NTS LogoSkeptical News for 23 February 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Science standards debated

http://www.saljournal.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/4808/format/html/displaystory.html

Thursday, March 10, 2005 12:00 am

Committee members spar over evolution's place in state's science standards

Coming closer together, getting more specific, allowing for uncertainty and eliminating dogmatic phrases marked Wednesday's meeting of some two dozen science educators working to rewrite the state's science standards for public schools.

The group dealing with elementary school science standards already had wrapped up its work on its second draft before arriving in Salina Wednesday morning, and the group working on middle school standards largely breezed through its task, as well.

But as with past gatherings of the committee, most of the disagreement was among members of the group working on high school standards, where two of the most vocal voices have ended up.

Jack Krebs, a mathematics and technology coordinator in Lawrence, and Bill Harris, professor of medicine at the University of Missouri and managing director of the Intelligent Design Network, have sparred at several meetings — mostly over evolution's place in the state's science standards.

Agreement on document changes

Harris and about a third of the committee don't want evolution portrayed as incontrovertible fact. They also want at least some mention given to intelligent design, which holds life didn't start spontaneously and is the product of some higher power. Intelligent design isn't considered part of mainstream science.

But Wednesday, Krebs, Harris and the rest of the committee were able to agree on numerous document changes, mostly acknowledging that science doesn't have all the answers.

Krebs, for example, supported wording changes such as from "biological evolution explains ...," to "biological evolution is used to explain ..."

In another case, "evidence may indicate that simple, bacteria-like life existed billions of years ago" was amended to "evidence indicates that simple bacteria-like life may have existed billions of years ago."

In other instances, the word "evolution" was replaced with "natural selection" or "genetic drift," terms Krebs said were both more specific and avoided using the lightning-rod term "evolution."

In other places, statements such as the fact that life is very similar at the most basic level "is evidence" of evolution was changed to "is used as evidence" of evolution.

"That makes it clear that this is the current, prevailing model," Krebs said, adding "it's a subtle point but an important one."

"Science is one way of explaining the world — not the only way," he said.

Harris, however, said that no matter which way such phrases are worded, there's still a preference given to evolution.

Those same basic facts — common cell structures, for example — are "also used as evidence of common design — and we're not saying that. It highlights one but not the other."

Tables turned

But Krebs and others used much that same argument later, when Harris wanted to amend the introduction to the biology section to add "theory of" in front of "biological evolution."

"I'd be OK with saying 'theory' here if we say it everywhere else in the standards where we're talking about a theory," committee chairman Steve Case said in mentioning plate tectonics and other less-controversial parts of the standards.

Others, too, said they opposed singling out evolution to specify as a theory; when put to a vote of the entire committee, Harris' proposal failed 16-5.

Not for preaching

But everyone agreed the classroom is not for conversion — or, as Case put it, "preaching instead of teaching is wrong — we want to make sure the standards don't give energy to people who want to do that."

And the committee approved a statement that believing in evolution is different than understanding it, and "compelling students to believe is inconsistent with the goal of evolution."

Minority report

Throughout the day's discussion, when consensus couldn't be reached, Harris often said he simply would include his position in a separate draft of the recommendations he and several other members plans to submit.

The State Board of Education, which eventually will use the committee's report in drafting new science standards, has said it wants to hear from that minority group, as well. Case said he thinks it's a valid way of dealing with issues where committee members can't reach consensus.

Krebs said he was concerned that this pro-intelligent design "minority report" would include substantial evidence to back its points, while the majority report wouldn't. He asked if he could compile evidence in favor of evolution for the state board to consider.

"If a small group can go off and do things on its own, why can't I form a group of one?" Krebs asked.

"I agree, one committee member can submit a minority report," Case said.

"Good, I needed something else to do," Krebs replied.

Following the meeting, Harris explained why, even though he'll be writing a separate report, he's continuing to press for changes to the majority report.

"Ninety-five percent of the report is fine, most of it is noncontroversial," he said. He's pressing points where he thinks compromise can be reached, and rather than spending time arguing the other points, he'll include those in his recommendations.

"The real decision will be made higher up," he said, referring to the state board of education, which has a 6-4 majority favoring intelligent design.

Case had addressed that at the beginning of the meeting, saying one job of this committee "is to keep politics out. The state board is a political body — their job is to put politics in, they have a constituency."

• Reporter Michael Strand can be reached at 822-1418 or by e-mail at sjmstrand@saljournal.com.

©2005 Salina Journal

'Intelligent design' disregards science

http://morningsentinel.mainetoday.com/view/letters/1437308.shtml

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

In his March 7 letter, Paul Sherman claims that intelligent design is a legitimate evolutionary theory that deserves serious consideration. However, the "theory of intelligent design" is an oxymoron.

A scientific theory is more than speculation. It is an explanation of an aspect of the natural world, based on observations and experimentation, that undergoes critical analysis by other scientists before being accepted. Intelligent design is merely speculation.

I followed Sherman's suggestion to "dig a little deeper" and visited one of the Web sites he recommended (http://www.discovery.org). The site contained a lot of literature pointing out limitations of "neo-Darwinism" (evolution caused by natural selection on random mutations), but presented no positive scientific evidence for intelligent design. This is very much like running for office by criticizing your opponent without offering any constructive ideas of your own. This lack of supporting evidence is not surprising. Explanations invoking God (and who else could an "intelligent designer" be?) are out of bounds for scientists. Plenty of scientists are religious; but to be scientifically valid, their work must be based on what they can observe and test in the natural world.

A scientific theory is not absolute truth. It is simply the best explanation based on available evidence. Right now Darwin's theory of evolution is the best explanation science has for the diversity of life on our planet. It may not always be; however, intelligent design cannot compete with Darwin's theory because it does not play by the rules of science.

Harry Vayo

Oakland

vayowoods@adelphia.net

The Face of Evolutionary Design: The Sequel

http://www.therealitycheck.org/GuestColumnist/rmeyer120704.htm

by Robert E. Meyer

I participate in reader forum with my local newspaper. The editor asks a question pertaining to current issues, and I am asked, along with others, to comment with a short piece on the particular issue. The most recent issue dealt with Intelligent Design. Should it be placed on par with evolution or not? Most of us, at least in some minimal way, said yes.

Two local professors from my state university system, wrote a letter in response, saying it was time to educate the public–that belief in Intelligent Design was religion, whereas evolution is science. I don't think anyone claims that ID "proves" God's existence as such, but that it implies the existence of an a designer. The real question is whether or not science confirms evolution, and that is the nature of the disagreement. A study of the ID perspective, would by default show the flaws in evolutionary theory.

The professors made some supportive comments, apparently inspired by the recent article about Darwin and evolution from the November issue of National Geographic. One statement was regarding micro evolution, and how we observe this phenomenon in the rapid mutations of bacteria strains. From there the discussion turned to the claim of abundant evidence proving macro evolution. But here is a simple observation. Does the bacteria mutate into other bacteria, or does it become, say, an earthworm?

Another statement equated the term "evolutionary theory" with the term "gravitational theory." The point being that we accept gravity as fact, though it is labeled a theory. Evolution thus deserves similar rubber stamping. But let's face it; if I jump off a building doubting gravity, I will quickly become a believer who is martyred at the point of conversion. If I say that I doubt evolution, do I become a Neanderthal? This points to the problem that evolution as they proscribe it, is neither observable or testable.

While one can barely hope to scratch the surface in a 300 word editorial letter, not to mention in the course of multiple lengthy columns, I certainly hope this was not an attempt to extrapolate macro evolution from micro evolution. After all, if a man can run 100 meters in 10 seconds, do we conclude that he can run the mile in about two minutes and 40 seconds? The whole "design" of micro evolution, is to allow an organism to adapt to a changing environment without changing into another species.

The letter is concluded with a kind overture of tolerance, a la the late S. J. Gould, saying that you can have your religion if you want it, but don't bring it into a classroom. If I remember right, Gould suggested that science didn't present any threat to religion, because science is about facts, religion is about morals–they address different issues. I thought that both dealt with the quest for truth. After all, early scientists said that their investigation of nature was like "thinking God's thoughts after him." The assumed antithesis between science and religion is a more recent phenomenon, brought on in part by the unfortunate withdrawal of Christians from many disciplines, chiefly in response to higher criticism beginning in the early 19th century.

If I'm going to play metaphysical poker, I want to be seated with players not afraid to call the other guy's bluff. Let's face the reality that Creationism and evolution can't both be true- one on the weekend in the pew, the other during the week as we go about our academic chores. This isn't one of those dichotomized situations, where there is scientific truth and religious truth, and both are equally correct in their own spheres. We can do without that sort of serendipity and surrealism.

One issue that needs to be resolved is the issue over transitional forms. Most who believe in ID, say there are no irrefutable "missing links", whereas evolutionists attempt to cite certain examples. Apparently there is disagreement over what constitutes a legitimate transitional form. This issue must be settled before any meaningful dialogue can take place. But there are troubling ramifications here. One would suspect most of the fossil evidence would consist of transitional forms, if man spent millennia upon millennia changing from an ape-like creature into his present form. Yet there are relatively few, and their discoveries are trumpeted with great fanfare. How many have been forgeries or falsely identified. It is also worth noting that others who doubt creation have developed theories that do away with the need for progressive intermediates altogether. Francis Crick's "Directed Panspermia", and Gould's "Punctuated Equilibria" come to mind. Why would these diverse, and in some cases, strange theories be presented if classic Darwinian evolution was a "lock"?

Call me a simpleton or make me the "fool of the month" on your blog, but I've got to call it the way I see it, not just conform to be thought of as "credible". Other objections will be presented in future editorials.

The opinions expressed in this column represent those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, views, or philosophy of TheRealityCheck.org, Inc.

Evolution education update: evolution in AL, Project Steve in Ottawa, In Alabama, evolution is now slightly less controversial, while in Ottawa, Project Steve is front-page news, and in Washington DC, the White House's chief science advisor describes "intelligent design" as unscientific.

In Alabama, evolution is now slightly less controversial, while in Ottawa, Project Steve is front-page news, and in Washington DC, the White House's chief science advisor describes "intelligent design" as unscientific.

EVOLUTION IN ALABAMA

On February 10, 2005, the Alabama State Board of Education adopted a revised set of state science standards (the Alabama Course of Study: Science, or ACOSS). The treatment of evolution in the revised ACOSS remains weak: evolution is explicitly mentioned only once in the high school biology standards, under the section on protective adaptations. Evolutionary concepts such as hierarchical classification are described without mentioning evolution. During the board meeting, John Schweinsberg of Alabama Citizens for Science Education protested that evolution was obviously downplayed for religious reasons, despite the fact that "[i]t's just as basic to biology as the periodic table is to chemistry. Teaching biology without evolution is like teaching chemistry without the periodic table" (quoted in the Montgomery Advertiser, February 10, 2005).

The revised ACOSS also continues to contain, in its preface, a version of the evolution disclaimer originally mandated in the 1996 version of ACOSS, but evolution is no longer described as controversial. The relevant portions of the three versions of the disclaimer:

1996: This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things, such as plants, animals and humans.

2001: The theory of evolution by natural selection is a controversial theory that is included in this textbook. It is controversial because it states that natural selection provides the basis for the modern scientific explanation for the diversity of living things.

2005: The theory of evolution by natural selection, a theory included in this document, states that natural selection provides the basis for the modern scientific explanation for the diversity of living things.

What prompted the latest changes in the disclaimer is unknown: it is possible that they are intended to shelter the disclaimer against the sort of legal challenge that was brought against the disclaimer used in Cobb County, Georgia.

To read about the adoption of ACOSS in the Montgomery Advertiser (via RedNova.com), visit:
http://www.rednova.com/news/display/?id=126927

To read the ACOSS standards and related documents, visit:
http://www.alsde.edu/html/sections/documents.asp?section=54&sort=21

PROJECT STEVE IN OTTAWA

Shortly after its second anniversary, Project Steve -- NCSE's exercise in poking fun at the lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" promulgated by antievolutionist groups -- was featured on the first page of the Sunday edition of one of Canada's leading newspapers. Dan Gardner's article "'Project Steve' takes aim at the creationist agenda," which appeared in the February 20, 2005, issue of The Ottawa Citizen, begins, "With evolution under renewed attack across North America, an unlikely group has rallied to defend Charles Darwin. They are guys named Steve. Or Stephen. Also Steven and Stefan. And there are Stephanies standing up for evolution, too." The article discusses the history of Project Steve, commenting that "it may have been born in a spirit of whimsy, but its purpose couldn't be more serious" before reviewing recent antievolution incidents in Pennsylvania and Georgia. Brian Alters, Professor of Education and director of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal, was extensively quoted on the extent of antievolutionism in Canada, commenting, "We get reports all the time, all throughout Canada. It's not just as vocal and combative as it is in the United States." Alters, who coauthored Defending Evolution in the Classroom (Jones and Bartlett, 2001), emphasized the misleading nature of descriptions of evolution as "just a theory" or as "controversial," and NCSE's Nick Matzke added that "The idea that all species share a common ancestor, that's as well agreed upon as anything in science." Ending the article, Gardner quipped, "More than 500 scientists named Steve agree." Unfortunately, the article is available on-line only to subscribers to the print edition.

To read all about Project Steve -- now with 543 Steves! -- visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=18

And to purchase Defending Evolution in the Classroom (and benefit NCSE in the process), visit:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/0763719234/nationalcenter02/

MARBURGER ON "INTELLIGENT DESIGN"

Chris Mooney reports in The American Prospect that John H. Marburger III, director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, denounced "intelligent design" as unscientific. Mooney writes, "Speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Science Writers, Marburger fielded an audience question about 'Intelligent Design' (ID), the latest supposedly scientific alternative to Charles Darwin's theory of descent with modification. The White House's chief scientist stated point blank, 'Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory.' And that's not all -- as if to ram the point home, Marburger soon continued, 'I don't regard Intelligent Design as a scientific topic.'" In March 2004, during an on-line colloquy sponsored by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Marburger similarly got it right: when asked about the Bush administration's scientific credibility in light of the president's reported skepticism about evolution, he began by saying, "Evolution is a cornerstone of modern biology."

To read Mooney's article "Intelligent denial" in The American Prospect, visit:
http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=9216

To read the transcript of the March 2004 on-line colloquy, visit:
http://chronicle.com/colloquylive/2004/03/science/

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

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

Polling Opinion about Evolution:

Low Information Public Underscores Importance of Communication Strategy

Matthew Nisbet
March 1, 2005

Tensions in American society over religious and scientific accounts of human origins are centuries old, and the divide between the two contending worldviews continues today as part of a growing political conflict over science education standards. At the local, state, and national level, religiously-motivated activists are working to change curriculum standards to allow for divine accounts of human origins, while teachers, parents, lawyers, and scientists labor to defend existing science-based standards.

The ongoing political struggle has been catapulted sporadically by the media into the wider public eye, usually in reaction to proposed changes that have reached some kind of institutional agenda, such as the decision in 1999 by the Kansas State Board of Education to eliminate Darwinian evolution from the state curriculum. More recently, the Kansas controversy has been followed with efforts in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and other states to include evolution “disclaimers” in textbooks, or mandate that so-called alternative theories to evolution be discussed by teachers. (For more, see the newly launched CreationWatch site).

These efforts are spearheaded by the intelligent design (ID) movement, a well-coordinated coalition of lawyers, theologians, philosophers, elected officials, and maverick scientists who contend that evolutionary theory is riddled with holes, and that in order to explain the complexity of life and the universe, some type of supernatural force must be at work. More savvy and politically sophisticated than traditional young earth creationists, the key target of the ID movement is the public. Via books, magazine articles, videos, public speeches, direct mail campaigns, Web sites, and media appearances, the ID movement seeks to mold public opinion, building political pressure on elected officials to amend science education standards to include ID as an alternative to Darwinian evolution (For more on the ID movement, see here).

To Read More of This Column Visit: http://www.csicop.org/scienceandmedia/evolution/

Please do not respond to the listserv. Comments on the column should be address to Matt Nisbet at nisbetmc@gmail.com

Other comments should be addressed to: skeptinq@aol.com

Physicist Wins Spirituality Prize

http://www.latimes.com/features/religion/la-na-prize10mar10,1,3797863.story?coll=la-news-religion

Thu Mar 10, 7:55 AM ET

By Larry B. Stammer Times Staff Writer

Charles Townes, the UC Berkeley professor who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics for his work in quantum electronics and then startled the scientific world by suggesting that religion and science were converging, was awarded the $1.5-million Templeton Prize on Wednesday for progress in spiritual knowledge.

The prize, the proceeds of which Townes said he planned to largely donate to academic and religious institutions, recognized his groundbreaking and controversial leadership in the mid-1960s in bridging science and religion.

The co-inventor of the laser, Townes, 89, said no greater question faced humankind than discovering the purpose and meaning of life — and why there was something rather than nothing in the cosmos.

"If you look at what religion is all about, it's trying to understand the purpose and meaning of our universe," he said in a telephone interview from New York this week. "Science tries to understand function and structures. If there is any meaning, structure will have a lot to do with any meaning. In the long run they must come together."

Townes said that it was "extremely unlikely" that the laws of physics that led to life on Earth were accidental.

Some scientists, he conceded, had suggested that if there were an almost infinite number of universes, each with different laws, one of them was bound by chance to hit upon the right combination to support life.

"I think one has to consider that seriously," Townes told The Times. But he said such an assumption could not currently be tested. Even if there were a multitude of universes, he said, we do not know why the laws of physics would vary from one universe to another.

Townes said science was increasingly discovering how special our universe was, raising questions as to whether it was planned. To raise such a question is the work of scientists and theologians alike, said Townes, who grew up in a Baptist household that embraced "an open-minded approach" to biblical interpretation. He is a member of the First Congregational Church in Berkeley and prays twice daily.

In 1964, while a professor at Columbia University, Townes delivered a talk at Riverside Church in New York that became the basis for an article, "The Convergence of Science and Religion," which put him at odds with some scientists.

In the article, Townes said science and religion should find common ground, noting "their differences are largely superficial, and … the two become almost indistinguishable if we look at the real nature of each." When MIT published the article, a prominent alumnus threatened to break ties with the institution.

In a 1996 interview with The Times, Townes said that new findings in astronomy had opened people's minds to religion. Before the 1960s, the Big Bang was just an idea that was hotly debated. Today, there is so much evidence supporting the theory that most cosmologists take it for granted.

"The fact that the universe had a beginning is a very striking thing," Townes said. "How do you explain that unique event" without God?

Townes this week spoke of his interest in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The sheer number of stars and planets, he said, would likely increase the probability of intelligent life elsewhere. But for life to get started on even one planet is "highly improbable. It might not have started more than two or three times," he said. "It would be fascinating to find somebody out there."

Born in Greenville, S.C., in 1915, Townes received a bachelor's degree in physics, summa cum laude, from Furman University in Greenville when he was 19. Two years later he received a master's in physics from Duke University, and in 1939 a doctorate in physics from Caltech with a thesis on isotope separation and nuclear spins.

During World War II he helped develop radar systems that functioned in the humid conditions of the South Pacific.

His research led to the development of the maser in 1954, which amplifies electromagnetic waves, and later co-invented the laser. His work, for which he shared the 1964 Nobel in physics, led to a wide variety of inventions and discoveries in medicine, telecommunications, electronics, computers and other areas.

He was named provost and professor of physics at MIT in 1961, director of the Enrico Fermi International School of Physics in 1963, and, in 1967, professor of physics at UC Berkeley, a post he held until 1986.

The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities was established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton, a global investor and philanthropist. Past winners include Mother Teresa; evangelist Billy Graham; Holmes Rolston III, a philosopher, clergyman and scientist whose explorations of biology and faith have helped foster religious interest in the environment; and John C. Polkinghorne, a British mathematical physicist and Anglican priest.

The Duke of Edinburgh is to present the prize to Townes in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in April.

CSICOP Online: Out of Balance - ABC, Peter Jennings and UFOs

Out of Balance

Even with respect to extraordinary and absurd claims, ABC and Peter Jennings listen to "both sides."

Chris Mooney (http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/) ; March 7, 2005

How should a self-respecting journalist, one who wants to be deemed credible, cover UFO claims, whether of the roadside sighting variety or those involving alleged abductions and (I can't resist) sexual molestations? That's the core issue raised by ABC's decision last week to air a two-hour primetime special, hosted by Peter Jennings, on precisely this topic. Entitled "Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs -- Seeing is Believing" http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Primetime/story?id=468496 , the show provides a pretty good example of what not to do. But it does make a few token attempts at serious reportorial skepticism, and while these efforts ultimately fail, they're instructive for precisely that reason.

"Seeing is Believing" begins, in true mystery-mongering fashion, with a quick opening montage presenting various firsthand UFO stories. Soon Jennings appears, telling us that millions of Americans believe this stuff (ABC's apparent justification for devoting its energies to UFOs at a time when soldiers are dying in Iraq and Social Security is on the chopping block). Before long we're introduced to UFO radio guru Art Bell and--in a pattern that will recur throughout the program--witness an artist's rendition of Bell's alleged encounter with a big triangular alien spaceship.

To Read More of this Column Visit:

http://www.csicop.org/ and

http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/ufos/

To Read More Articles by Chris Mooney Visit:

http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/

&

http://www.chriscmooney.com/

EVOLUTION: Dover Teachers Want No Part of Intelligent-Design Statement

Jeffrey Mervis

Science, Vol 307, Issue 5709, 505 , 28 January 2005 [DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5709.505]

A Pennsylvania school board has added "intelligent design" to its curriculum while simultaneously barring discussion of the origin of life

DOVER, PENNSYLVANIA--Jennifer Miller always wanted to be a teacher. And after "loving molecular biology" during a high school class, she decided to teach the subject at that level. For 12 years she's shared her passion with students at Dover High School, part of the 3600-student Dover area school district here in southeastern Pennsylvania. But last week she did the unthinkable: She walked out on her three ninth-grade biology classes.

Miller wasn't abandoning her students. Rather, she was standing up for her professional principles. The local school board had ordered her and seven colleagues to read to their biology classes a statement that attacks the theory of evolution and promotes intelligent design--the idea that the complexity of life requires action by an intelligent agent--as an alternative explanation for the origin of life. The statement also bars scientific discussion in the classroom of the origin of life, consigning that topic "to individual students and their families."

The board's statement (www.dover.k12.pa.us/doversd/site/default.asp) officially puts intelligent design into a U.S. public school curriculum for the first time. And that step has united the science faculty at Dover High School. "Intelligent design is not science. It is not biology. It is not an accepted scientific theory," the teachers wrote in a 6 January letter to Dover School Superintendent Richard Nilsen, requesting that they be excused from delivering the missive. Reading the four-paragraph statement, they argued, would force them to "knowingly and intentionally misrepresent subject matter or curriculum."

Nilsen acquiesced. So last week he and Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa visited all nine ninth-grade biology classes to read the statement--without taking any questions afterward. Their arrival was the signal for Miller and a few of her students to leave.

Opposition to the teaching of evolution has roiled U.S. public schools for more than a century. But after the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creationism constitutes an illegal dose of religion in the classroom, opponents began looking for a scientific anchor for their beliefs. Dover represents the latest wrinkle: The attempt to denigrate Darwin's insight--and the overwhelming evidence for it--posits it as simply one in an array of equally valid hypotheses about how life evolved on the planet. Last week a Georgia school district appealed a federal judge's ruling banning textbook stickers labeling evolution as "a theory rather than a fact." The judge said the stickers reflected the school board's affinity for "religiously motivated individuals" (Science, 21 January, p. 334). And on 14 December, a group of Dover-area parents asked a U.S. District Court to declare the school board's statement unconstitutional. A trial is scheduled for September.

By design. Ninth graders at Dover High School heard Superintendent Richard Nilsen (right) read a statement on intelligent design in their biology classes.

In the meantime, the issue hangs over the staff at Dover High like a cloud. "It's gotten to the point where I don't even want to go shopping because I might be accosted," says Bertha Spahr, a chemistry teacher who came to the school in 1965 and who chairs the science department. Miller and Robert Eshbach, a third-year environmental sciences teacher, have become media minicelebrities, appearing on ABC's World News Tonight and the BBC as well as in the pages of The New York Times. "We could do three or four [interviews] a day, if we wanted," says Miller.

The Dover controversy began more than a year ago, when the district's current high school biology textbook came up for a routine, 7-year review by the school board. School board members quizzed the teachers and later publicly expressed their displeasure with the way the textbook handled evolution. Although the board eventually adopted the latest edition, it also accepted an anonymous donation to the school library of 50-plus copies of the 1987 book Of Pandas and People, which makes the case for intelligent design. On 19 November the board approved the statement that triggered the suit and led to Miller's walkout.

Ironically, evolution occupies only a tiny part of ninth-grade biology at Dover High. Miller and the other two introductory biology teachers will spend at most three 90-minute classes on the topic--the last unit of the year before final exams--even though state curriculum guides say the unit should run for 19 days. "I'll teach competition," says Miller. "We'll talk about how more things are produced than survive. I'll teach the evidence for Darwin's theory [on the origin of species] and talk about his trip to the Galápagos. I'll cover natural and artificial selection. And we'll do reproductive evolution." But that's it. "We don't mention evolution anywhere else in the course." Miller says she prefers to concentrate on the present, "and how things that are here are still evolving."

Contrary to the claims of intelligent-design advocates, the board's directive will narrow rather than broaden the scope of the course. "In the past, we could talk about the origins of life," says Miller. "At least I could ask them what they might have heard [as criticism of Darwin], and we could discuss it. But now the school board has ruled that out."

As they begin the new semester, Dover teachers are hoping for at least a respite from the hoopla. The May primary features seven (of nine) school board seats, but they won't be filled until the general election in November. That means the controversy is likely to reignite in early June, when the next batch of students begins their brief study of evolution.

Holistic medicine merits scientific attention

http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/articles.asp?id=32472

By Jeffrey Ghassemi

To many Westerners, alternative medicine may be just a body of esoteric healing methods taught in far-off lands.

Among health organizations, alternative medicine is defined by that which is unconventional or non-Western. It includes interventions not taught widely at U.S. medical schools or generally available at hospitals. It also implies that such services are non-reimbursable.

Still, defining it simply as "Eastern medicine," or by what it is not, is incomplete.

Alternative medicine is best characterized by its core philosophy: a steadfast belief in holism. The interpenetration of mind, body and spirit infuses itself into the many practices deemed alternative today — acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal healing and meditation.

Having been used and practiced among Eastern cultures for hundreds if not thousands of years, alternative medicine as we know it is not a recent invention. Nevertheless, it appears that only since the last decade has alternative medicine steadily evolved as a serious practice in the Western world.

In fact, in 1997, over one-third of the U.S. public sought alternative therapy, spending an estimated $36 billion to $47 billion on such treatments. Many observers link this impressive growth to a health care climate of high costs, unreasonable expectations, distance and distrust in the Western medical community.

This rising popularity of alternative medicine in the United States is cause for both celebration and concern.

Many who embrace the alternative philosophy see it as a response to the crisis brought on by Western conventional medicine.

The holistic, mind-body approach is comforting to those who view scientific rigidity and managed care as removing the person from the health care process.

But critics fear it as an invasion of bad science.

On one extreme, opponents see alternative medicine as medical quackery, science run amok and a deceptive exploitation of the placebo effect. On the other, skeptics are intrigued by alternative medicine's potential but wish to see its practices endure the rigors of Western scientific testing.

So, does alternative medicine have the makings of a controversy? You bet.

Whether the conventional medical establishment likes it, the popularity of alternative medicine demands thoughtful consideration to ascertain its merits. For its own credibility, Western science should not betray its own principles of rationality by casting judgment on a practice before considering all the evidence.

Legitimizing alternative medicine will require cooperation between both sides of the fence. Together, they must design clinical trials – preferably randomized – to test the scientific validity of such practices while at the same time respecting their inherent traditions.

So, will the alternative and conventional camps ever live in harmony? It will take some work.

Full integration is still a pipe dream, though progress has been made.

The government has established an Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. The UCLA, UC Irvine and Harvard medical schools have established centers for the study of alternative medicine. And increasingly, health insurers have taken on acupuncture and chiropractic as covered benefits.

Nevertheless, until we arrive at more conclusive answers the established medical community could stand to gain from incorporating some of the philosophical aspects of alternative medicine – such as holism – into everyday practice.

In the end, the answer to the controversy is easier said than done. But with an open mind, the patient's best interest at heart, and some old-fashioned medical elbow-grease, we can work to achieve a better, evolving state of medicine.

Ghassemi is a graduate student at the UCLA School of Public Health.

Teach the controversy

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.darwin11mar11,1,1789292.story?coll=bal-oped-headlines

By Stephen C. Meyer and John Angus Campbell
Originally published March 11, 2005

WHAT SHOULD public schools teach about life's origins? Should science educators teach only contemporary Darwinian theory or not mention it? Should school boards mandate that students learn about alternative theories? If so, which ones? Or should schools forbid discussion of all theories except neo-Darwinism?

These questions arise frequently as school districts around the country consider how to respond to the growing controversy over biological origins.

Of course, many educators wish such controversies would simply go away. If science teachers teach only Darwinian evolution, many parents and religious activists will protest. But if teachers present religiously based creationism, they run afoul of Supreme Court rulings.

There is a way to teach evolution that would benefit students and satisfy all but the most extreme ideologues. Rather than ignoring the controversy or teaching religiously based ideas, teachers should teach about the scientific controversy that now exists over Darwinian evolution. This is simply good education.

When credible experts disagree about a controversial subject, students should learn about competing perspectives.

In such cases, teachers should not teach as true only one view. Instead, teachers should describe competing views to students and explain the arguments for and against these views as made by their chief proponents. We call this "teaching the controversy."

There are several significant scientific controversies about key aspects of evolutionary theory.

First, some scientists doubt the idea that all organisms have evolved from a single common ancestor. Fossil studies reveal "a biological big bang" near the beginning of the Cambrian period (530 million years ago) when many major, separate groups of organisms, or phyla - including most animal body plans - emerged suddenly without clear precursors. Fossil finds repeatedly have confirmed a pattern of explosive appearance and prolonged stability in living forms - not the gradual "branching-tree" pattern implied by Charles Darwin's common-ancestry thesis.

Other scientists doubt the creative power of the Darwinian mechanism. While many scientists accept that natural selection can produce small-scale "micro-evolutionary" variations, many biologists now doubt that natural selection and random mutations can generate the large-scale changes necessary to produce fundamentally new structures and forms of life.

More than 375 scientists, including researchers from institutions such as MIT, Yale, Rice and the Smithsonian, have signed a statement questioning the creative power of the selection/mutation mechanism.

Finally, some scientists doubt the Darwinian idea that living things merely "appear" designed. Instead, they think that living systems display telltale signs of actual or "intelligent" design. Prominent scientists, such as Lehigh University biochemist Michael J. Behe and former San Francisco State University biophysicist Dean Kenyon, have cited intriguing evidence in support of this theory, such as the presence of digital information, complex circuits and miniature motors in living cells.

Since intelligent design is a new theory of biological origins, students should not be required to learn about it. But they should learn about the scientific strengths and weaknesses of orthodox Darwinism. Clearly, teachers should also be free to tell their students about alternative new theories such as Mr. Behe's design theory, provided these theories are based (as Mr. Behe's is) upon scientific evidence, not scriptural texts.

There are many reasons to adopt this "teach the controversy" approach.

First, constitutional law permits it. In the controlling Edwards vs. Aguillard case, the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that it is permissible to teach students about both alternative scientific theories of origins and scientific criticism of prevailing theories.

Second, federal education policy calls for it. The authoritative report language accompanying the No Child Left Behind law states that "where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of views that exist."

Third, four polls from 2001 to 2004 show that more than 70 percent of the electorate favors teaching both the evidence for and against Darwin's theory of evolution.

Finally, teaching scientific controversies engages student interest and encourages them to do what scientists must do - deliberate about how best to interpret evidence. As Darwin wrote in Origin of Species, "A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."

Stephen C. Meyer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, and John Angus Campbell, a professor of communications at the University of Memphis, are the editors of Darwinism, Design and Public Education.

Copyright © 2005, The Baltimore Sun


Friday, March 11, 2005

Evolution education update: antievolution legislation in AR, kangaroo court evolving in KS, NCSE in USA Today

Antievolution legislation surfaces in Arkansas, while in Kansas, the proposed kangaroo court on evolution continues to evolve. And NCSE (and Project Steve) appear in USA Today.

ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN ARKANSAS

House Bill 2607, introduced in the Arkansas House of Representatives as a shell bill on March 4, 2005, and amended and engrossed on March 10, is intended to allow the teaching of "intelligent design" as "a parallel to evolutionary theory" in the public schools of Arkansas. If enacted, the bill would require the state Department of Education to include "intelligent design" in its educational frameworks and encourage teachers in the state to include it in their lesson plans. Attempting to immunize itself against a likely challenge to its constitutionality, the bill describes "intelligent design" as not necessarily "attributing the creation of the world or it's [sic] creatures to any god or gods." Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, however, commented, "This is a blatant attempt to push religious dogma into our public schools; I feel confident that the Arkansas legislature will reject it. We all remember the 1981 creationism debacle, and we don't want Arkansas to be a national laughingstock again." The bill also echoes the so-called Santorum language stripped from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, adding, "The prohibition of teaching alternative scientific theories is the cruelest and most abusive form of censorship because it prevents the very debate necessary for the scientific proof or disproof of competing theory." The sole sponsor of HB 2607 is Mike Martin (R-District 87), a first-term legislator.

For the full text of HB 2607 (in PDF format), visit:
http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/ftproot/bills/2005/public/HB2607.pdf

KANSAS KANGAROO COURT KEEPS EVOLVING

Discontented with the scientifically accurate treatment of evolution in the draft revision of the state science standards, the antievolutionist majority on the Kansas Board of Education is continuing to try to concoct a justification for overruling the consensus of the writing committee. On February 9, 2005, the board voted to establish a subcommittee "to conduct hearings to investigate the merits of the two opposing views" -- i.e., "intelligent design" and evolution -- despite protests from moderate members of the board like Carol Rupe, who remarked that the new process was reminiscent of reality television shows such as "American Idol." The proposed format of the hearings is in flux. Originally, a marathon session of courtroom-style hearings, with ten proponents of evolution and ten of "intelligent design" testifying over ten days, was considered. Then a proposal to solicit written testimony was entertained. But now the courtroom-style hearings are back, with six days of testimony tentatively scheduled to be heard in Topeka in May. The "teach the controversy" theme for the hearings is taken from the so-called Santorum language, drafted by "intelligent design" proponent Phillip Johnson and stripped from the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001.

Across Kansas, scientists, educators, and editorialists across Kansas were skeptical both about the utility of and the motives behind such hearings. Referring to the board's establishing the subcommittee, the Wichita Eagle asked, "Why did they do that, when the board already has a committee of respected science professionals that recommended evolution remain in the state's science standards?" and answered, "The board members are trolling for criticisms of evolution." Later, the Eagle described the hearings as "a show trial" and a "farce" staged in a "circus atmosphere," commenting, "What the tiny Intelligent Design Network and its supporters are trying to do is an end-run around the proper arena for their claims -- peer-reviewed papers in established scientific journals and other mainstream science forums" and recommending that scientists boycott the hearings. That, too, was the recommendation of Kansas Citizens for Science, which in a statement called on "the entire science and science education community of Kansas to refuse to participate in this fiasco," explaining, "The science community should not put itself in the position of participating in a rigged hearing where three avowed creationists will appear to sit in judgment and find science lacking. Don't give the board of education the veneer of respectability when they do their dirty deed."

To read the Wichita Eagle's latest editorial on the hearings, visit:
http://www.kansas.com/mld/eagle/news/editorial/11083847.htm

To read Kansas Citizens for Science's statement on the hearings, visit:
http://www.kcfs.org/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=000020

NCSE IN USA TODAY

In his February 4, 2005, CyberSpeak column in USA Today, Andrew Kantor expressed worry about the state of science education in the United States, particularly in light of the dismal statistics about the public's acceptance of evolution and Answers in Genesis's Creation Museum, which he described as a "national embarrassment." Now, in his March 11 column, rather than responding in detail to Answers in Genesis's diatribe against him, Kantor chose instead to refer his readers to NCSE's web site, beginning with the statement of Project Steve, which reads in part, "There is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence." Kantor writes, "There are now about 550 signatures on the document -- more than three times what the creationists have. ... the NCSE was able to get more signatures supporting evolution than AiG could get supporting creationism." And of course, as he notes, the signatories are all named Steve. He also lauded NCSE's Voices for Evolution, which collects statements from dozens of scientific (as well as educational, religious, and civil liberties) organizations in support of evolution education, and the invaluable Talk.Origins Archive. In addition to his regular column in USA Today, Kantor covers technology for the Roanoke, Virginia, Times, and is a former editor for PC Magazine and Internet World.

To read Kantor's column in USA Today, visit:
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/andrewkantor/2005-03-11-kantor_x.htm

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

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available:
http://www.ncseweb.org/evc


Thursday, March 10, 2005

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 722 March 3, 2005 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein
240 ELECTRONS SET IN MOTION. A soccerball-shaped carbon-60 molecule, possessing a mobile team of up to about 240 valence electrons holding the structure together, is sort of halfway between being a molecule and a solid. To explore how all those electrons can move as an ensemble, a team of scientists working at the Advanced Light Source synchrotron radiation lab in Berkeley, turned the C-60 molecules into a beam (by first ionizing them) and then shot ultraviolet photons at them. When a photon absorbed, the energy can be converted into a collective movement of the electrons referred to as a plasmon. Previously a 20-electron-volt "surface plasmon" was observed: the absorption of the UV energy resulted in a systematic oscillation of the ensemble of electrons visualized as a thin sphere of electric charge. Now a new experiment has found evidence of a second resonance at an energy of 40 eV. This second type of collective excitation is considered a "volume plasmon" since the shape of the collective electron ensemble is thought to be oscillating with respect to the center of the molecule (see figure at http://www.aip.org/png/2005/230.htm). The collaboration consists of physicists from the University of Nevada, Reno (Ronald Phaneuf, 775-784-6818, phaneuf@unr.edu), Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Justus-Liebig-University (Giessen, Germany), and the Max Planck Institute (Dresden). (Scully et al., Physical Review Letters, 18 February 2005)

FIRST EVIDENCE FOR ENTANGLEMENT OF THREE MACROSCOPIC OBJECTS has been seen in a superconducting circuit built at the University of Maryland. By examining an electrical circuit operating at temperatures near absolute zero, the researchers have found new evidence that the laws of quantum mechanics apply not just to microscopic particles such as atoms and electrons, but also to large electronic devices called superconducting quantum bits (qubits). While researchers have previously created superconducting qubits, and other groups have entangled two macroscopic objects (Update 558), this research is the first to observe the quantum interaction of three macroscopic components: a niobium inductor-capacitor (LC) circuit plus a pair of Josephson junctions, each a sandwich of two superconductors separated by an insulator. Remarkably, all three macroscopic devices seem to act, when cold enough, like huge atoms. The LC circuit coupled the Josephson junctions in such a way as to transfer quantized oscillations of current in one junction to the other junction. The LC circuit was more than a simple connector; its condition depended upon the two Josephson junctions in a way defined by the laws of quantum mechanics. The researchers obtained evidence of the entanglement indirectly, through the use of microwave pulses that probed the Josephson junctions; future experiments will seek to directly control the junctions and obtain evidence more directly. Superconducting circuits such as this one provide a promising route towards a practical quantum computer, which would require the entanglement of many qubits. Scaling up superconducting devices to many-qubit systems should be possible once single superconducting qubits are perfected, according to team member Frederick Strauch, (now at NIST, 301-975-5159, Frederick.Strauch@nist.gov). The challenge will be to fabricate sufficiently high-quality circuits so that the superconducting qubits achieve the very low noise levels necessary for quantum computing. (Xu et al., Physical Review Letters, 21 January 2005) X-RAY THUNDERBOLT. Scientists have long suspected that lightning might generate x rays. However, until recently the observation of such x-rays has remained elusive, largely owing to the unpredictable nature of lightning. In the last few years a series of experiments by Joseph Dwyer and his colleagues at the Florida Institute of Technology and the University of Florida has shown that lightning indeed emits large bursts of x rays with energies up to about 250 keV (about twice that of a chest x ray). These x rays are mostly produced not by the bright return strokes, but by the leaders that precede the stroke, as they propagate from the cloud to the ground. Now, Dwyer and his colleagues have discovered that these bursts of x rays are produced at the precise moment that the lightning steps forward along its jagged path. For unknown reasons, lightning does not travel to the ground in a continuous manner, but instead traverses the distance in a series of discrete steps. It is this stepping process that gives lightning its jagged, sometimes forked, appearance, and Dwyer has now shown that this same stepping process also makes x rays. The x rays are likely produced by strong electric fields that accelerate electrons to close to the speed of light. These so-called runaway electrons collide with air producing bremsstrahlung ("braking radiation" in German) x-rays. Dwyer says that higher energy gamma rays are also emitted sometimes, but that these seem to come from the thunderstorm cloud itself and not from the lightning stroke. (Dwyer et al., Geophysical Review Letters, 16 January 2005.)

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.

Physicist Is Awarded the Templeton Prize in Spiritual Matters

By DENNIS OVERBYE

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/10/science/10prize.html?pagewanted=print&position=

March 10, 2005

Dr. Charles Townes, a physicist who shared the Nobel Prize for helping to invent the laser, added another and most unusual prize to a lifelong storehouse of honors yesterday. In a news conference at the United Nations, he was announced as the winner of the $1.5 million Templeton Prize, awarded annually for progress or research in spiritual matters.

Dr. Townes, 89, a longtime professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has long argued that those old antagonists science and religion are more alike than different and are destined to merge.

"Understanding the order in the universe and understanding the purpose in the universe are not identical, but they are also not very far apart," he wrote in a seminal paper titled "The Convergence of Science and Religion," published in 1966 in the IBM journal "Think."

In a statement the Templeton Foundation described Dr. Townes as "a unique voice - especially among scientists - that sought commonality between the two disciplines."

The prize was established in 1972 by the investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, with a monetary value always to exceed that of the Nobel. Dr. Townes is to receive his prize at Buckingham Palace in May.

Dr. Townes often recalls that he came up with the idea that would become the laser while sitting on a Washington park bench in 1951. In his 1966 article, he said there was little difference between such epiphanies, when the subconscious hits on the solution to a problem, and the religious experience of revelation.

Dr. Townes, who described himself as a Protestant Christian, said there was no reason to expect that the Bible would be all correct. Asked about his beliefs, he said, "I have enormous respect and adoration for Christ and what he did," but he added that he did not know whether Christ actually was the son of God.

"He's closer to it than anybody else I know of," Dr. Townes said.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Creationism: from the US, with love

http://www.the-scientist.com/2005/2/28/12/2

(requires registration)

upfront Volume 19 | Issue 4 | 12 | Feb. 28, 2005
By Stephen Pincock

The pressure from US religious groups to unseat the teaching of evolution as the sole construct in public schools shows no sign of slowing.

The pressure from US religious groups to unseat the teaching of evolution as the sole construct in public schools shows no sign of slowing. In Georgia, Alabama, and Pennsylvania, as well as other states, individual school districts and state governments are grappling with suggestions that creationism be taught along with evolution. And the movement appears to be a new US export.

Across the Atlantic, those in charge of Britain's education system have been facing their own version of the God versus Darwin debate, albeit on a much smaller scale. For the past three years, a small group of schools in northeast England have been at the center of the controversy about teaching creationism. The schools, established under a government scheme that allows private benefactors to operate state schools, are run by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, which is backed by the millionaire car dealer Peter Vardy.

For its part, the foundation says on its Web site that it "encourages an academic and inquisitive approach to spiritual matters including, amongst others, creation and the origins of life on earth." In 2002, Prime Minister Tony Blair said in Parliament he was happy about creationism being taught alongside evolution in state schools. Others, such as Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, are not so happy. Dawkins, eight other leading scientists, and six top clergy wrote to Blair in 2002, pointing out that "Evolution is not, as spokesmen for the college maintain, a 'faith position' in the same category as the biblical account of creation.... It is a scientific theory of great explanatory power, able to account for a wide range of phenomena in a number of disciplines."

"It's important to get across that respectable church men are all supporters of evolution," Dawkins told The Scientist recently.

This year, a third school run by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, Trinity College in Doncaster, is due to open. Plans for a fourth college were abandoned late last year after vocal opposition by a group of teachers and local parents.

Meanwhile, politicians are still debating the issue. On Jan. 31, 2005, in the House of Lords, Dick Taverne, of the Liberal Democrat party, asked the government whether the national curriculum will exclude the teaching of creationism in schools. Junior education minister Geoffrey Filkin replied that the curriculum for 14- to 16-year-old students calls for the teaching of evolution, variation, and selection. "They also consider different theories on the origin of the universe," Filkin said. "In all aspects of the national curriculum, we encourage pupils to consider different ideas and beliefs, and how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting evidence. That is the core of scientific inquiry."

Taverne shot back: "Since the Government is in favor of allowing choice between sense and nonsense, will it also allow children to be taught that the earth is flat and that the sun goes around the earth? Since there is a crisis in math teaching in schools, and some university chemistry departments are closing down, will the Government also offer as an alternative the teaching of astrology and alchemy?"

"It is extraordinary," Taverne went on, "that a Government and a Prime Minister who say they are in favor of science have allowed the introduction into our schools of the worst features of American fundamentalist, antiscience, pseudoscience nonsense."

In Dawkins' view, however, the situation in the United Kingdom isn't comparable to the United States. "We're not in the same dire straits as they are over there," he says. "I don't think it's a problem yet, but one must always be vigilant."

Intelligent Denials

http://www.prospect.org/web/

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=14&click_id=143&art_id=qw1110194294245B225

Bush's science adviser said one important thing about politicized science in a recent appearance. But only one.

By Chris Mooney
Web Exclusive: 02.22.05

When it's your job to serve as the president's in-house expert on science and technology, being constantly in the media spotlight isn't necessarily a mark of distinction. But for President Bush's stoically inclined science adviser John Marburger, immense controversy followed his blanket dismissal last year of allegations (now endorsed by 48 Nobel laureates) that the administration has systematically abused science. So it was more than a little refreshing last Wednesday to hear Marburger take a strong stance against science politicization and abuse on one issue where it really matters: evolution.

Speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Science Writers, Marburger fielded an audience question about "Intelligent Design" (ID), the latest supposedly scientific alternative to Charles Darwin's theory of descent with modification. The White House's chief scientist stated point blank, "Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory." And that's not all -- as if to ram the point home, Marburger soon continued, "I don't regard Intelligent Design as a scientific topic."

Marburger's words mark a departure for this administration. While campaigning for the presidency in 1999, then-Governor Bush stroked his religiously conservative followers by defending the teaching of creationism alongside evolution and stating, "I believe children ought to be exposed to different theories about how the world started." And in response to a question from Science magazine during the 2004 race, Bush's campaign ducked the ID issue by stating, "The federal government has no control over local curricula, and it is not the federal government's role to tell states and local boards of education what they should teach in the classroom."

In comparison with these statements, Marburger minced no words about the scientific status of ID. In fact, GOP Intelligent Design boosters like Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania (where a court case over ID is now pending) may be extremely miffed by Marburger's stance.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Lure of Life on Lava

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-volcanoes8mar08,1,6365434.story

Land on Hawaii's volcanic slopes is cheap and picturesque. Of course, there is the occasional eruption to keep in mind.

By Tomas Alex Tizon, Times Staff Writer

HILO, Hawaii — Even now, with a bad back and knees as stiff as bamboo, Walter Rowsell, 67, believes he can still outrun the lava. Let it come, he says. Let it flow as fast as it can. If it gets him, it gets him.

"You're going to go one way or another," be it by cancer or car wreck or river of molten rock, he says. Death by lava would be quick. One time he poked a stick in a glow-red stream; the stick burst into flames. "It just about exploded," he said with a cackle.

Such are the terms one must come to before choosing to live on an active volcano. It's a view composed of equal parts optimism and fatalism, with a dash of daring, some would say foolhardiness. Ten years ago, Rowsell and his wife Judy, 63, left the mainland for good and built a two-bedroom cabin on the slopes of Mauna Loa.

Plenty of other people have done the same. The Big Island is the fastest-growing of all the Hawaiian Islands, adding more than 35,000 residents in the last 15 years. The term "building boom" is uttered by both residents who laud it and old-timers who wish it had never started.

The appeal is hard to resist: Where else in America can you buy land with ocean views, beach, palm trees and year-round sunshine for as little as $15,000 an acre? Ordinary people of modest means can own a morsel of paradise.

But there is the matter of the volcanoes, which is one reason the land is so cheap. You would have to live on one. The Big Island is really nothing more than the tops of five volcanoes merged into a land mass about the size of Los Angeles County, 4,000 square miles. Living on the island, for most, means living on a slope.

Two of the Big Island's volcanoes — Mauna Loa and Kilauea — are active. Mauna Loa, whose mass makes up half the island, has been swelling for 2 1/2 years and quaking in a way never recorded before. An eruption "is not an if, it's a when," said Jim Kauahikaua, scientist in charge at the U.S. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on Mauna Loa.

The smaller but feistier Kilauea volcano has been spewing lava for 22 straight years, and shows signs of a bigger event to come.

Hawaii's situation is unique in the United States, but there are many examples around the world of dense populations living on or near active volcanoes, among them Mt. Etna in Italy, Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines and Mt. Nyiragongo in Congo.

Volcanologists have identified 457 volcanoes where a million or more people live within a 62-mile radius, and the risks are illustrated by the fact that more than 260,000 people have been killed by volcanic activity in the last 300 years.

Scientists on the Big Island say they must be cautionary without being alarmist. People have lived on the island for 1,500 years, and volcanologists see no signs of an impending eruption that would destroy the island.

But the surge in population at the same time that both Mauna Loa and Kilauea seem to be acting strangely has some scientists nervous.

It was easier when the population was sparse. Evacuations were quick and clean. But with 155,000 residents already settled and up to 3,000 people a year moving here — many living off-grid and off-road — scientists and emergency workers say evacuations will be more complicated next time around.

Lava burying entire subdivisions, said U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist Peter Cervelli, has become a "significant worry."

"It's not our job to tell people where to live," said Cervelli, who for years was based in Hawaii. He recently transferred to the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage.

"We make recommendations. That's not to say privately we don't go, 'What are those people thinking?' They're building on lava flows less than 100 years old. A slope like that is an active slope."

The scientists' tack has been to shower information through as many forums as possible, including Internet postings and community meetings. The emphasis is to talk about historical patterns in the hope of pounding in the idea — the reality — that a corridor covered repeatedly by lava is likely to be covered again.

Hawaiian volcanoes have reputations as benign "oozers" rather than the kind that erupt explosively, an example of the latter being Mt. St. Helens in Washington.

For most of the time Hawaii has been a U.S. state, this has been true. The state's lava flows tend to be slow, almost gentle, which has created the mounded mountains said to resemble battle shields, giving them the name shield volcanoes.

But Kilauea (pronounced kil-oh-way'-ya) historically has had violent eruptions roughly at the same rate as Mt. St. Helens — about every 100 to 200 years. An eruption in 1790 killed between 80 and several hundred people (sources vary), but even the low number is higher than in any other volcanic eruption in the United States, including the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, which killed 57.

Over the last two decades, Kilauea has poured lava over 40 square miles, devoured several villages and more than 200 homes, and closed a major road. Highway 130, in Puna, remains blocked by a giant hillside of cooling rock. On the island's southern coast, a continual flow of lava often reaches the sea, constantly creating a new shoreline. The lava has enlarged the island by about 570 acres.

One ridge over, Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since its first recorded eruption in 1843, covering more than 300 square miles. Its most recent eruption, in the spring of 1984, roared for three weeks and sent a lava flow within four miles of Hilo (population 40,000), the island's biggest city.

Since then, Geological Survey scientists estimate more than $2.3 billion of new construction has gone up on the volcano's slopes, much of it in what historically has been Mauna Loa's most hazardous region, the Southwest Rift Zone.

It is the steepest quadrant of the mountain, and one of the most picturesque: a giant hillside carpeted by lush ohia trees with red and white blossoms like Christmas ornaments, with dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean.

About 6,000 people live in this region.

It's the place where new homes have been springing up like tropical weeds, about 1,000 in the last decade. The feel is vaguely rural and unkempt, a lush messiness on a mountainside. Residents refer to the collection of homes as a subdivision, but there's no uniformity: Small mansions sit along the same rough road as prefab log cabins and jury-rigged shacks and trailers covered in tangles of blue tarp.

It's the place where old hippies and corporate dropouts have nestled into new lives, and where retirees come to live their golden years. This is the place that Walter and Judy Rowsell call home.

They knew exactly what they were getting.

The couple spent their working lives in the motel business, Walter in maintenance, Judy at the front desk. They lived in Mountain View, Wyo., a place so cold during the winter "you could freeze to death on your way to work," Judy said.

In the fall of 1985, while vacationing on the Big Island, they decided they found their paradise. They bought a gently sloping, heavily-wooded acre for $5,800, returned to Wyoming and worked for 10 more years before selling their house and using the equity to build their cabin.

It's a rambler-style structure, with clapboard siding and white aluminum windows, set back exactly 169 feet from the road. At the moment, the cabin is almost completely gray on the outside. Walter applied primer on the siding and roof, but he hasn't gotten around to putting on topcoats.

Shrubs and ohia trees block whatever views the couple could have, although a slice of ocean is visible from the road. The Rowsells, whose grown daughter lives on the island, like the seclusion.

They pay slightly more than $300 a year for homeowner's insurance. There is no volcano coverage, although most houses destroyed by Hawaiian volcanoes burn down from lava, so fire coverage could pay for damage as long as the fire was caused by radiant heat and not direct contact with lava.

"If we lose it, we lose it," Walter said.

The light gray of the house goes well with the dark gray surface of the property. Like most of the other lots in the Ocean View subdivision, the Rowsells' property sits on top of an old lava flow. Or, more likely, several lava flows.

Volcanologists said a massive eruption covered the area about 240 years ago. Six significant but smaller flows have swept through since then, the most recent in 1950. What worries scientists and civic leaders is another big eruption, which, because of the slope, could pour a river of lava on Ocean View in as little as three hours.

"They could be inundated," said Lanny Nakano, acting director of the Hawaii County Civil Defense, the department in charge of public safety.

The county government has essentially adopted a buyer-beware approach, largely because volcanic eruptions have not caused huge numbers of deaths on the island in more than 200 years. Big Island officials generally allow private property owners to build as they please.

Nevertheless, Nakano said it was more important than ever that he communicated constantly with the island's volcanologists.

More than 25 scientists work full time monitoring the island's volcanoes, using the latest in digital and satellite sensors to detect the slightest sounds and movements. The scientists say, based on previous episodes, they would probably detect a major eruption months in advance. But they're also quick to add that volcanoes are unpredictable.

What transpires deep beneath the surface is largely a mystery, and right now, a lot seems to be going on in the bowels of Mauna Loa.

The island's largest volcano also happens to be the biggest mountain in the world, measured by mass. From its base on the ocean floor to its summit, Mauna Loa, which means "long mountain," measures 56,000 feet tall — almost twice the height of Mt. Everest.

"Mt. St. Helens is a pimple compared to Mauna Loa," said lead scientist Kauahikaua.

Since spring 2002, Mauna Loa has been expanding, indicating that a reservoir of magma is building inside.

Earthquakes close to the surface are common, but scientists continue to puzzle over the hundreds of earthquakes rumbling more than 20 miles below the summit, in the Earth's mantle. These deep earthquakes started the same time the mountain began expanding. As many as 188 have been detected in a single week, most of them small (about magnitude 3) and not felt on the surface.

"This is new, this is unprecedented," Kauahikaua said. "We don't know what it means."

Brenda Domingo has seen what a lava flow can do. A single continuous torrent from Kilauea in 1990 wiped out the village of Kalapana, on the island's eastern shore. About 500 people lost their homes. Domingo and her extended family lost nine houses, including the one in which she and her six siblings were born.

"It was rolling rock, just taking everything, crushing everything," Domingo said.

Hundred-foot hollows in the land were filled like mud puddles. Yet the flow was slow enough that everyone had time to save their precious belongings, in Domingo's case family photos, dishware and traditional Hawaiian floor mats made by her grandmother. A rolling swath of forest burst into flames, and houses burned one after the other. Months would pass before the smoke cleared.

Most of what was Kalapana, a fishing village, is now underneath what looks like a sea of petrified tar, with rivulets and waves hardened in midswirl. The sprouts of giant tree ferns and ohia trees have already begun poking through.

Despite this, Domingo, who lives in a neighboring village, refuses to leave the island. It's home, and she said she could understand why people would want to live here. "It's a beautiful place, and the mountain reminds you life is fragile," she said. "It's sad, but you need to know."

The Rowsells know all about the story of Kalapana. Most residents do; it's part of the continuing legend and enigma of the Big Island.

Walter and Judy have also been hearing the news bulletins about Mauna Loa's strange behaviors. They mostly shrug it off, although it seems to bother Judy some. In one candid moment, she blurted out, "I know we're in denial. We're all in denial on this mountain. But if you're going to be afraid, you have no business living here…. It can happen anywhere."

Judy was alluding to the theory of relative dangers, which is commonly expounded and embraced on the Big Island. The central idea is that no place is completely safe, so why not live here? Southern California has its earthquakes. Florida has hurricanes. The Mississippi Delta has floods.

Hawaii's volcanologists don't want to press their concerns because, after all, they deal in terms of geological time. When they say an eruption is inevitable, it could mean next week or next century. Or next millennium. Civilizations can rise and fall between the clock's ticks. Lives can be lived.

Walter Rowsell concerns himself with a simple practical matter.

"The mountain just needs to hold off for another 10 years. Ten years," he said. "After that, it can do whatever it wants because I won't be here, and I won't care." With that, Rowsell cackles once more, an affectionately defiant laugh, before glancing at his all-gray house and starting off on his daily walk, cane in hand, on the slopes of the world's largest volcano.

Shoppers Try Natural, Unproven Cold Remedies, Sometimes Without Realizing It

http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGBP3W1CV5E.html

By Carla K. Johnson Associated Press Writer
Published: Mar 3, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) - Standing inside a downtown Chicago chain drugstore, shopper Beth McClanahan considered the product Zicam. "I wouldn't have known it was homeopathic," she said looking at the bright orange label. "The name Zicam sounds very scientific."

Stuffy noses and sore throats are driving many cold sufferers to herbal and homeopathic remedies. But like McClanahan, consumers may not realize they're buying alternative medicines when they choose wildly popular products such as Airborne and Zicam - both shelved alongside traditional medicines in the cold and flu aisles of chain drugstores.

The makers of both medicines have paid for their own clinical studies to test their products. But Airborne and Zicam have not been reviewed for safety and effectiveness by the Food and Drug Administration, unlike prescription and new over-the-counter drugs. The law allows their sale unless the FDA proves them harmful.

That concerns some experts.

"I think it's quite confusing for consumers to try to sort out which things have some data showing they actually work," said Dr. Ronald B. Turner, a cold virus expert at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville.

Zicam and other homeopathic products do say on their packaging that they are homeopathic. Zicam, which contains a small amount of zinc, is the nation's third leading nasal spray. Airborne - plugged on Oprah Winfrey's show last fall - is an effervescent tablet containing Chinese herbs, vitamins and echinacea. Its label notes that the FDA has not reviewed its language saying it should be taken at the first sign of cold symptoms.

For drugstore operators, it makes sense to place the remedies where consumers can find them quickly. For the manufacturers, marketing to a wider audience means more sales.

For cold sufferers, the distinction between what's conventional and what's alternative may not be as important as what they believe works.

"There's a reason for the success of these products. Consumers want them and they're effective," said Rider McDowell, co-founder of the company that created Airborne, an herbal supplement that's a best seller at stores like Walgreens, Osco and CVS Pharmacy.

Last month, the Institute of Medicine, citing the popularity of dietary supplements, called for tougher rules to make sure they're safe and effective.

Steven Dentali of the American Herbal Products Association says his group wants new safety requirements such as mandatory reporting of adverse side effects.

"We think our safety record's going to look pretty good," he said, especially compared to a few prescription drugs.

Herbal products and homeopathic remedies are regulated separately, and the law lays out only a few quality controls and labeling rules.

Homeopathy is based on the idea that tiny amounts of certain natural substances stimulate the body's healing response. Some studies seem to suggest that homeopathic remedies work, but many mainstream doctors consider them quackery.

The trend of integrating "natural" remedies with mainstream drugs on store shelves started in the early 1990s. A homeopathic brand called Hyland's, previously only sold in natural food stores, gets credit.

It started by accident, said Hyland's CEO J.P. Borneman. A drugstore chain shelved Hyland's remedy for babies' teething pain with the rest of its teething products. The product was selling well.

"We began to get the suspicion that a few products could hop the fence," Borneman said.

"By 2000, we had a half-dozen products solidly in that class. Then Cold-Eeze and Zicam came on the market and suddenly homeopathy was ubiquitous."

The blurring of lines extends to the product formulas, too.

Cold-Eeze is not as highly diluted as some homeopathic products. A key principle of traditional homeopathy holds that the more diluted a remedy is, the better it works. While Zicam contains one part per 100 of zinc, a Cold-Eeze lozenge contains 13.3 mg of zinc.

"It's not like it's microscopic by any means," said Albert Piechotta, director of marketing and communications for Quigley Corp., maker of Cold-Eeze.

After homeopathic products led the way, the herbal supplement Airborne became the most recent cold remedy crossover success.

"We went out to the mainstream consumer - the working people, the people who really can't afford to be sick," McDowell said.

He gives word of mouth credit for Airborne's buzz. But Oprah Winfrey's plug didn't hurt.

Winfrey featured McDowell's wife, Victoria Knight-McDowell, on her show last September in a segment on everyday women who created million-dollar products. Knight-McDowell told the story of how she was a teacher tired of catching colds in the classroom, so she created her own product.

In 2004, Airborne - "created by a school teacher" - sold more than $16 million at drugstores, according to Information Resources Inc., a company that tracks retail sales. That was a 200 percent increase over the previous year.

Airborne is now considered a "destination product," said Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce. "Consumers come to the store and they're sick and they want to find it. So we merchandise it where they're most likely to go first, the cold and flu section."

Back in the Chicago drugstore, McClanahan wasn't ruling out Zicam after learning it was a homeopathic product.

"I would try it," she said. But not on this day. She reached for Sudafed. "I need something to clear my head."

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/supplements.htm

AP-ES-03-03-05 1409EST

Metaphysics society premieres indie film

http://www.oudaily.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2005/02/18/4215cc3379432?in_archive=1

"The Silver Chord" explores the past lives of 10 people.
Jason Rider - Daily Staff Writer

February 18, 2005

The past lifetimes of 10 individuals through different periods of time, from Atlantis to Ancient Egypt to Ireland in the 1800s, will be portrayed by students from the School of Metaphysics in this Sunday's premiere of "The Silver Chord."

The independent film, directed by Barbara Condron, an instructor at the School of Metaphysics, is based on 30 years of research. In it, 10 students act out their individual former lives, as discovered through intuitive reports called past life profiles.

Chris Sheehan, a student at the School of Metaphysics, plays his past life character Hatu, the Atlantaen priest who is the first to be introduced in the film.

"We're up there embodying our own past lives," he said. "When captured on film, it offers a very unique perspective—real people playing who they really were in a former lifetime."

The experiences and lessons of Sheehan's "character" along with that of the snake charmer in Persia and the Hopi Indian in North America, among the film's other roles, are told in relation, providing a continuous story of the soul's journey through the centuries.

"Each past life is told through the soul's perspective," Sheehan said.

In this way, the 10 lives are woven together and connected only by the idea of the "silver chord."

The silver chord, derived from an Ecclesiastes quote in the Bible, as explained by the Society for Intuitive Research's Web site, is "a stream of consciousness connecting the soul with the body, the spiritual with the physical, the eternal with the temporal."

Jason Manzano, president of the Norman chapter of the Society for Intuitive Research and music senior, said he thinks the film will be a "life-changing experience."

"Any movie out there is based on something created out of imagination," he said. "But in this film, based on intuitive research, we're interpreting real past lives. There's an inherent truth in the film."

Audience members interested in receiving a past life profile of their own may have the opportunity to receive one after the premiere, as School of Metaphysics members will be on-hand to answer questions and offer intuitive information. The director and cast members of the film will also be available for a panel discussion.

"The Silver Chord," sponsored by the Society for Intuitive Research, will be shown free to the public at 1 p.m. today in Meacham Auditorium in Oklahoma Memorial Union.

Praise for Quackwatch (and snopes)

Tue, 08 Mar 2005 14:25:18 -0500 From: "Thomas J Wheeler"

From the Healthfraud list:

The current issue of "The Week" magazine says:

The Internet...
The Best Health Sites

About 40% of all people who search the Internet for health issues begin with Google. "Experts say that isn't necessarily the best place to start." Try these excellent sites first.

- Medlineplus.gov makes a "great starting point: for your research. The site deals with a wide range of subjects, from drugs to clinical trials to tutorials on tests like mammograms and colonoscopies.

-Quackwatch.org monitors "health frauds, myths, and fads." It also links to sites dealing with alternative medicine, medical device safety, and health infomercial claims.

-Snope.com reasearches "urban legends" about medicine, pregnancy, food, and consumer products. "Wondering if that e-mail you got about a deodorant's link to cancer is true?" Snopes.com will tell you.

Source: The Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier.

Congratulations to Stephen Barrett!!

Harriet Hall, M.D.


Monday, March 07, 2005

MIOS MEETING Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

See Dr. Jobe Martin's New Video

Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution III

Dr. Martin enters the fascinating world of animals to reveal sophisticated, complex designs that shake the traditional foundations of evolutionary theory; lion-killing birds, storm-sensing dogs and fasting emperor penguins. You will not only be inspired to look more closely at the world around you, but you will see powerful evidence that animal designs can not be explained adequately without a creator.

Dr. Martin began his scientific career as a dentist, and a believer in evolution. Some of his students challenged him to prove that evolution was correct. As he studied the topic he began to see that most of the world is heavily indoctrinated from their earliest education to believe in an earth that was created billions of years and life which evolved from non-life. Yet there is very little scientific evidence to back up this version of origins. Over the course of the next decade he uncovered abundant evidence that evolution is simply not provable, and is in fact, incredible.

Don't miss this fascinating presentation.

Bucky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX

Tuesday, March 1st, 7:30 PM

Giant of 20th Century Physics Dies

"Science is always more unsolved questions, and its great advantage is you can prove something is true or something is false. You can't do that about human affairs -- most human things can be right from one point of view and wrong from another. It is the most wonderful feeling when you come to a real answer. This is it, and this is correct! In science, you know you know."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14079-2005Mar7.html

washingtonpost.com

By Ben Dobbin The Associated Press Monday, March 7, 2005; 12:56 PM

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Hans Bethe, one of the last of the giants of 20th century physics, who played a pivotal role in designing the first atomic bomb and won a Nobel Prize for figuring out how the sun and other stars generate energy, has died at the age of 98.

Bethe died Sunday at his home, Cornell University announced Monday.

During World War II, he was a key figure in the building of the first atomic bomb as head of the Manhattan Project's theoretical physics division at Los Alamos, N.M.

Bethe (BAY'-tuh), who fled Nazi Germany and joined the Cornell faculty in 1935, also made major discoveries about how atoms are built up from smaller particles, about what makes dying stars blow up as supernovas, and how the heavier elements are produced from the ashes of these supernovas.

He averaged a scientific breakthrough every decade or so, beginning in the golden age of physics between the world wars, and became one of the 20th century's most accomplished and admired scientists.

Bethe "sort of taught other scientists how to do science simply," said Edwin Salpeter, 81, an astrophysicist and professor emeritus of physical sciences at Cornell who met Bethe in 1947. "Richard Feynman was a great genius too, maybe even greater, but common mortals were not able to learn as much from Feynman just because he operated so completely differently from other people. Whereas one of the great things about Bethe was that he worked like other people, only much better."

Feynman, who won a Nobel Prize in physics in 1965 and who also helped develop the atomic bomb, died in 1988.

Bethe worked into his 90s at Cornell University's Newman Laboratory of Nuclear Studies, devoting many solitary afternoons to his passion: numbers.

"I think it's very useful for keeping me young," he said in an interview in late 1996, his measured, resonant baritone inflected with his native German accent.

Bethe's indefatigable aura earned him the nickname of "The Battleship" at Los Alamos, the laboratory in New Mexico where the atomic bomb was developed.

Even though the atomic bomb designers knew its calamitous potential, the weapon's reality "was worse than we expected," Bethe reflected in an interview with The Associated Press in November 1996. "After Hiroshima, many of us said: 'Let's see that it doesn't happen again."'

Bethe played key roles in the 1963 and 1972 bans on atmospheric nuclear tests and anti-ballistic missiles.

Born in Strasbourg in 1906, Bethe fled Nazi Germany in 1933 after losing a university post because his mother was Jewish.

Bethe emerged in an era bursting with discoveries about the fundamental building blocks of matter. In the infancy of modern atomic theory, he spelled out what was known and unknown in nuclear physics in a classic series of papers dubbed Bethe's Bible.

He also investigated the structure of atoms, molecules and solids, devised techniques for calculating the properties of nuclear matter and laid the groundwork for the development of quantum electrodynamics.

In 1938, leading nuclear physicists were invited to crack a pivotal enigma that had long stumped the best scientific minds: the sun's energy source, and Bethe came up with his Nobel Prize-winning "carbon cycle" formula six weeks later. He showed that virtually all the energy produced by the most brilliant stars stems from a fusion reaction in which hydrogen serves as the fuel and carbon as the catalyst.

From a total of 300 published research papers, his choice of 20 favorites for a 1997 book collection included a few recent ones on the collapse of stars.

After retiring from teaching in 1975, Bethe turned to astrophysics, a field he previously had only dipped into.

With his grasp of so many fields of theoretical physics, Bethe was persuaded by astrophysicist Gerald Brown to delve into the macro-mysteries of mighty star explosions, or supernovae. Their collaboration quickly turned heads. A 1979 paper upended long-held assumptions about the density of a collapsing star's core.

At his zenith, there seemed to be few well-defined conundrums of the cosmos that Bethe couldn't master. He could not program the simplest computer, but had no trouble digesting reams of supercomputer readouts. For help, he reached into his briefcase for a slide rule he had carried around for 70 years.

He also had a habit of taking a 30-minute bath each morning.

"You sleep and things get somewhat unscrambled in your mind," he said in 1996. "Then in the bath, I can become conscious of that."

Science had been Bethe's hunger since boyhood.

"You see, most philosophical questions were quite well answered by the old Greeks, and even better by people from 1500 to 1800," he said. As for deciphering human character, "I don't think Shakespeare has ever been surpassed.

"Science is always more unsolved questions, and its great advantage is you can prove something is true or something is false. You can't do that about human affairs -- most human things can be right from one point of view and wrong from another.

"It is the most wonderful feeling when you come to a real answer. This is it, and this is correct! In science, you know you know."

He is survived by his wife, Rose, a son and a daughter.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Evolution education update: legislation in AL, progress in SC, a disclaimer nixed in AR, Hosler and Branch on NPR

"Alternative theories" legislation reappears in Alabama, while antievolution language is stripped from a bill in South Carolina and a school board in Arkansas agrees to remove evolution warning labels from its textbooks. And Jay Hosler and Glenn Branch will be on NPR's Morning Edition show on February 14.

LEGISLATION IN ALABAMA

On February 8, 2005, a pair of bills -- House Bill 352 and Senate Bill 240 -- was introduced in the Alabama legislature, under the rubric of "The Academic Freedom Act." Virtually identical, these bills purport to protect the right of teachers "to present scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories" and the right of students to "hold positions regarding scientific views." In language reminiscent of the Santorum language removed from the No Child Left Behind Act, they specify that "[t]he rights and privileges contained in this act apply when topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological or chemical origins." Presumably attempting to avert the charge that their provisions would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the bills also state that "Nothing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or non-religion." SB 240 was referred to the Senate Committee on Constitution, Campaign Financial, Ethics, and Elections, while HB 352 was referred to the House Committee on Education.

In February 2004, a similar pair of bills -- HB 391 and SB 336 -- was introduced in the Alabama legislature, with significant overlap in the sponsorship list: Representative Jim Carns (R-District 48) was the sole sponsor of HB 391 and HB 352, and Senators Henry E. Erwin (R-District 12) and Wendell Mitchell (D-District 30) sponsored both SB 336 and SB 240. In 2004, Mitchell reportedly defended SB 336 by saying, "I think there is a tremendous ill-balance in the classroom when you can't discuss all viewpoints. This bill will level the playing field because it allows a teacher to bring forward the biblical creation story of humankind," although he later commented, "We are trying to take every step we can to ensure that the people who are operating under this legislation are not challenged on the idea it is a religious effort." SB 336 was passed by unanimous votes of the Senate Education Committee and the full Senate in 2004, and by a 9-1 vote of the House Education Committee; although the bill was on the agenda for the final day of the legislature's session, the legislature adjourned without considering it.

For the text of SB 240 as introduced, visit:
http://alisdb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/searchableinstruments/2005rs/bills/sb240.htm

For NCSE's story about the fate of the Alabama antievolution bills in 2004, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2004/AL/998_alabama_legislature_lets_sb336_5_18_2004.asp

PROGRESS IN SOUTH CAROLINA

According to the Associated Press, a South Carolina education subcommittee removed the provision from S 114 that would have established a South Carolina Science Standards Committee to "study standards regarding the teaching of the origin of species; determine whether there is a consensus on the definition of science; [and] determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools." Robert Dillon, who teaches biology at the College of Charleston, told the subcommittee, "There is no alternative to evolution that is science." Now shorn of its antievolution language, S 114 is bound for the full Education Committee.

For the AP story in The State, visit:
http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/10856970.htm

For NCSE's previous story about S 114 and its history, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2005/SC/155_antievolution_legislation_afoo_1_3_2005.asp

A DISCLAIMER NIXED IN ARKANSAS

In a press release issued on February 10, 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union announced that the Beebe School District in Beebe, Arkansas, agreed to remove warning labels from its science textbooks which describe evolution as "a controversial theory" and refer to an "intelligent designer" as a possible explanation of the origin of life. An attorney for the school district told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (February 11, 2005) that "it was his understanding that the stickers had been placed in the textbooks as long ago as the early to mid-1990s." The school district's decision was prompted by a letter from the ACLU of Arkansas citing the recent decision in Selman v. Cobb County School District, which held that similar stickers used in Cobb County, Georgia, violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. "We commend the Beebe School District for avoiding unnecessary and costly litigation in this matter," said Rita Sklar, the executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, adding, "However, we are concerned that these stickers may be present in textbooks around the state," and offering her organization's legal guidance to the Arkansas Department of Education. The stickers will be removed at the end of the school year.

For the ACLU's press release, visit:
http://www.aclu.org/ReligiousLiberty/ReligiousLiberty.cfm?ID=17456&c=139

For NCSE's story, including the complete text of the Beebe evolution warning label, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2005/AS/236_evolution_warning_label_remove_2_11_2005.asp

HOSLER AND BRANCH ON NPR

Be sure to tune into NPR's Morning Edition show on Monday, February 14! Scientist-cum-cartoonist (and NCSE member) Jay Hosler, scientist-cum-cartoonist Jim Ottaviani, and NCSE deputy director Glenn Branch were interviewed by National Public Radio's art correspondent Neda Ulaby as part of her continuing Science and Art series, and the piece is scheduled to air in the first hour of Morning Edition on February 14. Hosler, who teaches biology at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, also wrote and illustrated two delightful graphic novels on biological themes -- Clan Apis (about honeybee development, behavior, and ecology) and The Sandwalk Adventures (in which Darwin explains evolution to a follicle mite dwelling in his left eyebrow). Reviewing the latter for BioScience, Branch wrote, "Beyond its engaging art and its snappy dialogue, The Sandwalk Adventures is pedagogically sophisticated ... Hosler is also sensitive to the fact that neophytes are likely to have already encountered, and perhaps imbibed, creationist propaganda." Expect Hosler to talk about his published and future work, and Branch to comment on the creationism-evolution debate as it plays out in the funny pages.

To locate the NPR station nearest you, visit:
http://www.npr.org/stations/

To purchase The Sandwalk Adventures (and benefit NCSE in the process), visit:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/0967725518/nationalcenter02/

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

With best wishes for an enlightening Darwin Day,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Panel revising state science standards shifts focus to non-evolution issues

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/10973046.htm

Posted on Wed, Feb. 23, 2005

BILL DRAPER

Associated Press

SALINA, Kan. - The state's science education standards fill about 105 pages, of which only three or four are on the topic of evolution.

Steve Case, co-chairman of a committee that's rewriting those standards, said Wednesday the panel has more important things to do than spend all of its time debating a controversial issue that ultimately will be decided by the state Board of Education.

"These standards cover all of the sciences in K-12," Case said. "The evolution debate is just one part, but it's the majority of the social discussion."

Currently, the state's standards for science education describe evolution as a key concept students should learn. Some conservative members of the state board have questioned whether the committee has properly considered views about creationism or intelligent design alongside evolution.

A minority of members on Case's committee have said it's not fair to teach evolution as an explanation of the origin of life without also including the possibility that life was formed by an intelligent being.

Intelligent design is a secular form of creationism that argues the Earth was created by a series of events caused by some intelligent force, not random chance. Evolution says that species change in response to environmental and genetic factors over the course of many generations.

When the discussion briefly turned to evolution in a small-group meeting Wednesday, the debate became tense when members began arguing whether true Christians can believe in evolution.

"Discussions of faith and belief are not appropriate for us around this table, because my religion is none of your damn business," said Case, who supports teaching evolution.

Committee member Jack Krebs called the exchange "a microcosm of the critical issues."

"Science is being made the target of a cultural battle, and education has been made the vehicle," Krebs said. "For some, unless their beliefs are validated by science, they're going to be upset. For the rest of us, it's not an issue."

Some committee members said they believe anything the group decides on evolution will be changed to fit the views of the state board, which has appointed a panel of three board members to study the issue.

Supporters of teaching intelligent design say ignoring that view creates a bias in the science standards in favor of evolution. Some said banning religious discussion from schools is tantamount to the creation of a communist society in which religion has no place.

The committee spent most of Wednesday working on a second draft of suggested standards that will be presented to the state board. Committee members will later make further revisions after getting input from the board on the second draft.

Five vie for seat in Dover

http://www.yorkdispatch.com/Stories/0,1413,138~10023~2730225,00.html

Views vary on school debate

By CHRISTINA KAUFFMAN The York Dispatch

Five Dover Area School District residents have requested to fill a seat left vacant by board member Angie Yingling's resignation.

Yesterday was the deadline for interested parties to apply to fill the seat.

The list includes applicants from many sides of the district's debate over intelligent design, which attributes the origin of life to a higher being.

Applicant James Cashman is one of six parents who wants to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed by 11 district parents and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU suit seeks to remove intelligent design, which attributes human origin to a higher being, from biology curriculum. Cashman and the other intervening parents want to keep intelligent design in the curriculum.

Terry Emig recently announced his candidacy in the May primary under a group called Dover C.A.R.E.S. (Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies).

The group's platform includes discussing intelligent design in "the proper forum," such as in a religion class instead of in biology classes. Other applicants include Mike Arnold, Mike Foreman and William Trimmer.

Trimmer angered some Dover students in 2001 when he said students should be more patriotic.

There are four four-year seats and three two-year terms open on the school board in the May 17 primary. Several residents of varied opinions have said they intend to run, but Dover C.A.R.E.S. is the first group to announce candidates.

The Rev. Warren Eshbach, a retired Church of the Brethren minister, is acting as spokesman for the group. He has said the group wants "to provide our citizens with positive and viable alternatives to the current climate in our district."

Current board members voted to include intelligent design in the biology curriculum, and those appointed by the board to fill vacancies left by resignations have generally agreed with the philosophies it has set forth.

Yingling voted to include a statement about intelligent design in the school's curriculum, but later said she did so because she was pressured and accused of being "un-Christian."

Yingling resigned Feb. 7, saying she did not "want to be associated" with the board. She read a statement that accused board members of having "personal religious agendas" and appearing like "religious zealots preaching from the shadows."

The board will interview the applicants Feb. 28.

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5434 or ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.

The ignorance of intelligent design

http://www.currentsauce.com/news/2005/02/24/Opinions/The-Ignorance.Of.Intelligent.Design-876409.shtml

By Jason Cole
Published: Thursday, February 24, 2005

It seems that the Scopes Trial was just the beginning. Everyone should remember last year when lobbyists in Georgia proposed legislation banning the use of the word "evolution" in classrooms.

After all, doing so might provide children with the highly heretical notion that organisms adapt to selective pressures in order to survive. Well, the religious right has finally surrendered (for now) the attempt to dispel Darwin's hypothesis from biology classes entirely. They are placing all of their bets on the proposition to include teachings about evolution as evidence of intelligent design.

The idea of intelligent design is a covert ruse of certain groups with a social agenda. They want to teach the kiddies that natural occurrences often described as evolution occur under the supervision of a cosmic architect in accordance with a certain creation myth.

I think anyone can realize the implications of this manner of thinking. Members of said demographic are attempting to get a foot in the door to circumvent separation of church and state and then resume their crusade to permanently erase the voyage of the H. M. S. Beagle from existence.

The purpose of this entry is not to present an argument supporting the theory of evolution. I am not an expert in this field nor am I a biology student, and therefore I am certain I do not grasp the intricate details of the theory enough to defend it against the most knowledgeable critics in the opposition.

Like Daniel Dennett says in his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea, "There is no such thing as a sound Argument from Authority." However, I highly recommend any of you who have questions on the subject to read Dennett's book for any needed clarification on the truth about the theory.

There is a longstanding tradition of separation of church and state, and considering that they have not really been separate until recent decades, I believe this movement is deplorable.

If our education system decides to start misrepresenting the emergence of life, let's throw in the Chinese account about the world being carried on the back of a giant frog when it's time to go to astrophysics class.

That makes about as much sense as every living organism being created arbitrarily in a twenty-four hour period in its current state sans homo sapiens. Us humans got to crash the party a day later because we are the center of the universe, unless you are a PETA member.

Anyway, most kids do not pay attention in class anyway and if their belief system is so unstable that a simple hour of scientific theory will shake their faith, then perhaps it was the parents that failed.

Anyway, there is already a plausible solution for parents that want to preserve these misconceptions. Just do the same thing my parents did when they became disgusted with the public education system and pay tuition for a private faith-based education.

During my senior year the biology instructor debunked the evils of Darwin in her biology II class by showing the movie Fantasia and having students take note of scientific errors during the sequence featuring events that resemble evolution.

I am appreciative of the fact that I received my high school "diploma" from an unaccredited institution that used a 1941 Disney animation showcasing the music of Leopold Sokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra as an example of definitive scientific evidence.

If you have something to say or are curious about anything not covered here, write at che.disciple@gmail.com. I welcome any and all debate.

Jason Cole is a Louisiana Scholars' College student. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Sauce staff or of the University.


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

Current News  News Back Issues


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