NTS LogoSkeptical News for 20 December 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Monday, December 20, 2004

Evolution or design?


Religious conservatives are again challenging Darwin's theory of evolution, and a small town in Pennsylvania is on the front lines of this fresh struggle between values of the scientific establishment and those with a faith-based vision of 'intelligent design.'

By Larry Carson and Larry Williams Sun Staff

Originally published December 19, 2004

If America is currently engaged in a values war, one battlefield is a hundred or so miles north of Baltimore in Dover, Pa., a small, leafy community just off I-83 near York.

In dispute is an issue many thought was settled 80 years ago when a Tennessee teacher received a mere slap on the wrist for violating a state law against teaching evolution.

Now, similar battle lines are drawn in Dover, which may be the first school district in the United States to require high school biology teachers to introduce students to something called "intelligent design" as an alternative to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution - now the bedrock of biological science.

Intelligent design suggests the development of the universe and earth was guided by an "intelligent agent." Critics say the intelligent agent is just another name for God and argue that such religious beliefs have no place in public school classrooms.

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Pennsylvania against the Dover Area School Board, saying the board had violated the religious rights of students and their parents by requiring the teaching of an alternative evolution theory.

The recent Dover decision to introduce intelligent design reflects an ongoing national debate over a drumbeat of proposals from conservative religious leaders that call for the teaching of alternatives to conventional evolutionary theory.

There has been skirmishing over the issue in Georgia, Kansas and elsewhere, including Elkton, where use of a 10th grade biology book has been delayed because a school board member complained that it did not mention creationism, the idea that God created the world.

"This is a national movement to corrupt science education by teaching religious doctrine," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Pressure from the religious right has already made science teachers fearful of spending too much time on evolution, limiting learning, Lynn charged.

"What's at stake is sound science education for the 21st century," said Lynn. "If the Dover school board continues to pursue this, it's a case of monumental significance."

Lynn and others say teaching intelligent design violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution's First Amendment, which calls for the separation of church and state.

Advocates of intelligent design say it does no such thing. They argue it is an effort to use science to deal with flaws and gaps in evolutionary theory.

"Intelligent design is merely the idea that life is too complex to get here by chance or accident. The only intelligent conclusion is that someone had to plan the multi-faceted functions and parts within individual species," said Patti Nason, chairman of science education at the Institute for Creation Research, a self-described "Christ-focused Creation Ministry" located at Santee, Calif.

The school board fight in Dover that preceded the lawsuit parallels debates among school board members, educators and religious leaders elsewhere. Two Dover board members resigned in protest of the decision to open the door to intelligent design.

Dover high school students who typically pay very little attention to their normal one-day lesson on evolution may now have a lot more to think about, said Jeffery Brown, one of the board members who resigned.

Brown, 54, an electrician, said a British Broadcasting Corporation crew was scheduled to be at his house Friday, and notes he's done more than 30 interviews.

He blames the whole affair on "a certain type of highly confrontational ministers who have chosen to emphasize anything controversial. They're very in-your-face with religion."

Brown's wife, Carol, also resigned and the board's treasurer, Angie Yingling, 46, says she'll resign too if the board doesn't change its mind.

In October, Yingling voted with the board majority to accept donated texts advocating intelligent design, but then tried unsuccessfully to change her vote, she said. Now, she thinks the whole issue could be a financial and educational catastrophe for the district.

"I voted for 60 reference books to be donated, not to be teaching [intelligent design]. It's going to be a financial disaster for the taxpayers."

Yingling said that as a religious person, she doesn't believe in Darwinism or evolution personally, but at the same time, "I don't consider myself a right wing, holy roller religious freak like the people who have taken over Dover. Eight of them are sitting on the [school] board. They offend me," she said, adding that "intelligent design to me means aliens."

But Charlotte Buckingham, the wife of school board member and intelligent design advocate William Buckingham, said "it's not religious. It's just giving the students an alternative."

"Intelligent design teaches that there has to be a more intelligent creation of life, as opposed from being evolved from a lower form of life," Buckingham said.

"They're being given the choice to learn intelligent design. They're not being forced," she said. Neither her husband nor board Chairman Alan Bonsell were available for comment.

There is strong popular support for the Biblical teaching that God created the Earth and its creatures less than 10,000 years ago. It's an idea consistent with the intelligent design theory and one that 45 percent of Americans believe, according to a recent Gallup survey.

A wide array of experts say there is an overwhelming body of evidence that the Earth is billions of years old and that life has been evolving on it for more than 3 billion years, supporting the theory that Darwin proposed in 1859.

'An Enlightened nation?'

To many intellectuals, the idea that so many Americans are willing to reject that is a frightening denial of the Enlightenment values that America was founded upon, including respect for critical thinking and religious tolerance.

"Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?" asked Gary Wills, a Northwestern University professor and expert on the intersection between religion and politics, in a recent newspaper essay.

To Christian conservatives, the questioning of Darwin's theory is an affirmation of traditional values, consistent with their challenges of gay marriage and of bans on prayer in school, endorsement of display of the Ten Commandments in court settings and protection of the flag.

These conservatives, invigorated by recognition of their contributions to President Bush's recent electoral victory and the passage of referendums banning gay marriage in 12 states, appear ready to aggressively pursue their arguments with conventional science.

"Students will be made aware of gaps and problems in evolution," Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan public interest law firm that promotes Christian values, told The New York Times last week.

School policy

The new Dover school policy endorses using 60 donated copies of Of Pandas and People, a book explaining intelligent design, as a reference work in tandem with a standard biology text that teaches evolution, as mandated by Pennsylvania state law.

"It is not a required text, but in an effort to present a balanced curriculum, the book is made available to all students," a statement on the school district's Web site said.

The curriculum will also include a preliminary statement saying, "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to Intelligent Design. The Origins of Life [Darwin's book] is not taught."

The district is not trying to teach religious beliefs, the Web site statement said. "No teacher will teach Intelligent Design, Creationism, or present his, or her, or the Board's religious beliefs."

School district employees have been barred from speaking publicly about the issue because of the lawsuit filed on behalf of 11 Dover students and their families.

"The members of this school board have made their own religious beliefs part of the high school's science curriculum," said Eric Rothschild, a partner at Pepper Hamilton, a law firm headquartered in Philadelphia that is handling the case. "This policy is not only unconstitutional, it is bad science," he said in a statement.

"As a parent and a person of faith, I want to share my religious beliefs with my own children," said Dover resident Bryan Rehm, a high school physics teacher and one of the parents who is suing the school district. "But as a teacher, it would be a great disservice and fallacy to teach students that a perfectly valid faith constitutes scientific knowledge."

Lynn said he hopes the school district withdraws the policy, though he believes a Supreme Court judgment would "put the nail in the coffin of intelligent design and would stop what has become a very big battle."

If the suit goes to court, it might be an expensive replay of the 1925 Dayton, Tenn., trial of biology teacher John T. Scopes, who was convicted of teaching evolution illegally and fined $100. William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow battled each other in that landmark trial, which discredited a fundamentalist assault on the concept of evolution and opened the door to the teaching of Darwin's theory nationally.

Witold J. Walczak, legal director for the Pennsylvania ACLU, said a Dover trial could be a year away, though a court injunction may be sought earlier to stop the new curriculum from beginning as planned in January.

"I think it's an important case because it's the first challenging intelligent design. I think, regardless of the outcome, it's not the last," he said. "I think we're going to see intelligent design cases all across the country."

Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun

Intelligent design flap makes York look foolish again


Sunday, December 19, 2004

It always makes me proud when my hometown makes the big time.

Like a lot of you, it gives me a thrill when good, old York County gets mentioned on, say, "Today," or "Good Morning America," or Howard Stern, or in The New York Times, or the San Francisco Chronicle.

Sleepy, old York, making big news.

The Dover Area School District creationism case even made the "crawl" on CNN. It kind of makes you proud to see doings in your native land counted among the double homicides, suicide bombings and assorted craziness that composes the bizarre poetry of the CNN "crawl."

Unfortunately, when we make news that prompts former Yorkers from all over the globe to call and e-mail to ask what the heck's going on, it's usually not anything good.

Do we make the Times when a new bar — even one where you can get a steak the size of a manhole cover for ten bucks — opens downtown? No. Do we get a shout-out on Stern when the United Way campaign goes over the top? No. Does Peter Jennings mention us in his condescending Canadian manner when Carrot Top sells out at the Strand? No.

We only ever make the big time when, say, the mayor gets himself indicted for murder or some kid kills his principal and then himself in a junior high — or when a local school board is trying to roll educational standards back to the early 1800s.

Give us that at least. When we make news, we don't go off half-cocked.

We have a history of it. Historic examples of York making the big time include the race riots of the late '60s, the Civil War when we bribed the Confederates so they wouldn't burn the town and, of course, the Hex murder trial, which made us look like a bunch of homicidal Pennsylvania Dutch voodoo artists.

These things, you would think, would be harmful to our image in the country and the world.

But it is our image.

It ain't pretty.

Those of us who live here think York is the center of the universe. But to the outside world, we're some kind of weird backwater, sort of like Mayberry as directed by bizarro filmmaker David Lynch. They see York County as the kind of place where people go down to the general store to hang out with Floyd the barber, Charlie Manson and Pat Robertson.

We like to think we're kind, decent, tolerant, generous people — the kind of place where "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average," just like Lake Wobegon.

But the outside world doesn't see us that way. They see us as some kind of municipal mutant that — as one wag once said about another city — combines northern charm with southern efficiency. We're on the Mason-Dixon Line, but to outsiders, we seem to have adopted the worst of the two cultures.

And when we make news outside our little bubble, it reinforces the stereotype that we're some kind of backward conglomeration of small towns. When the great columnist H.L. Mencken invented a character to illustrate the corrupting influences of the big city — Baltimore, in this case — he created his infamous "girl from Red Lion," a pure and chaste small-town girl whose journey to the city ends in disaster.

That was fiction, of course. But it helped create the aura of York as the kind of place that spawns wide-eyed innocents who can't survive the big city.

Now, we do it all on our own.

Remember when Mayor Charlie was indicted? He went on the "Today" show and said things that set race relations in this city back to the '60s — the 1860s. He was all over the news, giving the country the impression that people in York are a bunch of bozos and bigots because who else would elect him to a position as important as mayor?

And then, we had the tragic horror of the Red Lion school shooting.

And now this Dover business.

Of course, the Dover school board members try to say their attempt to teach "intelligent design," which one scientist has called "creationism in a cheap tuxedo," is only about providing options and is not about trying to tear down the wall separating church and state.

They say a lot of things, mostly trying to disguise, rhetorically, what they're really trying to accomplish.

Whatever their motives, they're giving the rest of us a bad name. We all get lumped into the stereotype that we're a bunch of yahoos and slack-jawed yokels who have no need for fancy book-learning and such.

In short, the sum of our national news exposure gives the nation the impression that we're, to put it in psychological terms, bat-guano crazy.

And if that's OK with youse guys, it's OK by me.

Mike Argento, whose column appears Mondays and Thursdays in Living and Sundays in Viewpoints, can be reached at 771-2046 or at mike@ydr.com.

Scientist, lawyer debate intelligent design theory


By Joel Mathis, Journal-World

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Someday, John Calvert says, science might make a better case for evolution than "intelligent design" as an explanation for the origins of life. And if that day comes, he'll accept it.

But not yet.

"It may be that today the evidence is compelling for design but tomorrow it won't be, from a scientific standpoint," said Calvert, president of Intelligent Design Network Inc. "That's the only way to approach it; you can't let the implications of the evidence affect your official conclusions."

Peter Gegenheimer, a molecular bioscientist at Kansas University, doesn't buy it. Intelligent design proponents, he said, already have their conclusion -- that a godlike designer created life -- and won't be swayed.

"The bottom line is that intelligent design meets all the classical definitions of a pseudoscience," said Gegenheimer, a board member of Kansas Citizens for Science.

This is where Kansas' long-running battle over evolution arrived last week. The discussion is no longer focused on whether to include evolution in science education standards, but whether intelligent design also should be taught.

Calvert, who has emerged as adviser to a faction of the state committee working on science standards, is at the center of the battle. And while evolution has been hashed out back-and-forth repeatedly in Kansas during the past five years, intelligent design hasn't received the same sort of public scrutiny.

Not creationism?

The origins of the intelligent design movement go back at least to 1982, when a federal judge ruled unconstitutional an Arkansas law that required the teaching of "creation science." The use of supernatural explanations for scientific phenomena was officially taken out of the classroom.

Calvert, a longtime lawyer for the Lathrop and Gage law firm in Overland Park, said the ruling was correct.

"The courts said this (creationism) is science that essentially seeks to validate the Genesis account," Calvert said, referring to the story of creation in the Bible. "This is really religious, a situation where somebody is trying to promote a religious view through a scientific field, and that's not appropriate."

Intelligent design, he said, is different. For one thing, it uses scientific methods to deduce the existence of a designer -- the same type of methods, Calvert said, used to ascertain whether artifacts found in ruins were made by humans or just random stones.

For another, it doesn't promote any particular religion. It doesn't even assert the designer is necessarily supernatural.

"From a scientific standpoint, we don't know who the designer is, and whether the designer is an alien the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program is looking for, or maybe even a god of some unexplainable account," Calvert said. "That is a religious question. That's not one a scientist can answer."

The argument

The argument for intelligent design, as presented by Calvert, is three-pronged.

• The existence of patterns. Organisms, Calvert said, are full of patterns -- like the structure of DNA -- that imply design.

"You will not find messages in a salt crystal or a rock or a river," said Calvert, who has an undergraduate geology degree. "But you will find messages in DNA, and the messages have a very significant function."

Gegenheimer disagrees. "Pattern doesn't imply design," he said.

"At its core, that argument is saying 'I can't imagine how that (pattern) happened, so it's not possible'" without design, Gegenheimer said. "That's not a good argument."

• Statistics. "What is the probability of that first sequence coming together by chance?" Calvert said. "We don't have the time, but if you run the calculations, the answer is completely off the charts. It's essentially way beyond the realm of statistical possibility."

There's no way to know this, Gegenheimer said.

"You cannot measure the probability of something happening unless you know how it happened," he said. "A statistical claim isn't meaningful, because there's no way to estimate what the probabilities are, what they ought to be."

• "Irreducible complexity." Proponents say some life systems are so complex they cannot have evolved from a less-sophisticated version that couldn't have worked.

This is the theory championed in what is perhaps the touchstone text for the intelligent design movement -- "Darwin's Black Box," by Michael Behe, a biology professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

Complexity, Gegenheimer countered, doesn't imply a supernatural cause.

"You can build an arch with a scaffold," responds Gegenheimer. "But when you take the scaffold away it looks like there's no way to build it."

Familiar issues

There's a lot of time for the debate to play out.

The Kansas State Board of Education will receive a new draft of science standards in February, and a final draft in the summer. By then, conservative board members amenable to intelligent design will hold six of the board's 10 seats.

In the meantime, the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit last week against a Pennsylvania school district that requires students to learn about intelligent design, claiming the curriculum violates separation of church and state.

Calvert co-founded the Intelligent Design Network in 1999, the last time evolution emerged as a statewide issue. Now 64, he said he took early retirement from his law practice to devote time to the matter; the network now has a mailing list "into the thousands" with branches in New Mexico and Minnesota. Those branches are directed by a mechanical engineer and a software engineer, respectively.

William Harris, a nutritional biochemist on the faculty at the University of Missouri Kansas City, is the only scientist listed as a "director" on the network's Web site. And the term "intelligent design" was reputedly coined in 1991 by Phillip E. Johnson, a law professor, in his book "Darwin on Trial."

Calvert, though, said the minority who favor intelligent design have unfairly been frozen out of the mainstream scientific community.

Marketplace of ideas

"Modern science is not objective," he said. "It is just flat not objective."

Calvert said he just wanted a chance to compete in the marketplace of ideas. Kansas educators, he said, are obligated to be fair.

"It's inappropriate for the state to suppress evidence of design and support a naturalistic world view that supports nontheistic belief systems," Calvert said.

Gegenheimer disagreed, suggesting that intelligent design is an unsubtle way of bringing God back into the classroom.

"The problem is, with any of this (intelligent design) reasoning, you have to accept supernatural causation to begin with," he said.

Scientists, he said, have reached a consensus in favor of evolution. Intelligent design proponents stand outside that consensus.

"If you want knowledge that's universal, it's got to be limited to what everybody can see," Gegenheimer said, adding: "Angels may be real, but not everybody can see them or measure them."

More in Evolution vs. Creation

Controversy over life's origins


San Francisco Chronicle
Robert M. Sapolsky
Friday, December 10, 2004

WELL, NOV. 2 confirmed that we are a vastly dichotomized country. This red-state/blue-state divide has various flashpoints: abortion, stem cells, same-sex marriage, the legality of a war based on lies -- all that stuff. But another flash point increasingly looms -- the teaching of evolution. A number of states and cities allow intelligent design, typically considered a code-phrase for creationism, to be taught alongside evolutionary biology. And, as an even more extreme event, last month a school board in rural Pennsylvania voted to require the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution.

Sitting here safely in the bluest of cities, it strikes me that there are some key questions whose answers may help to counter this rising tide.

1. OK, evolution is about bones, or just-so stories about how the giraffe got its long neck, or about how our ancestors once were some brine shrimpy sorts of things. Has anyone actually shown evolution to occur as an ongoing process?

Plenty have. Evolution is the process by which the patterns of heritable, genetically influenced traits in a population change over time in response to changing environmental demands, and where the traits that are more adaptive in that environment are the ones becoming more prevalent. By that weighty definition, here are some examples of evolutionary change that have occurred in our lifetimes: the increasing prevalence of people who are genetically HIV- resistant in certain high-risk populations; changes in wing color in moths in England as soot-belching factories changed the color of tree trunks and thus of what color afforded camouflage; changes in the shape of beaks on Darwin's famed finches in the Galapagos Islands in response to shifts in food resources; changes in the prevalence of some Pacific Islanders with a certain physiology of food storage in response to the introduction of Westernized diets; adaptive changes in the prevalence of certain genes in populations of rats caught in American cities over the last century, or in populations of snakes. And, as a bit of evolution that may doom us all, the resistance of bacteria to the antibiotics we fling at them. Evolution is for real, in the present tense.

2. So what's with this "theory" of evolution business? How can scientists spend careers arguing with each other about evolution, if it's supposed to be a fact?

That's because scientists don't argue about whether evolution is for real; that's proven. They argue about how exactly it works. Contemporary evolutionary biology deals with such questions as: Do new species only evolve out of isolated populations? Or: Is evolutionary change mostly gradual, or can it occur in big, dramatic leaps? Or: Does natural selection mostly work at the level of the gene, the individual or the population? Scientists happily come close to blows at conferences over those questions. But the factuality of evolution is a given in all those debates. If I remotely understand what astrophysicists do, some spend time trying to figure out how radio waves can paradoxically escape the inescapable gravitational pull of black holes. But that doesn't mean that gravity is just a theory, and that physics teachers should be mandated to give equal time to Siegfried-and-Roy levitation tricks.

3. In the face of such science, who are the folks pushing for intelligent design?

Undeniably, some are scientists (although it is rare that their expertise is in the realm of evolutionary biology). Others are educated nonscientists. But the rank and file of intelligent design supporters is most likely to come from the parts of the country with the lowest literacy rates, the lowest percentages of high-school graduates and the lowest rates of government investments in education. Much has been made of the, er, Jed-Clampett profile of the typical intelligent-design supporter, but I'm not sure if the education factor is the most meaningful correlate of being opposed to evolution. I suspect that of greater significance, those parts of the country are also among the poorest, where jobs are most likely to be outsourced overseas, the farthest out in the sticks from the proverbial information highway, the most inequitable in income and the unhealthiest with the shortest life expectancies. These are people who, for many generations, have tended to get some of the worst deals amid our culture's mythologies that everyone is born equal and anyone can become president or maybe even Bill Gates.

This downtrodden status can cause some bizarre, twitchy forms of ire -- say, deciding that the liberal media is the enemy, rather than, say, our country's robber barons, whose interests they keep being convinced to vote for. Or to be skittish about technological and cultural innovations, not because these folks don't understand them, but because they understand all too well how the newest new is going to marginalize them even more in the boondocks of America.com. And to dislike evolution, because of a side branch of evolutionary thinking that has metastasized ever since Darwin, which has a sordid record of doing bad things to folks like these. This is Social Darwinism, the pseudoscience that evolution is about "should be" rather than "is," that folks on the lower rungs of society are peopled with individuals who are evolutionarily meant to be there, and that all is biologically just in this stratified world. Add in the potentially incorrect belief that accepting evolution is incompatible with one of the more common sources of solace in that corner of the country, namely fundamentalist religion, and you've got some unhappy campers.

Ultimately, I think that making sense of the anti-evolution movement requires understanding and empathy for the emotional core that fuels the rejection of 19th-century science, let alone 21st-century science. And despite that nice blue-ish sentiment, nevertheless, we should not give an inch in fighting to make sure our children are not taught nonsense.

Stanford neurology professor Robert M. Sapolsky is the author of "A Primate's Memoir ," among other works.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Creationists try to edge around ban



WASHINGTON - Creationism is a mandatory class at Virginia's Liberty University, a Christian college founded in Lynchburg by evangelist Jerry Falwell.

"Unlike secular institutions, we give both sides," biology professor Terry Spohn said.

But it's not just parochial schools that are pushing the biblical version of how humans were created.

Nearly 20 years after the U.S. Supreme Court barred teaching creationism in public schools, state and local officials in 43 states over the past four years have proposed new ways to get around the ban, according to the National Center for Science Education, a California-based organization of educators and clergy.

The latest effort is to teach high school students "intelligent design" - which attributes the origin of the world to an intelligent designer, without using the word "God," and embraces some aspects of science.

Next month, ninth-graders in Dover, Pa., will become the first public school students in the nation to be taught "intelligent design" alongside evolution.

In Ohio, state school officials are urging local public schools to teach a "critical analysis" of evolution.

Overall, the pro-evolution side is winning the battle over what students learn in high school science: None of the anti-evolution bills introduced in 17 states this past year became law.

But the tactic that most worries supporters of evolution is the use of anti-evolution disclaimers inserted into science textbooks.

A federal judge in Georgia is expected to rule soon on the constitutionality of a Cobb County School Board decision to put a sticker inside each science textbook proclaiming that evolution is "not a fact."

Only Alabama mandates statewide evolution disclaimers in its textbooks. However, copycat bills have recently surfaced in roughly a half-dozen states, including South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana.

If the American Civil Liberties Union loses the case, "we expect to see the Cobb County disclaimer pop up everywhere," said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the national science education center.

"If you don't talk about your religious motivations, it's a lot harder to convince a judge that its real objective is religious," Branch added.

Private schools like Liberty are not bound by the 1987 high court ruling that teaching creationism is a violation of the separation of church and state.

"We cover evolution, but we bring up problems with it," said David DeWitt, an associate professor of biology.

DeWitt believes all students should "have the academic freedom to question evolution. . . . I think it's dishonest to shove evolution down these students' throats as a fact."

But Cobb County high school biology teacher Wes McCoy argues that students need to be taught "a rational, step-by-step explanation of evolution" based on "authentic science" and that does not contradict religious beliefs.

"Science can only focus on naturalistic explanations of the world. . . . Science cannot tell us why we are here," said McCoy, who testified against the disclaimer stickers in the Cobb County case.

Other evolution supporters argue that ideas like "intelligent design" aren't academic subjects and don't belong in academic courses.

"Why don't we talk about astrology in astronomy class, why don't we talk about the Christian Science theory of medicine in medical class? . . . The point is, it's not science," said Sarah Pallas, a Georgia State University biology teacher.

John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, a Christian think tank, agrees that religion should be kept out of the public schools.

But Morris, a proponent of teaching students "intelligent design," believes the theory of evolution is a type of unproven religion based on "weak" scientific evidence.

"Science has to do with the here and now." Evolution and other ideas on the origins of Earth "are views about history," he said.

President Bush advocates teaching children "different theories about how the world started" and "scientific critiques of any theory."

Most Americans agree with him.

Nearly 80 years since the Scopes "Monkey Trial" pitted evolutionists against creationists, a CBS poll last month found that almost two thirds of Americans favor teaching creationism and evolution in public schools.

Last month, voters across the country backed a number of pro-creationism candidates, including Sen.-elect Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who attacked his opponent, state Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum, for pushing evolution in schools.

Even the Bush-backed No Child Left Behind education reforms contain nonbinding language encouraging schools to teach "the full range of scientific views" on evolution.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

What is...'Intelligent Design?'


Terence Kealey

December 18, 2004

THE BESTSELLER of 1802 was William Paley's Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity. Paley, a Cambridge divine, argued that plants and animals were complex, therefore they had been designed, which proved the existence of a designer, namely God. Readers found his argument so compelling that by 1809 the book was in its 12th edition.

And the argument is still compelling. It used to go by the name of "creationism" but has been rebranded as "intelligent design" (ID), and its protagonists are increasingly fervent. The local school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, for example, has ruled that teachers must include intelligent design in the curriculum as well as Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Dover school board for "violating the constitutional separation of Church and State under the guise of science education". This is no mere reprise of the infamous Scopes trial of 1925 — when a Tennessee teacher was dismissed for teaching Darwin's theory — because today's proponents of intelligent design are themselves devilishly intelligent, and they no longer claim that every word in the Bible is true.

Rather, they claim that no rational person could deny that the complexity of plants and animals proves the existence of a supernatural designer.

Indeed today's proponents of intelligent design, unlike the creationists of old, invoke Plato and Aristotle, and were thrilled when the British philosopher Antony Flew recently converted from atheism to ID, although still rejecting the details of Christianity.

In reality, however, 99 per cent of ID supporters are fundamentalist Christians who believe in the literal truth of Genesis, Deep South-style. This is why ID's hub is the Discovery Institute — which, despite its authoritative name, is a typical American palaeoconservative think-tank. British supporters of ID are less sophisticated and Sir Peter Vardy, the Geordie millionaire who bankrolls Emmanuel College, the city technology college in Gateshead, and other city academies that teach creationism in the North East, speaks of his fundamentalist Christianity.

I have no objection to ID being taught in schools as long as Darwinism gets equal time. Indeed, such a debate is more, not less, likely to inculcate a true understanding of natural selection, because theories of intelligent design and creationism are transparently absurd and driven not by a search for truth but by faith. Richard Dawkins may not be universally popular but his book, The Blind Watchmaker, kills Dr Paley's tome stone dead.

The author is a biochemist and Vice-Chancellor of Buckingham University

Pennsylvania Parents File First-Ever Challenge To 'Intelligent Design' Instruction In Public Schools; 'Intelligent Design' Is Religious Argument, Not Science, Say Parents


Press release from Americans United

HARRISBURG, PA-The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and attorneys with Pepper Hamilton LLP filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of 11 parents who say that presenting "intelligent design" in public school science classrooms violates their religious liberty by promoting particular religious beliefs to their children under the guise of science education.

"Teaching students about religion's role in world history and culture is proper, but disguising a particular religious belief as science is not," said ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Witold Walczak. "Intelligent design is a Trojan Horse for bringing religious creationism back into public school science classes."

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United Executive Director, added, "Public schools are not Sunday schools, and we must resist any efforts to make them so. There is an evolving attack under way on sound science education, and the school board's action in Dover is part of that misguided crusade. 'Intelligent design' has about as much to do with science as reality television has to do with reality."

Today's lawsuit challenges a controversial decision made in October by the Dover Area School Board to require biology teachers to present "intelligent design" as an alternative to the scientific theory of evolution. "Intelligent design" is an assertion that an intelligent, supernatural entity has intervened in the history of life. The lawsuit argues that such an assertion is inherently a religious argument that falls outside the realm of science. At the time of the October vote, district science teachers opposed the policy and three school board members have since quit in protest of the decision.

"The members of this school board have made their own religious beliefs part of the high school's science curriculum," said Eric Rothschild, a partner at Pepper Hamilton, a law firm headquartered in Philadelphia. "This policy is not only unconstitutional, it is bad science."

The school district policy mandates that Dover public schools treat "intelligent design" as a bona fide scientific theory competing with the scientific theory of evolution in order to develop a balanced science curriculum. Teachers are also required to read a statement to students in ninth grade biology classes that includes the following language:

Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves. As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind.

The lawsuit argues that teaching students about "intelligent design" in public school science classes entangles government with religion and violates the separation of church and state. Of Pandas and People, the alternative book available for students, was authored by advocates of so-called creation science and published by a Christian think-tank that aims to preach "the Christian Gospel and understanding of the Bible."

"As a parent and a person of faith, I want to share my religious beliefs with my own children," said Dover resident Bryan Rehm, one of the parents involved in the lawsuit and a high school physics teacher. "But as a teacher, it would be a great disservice and fallacy to teach students that a perfectly valid faith constitutes scientific knowledge."

The lawsuit also states that teaching students that there are "gaps" in the scientific theory of evolution while not presenting any such gaps with "intelligent design" would lead students to believe that the theory of evolution is false and that the truth lies in the religious beliefs advocated through "intelligent design."

"I believe it is wrong to introduce a non-scientific 'explanation' of the origins of life into the science curriculum," said Dover resident Tammy Kitzmiller, another parent represented in the lawsuit. "This policy was not endorsed by the Dover High School science department. I think this policy was approved for religious reasons, not to improve science education for my child."

Ever since the famous 1925 Scopes "monkey trial," in which the ACLU defended a Tennessee teacher convicted of teaching evolution, opponents of the scientific theory of evolution have attempted to forbid, limit, or otherwise undermine the teaching of biological evolution in public schools. Challenges have included laws or policies to prohibit the teaching of evolution, requiring teachers to make statements or disclaimers questioning the validity of the scientific theory of evolution, and requiring teachers to present anti-evolutionary views, including religious views not based on scientific evidence.

In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard, that the belief that a supernatural creator was responsible for the creation of human kind is a religious viewpoint and cannot be taught in public schools along with the scientific theory of evolution.

Today's lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Representing the parents are Eric Rothschild, Stephen G. Harvey, Joseph M. Farber, Benjamin M. Mather and Thomas B. Schmidt of law firm Pepper Hamilton; Witold J. Walczak and Paula K. Knudsen of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; and Ayesha Khan, Richard Katskee and Alex J. Luchenitser of Americans United.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in the safeguarding religious freedom.

Intelligent design merits equal time with evolution


Linda Whitlock

Whitlock, of Salem, is a literacy instructor for TAP and an adjunct English instructor at Virginia Western Community College.

So a "rural Pennsylvania school district has become the first in the nation to require that 'intelligent design' be taught alongside evolution to explain the origins of life" ("Testing the God 'theory,'" Nov. 13 Roanoke Times editorial). Well, good for the Dover Area School Board.

The district's students will be better off for hearing the scientific evidence that, according to a recent Associated Press report, has convinced even the noted atheist AnΒtony Flew that "[a] super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature."

The case against teaching intelligent design, as laid out by The Roanoke Times, rests on two assumptions: first, that the scientific inquiry process mandates the exclusion of a supernatural creator and, second, that evolution is a satisfactory explanation for the diversity of living things. Neither assumption is warranted.

Although the scientific community now insists that legitimate scientific inquiry must begin with the premise that the natural world is all that exists, thus ruling out a priori the possibility of a supernatural creator, the founders of modern science would have been astounded at that notion. Modern science got its start only because men such as Copernicus, Galileo and Newton believed a rational (supernatural) creator had created a rational world that, as a result, could be observed, studied and understood.

As far as evolution's being a satisfactory explanation for the diversity of living things, microevolution - or variation within species - is accepted by design theorists and evolutionists alike.

Macroevolutionary theory, on the other hand, postulates that the same mechanism that accounts for limited variation within species can also account for all the differences between species.

Far from being a "principle supported by the known evidence," however, macroevolution is, as biochemist Michael Denton put it, a theory in crisis. The evidence Charles Darwin assumed would appear to support his theory hasn't turned up, and, whether willing to admit it publicly or not, many scientists have come to doubt that Darwin's theory is sufficient to account for the diversity of life forms.

Even such committed evolutionists as the late Stephen J. Gould and Francis Crick have recognized problems with Darwin's modification with descent and natural selection mechanism, which purports to explain how organisms developed into different species.

A paleontologist, Gould was troubled by the paucity of fossil evidence for evolutionary change and so came to support a theory called "punctuated equilibrium," which hypothesizes that after long periods of stasis, new species suddenly came into existence. No one has yet proposed a mechanism that can adequately account for how that might have occurred.

Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, went even further and surmised that life on Earth had been "seeded" by extraterrestrials. And Gould and Crick are far from the only scientists who recognize problems with evolution, but who, for ideological reasons, refuse to entertain other possibilities.

As Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin put it, to admit the possibility of nonmaterial causes would be "to let a divine foot in the door."

Although design theory leaves room for that "divine foot," William Dembski, a leader in the intelligent design movement, writes that "[p]roponents of intelligent design regard it as a scientific research program that investigates the effects of intelligent causes ... and not intelligent causes per se."

According to Dembski, "intelligent design holds that a designing intelligence is required to account for the complex, information-rich structures in living systems. At the same time, it refuses to speculate about the nature of that designing intelligence."

Clearly, while intelligent design opens the door to the possibility of a supernatural creator, design theorists don't necessarily assume that door leads to the God of the Bible. They do believe, however, that when "complicated things ... give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose," as Richard Dawkins wrote, scientists would do well not to dismiss the possibility of design out of hand.

The Roanoke Times editorial concludes that "[a]s scientific theory, thus far, [intelligent design] does not deserve equal weight. As deeply held belief, it does not need it - but public schools should not teach it."

Even if we grant the contention that intelligent design requires a belief in God, the assumption that, in the well-known words of the late Carl Sagan, "the universe is all there is or ever was or ever will be," differs little from the Bible's assertion that "[i]n the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Each is a statement of faith that can't be scientifically proved.

Sagan's faith statement directs scientific research in one direction, the Bible's in another. At one time, the Bible's faith statement ruled public education, and evolutionary teaching was shut out. Today, Sagan's faith statement is in control, and it's the evolutionists who refuse to allow any challenge to their orthodoxy.

Regardless of which faith statement scientists start from, however, they should, as Antony Flew has done, "[f]ollow the evidence, wherever it leads."

Since Flew can't be accused of starting from the "God" premise, as intelligent design theorists frequently are, his "conversion" provides strong support for making intelligent design theory a part of a comprehensive biology course.

© Copyright 2004

Textbook's Approval Postponed So School Board Can Read It


School Board Member Complains, Says Book Does Not Address Creationism

POSTED: 3:31 pm EST December 17, 2004

ELKTON, Md. -- School officials in northeastern Maryland plan to read a biology book before voting to approve it.

Cecil County Schools Superintendent Carl Roberts has withdrawn his recommendation for a 10th-grade biology book after a school board member complained he saw no reference to creationism in the text.

The Associated Press reported Friday that Roberts postponed a vote on the book that teaches evolution until after board members have a chance to read it. The book has cleared the district's standard process of textbook approval, winning the approval of 95 percent of the district's Textbook Review Council -- a committee composed of 50 parents, teachers and administrators.

Creationism, or the belief that humankind was created by God, is not mentioned in the current biology text and it is not mentioned in the new book up for approval, said Richard Lonie, the district's instructional coordinator for science.

"It's not mentioned at all," he said. "We teach what the state is asking us to teach. We're trying to teach science, not faith."

Two district board members said they would not feel comfortable voting on the book without reading it.

Evolution education update: Reactions to Dover complaint, Dinosaur Adventure Land, and Willard on disclaimers

Reactions to the filing of a legal complaint over the Dover Area School Board's mandate to teach "intelligent design" in its science classrooms, together with the tale of a visit to Dinosaur Adventure Land and a forceful op-ed about "evolution is a theory, not a fact" disclaimers.


On December 14, eleven parents from Dover, Pennsylvania -- represented by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and attorneys from Pepper Hamilton LLP --filed suit in federal court to overturn the "intelligent design" policy of the Dover Area School Board. The plaintiffs in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District argue that teaching intelligent design -- which consists of discredited creationist criticisms of evolution, which are supposed to lead to the conclusion that supernatural intervention by an "intelligent designer" must have been responsible for the history of life -- is government establishment of religion when taught as science in a public school science class. Vic Walczak, attorney for the Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU, said that "Teaching students about religion's role in world history and culture is proper, but disguising a particular religious belief as science is not," at the press conference announcing the suit. He added, "Intelligent design is a Trojan Horse for bringing religious creationism back into public school science classes."

Reaction to the complaint was swift. A trenchant editorial in the York Dispatch began by observing, "The intelligent design/creationist clique on the Dover Area School Board now have the national media attention they've been angling for -- and so much for their mandated responsibilities to the students and district residents," and went on pointedly to describe the procedure for running for school board. Angie Yingling, a member of the Dover Area School Board who initially voted for the policy but later reversed her position and threatened to resign over the policy, told the Associated Press, "Anyone with half a brain should have known we were going to be sued." The Discovery Institute issued a press release calling on the board to withdraw and rewrite its policy. But Richard Thompson, an attorney for the Thomas More Law Center, which describes itself as a "not-for-profit public interest law firm dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life," indicated that his firm would represent the Dover Area School District to defend the "intelligent design" policy. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, Thompson acknowledged that "religious implications" of "intelligent design," but expressed confidence in the prospects for a legal victory. NCSE's Nicholas Matzke took a different view, saying, "Evolution is great science and this intelligent design stuff is religiously motivated pseudo-science," adding, "it seems like a pretty clear-cut case to us."

For the San Francisco Chronicle's story on Dover, visit:

For NCSE's coverage of Dover to date, look at the stories dated 2004 here:


Greg Martinez's "Stupid Dino Tricks," originally published in the November 2004 article of Skeptical Inquirer, is now available on-line. Martinez amusingly and incisively recounts his trip to Dinosaur Adventure Land, a creationist playground in Pensacola, Florida, operated by the flamboyant young-earth creationist Kent Hovind. Featuring such attractions as the "Longneck Liftasaurus," the "Flingasaurus," and the "Circle Swivel Springasaurus," Dinosaur Adventure Land seeks to "attract an audience that can then be enticed, seduced, and eventually duped into accepting superstitions, pseudoscience, and plain nonsense passed off with a patina of both scientific and religious authority," Martinez writes. "The realization that there really isn't anything much dinosaur about it comes only after you have paid your admission and been subjected to a lengthy bath of proselytizing."

For Martinez's story, visit:

For the Talk.Origin Archives page of FAQs about Hovind, visit:


Writing in The Seattle Times, Huntington F. Willard of Duke University describes his shock on hearing about the Cobb County School District's stickers in biology textbooks describing evolution as a theory, not a fact: "This is not just a shot across the bow of modern scientific thought; it's a body blow right smack in the middle of our double helix." Noting the misleading nature of the sticker, he explains, "Evolution lies at the heart of biology," adding that it "is seamlessly and continuously linked to health research to better understand such conditions as AIDS or bird flu or Parkinson's or cancer or heart disease. Every biomedical experiment, every tiny advance, every major breakthrough ultimately connects to the principles first postulated by Darwin." (Willard's emphasis on such biomedical issues is due to his specialty in human genetics: he is the author of the widely used textbook Genetics in Medicine and is Director of the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy at Duke University.) He ends his op-ed with a call to scientists to "educate policymakers, integrate evolution into our science curricula, educate our children about the nature of scientific reasoning, distinguish between the natural and the metaphysical, and recognize those teachers and mentors who do communicate scientific ideals to their students and the public."

For Willard's op-ed, visit:

For one way of answering his call, consider joining NCSE:

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: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

What's New

by Bob Park

TARGETED PRAYER: "PRAYER WARRIORS" ARE LINKED BY THE INTERNET. On ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings there was a report about Christian prayer teams organized over the internet from the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs. By praying in unison for specific targets they say the effect is multiplied. They could pray for Missile Defense. It will have as much effect as a test.

Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.aps.org/WN

Shrinking glaciers evidence of global warming Differences seen by looking at photos from 100 years ago


David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor

Friday, December 17, 2004

Glaciers throughout Alaska are shrinking more and more rapidly, and scientists comparing old photos taken up to a century ago with digital images made during climbing expeditions today say the pictures provide the most dramatic evidence yet that global warming is real.

And it's not only the glaciers reflecting the climate change. Everywhere on the treeless tundra north of the jagged slopes of Alaska's Brooks Range, explosive bursts of vegetation -- willows, alders, birch and many shrubs -- are thriving where permafrost once kept the tundra surface frozen in winter.

Two geophysicists and a government geologist who spend much of their working lives exploring changes in the Arctic displayed dozens of photographs from the thousands in their files Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

"You don't need science to prove the point," said Matt Nolan of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. "This evidence is visual, and it's real.

"All the glaciers in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are retreating from their most extended positions thousands of years ago, and the only scientific explanation for their retreat is a change in climate. There's no doubt at all, and the loss of glacial volume is accelerating."

Bruce Molnia, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, has gathered more than 200 glacier photos taken from the 1890s to the late 1970s and has visited more than 1,000 Alaskan glaciers in the past four years to photograph them from precisely the same locations and pointing in the same directions as the older ones.

Where masses of ice were once surging down wide mountain passes into the sea, or were hanging from high and perilously steep faces, the surfaces in Molnia's images now stand bare. What remains from many of the retreating glaciers are stretches of open water or broad, snow-free layers of sediment.

"And as the glaciers disappear," Molnia said, "you get the amazing appearance of vegetation."

As certain as the scientists are that global warming is responsible for Alaska's changing landscape, they hesitated to blame it all on the increasing levels of greenhouse gases from industry that have marked the past century and have resulted in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, now ratified by 126 nations but which the Bush administration has rejected.

"The rapid melting of the glaciers, the increasing vegetation in the high Arctic and the invasions of insects where insects were once unknown are all happening," Molnia said, "and I would not question that a significant component of the change is due to the heat-trapping greenhouse effect -- certainly a human-caused issue -- but I wouldn't say it's all caused by global industries."

The increasing pace of change is clear in the glaciers he has explored, Molnia said. Many photos he has recovered from the 1890s, the 1940s and the 1970s show how fast the glaciers have been retreating; in a few cases, however, where warming temperatures have increased precipitation at higher altitudes, some glaciers actually advanced, he said.

Geophysicist Ken Tape, of the University of Washington, has been exploring the Brooks Range in the far north of Alaska as well as the wide stretches of treeless tundra between the mountains and the Beaufort Sea along the state's north coast.

The growth of shrubs across the tundra has increased by 40 percent in less than 60 years, Tape said, "and that perturbation is certainly due to the changing climate."

E-mail David Perlman at dperlman@sfchronicle.com.

Beginning of life on earth may be written in stone

By Dennis O'Brien
Sun Staff
Originally published December 17, 2004

Researchers studying rocks from Greenland announced today that they've uncovered evidence to show when life on earth began.

Analysis shows the rocks may have been host to our earliest ancestors: single-celled organisms that lived 3.85 billion years ago.

If the dating is accurate, the rocks push back the biological record of life on earth by about 450 million years.

Scientists from the University of Chicago reported in today's issue of the journal Science that the rocks may have once been in a prehistoric ocean, but they were cooked at high temperature under pressure, which drastically modified their chemistry.

But by using mass spectrometry, researchers said, they found atomic signatures in the rocks indicating that they're sedimentary - the type of rock that would form along rivers, in lakes and in oceans - and could host bacteria or some other microscopic form of early life.

"These are the oldest sediments on earth, so anything they have to tell us is important," said Nicolas Dauphas, the study's lead author, who is an assistant professor at the university and a researcher at Chicago's Field Museum.

Dauphas said his team was able to identify the rocks as sedimentary by measuring subatomic variations, or isotopes, in the composition of the iron they contained.

Sedimentary rocks leave a more complicated isotopic signature than the earth's other type of prehistoric rocks - igneous rocks cooled from a once-molten state. But only sedimentary rocks are capable of preserving evidence of life.

Dauphas said the iron isotope signature also is consistent with the presence of photosynthesis, a chemical process that would signal the presence of bacteria.

Other experts dispute the researcher's findings.

"Is it an important piece of work, yes. But is it in any way a definitive answer to the larger questions of some of these issues? I don't think so," said Christopher Fedo, a researcher at George Washington University who has studied other rocks in Greenland.

The rocks used in the study were collected over the years from the southwest coast of Greenland and Akilia Island, a remote outpost that turned into a research hotspot in the mid-1990s. That's when researchers discovered a peculiar green and white layer of rocks, known as the Banded Iron Formation.

Rocks in the formation - believed to have been formed shortly after the last major asteroid impact 3.8 billion years ago - have been intensely studied over the past decade to see if they contain evidence of life.

Among geologists, it's a contentious issue.

"There's a lot of arguments about these rocks going back and forth," said Meenakshi Wadhwa, a curator at Chicago's Field Museum and a co-author of the report.

The earliest known life forms on earth are microfossils of cyanobacteria, a blue-green algae, believed to have lived in Australia more than 3.4 billion years ago.

Dauphas' study did not find actual evidence of life in the rocks and won't end arguments about the origins of life. But he believes there's "about an 85 percent chance" that such evidence will eventually be found in the rocks.

"This is the way that science goes. When everything makes a consistent picture, you can believe in the picture until someone comes up with evidence to disprove it," Dauphas said.

Fedo said it's an open question whether the rocks are 3.8 billion years old and whether they were ever capable of hosting microscopic life. Like most rocks, the granulates analyzed by Dauphas have changed over time, he said.

They were subjected to extreme temperature and pressure changes over billions of years, as water and other fluids flowed through them, gradually changing their chemistry. He said such changes make it difficult to determine whether the iron that formed the isotopes was part of the original rock or added later.

"Over 2 billion years of time, these rocks have repeatedly gone through the ringer," he said.

Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun

Letter says evolution, Bible can coexist


Pioneer Press

Nearly 200 Wisconsin clergy want school officials in Grantsburg, Wis., to ensure evolution remains at the center of scientific teaching in the schools.

The district drew criticism for approving a policy earlier this year calling for scientific theories and evidence other than evolution to be taught. It changed the policy earlier this month, explicitly ruling out teaching creationism and "intelligent design," a theory that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.

But the revised policy contained an expectation that students be able to explain "the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory." Such language is "a standard creationist tactic," according to a news release accompanying a letter signed by 188 pastors from Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and other churches.

Read it at http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/10435565.htm?1c

For cult leader buried alive, resurrection doesn't arrive


December 15, 2004 ? YONGIN, Gyeonggi ? Four members of a religious cult that believes in resurrection and eternal life are under investigation for burying their leader alive by sealing him in an underground room and pouring concrete over the entrance.

Police uncovered yesterday the decomposed body of a 54-year-old man, thought to be the head of the cult. The remains were found in the basement of a social welfare office in Yongin, Gyeonggi province.

According to Gyeonggi police, Mr. Song, the cult's leader, is thought to have died several years ago. He was found lying in bed by police. There were no external injuries, so police said they believe he died of starvation.

Mr. Song began treating people with incurable illnesses with chi, or life energy, from the late 1980s and then began to give his devotees religious training. But after Mr. Song's chi "treatments" failed to show measurable effects, his followers became upset. Police said they believe that an internal struggle involving the ownership of the cult's property led to the four members sealing Mr. Song in what became his tomb.

After uncovering the body yesterday, the police referred the case to the National Institute of Scientific Investigation for an autopsy to discover the exact cause of death.

"We received a tip that Mr. Song was confined and killed by his followers because they wanted to experience eternal life and resurrection," a police representative said. "We are investigating whether this was caused by a group of devotees who were into this new pseudo-religion."

by Chung Chan-min jieho@joongang.co.kr

Friday, December 17, 2004

"I have not changed my views", Antony Flew informs Rationalist International


By Sanal Edamaruku

Today, 16th December 2004, Professor Antony Flew, British philosopher, well known rationalist, atheist and an Honorary Associate of Rationalist International, telephoned me and informed that the wild rumours about his changed views are baseless. He expressed surprise over the confusion some people have spread and asserted that his position about the belief in god remains unchanged and is the same as it was expressed in his famous speech "Theology and Falsification". "I find no new reason to change my views", Professor Flew said.

Professor Antony Flew discusses the atheism of a rationalist, based on the impossibility to verify or falsify the religious claims about a god, in his short paper "Theology and Falsification", first published in 1950. Since then this paper was reprinted more than forty times in different places, including translations into German, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Welsh, Finnish and Slovak. During the conversation with me, Professor Antony Flew expressed desire to publicise this paper as it represented his views till this moment. "There is no change", Professor Antony Flew asserted. "Some people argue that I changed my views. It is simply not correct."

The recipients of Rationalist International Bulletin may publish, post, forward or reproduce articles and reports from it, acknowledging the source: Rationalist International Bulletin # 138. Copyright © 2004 Rationalist International

Entertaining the notion of a place of wonder


Thursday, December 16, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

By Jonathan Witt

Special to The Times

Guest columnist

British philosopher Antony Flew has been called the world's most influential philosophical atheist. As far back as his debates with Christian apologist C.S. Lewis in 1950, he argued that there simply wasn't enough evidence for a creator.

Now Flew has changed his mind.

Those who admired his intellect when he was an atheist should listen carefully to his reasoning now — for if a man suddenly becomes persona non grata for changing his mind, then the possibility of reasoned civil discourse withers.

That's a tough warning to heed, however, because Flew takes issue with the bedrock of modern materialism: pre-biotic evolution.

In a recent interview (www.biola.edu/antonyflew), Flew points out that even if Charles Darwin's theory of random variation and natural selection can explain how organisms evolved, the theory does not explain one crucial question: Where did a living, self-reproducing organism come from in the first place?

Flew insists that the scientific establishment has simply failed to answer this question persuasively, and he singles out Richard Dawkins, another influential British atheist and leading proponent of Darwinism:

"Richard Dawkins constantly overlooks the fact that Darwin himself, in the 14th chapter of 'The Origin of Species,' pointed out that his whole argument began with a being which already possessed reproductive powers."

If we trace evolution backwards, we reach a primitive single cell from which nothing simpler could survive and reproduce. How did it come to be? This first cell must be produced by something other than natural selection — a point Darwin readily conceded.

Those eager to expunge God's fingerprints from nature weren't concerned by this shortcoming in Darwin's material explanation for life, because Darwin and his contemporaries thought a single cell was a simple blob of protoplasm. How hard could it be for nature to randomly produce something so simple?

In those days the cell was a black box, a mystery. But in the 20th century, scientists were able to open that black box and peek inside. There they found not a simple blob, but a world of complex circuits, miniaturized motors and digital code.

We now know that even the simplest functional cell is almost unfathomably complex, containing at least 250 genes and their corresponding proteins.

Explains New Zealand geneticist Michael Denton, each cell "is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms."

The odds of a primordial soup randomly burping up even one protein strand of moderate length are dramatically less than one chance in 10{+1}{+5}{+0}.

It's hard to grasp how long these odds are — one followed by 150 zeros. We know that a lot of strange things can happen in a place as big and old as our universe, but as mathematician and philosopher William Dembski explains in the Cambridge University Press book "The Design Inference," the universe isn't remotely big enough, old enough, or fast enough to generate that much complexity.

Nor have attempts to explain this complexity as the natural outworking of the laws of nature proven successful. The best explanation? Intelligent design.

Most contemporary biologists will have none of this. Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin is refreshingly open about their reason. He admits their prior commitment to see only material causes forces them to "produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that Materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

Lewontin's approach isn't science. It's dogma. Flew's method is more objective. He has decided to follow the evidence wherever it leads. "It now seems to me," he says, "that the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design."

Such evidence has drawn Flew from atheism to a non-specific theism. He isn't ready to accept the God of a particular religion, nor does he believe in an afterlife. The change is, nevertheless, significant. He no longer inhabits a worldview where the miraculous and the irrational are synonymous.

The amazing complexity of even the simplest cell; the information-bearing properties of DNA; the exquisite fine-tuning of the laws and constants of physics that make organic life possible; the Big Bang of the cosmos out of nothing — these signs of intelligence do not compel our belief in a God who thundered from Mount Sinai, lay in a manger or hung from a cross. But the evidence does have metaphysical implications, drawing us to a still place of wonder where such notions can be reasonably entertained.

Jonathan Witt is senior fellow and writer in residence at Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture in Seattle.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

I believe in Creation


Posted: December 16, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com

Many people don't like it when I talk about this subject.

I'm bound to get dozens – maybe hundreds – of angry letters telling me I'm losing credibility, that I'll never be accepted into the mainstream pundit club if I keep this up, that I should lay off the religious stuff and stick to politics.

But I don't care.

Because I believe in truth. I believe in right and wrong. I believe in God. I believe in the Bible. And I believe in the biblical account of Creation.

I tell you this because, in my opinion, Americans are becoming too timid about standing up and proclaiming the way they truly feel about this issue. And, as a result, the evolution steamroller is becoming the official religion of U.S. schools.

It is now dangerous just to proclaim in a government school that evolution is a "theory."

The American Civil Liberties Union is not only crushing manger scenes and burning crosses across the country, it is also crusading to ensure evolution is the only explanation of origins permitted to be mentioned in the U.S. education system.

This week, for instance, the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging a Pennsylvania school district that teaches alternatives to the theory of evolution alongside Darwinism.

On Oct. 18, the Dover school board voted 6-3 to add the teaching of "intelligent design" to its ninth-grade biology curricula. Without identifying who the "designer" might be, the theory of intelligent design says the complexity and order of the universe and mankind suggest the action of an intelligent cause rather than random chance.

There are atheists who believe in intelligent design. There are Buddhists who believe in intelligent design. There are agnostics who believe in intelligent design. And, yes, there are even some Christians and Jews who believe in intelligent design. But to hear the ACLU tell it, just offering this alternative scientific theory to schoolchildren is the equivalent of proclaiming an official state church in America – a violation of the First Amendment.

That should give you an idea of the extremist mentality of those running the ACLU.

Last month, the ACLU helped several disgruntled parents in suburban Atlanta sue their school district over a simple label on its science textbooks that 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."

The suit claims the school board is "doing more than accommodating religion. They are promoting religious dogma to all students."

Let me contradict that statement. When people accept the theory of evolution as an article of faith and teach it as a matter of fact and permit no dissent whatsoever from their doctrine, they are the ones who are promoting religious dogma to all students.

I'm not sure which religious views they hold. They may be atheists. They may be agnostics. They may be pagans. They may be secular humanists. I don't know which particular dogma they follow. It isn't important. But rest assured they are only disguising their narrow religious views in the language of science.

The theory of evolution is now being treated like Holy Writ. That's not science. It's religion.

If something in science suddenly becomes so sacrosanct that you can't question it, then it ceases to be science. It's actually a contradiction of the principles of science and the scientific method, which requires testing, evidence, proof.

And that's what is happening all over the country. There's a new wave of sweeping intolerance and rigid conformity being required of teachers and students.

It seems to me when authorities are unwilling to accept any criticism of their doctrine, there is probably good reason. In the case of evolution, that reason is the theory itself is little more than speculation unsupported by evidence.

I've been through the indoctrination camps in high school and in college. I remain thoroughly convinced that evolution is nothing more than a religious tenet of secular humanism – unsupported by facts and unsupportable by facts. I am hardly alone.

Evolutionists are incapable of selling their ideas in an open marketplace. Instead, they resort to Soviet-style coercion and censorship to impose their views on others. Remember, it was the communists who made a special point of teaching that God played no role in the creation of the universe and mankind. Evolution became their god, and history is repeating itself in America's classrooms today.

The truth is we don't know what we don't know. And that's as good reason as any not to teach what we don't know as fact to kids forced to attend government schools. There are many good arguments against government education, but the fact that so many turn into state-sponsored propaganda mills and miseducation camps is the best reason of all.

Some of the very brightest people in the world today disbelieve in the theory of evolution. Some of the very brightest people throughout history have believed the world was created – men like Sir Isaac Newton, Copernicus and Maury. Why is it so vital to the new gods of scientific correctness that every schoolkid in America be taught only – I repeat, only – their theories of the universe and the origins of man?


Are you ready for the Second American Revolution? Joseph Farah's book, "Taking America Back," exposes the weaknesses in America's current system and offers practical solutions that are real and doable – solutions that can revive freedom, morality and justice in our nation. Order your copy now in WorldNetDaily's online store, ShopNetDaily!

Joseph Farah is founder, editor and chief executive officer of WND and a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host. He is also the founder of WND Books. In addition to his daily column in WND, he writes a nationally syndicated weekly column available to U.S. newspapers through Creators Syndicate.

Questions and Answers About Intelligent Design


The theory of intelligent design is in the news right now, but some of the purportedly factual descriptions of the theory being offered by reporters are highly inaccurate. Part of the reason for this is that some reporters are citing as fact partisan descriptions of design theory offered by anti-design groups such as the ACLU. When reporting on the debate between Darwinian evolution and intelligent design theory, it is important for reporters to allow the scientific proponents of design to describe their own theory, not to put words in their mouths. Just as good reporters would not rely on the Republican Party to provide an objective description of the platform of the Democratic Party, reporters describing the content of design theory should not rely on design's critics to provide a factual definition of a theory they oppose.

For more detailed information about the science of intelligent design theory, and/or the legality of teaching intelligent design please visit the Discovery Institute's website at http://www.discovery.org/csc/ .

1. What is the theory of intelligent design?
The scientific theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. Note: Intelligent design theory does NOT claim that science can determine the identity of the intelligent cause. Nor does it claim that the intelligent cause must be a "divine being" or a "higher power" or an "all-powerful force." All it proposes is that science can identify whether certain features of the natural world are the products of intelligence.

2. Is intelligent design theory the same as creationism?
No. Intelligent design theory is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the "apparent design" in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text.

3. Is intelligent design theory incompatible with evolution?
It depends on what one means by the word "evolution." If one simply means, "change over time" or even that living things are related by common ancestry, then there is no inherent conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design theory. However, the dominant theory of evolution today is neo-Darwinism, which contends that evolution is driven by natural selection acting on random mutations, a purposeless process that "has no specific direction or goal, including survival of a species." In biology, it is this specific claim made by neo-Darwinism that intelligent design theory directly challenges.

4. Is intelligent design based on the Bible?
No. The intellectual roots of intelligent design theory are varied. Plato and Aristotle both articulated early versions of design theory, as did virtually all of the founders of modern science. Indeed, most scientists until the latter part of the nineteenth century accepted some form of design. The scientific community largely rejected design in the early twentieth century after neo-Darwinism claimed to be able to explain the emergence of biological complexity through the unintelligent process of natural selection acting on random mutations. However, new research and discoveries in such fields as physics, cosmology, biochemistry, genetics, and paleontology have caused a growing number of scientists and science theorists to question neo-Darwinism and propose design as the best explanation for the existence of specified complexity in the natural world.

5. Are there established scholars in the scientific community who support intelligent design theory?
Yes. Intelligent design theory is supported by doctoral scientists, researchers and theorists at a number of universities, colleges, and research institutes around the world. These scholars include biochemist Michael Behe at Lehigh University, microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, biologist Paul Chien at the University of San Francisco, emeritus biologist Dean Kenyon at San Francisco State University, mathematician William Dembski at Baylor University, and quantum chemist Henry Schaefer at the University of Georgia, among others.

6. Do scientists supportive of design publish peer-reviewed articles and research?
Yes. Although open hostility from those who hold to neo-Darwinism sometimes makes it difficult for design scholars to gain a fair hearing for their ideas, research and articles by intelligent design scholars are being published in peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Stephen Meyer has published an article supportive of design in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (a peer-reviewed biology journal published at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution). Biochemist Michael Behe has defended the idea of "irreducible complexity" in the peer-reviewed journal Philosophy of Science, as well as publishing research critical of the mechanism of neo-Darwinism in the peer-reviewed journal Protein Science. Examples of peer-reviewed books supporting design include The Design Inference (Cambridge University Press) by William Dembski and Darwinism, Design, and Public Education (Michigan State University Press).

7. Should public schools require the teaching of intelligent design?
No. Instead of mandating intelligent design, Discovery Institute recommends that states and school districts focus on teaching students more about evolutionary theory, including telling them about some of the theory's problems that have been discussed in peer-reviewed science journals. In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned.

8. Is teaching about intelligent design unconstitutional?
Although Discovery Institute does not advocate requiring the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, it does believe there is nothing unconstitutional about discussing the scientific theory of design in the classroom. In addition, the Institute opposes efforts to persecute individual teachers who may wish to discuss the scientific debate over design in a pedagogically appropriate manner.

9. What is Discovery Institute?
Founded in 1990, the Institute is a national, non-profit, non-partisan policy and research organization, headquartered in Seattle, WA. It has programs on a variety of issues, including regional transportation development, economics and technology policy, legal reform, and bioethics. The Institute's founder and president is Bruce Chapman, who has a long history in public policy at both the national and regional levels. Mr. Chapman is a former director of the United States Census Bureau, and a past American ambassador to the United Nations Organizations in Vienna, Austria. Mr. Chapman has also served as a member of the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State.

10. What is the Center for Science and Culture?
The Center for Science and Culture is a Discovery Institute program that encourages schools to improve science education by teaching students more about the theory of evolution, as well as supporting the work of scholars who challenge various aspects of neo-Darwinian theory and scholars who are working on the scientific theory known as intelligent design. Discovery's Center for Science and Culture has more than 40 Fellows, including biologists, biochemists, chemists, physicists, philosophers and historians of science, and public policy and legal experts, many of whom also have affiliations with colleges and universities. http://www.discovery.org/csc/

Media Backgrounder
Rob Crowther
Discovery Institute
206-292-0401 ext. 107
PRNewswire -- Dec. 15
Quelle: Discovery Institute

Alternate Approaches in Treating HIV


The Nation (Nairobi)

December 16, 2004
Posted to the web December 15, 2004

James Njoroge

Current research indicates that "alternative" or medicine from herbs can complement conventional technologies in the management of HIV/Aids.

The increasingly dropping cost of antiretrovirals will see a bigger number of HIV positive people accessing the drugs. The bigger challenge now to individuals and health care providers will be monitoring and managing the possible complications related to the anti-retroviral drugs.

It is well known that ARV treatment needs careful monitoring, but what does this 'monitoring' amount to in practice? The aim of all monitoring is to enable the patient to get the maximum benefit from treatment while managing the risks that come with it.

Clinical monitoring is the most important part of the process and its most valuable function may be to give continuing encouragement and support to patients in taking their treatment.

Laboratory monitoring involves a range of options, most of which are based on blood tests. Some of these are currently expensive and inaccessible. WHO's and other guidelines therefore grade tests in order of importance and stress that the lack of access to particular tests should not be allowed to block access to treatment.

Where resources are limited, there is much that can be done by following strategies for reducing the cost of tests, exploring the use of cheaper alternatives, and limiting the use of tests to where they can be of most value.

Even expensive tests like viral resistance tests may eventually be justified if they lead to cessation of ineffective or damaging treatment, or can be used to monitor what is happening at a population level.

While blood tests are useful, there may be risks in 'treating the test' rather than treating the patient. When tests do become more widely available, patients may need help to understand their limitations as well as their value in guiding treatment.

Most of the emphasis in treatment guidelines has so far been on short term monitoring for drug safety and efficacy. Longer-term problems have emerged in settings where ARV treatment is established. These may point to the need for monitoring of a wider range of potential problems as new populations gain access to treatment.

Clinical monitoring requires that the patient is examined regularly, and is asked to report on any possible signs or symptoms that may relate either to an illness or to its treatment.

WHO guidelines stress that monitoring begins before a patient starts on a course of treatment and should continue, probably with monthly routine clinic visits, for as long as treatment continues. It includes a discussion with the patient of their medical history, their present condition and how it may be changing.

Later, it moves to asking if the patient is actually taking any treatment that has been prescribed for them, and if they are having any problems in taking it. And it includes a full and careful physical examination and recording basic information such as the patient's weight.

Paediatric HIV clinicians with patients on ARVs benefit from being able to plot the weight of the child against a growth reference standard. Monitoring growth is a useful index of response to therapy as faltering growth can be an early warning of treatment failure. An equally important reason to monitor children's weight is to ensure they receive the correct doses of any medicine they are prescribed.

Therefore, a significant number of HIV/Aids patients look towards complementary and alternative medicines as adjunct therapy. The reasons these patients often take alternative medicine may be due to an expectation of a cure, reduction in symptoms from HIV/Aids, reduction from ARVs side effects, or to improve their immune system.

The current treatment for HIV/Aids patients is administration of a cocktail of antiretroviral drug therapies. These therapies have resulted in a reduction of the viral burden by slowing down the replication of HIV and increasing CD4 positive lymphocyte cell count. However, there are many concerns with ARV medication.

The long-term benefits of these treatments have yet to be demonstrated, the medicines induce significant side effects, not all patients respond to treatment, viral resistance is increasingly becoming a problem, the rigid and complex dosing regimen makes long-term compliance very difficult, drug access is limited because of high costs of ARVs, and there is no definitive cure in the near future quality of life is often compromised in order to treat HIV aggressively.

Thus many HIV/Aids patients look to therapy that is outside the realm of conventional medicine because of the concerns that are raised due to ARV medications.

Complementary and alternative medicine has been broadly defined as "those treatments that have not generally been promoted and taught in Western medical schools and that have not generally been available at Western hospitals and clinics."

Studies indicate that a big range (18 per cent to 100 per cent) of HIV/Aids patients have used herbal medicine at some point. In a local initiative, the Institute of Herbal Medicine has observed the possibility of integration of the well studied herbs with the best result in treating HIV and conventional therapy. The preparation of herbs with ant-HIV and those with immune boosting effect, has been used as a mono-therapy or as combination therapy and proved to have significant positive results.

James Njoroge is a researcher with the Institute of Herbal Medicines.

RCAM (Royal College of Alternative Medicine) Sets Up International Wellness Hotline for those Without Medical or Health Insurance - Headed by it's Distinguished


Emeritus Professor, Dr Joseph Chikelue Obi

With over 50 Million uninsured persons in the USA, 'American-Trained' RCAM (Royal College of Alternative Medicine) Provost , Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi (USMLE/FSMB ID : 0-618-064-0 ) is immensely proud to announce the setting up of the World's first 'International Wellness Hotline' to expediently assist those who just can't afford to get appropriate advice for easily curable ailments

(PRWEB) December 16, 2004 -- Almost 50 Million Americans currently lack Health Insurance, and more are now living in poverty, show figures from the US Census Bureau last week. These exceedingly shocking figures do not include Illegal Immigrants , who (due to poor living and lifestyle conditions) are at greater risk of developing (and transmitting) complications from relatively simple illnesses.

The data, which are based on a comparison between 2002 and 2003, show that for the first time since 1995 women's average income fell and also that the ratio of women's earnings to men's earnings fell.

The number of people living below the 'Poverty Level' in the United States (based on an annual income of $18810 or less ; for a family of four) increased from 34.6 million to 35.9 million.

Premiums have also risen as the cost of insurance has risen, and workers are also paying more in "Co-Payments," (the portion of doctors' fees and prescription charges they have to pay themselves) : This is particularly hard for those who earn less than $50000 a year.

'American-Trained' RCAM (Royal College of Alternative Medicine) Provost , Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi (USMLE/FSMB ID : 0-618-064-0 ) is therefore exceedingly proud to announce the setting up of an 'International Wellness Hotline' to ethically assist those who just can't afford to get appropriate advice for easily curable ailments.

Key Features of the RCAM System: *All 'Wellness Consultants' have (at one time) successfully obtained an Accredited Medical Degree which is approved and validated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

*All 'Wellness Consultants' have (at one time) successfully passed Steps 1 , 2 and 3 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), inclusive of the Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA) Test. The USMLE Step 3 and CSA broadly place them at par with the 'Average Physician' in the USA. USMLE Step 3 is administered by the FSMB (Federation of State Medical Boards).

*All 'Wellness Consultants' are currently Fully Licensed as Qualified Medical Practitioners in at least one of the Member States of the United Nations ; and also hold membership of the World Medical Association (WMA) , in addition to various other relevant qualifications in Public Health and Health Promotion. They are also 'Computer-Literate' , with an excellent command of English Language. They have also visited the USA many times ; and are fully conversant with the American Healthcare System. The core difference is that they currently live abroad where the overheads (Malpractise Lawsuits and Taxes) are much lower than in the USA.

*All 'Wellness Consultants' continuously visit the USA for Continuing Medical Education (CME) Credits ; and also undergo 'Annual Independent Revalidation'.

*All Clients are assured of Total Confidentiality , without the need for the caller to actually provide their real name ; as the Callers also take complete responsibility for the call, and fully indemnify us of any consequences thereof.

*90% of all 'Chronic Health Enquiries' are easily solved over the phone within 10 minutes, and all the Client needs to do is visit his (or her) Local Pharmacy and purchase a Simple (Non-Prescription) Remedy.This also gives the Client a futher opportunity to discuss their concerns with any of the Duty Pharmacists. ( A further 'Safety Net' in the RCAM System ).

*Specific Clients may sometimes also be referred to a Licensed Medical Practitioner or a nearby 'Wellness Center' for appropriate tests and interventions.

*Please Note that this service is not for 'Life-Threatening Emergencies', which should be appropriately handled by your Local Acute Service ; and neither is it intended to replace the expert professional guidance of a Licensed Physician.

Please kindly visit http://www.RoyalCAM.org and click on any of the 'Call-Now' Buttons for further guidance.

About Royal College of Alternative Medicine (RCAM) : RCAM (Royal College of Alternative Medicine) is an Officially Registered, Dublin-Based, Independent, Regulatory, Training and Empowerment Body for Qualified Wellness Consultants and their Associates from all over the world ; which solely aims to Protect the Public ; by raising Ethical Awareness ( and optimizing Best Professional Standards) in Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM).

RCAM has absolutely no links whatsoever with any 'Royal Entity' of 'Similar' (or 'Presumed Similar') Nomenclature , Title , Calling , Being or Eminence.

Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi
Royal College of Alternative
Medicine (RCAM)
Visit Our Site
Email us Here

Disclaimer: If you have any questions regarding information in these press releases please contact the company listed in the press release. Please do not contact PR Web™. We will be unable to assist you with your inquiry. PR Web™ disclaims any content contained in these release. Our complete disclaimer appears here.

© Copyright 1997-2004, PR WebTM

Colombian police voodon't


Thu Dec 16, 2004 05:16 PM GMT

BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - Colombian police seized 292 voodoo dolls but were reluctant to inspect the black, hand-sized talismans for fear of witchcraft.

"Witches don't exist, but if they do, they do," Highway Police Capt. Gerson Fajardo explained in a local newspaper interview published on Thursday.

Transporting or selling the dolls is not against the law in Colombia. But police intelligence officer Rolando Silva, described by El Tiempo newspaper as an expert in witchcraft, nonetheless defended their seizure in the central province of Quindio.

"It was a measure to protect the moral conduct and the good habits of the people," he said.

The cargo, marked "various merchandise," also included 192 packages labelled magic dust and instructions on how to cast spells.

© Reuters 2004

Atomic tomatoes are not the only fruit


Ben Goldacre names the winners of the 2004 Bad Science awards - the gongs nobody wants

Thursday December 16, 2004
The Guardian

Andrew Wakefield prize for preposterous extrapolation from a single unconvincing piece of scientific data

With its place at the kernel of Bad Science reporting in the news media, this was bound to be a hotly contested category. Were there any sense in the world, a small army of media studies graduates would be carefully documenting the number of "science" or "health" stories that related to genuine published data rather than overheard rumour, and diligently measuring how closely these stories kept to the facts. In the absence of such quantitative academic work, it was sadly left to our panel to select the most extreme examples for a cheap laugh.

The British tradition of not giving journal references for science-based stories made all of these categories difficult to judge. In May, our first candidate, the Sunday Times, described reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) as having "performed well in trials to reduce the pain of postherpetic neuralgia". The only paper we could find relating to this subject on Pubmed referred to a trial of four people in 1998. It had no control group.

The Daily Mail meanwhile made big meat of a scientific study proving that the Atkins diet worked. The study, which only lasted six months, showed that the Atkins group lost just 4% more weight than the control group. A month later the paper turned on the Atkins diet as a result of a passing comment from an expert who had worked for the carbohydrate-peddling Flour Marketing Board. The Mail also received a special mention for reporting the scientific claims of anti-MMR campaigning researchers such as Dr Bradstreet, despite their never being published in any paper which can be found on Pubmed. Unfortunately, these articles could not be formally assessed for the award, since there was no scientific data to examine.

However after much deliberation the judges felt the winner should exemplify the crime of extrapolating - from basic sciences research in a laboratory glassware setting - to pretending that population data exists to prove a particular therapy is effective. And so the winner is: the Daily Express, for its declaration in September that "recent research" has shown turmeric to be "highly protective against many forms of cancer, especially of the prostate" on the basis of laboratory studies into the effects of a chemical extract on individual cells in dishes, and no (zero) trials in humans.

Award for outstanding innovation in the use of the title 'Doctor'

Again, there was a huge amount of competition for this category: after all, in the absence of evidence, authority is everything, and borrowing it can often be very cost-effective. The "Food Doctor", Ian Marber, caused fierce debate among the judges: could an entrant be eligible if they ran a clinic called the "Food Doctor Clinic", styled themselves as the "Food Doctor" in the media and in their books, marketed a large range of "Food Doctor" products, but didn't actually call themselves "Dr Ian Marber". We thought yes.

Dr Bannock, from Channel 4's Why Weight and glowing pieces in the Daily Mail, the Express, and the Sunday Times, presented another quandary. Although he was still attached to his seven professional memberships, six diplomas, eight certificates, the odd lectureship, and had possibly claimed fraudulently in the past to have a PhD from Brunel, he did at least have the dignity to recant, under persecution from Bad Science, and publicly bin his $850 "PhD" from the Open International University of Complementary Medicine.

As the CVs of the entrants became more and more complex, Dr Ali - "Britain's top integrated health expert" - of Harley Street and the Mail on Sunday, presented a further problem. He is not registered with the British General Medical Council, and although he does state that he went to medical school in Delhi and Moscow, he also states that your skull "contracts and expands a dozen times or so each minute to push the [cerebrospinal] fluid round" your brain, along with various other amusing misunderstandings of basic medicine. He informs us he has "chosen not to apply for registration with the British GMC as the treatment which he personally provides uses massage, diet, yoga and natural supplements and oils which do not need prescription". Cynics might suggest that his decision not to apply for registration has got more to do with the fact that the GMC regulations forbid the endorsement of lucrative commercial products. Like "Dr Ali's special recipe Ayurvedic Joint Oil" (£8.50).

However the prize went, in a surprising result, to Dr Gillian McKeith PhD. It would take an entire page to unpick, in appropriate detail, the complex web of this litigious candidate's unusual CV. For those who are interested, she has now been the subject of six Bad Science columns, debunkings in several national newspapers, and a half-hour ITV documentary on Monday, which cheerfully borrowed all of my jokes, research, and ideas, although I'm not bitter. Suffice to say, regardless of the boring details, anyone who claims that eating chlorophyll will really "oxygenate your blood", and that a seed contains "all of the energy necessary to make a fully grown plant", cannot possibly have a meaningful postgraduate qualification in a biological field. She received a small specimen jar containing the faeces of the judging panel, which will be duly forwarded to her agent if she is willing to submit it for testing.

Bad Science product of the year

Of course, it's only worth bending the facts if you have something to gain. There were over a hundred candidates in this category, but we whittled it down to a top five. SPES Capsules are a herbal alternative therapy whose manufacturers had a sudden crisis of confidence in alternative paradigms: they were found in a study to contain contain betamethasone, a potent synthetic glucocorticoid you wouldn't expect to find in any plant; and alprazolam, a synthetic benzodiazepine, much like the addictive "mother's little helpers" of the 60s, which might go some way to explain the claimed improvement in "quality of life".

Durex Performa were in a slightly different category of bad, meaning "evil": a new condom with a special cream in the teat "to help control climax and prolong sexual excitement for longer lasting lovemaking". The magic ingredient was benzocaine, a local anaesthetic, which made the judges' tongues go numb. We didn't even think about trying it on our genitals. Persil Aloe Vera also received a special mention for totemic and pointless use of a herbal ingredient by a biotech firm.

Then there's Cussons' Carex, a soap that "effectively removes bad bacteria on hands, whilst gently protecting the good". It was never made entirely clear how it was supposed to do this in the company's evidence to the ASA for a complaint which they lost on. "Carex knows the difference."

However the winner was Space Tomato Number One, part of the Chinese government's "space breeding" project, where radiation in space is used to create comic book mutations and giant space plants, including tomatoes weighing almost a kilogram. It was never made entirely clear why the mutations would be beneficial, or why you needed to be in space to get irradiated. The Chinese news agency Xinhua stated that, "in China the radiation effect is always positive, leading to bigger and better vegetables that will revolutionise agriculture."

Least plausible cosmetics claim

Generally, the claims of the cosmetics industry are well shored up with a few simple dishonest rhetorical tricks. However three products stood out. Valmont's Cellular DNA Complex is made from "specially treated salmon roe DNA", at the bargain price of £236 for seven phials. According to the Sunday Times' style supplement, it "enhances the cosmetic properties (moisturising, regenerating and protecting) of DNA". "Sadly," their correspondent continued, "smearing salmon on your face doesn't have the same effect."

PO2 Contour Cream from Laboratoires Herzog is a "patented stabilisation of oxygen within a cream" that "puts oxygen back into the skin, reoxygenates skin cells, encourages natural rejuvenation". It sounds like bollocks; but it smells like peroxide. Especially since Laboratoires Herzog point out, in the small print, that you will want to keep the stuff away from your eyebrows.

But the winner was a hair-straightening treatment by Bioionic, called Ionic Hair Retexturizing: "Water molecules are broken down to a fraction of their previous size ... diminutive enough to penetrate through the cuticle, and eventually into the core of each hair". Shrinking molecules caused some concern among the physicists at the ceremony, since IHR was available just 200 yards away, and the only other groups who have managed to create superdense quark-gluon plasma used a relativistic heavy ion collider. The prospect of such equipment being used by hairdressers was deemed worthy of further investigation.

Charles Darwin memorial prize for most unlikely death sustained while credulously being treated by a transparently fraudulent alternative therapist

There were four strong ex-candidates in this category, but as a democratic exercise in taste, it was left to the discretion of the audience to decide whether it was appropriate for the award to be presented in public. You lost.

Bad Science celebrity of the year

Juliet Stevenson made a strong case, not for her spectacular performance in Five's MMR: the facts, but for her infinitely more compelling performance as a concerned neurotic parent hyping up the dangers of MMR in the all-too-real world of Radio 4's Today programme and elsewhere. She received a special commendation from the judges for her excellent abilities to manage health risk on a population level, by being photographed the week before the awards driving her car with one hand and using her mobile phone with the other.

Anthea Turner was commiserated with on being burgled and losing £40,000 worth of possessions one month after having her house feng-shuied at great expense, and Carole Caplin also inevitably made an appearance, but both were trumped, to great popular acclaim, by Jeanette Winterson, for her excellent plan to send homeopathic remedies to treat HIV in Botswana.

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

Current News  News Back Issues

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