Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
H. Allen Orr takes on "intelligent design" in the pages of The New
Cobb County's evolution disclaimer stickers are removed while Selman and Manely receive kudos for their role in the case; and "A catechism of creation" arrives from the Episcopal Church.
ORR ON "INTELLIGENT DESIGN"
H. Allen Orr again takes on "intelligent design" in his essay "Devolution: Why intelligent design isn't," published in the May 30, 2005, issue of The New Yorker. Beginning with the controversy in Dover, Pennsylvania, where the school board's decision to require students to be exposed to 'intelligent design' resulted in a federal lawsuit, and briefly mentioning a host of debates over the teaching of evolution around the country, Orr sketches the core idea of "intelligent design" and proceeds to evaluate its central attempts at scientific argument, due, in his view, to Michael Behe and William Dembski.
With regard to Behe, Orr argues that his principal argument from "irreducibility complexity" acknowledgedly fails. To Behe's fallback argument "that, while irreducibly complex systems can in principle evolve, biologists can't reconstruct in convincing detail just how any such system did evolve," Orr responds, "What counts as a sufficiently detailed historical narrative, though, is altogether subjective. Biologists actually know a great deal about the evolution of biochemical systems, irreducibly complex or not." With respect to Dembski, Orr writes, "Dembski's mathematical claims about design and Darwin are almost entirely beside the point."
Noting the discrepancies among the views espoused by proponents of intelligent design, Orr remarks, "In the end, it's hard to view intelligent design as a coherent movement in any but a political sense. It's also hard to view it as a real research program." He supports these judgments by citing the now notorious Wedge Strategy as well as the "intelligent design" literature's standard equation of evolutionary biology with atheism. But, Orr trenchantly responds, "Biologists aren't alarmed by intelligent design's arrival in Dover and elsewhere because they have all sworn allegiance to atheistic materialism; they're alarmed because intelligent design is junk science."
To read "Devolution" in the New Yorker, visit:
For Orr's 1996/7 review of Behe's Darwin's Black Box, visit:
For Orr's 2002 review of Dembski's No Free Lunch, visit:
DEVELOPMENTS IN COBB COUNTY
While preparations are underway for the appeal in Selman et al. v. Cobb County School District et al., the warning labels at issue -- which invidiously describe evolution as "a theory, not a fact" -- are on their way out. Although the Cobb County School District asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay Judge Clarence Cooper's order for the labels to be removed, pending its decision on the district's appeal of Selman, a three-judge panel denied the request on May 3, 2005. Accordingly, on May 23, a team of temporary workers, including current and former students, began to take putty knives and adhesive remover to the almost 35,000 stickers affixed to the biology textbooks used in the district; it is estimated that the cost of the project will not exceed $25,000.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Selman, the lead plaintiff in Selman v. Cobb County, and Michael Manely, the Marietta, Georgia, lawyer who was the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, received the Mary Beth Tinker Award in Washington, D.C., on May 18, 2005. The award, presented by the Marshall-Brennan Fellowship Program of American University's Washington College of Law, "is given to individuals who stood up for and advanced the cause of students' rights in a meaningful way." It is named for the lead plaintiff in Tinker v. Des Moines School District, in which the Supreme Court affirmed that the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause extended to students in the public schools; Mary Beth Tinker herself was on hand to present Selman and Manely with the award.
To read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's article about the sticker
removal project, visit:
To read the Washington College of Law's press release about the Tinker award, visit: http://tinyurl.com/bmdyp
"A CATECHISM OF CREATION"
The Committee on Science, Technology and Faith of the Episcopal Church recently announced its publication on-line of "A catechism of creation: An Episcopal understanding." Intended for congregational study and presented in a question-and-answer format, the catechism contains three parts: "A theology of creation," which provides basic biblical and historical theological understandings of creation; "Creation and science," which explores the interaction of religious and scientific ways of knowing (and includes specific discussions of evolution, young-earth creationism, and "intelligent design"); and "Caring for creation," which offers a rationale for human stewardship and partnership with the rest of creation. The principal author is Robert J. Schneider, a retired distinguished professor of general studies and professor of classical languages at Berea College.
As a religously neutral organization, NCSE takes no position on the theological details of the catechism. But it certainly deserves attention as a model of a sincere, informed, and thoughtful attempt to understand the dictum "Through Christ all things were made" in a way compatible with the results and methods of contemporary science. Assessing the signficance of the catechism, Episcopal Bishop Jim Kelsey of Northern Michigan remarks, "Those who espouse 'Creationism' have seemed to lay claim (at least in public vernacular) to the word 'Creation.' It's as if there's been an abdication by more mainline traditions of the language, so that it's assumed by many that people of faith reject evolution and other scientific learnings and theories, and that people who focus on scientific thought reject outright any truths and insights garnered from faith. It's a false dichotomy."
To read the press release announcing "A catechism of creation," visit:
Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc
Friday, May 27, 2005; Page A26
Michael Powell's fascinating article about Phillip Johnson ["Doubting Rationalist," Style, May 15] raised questions that science has not answered and has not tried to answer.
What seemed to get lost in the article was that faith and science live by different rules. Faith requires belief; science requires evidence. In faith, certainty is necessary; in science, it is impossible. Because faith and science live by different rules, one cannot be judged by the criteria of the other.
Some aspects of evolution may be in doubt. But doubts are a beginning, not a theory. And a sense of wonder at the universe should not be seen as an invitation to irrationality. Considerable scientific evidence exists for evolution, and no scientific evidence for intelligent design or creationism.
All people are entitled to free practice of their faith; they are not entitled to distort science in the name of faith.
By TIMES STAFF
Published May 26, 2005
Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed a bill Thursday that would have required schools to inform parents about the possible repercussions of mental disorder diagnoses before referring students for mental evaluations.
By attempting to color parents' perception, the bill "places the school between the parent and the medical professional," Bush said.
The bill was backed by the Church of Scientology and sponsored by Rep. Gus Barreiro, R-Miami Beach and Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa.
[Last modified May 26, 2005, 18:40:03]
TOM CRUISE has started taking the Church of Scientology onto film sets - setting up tents and inviting co-stars, crew and executives to learn more about the controversial religion.
The movie star, who became a scientologist in 1985, invited church leaders to join him on the set of new movie WAR OF THE WORLDS - to help him spread the word.
He also offered to take producers on a tour of the religion's California headquarters to help them understand his beliefs.
He says, "If someone says they want to know who I am... What I find is people are interested, they wanna know. When I say, 'Hey, the invitation's there,' they jump at it."
27/05/2005 - 17:54:28
Tom Cruise has declared a public war on psychiatrists because he fears the "pseudo-science" has led to a drug-fuelled crisis for today's children.
The movie hunk was diagnosed as dyslexic when he was just seven, and doctors suggested he should take drugs to control his learning problems.
Memories of that part of his childhood fuelled Cruise to seek alternative ways of overcoming his dyslexia - a problem that led him to the Church of Scientology's educational programmes.
Becoming a scientologist in 1984 made the actor look closely at the controversial religion's anti-psychiatry stance, and he has since become a firm believer that the science and the medicating of children is wrong.
Speaking exclusively to US news show Access Hollywood as part of a week-long special about his scientology beliefs, the movie hunk declares: "I'm going right after psychiatry and these false labels and this pseudo-science.
"I was diagnosed as dyslexic; I had a lot of energy as a child. They wanted to put me on drugs… Never did; my mother said no, absolutely not, no way and I'm thankful.
"Had I been put on those drugs, I never would be here today… I never would have had the career that I'm having.
"Am I making people aware of it by discussing it openly and saying what a fraud psychiatry is? You bet I am. I feel a responsibility because I care…"
The actor also maintains that poor results in education in America can be blamed on mind-altering drugs that are given to children.
He adds: "SAT (exam) scores have gone right down the toilet. The parents are blaming the teachers, the teachers are blaming the parents and the psychs are putting everyone on drugs."
© Thomas Crosbie Media, 2005.
By Jason Miller
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Download a .pdf file for printing.
May 27, 2005—Life in Kansas can be as surreal as the landscape of a Salvador Dali painting. Critical thinking is a scarce commodity. "Scopes II" provided me with ample evidence that Kansans are proudly waving the banner of anti-intellectualism.
Last week, the 6–4 conservative Christian majority on the Kansas State School Board contrived a 21st century reenactment of the Monkey Trial of 1925 to "prove" that evolution is a flawed theory. How did my home state time warp past the Age of Reason?
Farcical would be a generous description of "Scopes II". Three moderate school board members and the entire mainstream scientific community boycotted the charade.
John Calvert, a conservative Christian who leads the Intelligent Design Network of Kansas, stood in for William Jennings Bryan. Calvert questioned "expert witnesses" in a quest to disprove evolution. Many of the witnesses, whose purpose was to validate the board's desire to introduce Intelligent Design (ID) into the school curriculum, were from the Discovery Institute .
Founded and funded by Christian fundamentalists, the Discovery Institute is a think-tank created to advance the concept of Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design essentially says that in merely observing the complexity of the world, one cannot help but conclude that there was an intelligent designer. Evidence, research, and peer review are irrelevant to the purveyors of the ID "theory", a thinly veiled form of Creationism. For more on the hypocrisy of Discovery and their ID "theory", see the "Wedge Document ."
Pedro Irigonegaray, Clarence Darrow's counterpart in "Scopes II", is a Topeka defense attorney who generously donated his time to the support of the Theory of Evolution. He questioned the "experts" with a tenacity that revealed their true agenda. He also exposed the fact that most of them had not even read the science standards proposed to the board. He so effectively embarrassed the opposition that his antagonist, John Calvert, refused to shake hands at the end of the proceedings.
Later this summer, the board will vote on potential changes to the science standards in Kansas Public Schools. Holding the majority, it is a foregone conclusion that the conservative Christians will decide to accept the recommendations of John Calvert and his group. Employing their infinite Biblical wisdom, the board will introduce Intelligent Design into the classroom, de-emphasize evolution (which has withstood rigorous scientific scrutiny since 1859), and introduce its own definition of science. As a parent with a child in a Kansas public school, I simultaneously experienced perplexity, bewilderment, and frustration as this insane scenario came to a close.
Only a Symptom
As I pondered, it dawned on me that "Scopes II" is merely a symptom of a much deeper disease gripping our nation. As Thomas Frank concluded in What's the Matter with Kansas?, American voters have been brain-washed into voting against their own economic interests in an obsessive drive to legislate "Christian values" into our nation. "Scopes II" validates his point. Contemplating the conclusions of Mr. Frank, integrating the observations of others, and infusing my own analysis, I surmised that the root of America's decay is the insatiable lust for power and money by the ruling class. Our republic is crumbling while our standing in the world community has disintegrated to the point that America is the object of global fear and hatred.
During the Gilded Age, America experienced a similar period of laissez-faire capitalism, inequitable distribution of wealth, and imperialistic endeavors. However, the government of that era lacked the propaganda machine to sustain the over-indulgence of the elite. Today's government media empire has the capacity to lull our citizenry into surrendering their individual freedoms in exchange for the comfort of the protective bosom of Big Brother.
Will the Real George Bush Please Stand Up?
Who is George Bush? Does the "aw shucks, just listen to how I say the word nucular," folksy persona he projects square with the real man? Is our beloved "W" truly a man of the people, as he would like Americans to believe? Old Hickory is probably turning in his grave. Strolling through life with at least $9 million in inherited wealth, our president could not begin to fathom the plight of the working or middle class, let alone the poor. He has failed or underperformed at virtually every endeavor of his life, but that is not a problem. Wealthy friends and family have been there to bail him out nearly every step of the way. His alleged empathy for the plight of the common man is a fraud.
With his MBA from Harvard, I am betting that W. is not nearly as ignorant as he portrays himself to be. He is strong and resolute in his beliefs, but given his power, money, and support network, how difficult is it to be "strong and resolute"? While it was his appearance of strength and resolution that captured the hearts and minds of many foolish American voters after 9/11 rattled their psyches, what they failed to realize was that Bush would use those very qualities to advance a cause that undermined many aspects of their well-being. Middle and working class Americans who support George Bush need to awaken from their intellectual slumber. Jozef Hand-Boniakowski has much more to say about this.in The Fascist Ego and the Future .
George Bush exists to advance the interests of the rich and the elite. Early in his reign, the events of 9/11 shattered the security of many Americans. Seizing upon this opportunity, which they may have actually master-minded and?perpetrated , Bush and his henchmen employed this powerful tool to manipulate many Americans. Preying upon America's deep sense of fear, Karl Rove, the Minister of Truth and a man who could take Joseph Goebbels to school, forged the image of George Bush as God's chosen savior to America and to the "free world". He nurtured the notion that America was under constant threat of attack by a murky enemy called Terrorism. Such an abstract enemy enabled Bush and Rove to keep the American people in a perpetual state of war and insecurity. The new paradigm of the "good" US against the "evil" Terrorists, laid the foundation for Bush's long coveted invasion of Iraq. As the administration rushed the USA PATRIOT Act through Congress, few congressmen had time to even read the legislation before rubber-stamping it for fear of being branded "unpatriotic" by John Ashcroft, America's newly anointed Minister of Love.
Over three years have passed since 9/11, yet many Americans still dangle from the marionette strings of The Ministry of Truth. Rove's propagandists and the mainstream media have enabled W. to propel the United States into an illegal, imperialistic invasion of Iraq to perpetuate corporate and big oil interests. Tax cuts for the wealthy have shifted the tax burden to the middle and working class, whose numbers are dwindling thanks to corporate overseas job outsourcing. Under a crushing national debt of $7.5 trillion, America is now the reigning king of debtor nations, a title once arrogantly bestowed upon developing nations. How can we saddle our children and grandchildren with that burden? At the rate America is going, future generations will become the indentured servants of China and Japan. Social welfare benefits for the poor are substantially diminishing. Government-endorsed discrimination against gays is increasing. The line between church and state delineated by our Constitution is disappearing. Chasm is the new word to describe the gap between the rich and the poor. Inconceivably, many Americans still adore W., somehow managing to disregard a mountain of evidence of his incompetence, disregard for the working class, and deceit. If one whispers a sweet little lie to oneself long enough, one starts to believe it.
Jason Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Kansas. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of Online Journal.
Copyright © 1998-2005 Online Journal™.
Posted by Senior Editor on 2005/5/27 8:59:00
By : Richard W. Rahn
If someone advocates an ideology that has contempt for the individual and has caused untold economic misery and the deaths of hundreds of millions at the hands of their governments, what would you think of that person?
The ideology I refer to is, of course, socialism and its numerous variations, including the utopian socialists, the Fabian socialists, the National Socialists, and, naturally, the communists. Socialism is simply an economic system where the government (or collective) owns and controls the means of production. Given that the two centuries of socialists' experiments, whether by utopians, Marxists, or Fabians, always ended in economic failure and a loss of personal liberty, why are people around the globe still proudly proclaiming themselves socialists? Socialist parties are still popular in parts of Europe, Latin American, and in much of Africa. Socialist parties have been elected to power in both Spain and Portugal in recent months. Many college professors and students on U.S. campuses claim to be socialists.
The "national socialists" caused the death of tens of millions of people. The communists in Russia, China, Cambodia and elsewhere caused the collective deaths of more than 100 million people and impoverished billions of others. (I happened to be at the Kremlin in Moscow in August 1992, when the Russia demographers announced they had determined there were 63 million "excess deaths" in the Soviet Union during Josef Stalin's reign - 1923-53.)
The Third World socialists have kept their countries unnecessarily mired in poverty for a half-century. The democratic socialists gained control in England in 1945 under Clement Attlee. As a result, the British economy was run into the ground. Hence the British people voted to reprivatize their economy under Margaret Thatcher beginning in 1979.
Other democratic socialist economies had the same types of failure, so by the 1980s privatization became the vogue as it was obviously necessary to re-ignite economic growth.
Yet, the socialists keep coming back. They deny or ignore previous failures and say the next time "we will do it right." Socialism only fails and will continue to fail because its theory is as flawed as its practice.
Back in the 1920s, the eminent economist Ludwig von Mises showed socialism it could not work because it could not provide a functional alternative to the price system to properly allocate resources. The Nobel Prize-winning economist, F.A. Hayek, provided the definitive proof of why socialism could not work in his last book, "The Fatal Conceit." The argument in essence is that if the whole world were socialist there would be no objective way to determine prices, thus no way to allocate resources efficiently.
If people knew the real history of all the socialist experiments and its flawed theory, very few (other than the delusional or mean-spirited) would be socialists. People do not know the history of socialist disasters because the educational establishment and much of the news media have engaged in a massive cover-up. The large majority of teachers throughout the world are government employees or depend on government grants. All too many are thus understandably hostile to the idea government enterprises do not work as advertised and, hence, reluctant to both teach and allow materials in the classroom that show the socialist model neither works in practice or theory. Surveys in the U.S. and elsewhere show the overwhelming majority of professors and public school teachers are on the left side of the political spectrum, so one should not be shocked they hesitate to teach history and theory that show their self-interested ideology is a failure.
Much of the electronic media in the world are either owned or controlled by governments. In the U.S., National Public Radio (NPR) provides a steady diet of the alleged failures of those in the private sector, with scant mention of the endless failures of socialist undertakings, let alone the reasons. Many NPR stations are now airing the BBC in part to further propagandize Americans in the socialist way of thinking. (Most Americans do not realize the government-owned BBC is increasingly monopolizing the broadcast media in Britain and, particularly, news to the benefit of the left.)
The employees of these socialist media are disinclined to bite the hand that feeds them, and many do not know any better. The situation is not much improved in the print media. Most reporters have been fed a steady diet of leftist and socialist propaganda from both their schools and from government agencies, and too few are willing to do the independent study and research to discover and, in turn, report the truth.
Perhaps the Internet will be our salvation, because it enables good people of conscience to get out the facts about the human misery caused by 200 years of socialist experimentation, without first being filtered by left-leaning information controllers.
Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute.
Interview with Dr. Michael Behe, Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University and a Roman Catholic
Some 80 years have passed since the Scopes Monkey Trial brought forward a passionate debate on teaching creation or evolution in public schools. While the public debate still remains, some scientists say scientific developments have fundamentally shifted the landscape on the creation-evolution debate and have introduced a new theory - intelligent design - to explain the origins of life.
Intelligent design (ID) advocate, Dr. Michael J. Behe, Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University and a Roman Catholic, took some time to speak to the Christian Post about his views on evolution, creationism, and Intelligent Design.
What is ID
ID is just the idea that you can detect the effects of an intelligent agent on parts of nature.
Intelligent agent is just a being who is smart enough to have done things that you?re looking at.
A non-controversial example, if you drove past Mt. Rushmore, you?d realize quickly that the mountains that you were looking at were not just shaped by unintelligent forces, but by some intelligent agents as well. In my thinking, we can also tell that an intelligent agent has affected parts of life as well, parts of biology.
What is the difference between ID and creationism?
In my thinking, ID goes out and looks at nature. It looks at what we have learned about nature and asks the question: what is the best way to explain what we have found in the nature? Creation science starts from the Bible, from the creation stories in the Bible and goes out and says what can we find in nature that can support the creation stories?
Are you saying that the starting points are different?
Yes, I think ID starts with the nature and creation science starts with the Bible.
What is the view of creationists on ID?
Some creationists think that ID does not go far enough. They say that it does not lead one to Jesus or even to God and therefore, it?s an inadequate idea for helping to save souls. I would say I totally agree with them. It?s not intended to be a complete answer to all the important questions of life. It?s only intended to be a very minimal idea relating to what we?ve found in biology.
Nonetheless, ID, on its own merits, is a good idea. It?s just not a complete answer to life?s most important questions.
What about ID vs. evolution?
ID is not opposed to evolution if evolution is simply understood as common descent or the theory that organisms descended one from the other, even with the modification. If ID deals only with the question of how did the elegant and sophisticated features of life we see in biology get here? Did they get here by an unintelligent process such as Darwin?s idea of random mutation and natural selection or did they get here by intelligent process, by the deliberate actions by an intelligent agent? So ID is actually compatible with a large amount of what goes under the name evolution.
Does a majority of ID advocates agree with evolution?
I think it?s a mix. It?s hard to tell. There are a fair number of ID advocates who do not think that common descent is correct. Many of them don?t think it?s correct simply because they see no evidence that one type of organism can change into another type of organism even with the intelligent direction. So they think the evidence does not support common descent.
I, on the other hand, think common descent is a reasonable idea because of what it accounts for the similarities that we see among different kinds of organisms. And I think if an intelligent agent arranges things, perhaps one kind of organism can in fact give rise to a different organism, for example, from fish to amphibian and to reptile and so on. I think intelligent agent guided process could have helped to do something.
In the Bible, in Genesis 1, it says God created each living organism ?according to its own kind.? What is your response to this?
I'm not a theologian, so I stay away from that. I?ve heard theologians who are much more learner than I am arguing different interpretations of that. I?m just an ordinary biochemist so I try to stick to science and stay away from the theology.
Can all these three theories somehow be in harmony?
It all really depends on what you mean by creationism, evolution, and intelligent design.
Everything depends on your definition of what you mean things. If evolution you mean an unintelligent process or a random process, then I don?t think that it?s compatible with ID. If by evolution you mean common descent and if by creation you mean a new sort of animals without ancestor then clearly they can?t both be correct. But if you think creation as God?s activity and evolution simply as descent, but which allows guidance by God, then yes, I think it can then reconcile all of those.
Currently, there is a very heated debate on whether ID should be allowed to be taught in public schools, what is the core reason why people think ID to be taught in public education?
I think one good reason is that many people think it?s true that unintelligent processes cannot account for the elegance and sophistication of what we see in the living world. And when they look at the evidence that is offered to support Darwin?s theory, they find it to be very inadequate. They find arguments for design that is for the proposition that some structures in life require intelligent direction to be compelling, to be persuasive.
I think many people just support ID teaching in schools because they think it?s a persuasive idea. They think that the exclusion of ID and teaching of Darwinism is based more on philosophical considerations. Because ID has what many people think of as religious implications, then simply because of that it?s not allowed to be taught in schools. But if the evidence supports it, then it should be allowed to be taught even if it has religious implications. A truly neutral approach to teaching science in schools is to allow the evidence to guide one?s conclusions and not to artificially rule one idea out of bounds simply because the person doesn?t like its implications.
Do you see ID having enough evidence?
Yes, I certainly do. Well, I am a biochemist and biochemistry studies molecular basis of life. And in the past 50 years, science has discovered that at the very foundation of life there are sophisticated molecular machines, which do the work in the cell. I mean, literally, there are real machines inside everybody?s cells and this is what they are called by all biologists who work in the field, molecular machines. They?re little trucks and busses that run around the cell that takes supplies from one end of the cell to the other. They?re little traffic signals to regulate the flow. They?re sign posts to tell them when they get to the right destination. They?re little outboard motors that allow some cells to swim. If you look at the parts of these, they?re remarkably like the machineries that we use in our everyday world.
The argument is that we know from experience that machinery in our everyday world that we use in our everyday world required design, required an intelligent agent that put it together, who understood how it was going to be used and who assembled the parts. By an inductive argument, when we find such sophisticated machinery in other places too, we can conclude that it also requires design. So now that we found it in life and in the very foundation of life, I and other ID advocates argue that there is no reason to not reach the same conclusion and that in fact, these things were indeed designed.
About 50 years ago Watson and Crick deduced the structure of DNA, the double helix. The first structures of proteins, which are the parts like the machines in the cell, were discovered and before we really didn?t know how the cells worked at all. In the past 50 years, we?ve gotten more and more knowledge about how the cell works. And the more we know, the more sophisticated we have discovered that it is.
Michael J. Behe, originally from Harrisburg, PA., graduated from Drexel University in 1974 with a B.S. in Chemistry and did his graduate studies in biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania where he was awarded the Ph.D. in 1978 for his dissertation research on sickle-cell disease. From 1978-1982 he did postdoctoral work on DNA structure at the National Institutes of Health. From 1982-85 he was Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Queens College in New York City, where he met his wife.
In 1985 he moved to Lehigh University where he is currently Professor of Biochemistry. In his career he has authored over 40 technical papers and one book, Darwin?s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, which argues that living system at the molecular level are best explained as being the result of deliberate intelligent design. Darwin?s Black Box has been reviewed by the New York Times, Nature, Philosophy of Science, Christianity Today, and over one hundred other periodicals. He and his wife reside near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with their eight children.
Copyright © 2005 The Christian Post
Story last updated at 10:46 PM on May 25, 2005
Tom Hoover's response (Letters, May 21) to Jim Thompson's May 15 column is misguided. Hoover states intelligent-design creationism is flawed because proponents have not adequately explained why so many species have gone extinct.
He assumes that an inherent design flaw, or mistake, is the only reason for a species to become extinct. There are many other possibilities, however. Extinction may have been a form of punishment or, perhaps, the entire fossil record is a hoax created to fool us.
The true problem with intelligent-design creationism as a scientific theory is that it is impossible to disprove by experimentation or observation. Scientific theories are powerful tools for understanding the world around us precisely because they make strong predictions that can be tested. If the theory fails the test, then it must be revised or discarded.
Intelligent-design creationism predicts there is a supernatural being, or God, that created all life. How is one to test this idea? By promoting intelligent-design creationism as a scientific alternative to evolution by natural selection, are supporters suggesting that one can prove or disprove the existence of God? What experiments could be performed to disprove the idea of intelligent design?
By contrast, Darwin's theory of evolution makes strong predictions that have been tested in thousands of peer-reviewed articles.
To date, only one paper on intelligent design has been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but this was a review that contained no original research (see http://www.biolsocwash.org/). Therefore, the entire debate over intelligent design versus evolution is political, not scientific.
Assistant professor of cellular biology
University of Georgia
Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Thursday, May 26, 2005
Thursday, May. 26, 2005 Posted: 1:31:25AM EST
Among American physicians, primary support for intelligent design (ID) comes from Protestants, according to the recent findings of a nation-wide research. Moreover, half of doctors surveyed believe that schools should be allowed, but not required, to teach ID.
"Sympathy for the idea of intelligent design comes primarily from Protestant members of the medical community, although openness to consideration of intelligent design as a legitimate speculation is strong among Catholics but completely lacking among Jews," said Alan Mittleman, director of the Finkelstein Institute.
The study, co-conducted May 13-15 by HCD Research in Flemington, NJ. and the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Social and Religious Research in New York, NY. revealed fascinating findings drawn from the 1,472 physicians polled.
Some of the major findings are as follows:
What are your views on Evolution?
Majority of all doctors (78%) accept evolution rather than reject it and, of those, Jews are most positive (94%), Catholics are next (86%) followed by Protestants (59%).
What are your views on the origin and development of human beings?
Less than half (42%) agree with the statement that God initiated and guided an evolutionary process that has led to current human beings, while 18 believe that "God created humans exactly as they appear now" and 38% said they believe that "humans evolved naturally with no supernatural involvement."
A majority of Catholic doctors (67%) agree with the statement that God initiated and guided an evolutionary process that has led to current human beings, while 11% believe that "God created humans exactly as they appear now." By contrast, less than half of Protestant doctors (46%) believe that God initiated and guided an evolutionary process, while 35% believe that God created humans as they appear now. The majority of Jewish doctors (65%) agree more with the statement that "humans evolved naturally with no supernatural involvement."
Do you agree more with the evolution or more with intelligent design?
More than half (63%) physicians overall agree more with evolution, while 34% agree more with ID. Of those who agree more with evolution, the majority of Jewish doctors (88%) and 61% Catholic doctors agree more with evolution, while slightly more than half of Protestants (55%) agree more with ID.
Several states are considering mandating the teaching of intelligent design alongside the teaching of evolution. Do you think that schools should be required, be allowed (but not required), or be prohibited from teaching ID?
Among the half of the overall respondents (50%)who feel that schools should be allowed (but not required) to teach ID, 52% Protestants and more than half Catholics (62%) feel that schools should be allowed. Conversely, more than half of Jewish doctors (59%) believe that schools should be prohibited from teaching intelligent design.
Do you believe that intelligent design has legitimacy as science or do you believe it is only a covert way of getting creationism into the schools?
While 42% believe that ID is "a legitimate scientific speculation" and the rest (58%) see it as "a religiously inspired pseudo-science," an overwhelming majority of Jewish doctors (83%) and half of Catholic doctors (51%), and more than half of Protestant doctors (63%) view ID as simply "a religiously inspired pseudo- science."
The study was conducted as part of a continuing investigation of the social, political, and economic issues confronting the U.S. health care system, stated the HCD press release.
The co-founder and managing partner of HCD Research, Glenn Kessler, noted the significance of the influence the religious and cultural background has on one's scientific perspectives.
"As our earlier physician studies indicated," Kessler said, "religion, culture and ethnic heritage have an impact on their views of science, even from this relatively homogenous group of physicians who share similar education, income and social status."
Mynga Futrell, Ph.D.
Objectivity, Accuracy and Balance in Teaching About Religion (OABITAR)
May 25, 2005 —School boards across the nation face increasing pressure to allot instructional time in science classes to "intelligent design." ID's proponents assert that life on earth and the universe itself were intelligently designed. In some states, teachers face demands to incorporate criticism of evolutionary theory into biology classes. Proliferating in community discussions and in the media are statements declaring evolution and ID as equally meritorious, insisting on fairness, and urging, "Let the students decide."
School board members responding to these pressures are prone to confuse biological fact with religious belief. The situation requires that they obtain sound advice regarding appropriate biological education for our future citizens.
How should public schools respond to social pressures to change the science curriculum?
Each academic discipline has credentialed experts and practitioners. For math education, one looks to mathematicians: in the social studies to historians and social scientists: in the arts to art educators. It is patently clear that when faced with a hard question regarding what is authentic biology, then one must garner answers from the science community itself. A wealth of sound scientific expertise is available, and the science community has spoken clearly regarding intelligent design.
The home page of the Web resource, Teaching about Religion with a View to Diversity: Worldview Education, features in its "Contemporary Issues" section a succinct but ample set of authoritative professional statements regarding intelligent design.
Accurate understanding of biology is a must in today's rapidly changing world. New knowledge in such areas as DNA, cellular-level manipulations, modern medicine, and brain research is generating enormous societal quandaries. Our nation's welfare, along with its international stature in many fields, greatly depends on biology being accurately transmitted to students.
American educators need to tap into what scientists and science organizations say about claims and counterclaims. To shirk this responsibility can relegate today's students to the backwaters of scientific and civic literacy.
WWW.TEACHINGABOUTRELIGION.ORG (Teaching about Religion with a View to Diversity: Worldview Education) has for five years served public school teachers, principals, and curriculum and teacher education specialists by supplying resources to facilitate teaching in the current classroom milieu of diverse worldviews. The website's non-profit sponsor, OABITAR, is committed to civic pluralism and scrupulous neutrality regarding religious and naturalistic worldviews.
May 25, 2005
But researchers don't understand the treatment and aren't sure it works
A Canadian doctor who has been practising homeopathy for more than a decade says the controversial therapy can help people whose pain isn't adequately controlled with traditional medication.
Homeopathy takes the approach of "like cures like." It involves giving extremely small doses of substances that produce symptoms of illness in healthy people when given in larger doses. The treatments can be so dilute that not one molecule of the original substance is left.
Dr. Stephen Malthouse, a doctor and homeopath in Victoria, B.C., says that while homeopathy can treat pretty much any type of pain, the approach is holistic, and the pain is seen as a piece of the larger jigsaw puzzle that is the person's overall health.
He gives the example of a 50-year-old woman who experienced burning foot and leg pain, accompanied by numbness in the extremities. She had been seen by neurologists but no one could offer a diagnosis, and conventional pain medications such as Tylenol 3 did not help. When the patient came to see Malthouse, he did a complete history and was told the woman had an allergy to sulfa-based drugs. He gave her a calcium sulfate remedy.
"She got better. The pain went away, the numbness went away, and she said her energy improved."
While Malthouse can point to many such successes, a difficulty in homeopathic medicine's acceptance is that how it works cannot easily be explained. However, Malthouse points out, it took decades to figure out how Aspirin works, even though it had been used for a long time before that.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a U.S. government research funding agency, homeopathy has been subject to controversy and debate because a number of its key concepts do not follow the laws of chemistry and physics.
In particular, scientists do not understand how something that causes illness might also cure it, and they question whether a remedy with a very tiny amount of active ingredient (perhaps not even one molecule) could have a biological effect, beneficial or otherwise.
Studies of homeopathy have been contradictory in their findings, the centre states. Some analyses have concluded there is no strong evidence supporting homeopathy as effective for any medical condition. However, others have found positive effects from the treatment.
With files from The Medical Post.
Institute for Frontier Science, Oakland, CA, and Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, OH, USA. email@example.com
This paper provides a scientific foundation for the biofield: the complex, extremely weak electromagnetic field of the organism hypothesized to involve electromagnetic bioinformation for regulating homeodynamics. The biofield is a useful construct consistent with bioelectromagnetics and the physics of nonlinear, dynamical, nonequilibrium living systems. It offers a unifying hypothesis to explain the interaction of objects or fields with the organism, and is especially useful toward understanding the scientific basis of energy medicine, including acupuncture, biofield therapies, bioelectromagnetic therapies, and homeopathy. The rapid signal propagation of electromagnetic fields comprising the biofield as well as its holistic properties may account for the rapid, holistic effects of certain alternative and complementary medical interventions.
PMID: 12614524 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
"It is timely for biology to move beyond Newtonian physics and embrace quantum theory, which originated a century ago. Therefore, we need to consider particle-wave duality for the constituents of life. On the one hand, life is made of complex biomolecular structures; on the other hand, it is dynamic waves with information. Whereas the molecular view of life provides a scientific basis for allopathic medicine, the field view offers a scientific foundation for many types of CAM modalities." [CAM = complementary and alternative medicine]
"The concept of subtle energy bodies is also integral to the ancient Eastern philosophical views of the human being that arose in India and China. Indian philosophy and Ayurvedic medicine maintain that, in addition to the physical body, there is a subtle body possessing various energetic anatomic structures, including the seven chakras, nadis (etheric channels), pranas, vayus, and koshas (yogic sheaths or bodies)."
"Similar to the way a holographic plate distributes information throughout the hologram, the biologic field conveys information throughout the organism and is central to its holistic integration. The human biologic field is an organizing field within and emanating from the body, which hypothetically regulates the biochemistry and physiology of the body...It must be said, however, that there is no consensus among scientists regarding the nature of the biologic field (i.e., whether it is electromagnetic or not, or whether it consists of electromagnetic components together with other uncharacterized fields)."
"It is possible that there are subtle bodies of the human being beyond the physical body that involve realms of mind, soul, and spirit as espoused by Eastern philosophies. A full scientific model of the human being may indeed go beyond space-time, matter-energy, and require multidimensional geometry or other novel concepts."
"The biofield is defined here as the endogenous, complex dynamic electromagnetic (EM) field resulting from the superposition of component EM fields of the organism that is proposed to be involved in self-organization and bioregulation of the organism...The resulting biofield may be conceived of as a very complex dynamic standing wave [references]. It has a broad spectral bandwidth, being composed of many different EM frequencies, analogous to a musical symphony."
"If an object (such as a nutritional supplement, homeopathic, or drug) or externally applied EM field...is brought near to or inside the body of an organism, the frequencies radiated by the object (or applied EM field) would, in theory, interact with the organism's biofield."
Some examples of " indirect clinical evidence":
1. Electrodermal testing and treatment: "when a substance that is the appropriate homeopathic remedy for a patient is brought near the patient's body, the electrical conductivity of the patient's acupuncture points that were previously abnormal immediately shift to normal (Voll, 1975)."
2. Vascular autonomic signal: "When an allergen is placed near the patient's ear, rich in acupuncture points, the substance emits resonant frequencies that inform the subject's biofield of this stressor."
3. Applied kinesiology.
4. Subtle stimulation of acupoints: "For example, the placement of magnets on acupoints with the magnet pole oriented in a certain direction has a different effect on distal acupoints than if the magnet polarity is reversed..."
6. Evidence from geobiology: "Some of the natural frequencies associated with earth's Schumann resonance (Sentman, 1995), a transverse resonating waveband spanning between the earth and ionosphere, ranging from approximately 7 to 10 Hz, produce beneficial effects on many organisms, including humans..."
7. Evidence from bioelectromagnetics: "Extremely low intensity, non-ionizing EM fields, having even less energy content than the physical thermal noise limit, can produce biologic effects...Thus, it has been proposed that they are acting informationally."
"Perhaps the EM signals that organisms emit and receive from others comprise the original wireless communication system on earth."
"The rapid global responses of the organism to acupuncture suggests that its effects may not be entirely mediated by neurohumoral mechanisms, but may involve the biofield with its faster communication system and holographic features."
Concerning homeopathy: "However, there may be bioinformation stored in the substrate of the remedy that the patient needs."
"The biofield hypothesis predicts that homeopathic remedies brought into the proximity of a patient might also be effective, as would 'electronic' homeopathy, in which the key EM bioinformation of a homeopathic remedy is delivered via carrier waves. This is consistent with results from Benveniste's laboratory exploring 'digitial biology' (Thomas et al., 1995) and clinical results from electroacupuncture according to Voll (EAV; Voll, 1980) whereby electronic remedies are delivered to patients."
Concerning practitioners of laying-on of hands techniques: "The is, their hands or other organs may serve as sensitive antennae for elements of the biofield."
In conclusion: "...we need a 'human energy project,' a project similar to the Human Genome Project, with funding and the full commitment of the research community. The new centers for Frontier Medicine in Biofield Science recently funded by NIH mark an important step forward."
Acknowledgements: "Supported in part by National Institutes of Health P20 AT00774-01."
Comments: for general critiques of quantum nonsense in alternative medicine, see Victor Stenger's articles:
"Quantum Quackery" http://www.csicop.org/si/9701/quantum-quackery.html
For a critique of electrodermal testing, electroacupuncture according
to Voll, etc., see:
For a critique of applied kinesiology, see:
For a critique of reflexology, see:
Alternative medicine reading and handouts:
By Pius Kamau
Article Launched: 05/26/2005 01:00:00 AM
I was part of a televised debate recently on KRMA's "Colorado State of Mind." The discussion was about whether "intelligent design" should be taught in public schools with the same emphasis as the theory of evolution. It's an important question, because our education system can ill afford any more ballast or drag.
The Kansas Board of Education, now dominated by conservatives, recently reinstituted a battle for creationism that was defeated in 1987 when the Supreme Court ruled it "religious" and therefore rejected its introduction into public school curriculum. To many, intelligent design - which claims that some things can only be explained by the existence of a creator - is creationism dressed in a new coat. Despite the passion-drenched rhetoric, both are about religion, without a scintilla of scientific fact, data or argument in them.
Evolution that never asserts there's no god (only that species evolve and change) is based on observable, measurable, verifiable facts and findings. Because evolution and creationism explain different aspects of human existence and intellectual endeavor, they shouldn't be compared or confused.
Our televised debate left a great deal unsaid and, as is the nature of arguments, one finds oneself re-arguing one's case long afterward. It's clear to me now that the theory of intelligent design is to evolution what Einstein's theory of relativity is to the belief in UFOs. The creationism/intelligent design argument is meant to bring the Bible into public schools. With Genesis as their map, intelligent design's believers claim the Earth is 6,000 years old. (Archaeology, carbon and radiometric dating, DNA analysis, etc., tack on a few more billion years.)
Evolution is a mosaic of observable facts and physical findings, all of them replicable: It's based on scientific principles. The picture is continually upgraded as new data is discovered. Born of Darwin's discoveries and observations, it's new compared to creationism. Much has been learned; much more is added daily to the accumulating body of knowledge.
But we're not educating our children for America alone, but for the world. Instead of wasting time and energy on teaching creationism in Kansas and elsewhere, we should be comparing and contrasting our education to that of Chinese, Indian, Japanese and European kids who, luckily, have been spared the demoralizing arguments so rife in our school systems.
Until Sept. 11, foreigners held the majority of doctorate of science slots in our universities. We have marginalized science in our schools, and done a terrible job selling scientific studies and research to our youth.
We're seeing the politicization of education by myopics who take the wind out of education's sails. That especially doesn't augur well for teaching science in U.S. schools.
Many nations mandate uniform academic standards, resulting in their youths regularly besting American kids in math and science. Canada's national academic standard calls for uniform study material, including certain textbooks. Compare that to our patchwork of competing values, local mandates, preferences and abdication of responsibility.
If the Bible is to be part of school curriculum, there also must be inclusion of theories from other creeds and peoples. The concepts of creation held by American Indians, Hindus, Buddhists and other religions must also be included.
Ideally, the world's religions should be taught in appropriate philosophy and social science classes. School boards should be populated by men and women with sound academic and scientific grounding. Our education system is gradually falling behind, because we forgot the purpose of a good education: to create informed, rational individuals capable of participating in the governance of our country.
Americans have difficulty talking about kids' hunger, poor health, funding and equal opportunities - all important issues in education. In the end, a debate continues to swirl inside my head, and I know that juxtaposing intelligent design/creationism to evolution in school is a waste of energy, resources and time.
Pius Kamau of Aurora is a thoracic and general surgeon. He was born and raised in Kenya and immigrated to the U.S. in 1971. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.
The recently launched site Intelligent Design The Future gives a forum for the debate over creationism.
By Kyle Alspach (May 26, 2005)
The site features posts from top creationism proponents.
Called Intelligent Design The Future, the Web log — or blog — was launched in March by theorists who support the idea that life came about not through evolution but by the deliberate design of some intelligent creator. Among the blog's eight contributors are mathematician William Dembski, biochemist Michael Behe and philosophers Stephen Meyer and Jay Richards.
A blog is an online journal that contains links to related information elsewhere on the Internet. Most blogs focus on a specific subject — such as knitting or particle physics — and some feature more than one contributor. Posting is done at the whim of the contributors.
"I think where I see it being most effective is in consciousness-raising and getting the word out," said Dembski, head of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's new Center for Science and Theology in Louisville, Ky. "I'm hoping that this blog will help bring people out of the woodwork who are interested in pursuing these ideas."
The idea that the universe's design is too complex to have come together by chance has sparked a national debate in the United States. This year, 10 bills that would lessen the importance of evolution in the classroom have been introduced in nine states, according to the National Center for Science Education. The most recent bill, introduced in Pennsylvania in March, would allow intelligent design to be taught in public schools.
Dembski said the intent is for contributors to post about the intellectual issues and not about those that involve politics and public policy.
"One of the great things about the blog is that we are able to do an end run around the established media that in some cases have fixed ideas about what they want intelligent design to mean," Dembski said. "We've had this experience where reporters know the story they want to tell: that we are crazy, right-wing fundamentalists who want to inject religion into science curriculum. I can do their lines at this point because I've heard it so often."
The blog was conceived by Jay Richards, vice president and a senior fellow at the Center for Science and Culture, a program of the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute is a public policy think tank that has worked to further understanding of intelligent design.
Richards said his inspiration came from reading blogs that specialize in news. "There is an enormous glut of information because of the Internet," he said. "So there's sort of a premium on [having a place that is] discerning what's important and consolidating it."
Figures on Web activity for the blog were not available. But Richards said that blog contributors have gotten plenty of e-mails, an indication that the blog is getting attention.
Unlike most blogs, however, Intelligent Design The Future does not let readers respond online to the posts. Reed Cartwright, a contributor to the evolution blog called The Panda's Thumb, said preventing readers from adding their comments to the online discussion about intelligent design, also known as ID, shows that those who created it are not interested in running an actual blog.
"If ID is the future, as the title of the blog advertises, can't it withstand criticism?" said Cartwright, a doctoral candidate in genetics at the University of Georgia. "I think that it is ironic that a movement, which claims to want 'more discussion' about biology in schools, does not allow discussion [on their blog]."
In the blog's defense, Richards explained that the ID contributors ruled out comments because the debate about intelligent design often becomes malicious. "We would have one post and 30 comments that are vitriolic," he said.
Instead, the blog allows for "trackbacks," which show that a comment about a post has been made on a separate blog. It appears below the post just as a normal comment would.
"We hope to elevate the tone of the discussion and the debate," Richards said. "If we're arguing, we're actually going to be arguing about the ideas, not the personalities involved."
Kyle Alspach is an editorial assistant at Science & Theology News.
If there's a silver lining to the recent widespread promotion of the paranormal on television, its that some of these shows are downright embarrassing--and many audiences are smart enough to know it.
Chris Mooney ; May 25, 2005
These are difficult times for the skeptic community, with the mainstream media pandering to religion and the paranormal as never before. Much of the trend seems inspired by the phenomenal success of Mel Gibson's recent R-Rated bloodfest for the big screen (otherwise known as "The Passion of the Christ"), not to mention Christian right preacher Tim LaHaye's bestselling Left Behind novels. Now, TV network executives want in on the sanctimonious action, and have grown obsessed with creating shows--both in fictional and documentary format--that shill for religion and the paranormal.
In recent months, ABC and Peter Jennings have paid homage to UFO myths, while other networks have served up brain rotting delectations such as NBC's "Medium," a series about a crime-solving psychic that was allegedly inspired by "the real-life story of research medium Allison Dubois." CBS, meanwhile, recently canceled a Wednesday night installment of "60 Minutes" and plans to replace it with, among other things, "a series in which Jennifer Love Hewitt talks to dead people." We can only expect more of this sort of programming in the near future.
To Read More of this Column Visit:
www.csicop.org and http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/paratv/
To Read More Articles by Chris Mooney Visit: http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/
Kansas, Extinction and "Intelligent Design"
By KARL SHEPARD
May 25, 2005
I am astonished that the Kansas state school board would once again make itself a world laughing stock. Like a little boy caught with his pants down, it tries hard to conceal the face of science. It is a difficult task when you expose the source of speciation. At 40,000 feet up in the Gulf Stream, "the angels made me do it," will not suffice as an excuse.
The claim is that intelligent design is somehow different from creation science.
The postulate is that the complexity and interconnectedness of the natural world cannot have occurred by chance and therefore must have been intelligently designed.
It would do us well to distinguish the physical world from the natural world in such an argument. All plants and animals including hominids are subject to a physical world.
The tsunami, earthquake, volcanic explosion, meteorite, or climate change, can wipe out whole populations of plants and animals. What happens next depends upon the adaptive radiation of species. You know, that cornerstone of evolution whereby animals are traced to a common ancestor that colonizes new territory and diversifies over time into new species to fill the available niches.
Marsupials in Australia are a good example. Koalas, kangaroos, and Tasmanian wolves evolved from a common marsupial ancestor. (Oh god, this is so complex for the Kansas State School Board and so well understood by everyone else.) The last caged Tasmanian wolf died in 1933. I guess this extinction at hominid hands was also part of an intelligent design. Or, was that extinction malevolent intent? Geological events and climactic catastrophes might also be attributed to bad planning. Is it an intelligent design or wrathful superstition that stops our queries? Only the veal is cowed. Scientists lack the fear of questions.
So intelligent design, malevolent intent, or favorable geographical chance on some planet in the universe is by design? Perhaps. But not in any testable hypothesis I can conceive. What do you do with an intelligence that condemns most species to extinction in the absence of human permission? Is that intelligently designed? How would we know? What observable evidence could prove it?
Hominids trace their past to the last million years. Evidence of the cockroach is dated to 450 times that number, to the last 450 millennia. It would be easy to argue that the intelligent designer was more interested in these relatively unchanged insects than human improvement.
At its root, we are only at one end of a branch of ancestors reproducing to survive, just another species on a speck of dirt in the universe. We do have an advantage, consciousness of self and sometimes self-knowledge of our claims and questions. The least conscious barely understand what it means to not know. Discourse and discussion will find those limits among those who ask questions.
Clearly, species can and will alter their environments as they populate it and will in turn adapt and radiate to fill the space. Every successful creature only attempts to reproduce. As conditions change, and they always do, reproduction succeeds or fails.
The real myth is ecological balance. What appears to be balance is in fact a moving target. As humans have become more successful, as with every wildly successful species, their impact has grown.
The human animal chooses animals and plants both domestic and wild. We keep, improve and cherish some. We discard, deny, and destroy others. We do weed gardens. We also kill wolves, some in sheep's clothing.
In the absence of wolves, we try to kill as many deer as we are able in the Mid-West to restore a semblance of balance and make our crops safe for market. It is a perennial complaint by the Missouri Department of Conservation that we do not kill enough deer. The deer eat corn and soybeans to the dismay of farmers. We cull elephants in African game parks to insure that a patch of land is not overrun for similar reasons.
We actively seek the extinction of disease organisms. The eradication of small pox springs to mind. We choose to vaccinate the hominid body and purposefully make it inhospitable. Without the parochial superstition in northern Nigeria, polio could be eliminated in Africa. Polio is not intelligent design; it is a pernicious crippler and killer.
It is no accident that the now rare early 18th century Berkshire pigs, in the last 150 years have lost favor for the newer breeds, Hampshires, Yorkshires, and a Duroc or two. It was the observation of variation in domestic animals that paved the way for our understanding of natural selection.
Only modern humans can force extinction or survival, even their own. We may yet be a warming pot of frogs, cozy in the heat. I seriously doubt that an intelligent designer would have left that cauldron to us.
I aver that the Kansas school board is mostly early 19th century Berkshires, lost in the annals and perhaps now among the scarce pre-Darwin swine of time. All are eaten, some more slowly than others.
Humans manage their environments even their social ones based on their understanding all too frequently lacking in abundance. Unfortunately, "intelligent design" undermines serious and legitimate questions in the interest of political ends, and a pernicious one at that. The board seeks nothing less than the reintroduction of religion into the science and its flip side, the extinction of inquiry. Kansas's students will suffer, whether or not they believe in supernatural causes.
Inquiring minds want to learn of the school board's next retreat from science. Perhaps they will revive Ptolemy. I am certain that if they work hard enough they could find the quacks that would work out cycles that once again put our planet at the center of the universe. They could call it "cyclical design" and force its consideration in astronomy classes. Scientists would refer to both "designs" as recurring cycles of stupidity.
Karl Shepard has a BA in History from the University of Kansas, an MA in History from the University of Kansas, and has completed PhD coursework in African Studies at the University of Chicago. In 1989, he received a Fulbright-Hayes Dissertation Fellowship to pursue field research in Kenya. Originally from Kansas City, he currently resides in Hillsboro, Oregon. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
HARRISBURG, Pa. A Texas publisher of textbooks on an alternative theory to evolution wants to fight a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania school district.
Attorneys for the nonprofit Foundation for Thought and Ethics of Richardson say the lawsuit could harm the publisher's financial interests and educational goals. They filed a motion to become a party to the case in federal court in Harrisburg.
The foundation's intelligent design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," is being used in the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania.
The district requires ninth-graders to learn about alternatives to the theory of evolution. The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State sued in December on behalf of eight Dover families.
They argue that intelligent design is an attempt to bring religious creationism into public schools, and violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Trial is scheduled for September 26th.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press
Tuesday May 24, 2005
Toronto, May 24, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Science, seen as the enemy of religious faith for over a hundred years, is now becoming the believer's best friend. As scientific discoveries continue, the recourse to Darwinian Evolution is becoming more improbable as attested in a recently published article on DNA by Mario Seiglie in the May edition of "The Good News."
Mr. Seiglie's article, which compiles evidence from various scientific sources, presents the amazing reality that our DNA is, in essence, the carrier of an intricate and complicated language that could not possibly have come about by random chance. Mr. Seiglie writes that "As scientists began to decode the human DNA molecule, they found something quite unexpected—an exquisite 'language' composed of some 3 billion genetic letters. "One of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century," says Dr. Stephen Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Wash., "was that DNA actually stores information—the detailed instructions for assembling proteins—in the form of a four-character digital code" (quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, 2004, p. 224)."
To put it into layman's terms "the amount of information in human DNA is roughly equivalent to 12 sets of The Encyclopaedia Britannica—an incredible 384 volumes" worth of detailed information that would fill 48 feet of library shelves!"
At the same time this immense amount of information is contained in a space that is only 2 millionth of a millimeter thick. Quoting molecular biologist Michael Denton, Sieglie explains that a teaspoon of DNA, "could contain all the information needed to build the proteins for all the species of organisms that have ever lived on the earth, and "there would still be enough room left for all the information in every book ever written" (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1996, p. 334)."
Critics of the idea that DNA has its own language fail to consider the fact that, as a language, it is extremely precise. As Mr. Seiglie points out "the average mistake that is not caught turns out to be one error per 10 billion letters. If a mistake occurs in one of the most significant parts of the code, which is in the genes, it can cause a disease such as sickle-cell anemia. Yet even the best and most intelligent typist in the world couldn't come close to making only one mistake per 10 billion letters—far from it."
Most schools in the developed parts of the world are still using textbooks that present Darwinian evolution as fact. In the United States, however, there is an increasingly vocal push to present Creation Science as an alternate theory. This movement gains credibility as more scientists admit (some reluctantly) that science is disproving Darwinian Evolution. Sieglie refers to just such converted by writing: "As recently as twenty-five years ago," says former atheist Patrick Glynn, "a reasonable person weighing the purely scientific evidence on the issue would likely have come down on the side of skepticism [regarding a Creator]. That is no longer the case." He adds: "Today the concrete data point strongly in the direction of the God hypothesis. It is the simplest and most obvious solution . . ." (God: The Evidence, 1997, pp. 54-55, 53). "
Pro-life supporters are welcoming the information and are eager to see the implications of this growing scientific awareness play out. The three great pseudo-scientific legs to modern thought are falling one by one. Quoting Professor Philip Johnson, Seiglie writes: "Every history of the twentieth century lists three thinkers as preeminent in influence: Darwin, Marx and Freud. All three were regarded as 'scientific' (and hence far more reliable than anything 'religious') in their heyday.
"Yet Marx and Freud have fallen, and even their dwindling bands of followers no longer claim that their insights were based on any methodology remotely comparable to that of experimental science. I am convinced that Darwin is next on the block. His fall will be by far the mightiest of the three" (Johnson, p. 113).
The growing scientific support for the premise of an Intelligent Design to the created Universe, which points to a Creator of all humanity, will give further encouragement to those who champion life issues such as the right to life, as well as authentic and moral bio-ethics.
DNA: The Tiny Code That's Toppling Evolution
Two great achievements occurred in 1953, more than half a century ago.
The first was the successful ascent of Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Sir Edmund Hillary and his guide, Tenzing Norgay, reached the summit that year, an accomplishment that's still considered the ultimate feat for mountain climbers. Since then, more than a thousand mountaineers have made it to the top, and each year hundreds more attempt it.
Yet the second great achievement of 1953 has had a greater impact on the world. Each year, many thousands join the ranks of those participating in this accomplishment, hoping to ascend to fame and fortune.
It was in 1953 that James Watson and Francis Crick achieved what appeared impossible—discovering the genetic structure deep inside the nucleus of our cells. We call this genetic material DNA, an abbreviation for deoxyribonucleic acid.
The discovery of the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule opened the floodgates for scientists to examine the code embedded within it. Now, more than half a century after the initial discovery, the DNA code has been deciphered—although many of its elements are still not well understood.
What has been found has profound implications regarding Darwinian evolution, the theory taught in schools all over the world that all living beings have evolved by natural processes through mutation and natural selection.
Amazing revelations about DNA
As scientists began to decode the human DNA molecule, they found something quite unexpected—an exquisite 'language' composed of some 3 billion genetic letters. "One of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century," says Dr. Stephen Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Wash., "was that DNA actually stores information—the detailed instructions for assembling proteins—in the form of a four-character digital code" (quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, 2004, p. 224).
It is hard to fathom, but the amount of information in human DNA is roughly equivalent to 12 sets of The Encyclopaedia Britannica—an incredible 384 volumes" worth of detailed information that would fill 48 feet of library shelves!
Yet in their actual size—which is only two millionths of a millimeter thick—a teaspoon of DNA, according to molecular biologist Michael Denton, could contain all the information needed to build the proteins for all the species of organisms that have ever lived on the earth, and "there would still be enough room left for all the information in every book ever written" (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1996, p. 334).
Who or what could miniaturize such information and place this enormous number of 'letters' in their proper sequence as a genetic instruction manual? Could evolution have gradually come up with a system like this?
DNA contains a genetic language
Let's first consider some of the characteristics of this genetic 'language.' For it to be rightly called a language, it must contain the following elements: an alphabet or coding system, correct spelling, grammar (a proper arrangement of the words), meaning (semantics) and an intended purpose.
Scientists have found the genetic code has all of these key elements. "The coding regions of DNA," explains Dr. Stephen Meyer, "have exactly the same relevant properties as a computer code or language" (quoted by Strobel, p. 237, emphasis in original).
The only other codes found to be true languages are all of human origin. Although we do find that dogs bark when they perceive danger, bees dance to point other bees to a source and whales emit sounds, to name a few examples of other species" communication, none of these have the composition of a language. They are only considered low-level communication signals.
The only types of communication considered high-level are human languages, artificial languages such as computer and Morse codes and the genetic code. No other communication system has been found to contain the basic characteristics of a language.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, commented that "DNA is like a software program, only much more complex than anything we've ever devised."
Can you imagine something more intricate than the most complex program running on a supercomputer being devised by accident through evolution—no matter how much time, how many mutations and how much natural selection are taken into account?
DNA language not the same as DNA molecule
Recent studies in information theory have come up with some astounding conclusions—namely, that information cannot be considered in the same category as matter and energy. It's true that matter or energy can carry information, but they are not the same as information itself.
For instance, a book such as Homer's Iliad contains information, but is the physical book itself information? No, the materials of the book—the paper, ink and glue contain the contents, but they are only a means of transporting it.
If the information in the book was spoken aloud, written in chalk or electronically reproduced in a computer, the information does not suffer qualitatively from the means of transporting it. "In fact the content of the message," says professor Phillip Johnson, "is independent of the physical makeup of the medium" (Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, 1997, p. 71).
The same principle is found in the genetic code. The DNA molecule carries the genetic language, but the language itself is independent of its carrier. The same genetic information can be written in a book, stored in a compact disk or sent over the Internet, and yet the quality or content of the message has not changed by changing the means of conveying it.
As George Williams puts it: "The gene is a package of information, not an object. The pattern of base pairs in a DNA molecule specifies the gene. But the DNA molecule is the medium, it's not the message" (quoted by Johnson, p. 70).
Information from an intelligent source
In addition, this type of high-level information has been found to originate only from an intelligent source.
As Lee Strobel explains: "The data at the core of life is not disorganized, it's not simply orderly like salt crystals, but it's complex and specific information that can accomplish a bewildering task—the building of biological machines that far outstrip human technological capabilities" (p. 244).
For instance, the precision of this genetic language is such that the average mistake that is not caught turns out to be one error per 10 billion letters. If a mistake occurs in one of the most significant parts of the code, which is in the genes, it can cause a disease such as sickle-cell anemia. Yet even the best and most intelligent typist in the world couldn't come close to making only one mistake per 10 billion letters—far from it.
So to believe that the genetic code gradually evolved in Darwinian style would break all the known rules of how matter, energy and the laws of nature work. In fact, there has not been found in nature any example of one information system inside the cell gradually evolving into another functional information program.
Michael Behe, a biochemist and professor at Pennsylvania's Lehigh University, explains that genetic information is primarily an instruction manual and gives some examples.
He writes: "Consider a step-by-step list of [genetic] instructions. A mutation is a change in one of the lines of instructions. So instead of saying, "Take a 1/4-inch nut," a mutation might say, "Take a 3/8-inch nut." Or instead of "Place the round peg in the round hole," we might get "Place the round peg in the square hole" . . . What a mutation cannot do is change all the instructions in one step—say, [providing instructions] to build a fax machine instead of a radio" (Darwin's Black Box, 1996, p. 41).
We therefore have in the genetic code an immensely complex instruction manual that has been majestically designed by a more intelligent source than human beings.
Even one of the discoverers of the genetic code, the agnostic and recently deceased Francis Crick, after decades of work on deciphering it, admitted that "an honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going" (Life Itself, 1981, p. 88, emphasis added).
Evolution fails to provide answers
It is good to remember that, in spite of all the efforts of all the scientific laboratories around the world working over many decades, they have not been able to produce so much as a single human hair. How much more difficult is it to produce an entire body consisting of some 100 trillion cells!
Up to now, Darwinian evolutionists could try to counter their detractors with some possible explanations for the complexity of life. But now they have to face the information dilemma: How can meaningful, precise information be created by accident—by mutation and natural selection? None of these contain the mechanism of intelligence, a requirement for creating complex information such as that found in the genetic code.
Darwinian evolution is still taught in most schools as though it were fact. But it is increasingly being found wanting by a growing number of scientists. "As recently as twenty-five years ago," says former atheist Patrick Glynn, "a reasonable person weighing the purely scientific evidence on the issue would likely have come down on the side of skepticism [regarding a Creator]. That is no longer the case." He adds: "Today the concrete data point strongly in the direction of the God hypothesis. It is the simplest and most obvious solution . . ." (God: The Evidence, 1997, pp. 54-55, 53).
Quality of genetic information the same
Evolution tells us that through chance mutations and natural selection, living things evolve. Yet to evolve means to gradually change certain aspects of some living thing until it becomes another type of creature, and this can only be done by changing the genetic information.
So what do we find about the genetic code? The same basic quality of information exists in a humble bacteria or a plant as in a person. A bacterium has a shorter genetic code, but qualitatively it gives instructions as precisely and exquisitely as that of a human being. We find the same prerequisites of a language—alphabet, grammar and semantics—in simple bacteria and algae as in man.
Each cell with genetic information, from bacteria to man, according to molecular biologist Michael Denton, consists of "artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices utilized for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction . . . [and a] capacity not equalled in any of our most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours" (Denton, p. 329).
So how could the genetic information of bacteria gradually evolve into information for another type of being, when only one or a few minor mistakes in the millions of letters in that bacterium's DNA can kill it?
Again, evolutionists are uncharacteristically silent on the subject. They don't even have a working hypothesis about it. Lee Strobel writes: "The six feet of DNA coiled inside every one of our body's one hundred trillion cells contains a four-letter chemical alphabet that spells out precise assembly instructions for all the proteins from which our bodies are made . . . No hypothesis has come close to explaining how information got into biological matter by naturalistic means" (Strobel, p. 282).
Werner Gitt, professor of information systems, puts it succinctly: "The basic flaw of all evolutionary views is the origin of the information in living beings. It has never been shown that a coding system and semantic information could originate by itself [through matter] . . . The information theorems predict that this will never be possible. A purely material origin of life is thus [ruled out]" (Gitt, p. 124).
Besides all the evidence we have covered for the intelligent design of DNA information, there is still one amazing fact remaining—the ideal number of genetic letters in the DNA code for storage and translation.
Moreover, the copying mechanism of DNA, to meet maximum effectiveness, requires the number of letters in each word to be an even number. Of all possible mathematical combinations, the ideal number for storage and transcription has been calculated to be four letters.
This is exactly what has been found in the genes of every living thing on earth—a four-letter digital code. As Werner Gitt states: "The coding system used for living beings is optimal from an engineering standpoint. This fact strengthens the argument that it was a case of purposeful design rather that a [lucky] chance" (Gitt, p. 95).
Back in Darwin's day, when his book On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, life appeared much simpler. Viewed through the primitive microscopes of the day, the cell appeared to be but a simple blob of jelly or uncomplicated protoplasm. Now, almost 150 years later, that view has changed dramatically as science has discovered a virtual universe inside the cell.
"It was once expected," writes Professor Behe, "that the basis of life would be exceedingly simple. That expectation has been smashed. Vision, motion, and other biological functions have proven to be no less sophisticated than television cameras and automobiles. Science has made enormous progress in understanding how the chemistry of life works, but the elegance and complexity of biological systems at the molecular level have paralyzed science's attempt to explain their origins" (Behe, p. x).
Dr. Meyer considers the recent discoveries about DNA as the Achilles" heel of evolutionary theory. He observes: "Evolutionists are still trying to apply Darwin's nineteenth-century thinking to a twenty-first century reality, and it's not working ... I think the information revolution taking place in biology is sounding the death knell for Darwinism and chemical evolutionary theories" (quoted by Strobel, p. 243).
Dr. Meyer's conclusion? "I believe that the testimony of science supports theism. While there will always be points of tension or unresolved conflict, the major developments in science in the past five decades have been running in a strongly theistic direction" (ibid., p. 77).
Dean Kenyon, a biology professor who repudiated his earlier book on Darwinian evolution—mostly due to the discoveries of the information found in DNA—states: "This new realm of molecular genetics (is) where we see the most compelling evidence of design on the Earth" (ibid., p. 221).
Just recently, one of the world's most famous atheists, Professor Antony Flew, admitted he couldn't explain how DNA was created and developed through evolution. He now accepts the need for an intelligent source to have been involved in the making of the DNA code.
"What I think the DNA material has done is show that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinary diverse elements together," he said (quoted by Richard Ostling, "Leading Atheist Now Believes in God," Associated Press report, Dec. 9, 2004).
"Fearfully and wonderfully made"
Although written thousands of years ago, King David's words about our marvelous human bodies still ring true. He wrote: "For You formed my inward parts, You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . . My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought. . ." (Psalm 139:13-15, emphasis added).
Where does all this leave evolution? Michael Denton, an agnostic scientist, concludes: "Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century" (Denton, p. 358).
All of this has enormous implications for our society and culture. Professor Johnson makes this clear when he states: "Every history of the twentieth century lists three thinkers as preeminent in influence: Darwin, Marx and Freud. All three were regarded as 'scientific' (and hence far more reliable than anything 'religious') in their heyday.
"Yet Marx and Freud have fallen, and even their dwindling bands of followers no longer claim that their insights were based on any methodology remotely comparable to that of experimental science. I am convinced that Darwin is next on the block. His fall will be by far the mightiest of the three" (Johnson, p. 113).
Evolution has had its run for almost 150 years in the schools and universities and in the press. But now, with the discovery of what the DNA code is all about, the complexity of the cell, and the fact that information is something vastly different from matter and energy, evolution can no longer dodge the ultimate outcome. The evidence certainly points to a resounding checkmate for evolution! GN
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005
DAVID P. BARASH
Is there a chimera, a hybrid or some other mixed human-animal genetic composite in our future? I certainly hope so. This may seem perverse: Even the most liberal theologians tend to shy away from advocating the production of half-person/half-animals. Why, then, am I rooting for them?
Because in these dark days of know-nothing anti-evolutionism (more than a bit of it sponsored by Seattle's own Discovery Institute) -- with religious fundamentalists occupying the White House, controlling much of Congress and even attempting to distort the teaching of science in the nation's schools -- a powerful dose of biological reality would be a very healthy event. After all, perhaps the most important take-home message from evolutionary science is the one that radical fundamentalists find most unacceptable: continuity. And this is precisely the message that chimeras, hybrids or mixed-species clones would drive home.
The latest tactic of creationists has been to couch their religious agenda in terms of "irreducible complexity" and "intelligent design," cloaking a refusal to acknowledge the natural, organic, material nature of Homo sapiens in a miasma of pseudo-science that (in most cases, at least) accepts "micro-evolutionary" events such as the emergence of drug-resistance in bacteria, but draws the line at the emergence of human beings from other "lower" life forms. It is a line that exists only in the minds of those who proclaim that the human species, unlike all others, possesses a spark of the divine and must have been specially created by god. It is a thin and, indeed, indefensible line, but one that generates a consequential conclusion: that we stand outside nature.
When -- and I mean when, not if -- geneticists and developmental biologists succeed in joining human and non-human animals in a viable organism, it will be difficult (perhaps impossible) for the special pleaders to maintain the fallacy that Homo sapiens is uniquely disconnected from the rest of life.
It is one thing to ignore the fact that human beings share roughly 99 percent of their genotype with chimpanzees; such ignore-ance will require even more intellectual sleight-of-hand when human and non-human cells literally are conjoined. Moreover, the benefits of such a physical demonstration of human/non-human non-separation will go beyond simply discomfiting the nay-sayers, and further than bolstering a "reality-based" as opposed to its bogus "faith-based" alternative. It will even exceed the inevitable -- and substantial -- medical advances that can be anticipated. I am thinking of the powerful payoff that will come from puncturing the most hurtful myth of all times, that of discontinuity between human beings and the rest of life.
Four decades ago, Lynn White wrote a now-classic article in the journal Science, "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis," which forcefully made the point that much of the painful and destructive disconnect between human beings and their environment derives from the Judeo-Christian proclamation of radical discontinuity between people and the rest of "creation."
White argued that the Western world received its marching orders via a literal reading of Genesis: not only to go forth and multiply, but also to dominate and, whenever inclined, to destroy the animate world, which, forever estranged from our unique spiritual essence, existed only for human use and abuse. Whereas "we" are special, chips off the old supernatural block, "they" (all other life forms) are wholly different, made merely of matter. Hence, they don't really matter.
So let's hear it for our barrier-busting, hybridizing, chimera-creating future, anything that promises to wake up Homo sapiens to its glorious connection to the rest of life, whatever rubs our species-wide nose in the simple, yet sublime universal password proclaimed in Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book": "We be of one blood, thee and I."
Or, better yet, let's leave the last words to that modern icon of organic wisdom, a kind of hybrid himself, SpongeBob SquarePants. SquarePants, a cheerful, talkative -- although admittedly, somewhat cartoonish -- fellow of the phylum Porifera, is only distantly related to anyone reading this column. But related he is. SquarePants "lives in a pineapple under the sea, Absorbent and yellow and porous is he." I don't know about the pineapple or the yellow, but ere long, even the most resistant anti-evolutionary "species-ists" will be forced to admit that absorbent and porous are we, too.
David P. Barash is professor of psychology at the University of Washington. His most recent book is "Madame Bovary¹s Ovaries: a Darwinian look at literature," co-written with Nanelle R. Barash.
Source: Center for the Advancement of Health
St. John's Wort, the herbal medicinal long thought to relieve symptoms of depression, provides only minor benefits in patients with the most acute depression and perhaps no benefit for those with chronic depression.
The updated review of 37 trials, involving 4,925 patients, reaffirms earlier findings that St. John's Wort:
--Reduces symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression among adults in a manner similar to antidepressant drugs;
--Causes fewer side effects than some of the older antidepressants on the market; and
--Causes slightly fewer side effects compared with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, the class of antidepressants most recently developed.
The review was led by Professor Klaus Linde of the Centre for Complementary Medicine Research at Technical University in Munich, Germany. The reviewers caution that "uncontrolled use of [St. John's Wort] is problematic because serious interactions can occur" with a number of frequently used antidepressants and that physicians should regularly ask their patients about their use of St. John's Wort.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, holds that St. John's Wort is not a proven therapy for depression.
The review appears in the most recent issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.
All studies were double-blind, randomized clinical trials involving patients with depressive disorders. All involved comparisons between St. John's Wort and placebos or synthetic antidepressants given for at least four weeks.
St. John's Wort is available over the counter in the United States, where lifetime depression has an estimated prevalence of 16 percent.
In Europe, St. John's Wort generally can be obtained only by prescription and is used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders as well as depression. St. John's Wort has been subject to more trials in Europe, especially in German-speaking countries, than in the United States. However, because it is prescribed for a number of disorders other than depression, Linde and colleagues included in their review only those trials from German-speaking countries that were restricted to patients with a diagnosis of major depression.
St. John's Wort, scientifically referred to as hypericum extracts, derives its name from the patron saint of nurses and Old English word for "plant." The mechanism by which it acts is unclear, but St. John's Wort is known to contain at least seven groups of components that may contribute to its pharmacological effects. While some of the components individually have been shown to have a positive effect on some forms of depression, the total extract seems more clearly beneficial.
Hypericum extracts are decidedly less expensive than some of the most widely prescribed antidepressants, such as Prozac. However, the composition of St. John's Wort depends on the raw plant material used, the extraction process and the solvents used. As a consequence, the review notes, "the amounts of bioactive constituents in different products can vary enormously."
Reviewers recommend that St. John's Wort products should be avoided if they do not provide important content information, such as the amount of total extract contained, the extraction fluid used and the ratio of raw material to extract. They also call for more detailed studies of the constituent components of St. John's Wort.
Dr. John Williams, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at Duke University who has studied St. John's Wort in the context of depressed patients in primary care facilities, says the Linde review has made him more cautious in his outlook on the product. Williams says he currently feels St. John's Wort should not be "a first or second choice for U.S. patients with moderate to severe major depression." At the same time, he says, the product remains a "reasonable option" for patients suffering from minor depression — as long as they are able to locate "quality preparations."
In their review, Linde and colleague Michael Berner acknowledge potential conflicts of interest: Linde, for once receiving travel expense reimbursements from Schwabe, a manufacturer of St. John's Wort; and Berner, for a past research grant and travel expense reimbursement for speaking at a meeting organized by Schwabe.
Linde K, et al. St John's Wort for depression (Review). The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005, Issue 2
The Cochrane Collaboration is an international nonprofit, independent organization that produces and disseminates systematic reviews of health care interventions and promotes the search for evidence in the form of clinical trials and other studies of interventions. Visit http://www.cochrane.org for more information.
Editor's Note: The original news release can be found here .
This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Center for the Advancement of Health.
Test results fail to back depression treatment
May 23, 2005
The US Food and Drug Administration may soon approve a medical device that would be the first new treatment option for severely depressed patients in a generation, despite the misgivings of many experts who say there is little evidence it works.
The pacemaker-like device, called a vagus nerve stimulator, is surgically implanted in the upper chest. Its wires are threaded into the neck, where it stimulates a nerve leading to the brain.
It has been approved since 1997 for the treatment of some epilepsy patients, and the drug regulator has told the manufacturer it is now "approvable" for severe depression that is resistant to other treatment.
But in the only rigorously controlled trial conducted so far in depressed patients, the stimulator was no more effective than sham surgery. While some patients showed significantly improved moods after having the device implanted, most did not, the study found.
Proponents say many severely depressed patients do not respond to antidepressants such as Prozac or electroconvulsive therapy and are desperate for any treatment that may relieve their suffering.
The drug regulator has given mixed signals on the stimulator. Last August the agency told Cyberonics, which makes the stimulator, that the treatment was not approvable. Six months later, after Cyberonics had provided more data, the agency changed its position, telling the company the stimulator was likely to be approved.
Some patient advocates and experts are questioning how the device has come so close to approval with such limited evidence for its effectiveness.
"I've never seen anything quite like this," said Dr Peter Lurie, deputy director of health research at Public Citizen, a non-profit group that is a frequent critic of the drug regulator and the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. "What we could be setting ourselves up for is an epidemic of implantation of a device with no proven effectiveness."
The New York Times
Download this press release as an Adobe PDF document.
Download this press release as an Adobe PDF document.
For only 45 days, starting June 1st until July 15, 2005, Prophet Yahweh, Seer of Yahweh, will be calling down UFOs and spaceships for the news media to film and photograph. During this time, a spaceship will descend, on Prophet's signal, and sit in the skies over Las Vegas, Nevada for almost two days.
Las Vegas, NV (PRWEB) May 25, 2005 -- Prophet Yahweh was blessed to discover the lost, ancient art of summoning UFOs and spaceships on-demand.
There is a difference between UFOs and spaceships. UFOs are usually small flying objects: glowing orbs, metallic spheres, satellite-type flying machines, etc. And, their flight patterns suggest that they are not of this world.
But, spaceships are large futuristic vehicles that are clearly designed to carry passengers in like you see in the movies.
Since 1979, more than 1,500 UFOs and/or spaceships have appeared on Prophet Yahweh's signal before witnesses or at unawares.
During this time, he was performing his summons privately with only those close to him as witnesses.
But, starting June 1st until July 15th (45 days) Prophet is going public by opening up to the news media.
He will demonstrate his ability to call down UFOs and spaceships, on-demand, for them to film and photograph.
Prophet is in direct telephatic contact with his space being friends. They have revealed that they will send UFOs as soon as Prophet starts asking for them to appear.
Also, before the 45 day summoning period has ended, a spaceship will descend and sit in the skies over Las Vegas on Prophet's signal.
The spaceship will hover in the sky, not far from Nellis Air Force base, for almost two days. All Las Vegans will be able to see it, day and night, before it goes back up into space.
Some news media representatives won't be able to come to Las Vegas to film the sightings. But, they would be interested in doing a story on Prophet's ability to summon them.
Others would like to see videos of the UFOs, first, to determine if they are real, before coming.
Because of this, Prophet is giving the news media free access to the broadcasts area of his website where they can view his UFO videos.
Also, since some news media will not be able to come to Las Vegas, Prophet is willing to travel to any city to call down UFOs for them to document.
If your company would like to film or photograph UFOs and/or spaceships that appear on Prophet's cue, email your request to him.
Afterwards, he will communicate with you concerning it and email you the login information you need to access the UFO videos in the Broadcast Area of his website.
For information: http://www.prophetyahweh.com or
Phone: 1-800-314-4847, 702-966-0303
Seer of Yahweh/Ufologist
Las Vegas, Nevada 89127
Phone: 1-800-314-4847, 702-966-0303 http://www.prophetyahweh.com
By JUSTIN PEEPER
Intelligent design will continue to be a part of Bluffton-Harrison's science curriculum even though the often-controversial subject is not included in the state's science standards that teachers must follow.
When the vote came Monday night to adopt science textbooks B-H schools will use for the next six years, the school board voted 4-1 to continue requiring the district's science educators to discuss "appropriate theories" — such as intelligent design and evolution — and give a "fair and balanced" presentation when teaching about the origin of the universe and life.
Intelligent design asserts that one or more intelligent agents designed life on earth. It questions Darwinian evolution.
When the board adopted the last science textbooks six years ago, members instructed teachers to include in their discussions concepts other than the theory of evolution and to specifically include intelligent design.
Monday night's motion for the new books was similar.
"Therefore, in making this motion to approve the adoption of the science textbooks as presented, I do so under the condition that when the subject of the origin of the universe and life is discussed, our teachers will include concepts other than the theory of evolution and that they will specifically include the theory of intelligent design in this discussion," school board vice president Gene Gerber read from a prepared statement.
"The intent of this board directive is not to replace the teaching of the theory of evolution with the theory of intelligent design or any other theory. On the contrary, the intent is to discuss the scientific evidence — not religious evidence — for and against appropriate theories at all grade levels where this topic is discussed," Gerber read from his one-page statement.
Gerber, Kent Shady, Steve Huffman and Daryl Elliott voted in favor of the motion while member Andrew Carnall voted against it.
The vote came after nearly 40 minutes of discussion among board members, the public, the high school principal and a high school chemistry teacher.
Seconds after Gerber made his motion to adopt the textbooks with the added requirements, however, Carnall suggested an amended motion to adopt the science books as presented with no requirements attached.
"My purpose for doing that is that I think if we passed a motion with that extra language we are dictating to our science department to teach something that is not included in the state standards," Carnall said.
Carnall was referring to educational standards the Indiana Department of Education has established. He said he accepted the state's science standards and that the schools should teach to those standards.
He said the board has not required other departments or programs to teach outside of the standards and he believed doing so was a bad precedent to set.
Shady, however, asked if the board had already set a precedent since it passed a similar motion six years ago when the last science textbooks were approved.
Huffman also pointed out that the board had deemed certain stories in high school English books not appropriate for the community's standards.
Elliot believed including intelligent design and other theories in classroom discussions was not a bad idea.
"All I'm asking here is to broaden the discussion that takes place in our science classrooms," Gerber said. "I'm not asking that we open Genesis and read from Genesis. Let's look at scientific data that is out there that suggests there are other theories."
Gerber said he believed intelligent design is a scientific theory.
High school principal Steve Baker told the board that for the last six years he had never received a phone call from a parent who thought too much or too little evolution or intelligent design was being taught at the high school.
He said the board's policy from six years ago was being followed and that the high school's biology teacher presented six theories of how the origin of life began.
"I believe we have met the policy and then some," he said.
Parent Jody Holloway, one of about 28 people who attended Monday night's meeting, said he saw no problem going above and beyond the state's standards and that he wanted to see a continuation of the current policy.
High school chemistry teacher Susan Ballinger asked the board to clarify several components of the motion.
Gerber's original proposal called for science teachers to discuss the scientific evidence for and against all appropriate theories, and Ballinger wanted more explanation on what "all" and "appropriate" meant.
She explained to the board that after spending just 25 minutes on the Internet Monday she came across 36 different theories about the origin of the universe and life.
One of the theories she came across, panspermia, suggests that extraterritorials started life on earth and she wanted to know if she would be required to teach about that concept because of the "all appropriate" wording.
"I have several questions," she said. "If this motion goes through, we need some concrete answers if you expect us to be fair and balanced."
Ballinger also said she would need more education about intelligent design. Ballinger, who has a master's degree in biology, said intelligent design had never been discussed in any of the science classes she has taken.
Ballinger also thought the school board should provide science teachers with appropriate curriculum if educators were expected to go outside of the state curriculum.
After more discussion, "all" was removed from the motion and Gerber agreed to provide more curriculum to science teachers.
Carnall's motion to approve the textbooks without the added school board mandate was defeated 4-1.
A second vote to approve the books with the added stipulation passed 4-1. Agreed was that the teachers and building principal would decide what was "appropriate" and "fair and balanced."
Jon Bennett, administrative assistant to the superintendent, pointed out at the end of the discussion that the time spent in class discussing the origins of life is minimal.
WATER'S CHEMICAL FORMULA MAY ALWAYS BE H2O, and not different on shorter timescales, according to a new paper. In earlier experiments, a research group reported that neutrons and electrons interacting with room-temperature water molecules for very brief times (0.1-1 femtoseconds) saw a ratio of hydrogen to oxygen of roughly 1.5 to 1, suggesting a chemical formula of H1.5O for water at short timescales (Update 648). According to the data analysis of those researchers, incoming neutrons scattered from at least 25% fewer hydrogen nuclei (protons) than expected. They proposed that quantum entanglement between protons (hydrogen nuclei) on a sub-femtosecond timescale was causing this anomalous scattering. This result stimulated a flurry of theoretical and experimental activity, including a new experiment at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Upstate New York that now disputes these earlier results. The experimenters, coming from Ben Gurion University and RPI (Raymond Moreh, email@example.com), use higher-energy neutrons which interact with pure liquid water, pure D2O, and mixtures of the two liquids, on shorter timescales (0.001-0.01 femtoseconds) than in the earlier experiments. (Theorists had predicted that the shorter timescales would lead to an even more pronounced scattering anomaly, since quantum decoherence would have less time to spoil the proposed entanglement between protons.) However, the Ben Gurion-RPI team did not detect an anomalous dropoff in n-p scattering. They conclude that no entanglement takes hold and water is accurately described as H2O, after all, at these shorter timescales. They cite several advantages of their experiment, including the following: they looked at a single, simpler scattering signal arising from the three nuclei of the water and D2O molecules (as opposed to the separate neutron scattering signals for oxygen, hydrogen, and deuterium in the earlier experiments); and their data did not require complicated processing, leading to a much simpler data analysis than was necessary in the previous work. Researchers from the earlier experiments contend that the new experiment does not probe the timescales that they originally explored; the new team counters that their data does address the original team's timescales. In addition, Moreh and colleagues argue that one would have to shake many well established notions in physics to explain the suggested scattering anomaly. (Moreh, Block, Danon, Neumann, Physical Review Letters, 13 May 2005.
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Controversy goes deeper than meets the eye
2005-05-24 / Knight Ridder / By Lisa Anderson
Eighty years after the Scopes "Monkey" Trial, the battle between those who support the validity of biological evolution and those who oppose it rages on in Kansas - and in more than a dozen other states around the country.
The controversy may appear to be simply about the teaching of science in the classroom. But it represents a far more complex, widespread clash of politics, religion, science and culture that transcends the borders of conservative, so-called red states and their more liberal blue counterparts.
"This controversy is going to happen everywhere. It's going to happen in all 50 states. This controversy is not going away," said Jeff Tamblyn, 52, an owner of Merriam, Kansas-based Origin Films, which is making a feature film about the current fight over whether to introduce a more critical approach to evolution in Kansas' school science standards.
So far in 2005, the issue of evolution has sparked at least 21 instances of controversy on the local and/or state level in at least 18 states, according to the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, California-based nonprofit organization that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools. Although such controversies regularly have occurred over the years, some attribute the recent wave to the success of conservatives in 2004 elections.
At the national level, one attempt to diminish the prominence of evolution in public school curricula and introduce alternative views came in the form of a proposed amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act.
Sponsored by Senator Rick Santorum, Republician-Pennyslvania, the amendment suggested that evolution is in question among scientists and recommended that a "full range of scientific views" be taught. But it was cut from the bill.
Seeking to explain the passion that the issue often ignites, Tamblyn said, "Partly, it's the mixture of religion and politics. If that doesn't get you going, what does?"
Indeed, the theory of evolution, which some opponents say is consonant with atheism because it provides no role for the divine, has been provoking controversy since 1859, when Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection."
And, if the contentious nature of the Kansas State Board of Education's recent public hearings here on evolution are any indication, the issue remains as explosive today as it was in Tennessee 80 years ago.
Summer of 1925
In the summer of 1925, Clarence Darrow entered a Dayton, Tenn., courtroom to defend biology teacher John Scopes against charges of teaching Darwin's theory of evolution, after it had been banned by the state. The highly publicized trial was the basis of the 1955 Broadway play "Inherit the Wind" and the 1960 film of the same title.
Then, as now, the controversy over evolution revolved around two Darwinian theories that contradict the biblical version of creation: Darwin's assertion that all life, including humans and monkeys, descended from common ancestors and that it is all the result of natural selection and random mutation. While fundamentalists may recoil from these concepts, many religious authorities, including those in the Roman Catholic Church, hold that belief in God and evolution don't conflict.
As there was in 1999, when Kansas de-emphasized evolution in its school science standards - a move reversed by a more moderate board in 2001 - there has been snickering by critics over the state's "backwardness" and head-shaking over the idea that the validity of evolution, one of the foundations of modern science, is in question.
This has prompted many references to the famous question posed in an 1896 editorial by William Allen White, editor of Kansas' Emporia Gazette. Listing examples of what he deplored as the backwardness of the state, he wrote: "What's the matter with Kansas?"
But, if Kansas is "backward," it's not alone.
Year to date, at least 13 states have entertained legislation requiring a more critical approach to evolution in the classroom and/or allowing discussion of alternative explanations of the origins of humans, including the supernatural.
The most recent addition is New York, a true "blue" state, where an Assembly bill was introduced on May 3 requiring schools to teach both evolution and intelligent design.
Intelligent design, which some critics consider an attempt to get around the Supreme Court's ban on teaching overtly religious creationism, credits an unnamed intelligence or designer for aspects of nature's complexity yet unexplained by science.
Whether any of this proposed legislation concerning evolution passes, it is evident that many Americans share the thinking behind it, according to poll after poll, including a recent Tribune/WGN-TV poll.
Only a third believe Darwin
According to a November national Gallup poll, "only about a third of Americans believe that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory that has been well supported by the evidence, while just as many say that it is just one of many theories and has not been supported by the evidence." The rest said they didn't know.
A CBS News poll taken the same month found that two-thirds of all Americans want creationism taught with evolution.
It also indicated that 55 percent of all Americans believe God created humans in their present form and only 13 percent think that humans evolved without divine guidance.
In September, what promises to be a test case on intelligent design will come to trial in Pennsylvania, where Dover-area schools last fall decided to require that students be made aware of intelligent design and of criticism of Darwin's theory.
Parents have filed a suit against the school board, arguing intelligent design is not science but creationism in disguise.
Proponents of intelligent design assert that there is a scientific rationale to their criticism of evolution.
One who testified at the Kansas public hearings is Jonathan Wells. A molecular biologist, Wells also is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.
"We can infer from evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than unguided natural processes. Among the latter would be random mutation and natural selection. They're factors, but not sufficient to give a full account," said Wells, in a phone interview.
"I think Darwinism is pseudoscience," he said.
Supporters of the theory of evolution say the same thing about intelligent design.
Preliminary vote in Kansas
"Despite how they want to redefine it, science itself appeals only to natural explanations. It doesn't say there are no other explanations," said Harry McDonald, a retired biology teacher and president of Kansas Citizens for Science, a pro-evolution group formed during the fight over standards in 1999.
The Kansas Board of Education will take a preliminary vote in June and a final vote later this summer on revisions to the science standards. But given the 6-4 advantage of conservatives on the board, few believe the outcome is in doubt _ although any revisions can be reversed if the composition of the board changes, as happened in 2001.
"I fear that there will be a lack of logic, that emotion is going to rule and, as a result, our science standards will be severely compromised," said Irigonegaray, slumping into a seat in Topeka's Memorial Hall after delivering a 108-minute argument on behalf of mainstream science on May 12, the last day of public hearings.
He paused, then added, "I warn America to be on the lookout for this problem because it's a national phenomenon, not just a Kansas problem."
Since Charles Darwin published the theory of biological evolution in 1859, his assertions that humans share common ancestry with all life on the planet and that they evolved to their present form through natural selection and mutation have clashed with the beliefs of those who adhere to the Bible's story that God created the world and Adam and Eve in his image.
Opponents of evolution have their own vocabulary list. Among the key terms are:
Creationism - Advanced by religious conservatives in response to Darwin's theory, creationism holds that God alone created the world and all life in it as it is today.
"Young Earth" creationists take the Bible's Book of Genesis literally and believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. "Old Earth" creationists do not take Genesis literally but dispute evolution. "Creation science" claims scientific evidence for the biblical version of creation.
Intelligent design - Considered a successor to creationism, intelligent design became popular in the early 1990s after the U.S. Supreme Court banned the teaching of creationism in public schools in 1987.
Framed in scientific language but devoid of biblical or theistic references, intelligent design posits that there are "weaknesses" in Darwin's theory and suggests that an unnamed intelligence must have designed complex aspects of nature still unexplained by science.