter crouched or even on their knees as a show of humility and respect for the earth as a sacred, living entity.

Although construction varies, numerous tribes prefer willow, which has long been used medicinally (its bark contains salicin, the analgesic in aspirin compounds); it's known as the "tree of love" in the Seneca tradition, due to its resilience and grace. Since willow dies in the winter and comes up again in spring, it also offers a lesson hi death and rebirth.

Saplings are set up to represent four quadrants, signifying the four elements and the four directions. Originally, lodges were covered with animal skins; contemporary structures use blankets or tarpaulins. A fire pit just outside the lodge is used to heat rocks, called the Stone People, which represent one's elders. When the rocks are thoroughly heated, they are brought into the tent in a series of four rounds (or sometimes 16 or 32 rounds). Then water is poured on the stones, generating steam, which symbolizes, in part, the release of ancient knowledge.

A sweat begins in total silence--sometimes thought of as the "true voice of the Creator"--but songs, prayers, chants and heartfelt talk are central to most ceremonies. Sweats can last for days at a time in traditional settings, but for the newly initiated a two-hour series of rounds provides a complete experience.

Though generally considered safe, says Mehl-Madrona, the excessive sweating produced in a lodge isn't for everyone, because it can adversely interact with medication or exacerbate certain conditions. Pregnant women, people with heart disease, and anyone taking benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium) should check with their physicians before participating in a sweat lodge ceremony.

Others who should proceed with caution are very overweight and very underweight people, who have all equally difficult time regulating body temperature and are more likely to faint in excessive heat. And those who suffer from claustrophobia and post traumatic stress disorders can have their conditions triggered by the dark, closed space of a lodge.

experience the spirit

Tom Utterhack, a laboratory technician in Yakima, Wash., considers himself a man of science, but when he stepped into a sweat lodge he found something profound in the pitch blackness; the smell of earth; the fierce, moist heat penetrating his skin; and the honest words spoken by the participants, followed by intense silence.

"It was all very meaningful to me," Utterhack recalls. "For some time, I had been looking for ways to explore spirituality, but I couldn't relate to conventional Western religions. The sweat lodge seemed to allow for a direct experience of our human spirit. Afterward, I felt a stronger sense of confidence in my life."

Explaining that kind of impact has as much to do with the participant as it does with the event, offers Peter Blum, sweat lodge facilitator at the New Age Health Spa, nestled in New York's Catskills Mountains. "Deep healing happens when a person is ready to be healed. Whatever words yon decide to use for spirit--the Native Americans call it the Great Mystery--the lodge setting certainly facilitates that. It's a ceremony that resonates with something in a person's psyche."

Blum observes that modern society divorces us from any daily contact with nature, and that even human interactions are becoming ever more remote, more virtual. "People are so out of touch that when they come and just sit together in a community among the ancient elements the dirt, the fire, the wood, the air--that in itself is very healing."

For Utterback, the encounter was so compelling that he braved the hostility outsiders can face when they intrude upon Native American ceremonies. A Yakima tribal elder allowed him to observe and learn the tradition over a period of eight months.

"We never think of how we got here, the continuity that makes our lives possible," says Utterback. "A quote I'd heard long ago suddenly made sense to me: 'I am the reason that my ancestors existed for thousands of years.' Just the act of giving thanks for your life and for other people--that expression of gratitude is not something we take time for every day. When I did, I started to feel connected to everything around me."

The sweat lodge is a place of magic and visions, but it is also physically taxing. Drink plenty of water on the day of a sweat.

Eat lightly. Wear loose, lightweight clothing.

HERBS ARE OFTEN USED IN CEREMONIES. At some sweat lodges sage and cedar are thought to purify the space (and the participants), while tobacco leaves bless the earth. "Because it's plentiful around here, I sometimes use eucalyptus too," says Edward Albert, whose backyard sweat lodge is a place for family to gather. "That's good for a cold!"

where to sweat

For more information on attending a sweat lodge ceremony, contact:

* Lewis Mehl-Madrona, Tucson, Ariz.:

Address inquiries to Mehl-Madrona@aol.com.

* Seven Circles, Richmond, Calif.:

sevencircles.org; 510-222-3822. Fred Wahpepah, a tribal elder of the Kickapoo and Sac-and-Fox, provides opportunities for non-Native Americans to participate in sweat lodges and Vision Quest ceremonies in the San Francisco Bay area.

* New Age Health Spa, Neversink, N.Y.:

newagehealthspa.com; 800-682-4348. About two hours from New York City, the spa conducts sweat lodges monthly from April through November.

* Hidden Creek Ranch, Harrison, Idaho

hiddencreek.com; 800-446-3833. Along with holistic education and outdoor activities, the ranch offers pipe and sweat lodge ceremonies.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

Scientist: Man in Americas earlier than thought


Archaeologists put humans in North America 50,000 years ago

By Marsha Walton and Michael Coren
Wednesday, November 17, 2004 Posted: 1:47 PM EST (1847 GMT)

(CNN) -- Archaeologists say a site in South Carolina may rewrite the history of how the Americas were settled by pushing back the date of human settlement thousands of years.

An archaeologist from the University of South Carolina today announced radiocarbon tests that dated the first human settlement in North America to 50,000 years ago -- at least 25,000 years before other known human sites on the continent.

"Topper is the oldest radiocarbon dated site in North America," said Albert Goodyear of the University of South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.

If true, the find represents a revelation for scientists studying how humans migrated to the Americas.

Most scientists believe humans' first ventures to the New World were across a land bridge from present-day Russia to Alaska about 13,000 years ago. The new evidence, if true, suggests humans crossed the land bridge much earlier -- possibly during an ice age -- to the Americas and rapidly colonized the two continents.

"It poses some real problems trying to explain how you have people (arriving) in Central Asia almost at the same time as people in the Eastern United States," said Theodore Schurr, anthropology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a curator at the school's museum.

"You almost have to hope for instantaneous expansion...We're talking about a very rapid movement of people around the globe."

Schurr said that conclusive evidence of stone tools similar to those in the old world and uncontaminated radiocarbon dating samples would be needed to verify the findings as old as 50,000 years ago.

"If dating is confirmed, then it really does have a significant impact on our previous understanding of New World colonization," he said.

Modern humans, or homo sapiens, emerged between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago in Africa. Modern humans quickly fanned out to Australia and Central Asia about 50,000 years ago and arrived in Europe only about 40,000 years ago. It was thought until recently that no humans arrived in the New World until about 13,000 years ago. Archaic hominids like australopithecines and Neanderthals have never been found in the New World.

University of Wisconsin at Madison professor, geologist Thomas Stafford, said that the shocking results would shake scientist's theories about human development, but would lead to new ideas.

"It's a slow process," he said. "You have preconceived ideas...Until someone rocks the boat, you really don't think about something new."

Goodyear plans to publish his work in a peer-reviewed scientific journal next year which is the standard method by which scientists announce their findings

Until research is peer-reviewed, objective experts in the field have not necessarily had an opportunity to evaluate a scientist's methods, or weigh in on the validity of his conclusions.

Archaeologists will meet in October of 2005 for a conference in Columbia, South Carolina, to discuss the earliest inhabitants of North America, including a visit to the Topper Site.

Goodyear has been excavating the Topper dig site along the Savannah River since the 1980s. He recovered artifacts and tools last May that are expected to push the date of colonization back before most of the earliest known settlements on the continent.

Goodyear dug four meters (13 feet) deeper than the soil layer containing the earliest North American people, known as the Clovis culture, and began uncovering a plethora of tools.

Scientists and volunteers at the site in Allendale have unearthed hundreds of implements, many stone chisels and tools likely used to skin hides, butcher meat, carve antlers, wood and possibly ivory. The tools were fashioned from a substance called chert, a flint like stone that is found in the region.

These discoveries could push that date back thousands -- maybe even tens of thousands -- of years and demand a new explanation for how the Americas were first settled.

Since the 1930s, archaeologists have generally believed North America was settled by hunters following large game over a land bridge from Russia during the last major ice age about 13,000 years ago.

"That had been repeated so many times in textbooks and lectures it became part of the common lore," said Dennis Stanford, curator of archeology at the Smithsonian Institution. "People forgot it was only an unproven hypothesis."

Land-bridge assumption challenged

A growing body of evidence is prompting some scientists to challenge that assumption.

A scattering of sites from South America to Wisconsin have detected human presence before 13,000 years ago -- or the first Clovis sites -- since the first groundbreaking discovery of human artifacts in a cave near Clovis, New Mexico, in 1936.

These discoveries have led archaeologists to support alternative theories -- such as settlement by sea -- for the Americas.

Goodyear and his colleagues began their dig at the Topper Site in the early 1980s with a goal of finding out more about the Clovis people, long thought to be the earliest people to settle the Americas.

Goodyear thought that because of the resources available along the Savannah River and the moderate climate it would be a good place to look for even earlier human settlers than the Clovis people.

Physics News Update 708

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 708 November 10, 2004 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein
OUR SIXTH SENSE IS AS FINE TUNED AS IT CAN BE says Todd Squires, a physicist at Caltech. He has investigated why the natural selection process, operating over evolutionary time, settled upon specific dimensions for the vestibular semicircular canals (SCC), the set of three mutually perpendicular, fluid-filled tubes housed in the inner ear of vertebrates that give an organism its sense of balance. Scientists sometimes recognize the perception of balance and motion as being a sixth sense, in addition to the usual five---smell, touch, sight, hearing, and taste. The balance sense organ, the SCC structures, are essentially donut-shaped, with a major radius of 3 mm and minor radius of 0.2 mm. Furthermore, the torus is interrupted by a membrane called a cupula impregnated with tiny sensory hairs for sensing the sloshing of the fluid through the canals. Sensing an acceleration or rotation involves the fluid being momentarily left behind while the head (and the SCCs) rotate in a new direction. The fluid displaces the cupula, deflecting the sensory hairs and triggering a neural signal to the brain and muscles controlling the eye, and this is what gives us the sense of motion, and sometimes dizziness.

Squires addressed himself to the question of why the SCC should be roughly the same size (to within a factor of three) in mice as it is in whales. In humans, for instance, the SCC reaches its full adult size in about the 14th week of pregnancy. Why should SCCs be all of this one size, as if evolutionary pressures had "converged" on an optimal solution? In performing studies of optimal design, Squires varied four different key physical parameters---SCC major radius, minor radius, cupula thickness and height---and discovered that the greatest canal sensitivity occurred for those parameter values manifested in actual vertebrates. Knowing how the canals work is important for understanding various forms of dizziness (such as "top-shelf vertigo," the light-headedness experienced by some when they tilt their heads back in looking at a top shelf) and for understanding peculiarities of some ordinary visual experiences. For example, since the SCC output is wired into eye-control muscles, some motions can be compensated: you can read a fixed page while swiveling your head, but with your head fixed you can't read a page swivelled by a friend. The SCC-eye feedback effect also explains why some home video, recorded while the filmer is in motion, doesn't look so good afterwards in the editing stage, when the neuro-feedback mechanism isn't at work. (Todd Squires, Physical Review Letters, 5 Nov 2004; tsquires@acm.caltech.edu, 626-395-4640; for further background, see Scientific American, 243, p118, 1980)

CHEMICAL "DEFECT ENGINEERING." At next week's AVS Science & Technology meeting in Anaheim, University of Illinois researchers (Edmund Seebauer, eseebaue@uiuc.edu) will report an approach to reliably make small-scale versions of a pn junction, the crucial region of a semiconductor that changes from electron-rich (the "n" zone) to electron-poor (the "p" zone). Today, pn junctions are only 25 nanometers (100 atoms) deep. But to make increasingly smaller (and faster) silicon chips, the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors dictates that by 2010 the pn junctions must have depths of 10 nanometers, or just 40 atoms. The conventional method for making the junctions is called "ion implantation," in which charged versions of a foreign atom ("dopant") are accelerated into a silicon wafer to create electrically active regions that are either electron-rich or electron-poor. Unfortunately, current ion-implantation methods cannot make 10-nm-deep pn junctions without inadvertently moving silicon atoms into some of the spots intended for dopants. But the Illinois researchers are using surface chemistry to come to the rescue of this conventional technology. In computer simulations, they showed how removing surface layers such as silicon dioxide frees up dangling bonds. Silicon atoms then preferentially rise to the surface while tending to leave the dopant atoms in place. Verified in subsequent experiments, this idea for "defect engineering" has been shown to be a feasible solution for using traditional ion-implantation technology to make smaller-scale silicon-based electronic devices. (Meeting Paper EM-TuA7; see also UIUC news release at http://www.news.uiuc.edu/news/04/0927seebauer.html and meeting lay-language paper at http://www2.avs.org/symposium/anaheim/pressroom/seebauer.pdf.)

100TH ANNIVERSARY OF ELECTRONICS. Researchers are marking November 16, 2004 as the 100th birthday of electronics, which began with British scientist John Ambrose Fleming's 1904 invention of the first practical electronic device. Known as the thermionic diode, this first simple vacuum tube, containing only two electrodes, could be used to convert an alternating current (ac) to a direct current (dc). A special AVS meeting session, taking place exactly 100 years after the day that Fleming applied for a British patent on the diode, will celebrate this seminal invention and the subsequent evolution of electronic components based on vacuum devices. (Contact Fred Dylla, Jefferson Lab in Virginia, dylla@jlab.gov, and Paul Redhead of the National Research Council in Canada, redhead@magma.ca; more information on this and other AVS meeting stories at http://www2.avs.org/symposium/anaheim/pressroom/news.pdf)

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Influenza remedies go au natural


People seeking flu vaccinations turn to alternative medicine

Article by:
Nina Gougis - Staff Reporter

Herbal and folk medicine companies expect increased sales this season as the flu vaccine shortage has more people searching for alternative treatments.

Sales for herbal supplements like echinacea, goldenseal, garlic and green tea and other folk remedies have increased because of the vaccine shortage.

For health food stores like Duck Soup Coop, 129 E. Hillcrest Drive, there is generally more interest in alternative flu remedies as winter approaches, general manager Peggy James said.

However, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caution consumers who use the products because many of them are not FDA approved and said such alternatives are not as effective as the vaccine.

"There is no scientific evidence that any herbal, homeopathic or any folk remedies have any benefit against influenza," CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson said.

However, healthy practices, such as drinking plenty of liquids, getting rest and avoiding alcohol and tobacco could help prevent the flu, she said.

Popular alternative treatments include homeopathy, an ancient medical practice that originated in the 17th century and is popular throughout Europe and becoming more popular in the U.S., according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Like a vaccine, homeopathic treatments strengthen the body's defense mechanisms by using diluted substances that would cause similar symptoms of a disease if used in a more potent form.

Boiron, the maker of the first homeopathic flu treatment in the U.S., Oscillococcinum (Oscillo), has seen a large increase in sales because of the vaccine shortage, consumer information representative Rick Replogle said.

Although he said the treatment could be effective in treating the symptoms, Oscillo is not an alternative to a flu vaccine.

"Tests and studies show it has worked in relieving flu symptoms, but its use as a preventative medicine has not been established," Replogle said.

The retail price for the supplement, which should be taken three times a day, is about $25 for 12 doses and $14 for six doses. Prices for echinacea, green tea capsules and goldenseal supplements range from $13 to $20 for 100 capsules.

Unlike Boiron, Duck Soup Coop, which sells several herbal extracts and homeopathic remedies, has not seen any unusual increase in alternative flu remedy sales because of the vaccine shortage, James said. "There is always an increase of people seeking homeopathic and alternative methods this time of year."

She said the store workers cannot recommend treatment for customers but encourage them to do their own research to find what is best for their health.

"Our main stand is that if you have good nutrition, your predisposition to getting sick won't be that great," James said.

For more information on alternative treatment, visit the NCCAM Web site at www.nccam.nih.gov or visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov.

Pennsylvania board orders teaching of 'intelligent design'


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."

School district adopts 'intelligent design'


By Martha Raffaele

DOVER, Pa. — When talk at the local high school turns to evolution, biology teachers must make time for Charles Darwin — and his detractors.

This rural south-central Pennsylvania community is thought to be the first in the nation to mandate the teaching of "intelligent design," a theory that says 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 school students to learn creationism, a Bible-based view that credits the origin of the world to God. The school will continue to teach evolution, the theory that Earth is billions of years old and that life forms developed over millions of years.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is reviewing the Dover Area School District case.

Meanwhile, 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 Pittsburgh ACLU. "As far as we can tell, Dover is the first school district that has actually mandated intelligent design." About 2,800 students are enrolled in the district, which encompasses the rural community of Dover borough, and a patchwork of farmland and newer suburban developments in several surrounding townships.

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," Mr. Buckingham said. "What we wanted was a balanced presentation."

Mr. Buckingham wanted the board to adopt an intelligence-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins," as a supplement to the traditional biology book, but no vote was taken. A few weeks before the new science curriculum was approved, 50 copies were donated to the high school anonymously.

Although Mr. Buckingham describes himself as a born-again Christian and believes in creationism, he said, "This is not an attempt to impose my views on anyone else." Two of the dissenting board members, Carol Brown and her husband, Jeff, were so upset that they resigned after the board voted 6-3 on Oct. 18 to mandate the teaching approach.

"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," Mrs. Brown said. "Our responsibility to is to represent the viewpoints of all members of the community."

Critics of intelligent design contend that 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, 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," Mr. West said. Dover biology teacher Jennifer Miller said the curriculum changes have left her uncertain about how to approach her evolution lesson.

"If you put the words 'intelligent design' into my curriculum, then I have to teach it," said Miss 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."

Monday, November 15, 2004

Georgia Textbook Sticker Defended Weakly, Says Analyst


"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."
(Sticker placed inside Cobb Co., GA, biology texts)

By Jim Brown
November 15, 2004

(AgapePress) - A federal trial wrapped up on Friday in a case that will determine whether a warning sticker in public school textbooks calling evolution "a theory, not a fact" violates the so-called separation of church and state.

Schools in Cobb County, Georgia, put the disclaimers in biology texts after thousands of parents complained that the books presented evolution as truth without mentioning rival ideas about life's origin, such as intelligent design. (See Earlier Article) Parent Marjorie Rogers testified that while she does not want the Bible taught in school, intelligent design theory should be taught in addition to evolution.

"That's the whole thing," Rogers says. "I am not at all proposing that we exclude any information from the classroom. I want to open up the floodgates."

Legal analyst Seth Cooper with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute says Cobb County School District attorney Linwood Gunn has put on a weak defense by choosing to focus on parents' religious aversions to evolution and by arguing that the issue is about religious sensibilities and parents' free exercise of religion.

"We think that really misses the mark. What's most important and at stake here is not textbook stickers," Cooper states. "What's important is the continued academic freedom of teachers and students to discuss the growing scientific controversy surrounding neo-Darwinian and chemical evolution."

The Discovery Institute analyst says the one witness Gunn put on the stand was not even a scientist. He adds that, in his opinion, Gunn "either threw the case on purpose, or he simply doesn't know what he was doing."

The lawsuit against the sticker disclaimer was brought originally by the American Civil Liberties Union. Cooper wonders why the ACLU does not want children to learn with an open mind. "Careful study and open-mindedness are part of good science education," he says. "The ACLU is wrong -- academic freedom should be protected."

But Cooper remains hopeful that even though the sticker did not receive a strong defense, the judge's decision in the case will align with a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found it is permissible to teach "scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories."

© 2004 AgapePress

ACLU battles schools' warning over evolution


Says textbook stickers veiled attempt to promote religious dogma


Posted: November 13, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com

Like a warning label on a pack of cigarettes, the Cobb County, Ga., textbook sticker says: "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 Cobb County school board placed the disclaimer on the books two years ago after more than 2,000 parents complained the schools were not teaching about the controversy over evolution among scientists and not informing students of alternative theories.

Yesterday, however, American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Michael Manely, representing parents who sued the suburban Atlanta school district over the textbook labeling, contended the school board is "doing more than accommodating religion. They are promoting religious dogma to all students."

U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper is expected to take at least a month to hand down a ruling.

A biology textbook author testified in the week-long trial, asserting the school is wrongly bringing religion into its teaching by questioning evolution, which he regards as the foundation for much of modern science.

However, a specialist on the legal aspects of teaching evolution maintains the ACLU is twisting the case, making it an issue of motives and not evidence.

"Perceived motives are irrelevant," said Seth Cooper, an attorney with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture. "Whether a parent in the community might be religious certainly has no bearing on whether neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories are supported by scientific data. But such motives are also largely irrelevant to the issues being decided by the judge in this case."

The Discovery Institute has been the biggest promoter of "intelligent design," a theory that the complexity and order of the universe and mankind suggest the action of an intelligent cause rather than random chance, without attempting to identify that cause.

Seth Cooper argues that First Amendment Establishment Clause cases, centered on religion in public life, should be about actions by governments and not parents, noting the stickers were adopted by the school board.

He pointed out that in an earlier order, Judge Cooper held he would not impute motives of parents to the school board in adopting the sticker.

The judge said the sticker had a dual secular purpose of promoting critical thinking and reducing parental offense in light of expanded evolution coverage in the science curriculum.

"Careful study and open-mindedness are part of good science education," said the attorney, who helped submit a friend-of-the-court brief in the case on behalf of 30 doctoral scientists.

"Why doesn't the ACLU want children to learn with an open mind?"

The brief highlights the scientific controversy surrounding neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories and the importance of critical thinking skills in science education.

The attorney Cooper said he hopes the judge's decision will reflect a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Edwards vs. Aguillard, which recognized it is permissible to teach "scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories."

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Creationism In The Genes?


It's Monday, and I still haven't finished cleaning the spam out of my inbox. What better way to start the week than with something that makes my toes curl with disgust?

According to the wonderful Bartholomew, the teaching of Creationism is making headway in at least six states. In the US. Yes, in modern times- right now.

First, the teaching of Creationism in schools has been making political headway in at least six states. The strategy is not so much to teach the specific ideas put forward by Creationism (the world-wide flood etc) as to generally raise doubts about evolutionary theory. One way this is achieved is by bringing in "Intelligent Design" (ID), the idea that evolution (and more widely, the universe) is so unlikely that what science takes to be natural phenomena must have been in truth designed. As the designer is not specified (is it God or some kind of alien?), this cannot be accused of being religion. Although ID has only so far produced one peer-reviewed scientific article (and that under questionable circumstances), the Creationists use the democratic-populist impulse in American culture (this controversy is marginal in Europe) to argue a) that if a decent number of lay people are convinced of certain arguments against evolution, those arguments should be taught as science, whatever their quality and regardless of what better-educated scientists might think; and b) that using scientific criteria to decide what should be taught as science is actually a denial of free speech. They would use different words, but that's what it amounts to. (Bartholomew's Notes on Religion)

Creationism is, of course, just one more way for the TheoCon right to shove off its Bible-centric view of the world onto the rest of us in the worst way. After all, if the morons who are still fighting on the Creationist side of the Scopes trial are given leeway, they'd just as happily set up a state where abortion is banned along with the rest of women's rights. One can imagine the bookburnings and stonings to follow soon after.

It seems the fundie Christers may not be able to help themselves, though. According to Dr. Dean Hamer of the US National Cancer Institute's Gene Structure and Regulation Unit, claims he's found a 'god gene' that predisposes people to become religious.

Dean H Hamer of the National Institute of Health and the National Cancer Institute, in an interview to the Washington Post, claimed that chemicals in the brain associated with emotions like joy, sadness and anxiety played a key role in the deep meditative states of the spiritually inclined.

"These chemicals are responsible for the mystical trances experienced by Buddhist practitioners, Roman Catholic nuns and even users of mind-altering drugs like payote," he says.

According to Hamer's research, at least one gene, VMAT2 - which he calls 'God Gene' - controls the flow of chemicals, that play a key role in emotions, to the brain.

"There are probably dozens or hundreds of such genes, yet to be identified, involved in the universal propensity of transcendecnce," he claimed in the interview.

Hamer's previous research on the genetic basis of behavioural traits like anxiety, thrill-seeking and homosexuality encouraged him to look into the genetic propensity for relegious belief. (Team India)

Predictably, churches and other groups are giving Hamer's findings and hypothesis short shrift. One would think they would be in a race for science that bolsters their fanatical claims even a little- and it could be argued a 'god gene' was placed in our human bodies by the Great Gipper Himself to make sure we don't forget Him.

On the other hand, it would make sunse. If this belief is hard-wired into some people's genes, it could explain why fundies don't listen to reason. They are on a basic level incapable of it, with their natural propensity for religious belief channeled into evangelism- or fanatical Islam.

Brr. Having started out angry, I'm now shivering at the thought of a Creationist textbook in the hands of a genetically-programmed Godster.

Creationism opponents say Grantsburg policy based on religion


Posted on Sun, Nov. 14, 2004

Associated Press

GRANTSBURG, Wis. - This community's small school district is in the national spotlight after its school board approved letting creationism be taught in school, but opponents argue that the decision is religiously motivated.

Grantsburg School Board President David Ahlquist is a pastor at Grantsburg's Grace Baptist Church and has caused controversy before over mixing religion with public education, said Gil Hoel, a former school board member, and Joel Prazak, a parent and former Grantsburg teacher.

The school board unanimously passed a motion Oct. 12 to allow various "theories of origin" to be taught in science classes.

Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said the First Amendment watchdog group already has a nine- or 10-inch file on Grantsburg. It includes Ahlquist's participation in a school Christmas pageant that was heavily laden with Biblical scripture and symbols. Ahlquist vehemently denied any religious motivation.

"I've tried not to let my particular view on evolution or origins get in the way of my academic" responsibilities, he said. "To promote only one view is indoctrination."

The state Department of Public Instruction allows school districts to determine their own curriculum, as long as it includes evolution.

"Unfortunately," said Ron Numbers, a medical historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert on the evolution-creation debate, "bad science is not illegal."

Superintendent Joni Burgin said the policy allows academic tolerance and critical thinking. She said teaching only one theory - evolution - is tantamount to indoctrination.

More than 300 scientists from around the state wrote to the district protesting its decision. They say theories other than evolution have no standing in the scientific community.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

Pa. school district mandates ``intelligent design'' and alternates theories to evolution in biology curriculum


MARTHA RAFFAELE, Associated Press Writer

Friday, November 12, 2004

(11-12) 00:16 PST DOVER, Pa. (AP) --

When talk at the high school here turns to the origins of life, biology teachers have to make time for both Charles Darwin as well as his detractors.

Last month, this rural south-central Pennsylvania community became 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.

Last month, the Dover Area School District board voted to overhaul its ninth-grade biology curriculum. It now 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.

"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, Carol Brown and her husband, Jeff, were so upset that they resigned after the 6-3 vote on 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 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.

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.

"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."

Neither Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa, who oversees the district's curriculum, nor Superintendent Richard Nilsen responded to telephone calls and e-mail messages.

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.

But sophomore Courtney Lawton said she didn't have a problem learning only about evolution in biology class last year.

"I just think they should keep it the way it is, and they shouldn't add anything about a higher power," said Lawton, 15. "People who believe differently, they might feel like they're being segregated."

Teaching policy unclear


Posted on Sun, Nov. 14, 2004

Calls for lessons in theories other than evolution


Pioneer Press

Two years after a Bible study brouhaha, Grantsburg School District officials again find themselves at the center of a controversy over the separation of church and state.

This time, the issue revolves around a district policy calling for other theories to be represented along with evolution, a move that some believe could lead to creationism being taught in public school classrooms.

The rural Burnett County, Wis., school district, about 75 miles northeast of St. Paul, might be the only district in the country to have approved such a policy. Since the school board passed the policy last month, the district has moved to the center of a debate that has flared up sporadically since the landmark Scopes trial focused attention on the teaching of evolution in public schools nearly 80 years ago.

Grantsburg Superintendent Joni Burgin did not return phone calls last week. She responded to an e-mail request to speak with her, board members, teachers and students by writing:

"The School Board has issued a statement on this issue and is not available for comment. … The Board is not allowing the press into classrooms or schools so as not to disrupt the learning environment."

Burgin asked that the one-page statement either run in its entirety or not at all.

The statement contends that the school board policy isn't an effort to teach creationism but to "allow other scientific views (supported by scientific data) to be discussed and presented in the science class, thereby fostering critical thought and analysis of scientific theories."

It is not clear what those other scientific theories are, or how they would be incorporated into the curriculum.

Wisconsin state law requires that evolution be taught but doesn't prohibit districts from offering other theories, said Tony Evers, deputy superintendent of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

While it makes no mention of creationism, those opposed to the district's policy said that is the intent.

Joel Prazak, a former Grantsburg teacher who now works in the St. Croix Falls School District, attends all of the board meetings and is concerned about the decision. He said board members have mentioned creationism during meetings, but there was no public discussion of the issue.

"They have done nothing to allay the concerns of parents when we have asked how this will be done. They have purposely been very vague. If they really want to put the issue to rest they need to be open, honest and tell us what the policy means," said Prazak, who has two children attending Grantsburg schools.

Prazak said he and others have asked that the issue be opened for discussion at a board meeting, but members have refused.

Jerry Dorff and his wife, district teacher Marilyn Chesnik, said the policy is the latest effort to introduce religion into district schools. The couple's son attends Grantsburg schools.

"The point is, this is a public school and we'd like to see it remain a public school," Dorff said.

They were among a group of parents who complained two years ago that Bible studies conducted at the middle school violated church-state separation. Prior to that, they argued that the annual holiday program was more of a Christian pageant than a musical celebration of the season.

After lawsuits were threatened and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin became involved, changes were made.

School Board President David Ahlquist, a Grace Covenant Baptist Church youth pastor, made the motion for the new policy after Twin Cities-based evangelist Ron Carlson, founder of Christian Ministries International, gave several sermons in the Grantsburg area.

Ahlquist did not return phone calls.

Carlson, in an e-mail, said he did not meet with the board to discuss the matter, but he said the district has done the right thing in "advocating for academic freedom to teach students critical-thinking skills."

He compared the teaching of evolution and creationism theories in science class to the teaching of capitalism and communism in economics class and the philosophies of the Democratic and Republican parties in political science.

But more than 300 biology and religious studies professors from 42 state colleges and universities wrote a letter to district officials, urging them to reconsider the policy. And 43 deans from the University of Wisconsin System have done the same.

"I doubt the Grantsburg School Board thought out their actions," said Don Waller, a UW-Madison botany professor and former editor of Evolution, a scientific journal.

"It needs to be recognized for what it is. … It's faith, not science. I'm not against teaching creationism but feel it should be taught in religion or theology, not in a science classroom," Waller said. "Constitutionally, there is a separation of church and state."

Officials at the ALCU of Wisconsin said that, based on the district's past actions, it was investigating the policy, the curriculum and how they will be implemented.

Similar issues are being debated in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana and Ohio, but the ACLU said Grantsburg appears to be the only school district that is opening the way for other theories without mentioning creationism.

The debate over evolution has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court on several occasions and each time the court has ruled creationism is based on faith, not science.

Ron Numbers, a University of Wisconsin-Madison science and medicine history professor, said the Grantsburg matter could indicate a new approach. Instead of using a name such as creationism, backers will refer to something akin to intelligent design, which some say is science, not Scripture-based.

For Numbers, it is creationism in new clothing, but the issue could ultimately be decided in court.

"The courts are where, in the U.S., we decide what is science and what is not. Certainly there will be a test case coming along to determine if intelligent design is religion or science," Numbers said.

"Creation science was so transparently biblically based," Numbers said of previous court cases. "This is slipperier. And with a change or two on the Supreme Court, who knows? It certainly won't be a slam-dunk."

Kevin Harter can be reached at kharter@pioneerpress.com or 1-800-950-9080, ext. 2149.

Give students a chance to decide where we came from



Posted: Nov. 13, 2004

What would you think of a police department that disregarded evidence to follow only one of several possible theories to solve a mass murder?

You would call them foolish, and you would be right, because it's foolish to insist on looking at only one theory when there is evidence for other possibilities. In fact, it is considered bad scientific method (and bad police work) to look at only one possible theory to the exclusion of all others.

But that is what Wisconsin public schools have done for decades. They teach the theory of evolution as though it's the only one out there.

The Grantsburg School Board in northwestern Wisconsin has wisely decided to allow their students to learn how to think critically and use proper scientific method. They chose to incorporate theories "other than evolution" in the science curriculum.

Finally, students will get a chance to examine logical, scientifically based evidence for intelligent design. Let's face it - teaching only the big bang theory is a big cheat. In order to truly educate children about the origins of our existence, schools have to allow their establishment of evolutionary theories to be treated like the theory that it is.

Instead of advocating for well-rounded scientific education for children, the teaching establishment of Wisconsin, using our wonderfully liberal-leaning staff of the University of Wisconsin schools, has risen up in horrified gasps that Grantsburg citizens are thinking for themselves and issued letters, urging Grantsburg to reconsider their heresy.

I can't say I'm surprised. When you are suffering from terrible insecurity, the least little things seem like an enormous threat.

(Lest you think exclusive evolutionary thought is strictly the problem of public elementary schools, I know from personal experience - it's not. As a student at a Catholic women's college in Milwaukee, I am frustrated and disgusted in the geoscience course because all evolutionary theories were presented as fact.)

As responsible adults, the Wisconsin Education Association Council should cooperate with the Grantsburg School Board, drop the control issues associated with evolution, and give children what they need: the ability to think critically about Earth's origins.

Give them the facts about all the primary viable scientific theories. Let them think about each one with guidance from balanced textbooks and well-educated teaching staff.

That isn't quite what Kansas tried to do in 1999. The Kansas state education board removed all references to evolution from its textbooks and weathered a storm of criticism for two years until it reversed its own decision. That wasn't the answer to giving kids a balanced view and is not one that should be advocated by a public school system.

Science, as a subject, has unanswered questions and if evolution is taught, then it should be admitted that there are many unanswered questions within this theory. Advocates of evolution-only education feel so threatened by intelligent design/creationism that they have been known to insist that intelligent design teaching belongs in the theology department, not science.

But the education establishment in Wisconsin has historically been extremely intolerant of ideas that don't line up with their own. Intelligent design/creationism need not involve a theological debate any more than when discussing Charles Darwin's theories. It can be done neutrally even when explaining to children that intelligent design is based in the Christian and Jewish scriptures.

If history teachers are expected to teach about the history of religions in various regions of the world without converting their pupils, why can't science teachers discuss scientific theories based in the Jewish and Christian scriptures without making it an issue about state-promoted religion?

Barring any legal challenges, there is hope that Grantsburg children will get a better science education that the overwhelming number of public school students in America.

Good decision.

Janice Spiewak of Waukesha is a student at Mount Mary College.

From the Nov. 14, 2004, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Actually, students need modern science education



Posted: Nov. 13, 2004

As difficult as it might be to believe at this point in the 21st century, creationism is making a comeback in at least one school district in Wisconsin. The School Board in the small town of Grantsburg recently passed a motion requiring that the "theories of origin" alternative to evolution be taught in the district's science classrooms and laboratories.

Although the district's superintendent and members of the board profess to have passed their motion because they want to encourage critical thinking, all you have to do is scratch just a bit beneath the surface to see the reality of the situation.

For example, after discussing the issue with Superintendent Joni Burgin for more than an hour and after sending her information she requested about the position of national science organizations on this topic, she called the vice chancellor of my university to complain. She asserted that I was abusing my power as dean to bring this matter to the attention of educators around the state.

And, even more tellingly, she expressed her dismay that I was showing "disrespect for religion." Every time I turn around, someone with ties to Grantsburg seems to be complaining that religion isn't being treated fairly.

Given that the issue is the quality and nature of science education in public schools, I don't understand why the Grantsburg folks keep wanting to talk about religion. Even educators with expertise in religious studies don't like what the School Board is attempting to impose on Grantsburg students – and they certainly don't believe that religion is being treated poorly.

These faculty members have joined together with their colleagues in biology to sign a letter, urging the Grantsburg School Board to rescind its policy stating very clearly "that when it comes to the teaching of evolutionary theory, there need be no conflict between science and religion. Such a conflict arises only when people misunderstand the basic nature of science and religion and when they are grossly misinformed about what modern evolutionary theory actually says."

I'm not talking about a small group of people here – 312 individuals who have devoted their professional lives to the study of either religion or biology, representing 43 different institutions of higher education in Wisconsin, signed the letter in a very short period of time.

It's well worth pointing out that high school biology teachers often feel political pressure to modify what they teach their students. A study I conducted in Ohio in 1987, for example, found that teachers were pressured to omit evolution and to include creationism in their classes.

Not surprisingly, the teachers reported that the most frequent source of the pressure came from "ministers and/or churches."

Sadly, and more pertinent to the current Grantsburg fiasco, the teachers reported that the next group most often applying pressure to alter the science curriculum was the school administration.

Imagine the pressure that must be felt in a small school district when the school board legislates on this very issue.

Regardless of how the Grantsburg School Board attempts to shape the issue, its actions have precious little to do with developing critical thinking skills in students. How, after all, could students develop such skills when the material they will be presented makes no distinction between science and non-science?

Yes, some ideas the School Board would like discussed have been dressed up to look like science, "scientific creationism" or "intelligent design." But they have no standing within the scientific community, and they are inconsistent with the basic methodology of science. It is simply not reasonable to believe that students will develop critical thinking skills when they are presented material that runs counter to what is at the heart of a discipline.

Although Grantsburg is a small town, this is not an insignificant battle for a number of reasons. First and foremost, evolution is the theoretical framework that ties all of biology (and much of other historical sciences such as anthropology, geology and astronomy) together. Without this framework, students are left with a dazzling array of facts to memorize but little to understand.

When there are so many pressing biological issues before the public, issues like stem cell research, the emergence of tropical diseases and genetic engineering, it is especially critical that our citizens have at least a rudimentary understanding of the basic principles of biology if they are to participate effectively in our democracy.

Second, it is absolutely essential that citizens understand something about the methodology of science if they are to make informed decisions about important issues that are only tangentially linked to biology. While it is too much to expect any one person to have a full grasp of all scientific disciplines, it is reasonable to want most people to be able to differentiate patently pseudoscientific ideas from scientific ones.

What the Grantsburg School Board wants taught falls well outside the realm of science. To pretend otherwise would be to confuse students about a central premise of education.

Third, people in towns like Grantsburg who care about high-quality education and fear they are alone need to be supported. The fact is, they are not alone. In addition to having the support of most educators and religious leaders behind them, they also have the United States Constitution in their corner.

Every time a situation like the one in Grantsburg has found its way into the court system, the result has been the same; religious doctrine, regardless of how creatively it is crafted, cannot be forced on public school students in their science classes.

Please join me and the hundreds of Wisconsin educators who have already written to the Grantsburg School Board to help return modern science education to the Grantsburg schools. The students of the district deserve no less.

Michael Zimmerman is dean of the College of Letters and Science and professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He is the author of "Science, Nonscience and Nonsense: Approaching Environmental Literacy."

From the Nov. 14, 2004, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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"Evolution is a Theory, not a Fact" -- Making No Sense in Defense of Nonsense


By Dr. Gerry Lower
Nov 14, 2004, 09:20

In the year of our Lord, 2002, during the "compassionate" conservative tenure of George W. Bush, Cobb County school officials in Atlanta, Georgia were so emboldened as to put "warning stickers" in biology textbooks. Literally thousands of parents had complained that the textbooks presented evolution as if it were a "fact," without even mentioning Old Testament explanations for the origins of life, specifically creationism and "intelligent design."

As a quick way to ruin a good book, the warning stickers have since been challenged in court as an unlawful imposition by and promotion of religion - in a nation ostensibly based on the separation of church and state. With the ascendency of religion-based capitalism in the U.S., however, this case is but one of several that have been considered in recent years, all of which revolve around the proper teaching of human origins in science education (Chicago Tribune, November 9, 2004).

The warning stickers read, "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things."

Creationists are wanting to say here that evolution remains "hypothetical" and "unproven," but they employ words that they do not comprehend. Evolutionary theory is not hypothetical at all or it could and would not constitute a theory. Evolutionary theory does not need to be "proven." It stands as the only viable, inclusionary approach available. Implicit, of course, in the creationist's warning is the notion that creationism is somehow more worthy of belief.

This all makes perfectly good sense to religious fundamentalists because it seemingly props up the creationist point of view at the expense of the evolutionary point of view. In other words, in the absence of empirical fact and logic, creationism utilizes essentially political approaches to winning arguments. There is little option if one does not know the difference between a fact and a theory.

From natural philosophical perspectives, the warning does little harm except in being confusing and divisive to students. It is an argument that makes no sense in its defense of nonsense. At the same time, the warning does provide a good deal of insight into the shallow grasp that religious Americans have of science, natural philosophy and its political philosophy, Democracy (their chosen political philosophy).

Everyone already agrees, for example, that evolution is a "theory." Like all good theories, evolution is (by definition) based entirely upon empirical fact and empirical/logical inference (inductions, deductions and reductions). As such, all theories transcend the facts because theories embrace the facts and provide the facts with conceptual context within which the facts make sense and constitute knowledge.

Without larger theoretical frameworks within which to organize, prioritize and integrate the facts as ideas, we would live (as we do under religious capitalism) in a complex world of competing facts, no larger knowledge available. This is exemplified by current marketplace-driven approaches to national cancer policy which have created crises in medical research, practice and ethics (Cancer, Capitalism and Intellectual Corruption, axisoflogic.com, October, 2004).

To its credit, creationism does not even pretend to be based on empirical fact and logic. For that reason alone, it deserves no entrance into the realm of natural philosophical discourse, because it does not know what the terms mean and it cannot follow established rules, at least not if it hopes to win an argument.

Creationism must stand in defense of ancient western superstition and supernaturalism and, in doing so, it must throw fact and logic out. As such, creationism's world view does not even qualify as a hypothesis, because even hypotheses are properly based upon empirical facts, even if those facts do not yet provide the basis for a compelling theory.

Evolution is a theory comprised of myriad facts from the informational, molecular, cellular, organismal and populational levels of organization. These hierarchical and interrelated facts are integrated into definable conceptual frameworks over historical and evolutionary time frames to provide an internally-consistent view of the whole, i.e., a theory.

Evolutionary theory has long stood as "proven" simply because it provides the only viable frameworks for continued comprehension of human comings and goings. In other words, evolutionary theory is no longer in competition with religious explanations of human origins, no more than the Germ Theory of infectious disease is in competition with religious explanations of disease causation (as punishment from the creationist's god.

Evolutionary theory simply provides the best, most human, most broadly applicable explanation for human origins currently available. As a good theory, evolution provides common human ground relevant to all people and relevant to human self-concept. As a good theory, evolution provides not only explanatory value relevant to comprehension but also operational value relevant to control.

Legal council for the Atlanta school district said that the "warning" stickers on biology textbooks were meant to "encourage critical thinking." This again is an argument that makes no sense in defense of nonsense. Critical thinking requires, after all, knowing something about the relationships between ideas, facts, hypotheses and theories. Critical thinking requires, after all, knowing something about natural philosophy and its historic American role in overcoming religious despotism two centuries ago.

There is and can be no intelligent or meaningful compromise between science and religion on this issue. As with arguments over the motions of the planets and the causes of human disease, ultimately one side will be accepted, i.e., "proven," and one side will be rejected as being inadequate to the job at hand. Creationism will be kindly requested to take its religion back home where it belonged all along in a democracy guaranteeing religious freedom. Its very presence in governmental and academic deliberations is an affront to the separation of church and state.

After all the idle debate, it comes down to a matter of human self-concept. The real issue here is whether we, as a people, ought base our views of life on supernatural conjecture (to become transcendentalists, supernaturalists and self-righteous fundamentalists) or on empirical reality (to become empiricists, realists, and thoughtful, caring, responsible citizens). In the end, the choice is ours, to have a view of life based on faith in faith itself or a view of life based on what we know and what we care about.

Empiricists see creationists as being challenged when it comes to logic (which they are) while creationists see empiricists as being challenged when it comes to faith (which they are not). Empiricism just happens to better know where to place its faith, in the human mind and in humankind to ultimately achieve maturation and self-comprehension in the honest human truth.

This is just the way the world works, just beneath the surface. God is never apart from honesty and human truth, as God is never a part of dishonesty and falsehood. The path to human intellectual maturation and self-comprehension is the path to human spirituality and the God of all people. Faith in the human truth, faith in the human mind, and faith in humankind is faith in God.

To claim to be doing the work of God, in spite of global empirical evidence to the contrary, is religious self-righteousness personified, and that is all it is. It will ultimately leave one alone with fools for council, nothing of God in sight. To be honestly human is always to be with God, whose interest is necessarily restricted to the honest human truth. Otherwise, don't you see, even God would be lost right along with his children. Someone has to do the job at the top.

Ferdinand Magellan, as if writing to creationists and fundamentalists, put it this way. "The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen its shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church" (Magellan witnessing the eclipse of 17 April, 1520).

Samuel Adams, as if writing to creationists and fundamentalists, put it this way. "If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen"

"Evolution is a theory, not a fact." So is Democracy a political theory and not a fact. Rejoice in that, people. It means that you have the right to change it to fit the facts.

Dr. Gerry Lower lives in the shadow of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His website can be reached at www.jeffersonseyes.com and he can be reached at tisland@blackhills.com

© Copyright 2004 by AxisofLogic.com

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Theories other than evolution to be taught in Grantsburg


Some academics say move is an attempt to discount evolution, promote other ideas


Posted: Nov. 5, 2004

Joining the ranks of school boards in Kansas and Ohio, the Grantsburg School District has passed a motion permitting "various theories/models of origins" to be incorporated into its science curriculum.

Unlike the motions in those two states, which were overturned, Grantsburg's is active - making the public school board the only one in the nation to allow theories other than evolution to be taught in the classroom.

The motion's status might bring notoriety to this small community in northwestern Wisconsin, but it has also caused a furor in the state's academic corridors.

A letter signed by 43 of the University of Wisconsin System's liberal arts and science deans urges the board to reverse the policy.

So does another letter, which was sent Monday and is signed by more than 300 biology and religious studies faculty members from 42 state academic institutions, said Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

"This is not a science issue," he said. "It's an education issue."

Wisconsin law mandates that evolution be taught. But the Grantsburg School Board felt the law was too restrictive, said Joni Burgin, the school superintendent. So when the board examined a new science curriculum - which happens every six years - a line was added that called for "various models/theories" of origin to be incorporated.

According to Joseph Donovan, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Instruction, the Grantsburg motion is perfectly legal.

"It is important to note that school districts are allowed to create their own curricular standards," he said, "and district standards do not need to be consistent with the state model academic standards."

The new motion will potentially allow a theory known as intelligent design into Grantsburg biology classes. Proponents of this theory believe that natural laws and chance alone cannot explain all natural phenomena and that an intelligent design is behind the origin of species.

Similar motions by state school boards have caused national scrutiny and attention - notably in Kansas and Ohio.

But it's at local levels that the movement really might catch on, said Ron Numbers, a science and medicine historian at UW-Madison.

And Grantsburg may be part of a wider social and educational trend to discount evolutionary theory - while promoting other origin theories - in the science classroom, Numbers said.

Burgin defends the board's action. She said it will allow students to learn about other ideas, and it probably won't change the way science is taught in this small school system with nearly 1,000 students.

"We'll continue to follow state and federal standards," she said, adding that the School Board doesn't "see a problem with the way science is taught."

It's just that it "should not be totally inclusive of just one scientific theory," she said.

Matt Berg, the high school biology teacher, declined to comment. Jeff Bush, the principal, and David Ahlquist, the School Board president, could not be reached for comment.

But Greg Stager, who teaches physics, chemistry and environmental science at Grantsburg High School, agreed with Burgin.

"Evolution is a theory, just as much as creationism is a theory," he said. "There is contradictory evidence for both."

He said he didn't think the new motion was a "big deal."

But others disagree.

"Here in Wisconsin, we care about education," said Don Waller, a UW-Madison professor of botany and former editor of the journal Evolution.

"The School Board and superintendent in Grantsburg have a responsibility to promote, not restrict, education," he continued. "Learning biology is demanding and takes time. 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."

From the Nov. 6, 2004, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Evolution, Creation Collide in Federal Court (Again)


Parents challenge disclaimer in biology textbook

R. Robin McDonald
Fulton County Daily Report

Call it Scopes redux -- a potential 21st century replay of the famous 1925 Tennessee case that placed Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and the biblical account of creation on trial.

The Scopes trial revolved around John Scopes, a high-school teacher who broke the law in Tennessee by teaching Darwin's theory. In the case that goes to a bench trial in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on Monday before Judge Clarence Cooper, a small sticker placed in 10th-grade biology textbooks has again forced a courtroom collision between science and religion. Selman v. Cobb County School District, No. 1:02CV2325 (N.D. Ga. filed Aug. 21, 2002).

The sticker 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."

Six Cobb County, Ga., parents are suing to have the sticker removed, arguing that it's a thinly disguised attempt to promote classroom discussions of religious accounts of creation.

The attorney for the school board said the plaintiffs have overreacted to a sticker that does nothing more than offer respect to students and parents whose religious beliefs may conflict with the teaching of evolution.

Marietta, Ga., attorney Michael E. Manely, counsel for the parents, sees the case shaping up very much like the Scopes trial, in which Clarence S. Darrow forced William Jennings Bryan to defend biblical accounts of creation.

"I had hoped this would be, from the very beginning, a battle of experts," Manely said. "That was my challenge that I offered to the defendants. ... Let the judge decide where the facts lie."

Manely is litigating the case with the American Civil Liberties Union, which also participated in the 1925 Scopes trial.

Manely said the Cobb school district is one of dozens across the nation that are bowing to pressure to omit or remove evolution from high-school science curricula or, alternatively, include religious-based teachings in academic coursework. "We are," he said, "just the tip of the iceberg."

Marietta attorney E. Linwood Gunn IV, who is defending the school board and the school district, said the plaintiffs' case has been overstated. The litigation has unfairly pegged the school board as "a very backward, regressive group of individuals trying to attack evolution when in fact the opposite is true," he said.

Gunn said that the case will be far more narrow in scope than Manely suggests and should not be used as a vehicle to validate evolution or challenge creationism, the belief that God created the world in six days.

"They want to have this as a big show trial," Gunn said. "It's not going to be about that. It's going to be about what the Cobb County school district did in strengthening its evolution curriculum."

Atlanta attorney George M. Weaver tried unsuccessfully to intervene in the case on behalf of Cobb parents who want the schools to discuss creationism in high-school science classes. Weaver said he doubts this trial will draw the kind of attention that the Scopes trial did.

"It's not clear how much expert testimony, or whether any expert testimony, is going to be admitted," he said. "If there is no expert testimony, it will probably be a very short trial. ... If it gets into a battle of experts, it may have more visibility."

Gerald R. Weber, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, said the case is one more in a series of church-state cases where "there's pretty clear pre-existing case law out there."

"The progress of church-state cases has been that the [U.S.] Supreme Court sets a line, then government entities do what they can to skirt that line. ... Here the Supreme Court has said you can't teach creationism in the public schools. You can't have an equal-time provision for evolution and creationism. These disclaimers are a new effort to skirt the line."


The case centers on the sticker that the Cobb school board ordered pasted inside the front cover of its 10th-grade biology textbook in 2002. The textbook, "Prentice-Hall's Biology," by Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine, includes "a comprehensive view of evolution," Gunn said.

Gunn explained that the stickers were inserted as part of the board's determination to have evolutionary science taught in Cobb high schools. It was, for Cobb, a radical revision of its former policy, which Gunn acknowledged was the result of previous school boards' decisions "to cater to people's religious faith, maybe even in a way that was unconstitutional."

Before the county adopted the Miller/Levine textbook, Cobb banned any mention of evolution in its textbooks and prohibited teaching evolution, Gunn said.

"What we did is correct that," Gunn said. "The only thing the school board did is acknowledge there is a potential conflict [between the science of evolution and creationism] and there is a potential infringement on people's beliefs if you present it in a dogmatic way. We're going to do it in a respectful way."

Gunn also has argued in court pleadings that whether evolution is a fact or a theory is not relevant to the question of whether the sticker had a religious purpose. "I don't know what in that sticker suggests the existence of a higher being," he said in an interview last week. The plaintiffs and the ACLU "don't like the fact that we may accommodate religious beliefs."

According to court records, the board said it adopted the sticker "to foster critical thinking among students, to allow academic freedom consistent with legal requirements, to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity of opinion and to ensure a posture of neutrality toward religion."

The board said it didn't intend "to restrict the teaching of evolution, to promote or require the teaching of creationism, or to discriminate against or on behalf of a particular set of religious beliefs, religion in general, or non-religion."

But Manely argues that the sticker, although it makes no mention of God or religion, is a disclaimer for the only accepted scientific explanation of the origin of life.

"Evolution is the underpinning of all life sciences. It's what the foundation of science is based upon," Manely said. Stating that evolution is only a theory is a covert way of prompting students to discuss the existence of God, he argued, and to proselytize religious theories of the origins of humankind.

"There is no critique of evolution that is not religious based," he said, except for a theory that aliens from outer space were the source of Earth's population.


In depositions appearing in court briefs, several school board members acknowledged that the intent of the sticker was to precipitate a critical discussion of evolution. Cobb school board member Lindsey Tippens testified in his deposition that he believed the sticker was sufficient to prompt discussion of evolution "as a disputed view ... because I don't think we have the wherewithal to rewrite textbooks."

Included among those alternative theories of evolution, he said, would be discussion of creationism, as well as intelligent design -- the idea that God guided the scientific evolution of the species. "This sticker was not intended to interject religion into science instruction but simply to make students aware that a scientific dispute exists," Tippens added.

Manely has argued in court briefs that any dispute about evolution exists within religion -- not science. "The only people who dispute it do so for religious reasons," he said. "Evolution is a fact. No credible scientist in any biological research field disputes that evolution is a fact."


It is the potential for giving theories with religious underpinnings the same academic weight as evolution that reflects the great debate of the Scopes trial.

Of that case, three-time presidential candidate Bryan wrote in a closing argument he never delivered, "The case has assumed the proportions of a battle-royal between unbelief that attempts to speak through so-called science and the defenders of the Christian faith, speaking through the legislators of Tennessee. It is a choice between God and Baal."

In the trial's most famous episode, Bryan took the witness stand while Darrow peppered him with questions about passages in the Bible, attempting to show that it couldn't all be considered literal. The exchanges between two of the finest trial lawyers of their day has become the stuff of plays, movies and many books.

In one sequence, Darrow asked Bryan, "Did you ever discover where Cain got his wife?"

Bryan responded, "No, sir; I leave the agnostics to hunt for her."

Darrow asked Bryan if he believed that Joshua literally commanded the sun to stand still in order to lengthen the day. Bryan conceded that the earth moves around the sun, but allowed that he believed Joshua did prevail upon God to lengthen the day.

"Now, Mr. Bryan, have you ever pondered what would have happened to the earth if it had stood still?" Darrow asked.

"No; the God I believe in could have taken care of that, Mr. Darrow," Bryan shot back.

At Darrow's request, the jury found Scopes guilty and the judge fined him $100. Darrow made the request saying he intended to appeal the case immediately.

The Supreme Court of Tennessee eventually overturned the verdict. Scopes v. State, 154 Tenn. 105, 289 S.W. 363. But 43 years would pass before the U.S. Supreme Court banned the teaching of creationism in public schools.

The trial here is unlikely to provide the drama of the Scopes case, but in several pre-trial orders Judge Cooper has recognized the same underlying religious debate.

The sticker "is not clearly neutral towards evolution," he wrote. "A cursory reading of the sticker would likely posit doubt in the mind of the reader regarding the merits of evolutionary theory when those doubts might not otherwise exist."

The Cobb school board, he continued, "decided to place the sticker in the textbook as a way to accommodate religious belief" after a group of parents "expressed concern that the instruction of evolution would be in a manner that would negate any possibility of religious belief."

But to the extent that the school board was seeking to avoid offending students and parents, the sticker also served a secular purpose, he wrote. He agreed with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 1999 ruling originating in Louisiana that "the local school board need not turn a blind eye to the concerns of students and parents troubled by the teaching of evolution in public classrooms."

Cooper indicated that there is little to guide him. "The court acknowledges that there is not definitive controlling authority regarding many of the issues involved in this case and that there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion as to the issue of law," Cooper wrote.

The case, he said, will come down to this: whether the sticker "has the primary effect of advancing or endorsing religion."

Evolution education update: Selman v. Cobb County, controversy in Wisconsin, and Evolution and God videotapes

The trial over the evolution disclaimer in Cobb County begins and ends, while a proposal about "theories of origin" in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, is raising eyebrows. And videotapes of the Evolution and God conference in Cleveland are now available.


On November 8, 2004, Selman et al. v. Cobb County School District et al. went to trial in the Atlanta Division of the US District Court of the Northern District of Georgia. The plaintiffs are suing over a textbook disclaimer, adopted in 2002, which reads: "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 plaintiffs complain that the disclaimer restricts the teaching of evolution by singling out evolution for special treatment for religious reasons, and argue that the result of the disclaimer will be the teaching of creationism or similar pseudoscientific alternatives to evolution. Among those testifying was Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University, a coauthor of the biology textbook used in Cobb County's high schools, who noted that the disclaimer might convey the impression that "we are certain of everything in this book except evolution." Evolution disclaimers in textbooks have long been part of the antievolutionist arsenal; Alabama is the only state in which they are presently required, but they have been required or proposed in states and local districts across the country. Testimony in Selman v. Cobb County ended on November 10, and closing arguments are expected to conclude the trial on November 12. A ruling from the judge is not expected for at least a month.

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

For a story in the Fulton County Daily Report (via law.com), visit:


A small Wisconsin town about sixty miles northeast of Minneapolis is the latest hotspot in the evolution/creationism controversy. On October 12, the Grantsburg School Board adopted a policy requiring that "[w]hen theories of origin are taught, students will study various scientific models or theories of origin and identify the scientific data supporting each." The policy, say the school board and the superintendent of schools, is intended to promote "critical thinking" and "academic freedom," but concerned citizens in Grantsburg and scientists across the state are worried that it is a pretext to introduce creationism into the public school science classroom, as similarly worded policies elsewhere have been. (In June 2004, as the district's science curriculum was under review, the president of the school board, the Reverend David Ahlquist, was quoted in a local newspaper as lamenting, "What I don't see is any room for alternative theories of origin, such as creation.") Forty-three deans of the University of Wisconsin system signed a letter urging the school board to withdraw the policy, as have over 300 biology and religious studies faculty members from forty-three institutions of higher learning, public and private, from across Wisconsin. Concerned readers who are in, or who have family or friends in, the Grantsburg, Wisconsin, area are urged to get in touch with Susan Spath (spath@ncseweb.org) at NCSE.

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

For a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, visit:


Videotapes from the major symposium on "Evolution and God: 150 Years of Love and War Between Science and Religion" -- sponsored by the History and Philosophy of Science program at Case Western Reserve University, and held in Cleveland, Ohio, from October 15 to October 17, 2004 -- are now available for sale. Speakers include:

James Moore, coauthor of Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist Kenneth R. Miller, author of Finding Darwin's God Keith Miller, editor of Perspectives on an Evolving Creation Barbara Forrest, coauthor of Creationism's Trojan Horse Ronald L. Numbers, author of The Creationists Edward J. Larson, author of Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory

To order your own copy or for further information, visit the symposium's web site:

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


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

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

Contacting the North Texas Skeptics
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Carrollton, TX 75011-1794
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