NTS LogoSkeptical News for 13 May 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, May 13, 2005

A real monkey trial


At Kansas' mock trial of evolution, the creationist majority flaunted its ignorance of high-school level science. How close is the religious right to bringing God into the classroom?

By Peter Dizikes

May 13, 2005 | On the second day of Kansas' mock trial of evolution, Kathy Martin created a moment to remember.

Martin is a member of Kansas' Board of Education and part of a 6-4 majority that appears dead set on changing state standards so the creationist theory of intelligent design, and perhaps other religious ideas, can be taught in science classes along with evolution. Martin and her creationist colleagues are ready to override a report recently issued by scientists and educators on Kansas' curriculum committee, which wants to keep the state's solid science standards intact.

But Martin had trouble even articulating just what she dislikes about the current standards. Martin, you see, has not really read the curriculum committee's report, nor does she think such scrutiny is necessary.

"Please don't feel bad that you haven't read the whole thing," Martin told a creationist "witness" at the hearings on the science curriculum, "because I haven't read it myself." Audience members groaned. To clarify, Martin later explained: "I'm not a word-for-word reader in this kind of technical information." So it went at Kansas' evolution hearings, which concluded Thursday, a Board of Education event where a concrete understanding of all that pesky technical information involved in science was apparently considered unnecessary to reach a verdict on evolution.

"This is absolutely and thoroughly a kangaroo court," says Jack Krebs, a science teacher who co-founded Kansas Citizens for Science (KCFS), a pro-evolution group, to combat the state's notorious 1999 decision -- since reversed -- to drop evolution from its required science curriculum. "The board committee was not even capable of understanding science at the high school level. They had neither the desire nor the competence to be any kind of judge." Nonetheless, having staged its elaborate mock trial, complete with testimony and cross-examination, the board is expected to approve by August new guidelines that many feel will allow religious views to be a part of science education.

Fearing the fix was already in for creationism, scientists around the globe adhered to a KCFS-organized boycott of the event, regarding it as a publicity stunt concocted by officials. "It's frankly not a controversy," said Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, about the hearings. "In the scientific community, evolution is an accepted fact." Krebs, though, sat through the hearings, which began in Topeka on May 5, watching a parade of creationists testify about intelligent design, and working with evolution's lone advocate in the proceedings: Topeka civil rights lawyer Pedro Irigonegaray, who concluded matters with a presentation highlighting the religious underpinnings of intelligent design -- the contemporary version of the 19th century argument that life is too complex to have evolved incrementally from simple forms.

Krebs, like others around the country who have stood up for evolution in recent years, regards the current creationist fixation on intelligent design as a wedge, intended to open the door to the introduction of a wide range of creationist ideas in science classrooms. For that matter, he also views the entire struggle over evolution as merely a wedge in the religious right's efforts to tear down the constitutional wall between church and state. "This is all part of a bigger political struggle," says Krebs, matter-of-factly. And some creationists agree. "If you believe God created [a] baby, it makes it a whole lot harder to get rid of that baby," Terry Fox, pastor of the Southern Baptist Ministry in Wichita, told a Washington Post reporter this spring. "If you can cause enough doubt on evolution, liberalism will die."

Indeed, while the battle over evolution is not necessarily fought along strict party lines, it contains many of the familiar dynamics of contemporary American party politics. Evolution's advocates feel they have the facts on their side but admit they struggle with complacency within their constituency. The pro-evolution forces also acknowledge they must catch up to creationists in organization and strategy, in order to combat a well-funded, aggressive opposition with a penchant for slick sound bites, message discipline, and a current strategy of cloaking radical aims in innocuous-sounding rhetoric. More than any other event this year, the mock trial in Kansas -- timed for the 80th anniversary of Tennessee's famous 1925 Scopes trial, in an apparent signal to religious fellow travelers -- bring these issues into sharp relief and lay bare the strategies and tactics of the two sides in this struggle.

More than anything else, the nature of the struggle in Kansas demonstrates how much creationist tactics have changed since the state's 1999 anti-evolution episode. Now as then, the driving force behind the creationists is Steve Abrams, a veterinarian, former Kansas gubernatorial candidate, one-time chairman of the state Republican Party, and current chairman of the Board of Education. In 1999, however, Abrams and his allies backed a version of creationism heavily dependent on the biblical creation stories in the book of Genesis. By contrast, for this month's hearings, the Board of Education brought in a long string of advocates of intelligent design, who argued that standard evolutionary biology is based on incomplete evidence and that some sort of designer must have been at work to develop life.

Abrams himself still publicly admits he is a so-called young-Earth creationist -- one who believes Earth is as little as 5,000 years old, based on a reading of the Bible. Intelligent design advocates are more likely to acknowledge an age closer to the current scientific standard -- 4.5 billion years -- and, in their testimony at the hearings, held fast to the current creationist strategy of publicly de-emphasizing religion as the source of their beliefs.

During cross-examinations, Irigonegaray asked questions intended to bring out this connection, making intermittent headway. For instance, when Russell Carlson, an intelligent design advocate and biochemist from the University of Georgia, testified, Irigonegaray queried him about the integral role a deity plays in the theory. "In your view the intelligent designer is God, is it not?" asked Irigonegaray. "Well, yeah, I would agree with that," Carlson replied. It may not seem likely that a Christian who believes in intelligent design pictures a designer other than God, but most intelligent design advocates were more circumspect in their answers than Carlson.

Looming behind this kind of sparring, like backdrops on a stage set, lie political and legal events that show why creationists are taking a more indirect approach. Politically, in 1999, Kansas became the butt of jokes after bluntly dropping evolution from its science requirements. The ensuing backlash helped pro-evolution moderates regain power on the Board of Education. "At the time, I said democracy got us into this and it will get us out of it," says John Staver, a professor of science education at Kansas State University, who co-chaired the state's science curriculum committee after the 1999 debacle and helped reinstitute evolution in the classroom.

But in 2004, some conservative Republicans unseated their more moderate GOP counterparts in primary elections for the Board of Education, tipping the balance back to the creationists. "When the primary elections were tallied last summer, we knew we would have an ultra-conservative religious-right majority of 6 to 4," says Staver. Democracy, he adds wryly, has "now gotten us back into it." Abrams, Martin, and their creationist colleagues promptly used the state's regularly scheduled curriculum review to reopen the door for creationism -- by handpicking pro-creationist allies to serve on the state's curriculum committee and draft their own report (as a counterpart to the one Martin has merely skimmed).

A principal aim of the creationists is to scrub the definition of "science" from Kansas classrooms -- now described as "human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations" for phenomena -- and to replace it with a more general definition lacking the words "natural explanations." If that sounds like an innocuous change -- well, that's the aim. By removing the notion of "natural explanations" as part of science, the creationists aim to give religion a foothold in the classroom, in the name of scientific balance.

"They are just as creationist as ever," Eugenie Scott, president of the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif., pro-evolution clearinghouse, told me in an interview before the Kansas hearings began. "But they've learned not just to boot evolution out, since that gets them laughed at on 'Letterman.'" Fox, the Wichita pastor, acknowledged as much in March: "The strategy this time is not to go for the whole enchilada. We're trying to be a little more subtle."

This approach is not just a political or public-relations strategy, however, but a legal one. The legal backdrop to the 2005 Kansas evolution dispute is, plainly, the U.S. Supreme Court's 1987 decision banning creation science from the classroom -- a ruling that also fits into some familiar-feeling political contours. When then-Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas lost his reelection bid to Republican Frank White in 1980, White, riding a wave of conservative confidence after the election, wasted little time signing the so-called Balanced Treatment Act mandating that creationism join evolution in the classroom. Based on the model recommended by the dominant creationist think tank of the time, the Institute for Creation Research in Southern California, the act featured an approach to creationism based on biblical literalism.

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the Arkansas law in court and won, with the presiding judge ruling that the law was inspired by the book of Genesis, had "no scientific merit," and had as its sole goal "the advancement of religion." This violated the First Amendment by bringing sectarian beliefs into the classroom. Soon after, a Louisiana judge struck down a similar measure in that state -- a ruling creationists appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court upheld the ruling, with Justice William Brennan's majority opinion saying the Louisiana law was meant to "provide persuasive advantage to a particular religious doctrine that rejects the factual basis of evolution."

These days, therefore, Genesis and biblical literalism are out as the public rationales for creationism. Intelligent design and its leading think tank, the Discovery Institute of Seattle, are in, as creationists search for an approach that appears broad enough to withstand legal scrutiny. In this vein, this year the Kansas Board of Education also brought in advocates with a variety of religious backgrounds -- like Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish newspaper columnist and Muslim who tried to make the case that teaching evolution in the United States generates "anti-Westernism" in other parts of the world. In so doing, they are trying to present a public face for creationism that cannot be defined as representing a particular religious sect.

"I think there's no doubt that in order to solve some problems that got defeated back in the 1980s, the I.D. movement has been designed to make things look more like science, and less like religion," says Krebs. And it might work. While both sides, predictably, have claimed to have scored points at the hearings, the Kansas' Board of Education will almost certainly get its way for now.

That only underlines some of the inherent problems that evolution's advocates face -- like usually being in a reactive position. In most states, after all, science's backers merely want to maintain the status quo, while creationists can create energy for themselves by trying to overturn the established order. "It's an asymmetric situation," notes Nicholas Matzke, a spokesperson for the NCSE. Foundations like the Discovery Institute, which produced creationist witnesses at the Kansas hearings, are better funded than their pro-evolution opponents and churn out sound bites by the score. "Teach the controversy," for instance, is a favorite slogan of creationists, who say their own dissent is evidence that a scientific controversy exists.

Similarly, in many states, creationist efforts to change curricula are based on the template of the "Santorum language," a nonbinding statement that GOP Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania attached to the 2001 No Child Left Behind education bill, which stipulates that where "evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy." That claim, evolution's backers say, is a back-door way of introducing religion-based theories of creation to science classes.

There are some basic rules of engagement evolutionists have developed in recent years, though. One is that these tussles are, ultimately, local. "It's always got to be an on-location fight," says Krebs. Politically, these are battles for seats on school boards, at both the state and the district levels, and involve monitoring the regular reviews of state science curricula, which usually occur every four or five years. Thus, getting local pro-science figures involved is crucial. Statements of support from the AAAS might sound good in theory, but local scientists carry much more influence.

Take the situation in New Mexico, one of the most interesting successes evolution's backers have had in striking back against creationists. After the state Board of Education slipped pro-creationism language into the curriculum standards in 1996, physicist Marshall Berman of Sandia National Laboratories ran for a position on the school board himself. Helped in part by the endorsements of New Mexico's admittedly high percentage of prominent scientists, Berman won a seat in 1998 and within about a year had changed the school standards back.

Berman also says he cultivated a strategy an increasing number of science groups are now taking up -- reaching out to moderates and religious leaders who are willing to accept evolution. "I think the appropriate approach is to make it very clear that this is not a struggle between religion and atheism," Berman says. "After people realized I didn't have horns and was not a monster ... we returned modern biology and geology to the curriculum." Like Krebs, Berman also believes that "evolution is just a wedge -- the beginning of an attempt to do away with the separation of church and state in this country." Thus he thinks a crucial part of forming a solid pro-evolution coalition is recruiting religious leaders who still appreciate that separation.

This is where national organizations can, in fact, combine with local pro-science groups to reach out to religious groups. The AAAS, for its part, is publishing a new book for distribution in religious communities this summer, "The Evolution Dialogues," about the process of balancing both religious belief and acceptance of evolution. "We're trying to demonstrate that it's not necessary to abandon faith to believe in evolution," says Jim Miller, a program manager at the AAAS who has led many of the organization's religious outreach efforts and who is also an ordained Presbyterian minister.

That may not be the approach favored by, say, fans of evolutionary biologist (and noted atheist) Richard Dawkins. But as Miller points out, many religious moderates already believe in the idea of a transcendent intelligence behind the world; intelligent design appeals precisely to these groups of people, "most of whom don't have any scientific background at all," he notes.

Finally, in states like Kansas and Michigan, where creationist efforts have coincided with state policy programs to improve the economy by developing the life-sciences industries, pro-science advocates are beginning to express support for evolution in economic terms: A good educational system will help the kids of today get jobs tomorrow and help attract business to the area. Even as his side suffers a setback in Kansas -- and in part because of it -- Krebs thinks active support for protecting the teaching of evolution will grow.

"The mainstream religious community, the business world, the scientific community, they haven't always taken this as a serious threat, but they're starting to," says Krebs. "We're seeing a much greater level of concern than we had in 1999." After all, the notion that bad science education can lead to fewer jobs in the future is an argument almost everyone can follow -- even if they don't want to read a bunch of technical stuff about science.


Lou Dobbs offered his own "facts" on evolution


During a debate on "the origin of life," CNN host Lou Dobbs stated on his own authority: "The fact is that evolution, Darwinism, is not a fully explained or completely rigorous and defined science that has testable results within it." The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which advises the federal government on "scientific and technical matters," disagrees with Dobbs' "facts" about evolution.

The NAS considers evolution "the central unifying concept of biology" and "one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have." The academy's 1999 book Science and Creationism (National Academies Press, 1999) further states:

Progress in science consists of the development of better explanations for the causes of natural phenomena. Scientists never can be sure that a given explanation is complete and final. Some of the hypotheses advanced by scientists turn out to be incorrect when tested by further observations or experiments. Yet many scientific explanations have been so thoroughly tested and confirmed that they are held with great confidence.

The theory of evolution is one of these well-established explanations. An enormous amount of scientific investigation since the mid-19th century has converted early ideas about evolution proposed by Darwin and others into a strong and well-supported theory. Today, evolution is an extremely active field of research, with an abundance of new discoveries that are continually increasing our understanding of how evolution occurs.

NAS is comprised of 2,000 members and 350 foreign associates, including more than 190 Nobel Prize winners.

With Dobbs expressing skepticism on the scientific validity of evolution, the debate on the May 12 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight appeared to be stacked 3 to 1 against those embracing "the central unifying concept of biology." The discussion featured "intelligent design" proponent Jonathan Wells, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute; creationism proponent John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research; and Florida State University philosophy of science professor Michael Ruse, who is critical of allowing intelligent design and creationism to be taught alongside of, or in place of, evolution. From the May 12 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: The fact is that evolution, Darwinism, is not a fully explained or completely rigorous and defined science that has testable results within it. Like a --

RUSE: Now, who says that? Is that you?

DOBBS: I do. I do.


DOBBS: And, in that degree, if one moves aside from the issue and suggests that creationism be taught within a religious class, within the schools, and one looks at the prospect of intelligent design and evolution, with critical thought -- because you say life was 4-and-a-half billion years ago, the planet began 4-and-a-half billion years ago -- we continue to change our views scientifically on when what occurred, that is, in terms of missing links within the family tree of life on this planet. Is there anything wrong with criticizing evolution in your minds?

Lou Dobbs
One CNN Center, Box 105366, Atlanta, GA 30303-5366
Phone: 404-827-1500
Fax: 404-827-1906
Lou Dobbs Tonight

Go ahead, teach Darwinism, but tell both sides of the story


By Stephen C. Meyer and John Angus Campbell

Posted on Tue, May. 10, 2005

What should public schools teach about the origin and development of life? Should science educators teach only Darwinian theory? 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?

The Kansas State Board of Education is holding hearings to determine what Kansas students should learn about Darwinian evolution and to address some of these very questions.

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 ideas, they run afoul of Supreme Court rulings.

We think there is a more constructive way to advance science education that also gives students and parents a diversity of perspectives at stake in the biology curriculum.

Teach it as a theory

We propose that teachers should present Darwin's theory of evolution as Darwin himself did, as a credible, but contestable, argument. Rather than teaching Darwinian evolution as an incontrovertible ``truth,'' teachers should present the main arguments for contemporary Darwinism and encourage students to evaluate these arguments critically as they would any other theory, whether new or long established.

There are several good reasons for teaching science, and Darwinian evolution, this way.

First, teaching scientific controversies and arguments helps students understand the nature of science. Contrary to the ``technicians in white coats'' stereotype of science, in which it is assumed that facts generate scientific theories in an almost automatic way, scientists typically deliberate, and argue, about how best to interpret evidence.

Second, teaching current scientific arguments for and against a theory is necessary to give students an accurate understanding of the current status of a theory. And, in the case of contemporary Darwinism, there are significant scientific criticisms of the theory that students should know about.

For example, 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 -- including most animal body plans -- emerged suddenly without clear precursors. This directly challenges the Darwinian picture of the history of life stemming from one fully connected branching-tree.

For this reason, nearly 400 Ph.D.-level scientists, including researchers from institutions such as MIT, Yale and the Smithsonian, have recently signed a statement questioning the creative power of the natural selection mechanism. Fifteen such dissenting scientists were among those testifying to encourage the Kansas State Board to adopt a more inclusive controversy-based curriculum.

Shouldn't informed biology students know that some scientists question key aspects of evolutionary theory and why they do?

It seems like a majority of the public thinks so. Interestingly, 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.

And the 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.''

Evaluation techniques

Finally, teaching science as argument helps prepare students to be informed citizens. Today's science education must prepare citizens to decide many issues requiring scientific knowledge -- from personal health-care issues to stem-cell research, end-of-life questions, environmental policy, and decisions about government funding of scientific research.

Teaching scientific controversies engages student interest and encourages them to do what scientists must do -- deliberate about how best to interpret evidence.

As school boards and educators shape science education policy and curriculum, they should remember what Darwin himself wrote in ``The 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.'' They wrote this article for the Mercury News.

Bonnie Erbe: 'Intelligent design' proponents willing to drag U.S. further behind


By BONNIE ERBE, bonnieerbe@compuserve.com
May 12, 2005

The two most vestigial locales in our otherwise great nation at the moment are Kansas and Washington, D.C.

Kansas, because the stacked Board of Education there is staging the greatest public-relations coup for organized religion since Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D.

And Washington, D.C., because Christian evangelism is winning its power grab to dominate government locally and nationally as payback for evangelical leaders' part in George W. Bush's victory last November.

Any normal group of folks would have been so embarrassed by the widespread rejection of the mystical fatuity of creationism that they would have quietly departed the national scene and crawled back into oblivion.

Not this crowd.

Instead of "hitting bottom" and admitting their frailties as the path to enlightenment, they went into a huddle and divined an equally ludicrous theory. This time, however, they have put ribbons around the same old garbage can, but coined a new term: "intelligent design."

At the beginning of Kansas' charade-like examination of intelligent design last week, the Boston Globe covered the politically correct astuteness of these savvier purveyors of myth. It was the first of several days of "hearings" by the Kansas Board of Education on whether to teach intelligent design in public-school science classes alongside evolution.

The Globe reported that intelligent-design proponents "... studiously avoided references to God and Christianity, flaunted their scientific credentials, and tossed around words like 'reasoned,' 'empirical,' and 'peer review' as they touted intelligent design theory. Intelligent design, a relatively new twist to criticisms of evolution, posits that certain aspects of the universe particularly the origins of life are too complex to explain through natural causes, and that scientists should be willing to attribute mysteries to an 'intelligent designer.' "

Personally, I have no problem with intelligent design being taught in a comparative-religion class. That, as long as the course also includes sections on new developments in all major religions. But these intelligent-design rubes (degreed though they may be) want to teach it as if it were science.

I suppose these advocates also believe the United States hasn't fallen far enough behind in science, or that poor old Asia and Europe need a leg up in overtaking us. The only real difference between intelligent design and creationism is there's less emphasis on the Judeo-Christian version of Genesis and more "politically correct" openness to all religions' versions of God. But the effects on U.S. global competitiveness are just as potentially devastating.

In May of last year The New York Times reported, "Foreign advances in basic science are rivaling or even exceeding America's, apparently with little public awareness of this trend or its implications. ..." The report went on to note that America's share of Nobel Prizes (which this great nation used to dominate by wide margins) has fallen to 51 percent.

The National Science Board reported recently that the U.S. government issued 74,000 visas for immigrants to work in science and technology in 2002, down by more than half from 166,000 only a year earlier. And the Washington Monthly reported in January of this year, "Roger Pederson is one of the leading researchers in the field of stem cells. But in 2001, he left his position at the University of California, San Francisco, to take up residency at the Centre for Stem Cell Biology Medicine at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom."

Much of the U.S. loss of leadership in the biological sciences can be attributed to President Bush's ban on most stem-cell research, which he issued as a sop to the same folks who are bringing you intelligent design. In reaction, states are rushing to outspend each other to attract the world's best biologists (to wit, California's Prop. 71, which approved $3 billion for true stem-cell research there) and competing against each other instead of uniting as a nation in the process.

As we move closer and closer to religious sovereignty over government and public education, other nations are moving further away.

They're pummeling us economically in the process. Isn't it time somebody noticed?

Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.

Turn over a new leaf


Herbal medicine is booming as patients lose faith in modern drugs. And finding the right cure will soon be a whole lot easier. By Jerome Burne
10 May 2005

Nearly 40 years ago, Margaret Weesz, who had arrived in England from Hungary at the end of the Second World War, was being plagued by arthritis. It ran in the family. Her mother had it, her sister had it and now it was beginning to trouble her. Since her husband was a GP and kept up with the latest medical developments, she had a series of gold injections. "We would read the British Medical Journal and it said that gold injections had been tested," she says in her charming Zsa Zsa Gabor accent. "They were the latest and best thing for arthritis. But a few years later, the journal said they were very dangerous and left deposits on the joints. I had to find something else that worked, so I took a tip from a friend and went to Italy."

Scientology Losing Ground To New Fictionology


LOS ANGELES­According to a report released Monday by the American Institute of Religions, the Church of Scientology, once one of the fastest-growing religious organizations in the U.S., is steadily losing members to the much newer religion Fictionology.

"Unlike Scientology, which is based on empirically verifiable scientific tenets, Fictionology's central principles are essentially fairy tales with no connection to reality," the AIR report read. "In short, Fictionology offers its followers a mythical belief system free from the cumbersome scientific method to which Scientology is hidebound."

Created in 2003 by self-proclaimed messiah Bud Don Ellroy, Fictionology's principles were first outlined in the self-help paperback Imaginetics: The New Pipe-Dream Of Modern Mental Make-Believe.

Another UFO sighting makes website

By Bryan Meadows - The Chronicle-Journal

May 10, 2005

A Sioux Lookout resident has reported seeing the latest unidentified flying object in the Northwest.

The witness said he was standing on the town beach on April 14 at about 11 p.m. when he noticed three star-sized white objects moving across the sky south of the community.

"I looked and saw a blur-rish object moving very fast . . . I followed the object, and realized it was three lights flying at the same velocity but not in a straight parallel formation,'' he said.

The sighting is posted on www.hbccufo.com — a website that reportedly represents the Canadian UFO research community.

There have been six UFO sightings since a July 12 report last year in the Dryden area where three people witnessed "low altitude bright lights tracking across the sky."

The website's other sightings in the past year:

• July 14, 8 p.m. — A Dryden resident saw something that "burned so bright that my eyes hurt, and I had to look away. It dimmed out to a cigar-shaped haze and then, zig-jagged a little."

• July 19, 10:47 p.m. — Five people at Aaron Provincial Park just east of Dryden said they saw an object far off in the distance shoot "straight out into space."

• July 30, 10:30 p.m. — An individual in Sioux Lookout reported seeing three light-coloured objects flying in a straight line.

• Aug. 1, 12:20 a.m. — Two individuals saw a round, copper-coloured object in the sky near Dryden, moving in a straight line, then in a tilted 'S' flight pattern.

• Sept. 7, 12:30 a.m. — Three star-like objects were observed near Sioux Lookout in the shape of a triangle moving across the sky before they just suddenly stopped and disappeared.

• Dec. 23, 10:06 p.m. — Three people travelling in a vehicle observed a circular object with three flashing red and white lights flying along the right side of Highway 72, 10 kilometres south of Sioux Lookout. When they got closer, the object suddenly took a 90-degree turn left and "flew over the highway and right over us."

The last unexplained phenomena observed in the Thunder Bay area occurred in March 2003 when a "strange light" streaked across the night sky.


Satan unleashes evil energy but God will win -Pope


Wed May 11, 2005 9:39 AM ET

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Satan is still at work in the world unleashing "evil energy" but God will be the final arbiter of history, Pope Benedict said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the third general audience since his election last month, the Pope also said that nations and leaders had to look for God's hand in history in the past and learn from it.

"History, in fact, is not in the hands of dark forces, left to chance or just human choices," he told thousands of people in St. Peter's Square.

"Above the unleashing of evil energy, above the vehement interruptions of Satan, above the so many scourges of evil, rises the Lord, supreme arbiter of history," the Pope said in an address reflecting on the Book of Revelation in the Bible.

He urged Catholics to look for and recognize what he called "hidden divine interventions in history."

The 78-year-old German Pope, elected on April 19, again mingled with people in the crowd at the end of the audience.

He stopped to talk to handicapped people and personally greeted dozens of well-wishers.

Continuing in the tradition of his predecessor, John Paul II, he delivered the address in Italian and read summaries or greetings in some 10 other languages.

Good news on severed goat heads: Satan not involved


Tue May 10, 2005 12:10 PM ET

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A lazy worker, not a satanic cult, was responsible for severed goat heads that caused a scare at a Vancouver-area school, Canadian police said on Monday.

Police were called in after goat heads were twice found on a bench outside a school in nearby Chilliwack, British Columbia, prompting fears in the suburban community that it had been targeted by a satanic animal killing.

A 19-year-old worker at a local slaughterhouse has admitted he took the two heads with the intention of having them mounted, but then changed his mind and left them at the school in hopes a janitor would dispose of them.

"(Police) want to reassure the community that there were no satanic intentions in relation to these incidents," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said, adding that the man "should have known better."

Who Needs Giacomo? Bet on the Fortune Cookie


May 11, 2005


Powerball lottery officials suspected fraud: how could 110 players in the March 30 drawing get five of the six numbers right? That made them all second-prize winners, and considering the number of tickets sold in the 29 states where the game is played, there should have been only four or five.

But from state after state they kept coming in, the one-in-three-million combination of 22, 28, 32, 33, 39.

It took some time before they had their answer: the players got their numbers inside fortune cookies, and all the cookies came from the same factory in Long Island City, Queens.

Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs Powerball, said on Monday that the panic began at 11:30 p.m. March 30 when he got a call from a worried staff member.

The second-place winners were due $100,000 to $500,000 each, depending on how much they had bet, so paying all 110 meant almost $19 million in unexpected payouts, Mr. Strutt said. (The lottery keeps a $25 million reserve for odd situations.)

Of course, it could have been worse. The 110 had picked the wrong sixth number - 40, not 42 - and would have been first-place winners if they did.

"We didn't sleep a lot that night," Mr. Strutt said. "Is there someone trying to cheat the system?"

He added: "We had to look at everything to do with humans: television shows, pattern plays, lottery columns."

Earlier that month, an ABC television show, "Lost," included a sequence of winning lottery numbers. The combination didn't match the Powerball numbers, though hundreds of people had played it: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42. Numbers on a Powerball ticket in a recent episode of a soap opera, "The Young and the Restless," didn't match, either. Nor did the winning numbers form a pattern on the lottery grid, like a cross or a diagonal. Then the winners started arriving at lottery offices.

"Our first winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie," said Rebecca Paul, chief executive of the Tennessee Lottery. "The second winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie. The third winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie."

Investigators visited dozens of Chinese restaurants, takeouts and buffets. Then they called fortune cookie distributors and learned that many different brands of fortune cookies come from the same Long Island City factory, which is owned by Wonton Food and churns out four million a day.

"That's ours," said Derrick Wong, of Wonton Food, when shown a picture of a winner's cookie slip. "That's very nice, 110 people won the lottery from the numbers."

The same number combinations go out in thousands of cookies a day. The workers put numbers in a bowl and pick them. "We are not going to do the bowl anymore; we are going to have a computer," Mr. Wong said. "It's more efficient."

Thursday, May 12, 2005

State promotes new creationism museum


Doug Smith
Updated: 5/12/2005

Readers of many Arkansas newspapers, including the Arkansas Times, recently found in their papers a special advertising supplement from the state Department of Parks and Tourism. In words and pictures, the supplement promoted a number of Arkansas tourist attractions — the Clinton library, a new aquatic playground at Crater of Diamonds State Park, the roller coaster at Magic Springs. The inclusion of one particular new attraction raised a few eyebrows.

"Located on the grounds of The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, the Museum of Earth History presents the biblical account of early history with high-quality, scientific exhibits displayed in a totally biblical setting," the ad supplement says. "Viewers will journey through three epic periods of ancient history often overlooked by modern historians: life before the fall, the post-fall world and life after the devastating effects of the great flood described in the Book of Genesis."

Models of dinosaurs are the stars of the new, privately owned museum, which presents the biblical view of creation. In this view, earth is only a few thousand years old. Humans and dinosaurs lived contemporaneously. A pair of dinosaurs survived the great flood aboard Noah's Ark. Dinosaurs later became extinct for reasons that are unclear.

Conventional science says all this is tommyrot — that the earth is hundreds of millions of years old, and dinosaurs died out millions of years before man came into existence. But that is not the concern of the Department of Parks and Tourism, says the department's longtime director, Richard Davies.

"From the tourism perspective, we've about come to the conclusion that our job is to promote things that people might want to travel to — whether they're public, private or non-profit — as long as they're not obscene or tasteless," Davies said. "Whether we agree with it or not, whether we think it's tacky or beautiful is not important. It's not our place to make those decisions." He notes that the Department has promoted the Passion Play for years, and some people consider the play controversial. Some people think the race tracks at Hot Springs and West Memphis are controversial. The Department promotes both.

"We have actually gotten calls on the parks side of the department from creationists complaining about exhibits in state parks that talk about the origin of the world," Davies said. These exhibits reflect the prevailing scientific theories. "I tell them we're putting out the best information we have available," Davies said.

Catching up with the past on evolution


Religious intolerance and the latest phony theory, "intelligent design," is driving education back into the 18th century.
By Tom Teepen

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Only five years into the new millennium our fingertip grip on the 21st century already is slipping. We could tumble into the 18th before you can say "macro-evolution." Kansas is the latest state to bend to Christian pressure to disavow evolution. Its state board of education has taken up, and apparently means to adopt this summer, a change in teaching standards for science that would fob evolution off as just part of a big fuss.

To that end, the board has been hearing testimony from witnesses, all one-sided because Kansas scientists have refused to testify, taking the sound if somewhat self-destructive position that there is nothing more to debate than there would be if the subject were gravity or plate tectonics.

The Kansas brouhaha is being pushed, as are similar contretemps in numerous smaller jurisdictions, by well-bankrolled groups hawking "intelligent design." This is the latest gimmick by religious conservatives for insinuating scripture into scholastics. When the courts disallowed biblical text as a substitute for science, the Bible literalists came up with "creationism," a pseudo-science whose own subsequent unmasking has now led to this latest wrinkle.

"Intelligent design" -- aptly dismissed by one scientist as "creationism in a cheap tuxedo" -- holds that life on Earth can be explained only by the animations of a guiding creator. That creator is carefully left unidentified. (Could it be Fred? Irving?) The game is to dodge church-state barriers, but you get the idea -- just as public-school pupils are meant to.

So, Kentucky has expunged the very word "evolution" from its teaching guidelines. New Mexico came within an ace of outlawing evolution from classrooms. Ohio has fudged. A suburban Atlanta school district defaced its biology texts with a sticker pooh-poohing evolution. A rural Pennsylvania school district has ordered its schools to teach intelligent design.

This is science by mob rule, made newly possible in Kansas by the election last fall of a Republican board majority that gave the anti-evolution saints six votes to the demon evolutionists' four. The movement hides behind the public's general and ordinarily admirable sympathy for fair play.

The "intelligent design" crowd, when it can't convince that evolution is godless hokum, appeals for mercy on the grounds that in a controversy it is only fair that both sides be represented. So, create a stink and you're in.

By the end of the 19th century, most of its denizens had come to understand and accept evolution and had worked out how to reconcile that with their religious faith. Surely it cannot be beyond us moderns to catch up with them.

Tom Teepen is a columnist for Cox Newspapers in Atlanta. His e-mail address is teepencolumn@coxnews.com.

What Matters in Kansas


The evolution of creationism.
By William Saletan
Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2005, at 1:00 AM PT

This week, the Kansas State Board of Education will wrap up hearings on "intelligent design," a theistic alternative to the theory of evolution. Scientists have refused to testify, dismissing ID as tarted-up creationism. Newspapers are comparing the hearings to the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. Liberals, editorialists, and biologists wonder aloud how people can refuse to see evolution when it's staring them in the face. Maybe they should ask themselves. It's the creationists in Kansas who are evolving. And it's the evolutionists who can't see it.

To understand the fight in Kansas, you have to study what evolutionists accuse creationists of neglecting: the historical record. In the Scopes trial, creationists defended a ban on the teaching of evolution. That was the early, authoritarian stage of creationism—the equivalent of Australopithecus, the earliest hominid. Gradually, evolution gained the upper hand. In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that states couldn't even require equal treatment of evolution and creationism. By 1999, creationists were asking the Kansas board not to rule out their beliefs entirely. This was creationism's more advanced Homo erectus phase: pluralism.

Six years later, evolutionists in Kansas are under attack again. They think the old creationism is back. They're mistaken. Homo erectus—the defense, on pluralist grounds, of the literal account of Genesis—is beginning to die out. The new challenger, ID, differs fundamentally from fundamentalism. Like its creationist forebears, ID is theistic. But unlike them, it abandons Biblical literalism, embraces open-minded inquiry, and accepts falsification, not authority, as the ultimate test. These concessions, sincere or not, define a new species of creationism—Homo sapiens—that fatally undermines its ancestors. Creationists aren't threatening us. They're becoming us.

X-rays reveal origins of Earth


Scientists look back billions of years into Orion Nebula to understand the survival of rocky planets like our own

Tim Radford, science editor
Wednesday May 11, 2005
The Guardian

Scientists who peered for 13 days across 1,500 light years of space believe they may have the answer to one of creation's great puzzles: the formation and survival of rocky planets such as Earth.

They used a sophisticated orbiting x-ray telescope called Chandra to study 1,400 young stars in the Orion Nebula and identify 27 that behave very much as the sun must once have done 4.6bn years ago.

These very young stars, surrounded by discs from which planets could condense, tend to erupt in vast flares far greater than anything now observed from the mature sun. These flares could be evidence of a process that would clear the way for small rocky planets to form.

By looking at a place far away and long ago in the galaxy the scientists peer back to a time when Venus, Earth and Mars might have first formed from stony cinders whirling around a violent young star.

"We don't have a time machine to see how the young sun behaved, but the next best thing is to observe the sun-like stars in Orion," said Scott Wolk of the Harvard Smithsonian centre for astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last night. "We are getting a unique look at stars between 1m and 10m years old - a time when planets form."

Until 1995 the nine planets around the sun were the only planets known in the whole universe. Then, using sophisticated gravitational observations, astronomers began to infer the existence of huge, Jupiter-like objects orbiting stars up to 100 light years away. The catch was that — in the 120 planetary systems so far observed - there would be no room for bodies capable of nurturing life.

Earth is sometimes called the Goldilocks planet: it is not too warm, not too cold, not too big and not too small for life to survive on it. Some scientists have argued that planets such as Earth might be very rare.

But research with Chandra began to expose the machinery that makes another Earth or Mars. Astronomers trained their instrument on a tiny smudge of light in Orion, a nursery of stars an enormous distance from Earth.

Stars form from clouds of gas and dust: planets condense from the leftovers, whirling around in a disc around the young star. A Jupiter-sized planet orbiting close to its parent star would dislodge or destroy any potential Earth or Venus-sized bodies. Huge x-ray flares, of the kind observed again and again in the Orion 27, would in effect keep the big brothers at a safe distance.

"It acts like a planetary protection service. Even though the x-ray flare may be bad for whatever is going on on the surface of the Earth, at that instant we don't care. It makes the disc very turbulent, and keeps Jupiter where it is," said Dr Wolk. The research was a stunning demonstration of the power of Chandra to count the individual stars that form a tiny speck of distant light.

"We see Orion in the winter sky, brilliantly glowing. We see the belt, and the four stars around it. And then there is this little fuzzy thing: that's it, not much bigger than a star," Dr Wolk said.

Earth-like planets may be rare: but at last researchers have found a mechanism that permits their existence, and some of the conditions under which life might emerge.

"You can say that we particularly require certain conditions for moon and tides and all that," said Sir Martin Rees, the astronomer royal.

"But it is not clear that that was essential for all forms of life that might have evolved ... I think you can say [life needs] basic requirements: water not boiling, and not frozen solid all the time.

"That still gives you a fairly large habitable zone."

CSICOP Online: Creation Watch Column: Why Do Scientists Get So Angry...

Creation Watch

By Jason Rosenhouse

I am sometimes asked why supporters of evolution get so angry when addressing proponents of Intelligent Design (ID). My answer is that if the evolution/ID dispute were simply a discussion of rival scientific claims, say about whether known evolutionary mechanisms are capable of explaining the formation of complex systems, then the discussion would be far less acrimonious.

In reality, however, ID proponents spend most of their time leveling bogus charges against evolution. Professionals in the relevant fields possess the expertise to see immediately that the charges are scientifically untrue, but the lay audiences to which these charges are directed are unlikely to be similarly equipped. The result is that ID proponents present a picture of modern biology that is completely unsupported scientifically and disingenuous. And this is what causes ID proponents to be so reviled by scientists.

In this essay I will document one specific example of blatant ID duplicity.

It provides a useful study of the depths to which ID proponents must sink in order to make their case.

One of the most prolific ID proponents is William Dembski. On April 26, 2005 he published an essay at his blog in which he addressed the charge that ID proponents present quotations inaccurately. The essay began as follows:

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

Comments on the column should be address to Jason Rosenhouse at rosenhjd@jmu.edu

Jason Rosenhouse is the author of EvolutionBlog (http://evolutionblog.blogspot.com/) , providing commentary on developments in the endless dispute between evolution and creationism. Turning page on debate: Go on, teach controversy http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/editorial/outlook/3178215


May 11, 2005, 8:04PM

I don't know whether to call this good news, but something is happening when the opponents of evolution recast themselves as defenders of academic freedom and guardians of open debate.

This is the take-home lesson from Kansas, where another in the apparently endless controversies over science and religion took place on the 80th anniversary of the Scopes trial. This time, hearings were called by the State Board of Education on whether to change the science standards and require Darwin's theory be challenged in the classroom. This time, the anti-evolution crowd was carrying a new slogan: Teach the Controversy.

The parade of Darwin's adversaries argued in terms that might have been ripped from the playbook of People for the American Way. One insisted, "We're looking for an objective approach that looks at both sides." Another called the evolutionists "the true censors." A third called evolution "an ideology." A fourth said, "It's important to foster academic debate and thinking and reasoning."

My favorite remarks came from a member of the Kansas science standards committee, William Harris, who said, "Public science education is an institution. It appoints a teacher to be a referee among ideas. ... Nobody would tolerate a football game where the referee was obviously biased." Who knew the budgets were so tight that teachers were now referees?

My, how the opponents of evolution have evolved. As recently as 20 years ago, the leaders quoted Genesis as the one true scientific source: The world was created in seven days, those geological layers were the work of Noah's flood, case closed. This evolved into creationism or creation science. But in 1987, the Supreme Court declared that teaching creation in the classroom was teaching religion and unconstitutional.

Now the leading argument is "Intelligent Design," an intelligent redesign of the old arguments in new clothing. As Ken Miller, co-author of one of the most respected biology textbooks, says, "So-called Intelligent Design is nothing more than creationism stripped of everything that a court would immediately recognize as religious content."

Unlike the earlier creationism, ID is agnostic on questions such as the age of the Earth, but not on the role of an intelligent designer (or Designer) in the creation process. Unlike the earlier creationists who fought to get Darwin out of class, the new generation of intelligent designers ostensibly wants equal time to debunk him and promote their alternative.

The Kansas rule-makers also want to change the way science is now defined as a search for natural explanations. Says Miller, "Think hard. What's a non-natural explanation? A supernatural explanation." He can imagine an earth science class teaching about tsunamis. "One side teaches about tectonic plates. The other side teaches about people punished for their sins."

Miller also worries about mandating doubts about evolution: "I'm not the least worried these guys will prevail scientifically. What they may succeed in is giving young people the message that the science establishment is dishonest with the evidence. If that's written into the curriculum, it will drive a wedge between young people and science."

It's the height of irony to hear the same partisans who intimidate science teachers positioning themselves as the defenders of fair and open debate. Open-minded? Listen to the words of committee member Harris: "Our overall goal is to remove the bias against religion that is in our schools. This is a scientific controversy that has powerful religious implications." Science that doesn't teach his religious beliefs is biased against his religious beliefs.

This is what's going around. At least around the political circuit. If a court remains neutral on religion, it is now immediately attacked as hostile to religion. When an oil lobbyist argues against global warming, it's cast as a plea for open scientific debate. It's like tobacco companies criticizing the cancer researchers for only giving the bad news about cigarettes.

In this case, the opponents not only cast evolution as a flawed "ideology" but deliberately characterize evolutionists as atheists. They then insist on a false equivalency between evolution and Intelligent Design, and demand equal time for the faithful with the so-called faithless.

I suppose there is something positive in the audacious way that the right has taken over the language of the left. It means that values such as open debate and academic freedom are so universally accepted that the right is using this popular vocabulary.

But only when they need to. The same political allies in Texas who argued for an open debate in science textbooks last year are back arguing to close the debate — abstinence only — in sex ed textbooks this year.

So let's "Teach the Controversy." I'm all for it. But this controversy doesn't belong in biological science. It belongs in political science.

Goodman is a columnist for the Boston Globe.


Creationism is mere assertion, while evolution is a theory


How did we get here? The stork story is entertaining, but it is useless in any lasting sense. Observation and careful research, alternatively, has yielded a wealth of useful knowledge and technologies, tools, procedures, treatments and medicines that we call modern life.

Now we have creationists who would have us return to the days of simple assertion for explanations of how the world and all that is in it got here. And knowing how weak their case is, they try to buttress their view by calling it "creation science." Of course, it is simply assertion with a new name.

Evolution theory, on the other hand, got to be a theory through careful research and observation. Endless testing of hypotheses, rejection of those that didn't stand up to scrutiny, acceptance of those that did, tests to see if assertions cohere with the body of knowledge achieved -- all part of a hugely complex process to try to unravel the mystery surrounding us.

Many people in our society do not know the difference between a theory and an assertion. Sure, science operates through use of theories. It is as good as our knowledge gets "here below," as the old folks used to say. Those who claim to have absolute knowledge are simply making an assertion.

Evolution theory, and science generally, frees the mind to confront and test experience, to investigate and explore.

Creationism closes the door.

And whose creation story will we use in our schools anyhow? Every religion has one.

Gerald Knarr, Kouts

Notes from the Undertow : Monkey business


By Jerry Burke May 12, 2005

In 1925, a Tennessee high school biology teacher named John Scopes was charged with illegally teaching the theory of evolution in his classroom. The resulting trial, which later became the basis for the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee play "Inherit the Wind," ended with Scopes being fined $100 (later dismissed on an appeal to the state Supreme Court), pro-evolution lawyer Clarence Darrow making pro-creationist William Jennings Bryan look like a kook, and a radical shift in public education's teaching of biology.

But what it did not do, apparently, was shut the book on the debate over where life on Earth came from.

As I write this, 80 years after the famed "Monkey Trial," a second one of sorts opened Thursday, with evolution under attack once again. The Kansas State Board of Education is hosting four days of trial-like hearings that give evolution's critics a public forum to attack the theory attributed to 19th century British scientist Charles Darwin.

Darwin, who ranks just under Bill Clinton, Satan and Michael Moore on the "most evil" lists of some creationists, came up with this crazy idea in 1859 that species change over time and that such changes can lead to new species, giving different ones, such as man and apes, common ancestors.

Creationism, the belief that a supreme being created the universe in seven days, is recounted in the Old Testament book of Genesis, with God making man in his own image.

Over the past 146 years, biologists have tested the theory of evolution again and again. It is what most scientists would consider a sound theory, supported by thousands of volumes of observation and experiment.

Over the last 3,000 years, creationism has remained the same. Well, almost. For many of its believers it has morphed into something called "intelligent design," which says some features of the natural world, because of their "well-ordered complexities," are best explained by an intelligent cause, namely God.

Intelligent design is a theory, backed by, well, the Bible. It is a theory that instead of going any further toward establishing proof, only openly attacks the theory of evolution, claiming, for example, that there are gaps in the fossil record that "disproves" the gradual changes in living beings.

There are a lot of theories in our world. Some say that a "magic bullet" hit both President Kennedy and Governor John Connolly seven times, changing direction twice, and came out in perfect condition.

There is a theory that Saddam Hussein possessed large quantities of biological and chemical weapons about two years ago and could attack us in 15 minutes.

There was a theory that Matt LeBlanc could pull off a hit television series without the help of his "Friends."

The degree to which a theory is accepted in the scientific community depends totally on whether or not the conclusions of experiments support it. Bad theories, those that are not supported by evidence, were often once good theories because, at a certain point in time, they were the best explanation for natural phenomena (see "bloodletting"). When Genesis was written, chances are it was the best explanation of the creation of the world at the time.

That time was 2,000 B.C. We've come a long way, baby.

This isn't an attack on faith. No student faces religious persecution because his teacher discusses Darwin. In fact, for all of their rantings about "people of faith" being attacked, fundamentalists in this country should really read up on the Holocaust, or the human rights violations in China and Africa, or take a look at those wonderful Abu Ghraib photos.

That's persecution, my friend. Waking up in the morning and practicing your religion while an occasional critic calls you a nut for urging others to believe as you do or face the fires of hell is not persecution. Get over it.

When it comes to evolution, you can have it both ways. There is nothing in Darwin's theory that says God doesn't exist or that there isn't a higher power at work behind the scenes. Evolution is just a theory, a good one, which tries to explain our origins. To equate intelligent design to evolution is, quite frankly, a cop-out.

What experiments has intelligent design theory undergone? What unexpected observations have challenged intelligent design theorists? None, and in their mind, none can. So why bother looking any further? If the answer to everything is "God did it," why bother investigating anything?

Just because you can't prove a vague theory wrong doesn't mean it's right. On that note, I'm off to check out my horoscope on the off chance that I and one-twelfth of the population are ready for a new romance.

©Herald Community 2005

Sunday schools teach children creationism


By Jim Baker, Journal-World

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Children who attend Sunday school in at least a few evangelical Christian churches in Lawrence receive a firm grounding in how the world -- and, presumably, humans -- came to be.

The instruction is based on a literal interpretation of the Bible.

"What it says in the book of Genesis is very clean cut. Genesis 1:1 says, 'God created the heavens and the earth.' That's the very first thing you read when you open the Bible," said Caley Vaughan, a student ministry intern at Heartland Community Church, 619 Vt.

Vaughan teaches Sunday school to children in fourth through sixth grades and works with youths in junior high and high school.

Because it's accepted as a basic premise that a spiritual consciousness created the universe, Sunday school teachers -- and their students -- don't spend much time debating the origins of life.

"Their questions aren't, 'Did God really create everything?' They seem to take that at face value. They accept that God created the world; they want to know what that means for them," said Vaughan, 24.

It's much the same during Sunday children's church and other youth activities at Lawrence Christian Center, 416 Lincoln St.

"We teach them the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, the creation, the flood," said the Rev. Dan Nicholson, pastor.

"I believe and I teach that the biblical account of creation is literally true. We have to take the whole Bible that way; you can't just pick it apart. If it's God's word, it's all God's word."

The seven-day creation of the world by God, as depicted in scripture, is also the Sunday school teaching at Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive.

"We believe in a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis; we don't bend on that at all. That's a foundational truth," said the Rev. Bill Hurlbutt, senior pastor.

Expose students to Intelligent Design theory


By David Albright

(May 12, 2005) — For decades in public schools, teaching students about the origin and progression of life has been a point of conflict and debate. How should evolution be presented, as a fact or as a theory? Should the views of creationists be discussed? Most recently this has become an issue in the state of Kansas. There, the Board of Education is deciding whether students should learn an alternative to evolution that suggests an architect of life, known as the Intelligent Design theory.

Because I attend a private school, I have had the privilege of being able to learn both sides of the origin-of-life debate. I have been taught that evolution is only a theory, one that has never been proved. I have teachers who are allowed to present alternatives to the theory of evolution. They are allowed to teach the idea that the world was created.

Students in public schools should have the same opportunity to learn that evolution is not necessarily true. If they are taught this, they can then decide for themselves how they think life began, and not believe only what the education establishment has presented to them as truth. Students are currently taught that evolution is a fact, when in reality scientists have not yet proven it. Students should be presented with the multiple theories. Darwin first published his evolution theory in 1859. At that time, scientists did not realize how complicated living organisms are. For example, they were unaware of the complexity of DNA, the building blocks of life. Darwin's theory now seems obsolete because it is difficult to explain how organisms with such intricate compounds could have come from a single-celled organism. It is hard to comprehend how such compounds could have formed from almost nothing. If students are taught this theory that has had nearly 150 years to be proven, they should also be taught the theory of Intelligent Design.

The Kansas Board of Education is expected to support a change in their state's curriculum, giving students exposure to evolution alternatives. Kansas educators would begin rewriting the standards in June. Ohio has already done so. Alabama, Georgia and other states are currently considering bills to change the way life origins are taught. It would be a good move and a step forward if New York state would do the same and allow students to learn these alternatives and decide for themselves.

David, 15, is a member of the Democrat and Chronicle Teen Council and attends Lima Christian School. Teen Council members advise the Editorial Board and write occasional columns.

Physics News Update 731

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 731 May 12, 2005 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein
MOST PRECISE MASS CALCULATION FOR LATTICE QCD. A team of theoretical physicists have produced the best prediction of a particle's mass. And within days of their paper being submitted to Physical Review Letters, that very particle's mass was accurately measured at Fermilab, providing striking confirmation of the predicted value. How do the known particles acquire the mass they have? The answer might come from lattice QCD, the name for a computational approach to understanding how quarks interact. Imagine quarks placed at the interstices of a crystal-like structure. Then let the quarks interact with each other via the exchange of gluons along the links between the quarks. The gluons are the designated carriers of the strong nuclear force under the general auspices of the theory called quantum chromodynamics (QCD). From this sort of framework the mass of the known hadrons (quark-containing composite particles such as mesons and baryons) can be calculated. Until recently, however, the calculations were marred by a crude approximation. A big improvement came only in 2003, when uncertainties in mass predictions went from the 10% level to the 2% level (see Davies et al., Physical Review Letters, 16 January 2004). The mass of the proton, for example, could be calculated within a few percent of the actual value. Progress has come from a better treatment of the light quarks and from greater computer power. Together the improvements provide the researchers with a realistic treatment of the "sea quarks," the virtual quarks whose ephemeral presence has a noticeable influence over the "valence" quarks that are considered the nominal constituents of a hadron. A proton, for example, is said to consist of three valence quarks---two up quarks and one down quark---plus a myriad of sea quarks that momentarily pop into existence in pairs. Now, for the first time, the mass of a hadron has been predicted with lattice QCD. Andreas Kronfeld (ask@fnal.gov, 630-840-3753) and his colleagues at Fermilab, Glasgow University, and Ohio State report a mass calculation for the charmed B meson (Bc, for short, consisting of an anti-bottom quark and a charmed quark). The value they predict is 6304 +/- 20 MeV---the remarkable precision stems not only from the improvements discussed above, but also from the researchers' methods for treating heavy quarks. A few days after they submitted their Letter for publication, the first good experimental measurement of the same particle was announced 6287 +/- 5 MeV. This successful confirmation is exciting, because it bolsters confidence that lattice QCD can be used to calculate many other properties of hadrons. (Allison et al., Physical Review Letters,6 May 2005, Lattice QCD website at http://lqcd.fnal.gov/ )

NEUTRINO PULSAR. A new hypothesis suggests that we should be able to see beams of TeV (trillion electron volt) neutrinos coming from certain pulsars in the sky. A pulsar is a rotating neutron star possessing high magnetic fields and spewing energy in a searchlight pattern, usually observed at radio wavelengths. According to Bennett Link of Montana State University, the potent nature of a young, rapidly spinning neutron star---emitting the energy of our sun but from a surface 5 billion times smaller, and in the form of x rays---creates electric fields of fantastic strength, some 10^15 volts. These fields will whip protons in the vicinity up to PeV (10^15 eV) energies. When such protons collide with the x rays emanating from the star, delta particles (essentially heavy protons) can be created. When these subsequently decay energetic neutrinos are formed. This whole production mechanism---proton acceleration, delta creation, daughter neutrino cascades---sweeps around like the radio waves normally seen from a pulsar. With the right detector, the pulsar would reveal itself through neutrinos. If such a neutron star were as far away as our sun, the Earth would receive about a million 50-TeV neutrinos per square cm per second. Actual pulsars are, of course, much further away from us. Nevertheless, Link (link@physics.montana.edu) estimates that there are about 10 neutrino pulsars within a distance of 15,000 light years from Earth. He believes that these energetic sources might result in about 10 neutrino detections per year in a square-kilometer detector, which is about the effective size of the so-called IceCube facility being built now. Neutrino pulsars could be the brightest continuous high-energy neutrino sources in the universe and their detection would help to bolster the idea of neutrino astronomy. (Link and Burgio, Physical Review Letters, 13 May 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.

ID for faithful, evolution for scientists


by Sanjai Tripathi
the Daily Barometer

It is disappointing, but I suppose understandable, that in 21st-century America we still have to defend the theory of evolution.

Most of us are vaguely familiar with its tenets, which state roughly that from random mutations and recombinations in the replication of an organism's genome, new traits can emerge, that the process of natural selection causes organisms with beneficial new traits to survive and replicate, and that from the accumulation of more new traits over a long period of time new species will form. This is how the many varied species on earth came to be.

In Topeka, Kan., last week, the Kansas State Board of Education held hearings on whether to amend state science standards with provisions suggested by the Discovery Institute, an advocacy group dedicated to promoting "intelligent design."

ID proponents claim that some traits are too complex, "irreducibly complex," to have emerged by the processes of random mutation and natural selection.

For example, the flagellum is an appendage some bacteria have sticking out that allows them to swim. It is sort of like a microscopic rotating paddle. Flagella are composed of around 30 protein subunits from different genes that work together like a machine to create motion.

If we delete just one of the genes for a subunit, the whole thing can stop working. This is how they determine it is "irreducible."

Since the parts don't work separately, ID proponents say, for Darwinian evolution have created the system, there would have to have been numerous mutations all at one time, because natural selection wouldn't select an incomplete system that doesn't yet work. But, since the system has so many parts, it simply couldn't have evolved from mutation all at once.

Do you understand that so far? No, I didn't think so. Unless you have some background in genetics, the concepts of evolution are pretty technical. The ID proponents are relying on the general public to not understand, because that is the only way people will believe them.

The scientific community, composed of the actual experts who understand the vagaries of evolution like bootstrap values and homologous recombination, was so incredulous about this matter that it boycotted the Kansas hearings. They concluded, probably correctly, that a school board biased or dumb enough to give intelligent design a hearing would not really listen to their expert refutations of ID's gobbledygook logic.

Nevertheless, it is important for scientists to try to convey the severe deficiencies in ID to the public. This is a democracy, and the public gets to make the decisions, whether or not it is informed.

ID is seductive. Since its inception, the theory of evolution has bothered many people. The most galling facet of it is the idea that humans descended from primates.

How could this be possible? The Bible teaches us that God created the Man directly, in His image. There is no way that man is just one of the animals ...

That anthropomorphic view of the universe has gotten Bible literalists in trouble before. They used to think that the Earth was at the center of the universe. Then, people like Copernicus took a rigorous scientific look through their telescopes, and their carts of what they saw showed that the earth actually rotated around the sun. The church condemned Copernicus as a heretic.

They also used to believe that the earth was flat, and only about 5,000 years old, as the Old Testament tells us. Then the science of geology was borne, and those ideas died under a mountain of evidence proving otherwise.

ID tells us that things with "irreducible complexity" couldn't have evolved by natural means. They therefore conclude that since Darwinian evolution can't explain how complicated biological structures came to be, that scientifically proves that there is a "designer" to life.

They don't say that it is God. ID proponents are too careful for that. If they were to say God made things the way they are, their true intention would become clear.

They want to provide an intellectual framework for religious people to reject evolution without feeling totally illogical.

This is flawed in two ways.

First, their examples of "irreducible complexity" are in fact reducible. The bacterial flagellum is the most frequent example cited by ID proponents.

The 30 or so protein components do need each other to make a functioning flagellum. However, they didn't need to evolve together, as ID people claim, to be selected by evolution.

The question is whether fewer than the 30 subunits of the flagellum could have had any other function. By comparing gene sequences for similarity with computers, we can see that the answer is clearly "yes."

The pore-forming base of the flagellar structure is very similar to the base of the type III secretion system, which allows many bad bacteria, like Salmonella, for example, to infect host cells.

Other parts of the flagellar structure are also similar to the sex-pilus (yes, bacteria can have "sex" too), that allows conjugation and gene transfer.

In Actinobacillus, an operon of just seven genes, and only three with homology to flagella and secretion system genes, forms its own rudimentary secretion system, dubbed the tad operon. This bacteria lives in your mouth and is mostly responsible for making the slime that forms on your teeth when you don't brush. Without the secretion system, it can't make slime.

In fact, an even more rudimentary homologous secretion system, with just four genes, is found in many other bacteria (including the Mycobacteria we study in my lab).

Irrefutably, the complexity of the flagellum is reducible. The ID people will probably go on to think of new "irreducible" examples of complexity, and the real scientists with some free time and a blog will reduce those as well.

The second flaw in ID is more fundamental. That is, their basic argument has no logical basis; because something is very complex, it doesn't necessarily have a "designer."

There are other areas we could assign their principle of seeing design everywhere. Look at the universe, with all the planets and stars forming galaxies and complex orbits and such. When you go to astronomy class, should they talk about how the "designer" made the universe, or should they talk about how gravity and the rules of physics formed these structures?

Look at the branching pattern of a tree. Somehow they twist and wind in a complex and irregular way to fill every gap with leaves and form a canopy. In botany class, should we marvel at how cool the "designer" was to give us shade trees, or should we learn how phototropism works?

The flight of the bumblebee, the efficiency of free-market economies, the northern lights, we could see design anywhere we choose, or we could try to find real scientific explanations.

Natural forces can make complex things, and to conclude that natural forces don't exist just because we can't fully explain every detail about them is complete hubris. To infer from the complexity of the universe that there is a "designer" is to have faith, not scientific proof.

That is the issue. ID proponents believe there is a God, and they believe that the "materialism" of evolutionary theory undermines people's faith in God.

I don't know if that is true. I suppose if someone's religion teaches one thing, and science proves something else, that would shake one's faith. Eventually, mainstream Christianity accepted the structure of the planet and solar system, but for a long time the heliocentric and the young, flat-earth theories were held very tenaciously.

Anyway, real science doesn't exclude the possibility of God. In fact, it doesn't even exclude the possibility of intelligent design. We have no proof that God didn't somehow create the life on earth, or even that he didn't come down from heaven and attach flagella to bacteria. However, we don't have scientific evidence that those things did happen either.

That is the difference between science and religion, faith and empiricism. ID is clearly a product of faith and lacking any scientific basis, and that is why it is inappropriate, even with a majority of the Kansas State Board of Education, to teach intelligent design in public school science classes.

Sanjai Tripathi is a graduate student in microbiology. The opinions expressed in his columns, which appear every Thursday, do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Tripathi can be reached at forum@dailybarometer.com.

Creationist: Darwinists Growing Desperate to Defend Faulty Theory


By Jim Brown
May 12, 2005

(AgapePress) - Intelligent design advocates are drawing attention to what they call a "smoking gun" memo that outlines the strategy of pro-Darwinian forces in the debate over science standards in Kansas.

At issue is an Internet post by Liz Craig, a spokeswoman from the group Kansas Citizens for Science. In it, she delineates her plan for dealing with those on the Kansas Board of Education who fall on the creationist side of the science standards debate.

In the online discussion, Craig described how she intended to use the press in an effort to portray creationist and intelligent design advocates as uninformed and foolish. Her strategy, she remarked, is "the same as it was in 1999: notify the national and local media about what's going on and portray [critics of evolution] in the harshest light possible as political opportunists, Evangelical activists, ignoramuses, breakers of rules, unprincipled bullies, etc."

Dr. John West of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, the nation's largest intelligent design think tank, believes Darwinists do not want to talk about science but instead want to demonize their opponents. What is happening in Kansas is "supposed to be a science debate," he says, "but the pro-Darwin groups seem allergic to talking about the science. They'd rather sling mud, and it makes you sort of wonder whether they have any scientific arguments offer at all."

According to West, Darwinists are engaging in little more than a smear campaign. "I think that's something the public ought to wonder about," he says. "If all they can do is sling mud, then what's going on here?"

The Discovery Institute spokesman says the evolutionists are showing their desperation. "For months they've been saying there aren't any scientists who challenge any part of Darwin's theory," he notes. "And then, lo and behold, we have these hearings where we have a parade of scientists with PhDs in biology, geneticists from Cornell University, a biochemistry professor from the University of Georgia."

Laymen creationists and intelligent design supporters have plenty of well-informed and well-respected scientists echoing their criticisms of evolution science, West points out. There are numerous experts, he notes, from "major secular research institutions, who are in fact saying, 'Yeah, there are some really significant problems with Darwin's theory.' These are the scientists that weren't supposed to exist."

West believes many in the pro-evolution scientific establishment avoid true debate with creationists because the evolution supporters are not prepared to defend their position. Ironically, he adds, the very language many Darwinists use to attack their opponents instead is a good description of their tactics.

© 2005 AgapePress

Darwinists Snub Kansas, Refuse to Answer Questions About Scientific Problems with Evolutionary Theory


TOPEKA, Kan., May 12 /PRNewswire/ -- The Discovery Institute today faulted defenders of Darwin's theory for refusing to defend their views before the Kansas State Board of Education and for being afraid to answer tough questions about the scientific problems of modern evolutionary theory.

"Darwinian scientists showed contempt for science and the citizens of Kansas by refusing to appear before the State School Board," said Dr. Jonathan Wells, a biologist at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. "Why won't Darwinists defend biological and chemical evolutionary theory and answer questions posed by their scientific critics? What is it that they're afraid of? If they are so sure they are right, they should have the courage to be cross-examined."

The Center for Science and Culture today listed just three questions that the state board of education were unable to pose to Darwinian scientists because they refused to attend the hearings:

(1) It is clear from last week's testimony as well as the scientific literature that there is a continuing controversy over whether microevolution (changes within existing species and gene pools) can be extrapolated to explain macroevolution (the origin of new species, organs and body plans). Why shouldn't Kansas students be informed about this scientific controversy? (2) According to the standards proposed by the Majority on the writing committee, "patterns of diversification and extinction of organisms are documented in the fossil record." One of the most striking patterns in the fossil record is the Cambrian Explosion of animal body plans, which Darwin himself considered a "serious" problem for his theory that all animals are modified descendants of a common ancestor. Why shouldn't Kansas students be informed of the Cambrian Explosion and the problem Darwin thought it posed to his theory? (3) The standards supported by the Majority on the writing committee define science as "the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us." Every other state in the U.S. that has a definition of science in its standards defines it as a process of inquiry, an attempt to investigate the natural world by formulating hypotheses and testing them against the evidence. The definition proposed by the Minority is much more consistent with this view of science as a process of inquiry. Why does the Majority -- out of keeping with all other states in the union -- emphasize the sort of explanation a scientist is supposed to find rather than the open-ended process of empirical investigation?

The Institute explained that scientists critical of evolution went to Kansas and answered the board of education's questions last week out of concern for the children of Kansas and in the hopes that science standards in the state will be improved to include critical analysis of biological and chemical evolution.

Web site: http://www.discovery.org/

Discovery Institute highlights NAS member's support for questioning evolution


The Discovery Institute, which describes itself as the nation's leading think tank dealing with scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution, has enlisted a member of the National Academy of Sciences to push for a "balanced view" of evolution to be presented in US schools. Philip Skell, professor emeritus of biochemistry at Pennsylvania State University, has sent an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education to voice "strong support for the idea that students should be able to study scientific criticisms of the evidence for modern evolutionary theory along with the evidence favoring the theory."

The Kansas board is currently holding a series of hearings on the teaching of evolution in schools. These hearings are being boycotted by many science lobby groups who maintain that there is no need to debate the validity of evolution or the merit of intelligent design.

The institute states it opposes any effort to mandate or require the teaching of intelligent design in schools. However Seth Cooper, a Discovery Institute senior program analyst, adds, "Like Dr Skell, we believe evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned".

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Intelligent Design - What Do the Naturalists Have Against It?


May 11, 2005

Bonnie Alba

The Kansas hearings on Intelligent Design and Evolution have turned into the usual media circus. The press continues to follow the path of least resistance, supporting the scientists who proclaim that "Evolution is an established theory." Yet those scientists provide no answers to the scientists offering ID.

What has led to bones of contention within the scientific community are the newest discoveries which bring us to the quite justified reasoning of "following the evidence wherever it may lead." It's about the fact that research and discoveries over the last 30 years in biochemistry, cells and organs, and the cosmology of the universe (Big Bang theory) justify following the hypotheses which have arisen out of science itself. Both ends of the spectrum strongly point to some kind of intelligent force birthing both the universe and life. The Naturalist-Atheists are the ones fighting against the paradigm shift in Science.

As for Intelligent Design being a legitimate hypothesis, of course it is since the discovery that, at the least, the smallest, basic cell had to contain multimillion parts to even live. The human body contains an average 70 trillion cells (more than the combined debts of all the countries in the world). Darwinist Richard Dawkins stated that one teeny cell in your body "contains a digitally coded database larger in information content than all 30 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica put together."

Bio-Chemist Michael Behe calls this biological cell system "irreducibly complex." When the gene code is observed, we see even more complexity in the hereditary information and our individual uniqueness'. And to think we're entirely unaware of what's going on in our cells as we walk around breathing and living.

Imagine you go to see a play written by a brilliant author. You sit in the audience and watch as the play unfolds, everyone playing their parts perfectly, not a word missed. Between scenes, the stage is changed for the next. Are you aware of what is going on backstage? Stage props, stage setters, costume providers, actors awaiting their cues, make-up artists, and then, there is the director and producer who started it all.

What would have happened to the play without the writer, director, and producer? Do you think it would have presented differently, or maybe not at all? It would have been complete and utter nonsensical chaos. You know without my explanation that it took intelligence to write, produce, direct and present the play in all its intricate details.

We recognize a product or event as planned and produced by intelligence. Doesn't take an astrophysicist to recognize intelligence when we observe places and things in our environment.

What is happening in Kansas is not about getting rid of evolution or Darwinism. This is about science education. What is amazing to me is that the textbooks exhibit the same tired, faulty examples of proof for micro- and macro-evolution; natural adaptation or mutation, fossils, moths, finches, cambrian explosion, ape to man, etc., that they did 55 years ago. And all of those are fallible and in error -- never updated in most textbooks. Where are the new discoveries in molecular biology? New fossil discoveries? Missing links? Genetic code complexity? Information theory? Statistics and probability? Where? They certainly aren't showing up in science textbooks with any regularity.

One fellow claimed that Abiogenesis (theory that life can arise spontaneously from non-life molecules under proper conditions) was not part of Darwin's evolution theory. If that is so, then why is it consistently taught within the science lessons and contained in the textbooks as a part of the whole Evolution theory?

The point? Evolution, as now taught and upheld by those "nature is all there is" proponents, crosses over into the philosophical realm with the postulation (unproven) that life just happened under the perfect, required conditions to do so. The missing links or proofs that man and ape evolved from other species are still missing.

By philosophical claims, the extreme left scientists, idolizing Darwinian Naturalism to the exclusion of all else, are pushing an "atheist worldview" on our children. This is the bone of contention which exists for so many parents who are teaching their children a very different worldview with which to grow to adulthood and live hopeful and fulfilling lives.

When a science teacher announces that we are all accidents, "nature is all there is," then this is philosophy and not "empirical science." Instead of following the evidence where it leads, the scientific community is enclosing itself in a box of its own making. Science teachers will have a difficult time as more Americans educate themselves and their children about Darwinism and the naturalist worldview.

Keep asking the questions!

© 2005 Bonnie Alba

"Teachers, Scientists Vow to Fight Challenge to Evolution," Peter Slevin, Wash.Post, May 4, 05 "A Christian Response to Evolution," Institute for Societal Ethics, Dr. Stuart Orr "Debating Darwinism," www.washingtontimes.com May 5, 05 Book Sources for Parents: "Tornado in a Junkyard," James Perloff "Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?...," Jonathan Wells "How Now Shall We Live?" Charles Colson, Nancy Pearcy "Discovery Institute," www.discovery.org/crsc



Posted on Wed, May. 11, 2005

'Intelligent design' a slippery slope


At a time when America's children need to learn how to compete with India, Ireland and other countries to which we are rapidly losing jobs, some Americans would rather fuss and fret about whether man evolved from the apes.

That's what I imagine the master lawyer Clarence Darrow would be saying if he were around to re-defend Charles Darwin's theory of evolution against today's new version of creationism.

I'm sure Darrow would be amazed and amused at last week's events in Topeka, Kan. Eighty years after his famous defendant John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in Tennessee public schools, the Kansas state school board opened hearings in Topeka to hear new challenges to the teaching of Darwin.

School boards in at least a dozen states are grappling with this new movement even though a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ended the forced teaching of creationism in tandem with evolution.

In keeping with the modern age of media spin, creationists have reframed their arguments under a new-fangled banner: "intelligent design."

Instead of insisting the Bible's version of Creation be taught in schools, the ID argument merely asks that schools be required to mention that there are alternative theories to Darwin's. ID movement icons say the Earth must have been created through guided, intelligent events because everything in the universe is just too complicated to have been created through random chance.

Because their theory only questions and does not state who the intelligent designer is, proponents of ID theory insist their movement is not like the old-style creationists who cited the Bible to explain everything.

That's their story, and they're sticking to it.

As long as kids are taught that an "intelligent design" is behind Creation, you might think the ID movement is neutral on whether schoolkids learn about the Creator-God of the Old Testament or some unseen, unnamed "force" like the one that empowers the Jedi Knights in "Star Wars."

But it usually does not take long for ID proponents to reveal their inner urges to crack the wall of separation between church and state.

"Part of our overall goal," William Harris of the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network told the British Broadcasting Corp., "is to remove the bias against religion that is currently in schools."

Of course, when people talk about removing the "bias against religion" in schools or anyplace else, it almost always means that they want to impose their religious values on schools and everybody else.

But it is important to note that the scientific community does not reject religion. In fact, many scientists are quite religious.

Unfortunately, theories and evidence put forth by the ID theorists have not held up under the rigor of peer review, publication in scientific journals and other standards by which the scientific establishment operates.

What, then, is the best way to deal with the teaching of ID? Many voices in the scientific community say scientists need to understand the appeal of ID theory and help students sort out the questions it raises.

Indeed, sometimes the old ways are best. When I was growing up in the 1950s, my teachers never seemed to have much trouble reconciling science with our personal religious views. Both science and religion were ways for us to understand the universe, they said. The questions rational science could not explain we answered with our faith.

We also learned that governments caused trouble when they used science as an excuse to trespass on the faith - or lack of faith - on others. That was not "the American way," we learned. I hope it does not become the American way now.

Contact Page, a Washington columnist for the Chicago Tribune, at cpage@tribune.com.

Lysenko's Intelligent Design


May 11, 2005
Posted by Ernest Miller

Over on Slate, William Saletan has been following the evolution/intelligent design/creationist debate quite closely and rather perceptively. However, I have to find some fault with his latest article, What Matters in Kansas: The Evolution of Creationism. Saletan makes the point that science is slowly winning over the public creationists, who have slowly moved into the camps of the intelligent design debaters, accepting, generally, an earth billions of years old as well as microevolution (mutation and natural selection within species). Saletan sees this as creationist theory on the verge of collapse. Hopefully, he is right. However, I'm not so sure about his other conclusion:

Perversely, evolutionists refuse to facilitate this collapse. They prefer to dismiss ID proponents as dead-end Neanderthals. They complain, legitimately, that Calvert and Harris are trying to expand the definition of science beyond "natural explanations." But have you read the definition Calvert and Harris propose? It would define science as a continuous process of "observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." Abstract creationism can't qualify for such scrutiny. Substantive creationism can't survive it. Or if it can, it should.

It's too bad liberals and scientists don't welcome this test. It's too bad they go around sneering, as censors of science often have, that the new theory is too radical, offensive, or embarrassing to be taken seriously. It's too bad they think good science consists of believing the right things. In the long view—the evolutionary view—good science consists of using evidence and experiment to find out whether what we thought was right is wrong. If they do that in Kansas, by whatever name, that's all that matters.

The problem is that what the intelligent design theorists are doing isn't science. To pretend that it is, in any fashion, is to capitulate to those who oppose science. Furthermore, can you imagine the misuse of any limited concession? Creationists and ID types all too frequently quote-mine to give the air of authority to their arguments.

Calvert and Harris define science as a continual process of "observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." However, what they don't do is exclude supernatural phenomena from the definition. Without that, the rest is essentially meaningless. You are no longer engaged in trying to create an explanation of natural phenomena, you are seeking to support an ideology. Lysenko, I think, would agree.

Indeed, intelligent design has more in common with Lysenko then it does with creationism.

The science of genetics was denounced as reactionary, bourgeois, idealist and formalist. It was held to be contrary to the Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism. Its stress on the relative stability of the gene was supposedly a denial of dialectical development as well as an assault on materialism. Its emphasis on internality was thought to be a rejection of the interconnectedness of every aspect of nature. Its notion of the randomness and indirectness of mutation was held to undercut both the determinism of natural processes and man's ability to shape nature in a purposeful way.

The only difference it would appear is that creationists and intelligent design types repudiate evolution as philosophically materialist and denying god, neither of which is true.

Lysenko believed in "observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." It is just that it would all have to concur with the Marxist dialectic. Was Lysenko engaged in science? I think not. In the case of intelligent design, they promote the processes of science, just so long as it accepts supernatural explanations, which I note, isn't science anymore.

In theory, you can have scientific intelligent design theory. Let me know when someone comes up with one. Until then, their "science" is rightly repudiated.


Les Lane on May 11, 2005 05:50 PM writes...

"Logical analyis" is is what John Calvert does, not what most scientists do. "Analysis" is a vastly better description of what scientists do. "Insightful" better describes scientific explanations than "more adequate".

Robert T Childers on May 11, 2005 07:06 PM writes...

When it comes to the supernatural I think that you delve into an area that is either a) natural processes that haven't been defined and explained, or b) your dealing with wishfull thinking or c) you are walking into philosophy.

There are a lot of aspects about the world and universe that we live in that we still do not understand. And the largest problem that we face in understanding the world around is in asking the right questions and expanding our ability to observe.

There is no such thing as magic. But there is such a thing as unexplained events. There is a maze of information floating out upon the net, yet there are no easy answers. The problem is being able to divide the material up into that which has value and that which is pure imagination. And sometimes even that which is pure imagination can prompt us to discover something that is real.

Man used to think that the world was flat and at the edges there be dragons. Yes it was incorrect but it fired up the minds of those that would later push themselves to discover what were the true facts. And even then the facts that they discovered were only as good as the abilities of the people to observe.

So when it comes to Intellegient Design, the problem is not is Intellegient Design true but rather how to observe in such a way that you can prove one way or the other. With what we have available today there is a large body of information that says it isn't true. But there is also information coming to light that may shed some light on why we have unexplained events. So let your minds be open and continue to strive to understand the world around you. And who knows maybe its the additional dimensions that are orthaganol to the curent 4 that hold the clue. Maybe its something down deep in quantam mechanics that can explain some of the events that led to man devising religeons to try and explain that which he couldn't explain.

TrackBack URL: http://www.corante.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-pcorso.cgi/11402

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

FAQs: What Is Intelligent Design?


Kansas is weighing whether public schools should teach intelligent design alongside Darwin's theories. What is ID all about?

What is intelligent design (ID)?

Intelligent design is the theory that living things show signs of having been designed. ID supporters argue that living creatures and their biological systems are too complex to be accounted for by the Darwinian theory of evolution, and that a designer or a higher intelligence may be responsible for their complexity.

What do ID proponents believe about evolution?

Many ID proponents do not quarrel with most of Darwin's original claims about evolution. They do, however, believe that random genetic mutation and natural selection cannot account for certain biological phenomena, such as the human eye or the body's blood clotting mechanism. ID supporters argue that for these systems to arise via a gradual series of mutations is statistically impossible, which implies that a designer may have guided the process.

Is creationism the same thing as intelligent design?

No, although many critics of Intelligent Design conflate the two.

Creationism usually refers to the theory or belief that God created the universe and human beings in six days as recorded in the Bible's first book, Genesis.

In the United States today, some creationists--called Young Earth Creationists--accept the Genesis account literally and believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old, basing their calculations on the genealogies in the Hebrew scriptures. Young Earth creationists believe God created humans directly; humans did not evolve from other species.

Others, seeking to reconcile the Bible with modern science, believe that each Genesis day may have represented several billion years. (Gerald Schroeder, a physicist and Orthodox Jewish scholar, has calculated what the time spans may be.)

Intelligent design does not posit that the universe was created in six days; it does not contradict the commonly-held scientific view that the universe has been in existence for about 15 billion years. ID also does not challenge the idea that humans developed over time as a result of evolution.

However, critics of intelligent design have called it "creationism in a lab coat," saying that to point to an intelligent designer as the cause of certain biological systems is to abandon scientific inquiry. They argue that, over the decades, science has frequently closed "gaps" and explained previously inexplicable phenomena.

What are the origins of intelligent design theory?

The argument from design, as it has been known for hundreds of years, was expounded most famously by William Paley, a 19th century British theologian. Using the analogy of the watchmaker, Paley argued that just as we infer a watchmaker from the complex workings of a pocket watch, we must infer a creator of the universe from the complex systems of the natural order.

Today's advocates of intelligent design maintain that while Paley's perspective was rooted in the idea of a benevolent Christian God, theirs is the outgrowth of scientific discovery, which has left some profound and fundamental phenomena, such as cell structure, unexplained. But the overwhelming majority of intelligent design advocates are Christians, and virtually all are theists.

Some critics equate intelligent design theory with the so-called "God of the gaps" fallacy—resorting to a divine intelligence to explain the existence of natural phenomena for which we have no scientific explanation. But proponents of intelligent design respond by arguing that their perspective is based upon the latest scientific inquiry into the complexity of the natural order and recognition that evolutionary and other more recent scientific theory is inadequate to explain many biological and physical phenomena.

What do scientists say about intelligent design?

Many of the most vocal supporters of intelligent design have scientific backgrounds and credentials. Prominent among them is Michael J. Behe, a professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University. Behe stresses that he regards ID as a "minimalist position. It only requires that there be physical evidence of an intelligence behind creation of complex natural systems. Who did the creating, or why, comprise a separate set of questions."

Among proponents of intelligent design, there are distinctions between those who support the "old Earth position" as Behe does—he believes that the universe is 13 billion years old—and proponents of the "young Earth" position. They all share a set of assumptions about the "irreducible complexity" of some natural phenomena, if not the process of the design or the characteristics of the designer.

What is the controversy in Kansas about?

In a setting that some have compared to the famous Scopes "Monkey Trial," the Kansas State Board of Education subcommittee in May 2005, has begun hearings on proposed changes to science testing standards for Kansas public school students. The changes would add intelligent design as an alternative explanation to the current teaching that life evolved through natural selection. The hearings are preliminary to a full board meeting in June.

The three board members presiding over the hearings are all conservative Republicans who agree with critics of evolution. Experts on both sides of the controversy are testifying, but some state and national science groups are boycotting the hearings on the grounds that the outcome is preordained and that the hearings are meant to showcase intelligent design.

In 1999, the Kansas school board voted to remove references to evolution from statewide science standards. But the references were restored later after anti-evolutionist board members were unseated. In the current case, a majority again favors adding intelligent design, which makes adoption of new standards likely.



Behe's flawed arguments unconvincing

Posted 05/10/2005

When biochemist Michael Behe attempted to prove his theories on evolution and the origin of life, he made the mistake typical of Intelligent Design proponents. Rather than supporting his own views, he focused on attacking those of Darwinism.

This method of debate only demonstrated that Behe lacks real evidence for his own beliefs. During his talk Apr. 29 on campus, the crux of his complicated argument rested almost entirely on a flawed metaphor.

Behe related the existence of all organisms, including humans, to the existence of a mousetrap. Since the simple device could not have evolved because the individual components did not originally exist by themselves, he argued, it must have been designed — like every organism — by an all-powerful "designer." But comparing something man-made to a man is just too distant a connection. The argument depends on faith instead of fact.

When not trying to convince the audience with abstract analogies, Behe continually claimed that the physical evidence supporting Darwinism is weak. However, this physical evidence — such as data from genomic analysis, the fossil record, and emerging molecular-sequencing techniques — has convinced the vast majority of scientists worldwide.

Discussions on controversial topics such as Intelligent Design are welcome on campus. But arguments advertised as "the biochemical challenge to evolution" that resemble slander more than science are not. For Behe and other Intelligent Design advocates to be convincing — and respected — they must gather more physical evidence for their theories and rely less on disproving others.

Editorials represent the collective opinion of The California Aggie editorial board.

Bonnie Erbe: The assault of 'intelligent design'


By BONNIE ERBE, Scripps Howard News Service
May 10, 2005

The two most vestigial locales in our otherwise great nation at the moment are Kansas and Washington, D.C.

Kansas, because the stacked Board of Education there is staging the greatest public-relations coup for organized religion since Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D.

And Washington, D.C., because Christian evangelism is winning its power grab to dominate government locally and nationally as payback for evangelical leaders' part in George W. Bush's victory last November.

Any normal group of folks would have been so embarrassed by the widespread rejection of the mystical fatuity of creationism that they would have quietly departed the national scene and crawled back into oblivion.

Not this crowd.

Instead of "hitting bottom" and admitting their frailties as the path to enlightenment, they went into a huddle and divined an equally ludicrous theory. This time, however, they have put ribbons around the same old garbage can, but coined a new term: "intelligent design."

At the beginning of Kansas' charade-like examination of intelligent design last week, the Boston Globe covered the politically correct astuteness of these savvier purveyors of myth. It was the first of several days of "hearings" by the Kansas Board of Education on whether to teach intelligent design in public-school science classes alongside evolution.

The Globe reported that intelligent-design proponents "... studiously avoided references to God and Christianity, flaunted their scientific credentials, and tossed around words like 'reasoned,' 'empirical,' and 'peer review' as they touted intelligent design theory. Intelligent design, a relatively new twist to criticisms of evolution, posits that certain aspects of the universe particularly the origins of life are too complex to explain through natural causes, and that scientists should be willing to attribute mysteries to an 'intelligent designer.' "

Personally, I have no problem with intelligent design being taught in a comparative-religion class. That, as long as the course also includes sections on new developments in all major religions. But these intelligent-design rubes (degreed though they may be) want to teach it as if it were science.

I suppose these advocates also believe the United States hasn't fallen far enough behind in science, or that poor old Asia and Europe need a leg up in overtaking us. The only real difference between intelligent design and creationism is there's less emphasis on the Judeo-Christian version of Genesis and more "politically correct" openness to all religions' versions of God. But the effects on U.S. global competitiveness are just as potentially devastating.

In May of last year The New York Times reported, "Foreign advances in basic science are rivaling or even exceeding America's, apparently with little public awareness of this trend or its implications. ..." The report went on to note that America's share of Nobel Prizes (which this great nation used to dominate by wide margins) has fallen to 51 percent.

The National Science Board reported recently that the U.S. government issued 74,000 visas for immigrants to work in science and technology in 2002, down by more than half from 166,000 only a year earlier. And the Washington Monthly reported in January of this year, "Roger Pederson is one of the leading researchers in the field of stem cells. But in 2001, he left his position at the University of California, San Francisco, to take up residency at the Centre for Stem Cell Biology Medicine at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom."

Much of the U.S. loss of leadership in the biological sciences can be attributed to President Bush's ban on most stem-cell research, which he issued as a sop to the same folks who are bringing you intelligent design. In reaction, states are rushing to outspend each other to attract the world's best biologists (to wit, California's Prop. 71, which approved $3 billion for true stem-cell research there) and competing against each other instead of uniting as a nation in the process.

As we move closer and closer to religious sovereignty over government and public education, other nations are moving further away.

They're pummeling us economically in the process. Isn't it time somebody noticed?

(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)

'Intelligent Design' in Kansas: The Right's Attack on Families


Posted by Pete Blackwell on May 09, 2005 08:06 PM

Filed under: Culture/Tech: Family, Culture/Tech: Religion, Politics

Trial and Error: The American Controversy over Creation and Evolution
Edward J. Larson
Book from Oxford University Press
Release date: 01 January, 2003

When Thomas Frank wrote his latest book, his subject was the 2004 elections rather than the debate over "intelligent design," but his question still applies: What's the matter with Kansas?

Back in 1999, Kansas' school board, stacked with religious conservatives, voted to downplay the teaching of evolution in schools. Realizing their mistake, Kansans voted these fanatics out at the next opportunity. Now Kansas is embroiled in a debate over whether to teach "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution in state schools.

This theory holds that the universe is too complex to have arisen out of chance and therefore must be the work of an intelligent designer. The people trying to push this theory on Kansas school children are unusually tight-lipped about just who this "designer" might be, but I'll give you three guesses. Here's a hint: in testimony on Friday, William S. Harris, co-founder of the Intelligent Design Network, implied that current Kansas school standards embrace "atheism and naturalism."

But intelligent design is not creationism. It couldn't be, since "design" and "create" are clearly two different words, right? Look at the IDN website. It doesn't say "creationism" in big block letters, and there's a picture of a double helix on the homepage, so this must be solid, disinterested science. In actuality, the IDers merely seize upon the fact that evolution is not perfectly understood by scientists and attempt to replace it with a theory that is unverifiable and thus irrefutable.

But what about the children and their fragile minds? How can religious parents teach good Judeo-Christian values to their kids if they don't learn them in public school? If only there was some sort of school run by the church that parents could send their kids to, maybe on the weekend—a "Sunday school" of sorts.

There is a deep irony in the attempt to excise evolution from the science curriculum, just as there is in the move to allow prayer in schools or to have the Ten Commandments posted in classrooms. The very groups that advocate so-called "proper" parenting seem to want to cede parental responsibility to the state, turning Uncle Sam into a surrogate father. All these groups with wholesome names—groups like Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the Culture and Family Institute—are actively involved in the effort to make the government take the place of the family in matters of morality and values.

There's nothing wrong with teaching your kids whatever you want at home; that's as it should be. Parents have always augmented or even refuted the lessons kids learn at school with their own teaching. People who have a major problem with what kids learn in the state-run schools have options: private school or home schooling. And if they can't afford that, then they're going to have to take responsibility for teaching their kids what they think they're missing out on at public school.

I can't help but think that those who don't want their kids exposed to secular ideas are afraid that they cannot defend their own faith to their children. Be that as it may, it's not the state's responsibility to shelter kids from ideas that may contradict their parents' religious ideology.

In fact, the effort to force kids to live in a bubble of ignorance actually does them a great disservice. When they grow up, they will be exposed to all kinds of secular ideas and scientific challenges to their beliefs. Do these parents really want them to be unprepared for that reality?

The religious right in this country is in full frontal assault against the innate responsibility that parents have for their own children. The aforementioned groups, along with media nags like the PTC and the Kids First Coalition, want to create a nanny state where no offensive or irreligious idea will ever pollute their children's minds. In doing so they will ultimately strip these kids of the ability to think for themselves. Unfortunately, I think that's the point.

Originally published as "Be My Daddy, Uncle Sam"

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