NTS LogoSkeptical News for 18 February 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, February 18, 2005

Physics News Update 720

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 720 February 17, 2005 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

QUANTUM-DOT PHOTON DETECTORS. Physicists at Toshiba Research Europe and the University of Cambridge have developed a device that can efficiently detect single photons, an achievement that should assist researchers in a number of diagnostic fields, such as medical imaging, chemical analysis, and environmental monitoring. The device depends on a quantum dot, a tiny semiconductor island that, owing to its essentially zero-dimensional physical extent (a disk 30 nm wide and 8 nm tall), forces electrons to possess only certain discrete energies. Indeed, quantum dots are sometimes referred to as artificial atoms because of their small size and quantized electron energy states. This quantum dot is encased inside another semiconductor structure called a resonant tunneling diode. In the diode two conducting gallium-arsenide layers are separated by an insulating aluminum-arsenide layer. If the GaAs layers have the right voltage alignment a current can tunnel from the one layer to the other. If misaligned, little current flows. Here's where the quantum dot comes in. The layers can be purposely slightly misaligned in such a way that capture by the dot of a "hole" excited in the diode by an incident photon can re-align the two GaAs layers, allowing the tunneling current to resume. In other words, the arrival of a photon in the dot results in the switch-on of the diode. This form of single-photon detection gets around the frequent false detections arising from the avalanche of electrons needed in the common amplified-photoelectron approach to photon detection. Right now, the device correctly detects single photons at a rate of 12%, but this should shortly rise to 65%, Toshiba physicist Andrew Shields (andrew.shields@crl.toshiba.co.uk , 44-1223-436900, www.QUANTUM.TOSHIBA.CO.UK) believes. At that level the dot-diode detector could speed up bit rates used in quantum cryptography and other forms of quantum information processing. (Blakesley et al., Physical Review Letters, 18 February 2004)

BUBBLES REDUCE DRAG. Physicists in the lab have now confirmed under controlled conditions what shipbuilders have known for some time, that a shot of bubbles can help reduce the drag encountered by a ship moving through water. Detlef Lohse and his colleagues at the University of Twente in the Netherlands start with one of the classic fluid dynamics experiments, a Taylor-Couette cell, consisting of a bath of fluid held between two concentric cylinders, the inner of which rotates. The drag effect of the fluid on this inner cylinder can be measured with great precision. By introducing a stream of bubbles at the base of the cell, the drag could be reduced by as much as 20%. Conversely, by introducing a stream of buoyant particles at the bottom, the drag was enhanced. In Japan, the largest shipbuilding nation in the world, the subject of bubble drag reduction is very hot. (Van den Berg et al., Physical Review Letters, 4 February 2005; contact Detlef Lohse, d.lohse@tnw.utwente.nl, 31-53-489-8076; http://www.tn.utwente.nl/pof/; see also http://www.fom.nl ; for related Japanese result, see http://www.nmri.go.jp/index_e.html)

EVIDENCE FOR QUANTIZED DISPLACEMENT in nanomechanical oscillators. Physicists at Boston University have performed an experiment in which tiny silicon paddles, sprouting from a central stick of silicon like the vanes from a heat sink, seem to oscillate together in a peculiar manner: the paddles can travel out to certain displacements but not to others. The setup for this experiment consists of a lithographically prepared structure looking like a double-sided comb (see picture at http://nano.bu.edu/antenna-large.jpg ). Next, a gold-film electrode is deposited on top of the spine. Then a current is sent through the film and an external magnetic field is applied. This sets the structure to vibrating at frequencies as high as one gigahertz. This makes the structure the fastest man-made oscillator. (Atoms and molecules can vibrate faster than this, but not any chunk of matter, until now.) At relatively warm temperatures, this rig, small as it is, behaves according to the dictates of classical physics. The larger the driving force (set up by the magnetic field and the current moving through the gold electrode) the greater the excursion of the paddles. This is no more than Hooke's law. At millikelvin temperatures, however, quantum mechanics takes over from classical mechanics. In principle, the energies of the oscillating paddles are quantized, and this in turn should show up as a propensity of the paddles (500 nm long and 200 nm wide) to displace only by discrete amounts. The Boston University experiment sees signs of exactly this sort of behavior. (Gaidarzhy et al., Physical Review Letters, 28 January 2005; contact Pritiraj Mohanty, 617-353-9297, mohanty@buphy.bu.edu ; lab website, http://nano.bu.edu/quantum-motion.html )

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

Human Fossils Dated to 195,000 Years


By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer

NEW YORK - A new analysis of bones unearthed nearly 40 years ago in Ethiopia has pushed the fossil record of modern humans back to nearly 200,000 years ago perhaps close to the dawn of the species.

Researchers determined that the specimens are around 195,000 years old. Previously, the oldest known fossils of Homo sapiens were Ethiopian skulls dated to about 160,000 years ago.

Genetic studies estimate that Homo sapiens arose about 200,000 years ago, so the new research brings the fossil record more in line with that, said John Fleagle of Stony Brook University in New York, an author of the study.

The fossils were found in 1967 near the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia. One location yielded Omo I, which includes part of a skull plus skeletal bones. Another site produced Omo II, which has more of a skull but no skeletal bones. Neither specimen has a complete face.

Although Omo II shows more primitive characteristics than Omo I, scientists called both specimens Homo sapiens and assigned a tentative age of 130,000 years.

Now, after visiting the discovery sites, analyzing their geology and testing rock samples with more modern dating techniques, Fleagle and colleagues report in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature that both specimens are 195,000 years old, give or take 5,000 years.

Fleagle said the more primitive traits of Omo II may mean the two specimens came from different but overlapping Homo sapiens populations, or that they just represent natural variation within a single population.

To find the age of the skulls, the researchers determined that volcanic rock lying just below the sediment that contained the fossils was about 196,000 years old. They then found evidence that the fossil-bearing sediment was deposited soon after that time.

Paul Renne, director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center, which specializes in dating rocks, said the researchers made "a reasonably good argument" to support their dating of the fossils.

"It's more likely than not," he said, calling the work "very exciting and important."

Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution ( news - web sites)'s National Museum of Natural History, said he considered the case for the new fossil ages "very strong." The work suggests that "we're right on the cusp of where the genetic evidence says the origin of modern humans ... should be," he said.

G. Philip Rightmire, a paleoanthropologist at Binghamton University in New York, said he believes the Omo fossils show Homo sapiens plus a more primitive ancestor. The find appears to represent the aftermath of the birth of Homo sapiens, when it was still living alongside its ancestral species, he said.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Beebe will not remove stickers


The school board has decided to keep the district's anti-evolutionary statement in its textbooks pending an outcome of a federal lawsuit and possible help from a conservative legal group.

By Joan McCoy
Leader staff writer

The Beebe School Board decided Monday night that evolution disclaimer stickers will stay in science books, at least for the time being.

A threatened lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union has brought to light the stickers, which board members say they didn't know existed. But now that they know and they know the ACLU intends to sue if they don't remove them, they will wait for the outcome of an appeal of a federal case that was fuel for the ACLU's demand that the stickers be removed immediately.

They also want to wait and see if a conservative, Washington, D.C.-based organization, the American Center for Law and Justice, will be able to defend them in the event of a lawsuit by the ACLU. "Get us some more information," board member Lorrie Belew told Dr. Kieth Williams, school superintendent.

A federal judge in Georgia ruled in mid-January that evolution disclaimer stickers in science books in Cobb County School District had to be immediately removed. The stickers said: "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 school district is appealing the federal court's ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The sticker on science books at Beebe beginning with the fourth grade goes further than the Georgia sticker, saying that some people think it makes more sense to consider an "intelligent designer" was responsible for life, which the ACLU says is violation of the First Amendment separation of church and state.

The school board made its decision to wait and see before a full house at the intermediate school library. Board meetings are often attended only by the board, a handful of principals and other administrators and two or three reporters. But present at the Monday night meeting were such notables as Bob Hall, pastor of First Baptist Church in Beebe; Jim Wooten, business owner and chairman of the Beebe Economic Development Commission; and Donald Ward, mayor of Beebe and a history teacher at the high school.

Board member Tommy Vana-man said the next morning that if research shows the school district is violating some federal law by placing the stickers in the science books, the board will take them out. "If it's just because the ACLU wants them out, that's a different story," Vanaman said.

So far, he said, no one on the board has been able to determine through the information they've researched what, if anything, federal law says about affixing stickers to textbooks questioning the validity of evolution as it pertains to the origin of life or the change of one life form into another or promoting the concept of an "intelligent designer."

In the meantime, the ACLU has already put out a press release that was picked up by the National Center for Science Education (a California organization dedicated to keeping evolution in science classrooms and "scientific creationism" out) that said the school district would take the stickers out of the text books.

That press release was based on a letter to the ACLU from Paul Blume, the school district's attorney that said the district would remove the stickers at the end of the school year. However, at the time the letter was written, board members say they hadn't reached a decision. They only wanted an extension to the two-week deadline the ACLU gave them to remove the stickers.

"Following action by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, the Beebe School District today agreed to remove stickers it had placed in science textbooks undermining the validity of evolution and introducing the religious concept of an "intelligent designer" behind the origin of life," said the press release dated Feb. 10. "After receiving complaints about the stickers from community members, the ACLU wrote a letter to the superintendent of the school district demanding that the stickers be removed."

ACLU of Arkansas executive director Rita Sklar said in the press release, "We commend the Beebe School District for avoiding unnecessary and costly litigation in this matter.

However, we are concerned that these stickers may be present in textbooks around the state, as they are the latest attempt to undermine science and bring creationism back into public schools. We would be happy to talk to the Arkansas Department of Education to provide legal guidance on this issue."

Contacted Tuesday, Sklar said that since the board took no vote and therefore no official position on removing the stickers, she still believes they will be removed.

"I am inclined to take the word of the attorney for the district," she said. The Arkansas Department of Education appears to take no position on the stickers. Gail Potter, assistant director for Academic Standards and Assessments, said the state requires school districts to teach certain frameworks but would not comment on the stickers because of the possible litigation.

Dr. Kieth Williams, superintendent at Beebe Schools, said on Tuesday that the state does not come out for or against the stickers. The proponents of "intelligent design" say the theory is not the same as "creationism," which has been banned from public schools by the Supreme Court.

Neither is it based on the Bible according to the Center for Science and Culture, a program of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank which works as hard to promote the theory as the National Center for Science Education works to promote evolution.

The NCSE says, "The 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. "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."

Dockery, Dembski articles included in reference work


Feb 17, 2005
By Staff

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)--An article on Baptist theologian A.H. Strong by Union University President David Dockery is included in the seven-volume German reference set Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, regarded as one of the premier scholarly resources on religion in the Western world.

The fourth edition of the reference set published by Mohr Siebeck contains thousands of articles in an encyclopedia-style format.

In addition to Dockery's article, the set also includes an entry on "Intelligent Design Theory" by William Dembski, associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University. Dembski will join the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in June.

"The contributors' list is literally a who's who of religion all around the world," Dockery said. "Even though I have only one article out of the thousands in this set, it is still an honor to be included in a reference set of this magnitude that serves the worldwide academic community."

Translated into German for publication, Dockery's article on Strong (1836-1921) is a brief biography that explores the theologian's impact on Baptist thought for much of the 20th century.

"He cast a long shadow over Baptist thought for decades with his encyclopedic Systematic Theology, which went through eight editions over a 20-year period," Dockery wrote. "Essentially traditional and orthodox in his theological conclusion, Strong was a pioneer in theological method in Baptist life engaging and interacting with the modernists of his day on methodological and philosophical issues."

The Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart article is just one of dozens of contributions Dockery has made in recent years to a growing list of respected reference works.

His work is also included in such publications as The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament, The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Holman Bible Dictionary, Holman Bible Handbook (for which Dockery serves as general editor), the 40-volume New America Commentary series (for which he serves as associate general editor) and others.

Dembski is one of the leading figures in the intelligent design movement which has emerged as an intellectual opponent to Darwinism and evolutionary theory.

At Southern Seminary, Dembski will serve as director of the new Center for Science and Theology.

He also serves as a senior fellow for the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in Seattle, Wash., and is executive director of the International Society of Complexity, Information and Design.

Clear thinking


Mark Pilkington
Thursday February 17, 2005
The Guardian

"I use it every day," John Travolta told Stern magazine in 1997, "I'm always totally refreshed by it." The actor is describing the Hubbard electrometer, electropsychometer or E-meter, the device at the heart of Scientology.

Essentially a Wheatstone Bridge, as developed by Samuel Hunter Christie and Sir Charles Wheatstone in the 19th century, the meter measures electrical resistance. In this case galvanic skin response (GSR), ie how sweaty one's hands are, and how well they conduct electricity. GSR is an important factor in lie detectors developed in the 1930s and is still used, controversially, by law enforcement and government authorities in the US and elsewhere.

Scientology founder Lafayette Ron Hubbard was granted a US patent in 1966 for a "device for measuring and indicating changes in resistance of a living body," but the original electropsychometer was developed in the 1950s by psychoanalyst Volney G Mathison. Hubbard adopted Mathison's device, but when he refused to relinquish the patent rights it was dropped until 1958 when a more efficient version was developed by Scientology-friendly engineers.

Since a 1963 US food and drug administration edict, Scientology can no longer refer to E-meters as having any medical use: they are now "religious artifacts" that continue to play a central role in scientological practice. The latest Mark VII Quantum model looks like two tin cans wired up to a Smart Car dashboard but, like its predecessors, it is integral to the process of becoming "clear" or "free from negative thoughts and emotions".

Whether you consider its use sacred or profane, the meter itself is a fascinating technological "and religious" artefact.

Profs debate design theory


By Ji Ma and Steve McReynolds

The Battalion - News
Issue: 2/16/05

Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and thought by many to be the chief proponent in the intelligent design movement, battled Vincent Cassone, department head of biology at Texas A&M University regarding the key points of the controversial intelligent design theory Tuesday evening in Rudder Auditorium.

Intelligent design is the theory that certain aspects of the natural world were created by a source of intelligence for a specific purpose, rather than evolving from random patterns.

As applied to biology, Behe said the design is not a mystical process, but is deduced from solid physical and empirical findings, whereas Darwin's theory of evolution appeared to have glaring holes.

The heart of the intelligent design theory is what Behe termed "irreducible complexity," or the idea that an object must be taken in its entirety to function.

"If you are missing a part, it does not just work half well; it doesn't work at all," he said.

Behe argued that this is the evidence objects are created for a certain purpose, but not by random chance. He added that Darwin's Theory relies entirely on the notion that all parts of an organism evolved from a series of small alterations, and an irreducibly complex object cannot be obtained by changing another object in small increments.

Cassone challenged Behe's notions of irreducibly complex objects, specifically in the definition of it. He argued in detail from the perspective of genetics and the dominant and recessive traits, and pointed out that traits are not unique to each individual.

"By that alone, nothing in a diploid organism can be irreducibly complex," Cassone said.

Behe used the example of a mousetrap as an irreducibly complex object, and said that when any part of the mousetrap is removed, the mousetrap can no longer function as intended, and thus the mousetrap cannot be obtained by a series of gradual modifications.

Behe extended this point to the field of biology by drawing a comparison between the mousetrap to the flagellum of bacteriums and blood clotting mechanisms, explaining how each system contains many complex parts that are each essential to its function.

Cassone said many of the parts that make up life, such as genes, are interchangeable, and many are duplicated within one organism. He drew a comparison between a Venus fly trap to a round-leafed sundew, both of which are carnivorous plants. Cassone pointed out many similarities between the two organisms, and said one may have evolved from the other.

Cassone also questioned the "intelligence" of intelligent design, and pointed out many parts of the human body are not very logical, such as the blind spot, the human knee and the necessity for Vitamin C.

Both professors stayed on the defensive position, with Behe arguing that the best scientists cannot formulate an explanation or model complex parts, while Cassone attacked Behe's definition of irreducible complexity.

Religion was not mentioned until the end of the debate.

"Science cannot deny the existence of a creator," Cassone said. "We cannot use science to affirm one."

Cassone said that a large portion of the intelligent design theory was muddled with religion and politics.

"I believe that science should be outside these realms, and that's why I came here tonight," he said, at which point he received a standing ovation from a portion of the audience.

Sophomore biochemistry major Ryan Baxter said that both sides of the controversial debate were presented well.

"For me it was interesting to leave all biases behind and go in with a free mind," he said.

Carlos Arredondo, a senior philosophy major, disagreed with Baxter, and said the professors were arguing about details.

"I think there are deeper issues," he said.

Matt Gamel, a graduate math student sided with Behe's theories, and was frustrated with Cassone's suggestion that religious people did not come to the debate to learn about science.

The debate was a part of the fifth annual Veritas Forum.

Shelby board member calls for evolution disclaimers on texts


Posted on Thu, Feb. 17, 2005

Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A school board member is proposing that Shelby County schools put a disclaimer sticker about evolution on high school biology textbooks.

Wyatt Bunker, who believes the Bible is the inerrant word of God, said he's concerned that the texts teach students only scientific theories about evolution and ignore religious creationism beliefs.

A sticker he proposed at a board meeting Tuesday would read: "This textbook contains material on scientific theories about creation. There are many scientific and religious theories about the nature and diversity of living things. All theories should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

Bunker's suggestion comes a month after a federal judge ordered a suburban Atlanta school district to remove stickers calling evolution "a theory, not a fact" from biology textbooks. The judge said the sticker appeared to endorse creationism and other religious beliefs by "denigrating evolution."

Shelby County board members deferred action on Bunker's proposal with one citing concern about the costs of having to defend a legal challenge to the stickers and another saying the sticker wasn't necessary.

"You are rich in proportion to the number of things you can leave alone," member Virginia Harvell said.

Bunker, who helped establish elective Bible classes in the Shelby schools, called the Georgia ruling a "stretch" and said it could be overturned by a higher court.

"We're going to take a look at the legality of that (sticker)," board chairman David Pickler said.

Each board member was given a copy of the Georgia ruling to study.

Shelby's science textbook is "Biology: The Dynamics of Life," and includes a chapter entitled "The Theory of Evolution."

The chapter refers to religion and the origin of life, saying, "For some people the theory of evolution is contradictory to their faith, and they offer other interpretations of the data."

The text also states, "Many biologists, however, have suggested that the amount of scientific evidence supporting the theory is overwhelming. Almost all of today's biologists accept the theory of evolution by natural selection."

Vatican offers exorcism lessons


By Mark Duff
BBC News, Milan

The Vatican university is launching a new course for exorcists - Roman Catholic priests who cast out evil spirits from the possessed.

Lessons at the prestigious Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum will include the history of Satanism and its context in the Bible.

Practical lessons in psychology and the law will also feature.

Concern is high in Italy about the influence of Satanic cults - especially among the young and impressionable.

And there will also be seminars at the Athenaeum, or Upra as it is known, on the spiritual, liturgical and pastoral work involved in being an exorcist.

The ideal exorcist

Father Giulio Savoldi has been Milan's official exorcist for more than 20 years.

He did not have the benefit of training but is in no doubt about what he would include in any course for candidates to take on the task of fighting evil in the raw - and the qualities needed of any would-be exorcist.

"I would include the supernatural force - the presence of God - and then suggest that the man picked to do this kind of work be wise and that he should know how to gather strength not just from within himself but from God," he says.

"Because each case of possession is different, each person possessed is different. Those studying to become exorcists should also study psychology and know how to distinguish between a mental illness and a possession.

"And - finally - they need to be very patient."

Next week - in a case that has captured the public imagination - a court outside Milan is due to consider murder charges against a group of young people accused of killing two teenagers as part of a Satanic rite.

For Father Savoldi, the case just confirms his belief in the power of evil to make the most of human weakness.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Can This Black Box See Into the Future?


DEEP in the basement of a dusty university library in Edinburgh lies a small black box, roughly the size of two cigarette packets side by side, that churns out random numbers in an endless stream.

At first glance it is an unremarkable piece of equipment. Encased in metal, it contains at its heart a microchip no more complex than the ones found in modern pocket calculators.

But, according to a growing band of top scientists, this box has quite extraordinary powers. It is, they claim, the 'eye' of a machine that appears capable of peering into the future and predicting major world events.

The machine apparently sensed the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre four hours before they happened - but in the fevered mood of conspiracy theories of the time, the claims were swiftly knocked back by sceptics. But last December, it also appeared to forewarn of the Asian tsunami just before the deep sea earthquake that precipitated the epic tragedy.

Now, even the doubters are acknowledging that here is a small box with apparently inexplicable powers.

'It's Earth-shattering stuff,' says Dr Roger Nelson, emeritus researcher at Princeton University in the United States, who is heading the research project behind the 'black box' phenomenon.

'We're very early on in the process of trying to figure out what's going on here. At the moment we're stabbing in the dark.' Dr Nelson's investigations, called the Global Consciousness Project, were originally hosted by Princeton University and are centred on one of the most extraordinary experiments of all time. Its aim is to detect whether all of humanity shares a single subconscious mind that we can all tap into without realising.

And machines like the Edinburgh black box have thrown up a tantalising possibility: that scientists may have unwittingly discovered a way of predicting the future.

Although many would consider the project's aims to be little more than fools' gold, it has still attracted a roster of 75 respected scientists from 41 different nations. Researchers from Princeton - where Einstein spent much of his career - work alongside scientists from universities in Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. The project is also the most rigorous and longest-running investigation ever into the potential powers of the paranormal.

'Very often paranormal phenomena evaporate if you study them for long enough,' says physicist Dick Bierman of the University of Amsterdam. 'But this is not happening with the Global Consciousness Project. The effect is real. The only dispute is about what it means.' The project has its roots in the extraordinary work of Professor Robert Jahn of Princeton University during the late 1970s. He was one of the first modern scientists to take paranormal phenomena seriously. Intrigued by such things as telepathy, telekinesis - the supposed psychic power to move objects without the use of physical force - and extrasensory perception, he was determined to study the phenomena using the most up-to-date technology available.

One of these new technologies was a humble-looking black box known was a Random Event Generator (REG). This used computer technology to generate two numbers - a one and a zero - in a totally random sequence, rather like an electronic coin-flipper.

The pattern of ones and noughts - 'heads' and 'tails' as it were - could then be printed out as a graph. The laws of chance dictate that the generators should churn out equal numbers of ones and zeros - which would be represented by a nearly flat line on the graph. Any deviation from this equal number shows up as a gently rising curve.

During the late 1970s, Prof Jahn decided to investigate whether the power of human thought alone could interfere in some way with the machine's usual readings. He hauled strangers off the street and asked them to concentrate their minds on his number generator. In effect, he was asking them to try to make it flip more heads than tails.

It was a preposterous idea at the time. The results, however, were stunning and have never been satisfactorily explained.

Again and again, entirely ordinary people proved that their minds could influence the machine and produce significant fluctuations on the graph, 'forcing it' to produce unequal numbers of 'heads' or 'tails'.

According to all of the known laws of science, this should not have happened - but it did. And it kept on happening.

Dr Nelson, also working at Princeton University, then extended Prof Jahn's work by taking random number machines to group meditations, which were very popular in America at the time. Again, the results were eyepopping. The groups were collectively able to cause dramatic shifts in the patterns of numbers.

From then on, Dr Nelson was hooked.

Using the internet, he connected up 40 random event generators from all over the world to his laboratory computer in Princeton. These ran constantly, day in day out, generating millions of different pieces of data. Most of the time, the resulting graph on his computer looked more or less like a flat line.

But then on September 6, 1997, something quite extraordinary happened: the graph shot upwards, recording a sudden and massive shift in the number sequence as his machines around the world started reporting huge deviations from the norm. The day was of historic importance for another reason, too.

For it was the same day that an estimated one billion people around the world watched the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales at Westminster Abbey.

Dr Nelson was convinced that the two events must be related in some way.

Could he have detected a totally new phenomena? Could the concentrated emotional outpouring of millions of people be able to influence the output of his REGs. If so, how?

Dr Nelson was at a loss to explain it.

So, in 1998, he gathered together scientists from all over the world to analyse his findings. They, too, were stumped and resolved to extend and deepen the work of Prof Jahn and Dr Nelson. The Global Consciousness Project was born.

Since then, the project has expanded massively. A total of 65 Eggs (as the generators have been named) in 41 countries have now been recruited to act as the 'eyes' of the project.

And the results have been startling and inexplicable in equal measure.

For during the course of the experiment, the Eggs have 'sensed' a whole series of major world events as they were happening, from the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia to the Kursk submarine tragedy to America's hung election of 2000.

The Eggs also regularly detect huge global celebrations, such as New Year's Eve.

But the project threw up its greatest enigma on September 11, 2001.

As the world stood still and watched the horror of the terrorist attacks unfold across New York, something strange was happening to the Eggs.

Not only had they registered the attacks as they actually happened, but the characteristic shift in the pattern of numbers had begun four hours before the two planes even hit the Twin Towers.

They had, it appeared, detected that an event of historic importance was about to take place before the terrorists had even boarded their fateful flights. The implications, not least for the West's security services who constantly monitor electronic 'chatter', are clearly enormous.

'I knew then that we had a great deal of work ahead of us,' says Dr Nelson.

What could be happening? Was it a freak occurrence, perhaps?

Apparently not. For in the closing weeks of December last year, the machines went wild once more.

Twenty-four hours later, an earthquake deep beneath the Indian Ocean triggered the tsunami which devastated South-East Asia, and claimed the lives of an estimated quarter of a million people.

So could the Global Consciousness Project really be forecasting the future?

Cynics will quite rightly point out that there is always some global event that could be used to 'explain' the times when the Egg machines behaved erratically. After all, our world is full of wars, disasters and terrorist outrages, as well as the occasional global celebration. Are the scientists simply trying too hard to detect patterns in their raw data?

The team behind the project insist not. They claim that by using rigorous scientific techniques and powerful mathematics it is possible to exclude any such random connections.

'We're perfectly willing to discover that we've made mistakes,' says Dr Nelson. 'But we haven't been able to find any, and neither has anyone else.

Our data shows clearly that the chances of getting these results by fluke are one million to one against.

That's hugely significant.' But many remain sceptical.

Professor Chris French, a psychologist and noted sceptic at Goldsmiths College in London, says: 'The Global Consciousness Project has generated some very intriguing results that cannot be readily dismissed. I'm involved in similar work to see if we get the same results. We haven't managed to do so yet but it's only an early experiment. The jury's still out.' Strange as it may seem, though, there's nothing in the laws of physics that precludes the possibility of foreseeing the future.

It is possible - in theory - that time may not just move forwards but backwards, too. And if time ebbs and flows like the tides in the sea, it might just be possible to foretell major world events. We would, in effect, be 'remembering' things that had taken place in our future.

'There's plenty of evidence that time may run backwards,' says Prof Bierman at the University of Amsterdam.

'And if it's possible for it to happen in physics, then it can happen in our minds, too.' In other words, Prof Bierman believes that we are all capable of looking into the future, if only we could tap into the hidden power of our minds. And there is a tantalising body of evidence to support this theory.

Dr John Hartwell, working at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, was the first to uncover evidence that people could sense the future. In the mid-1970s he hooked people up to hospital scanning machines so that he could study their brainwave patterns.

He began by showing them a sequence of provocative cartoon drawings.

When the pictures were shown, the machines registered the subject's brainwaves as they reacted strongly to the images before them. This was to be expected.

Far less easy to explain was the fact that in many cases, these dramatic patterns began to register a few seconds before each of the pictures were even flashed up.

It was as though Dr Hartwell's case studies were somehow seeing into the future, and detecting when the next shocking image would be shown next.

It was extraordinary - and seemingly inexplicable.

But it was to be another 15 years before anyone else took Dr Hartwell's work further when Dean Radin, a researcher working in America, connected people up to a machine that measured their skin's resistance to electricity. This is known to fluctuate in tandem with our moods - indeed, it's this principle that underlies many lie detectors.

Radin repeated Dr Hartwell's 'image response' experiments while measuring skin resistance. Again, people began reacting a few seconds before they were shown the provocative pictures. This was clearly impossible, or so he thought, so he kept on repeating the experiments. And he kept getting the same results.

'I didn't believe it either,' says Prof Bierman. 'So I also repeated the experiment myself and got the same results. I was shocked. After this I started to think more deeply about the nature of time.' To make matters even more intriguing, Prof Bierman says that other mainstream labs have now produced similar results but are yet to go public.

'They don't want to be ridiculed so they won't release their findings,' he says. 'So I'm trying to persuade all of them to release their results at the same time. That would at least spread the ridicule a little more thinly!' If Prof Bierman is right, though, then the experiments are no laughing matter.

They might help provide a solid scientific grounding for such strange phenomena as 'deja vu', intuition and a host of other curiosities that we have all experienced from time to time.

They may also open up a far more interesting possibility - that one day we might be able to enhance psychic powers using machines that can 'tune in' to our subconscious mind, machines like the little black box in Edinburgh.

Just as we have built mechanical engines to replace muscle power, could we one day build a device to enhance and interpret our hidden psychic abilities?

Dr Nelson is optimistic - but not for the short term. 'We may be able to predict that a major world event is going to happen. But we won't know exactly what will happen or where it's going to happen,' he says.

'Put it this way - we haven't yet got a machine we could sell to the CIA.'

But for Dr Nelson, talk of such psychic machines - with the potential to detect global catastrophes or terrorist outrages - is of far less importance than the implications of his work in terms of the human race.

For what his experiments appear to demonstrate is that while we may all operate as individuals, we also appear to share something far, far greater - a global consciousness. Some might call it the mind of God.

'We're taught to be individualistic monsters,' he says. 'We're driven by society to separate ourselves from each other. That's not right.

We may be connected together far more intimately than we realise.'

'Intelligent design' flap inspires school board campaigns


Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The debate over whether a school district should require students to hear a statement about "intelligent design" is spilling over into this year's school board election.

Two Dover Area School District board members who have resigned in protest of the policy say they plan to circulate nominating petitions for the May 17 primary election. A plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the district is also expected to make a bid for the board.

The district is believed to be the only one in the nation to require students to hear about intelligent design - a concept that holds that the universe is so complex, it must have been created by an unspecified guiding force.

School administrators read a statement about intelligent design to ninth-grade biology classes for the first time in January before teachers began their lessons on the theory of evolution.

Tuesday was the first day that prospective candidates could circulate petitions to run for seven seats on the nine-member board; the terms of two other members expire in 2007.

Jeff Brown, 54, a self-employed electrician, voted against the policy. He resigned immediately after the board's 6-3 vote in October, saying he wanted to separate himself from the majority because he had endorsed them in his campaign in 2003.

He agrees with arguments of two civil-liberties groups who filed the lawsuit that intelligent design is merely a secular variation of creationism, the biblical-based view that regards God as the creator of life.

"I was very much identified with that board, and I felt it was necessary to make a clean break, and to win election without their support if my argument was to have any validity," Brown said.

His wife, Carol, also resigned from the school board after voting against the policy, but said she is not seeking to return to the board this year.

Angie Yingling voted for the mandate, but reconsidered out of concern about the potential cost of a lawsuit. She formally resigned from the board Feb. 7 after failing to persuade the others to revise the policy.

"I thought for sure all the parties could sit down and agree on something," said Yingling, 46, a businesswoman who was elected to the board in 2001. "I had no idea that it was going to keep on going and going and going."

Yingling said that if she returns to the board, she wants the board to revise the policy with input from teachers and the community.

"I think intelligent design could be taught in any comparative religion class, or a specialized biology class that you could have as an elective," she said.

Both Jeff Brown and Yingling said Bryan Rehm, a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, is also expected to run for the board. Rehm did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Current board members have declined to talk to reporters about the policy, citing the lawsuit. The Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., is defending the district.

Richard Thompson, the law center's president and chief counsel, said most if not all of the incumbents intend to seek re-election.

"There may be one or two who are questioning whether they should, but basically, the board has stood steadfast in their position that they're doing the right thing," Thompson said.

Brown said he hopes a full slate of intelligent-design opponents emerges by the March 8 deadline for filing nominating petitions.

"If I get re-elected all by my lonesome, I will accomplish nothing," he said. "My sincere hope is if the district can vote for me, they would vote for six more people with the same basic take on this issue. ... This really is the issue, and it's going to wag the dog."


Dover Area School District: http://www.dover.k12.pa.us

Thomas More Law Center: http://www.thomasmore.org


Martha Raffaele covers education for The Associated Press in Harrisburg.

Backus Opens Alternative Medicine Center


Day Staff Writer, Norwich
Published on 2/16/2005

Norwich There was a time when doctors, nurses and officials at modern hospitals scoffed at the concept of healing based on body energy or mental focus.

No more, said Amy Dunion, a registered nurse, licensed massage therapist and coordinator at the new Center for Healthcare Integration at The William W. Backus Hospital. Backus opened the center at 115 Lafayette St. Tuesday to a packed house of about 75 hospital officials, staff, patients and curious onlookers. Even Cosette, a pet therapy dog, was a guest at the opening.

The center, called CHI and pronounced "chee" will offer a host of alternative medicine programs ranging from pet therapy to massage therapy, healing touch, smoking cessation by hypnosis and even guided imagery described by Dunion as sort of "awake daydreaming" to help patients focus on positive thoughts of healing before a pending operation or treatment.

"It's preparing outcomes that are positive in our minds," Dunion said. "Instead of thinking 'what if I can't walk, what if I don't recover?'"

Dunion cited studies over the years that have opened the eyes of conventional medical experts. One study, for example, involved chemotherapy. Half the patients received real chemotherapy and the other half only thought they were. About 30 percent of those who thought they received chemotherapy, but didn't, lost their hair anyay.

A report done in May of 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that 36 percent of U.S. adults age 18 and over use some form of complementary and alternative medicine. The figure jumps to 62 percent if "prayer specifically for health reasons" is added to the mix.

Dunion said there are plenty of studies that show the body's reactions to disease improve if a person is relaxed instead of stressed. Yoga, tai chi and reiki, all Eastern forms of physical and mental discipline, foster individual focus as well as relaxation.

The new center will work with independent contractors, and in some cases volunteers, to run programs. Patients preparing for surgery or chemotherapy are eligible to receive a 10-15 minute massage session at no charge. Scheduled hourly sessions cost about $60 per hour.

Dunion said insurance companies have been slow to accept and reimburse for these practices, but she predicted they too will be forced to recognize the research.

Alternative medicine started at Backus in 2002 with the pet therapy program. Dogs and handlers visit patients on the hospital floor to provide a brief diversion from pain and the institutional setting.

It started on the oncology floor. One woman who had been through chemotherapy seven times told Dunion that her best experience was the session when she got visits from the therapy dog.

"This is really a celebration of how Backus encourages innovation and outreach," said Thomas P. Pipicelli, president and chief executive officer. "We recognize the many ways people can choose to be part of getting and staying well. This is another proud moment in the rich history of the hospital."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Behe Jumps the Shark


By P Z Myers
Feb 14, 2005, 10:23

From the very first sentence, Michael Behe's op-ed in today's NY Times is an exercise in unwarranted hubris.

In the wake of the recent lawsuits over the teaching of Darwinian evolution, there has been a rush to debate the merits of the rival theory of intelligent design.

And it's all downhill from there.

Intelligent Design creationism is not a "rival theory." It is an ad hoc pile of mush, and once again we catch a creationist using the term "theory" as if it means "wild-ass guess." I think a theory is an idea that integrates and explains a large body of observation, and is well supported by the evidence, not a random idea about untestable mechanisms which have not been seen. I suspect Behe knows this, too, and what he is doing is a conscious bait-and-switch. See here, where he asserts that there is evidence for ID:

Rather, the contemporary argument for intelligent design is based on physical evidence and a straightforward application of logic. The argument for it consists of four linked claims.

This is where he first pulls the rug over the reader's eyes. He claims the Intelligent Design guess is based on physical evidence, and that he has four lines of argument; you'd expect him to then succinctly list the evidence, as was done in the 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution FAQ on the talkorigins site. He doesn't. Not once in the entire op-ed does he give a single piece of this "physical evidence." Instead, we get four bald assertions, every one false.

The first claim is uncontroversial: we can often recognize the effects of design in nature.

He then tells us that Mt Rushmore is designed, and the Rocky Mountains aren't. How is this an argument for anything? Nobody is denying that human beings design things, and that Mt Rushmore was carved with intelligent planning. Saying that Rushmore was designed does not help us resolve whether the frond of a fern is designed.

Which leads to the second claim of the intelligent design argument: the physical marks of design are visible in aspects of biology. This is uncontroversial, too.

No, this is controversial, in the sense that Behe is claiming it while most biologists are denying it. Again, he does not present any evidence to back up his contention, but instead invokes two words: "Paley" and "machine."

The Reverend Paley, of course, is long dead and his argument equally deceased, thoroughly scuttled. I will give Behe credit that he only wants to turn the clock of science back to about 1850, rather than 1350, as his fellow creationists at the Discovery Institute seem to desire, but resurrecting Paley won't help him.

The rest of his argument consists of citing a number of instances of biologists using the word "machine" to refer to the workings of a cell. This is ludicrous; he's playing a game with words, assuming that everyone will automatically link the word "machine" to "design." But of course, Crick and Alberts and the other scientists who compared the mechanism of the cell to an intricate machine were making no presumption of design.

There is another sneaky bit of dishonesty here; Behe is trying to use the good names of Crick and Alberts to endorse his crackpot theory, when the creationists know full well that Crick did not believe in ID, and that Alberts has been vocal in his opposition.

So far, Behe's argument has been that "it's obvious!", accompanied by a little sleight of hand. It doesn't get any better.

The next claim in the argument for design is that we have no good explanation for the foundation of life that doesn't involve intelligence. Here is where thoughtful people part company. Darwinists assert that their theory can explain the appearance of design in life as the result of random mutation and natural selection acting over immense stretches of time. Some scientists, however, think the Darwinists' confidence is unjustified. They note that although natural selection can explain some aspects of biology, there are no research studies indicating that Darwinian processes can make molecular machines of the complexity we find in the cell.

Oh, so many creationists tropes in such a short paragraph.

Remember, this is supposed to be an outline of the evidence for Intelligent Design creationism. Declaring that evolutionary biology is "no good" is not evidence for his pet guess.

Similarly, declaring that some small minority of scientists, most of whom seem to be employed by creationist organizations like the Discovery Institute or the Creation Research Society or Answers in Genesis, does not make their ideas correct. Some small minority of historians also believe the Holocaust never happened; does that validate their denial? There are also people who call themselves physicists and engineers who promote perpetual motion machines. Credible historians, physicists, and engineers repudiate all of these people, just as credible biologists repudiate the fringe elements that babble about intelligent design.

The last bit of his claim is simply Behe's standard misrepresentation. For years, he's been going around telling people that he has analyzed the content of the Journal of Molecular Evolution and that they have never published anything on "detailed models for intermediates in the development of complex biomolecular structures", and that the textbooks similarly lack any credible evidence for such processes. Both claims are false. A list of research studies that show exactly what he claims doesn't exist is easily found.

The fourth claim in the design argument is also controversial: in the absence of any convincing non-design explanation, we are justified in thinking that real intelligent design was involved in life. To evaluate this claim, it's important to keep in mind that it is the profound appearance of design in life that everyone is laboring to explain, not the appearance of natural selection or the appearance of self-organization.

How does Behe get away with this?

How does this crap get published in the NY Times?

Look at what he is doing: he is simply declaring that there is no convincing explanation in biology that doesn't require intelligent design, therefore Intelligent Design creationism is true. But thousands of biologists think the large body of evidence in the scientific literature is convincing! Behe doesn't get to just wave his hands and have all the evidence for evolutionary biology magically disappear; he is trusting that his audience, lacking any knowledge of biology, will simply believe him.

After this resoundingly vacant series of non-explanations, Behe tops it all off with a cliche.

The strong appearance of design allows a disarmingly simple argument: if it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, then, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, we have warrant to conclude it's a duck. Design should not be overlooked simply because it's so obvious.

Behe began this op-ed by telling us that he was going to give us the contemporary argument for Intelligent Design creationism, consisting of four linked claims. Here's a shorter Behe for you:

The evidence for Intelligent Design.

That's it.

That's pathetic.

And it's in the New York Times? Journalism has fallen on very hard times.

This article was first published on Pharyngula .


'Intelligent design' a way to smuggle Christianity into schoolrooms


Feb. 12, 2005, 10:47PM


Conservative Christian activists have launched various schemes to smuggle religious doctrine into public schools in recent years.

Their latest effort is called ``intelligent design,'' a new variation of ``creationism.'' A school district in Dover, Pa., has adopted this idea for its biology classes and is now facing a federal lawsuit. Why all the fuss? Here's the reason: Intelligent design is just religion doing a poor imitation of science. Intelligent design claims that life on Earth is so complex that it must have been designed by a higher power. Its advocates don't often name the higher power, but they've offered no serious option other than God.

At the end of the day, this is yet another effort to replace standard science instruction with a Sunday school lesson.

Phillip Johnson, a former law professor who pioneered intelligent design, told a conservative religious audience a few years ago that his goal is to use intelligent design to spread doubts about evolution and then introduce people to "the truth" of the Bible and "the question of sin." Ultimately, Johnson said, he wants people to be "introduced to Jesus."

If the end result of what you are doing is aimed at religious conversion, then it's evangelism, not science. It belongs in a house of worship, not a public school.

Intelligent design proponents say their idea is a serious challenge to Darwinism. Yet intelligent design has no mainstream scientific support. We do our children a disservice by pretending unconventional ideas are accepted in science when they are not.

As far as the mainstream scientific community is concerned, the issue is settled: Evolution is the basis for much of modern biology. Scientists readily acknowledge that debate continues on the details, as it does regarding gravity, plate tectonics and other scientific theories.

In public universities across the land, evolution is taught in science classes without controversy. Public schools in European and Asian nations teach evolution without pretending there is an equally valid view called "intelligent design" and their youngsters will leave ours behind in an increasingly scientific age if we do otherwise.

Conservative religious activists have been unable to ban the teaching of evolution outright or give "equal time" to creationism in public schools. The U.S. Supreme Court slammed the door on those gambits in 1968 and 1987 decisions. Intelligent design is merely the latest effort to circumvent the Constitution and the courts.

This crusade operates mainly through political channels. Religious conservatives are pressuring local school boards around the country to water down instruction about evolution. They want the political system to give them what the scientific community won't.

In Pennsylvania, the Dover school board was persuaded to have school administrators read a statement about intelligent design to students and provide access to a book that touts this pseudo-science.

But no matter what proponents of creationism call their ideas, the bottom line remains the same: Fundamentalist groups want public schools to teach the Bible as science.

Discussion about religious ideas might be appropriate in a comparative religion or philosophy class. But in a diverse country that respects the separation of church and state, it is unacceptable to introduce dogma into the science curriculum.

As a Christian minister, I realize that Americans interpret the Bible in different ways. Most Christians long ago reconciled their religious beliefs with modern science. For example, Pope John Paul II has stated that evolution is a well-grounded scientific theory that need not clash with religious faith.

We must teach our children the best science possible and help them become leaders in the world of tomorrow. If we deny them this knowledge, they will be woefully unprepared for college and the increasingly technological world beyond that. We must reject the intelligent design crusade. Nothing less than the future of America's public schools and our secular democracy is at stake.

Lynn is executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

Backing For Crackdown On Bogus Alternative Medicine Practitioners, UK


15 Feb 2005

The Government's plan to protect patients from under qualified acupuncturists and herbal medicine practitioners received significant backing today. A new Government report suggests that more than nine out of ten practitioners, patient groups and members of the public could support the Department of Health's proposals to regulate the industry.

Responses to the Department of Health's consultation paper 'Regulation of herbal medicine and acupuncture' show 98.5 per cent support for a UK-wide system of statutory regulation of herbal medicine and acupuncture from those responding.

The Department of Health plans to introduce a register of acupuncturists and herbal medicine practitioners to help protect patients and the public. Practitioners included on the register will be able to use a specific restricted title.

Health Minister Lord Warner said:

"The existing legislation in this area is weak. It fails to provide patients and the public with adequate protection and does not offer a guide as to the competence of the practitioner.

"The majority of responses to the consultation indicated strong support for our plans to improve patient and public protection by introducing statutory regulation.

"Statutory regulation will improve patient and public protection by setting clear standards of training and competence for practitioners. It will also enhance the status of the herbal medicine and acupuncture professions."

The medicines watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, also published responses to their draft plans to tighten regulation of herbal remedies.

Mike O'Farrell, Chief Executive Officer, British Acupuncture Council, said:

"We have long stood for clear standards of training and competence and believe that the new legislation will further ensure that the current high standards offered by professional acupuncturists will continue to benefit existing patients.

"It will also give members of the public the reassurance they need to experience the benefits that acupuncture and herbal medicine can offer."

Michael Fox, Chief Executive of The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health, said:

"The consultation represents, in our view, a major step forward for the regulation of complementary healthcare. We strongly support the need for statutory regulation of both the acupuncture and herbal medicine professions in the same way as doctors and nurses are regulated"

Respondents to the consultation paper included nine organisations representing practitioners of acupuncture, 12 organisations representing practitioners of herbal medicine and nine organisations representing practitioners of traditional chinese medicine. Views were also received from NHS bodies, patient and consumer organisations and the Royal Colleges.

Ministers will now consider the responses to the consultation paper before issuing a draft order later this year, at which time more detailed proposals will be published for further consultation.

It is estimated that there are over 4,000 practising acupuncturists and herbalists in the UK.


1. On 2 March 2004, the UK Health Departments published a consultation paper, 'Regulation of herbal medicine and acupuncture', setting out proposals for the statutory regulation of herbal medicine practitioners.

2. Over 1,000 copies of the consultation were distributed to interested individuals and organisations by the UK Health Departments and around 700 responses to the consultation were received. The respondents included:

- Practitioners of acupuncture
- Practitioners of herbal medicine
- Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine
- Educational bodies
- NHS bodies
- Health and Social Services Boards and Trusts in Northern Ireland
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine organisations
- Patient and consumer organisations
- Professional associations for regulated healthcare professionals
- Royal colleges
- Statutory regulatory bodies

3. The report on the consultation can be found on the Department of Health's web-site at: http://www.dh.gov.uk.

4. Statutory regulation would ensure that practitioners meet agreed standards of practice and competence. A statutory regulatory system involves the establishment of a register of practitioners who are qualified and competent to practise.

5. Practitioners of other complementary healthcare, such as homeopathy, aromatherapy and reflexology, will not be covered by these plans.

6. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) carried out a related public consultation (MLX 299) on outline proposals for the reform of regulation of herbal remedies made up to meet the needs of individual patients. A copy of the consultation and the responses to it can be found on the MHRA website at: http://www.mhra.gov.uk .

7. More information about herbal medicines can be found at Herbal Safety News on the MHRA website.

8. For media enquiries ONLY please contact Matthew Ward in the DH Media Centre on 020 7210 5222. For general enquiries / non-media enquiries, please contact 020 7210 4850.

GNNREF: 110760
Issued by : DOH Press Office (UK)

Making alternative choices


By Peter Pallot
(Filed: 14/02/2005)

After years of derision from the medical establishment the alternative medicine wing is amassing some scientific backing to answer its critics.

Conventional doctors argue that complementary therapists lack scientific proof to support their approach. The alternative side pleads lack of funding.

Everyone agrees research is increasingly expensive and rich drug companies will not finance trials from which they stand to gain nothing, supporters of alternative methods complain.

However, a little more light has now been shed on the subject. A controlled trial among 570 osteoarthritis sufferers supports long-standing anecdotal claims as to the efficacy of acupuncture.

The patients, aged 50 or over, were split into three groups, 190 receiving acupuncture, 191 a sham treatment simulating acupuncture and 189 attending self-help lessons.

They were assessed regularly up to 16 weeks. Within eight weeks the acupuncture group was ahead. At 16 weeks, reduction in pain was 44pc compared with 28pc for the sham group and 19pc for the self-helpers.

Financed by the prestigious National Institutes of Health in the US and carried out at University School of Medicine, Maryland, the research was hailed as the first of "sufficient rigour, size and duration" to corroborate the effectiveness of the ancient Chinese therapy.

Research in other complementary areas is thin but the public has been voting with its feet. Alternative practitioners say they were never busier.

Medical insurers, aware of public demand, have been offering cover for what is a generally cheaper form of care than conventional medicine.

But how worthwhile is the cover? Benefits vary. The no-nonsense US publication Alternative Medicine for Dummies says: "Watch out for token coverage that is used to bait consumers into buying policies.

"Insurance companies know the public is showing a lot of interest in alterative medicine, so promoting plans that cover it is smart marketing."

On the international insurance front providers generally restrict cover to four forms acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy and osteopathy.

Typical is market leader Bupa International. Its Classic and Essential plans offer up to 3,000 (or $4,800 or 4,500) a premium year for treatments.

These apparently generous benefit ceilings also have to accommodate conventional medical claims such as consultant fees and pathology tests.

But for the individual policyholder who stays out of hospital they are impressive benefits.

Bupa International's cheapest plan, Essential, does not cover the alternative field while Axa PPP Healthcare gives a separate self-contained benefit in the complementary field.

Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005

Lawmaker introduces evolution resolution


J-W staff reports

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

TOPEKA A resolution introduced today in the Kansas House urges schools to tell students that when it comes to evolution, students should be taught "the full range of scientific views that exist."

Rep. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, said her non-binding resolution was designed to promote "objectivity in science education."

The Kansas State Board of Education will consider standards later this year on the science teaching in public schools. The instruction of evolution has been a hotly-contested portion of those standards.

Pilcher-Cook denied that she was trying to undo evolution instruction or insert creationism into school curriculum.

"I'm leaving that in the State Board of Education's hands," she said.

Pilcher-Cook recently introduced legislation to ban human cloning.



Feb. 14, 2005, 8:17PM

Creationism vs. evolution

Maybe religion, but not science

MICHAEL J. Behe attempted to clothe intelligent design as a respectable rival theory to Darwinian evolution in his Feb. 13 Outlook article, "Intelligent design: Creation explained or quackery?" He even denied that it is a religiously based idea and never mentioned a divine creator. But everyone knows what is implied in intelligent design.

The complexity of life forms on Earth is astounding. The study of how this complexity arose from simpler forms falls in the area of science. No serious biologist denies the power of evolution mutant variation plus natural selection plus time as the theory which best explains all that we observe of living forms.

Intelligent design is not an explanatory theory, but simply postulates an already existing being of infinite intelligence and complexity itself.

This may be religion but it is not science.


Affronting our quest for truth

THANK you for giving creationism a voice. I have been studying the subject for many years and have found it to be the most reasonable answer both from a scientific basis as well as the study of Scripture.

Teaching evolution as a fact when it is merely a theory is a great affront to the quest for truth. And even though evolution has been taught in public schools for years, the majority in this country still believe in divine creation.

This gives me hope that most people refuse to be duped.


Some designs seem sloppy

MICHAEL J. Behe described the machine-like operation of biochemistry in our bodies, but didn't mention what happens when the machines go haywire.

The design of life may be intelligent, but it seems sloppy.


School Board Approves Biology Text Book Without Creationism


POSTED: 7:27 am EST February 15, 2005
UPDATED: 7:29 am EST February 15, 2005

ELKTON, Md. -- The Cecil County Board of Education unanimously approved Monday night "Biology: The Dynamics of Life" as a textbook for next year's 10th-grade science classrooms.

The decision came after a board member complained that the book made no reference to creationism.

The board approved the text with the stipulation that Cecil County Public Schools administrators agree to discuss, with the state board of education, a science curriculum change that would allow local teachers to present origin-of-life theories in the classroom.

Board members also asked that the school system's media specialist provide students who have questions about mankind's conception with materials that also present conflicts in Darwin's evolution theories.

The board's decision to approve the text came after a public hearing during which four locals asked them to approve the book, while one man said evolution has been proven wrong and should not be taught in schools.

Vaughan Ellerton of Zion, a chemist for 40 years, rejected board member William Herold's request for "intelligent design" - the theory that Earth is so complex it must have been created by a higher being - to be recognized in school science classrooms. "Creationism, or intelligent design, if you prefer the term, is not science because it is impossible to test by experiment," Ellerton said. "It has no place in a science course."

Jeanette Miller of Elkton, who works at the University of Delaware's Biotechnology Institute, also did not think intelligent design should be part of the CCPS science curriculum. People are free to worship as they choose, she said.

"But the board should support a clear definition of science."

"Biology: The Dynamics of Life" has been under scrutiny since schools Superintendent Dr. Carl Roberts first recommended it be the standard biology text in Cecil County public schools.

"Biology: The Dynamics of Life" was up for vote at the board's December meeting when the board's two newest members, Herold and Stewart Wilson, said they were unaware of the textbook-approval process, had not seen the book, and would not "rubber-stamp" it without reading it first.

Roberts postponed the vote after reminding board members that a 50-member CCPS textbook committee had endorsed the text as part of a districtwide review process that has been in place for nine years.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

Intelligent design a worthy rival to theory of evolution


Posted on Tue, Feb. 15, 2005


Attorney Clarence Darrow argued 80 years ago in the Scopes monkey trial in Tennessee that denying the right to teach Darwinian evolution in schools violated fundamental academic freedom.

Now, evolutionists argue that their theory of life should be the only one taught in schools. What's wrong with teaching intelligent design, which concludes the uniqueness and complexity of human life points to a superior being that is responsible for the creation of life?

It is science itself that continues to produce evidence to suggest that the creation of the universe was the result of an intelligent creator. We learn more each day about human DNA, which represents the code of life -- specific and unique to each individual.

In his best-selling book "The Case for a Creator," Lee Strobel finds that there are insurmountable questions about Darwinian evolution that are leading some of the brightest minds in the scientific community to reject that theory.

The legal challenges to intelligent design center on the notion that if a superior being created the universe and that superior being is God, then such a theory violates the separation of church and state and cannot be taught in public schools.

But consider what the U.S. Supreme Court has said about this issue. In 1987, in Edwards v. Aguillard, the high court concluded that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction."

The court also said that teaching these theories would pose no constitutional problems provided they are not taught to the exclusion of evolution.

If the classroom is indeed, as the Supreme Court has said, "the marketplace of ideas," why not teach multiple theories regarding the origins of mankind -- including intelligent design?

Let's permit students to examine all theories about the origins of life. By opening the classroom door to intelligent design, educators are not endorsing one theory over another. They are not teaching religion. They are simply fulfilling their obligation to give students an opportunity to study all sides of this issue.

Educators must keep up with science. And it is science that is pointing to the inevitable conclusion that an intelligent creator was the architect for this magnificent universe.

Jay Sekulow is chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a public interest law firm in Washington, D.C., specializing in constitutional law.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Intelligent Design 'Creationism's Trojan Horse?'


My kid's science teacher at New-market High School brought some guest speakers into the classroom last week for what used to be called an evolution vs. creation debate. Apparently, however, the creation argument now carries a new and improved label.

We were out to breakfast with my folks when the discussion came up and it seemed I was the only person at the table who wasn't familiar with the "intelligent design" tag that's been slapped onto a well-worn the-ory. It's not unusual for me to be behind current trends, but I was a bit surprised to find entire books on the subject when I later researched it online.

For those who are equally out-of-touch, intelligent design is basically a term coined to give creationism a more scientific sheen. The name itself, of course, is meant to suggest there is some form of purposeful design behind our existence, rather than the gradual accident of science proposed by evolutionists. One book on the topic by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross calls the concept "Creationism's Trojan Horse," a way of pretty much sneak-ing religious beliefs into our class-rooms under the guise of scholar-ship.

Regardless of what they're calling it now, my kids weren't really con-vinced by the creationists' argu-ments. One of the guests compared the likelihood of evolution to a Boe-ing airplane being assembled by a tornado. Another held his watch up to the classroom. "I know this watch wasn't made by random chance," he said. "I know that an intelligent force made it." Not the most scientific presentation.

Still, I'm glad students got the op-portunity to hear both sides of the debate. The effort to include crea-tionism into the classroom has con-tinued pretty much unabated for decades now, and I personally don't see the harm in it. After all, it's likely the two explanations are not exclu-sive of one another in other words, who's to say God can't be the force behind evolution? Kids should be allowed to explore both sides of the issue and make their own informed conclusion. It's not as if science has provided all the an-swers.

Just strikes me as funny that crea-tionists are using new terminology to bolster their case. It's an old trick used most famously by the military to try to make the ugliness of war more palatable to generations of folks back home. For example, Colin Powell once described how, during the Vietnam War, American troops were shipped out as Marine Amphibious Forces rather than tra-ditional Marine Expeditionary Forces because "'expeditionary' raised images of young men shipped overseas to fight and die, while you could be holding amphibious exer-cises off North Carolina."

The tactic makes sense in some re-spects, since elements of the crea-tion theory are so outdated they virtually creak. Some believers insist the earth is only 12,000 years old, basing their calculations on biblical references. During this family dis-cussion about intelligent design, my old man a retired Methodist preacher told us how the Sunday School at a church he headed in the hills of Kentucky back in the '60s was still teaching that the world was flat. I'm not kidding. This claim was based on the Bible's mention of the "four corners" of the earth. One old Sunday School teacher in particular accepted the Bible so literally as the Word of God it was impossible for him to believe the world could be round. God wouldn't be talking about the earth's corners unless the world was flat and surely he must know what the earth looks like since he spent an entire week creating it, the hillbilly figured. Photos of a round planet taken by astronauts orbiting the Earth had all been staged, he insisted.

Just as an aside, the clash between modernism and folklore erupted one Sunday when my old man (who was then a young man and a Boston Yankee to boot) was preaching from a new revised edition of the Bible. The old hillbilly jumped up in the middle of church and accused the reverend of being an agent of the devil because he was reading from a false Bible the hillbilly claimed didn't even include the story of the ascen-sion of Jesus into Heaven. He chal-lenged my father to read the passage aloud from both the traditional King James version of the Bible and this allegedly bogus Good Book. My old man proceeded to read the story of the ascension to his congregation.

"Now read what it says in your Bible," the old teacher demanded.

My old man looked at him. "I just did," he said.

I'm guessing proponents of creationism were eager to shed this image of backwoods ignorance oppo-nents tend to associate with their theories, and leaped to embrace this new spin. But since the credibility of both the evolution and creation arguments carry gaping black holes it might behoove the curious to cast aside the more ridiculous notions of each theory and concentrate on their strengths instead. Even then, it's likely this is one puzzle that can never fully be solved in our life-times. And maybe that's part of the design too.

D. Allan Kerr happens to know exactly how we and the universe came to exist, but doesn't want to show off. Kerr may be reached at the_culling@hotmail.com .

Seacoast Online is owned and operated by Seacoast Newspapers. Copyright 2005 Seacoast Online.

Backing for Alternative Medicine Controls


Mon 14 Feb 2005

12:04pm (UK)

By Louise Barnett and John-Paul Ford Rojas, PA

Plans to protect the public from rogue herbal medicine practitioners have received widespread support from the industry, it emerged today.

A Government consultation paper outlining regulation was backed by 98.5% of respondents.

If the changes are brought in, they will set agreed standards of training and competence for the UK’s 4,000 herbal medicine practitioners and acupuncturists.

The statutory regulations proposed by the Department of Health would not affect homeopathists, aromatherapists and reflexologists.

Health Minister Lord Warner said the proposed changes had received strong support.

“The existing legislation in this area is weak. It fails to provide patients and the public with adequate protection and does not offer a guide as to the competence of the practitioner,” he said.

Around 700 responses to the consultation paper came from people working in acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, the NHS and from patient organisations.

Michael Fox, chief executive of The Prince of Wales’s Foundation for Integrated Health, welcomed the consultation’s findings.

“We strongly support the need for statutory regulation of both the acupuncture and herbal medicine professions in the same way as doctors and nurses are regulated,” he said.

Their feedback was announced as a guide to helping people find safe and reliable alternative medicines was published today.

The 50-page booklet deals with 16 of the most popular treatments including acupuncture, aromatherapy, and alternative medicine.

It is published by The Prince of Wales’s Foundation for Integrated Health and is part-funded by the Department of Health.

It has been produced by the foundation in conjunction with leading UK patient organisations, healthcare professionals and complementary practitioners.

The guide stresses that patients should discuss any complementary medical treatments with their GP.

Ministers will now consider the responses to the consultation paper called Regulation of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Last of 'Fatima vision' trio dies


Sunday, February 13, 2005 Posted: 2331 GMT (0731 HKT)

LISBON, Portugal (Reuters) -- Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, the last of three children who claimed to see the Virgin Mary at Fatima and who revealed a vision the Catholic Church said foretold the attempt to kill Pope John Paul II, died on Sunday, the Church said.

Dos Santos, 97, who later became a nun, was the eldest of the shepherd children who in 1917 told of seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary six times. She died at her Carmelite convent at Coimbra in central Portugal.

"She had been weak for several weeks and had not left her cell," Coimbra Bishop Albino Cleto told the Church's Radio Renascenca.

The Vatican interpreted one part of the visions as foretelling the attempt to kill the pope and Communism's persecution of Christianity. The apparitions took place the same year as the Russian Revolution.

The pope believes the Madonna of Fatima saved his life on May 13, 1981, when Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca nearly killed him in St Peter's Square. The shooting took place on one of the anniversaries of the 1917 apparitions.

In a sign of gratitude a year after the assassination attempt, the pope had one of the 9mm bullets which Agca fired at him placed in the crown of the statue at Fatima.

"One hand fired the bullet and another guided it," the pope once said of Agca's attempt to kill him.

Dos Santos was said by believers to be the main recipient of prophecies from the Virgin about key 20th century events.

The first two parts of the prophecies were known for decades. The first saw a vision of hell, the second predicted the outbreak of World War Two.

But it was the third part, the so-called third secret of Fatima, which kept the world intrigued for more than 80 years.

The Vatican revealed its interpretation of the vision during the pope's visit to Fatima in May 2000 on the anniversary of the assassination attempt. One of her last public appearances was with the pope at Fatima.

Dos Santos's recollection of the third part of the visions, which she wrote down in 1944, saw "a bishop dressed in white (and) we had the impression that it was the Holy Father."

As the vision continued, the children say the pope reaching the top of a mountain where "he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him."

Before the Vatican unveiled the vision, papal envoys visited Dos Santos in her cloistered convent to seek her opinion of the Vatican's interpretation and her permission to reveal it.

"She repeated her conviction that the vision of Fatima concerns above all the struggle of atheistic communism against the Church and against Christians, and describes the terrible sufferings of the victims of the faith in 20th century," a Vatican document said in 2000.

The document went on to say: "When asked: 'Is the principal figure in the vision the Pope?' Sister Lucia replied at once that it was.

Dos Santos was born the youngest of seven children in a peasant family in Aljustrel, a village in central Portugal.

The events at Fatima unfolded against a backdrop of religious persecution under anti-clerical factions that ruled Portugal after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1910.

In 1916 she experienced her first vision, when an angel appeared to the children, she wrote in her memoirs.

On May 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to her and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marta on an oak tree. On her last appearance before an estimated 50,000 onlookers, witnesses claim to have experienced a 15-minute spectacle of bright lights and rainbow colours.

In her memoirs, dos Santos said the Virgin Mary appeared to the children six times in 1917. Jacinta and Francisco died in the influenza pandemic in 1919 and 1920.

The two were beatified, the last step to sainthood, by Pope John Paul during his Fatima visit in 2000.

One of her last visitors was actor Mel Gibson, director of the 2004 movie "The Passion of The Christ." He met her at the convent in July 2004 and gave her a DVD of his movie.

Copyright 2005 Reuters

Researcher claims bias by Smithsonian


By Joyce Howard Price

A former editor of a scientific journal has filed a complaint against the Smithsonian Institution, charging that he was discriminated against on the basis of perceived religious and political beliefs because of an article he published that challenged the Darwinian theory of evolution.

"I was singled out for harassment and threats on the basis that they think I'm a creationist," said Richard Sternberg, who filed the complaint with the federal Office of Special Counsel.

Smithsonian officials deny the accusations.

"We at the Smithsonian consider religion a matter of personal faith. The evolutionary theory is a matter of science. The two are not incompatible," said Randall Kremer, a spokesman for the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History.

Mr. Sternberg, who holds two doctorates in evolutionary biology, says he's been told by the Office of Special Counsel that "they take my complaint seriously and are investigating." The special counsel's office said it cannot discuss the case.

Mr. Ste rnberg, 41, is employed at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a part of the National Institutes of Health. But as part of his duties there, he spends half of his time at the Smithsonian as a research associate.

From December 2001 until last fall, he also served as managing editor of an independent journal published at the Smithsonian called the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Mr. Sternberg said his troubles started after the appearance of the August 2004 issue of the journal, which included a peer-reviewed article by Stephen C. Meyer. The article, titled, "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," made the case for a theory known as intelligent design, or ID.

ID contends that the origins of some biological forms are better explained by an unspecified intelligent agent than by natural processes, such as natural selection and genetic mutation, which are hallmarks of Darwinism.

In his report, Mr. Meyer, a fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, argues that ID is a more likely explanation than evolution for the biodiversity in the Cambrian period about 530 million years ago. He points to the "explosion" of phyla, which "suddenly appeared within a narrow 5- to 10-million-year window of geological time" during that period. "To say that the fauna of the Cambrian period appeared in a geologically sudden manner ... implies the absence of clear transitional intermediate forms connecting Cambrian animals with simpler pre-Cambrian forms," Mr. Meyer wrote in his defense of ID.

The report was "peer-reviewed" by three outside scientists, Mr. Sternberg said, "but employees at the Smithsonian, who had a sharply negative reaction to the report, insinuated that editorial malfeasance occurred on my end. I protested vigorously."

He says he gave up his post as managing editor of Proceedings in September but continued to be harassed by Smithsonian officials. Mr. Sternberg says he was penalized by the museum's Department of Zoology, which limited his access to research collections and told him his associateship at the museum would not be renewed because no one could be found to sponsor him for another three-year term.

Because of his shortened tenure, Mr. Sternberg says he will not have time to complete his research on crustaceans. He also said one zoology official told him the museum "is not comfortable with religious fundamentalism and with creationism, so you are being treated differently."

Mr. Sternberg also says he was "called on the carpet" by his bosses at NIH after they were besieged by phone calls and e-mails from Smithsonian staffers, seeking his ouster. He said one Smithsonian official even wanted to know if he is a "right-winger."

"My lawyer called some people on Capitol Hill," who intervened and saved his job at NIH, Mr. Sternberg said.

Mr. Kremer, the Smithsonian spokesman, denied that Mr. Sternberg's supervisor at the museum or any other museum officials called NIH to get him fired. He also insists Mr. Sternberg still has access to the collections he needs for research.

"Research associates are here at our pleasure ... but every effort was made to ensure there was no discrimination, even though he (Mr. Sternberg) published something a lot of people didn't agree with," Mr. Kremer said.

New spin on creationism has no place in schools, except in religion or philosophy class.


Published Sunday, February 13, 2005 Con: Should 'intelligent design' be taught in public schools?

Conservative Christian activists have launched various schemes to smuggle religious doctrine into public schools in recent years.

Their latest effort is called "intelligent design," a new variation of "creationism." Intelligent design is just religion doing a poor imitation of science. Intelligent design claims that life on Earth is so complex that it must have been designed by a higher power. Its advocates don't often name the higher power, but they've offered no serious option other than God.

This is yet another effort to replace standard science instruction with a Sunday school lesson.

Phillip Johnson, a former law professor who pioneered intelligent design, told a conservative religious audience a few years ago that his goal is to use intelligent design to spread doubts about evolution and then introduce people to "the truth" of the Bible and "the question of sin." Ultimately, Johnson said, he wants people to be "introduced to Jesus."

If the end result of what you are doing is aimed at religious conversion, then it's evangelism, not science. It belongs in a house of worship, not a public school.

Intelligent design proponents say their idea is a serious challenge to Darwinism. Yet intelligent design has no mainstream scientific support. We do our children a disservice by pretending unconventional ideas are accepted in science when they are not.

As far as the mainstream scientific community is concerned, the issue is settled: Evolution is the basis for much of modern biology. Scientists acknowledge that debate continues on the details, as it does regarding gravity, plate tectonics and other scientific theories.

This crusade operates mainly through political channels. Religious conservatives are pressuring local school boards around the country to water down instruction about evolution. They want the political system to give them what the scientific community won't.

Discussion about religious ideas might be appropriate in a comparative religion or philosophy class. But in a diverse country that respects the separation of church and state, it is unacceptable to introduce dogma into the science curriculum.

As a Christian minister, I realize that Americans interpret the Bible in different ways. Most Christians long ago reconciled their religious beliefs with modern science. For example, Pope John Paul II has stated that evolution is a well-grounded scientific theory that need not clash with religious faith.

We must teach our children the best science possible and help them become leaders in the world of tomorrow. If we deny them this knowledge, they will be woefully unprepared for college and the increasingly technological world beyond that. We must reject the intelligent design crusade. Nothing less than the future of America's public schools and our secular democracy is at stake.

Copyright 2005, The Springfield News-Leader, a Gannett Company.

Should public schools teach alternatives to evolution theory?


Article published Feb 13, 2005

Nearly 80 years ago, famed attorneys Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan faced off in a Tennessee courtroom in what was then dubbed the Trial of the Century.

Darrow successfully defended high school science teacher John T. Scopes, who was charged with violating a newly passed state statute that prohibited the teaching of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Though the Scopes Monkey Trial, as it was popularly called, opened the door for evolution in the curriculum, opponents have never stopped trying to close it.

For years, its main opponents were creationists who believe that God created our universe in six days, but lately others have tried to cast doubt on Darwin's theory, chief among them proponents of the concept of intelligent design. That theory posits that a supreme intelligence has guided the development of life on Earth.

Over the years since the Scopes trial, at least two dozen state legislatures have tried to force public schools to downplay or eliminate evolution from science curriculums or allow creationism to be taught alongside it.

Only Arkansas and Louisiana passed laws forcing creationism to be taught, but in 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down those statutes as unconstitutional, saying that creationism is not a scientific concept, but a religious one.

Recent examples of attempts to downplay evolution teaching include:

Kansas. In 1999, the state's Board of Education eliminated requirements to teach evolution in public schools. A more moderate board reversed that policy in 2001; however, conservatives are again in control and are discussing revising the science curriculum to include criticism of evolution theory.

Dover, Pa. In October, the Dover School Board voted to require teaching ninth-grade biology students about intelligent design, presenting it as an alternative to evolution. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight families charging that the board is trying to inject a religious viewpoint into the curriculum.

Cobb County, Ga. Parents campaigned to have the School Board place a sticker on biology textbooks warning that "evolution is a theory, not a fact," and that "this material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

Scientists and other supporters of evolution criticized the sticker's misuse of scientific terminology. A "theory" in science, they said, is not a conjecture; it holds much more weight than a "fact."

Ken Miller, a biology professor and author of the textbook used in Cobb County, told the Associated Press that the theory of evolution is akin to the theory of gravitation and atomic theory in that they are all explanations of the natural world supported by exhaustive research, observation and experimentation.

A court ordered the stickers removed in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

The theories

Evolution, as explained in Charles Darwin's 1859 book "The Origin of Species," says the Earth came into being millions of years ago and all life could be traced to a common ancestor. Through such concepts as natural selection and survival of the fittest, Darwin proposed that random mutations in species over millennia passed on traits that made a species better able to survive in its environment, causing diverse characteristics to develop even in members of the same species.

Creationism is based on the Bible's Book of Genesis. Literal believers say the Earth and all the life upon it is no more than 10,000 years old and came into existence by God's will. A recent Gallup poll indicated that 45 percent of Americans believe this. Though all creationists don't take the strict literal view, they still don't accept Darwin's theory that life originated from non-living matter and without the guidance of a supernatural hand

Intelligent design fuses characteristics of both theories. It proposes that the complexity of life cannot be solely explained through evolution and that the biological processes that created it must have been directed by a superior being. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a think tank that promotes intelligent design, argues that students would recognize the logic of the theory if evolution were taught with more skepticism.

Scientists critical of intelligent design argue that it is a tool of religious conservatives whose interest in promoting it is more political than scientific.

The Discovery Institute claims that hundreds of scientists support the theory.

According to a recent Newsweek article, the institute circulated a statement titled "Scientific Dissent From Darwinism," which reads in part, "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life." About 350 scientists have signed it.

The National Center for Science Education circulated an opposing statement, "there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is (the) major mechanism ..."

In lighthearted tribute to the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, only scientists named Steve signed the statement, according to Newsweek. So far, there are more than 500 signatures.

-- Gerard S. Walen

Evolution Report #5

Dear Friends of Argentina Skeptics,

We are pleased to announce that our Evolution Report (Vol. 3, No. 2 - December 2004) is now online.

It can be found at http://www.argentinaskeptics.com.ar/EvolutionReport05.pdf

Evolution Report contains updated local and international news about creation and evolution.

We encourage you to broadcast Evolution Report to new potential readers.

Be sure to check it out!

All the best,

Juan De Gennaro



New entry for SKEPTIC Bibliography (Dembski and Ruse)


Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA
William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse, eds.


2004, Cambridge University Press; xiii+405p.
creationism, creationism:defense, creationism:philosophy, religion:defense, religion:philosophy, science:philosophy

Collects essays by well-known figures in philosophy and theology who are concerned with the question of divine design in the world. Most contributors want to affirm that a God somehow has designed the world. Many do so by trying to argue that Darwinian evolution is incomplete and that there is a way to insert God into the picture given by modern science. Some espouse a kind of mysticism about self-organization and the physics of complexity. Finally, there are the quasi-creationist Intelligent Design proponents. A useful volume to get an idea of the range of design intuitions in play among theologians and theology-minded scientists today. It also highlights how "ID-lite" ideas are very common among more liberal believers who would not be caught dead explicitly opposing Darwinian evolution.

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

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

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