NTS LogoSkeptical News for 30 May 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Saturday, June 04, 2005

Med Schools Focus on Alternative Medicine

http://www.newsday.com/news/science/wire/sns-ap-apn-alternative-medicine,0,1431956.story?coll=sns-ap-science-headlines

By JOANN LOVIGLIO
Associated Press Writer

June 4, 2005, 8:20 PM EDT

PHILADELPHIA -- Once largely dismissed as a leftover fad from the Age of Aquarius, acupuncture, herbal remedies and other forms of alternative medicine are finding their way into curriculums at traditional medical schools -- most recently the University of Pennsylvania.

Doctors at Penn are working with Tai Sophia Institute, an alternative medicine school in Maryland, on a program to teach medical students about herbal therapies, meditation and other approaches that are increasingly popular with the public but largely exist outside the realm of mainstream medicine. It will start in August.

"We're not going to turn great surgeons into acupuncturists or herbalists; that's not the idea," said Robert Duggan, co-founder of Tai Sophia. "The goal is that Penn medical school graduates will be highly able to speak with patients about how to guide these things into their overall care."

More than a third of American adults have tried alternative therapies -- including yoga, meditation, herbs and the Atkins diet -- according to a 2002 government survey of 31,000 people, the largest study of its kind in the United States.

Universities nationwide, in response to the burgeoning numbers, are increasingly focusing on complementary medicine (used along with conventional treatment) and alternative medicine (used instead of conventional treatment). Some are creating their own programs and others are working with alternative medicine practitioners, said Aviad Haramati, a professor at Georgetown University's medical school.

"More and more there's a willingness by conventional schools to recognize the CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) schools as having this expertise," Haramati said. "And there's a recognition by the CAM disciplines that linking with conventional academic centers to foster research is a good thing."

Georgetown students work with a massage therapy school, for example, and Tufts University students work with an acupuncture school, he said.

"It made perfect sense to us," said Dr. Alfred P. Fishman of Penn's medical school, co-director of the collaboration. "We thought, why start from scratch? This is a very respected organization with 30 years of hands-on experience."

More than 95 of the nation's 125 medical schools require some kind of complementary and alternative medicine coursework, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The new partnership will offer a master's degree in complementary and alternative medicine. The degree, offered to the university's medical and nursing students, will come from the Tai Sophia Institute; the schools will exchange faculty members and students.

"If you had raised this 10 years ago everyone would have sneered at it," Fishman said. "Today, we're moving away from being completely focused on preventing disease and toward looking at what it takes to (achieve and maintain) wellness. ... I think patient care will improve enormously."

One critic of the trend is Dr. Steven Barrett of Allentown, a Columbia University-trained psychologist who runs the Web site Quackwatch.

Alternative medicine programs are finding their way into mainstream institutions not because there's proof the therapies work, Barrett said, but because skeptical voices are squelched and "administrators see it as a way to jump on the bandwagon and get grant money."

Penn and Tai Sophia are also developing postgraduate and continuing education courses on complementary and alternative medicine. One program, for example, will teach doctors about herbal medicines so they can better serve their patients who are already taking them.

In addition, cardiologists at Penn's Presbyterian Medical Center are working with Tai Sophia to integrate alternative therapies into traditional care for heart patients. The idea is to teach the cardiology staff how to develop personalized therapy plans -- including everything from meditation and massage to reflexology and aromatherapy -- to decrease patient stress, pain and anxiety.

"We get the benefit of their extraordinary research capabilities and educational facilities. They get the benefit of an institution that understands the world of (unconventional medicine)," Duggan said.

Fishman said the research possibilities are exciting as well. For example, new brain imaging technology will allow researchers to physically explore how things like herbs, acupuncture, even prayer, can make people feel better.

"In the days before we could image the brain it was very hard to know about how these things worked, why placebos work in some people," he said. "We can image the brain now and see why they feel better. Nothing is off limits."

On the Net:

Penn program: http://www.med.upenn.edu/progdev/compmed

Tai Sophia Institute: http://www.tai.edu

Quackwatch: http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/altwary.html

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

Jack Lin letter: Critic of evolution has his facts wrong

http://www.in-forum.com/articles/index.cfm?id=93858§ion=Opinion

The Forum

Published Saturday, June 04, 2005

Ken Koehler's charges against evolution in his May 29 column in The Forum are indicative of several misconceptions about evolution.

First, to say that evolution is devoid of evidence is to deny 150 years of scientific literature regarding the theory from Darwin's own "The Origin of Species" to Stephen Jay Gould's "Punctuated Equilibria." From Darwin's meticulous observations with his pigeon aviary to modern observances of change in bacteria, viruses, and fruit flies, science has amassed an overwhelming amount of evidence in favor of evolution. I'm sure Koehler hasn't bothered to read any that literature. The November 2004 issue of National Geographic is a good place to start, though.

Secondly, to claim that Intelligent Design liberates science in some sort of way is flat out wrong. The Botanical Society of America's Statement on Evolution explains the shortcomings of ID as a scientific alternative to evolution: "No predictions are made, so there is no reason or direction for seeking further knowledge. This demonstrates the scientific uselessness of creationism. While creationism explains everything, it offers no understanding beyond, 'that's the way it was created.'"

From Koehler's letter, it is clear that he is attempting to use ID as a mechanism to conform science to Christianity. To do so would severely hinder scientific creativity.

The American Botanical Society sums it up well when it states, "Science as a way of knowing has been extremely successful ... But people who oppose evolution, and seek to have creationism or intelligent design included in science curricula, seek to dismiss and change the most successful way of knowing ever discovered. They wish to substitute opinion and belief for evidence and testing. The proponents of creationism/intelligent design promote scientific ignorance in the guise of learning. As professional scientists and educators, we strongly assert that such efforts are both misguided and flawed, presenting an incorrect view of science, its understandings, and its processes."

Jack Lin

Fargo

"Man ordered to pay for healing ritual"

http://today.reuters.com/News/newsArticle.aspx?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=2005-06-03T113500Z_01_N02473970_RTRIDST_0_ODD-ODD-HMONG-DC.XML

Fri Jun 3, 2005 7:35 AM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California man who injured three Hmong men in a fight must pay their medical bills including more than $6,000 for animals and herbal medicines used in traditional healing ceremonies, a court has ruled.

Chad Wilson Keichler pleaded no contest to civil rights violations for uttering racial slurs against the Asian men during the brawl in Butte, California, and was ordered by a trial court to reimburse them for their medical expenses.

In addition to submitting hospital and doctor bills, the men turned in receipts for herbal medicines and cows, pigs and chickens slaughtered in Hmong "spirit-calling ceremonies."

Keichler opposed making restitution for the nonmedical expenses, but a California appeals court on Wednesday ruled that he should pay because the ceremony is the equivalent of Western psychotherapy.

The Hmong are an ancient people with roots in China. They migrated into Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the 19th century. Many came to the United States as refugees after the Vietnam War.

In a letter to the court, victim Xiong Xeng Moua explained: "In my culture, one way of helping a person who has been traumatized ... is to hold a traditional spirit calling to call my spirit back to me."

An expert testified that the Hmong people believe that a person who is attacked may lose one of his many souls and become ill.

The expert said the souls of animals killed during the spirit-calling ceremony are called on to replace the victim's lost soul. The animals are then eaten by attendees as part of the ceremony.

Evolution education update: "intelligent design" at NMNH?; "Monkey see, monkey do?"; evolution resources from AAAS and SS

The controversy over the screening of the "intelligent design" film The Privileged Planet at the National Museum of National History abates; the Journal Editorial Report devotes a segment to the evolution/creationism controversy under the title "Monkey see, monkey do?"; and two major scientific organizations unveil evolution resources on-line.

"INTELLIGENT DESIGN" AT NMNH?

On May 28, 2005, readers of The New York Times were surprised to discover that The Privileged Planet -- a film based on the book of the same title by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Wesley Richards, both affiliated with the Discovery Institute -- was scheduled for a private showing at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. A spokesman for the museum explained that its auditorium is available for use by private organizations in return for a donation -- the Discovery Institute donated $16,000 -- and that "[i]t is incorrect for anyone to infer that we are somehow endorsing the video or the content of the video." Such events are described, as a pro forma courtesy, as cosponsored by the museum. But the language of cosponsorship obviously holds the potentiality to mislead: Denyse O'Leary, a Canadian author and blogger sympathetic to the "intelligent design" movement, headlined her announcement of the event as "Smithsonian Museum warming to intelligent design theory," perhaps prompting the Discovery Institute's Bruce Chapman to tell the Times that the museum "certainly didn't say, 'We're really warming up to intelligent design, and therefore we're going to sponsor this.'"

The double disavowal of the museum's endorsement of the film notwithstanding, there was still widespread dismay about its being screened at one of the world's leading natural history museums under its prestigious, even if pro forma, cosponsorship. Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State remarked, "The Smithsonian will walk away with a black eye if this movie is aired at the museum. So far, the scientific community has rebuffed ID proponents, leaving them to wage a public relations battle to convince Americans that their ideas are scientific and worthy of serious study. If the film airs at the museum, it's a sure bet ID proponents will start saying, 'Look! Even the Smithsonian says our ideas are worthwhile!'" And the James Randi Educational Foundation went so far as to offer the museum $20,000 to refund the Discovery Institute's money and not to screen The Privileged Planet, quipping, "And the JREF will not require the Smithsonian to run any films or propaganda that favor our point of view..."

Perhaps in response to such concerns, the museum decided to withdraw its cosponsorship and to refund the Discovery Institute's $16,000, on the grounds that it "determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research," although the film will still be screened. A report in the June 2 issue of the Washington Post quoted the Discovery Institute's Chapman as lamenting, "We're disappointed ....We met all their conditions ... and then some mention of this in the media, and now they want to backtrack to some degree, and we don't get it." Americans United's Rob Boston responded, "Perhaps a little clarification would be helpful for Mr. Chapman: The Smithsonian is one of the world's premier scientific organizations. Intelligent design, meanwhile, is a tool increasingly used by evangelical Christians to cast doubt on Darwinism and win converts. Not surprisingly, the Smithsonian can't promote that."

In its June 3 editorial "Dissing Darwin," the Washington Post observed that "[w]hile 'The Privileged Planet' is an extremely sophisticated religious film, it is a religious film nevertheless. It uses scientific information -- the apparently 'perfect' position of Earth in its orbit and in its galaxy, the uniqueness of its atmosphere -- to answer, affirmatively, the philosophical question of whether life on Earth was part of a grand design, and not just the result of chance and chemistry. Neither God nor evolution is mentioned. Nevertheless, the film is consistent with the Discovery Institute's general aim, which is to drive a wedge into the scientific consensus about the origins of life and the universe and to give a patina of scientific credibility to the idea of an intelligent creator. The museum was naive or negligent not to recognize this, and more naive not to anticipate the backlash," adding that the museum's eventual decision to refund the money and withdraw its cosponsorship was "an embarrassing about-face, but not as embarrassing as the original decision."

For the initial article in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/28/national/28smithsonian.html

For the article in the Washington Post, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/01/AR2005060101986.html

For American United's blog, on which Rob Boston's comments appeared, visit: http://blog.au.org/

For the editorial in the Washington Post, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/02/AR2005060201659.html

"MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO?"

The evolution/creationism controversy was featured on the May 27, 2005, installment of The Journal Editorial Report, a news and discussion program featuring members of The Wall Street Journal's editorial staff that airs weekly on PBS stations across the country.

The segment -- entitled "Monkey see, monkey do?" -- began in Dover, Pennsylvania, where the local school board's policy of requiring students to be exposed to "intelligent design" resulted in a federal lawsuit. Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center, which is defending the school board in the lawsuit, agreed that he saw the case as just the beginning: "I think whether it's our case or some other case Darwin's going down the tube. ... No question about it." NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott commented, "The idea that intelligent design is not a way of slipping religion into the classroom is ludicrous," and the Report's reporter confirmed that "every supporter we talked to ... was clear about the only reason they did want intelligent design taught to their children." Thompson (misidentified in the transcript as former Dover Area School Board member Jeff Brown) replied, "Well if the courts say the schools have to be religiously neutral then they have to take out Darwin's theory of evolution because Darwin's theory of evolution posits an atheistic or secular humanist religion." When the reporter noted that "There has not been one court in this land that has ever said that evolution is a religion," Thompson replied, "Well no one has tried it yet." (He is incorrect: see, e.g., Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District 37 F.3d 517 [9th Cir. 1994], in which Peloza unsuccessfully argued that evolution is a religion.)

Next was Niall Shanks of Wichita State University, author of God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory (Oxford University Press, 2004), discussing "intelligent design" with three members of the Wall Street Journal's editorial staff. Shanks lucidly argued that evolution is not intrinsically atheistic, commenting that "Richard Dawkins claims that he is an intellectually fulfilled atheist. But I think that you'll find that many evolutionary biologists are intellectually fulfilled Christians." Asked about the idea of "teaching the controversy," he replied: "The question is whether the intelligent design theory is bringing about genuine critical thinking about scientific theories or whether it's just there is a device for what one might call Darwin baiting. I'm afraid to say that I'm inclined to think that it is much more involved with Darwin baiting than it is about raising serious critical questions which do need to be asked of any scientific theory." And he also noted that evolution is typically scanted in the classroom in any case: "[I]t's usually the last chapter in the biology book. It's the one that teachers don't like to spend too much time on."

In addition to a RealPlayer version and a transcript of the segment, and a essay version of the news report portion of the segment, there is also a point/counterpoint feature with the Thomas More Law Center's Richard Thompson and NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott answering such questions as:

What is the argument and evidence for these two theories?

How do we determine which scientific theories we teach in high school?

Is intelligent design a religious theory?

Does the theory of evolution posit an atheistic or secular humanist religion?

What is the feeling in the scientific community about intelligent design?

Doesn't intelligent design violate the separation of church and state?

Do you see the Dover suit as a test case for intelligent design?

Unsurprisingly, it was only on the last of these that Thompson and Scott agreed!

To read and watch the various materials of "Monkey See, Monkey Do?", visit: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/journaleditorialreport/052705/briefing.html

To buy Shanks's God, the Devil, and Darwin -- and benefit NCSE in the process -- visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/0195161998/nationalcenter02/002-9119745-6094654

To read NCSE's previous coverage of the controversy in Dover, Pennsylvania, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=PA

EVOLUTION RESOURCES FROM AAAS AND SSE

From the Scopes "monkey trial" of 1925 to the Kansas "kangaroo court" of 2005, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has a noble history of defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Now the AAAS is providing "Evolution on the Front Line" as part of its press room's website, including questions and answers on evolution and "intelligent design," the AAAS's board resolution on "intelligent design" (which observed that "the ID movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution"), and news and information about the AAAS's ongoing efforts to counter attempts to compromise the teaching of evolution.

And it's a brand new website for the Society for the Study of Evolution, featuring news from and information about the SSE, its publications, and its meetings, resources for evolution educators, links to information about evolutionary biology, and position statements on evolution and evolution education from the SSE and other scientific organizations. It is a work in progress, so expect it to become even more useful in the future! The objectives of the Society for the Study of Evolution are the promotion of the study of organic evolution and the integration of the various fields of science concerned with evolution; it publishes the scientific journal Evolution, and holds annual meetings in which scientific findings on evolutionary biology are presented and discussed.

For AAAS's Evolution on the Front Line, visit: http://www.aaas.org/news/press_room/evolution

For SSE's new website, visit: http://www.evolutionsociety.org/

CORRECTION

In last week's evolution education update, the wrong URL was given for "A catechism of creation: An Episcopal understanding."

To read the catechism itself, visit: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/19021_58393_ENG_HTM.htm?menupage=58392

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

again in the body of an e-mail to majordomo@ncseweb2.org.

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

Sincerely,

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

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


Friday, June 03, 2005

Dissing Darwin

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/02/AR2005060201659.html

Friday, June 3, 2005; Page A22

THE INVITATION was straightforward enough: "The Director of the National Museum of Natural History and Discovery Institute are happy to announce the national premiere and private evening reception for The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe," on June 23. But for the museum's directors, the decision to allow this film to be shown in one of their auditoriums turned out not to be straightforward at all. The Museum of Natural History is known, among other things, for its collection of fossils and its displays describing Darwin's theory of evolution. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, by contrast, is known for its efforts to undermine the teaching of Darwinism in schools and to promote the theory of "intelligent design" -- life is so complicated it must have been designed by an intelligent creator.

For these reasons, the Smithsonian and its Museum of Natural History should have been wary of this project. But the film itself also should have given them pause. The museum's policy, according to its spokesman, is to allow private groups to use its auditorium for a fee -- in this case, $16,000 -- so long as the material shown is not religious or political in content. While "The Privileged Planet" is an extremely sophisticated religious film, it is a religious film nevertheless. It uses scientific information -- the apparently "perfect" position of Earth in its orbit and in its galaxy, the uniqueness of its atmosphere -- to answer, affirmatively, the philosophical question of whether life on Earth was part of a grand design, and not just the result of chance and chemistry. Neither God nor evolution is mentioned. Nevertheless, the film is consistent with the Discovery Institute's general aim, which is to drive a wedge into the scientific consensus about the origins of life and the universe and to give a patina of scientific credibility to the idea of an intelligent creator.

The museum was naive or negligent not to recognize this, and more naive not to anticipate the backlash. When news of the film showing recently began circulating, one Web site that supports intelligent design asked enthusiastically whether this meant the Smithsonian was "warming up" to the theory of an intelligent creator. In a newspaper interview, Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, also said how delighted he was that the Museum of Natural History would "co-sponsor" the event despite the fact that the evening was intended to be a private affair. This is precisely how the intelligent design movement has gotten as far as it has: by advocating outwardly inoffensive ideas in ever-more prestigious places, thereby giving the movement scientific validity. This week, after protests from within and outside the museum, the directors returned the $16,000 auditorium rental fee and issued a statement declaring that "the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research." It's an embarrassing about-face, but not as embarrassing as the original decision.

WHAT'S NEW Friday, June 03, 2005

WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 3 Jun 05 Washington, DC

PRIVILEGED RELIGION: SMITHSONIAN WILL SHOW A FAITH-BASED FILM.

Saturday's NY Times had a story about the premiere of a movie, "The Privileged Planet," to be held at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. The museum would co-sponsor the showing in return for a $16,000 contribution from the Discovery Institute. This is the organization that's pushing "Intelligent Design" as a Bible-friendly alternative to evolution. If it's the money, James Randi announced, he would offer $20,000 not to show the film. It apparently was not the money. Yesterday, the museum director stated that on further review the film is not consistent with the Smithsonian mission. The museum will not sponsor the film and will return the money -- but space for the event is still being provided. Is this the Supernatural History Museum? Yesterday, the WN team viewed the film. It went beyond the "intelligent design" of humans. It seems the busy Designer-In- The-Sky also designed a planet for us. Not just a place to live, but a room with a view, perfectly situated to let us discover the rest of the universe. It's the old anthropic argument that the laws of Nature are fine tuned to make life possible, but with a discovery requirement tossed in. So what does the Smithsonian do? It lets them in free. That means taxpayers are subsidizing the Discovery Institute. Which brings up the next question: this is an expensive production where does the money come from?

"FOLLOW THE MONEY": THE ADVICE OF "DEEP THROAT" TO WOODWARD.

"The Privileged Planet" was produced by Illustra Media. When we asked who paid for it they said we would have to write their lawyers. We were able to identify the Crowell Trust, established by the founder of Quaker Oats, which promotes "the doctrines of Evangelical Christianity." The film was based on a book by Guillermo Gonsalez and Jay Richards. It was published by Regnery, whose authors are at the extreme right of the spectrum. Richards is vice president of Discovery Institute, a non-profit educational foundation with deep-pocket contributors. Gonzalez is an assistant research professor at Iowa State. In the book, he acknowledges financial support from the Templeton Foundation.

UNLOCKING THE MYSTERY: THE OTHER DISCOVERY INSTITUTE FILM.

Back in January, the PBS television station in Albuquerque had scheduled a documentary on evolution, "Unlocking the Mystery of Life." The film, which came from the Discovery Institute had been offered as a free feed by the National Educational Television Association. The Crowell Trust also helped on this one. When the station realized it was funded by evangelical Christian groups it pulled the film, saying there was a scheduling conflict. We viewed this one too. Like "Privileged Planet," production values were high. It's easy to see how it could pass as serious science to non-scientists unfamiliar with the issues. Watson and Crick might be surprised to learn that the discovery of the structure of DNA proved there was an intelligent designer. The important point is that we can now expect them to attempt to get Privileged Planet on PBS stations.

THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.

Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the University of Maryland, but they should be.

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

Smithsonian won't pay for 'intelligent design' film

http://www.sltrib.com/nationworld/ci_2777359

The New York Times

The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History has withdrawn its co-sponsorship of a showing later this month of a film that supports the theory of ''intelligent design.''

The museum said it would not cancel the screening of the film, ''The Privileged Planet,'' but will return the $16,000 that the Discovery Institute, an organization that promotes a skeptical view of the Darwinian theory of evolution, had paid it.

Proposals for events at the National Museum of Natural History are reviewed by members of the staff, and it co-sponsors all events. After the news of the showing caused controversy, however, officials of the museum screened ''Privileged Planet'' for themselves.

''The major problem with the film is the wrap-up,'' said Randall Kremer, a museum spokesman. ''It takes a philosophical bent rather than a clear statement of the science, and that's where we part ways with them.''

Study: Children near power lines may face higher cancer risk

http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/06/03/power.cancer/index.html

Friday, June 3, 2005 Posted: 8:12 AM EDT (1212 GMT)

LONDON, England -- Children who live close to high-voltage overhead power lines may be at an increased risk of leukemia, a British study has suggested.

Researchers estimated that youngsters living within 200 meters (yards) of the lines were about 70 percent more likely to develop leukemia compared to those who lived beyond 600 meters, the UK's Press Association reported.

Those living between 200 and 600 meters of the high-voltage pylons had around a 20 percent increased risk.

But the researchers said they had not been able to show that the power lines were the cause of the increased risk and admitted there was possibility their findings could be due to chance.

Some researchers have suggested that low frequency magnetic fields, such as those caused by the production of electricity, could possibly be linked to cancer.

However other studies, such as the large UK Childhood Cancer Study (UKCCS) which reported its results recently, have disputed this risk.

The latest study, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at more than 29,000 children with cancer, including 9,700 with leukemia, born between 1962 and 1995, and a control group of healthy youngsters in England and Wales.

Dr. Gerald Draper and colleagues from the Childhood Cancer Research Group at Oxford University, and Dr. John Swanson, a scientific adviser at National Grid Transco, measured the distance from children's home addresses at birth from the nearest high-voltage power line.

They found that 64 children with leukemia lived within 200 meters of the line, while 258 lived between 200-600 meters away.

Putting the risks into perspective, the researchers said that about five of the 400-420 cases of childhood leukemia that occur each year in England and Wales may be linked to power lines.

They did not find any increased risk for other types of childhood cancer.

The researchers also only measured distance from power lines, and not the magnetic field from either the power lines or other sources.

Draper said they were unable to say that power lines were the cause of the increased risk found and the magnetic fields were unlikely to be involved.

"It may not be the effect of power lines at all. It may be something to do with the kind of areas where power lines are located, or the sort of people who live in these areas and we will be looking at that further," he said.

The researcher said that children from more well-off families and those living in less densely populated areas appeared to be at a slightly higher risk of leukemia, and that these were population characteristics that needed to be investigated further.

Draper also said their results could be chance findings, although in statistical terms they were still significant.

But he said chance could not be ruled out because they were unable to say what the actual cause of the increased risk was.

Swanson said the electricity industry was determined to get to the truth behind theories about links to childhood leukemia and as a responsible industry was pleased to be part of this study.

"We have strengthened the evidence that something is happening, but we haven't made any connection about why it is happening, if only we had," he said.

Draper said it would be wrong to make recommendations about where people should live based on their findings until there was more explanation for the results.

However he said based on previous research he would be unhappy moving into a house where there were electromagnetic field exposures of 0.4 microtesla or higher.

Swanson said if he had found the perfect house he would not let proximity to power lines deter him from moving in, but if all things were equal and another property was further away he would find that preferable.

The UKCCS reported last month that most cases of childhood leukemia had their origins before birth and may be triggered by infections early in life.

It said there was minimal risk of childhood cancer from electrical installations or magnetic field levels.

But Eddie O'Gorman, chairman of the charity Children with Leukemia, said: "We have to do everything we can to protect young lives -- there is now a clear case for immediate government action.

"Planning controls must be introduced to stop houses and schools being built close to high voltage overhead power lines."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said they realized this was an important issue which had caused anxiety.

"We have been closely following developments in this area for many years and have already taken action by setting up a group of experts especially to consider whether there is any need to develop precautionary measures to reduce exposures to electromagnetic fields," the spokeswoman said.

War of the otherworldly: Cruise's faith in Scientology threatens film

http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/film/news/story.jsp?story=643675

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
Published : 03 June 2005

Is Hollywood's biggest male star losing it? In the past few days, Tom Cruise has been hauled over the coals for allowing his devotion to Scientology to overshadow his film career, ridiculed for a seemingly loopy appearance on Oprah Winfrey's daytime chat show and accused of conducting a sham romance with the younger actress Katie Holmes strictly for publicity purposes.

Ordinarily, such chatter would be no more than background gossip in a town that thrives on gossip, little or none of it substantiated.

But Cruise's recent behaviour has been so spectacularly off-the-wall that it has prompted senior executives at Paramount Studios to call crisis meetings and consider cancelling the third instalment of the Mission Impossible series, due to shoot next month.

One website, Arianna Huffington's newly launched "Huffington Post", reported this week that the film had already been canned. Yesterday's New York Times quoted an executive at Paramount's parent company, Viacom, saying the issue was under active discussion but no decision had been made yet.

The negative buzz surrounding Cruise began earlier this year on the set of his blockbuster, Steven Spielberg's retelling of War of the Worlds, when he insisted on having a Scientology tent on the set. Ordinarily, studios impose a strict ban on religious proselytising during filming, and Cruise only got his way after Spielberg and others intervened.

More recently, Cruise has used press interviews to promote Narconon, a drug rehabilitation programme invented by Scientology's founder, L Ron Hubbard, which has been thoroughly trashed by mainstream drug-addiction experts.

In his Oprah appearance last week, he pranced around the set like a puppy dog, fell to his knees and professed ardent love for Ms Holmes, with whom he has been linked for all of one month. He also rubbished Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants - a big no-no in the Scientology universe - to overcome post-partum depression and intimated that the real problem was the emptiness of her existence.

In all the brouhaha, it has not gone unnoticed that the poster for War of The Worlds bears a distinct resemblance to an L Ron Hubbard book cover, with a fantasy-type image of a clawed Martian hand grabbing Earth in its palm. It is no secret that Cruise, along with a clutch of other Hollywood stars, is a committed follower of Scientology. According to members of the church, he has reached the sixth of eight Operating Thetan levels - he is trusted enough to know almost all of the "secret truth of the universe".

The biggest change may not be religious but star management. Earlier this year he fired his long-standing publicist, Pat Kingsley, and his new team is led by his sister Lee Anne De Vette. After his Oprah appearance, his publicistswere reported to be bombarding him and his sister with calls begging them to "tone it down". His team has denied his relationship with Ms Holmes,who became a star as a teenager in the television show, Dawson's Creek, and is set to appear in cinemas this summer in Batman Begins, was anything other than genuine.

© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.

Scopes Trial, Part Two : (D)evolution in Kansas

http://www.lefthook.org/Politics/Miller060305.html

-by Jason Miller

Yes, Phineas Taylor Barnum would be green with envy. The master of the hoodwink would be in awe of the Religious Right were he alive today. Snake-charming, beguiling, conning, and flimflamming are at the heart of their repertoire, and their leaders leave Barnum looking like a bush leaguer. If the religious conversion business cycle hits a lull, there will be a glut of highly talented salespeople looking for work. This week, this Evangelical movement is flexing its muscle, and flashing its propagandistic cunning, as it soaks up the spotlight of national media attention in Topeka, Kansas.

Ringling Brothers could not rival the hype of the circus of events dubbed "Scopes II". Led by its three "ring masters" (Kathy Martin, Steve Abrams, and Connie Morris), the Kansas State School Board has once again put the theory of Evolution on trial. Despite the lack of testimony from a single member of the established, mainstream scientific community, "the show must go on" as the board "proves" that Evolution is dubious at best. The purpose of this extravaganza is to "validate" the new science standards they desperately want to implement, and they are determined to "bring home the win" this time.

Under the "big top" of Memorial Hall in Topeka, the board has paraded a panel of "expert witnesses" to testify that Evolution is a "flawed theory". Several witnesses have asserted the fiction that there is a "controversy" in the scientific community about the validity of the theory of Evolution. John Calvert, a retired attorney and Kansas resident who heads the Intelligent Design Network, read scripted questions to nine of the twenty three anti-Evolution witnesses over the course of May 5 and May 6, with more to following after the weekend.

Validity of Evolution Speaks for Itself

Meanwhile, the mainstream scientific community has elected to boycott this charade. Their position is that by participating in "The Greatest Show on Earth", they would be lending credence to the assertions that there is a controversy over Evolution, and that those who believe in Evolution are atheists by default. The truth is that the theory of Evolution has grown and changed significantly since its assertion by Charles Darwin in 1859, and scientists do disagree over some details. However, the majority of the scientific community agrees over the principal aspects of the theory. Conflict over the validity of Evolution is a sham perpetrated by the "showmen" of the Religious Right. Keith Miller, of Brown University, author of Finding Darwin's God, is a living example of one who believes in both Evolution and a Christian God. People like Miller, who are not uncommon in the scientific community or the general population, dispel the myth that Evolution demands that one embrace atheism. The scientific community is not denying the existence of God; they simply believe that proving the existence of God is beyond the scope of science, and discussion of the subject belongs in philosophy classes.

Pedro Irigonegaray, the "lyin' tamer" in this circus, is an attorney who chose to volunteer his services as the sole advocate for the preservation of Evolution in the science standards in the state of Kansas. He called the proceedings a "kangaroo court" and stated that Intelligent Design, the "rival theory" to Evolution, is "junk science". Through cross examination of the "expert witnesses" against Evolution, Irigonegaray exposed the fact that several of them have not even read the science curriculum recommendations submitted to the board. Following that revelation, conservative Christian board member Kathy Martin acknowledged that she had not read the recommendations in their entirety either.

What precipitated this absurdity?

In 2004, two groups presented recommendations to the Kansas State School Board concerning the science curriculum. A Majority Report by 25 individuals, including Steve Case, an associate research professor at the University of Kansas, recommended virtually no changes with respect to how public schools teach Evolution. John Calvert and seven other individuals wrote a Minority Report, summarized at this .PDF file. Displaying the height of hubris, this report calls for the school board to rewrite the very definition of science. The state school board, comprised of ten members, is dominated by six conservative Christian members. After receiving the Majority and Minority Reports, the "Big Six", employing their infinite Biblical wisdom, decided that Kansas needed to hold a hearing to determine the validity of the theory of Evolution.

What do the moderate school board members think?

At least two of the more moderate members of the board have refused to participate in the process. They both responded to me with their thoughts on the proceedings.

Sue Gamble wrote:

"I do not support these hearings and will not participate in them. There is no controversy in the Science Community about the validity of Evolution as a part of Science. The Theory of Evolution has been continually supported and strengthened since its introduction in 1859. My understanding from scientists is that Evolution is one of the strongest theories within science, and actually unifies other scientific disciplines. This is a political issue for the ultra conservative faction on the state board who currently hold 6/4 majority. This is not an educational issue."

Carol Rupe, another moderate board member, expressed her views:

"My personal belief is that God created the heavens and the earth and that He did it through evolution. There is no controversy for me between science and my faith. My father is a doctor and my son is a doctor; they have taken many science courses. They also both have strong faiths. I think that in science class we must teach what scientists think happened. There are plenty of opportunities to teach other ideas in philosophy, sociology, and comparative religion classes. We've been hearing that the teaching of evolution is itself teaching a religion. I certainly don't feel that way, and I don't know of anyone who does. Science is not anti-God any more than math is anti-God. The discussions that are taking place about changing science should be between scientists in the science community. If Intelligent Design is to be recognized as science, then it needs to be peer reviewed. If it is accepted by scientists, then it should be taught. The debate should not be taking place in school board meetings across the country because that is not where science becomes science."

Cast of "Characters"

Ironically, not one of the "performers" in Kansas's version of the Cirque Plume holds a PhD in evolutionary biology. Their credentials qualifying them as "experts" qualified to objectively challenge the theory of Evolution are highly questionable. John Calvert, the "star of the show", is a retired attorney turned Intelligent Design proponent. William Harris, a close associate of Calvert, is a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and has admitted that he believes that the Christian God is the "Intelligent Designer". Mustafa Akyol is a Turkish activist writer with a master's degree in history. Akyol is affiliated with a Turkish organization called Bilim Arasfirma Vakfi, which began as a religious cult, and was instrumental in virtually eliminating Evolution from the curriculum of Turkish schools. High school biology classes in Turkey, a secular nation, now teach a form of creationism. Charles Thaxton and Jonathan Wells are both strong proponents of the concept of Intelligent Design, the pseudo science offered by the Religious Right as an alternative "theory" to Evolution.

What is this Intelligent Design "Theory" Anyway?

Intelligent Design is a cleverly packaged form of Creationism which the Religious Right is attempting to sneak into public classrooms through a variety of means, including this farcical "hearing" in Kansas. In 1991, Phillip Johnson, a Berkeley law professor, kicked off the movement by authoring Darwin on Trial. The premise of Intelligent Design is that mere observation of the complexity of the universe provides "evidence" that there was an intelligent designer. In virtual unanimity, the scientific community rejects the credibility of Intelligent Design. Lacking the support of scientific evidence, research, or peer review, Intelligent Design only qualifies as a "theory" in the minds of those who are desperate to "prove" the existence of their version of the Christian God, and manipulate our children into believing in their version of the Christian faith. In 1996, Bruce Chapman founded an allegedly non- partisan think- tank called the Discovery Institute. However, an internal document leaked in 1999 called The Wedge Strategy belies the true purpose of Discovery.

In the Wedge, the Discovery Institute summarizes its five year objective as follows:

"We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

Despite its denials to assertions that it is advancing Creationism as an alternative to Evolution through the theory of Intelligent Design, Discovery's Christian agenda, and its alignment with the Religious Right, are quite obvious. Howard Ahmanson, an ultra-conservative California savings and loan heir has provided Discovery with millions of dollars in funding. Phillip Johnson still appears as a "program advisor" on Discovery's website . Two of the "circus performers" from the Kansas trial, Charles Thaxton and Jonathan Wells, are listed as "fellows" with the Institute. If one needs further evidence, The Wedge Strategy document articulates their objectives quite clearly. After connecting the dots, it does not take a rocket scientist (or an evolutionary biologist) to see the pattern emerging with Johnson, Calvert, Harris, and their cohorts leading the charge to drive their Christian wedge into America's secular public schools.

Betrayals of Public Trust

Our three "ring-masters" here in Kansas are "poster children" for the Intelligent Design movement, and its insidious purposes. Elected by the people of Kansas to represent the educational interests of our children in our secular public schools, Kathy Martin, Steve Abrams, and Connie Morris are selling our children out to advance the cause of the Religious Right. In a state where there is currently a dearth of funding for public schools, they chose to spend $10,000.00 on the "Scopes II" spectacle simply to provide a vehicle to support their denigration of Evolution, one of the most widely accepted theories in the scientific community. By choosing to help employ The Wedge Strategy to transform public school classrooms into religious pulpits, they are complicit in violating the First Amendment of the US Constitution and in trampling the rights of America's 75 million non-Christians.

As a Kansas taxpayer, voter, and parent of a student in the public school system, I take serious issue with the waste of time and resources spent on these hearings. It is a foregone conclusion that the 6-4 majority on the board will vote to adopt the science standard recommendations of the Minority Report. They have stacked the deck in their favor. They have launched tenacious propagandistic attacks against sound science, and are preparing to flatten the wall of separation of church and state. My wife and I teach our son spirituality in the home. If we wanted a school that taught Evangelical Christian dogma, we would send him to a private Evangelical Christian school. Spiritual lessons belong in the home or the church, not in the public schools, and certainly not in science classes. Even my two other sons, who attend a Catholic school, will learn the theory of Evolution in their science classes when they reach that point in the curriculum.

Board member Kathy Martin, the out-spoken former teacher from Clay Center, Kansas, minces no words about her agenda or her tenuous grasp of the facts. In an interview with the Clay City paper, Ms. Martin said, "Evolution has been proven false. Intelligent Design is science-based and strong in facts." Going further, she stated, "Man has changed and evolved, but we are not going to change back into monkeys." Giving an enthusiastic "thumbs up" to the Religious Right when asked if Intelligent Design was a form of Creationism, she commented, "Of course this is a Christian agenda. We are a Christian nation. Our country is made up of Christian conservatives. We don't often speak up, but we need to stand up and let our voices be heard." Ms. Martin saved her most revealing dictum for last. "Why shouldn't theology be taught in the classroom? Morality ought to be taught in every class. Prayer ought to be allowed. Whenever a child wanted to pray in class, I prayed with them. All children believe in God. Even little children whose parents don't take them to church believe in God." It is indeed frightening that she is in a position that enables her to render decisions affecting the education of our children.

What are the stakes?

Once the dog and pony show is over, the Kansas State School Board will implement the Minority Report, rewrite the definition of science as we now know it, and seriously weaken the standing that Evolution holds in our science classes. 455,000 young minds stand to be corrupted by the introduction of the "junk science" of Intelligent Design" into the classroom. Next year, our children could be learning that the Earth is only 10,000 years old, and that humans saddled and rode dinosaurs. Both are commonly held beliefs amongst ardent members of the Religious Right. Two years from now, Genesis could replace Evolution in biology classes. Kansas is not the only battleground over Evolution. Ohio schools adopted challenges to Evolution in 2002. Twenty other states are contemplating similar changes in their curriculum.

Despite the fact that it is a loosely organized coalition, the Religious Right is highly unified in their thrust to achieve their objective of a theocratic, Christian nation. Men like James Dobson, Ted Haggard, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell have a vision for America that includes strengthening the patriarchal nature of our society, establishing Christianity as the national religion, superseding the US Constitution with the Bible as the ultimate source of American law, openly persecuting homosexuals and non-Christians, and teaching our children that faith supplants reason.

Take a long hard look at "Scopes II". Kansas may be a strong-hold for the Religious Right, but it is not an aberration to be dismissed lightly. Dominionism, the act of Christians rising to fulfill their God-appointed places of rulers of the Earth (see Genesis 1:26), is the ultimate goal of this movement, and the Religious Right is increasing its political power across the country with each passing day. "Scopes II" is merely the first of many circus-like spectacles, not unlike those held in the Colosseum of ancient Rome. However, this time around the "true Christians" of the Religious Right intend to make lion fodder of their opposition.

May is the month of our Summer Fund Drive. If you found this article useful, please support Left Hook by making a donation.

Jason Miller is a 38 year old free-lance activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. In his own words: "I am a husband and a father to three boys, and I earn my living as an account representative at a finance company. My affiliations include the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I welcome responses willpowerful@hotmail.com.

Alternative medicine catches a cold

http://www.swissinfo.org/sen/swissinfo.html?siteSect=106&sid=5839865&cKey=1117794655000

Saturday 04.06.2005, CET 05:23

swissinfo June 3, 2005 12:30 PM

Traditional Chinese medicine has been dropped from the list of therapies covered by health insurers (Keystone)

Patients who prefer homeopathy and other alternative therapies to traditional forms of medicine may in future have to foot the bill for these treatments.

Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin, who has the health portfolio, announced on Friday that five types of complementary medicine would no longer be covered by basic health insurance.

The interior ministry said the five therapies failed to meet the criteria on efficacy, suitability and cost-effectiveness laid down in Switzerland's health-insurance law.

The ministry stressed, however, that the decision should not be seen as a ruling on the merits of complementary medicine.

Health insurers can stop paying for the treatments from the end of the month.

The Union of Associations of Swiss Physicians for Complementary Medicine said the decision by the interior ministry was a mistake.

"It ignores what people really want and will lead to a health system only rich patients can afford," it said in a statement.

Angry reaction

The Swiss Patients' Organisation said it was disappointed because the ministry's decision did not correspond with the findings of a report into complementary medicine.

Patients had to bear the brunt of the costs, criticised the president of the country's main consumer organisation.

The main Swiss doctors' association described Couchepin's announcement as counterproductive, while health insurers said they welcomed it.

Alternative therapies are very popular in Switzerland. According to a recent survey, one-third of the population has consulted a doctor specialising in complementary medicine at least once.

In 1999 the interior ministry ruled that five therapies - homeopathy, herbal medicine, neural therapy, traditional Chinese medicine and anthroposophic medicine – should be covered provisionally by basic health insurance.

The scheme, which ran for a trial period of five years, was aimed at assessing the potential of these therapies.

SFr7-million study

Friday's decision pre-empts a SFr7 million ($5.6 million) study on complementary medicine which is due to be published this year.

This was commissioned to assess whether the five therapies met the criteria on efficacy, suitability and cost-effectiveness.

The study, which has been described by experts as a world first, was also intended to build bridges between "scientific" and alternative forms of medicine.

But it has been beset by controversy. There have been problems over the methodology, communication and interpretation of the data, and parts of the analysis have yet to be completed.

In 2003 complementary medicine accounted for 0.2 per cent of health insurers' costs.

Alternative

One alternative would have been to make these therapies subject to supplementary insurance policies.

But opponents doubt whether such a move would help to restrict costs.

Friday's announcement is unlikely to mark the end of the matter. In the space of seven months, more than 120,000 people have signed a people's initiative calling for a nationwide vote to enshrine the right to alternative therapies in the constitution.

According to opinion polls, four out of five Swiss think that complementary medicine should continue to be paid for under the basic health-insurance scheme.

This means that Couchepin's decision could be overturned at the ballot box.

swissinfo


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Guest commentary: There's science behind our design

http://www.wacotrib.com/opin/content/news/opinion/stories/2005/05/30/20050530wacpisciotta.html;COXnetJSessionIDbuild78=CfZLHChE3SDMrMrK5XPMyZOAianJAAx2kNjbVi790JjD8H5Dn4Qz!560591653?urac=n&urvf=11177722353780.5535897891381356

By John Pisciotta, guest column

Monday, May 30, 2005

Is intelligent design theory "religious pseudo-science" as a Trib editorial asserts?

While I.D. theorists, including colleagues at Baylor University, may fail to make their scientific case, they are engaged in real scientific investigation.

Critics who call I.D. a religion are simply saying, "This is a matter we do not want to investigate, teach or even discuss."

Intelligent design theory probes the possible role of "purposeful construction" for the universe and for life forms on our planet. It questions the extent to which gradual random natural mechanisms can explain creation.

It's pretty complicated stuff for a farm boy, so I will illustrate its scientific nature with simple non-living objects: a rock, an arrowhead, a tractor and the Tribune-Herald.

Let's begin at a fictional company picnic in Cameron Park. While enjoying barbecue under a massive Live Oak, a Trib employee notices an almost perfectly oval rock on the ground. Another finds an arrowhead.

For these objects, one might ask, "Did they come into existence as a result of random chance working through natural evolutionary mechanisms? Or, is it likely that intelligent design was involved?"

Scientific tools of empirical analysis and deduction could be used to investigate the I.D. question for the rock and the arrowhead.

My own hypothesis is that natural mechanisms can explain the existence of the oval rock. However, natural processes had a substantial assist from intelligent designers for the arrowhead.

I doubt that many would view the foregoing discussion of the rock and arrowhead as religious rather than scientific. It is OK to ask if a rock or an arrowhead had a designer. Asking these questions would not invite the charge that you are some kind of religious nut.

Yet, if one were to ask if intelligent design were involved in the existence of the Live Oak tree, folks such as Trib editorial writers would go ballistic and claim the question was pseudo-scientific.

I once saw a pictorial display of over a dozen tractors from the earliest to today's powerful and comfortable vehicles – an evolutionary process – one involving intelligent design by those who saw a need for tractors.

I will not state my hunch regarding diverse forms of life on our planet. I will, however, emphatically argue that the attempt to develop evidence regarding the roles of gradual natural evolution and purposeful design is real science.

I close with another inanimate object – the local newspaper that many of us in Waco find on our lawns each morning. It would be a fair scientific question to ask whether it results from random natural processes or intelligent design.

My hypothesis is that the Trib is the result of at least moderately intelligent design.

John Pisciotta is a Baylor University associate professor in economics.

Open debate on intelligent design

http://springfield.news-leader.com/opinions/today/20050601-Opendebateonint.html

Charles Haynes

In the game of politics, the side that doesn't show up forfeits the match.

That's why it's hard to understand what science groups hoped to achieve by boycotting the recent Kansas State Board of Education hearings on how evolution is taught in public schools.

Hearings were held in early May to consider competing recommendations from a committee of educators appointed by the board last year: A majority report supports state science standards that focus on evolutionary theory alone. But a minority report advocates including more criticism of evolution in the science curriculum and redefining science to include explanations that go beyond natural causes.

For three days, a three-member subcommittee of the state board heard testimony from critics of evolution, mostly advocates of intelligent design — a theory that claims natural evidence for life's origins points to design (and thus a designer). How persuasive the opponents of evolution were in the hearings will be seen later this summer when the full board votes on proposed revisions to the science standards.

Mainstream scientists said nothing at all during the hearing. The lawyer representing science groups called no witnesses and waited until the last day to speak in defense of evolution. Even then, he refused to take questions, declaring that he wasn't a witness.

Science organizations argued that the deck was stacked against evolution at the hearings since the three presiding board members had already signaled their hostility to evolutionary theory.

But leaving the field to critics of evolution may be a losing strategy.

Like it or not, much of the fight over teaching evolution in schools has always been less about science and more about politics and public opinion. Consider the seesaw debate in Kansas over the past six years: In 1999, a conservative state board struck most references to evolution in the standards. A backlash in the next election gave moderates a majority — and evolution was restored. Then conservatives regained seats in subsequent elections, leading to the current effort to teach more criticism of evolution. Clearly, what the public thinks — and how people vote — matters.

Proponents of evolution may be relying on the courts to save the day. But past legal victories over creationists may be no guide to future court decisions. After all, expanding the curriculum to include more criticism of evolution may not be seen by courts as unconstitutional.

Science organizations worry that giving time in the science classroom to intelligent design or testifying at hearings like the one in Kansas only lends credibility to "alternative theories" that most scientists reject as unscientific. But refusing to engage the debate is increasingly hard to justify to the public at large.

Evolutionists may be right about the risks of opening up the debate. But what's happening in Kansas and in many other places suggests that it may be even riskier to shut it down.

If evolutionists are convinced that criticisms of evolution are easily refuted — and that intelligent design is not scientifically sound — then why not let students in on the debate? Yes, it takes up time in the curriculum. And yes, teachers must be prepared to teach the controversy fairly and accurately. But surely open and honest examination of the issues can only help, not hurt, science education.

Contact Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, at chaynes@freedomforum.org.

Energy medicine papers (5)

From: Thomas J Wheeler

J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Feb;10(1):145-57.

Toward general experimentation and discovery in conditioned laboratory spaces: Part I. Experimental pH change findings at some remote sites.

Tiller WA, Dibble WE Jr, Nunley R, Shealy CN.

Foundation for New Science, Payson, AZ 85541, USA.

OBJECTIVES: To fulfill the general scientific method requirement for one of our earlier Minnesota experiments, namely that laboratory spaces operated by other investigators at different sites in the United States can be conditioned to a higher electromagnetic gauge symmetry state than our normal background state and such a space can be specifically tuned so that the pH of purified water in equilibrium with air will be increased by approximately 1.0 pH unit with no chemical additions. DESIGN: Insertion of a specific intention imprinted electrical device (IIED) into the space for a period of at least 3 months while continuously monitoring the pH of purified water wherein the water was replaced and the pH-electrode recalibrated on a 2-week cycle. Control sites were associated with each IIED site. SETTING/LOCATION: Offices in homes and clinics. SUBJECTS: Three IIED sites plus three control sites. INTERVENTIONS: None. OUTCOME MEASURES: Continuously recorded pH and temperature. RESULTS: (1) Linear and exponential pH(t) variations with time at IIED sites, with the Delta pH-values increasing with each 2-week cycle up to a value of approximately 0.8-1.0 pH units, (2) control sites, 2-20 miles distant from the IIED sites exhibited similar behavior but with smaller Delta pH-values, and (3) a new information transfer mechanism in nature has been demonstrated. CONCLUSIONS: Human consciousness, at least under some conditions, can strongly influence well-designed target experiments in physical reality and the primary data are reproducible in other laboratories provided the specific protocol is followed.

PMID: 15025888 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15025888&query_hl=1

If you want to read the entire paper, a version is available at:
http://tillerfoundation.com/ToGenExpPart1.pdf

Excerpts:

Introduction: Referring to initial experiments, 1997-2000, the intention imprinted electrical devices (IIEDs) "were designed to significantly alter the measured properties of inanimate and animate materials. The target materials selected for this study were (1) water, (2) the liver enzyme, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), (3) the coenzyme, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), (4) the main cell energy storage molecule, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and (5) living fruit fly larvae, Drosophila melanogaster.

"By comparing the separate influence of two physically identical devices, one unimprinted and the other imprinted via unique meditative process, we were able to demonstrate a robust influence of human consciousness on these five materials."

"A totally unexpected and critically important phenomenon arose during repetitive conduct during any of these IIED experiments in a given laboratory space. It was found that by simply continuing to use an IIED in the laboratory space for approximately 3-4 months, the laboratory became conditioned and the state of the conditioning determined the robustness of the above-mentioned experimental results...even with the IIED removed from the space and stored in an electrically grounded Faraday cage (FC), the degree of conditioning seems to remain fairly constant for very long periods of time in that locale...In our purified water experiments locale, after time t(sub)I, we began to observe oscillations in air temperature, water pH, water electrical conductivity and direct current (DC) magnetic field polarity effects on water pH. In unconditioned locales, no such oscillations or other anomalous effects were observed."

Experimental - Creating and stabilizing an IIED: "Sitting around the table are four well-qualified meditators who imprint a single, specific intention into the device from a deep meditative state..."

Concerning the pH measurement sites - at the four Payson, AZ laboratory site positions: "...perhaps because we ran six IIEDs simultaneously or because this was a new and rich imprint, we observed remarkable interference effects that ultimately led to a heterogenous spatial distribution of general conditioning and a wide variety of anomalous measurement behavior."

At the main Kansas site: "Initial pH measurements at this site indicated that some measurable degree of conditioning existed in the space prior to turning on this IIED."

At the main Missouri site: "Even though no IIED was present and no one else was using the control site, it showed evidence of growing conditioning."

"This and other small perturbations of the various data streams caused us to seriously speculate on the possibility of informational entanglement, via a presently unrecognized information transfer channel in spacetime, between all of the external sites and the Payson, AZ, laboratory."

Discussion: "The measured pH also increased at the control sites, mostly in this exponential fashion, but generally not as greatly as at the IIED treatment site. However, at the M3 site it eventually increased even more than 1 pH unit."

"The pH(t) profile exhibited strong perturbations associated with an experimenter entering the room to access the computer-stored raw data. Smaller magnitude perturbations occurred for a variety of other reasons."

"In addition to the DC magnetic field polarity experiment, Tiller et al. (2001b) also reveal experimental data supporting the following two postulates that are relevant to this paper.

"1. The magnetic monopoles function at the level of the physical vacuum but are not measurement accessible if the laboratory space remains in the U(1) EM gauge symmetry state, and,

"2. The degree of conditioning of a space depends largely on four main factors: Q(sub)LS, the history of the local space and objects in the local space; Q(sub)D, the intention imprint charge remaining in the IIED, Q(sub)E, the consciousness and biofield strength of experimenters or other people occupying the laboratory space, and Q(sub)eq, the level of potentization of the measurement equipment in the space."

"The importance of all this to The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine readership cannot be overemphasized, even though we do not yet know how to control the information entanglement process. Fundamentally, it appears that the IIED procedures allow one to condition any type or volume of space to a higher EM gauge symmetry level and our measurement techniques allow one to track some identifier of that state. It appears, then, that one can 'tune' the conditioned space to serve a specific intention use at a high level of enhanced performance...At present, four different, specific IIEDs are in use at four different remote sites to probe the efficacy of this hypothesis: (1) significant free-radical concentration reduction in humans because of time spent in such a tuned, conditioned space, (2) projection/stimulation of remote healing to identified humans at identified remote sites from a uniquely tuned, conditioned space, (3) significant increase of Ca++ sparking rate in excised rat heart muscle cells and (4) significant increase in interleukin-6 secretion rate from a special cell line associated with time spent in such a tuned, conditioned space as in (2) and (3) above."

Appendix 1 - The Imprinting Process: "...four people (two men plus two women) who were all acomplished metitators (decades of regular practice), coherent, inner self-managed and readily capable of entering an ordered mode of heart function plus sustaining it for an extended period of time, sat around the table ready to enter a deep meditative state; (3) a signal was then given to enter such an internal state, to mentally cleanse the environment and then create a sacred space for the intention..."

Water Studies: "To activate the indwelling consciousness of the system so that the IIED decreases (or increases) the pH of the experimental water..."

In Vitro Enzyme Studies: "To activate the indwelling consciousness of the system so as to increase by a significant factor (as much as possible), the thermodynamic activity coefficient of the specific liver enzyme..."

Comments: In general it looks like they are seeing various artifacts and attributing them to their IIED devices. If the effects persist after the devices are removed, that is because the devices "conditioned" the space. If the effects occur before the devices are present, that is because of "information entanglement" with the Arizona laboratory. Control sites also show effects, though usually not as large. Strong perturbations occur from an experimenter entering a room.

For the Wiliam A. Tiller Foundation for New Science, see:
http://www.tiller.org/

Sites for C. Norman Shealy http://www.normshealy.net/ and his Holos University Graduate Seminary: http://www.hugs-edu.org/

Thomas J. Wheeler, Ph.D. tjwheeler@louisville.edu
Associate Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
University of Louisville School of Medicine

Alternative medicine reading and handouts:
http://biochemistry.louisville.edu/education/altmed.htm

MIOS MEETING Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Hear Henry Morris III Present:

R.A.T.E Made Relevant

Henry M. Morris III holds an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and a D.Min. from Luther Rice Seminary. He is a highly effective speaker at ICR seminars, and is actively involved in other ICR ministry activities.

ICR has just completed an eight-year research project into the issues of radiometric dating as it relates to the age of Earth. Most of the studies were quite technical and the science behind the research required advanced knowledge as well as a large investment in field and laboratory work. Dr. Henry Morris III, the eldest son of ICR's founder, will update us on the key findings of this ground-breaking research. This illustrated lecture will cover the relevant applications and practical use of RATE's conclusions.

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

Tuesday, June 7th, 7:30 PM

New entry for SKEPTIC Bibliography (Apolito)

http://www.csicop.org/bib/688

The Internet And The Madonna: Religious Visionary Experience on the Web
Paolo Apolito
2005, The University of Chicago Press; 240p.
religion:anthropology

In a wonderful anthropological tour, Apolito explores visions of and messages from the Virgin Mary as they appear on the Web. One reason for the boom in Virgin-sightings was her appearance starting in 1981 at Medjugorje; even that visit has so many citations and pages on the Web that it has become far more influential that it ever could have in pre-internet days. Apolito explains that technologizing the visionary and the signs and wonders that have an ancient tradition has weakened the institution of the church. It is very seldom that priests and authorities of the church have a personal presence on the web or in chat rooms, for instance. There is no way of controlling visionaries, which has led to considerable difficulties for church leaders. Another significant problem is that visionaries do not agree. Marian visionaries on the Web sometimes reinforce each other, but often they contradict, undercut, or even debunk each other. Apolito has written an academic tome that is often dense and scholarly, but considering the liveliness and immediacy of its subject, is never dull. He says little about the validity of the beliefs of those involved. It is clear from his documentation, though, that the Internet itself is limiting the power and the influence of the formal church as the visionaries become more influential; the visionaries continue to increase in number as the Internet attracts more followers to them and more copy-cats. There will be an increase in the number of people viewing the world the mystic's way; this will not please skeptics, but it should not please the church, either.

[ Reviewed by Rob Hardy, robhardy@earthlink.net ]

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

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

Smithsonian Distances Itself From Controversial Film

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/01/AR2005060101986.html

By Tommy Nguyen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 2, 2005; Page C01

The controversy over the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History's decision to allow a documentary based on "intelligent design" -- the theory that life is so meticulously complex that a divine intelligence must have designed it -- to be played at one of its theaters ended in compromise yesterday: The film will be shown, but the screening fee required by the museum (in this case, $16,000) won't be accepted and the museum will withdraw its customary co-sponsorship.

"We have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research," said a museum statement. The film, "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe," is based on a book by Iowa State University astronomy professor Guillermo Gonzalez. Opponents say it and other arguments for intelligent design are creationism in disguise.

Opponents say the film, "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe," is creationism in disguise. (Courtesy Discovery Institute - Courtesy Discovery Institute)

"They are trying to borrow from the scientific community by using words like 'quantum' and looking at the age of the Earth," writes James Randi. He's founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation, which financially supports research or efforts that dispel paranormal or supernatural claims. "They are trying to get scientific validity by doing faux scientific research."

In April, the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization dedicated to advocating intelligent design, asked the Smithsonian for permission to screen the hour-long documentary for a private viewing and reception. The museum often rents out its theaters -- as long as the content of the material screened is not religious or political.

Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, says staffers at the Smithsonian's special events office told him they had screened the film for content on two occasions. An e-mail from Debbie Williams from the Office of Special Events at the Museum of Natural History, which he forwarded to The Post, states that the film was "reviewed by the Associate Director for Research and Collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and approval was granted for the film to be screened." (Williams did not return a message left on her office voice mail.)

Like any other event at the venue, it would be technically "co-sponsored" by the Smithsonian.

Last week, Denyse O'Leary, a Canadian author sympathetic to the intelligent design movement, posted on her blog that the Smithsonian, in a "stunning development," was going to screen the documentary. The New York Times picked up the story Saturday.

The news spread across science blogs -- especially those dedicated to the evolution debate.

When Randi heard the story, he says he called the Smithsonian offering the institution $20,000 not to show the film.

"They are renting the place for this creationist film, but apparently [the Smithsonian] didn't know it was creationist film," Randi said from his Fort Lauderdale headquarters. If it was a "matter of money, which I doubt," he said, "then I'm ready to surpass that."

In its statement yesterday, the Smithsonian said it will honor the agreement to screen the film June 23, but that it does not endorse the film and will not accept the agreed-upon fee offered for the auditorium.

"We're disappointed," Chapman said. "We met all their conditions -- screening the film for them, agreeing [to list the Smithsonian] director's name on the invitation and so forth -- and then some mention of this in the media, and now they want to backtrack to some degree, and we don't get it."

When asked if the Smithsonian had made a mistake in initially agreeing to host the event, spokesman Randall Kremer says: "We don't look at it in terms of whether we made a mistake or not. Our statement speaks for itself."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Another Biology Journal Publishes Article Applying Intelligent Design Theory to Scientific Research

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/050602/sfth104.html?.v=6

Thursday June 2, 4:43 pm ET

Press Release Source: Discovery Institute

SEATTLE, June 2 /PRNewswire/ -- For the second time in nine months, an article explicitly applying intelligent design theory to scientific research has been published in an internationally respected biology journal -- despite Darwinists' claims that this never happens.

An article by molecular biologist Jonathan Wells, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, has just appeared in Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum, one of the oldest still-published biology journals in the world. Wells's article uses intelligent design theory (ID) to formulate a testable hypothesis about centrioles, which are microscopic structures in animal cells whose function is not yet understood. Wells' hypothesis -- if confirmed by experiments -- would explain how centrioles function in normal cell division and malfunction in cancer. The hypothesis could also help to explain why there is a correlation between calcium and Vitamin D deficiency and major types of cancer.

"Darwinian evolution, despite the claims of its defenders, has been remarkably unsuccessful in guiding practical research in biology and medicine," said Wells. "Although ID is still controversial in the scientific community, some of us are now using it to formulate testable hypotheses."

"The interesting thing here is that scientists are applying intelligent design theory to cancer research," said Discovery Institute President, Bruce Chapman. "Who knows what new avenues of research and experimentation this could open up. I think you will see more and more scientists applying intelligent design theory to their research in coming years."

Intelligent design is an inference from scientific evidence. It maintains that certain features of the natural world -- from miniature machines and digital information found in living cells, to the fine-tuning of physical constants -- are best explained as the result of an intelligent cause.

Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture was founded in part to help support the work of scientists researching the emerging theory of intelligent design. The Center's website is at http://www.discovery.org/csc/ .

Dr. Jonathan Wells earned two Ph.D.s, one in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and one in Religious Studies from Yale University. He worked as a postdoctoral research biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, taught biology at California State University East Bay, and worked as the supervisor of a medical laboratory. He has published articles in Development, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, BioSystems, The Scientist and The American Biology Teacher. He is the author of "Icons of Evolution: Why much of what we teach about evolution is wrong" (Regnery Publishing, 2000).

Wells's article is available from the journal's publisher in Italy: http://www.tilgher.it/(m0h1zb55der2y545b3unsq55)/index.aspx?lang=&tpr=4

Source: Discovery Institute


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

MEDIA ALERT: Spaceships Will Appear Over Las Vegas On My Signal

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

taken from:
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/5/prweb243327.htm

You can view video of one of his 'summonings' at
http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/?id=4631

Why intelligent design isn't.

http://www.religionandsocialpolicy.org/news/article.cfm?id=2826

May 30, 2005

Publisher: The New Yorker

By: H. Allen Orr

If you are in ninth grade and live in Dover, Pennsylvania, you are learning things in your biology class that differ considerably from what your peers just a few miles away are learning. In particular, you are learning that Darwin's theory of evolution provides just one possible explanation of life, and that another is provided by something called intelligent design. You are being taught this not because of a recent breakthrough in some scientist's laboratory but because the Dover Area School District's board mandates it. In October, 2004, the board decreed that "students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design."

While the events in Dover have received a good deal of attention as a sign of the political times, there has been surprisingly little discussion of the science that's said to underlie the theory of intelligent design, often called I.D. Many scientists avoid discussing I.D. for strategic reasons. If a scientific claim can be loosely defined as one that scientists take seriously enough to debate, then engaging the intelligent-design movement on scientific grounds, they worry, cedes what it most desires: recognition that its claims are legitimate scientific ones.

Meanwhile, proposals hostile to evolution are being considered in more than twenty states; earlier this month, a bill was introduced into the New York State Assembly calling for instruction in intelligent design for all public-school students. The Kansas State Board of Education is weighing new standards, drafted by supporters of intelligent design, that would encourage schoolteachers to challenge Darwinism. Senator Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, has argued that "intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes." An I.D.-friendly amendment that he sponsored to the No Child Left Behind Act--requiring public schools to help students understand why evolution "generates so much continuing controversy"--was overwhelmingly approved in the Senate. (The amendment was not included in the version of the bill that was signed into law, but similar language did appear in a conference report that accompanied it.) In the past few years, college students across the country have formed Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness chapters. Clearly, a policy of limited scientific engagement has failed. So just what is this movement?

First of all, intelligent design is not what people often assume it is. For one thing, I.D. is not Biblical literalism. Unlike earlier generations of creationists--the so-called Young Earthers and scientific creationists--proponents of intelligent design do not believe that the universe was created in six days, that Earth is ten thousand years old, or that the fossil record was deposited during Noah's flood. (Indeed, they shun the label "creationism" altogether.) Nor does I.D. flatly reject evolution: adherents freely admit that some evolutionary change occurred during the history of life on Earth. Although the movement is loosely allied with, and heavily funded by, various conservative Christian groups--and although I.D. plainly maintains that life was created--it is generally silent about the identity of the creator.

The movement's main positive claim is that there are things in the world, most notably life, that cannot be accounted for by known natural causes and show features that, in any other context, we would attribute to intelligence. Living organisms are too complex to be explained by any natural--or, more precisely, by any mindless--process. Instead, the design inherent in organisms can be accounted for only by invoking a designer, and one who is very, very smart.

All of which puts I.D. squarely at odds with Darwin. Darwin's theory of evolution was meant to show how the fantastically complex features of organisms--eyes, beaks, brains--could arise without the intervention of a designing mind. According to Darwinism, evolution largely reflects the combined action of random mutation and natural selection. A random mutation in an organism, like a random change in any finely tuned machine, is almost always bad. That's why you don't, screwdriver in hand, make arbitrary changes to the insides of your television. But, once in a great while, a random mutation in the DNA that makes up an organism's genes slightly improves the function of some organ and thus the survival of the organism. In a species whose eye amounts to nothing more than a primitive patch of light-sensitive cells, a mutation that causes this patch to fold into a cup shape might have a survival advantage. While the old type of organism can tell only if the lights are on, the new type can detect the direction of any source of light or shadow. Since shadows sometimes mean predators, that can be valuable information. The new, improved type of organism will, therefore, be more common in the next generation. That's natural selection. Repeated over billions of years, this process of incremental improvement should allow for the gradual emergence of organisms that are exquisitely adapted to their environments and that look for all the world as though they were designed. By 1870, about a decade after "The Origin of Species" was published, nearly all biologists agreed that life had evolved, and by 1940 or so most agreed that natural selection was a key force driving this evolution.

Advocates of intelligent design point to two developments that in their view undermine Darwinism. The first is the molecular revolution in biology. Beginning in the nineteen-fifties, molecular biologists revealed a staggering and unsuspected degree of complexity within the cells that make up all life. This complexity, I.D.'s defenders argue, lies beyond the abilities of Darwinism to explain. Second, they claim that new mathematical findings cast doubt on the power of natural selection. Selection may play a role in evolution, but it cannot accomplish what biologists suppose it can.

These claims have been championed by a tireless group of writers, most of them associated with the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that sponsors projects in science, religion, and national defense, among other areas. The center's fellows and advisers--including the emeritus law professor Phillip E. Johnson, the philosopher Stephen C. Meyer, and the biologist Jonathan Wells--have published an astonishing number of articles and books that decry the ostensibly sad state of Darwinism and extoll the virtues of the design alternative. But Johnson, Meyer, and Wells, while highly visible, are mainly strategists and popularizers. The scientific leaders of the design movement are two scholars, one a biochemist and the other a mathematician. To assess intelligent design is to assess their arguments.

Michael J. Behe, a professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University (and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute), is a biochemist who writes technical papers on the structure of DNA. He is the most prominent of the small circle of scientists working on intelligent design, and his arguments are by far the best known. His book "Darwin's Black Box" (1996) was a surprise best-seller and was named by National Review as one of the hundred best nonfiction books of the twentieth century. (A little calibration may be useful here; "The Starr Report" also made the list.)

Not surprisingly, Behe's doubts about Darwinism begin with biochemistry. Fifty years ago, he says, any biologist could tell stories like the one about the eye's evolution. But such stories, Behe notes, invariably began with cells, whose own evolutionary origins were essentially left unexplained. This was harmless enough as long as cells weren't qualitatively more complex than the larger, more visible aspects of the eye. Yet when biochemists began to dissect the inner workings of the cell, what they found floored them. A cell is packed full of exceedingly complex structures--hundreds of microscopic machines, each performing a specific job. The "Give me a cell and I'll give you an eye" story told by Darwinists, he says, began to seem suspect: starting with a cell was starting ninety per cent of the way to the finish line.

Behe's main claim is that cells are complex not just in degree but in kind. Cells contain structures that are "irreducibly complex." This means that if you remove any single part from such a structure, the structure no longer functions. Behe offers a simple, nonbiological example of an irreducibly complex object: the mousetrap. A mousetrap has several parts--platform, spring, catch, hammer, and hold-down bar--and all of them have to be in place for the trap to work. If you remove the spring from a mousetrap, it isn't slightly worse at killing mice; it doesn't kill them at all. So, too, with the bacterial flagellum, Behe argues. This flagellum is a tiny propeller attached to the back of some bacteria. Spinning at more than twenty thousand r.p.m.s, it motors the bacterium through its aquatic world. The flagellum comprises roughly thirty different proteins, all precisely arranged, and if any one of them is removed the flagellum stops spinning.

In "Darwin's Black Box," Behe maintained that irreducible complexity presents Darwinism with "unbridgeable chasms." How, after all, could a gradual process of incremental improvement build something like a flagellum, which needs all its parts in order to work? Scientists, he argued, must face up to the fact that "many biochemical systems cannot be built by natural selection working on mutations." In the end, Behe concluded that irreducibly complex cells arise the same way as irreducibly complex mousetraps--someone designs them. As he put it in a recent Times Op-Ed piece: "If it looks, walks, and quacks like a duck, then, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, we have warrant to conclude it's a duck. Design should not be overlooked simply because it's so obvious." In "Darwin's Black Box," Behe speculated that the designer might have assembled the first cell, essentially solving the problem of irreducible complexity, after which evolution might well have proceeded by more or less conventional means. Under Behe's brand of creationism, you might still be an ape that evolved on the African savanna; it's just that your cells harbor micro-machines engineered by an unnamed intelligence some four billion years ago.

But Behe's principal argument soon ran into trouble. As biologists pointed out, there are several different ways that Darwinian evolution can build irreducibly complex systems. In one, elaborate structures may evolve for one reason and then get co-opted for some entirely different, irreducibly complex function. Who says those thirty flagellar proteins weren't present in bacteria long before bacteria sported flagella? They may have been performing other jobs in the cell and only later got drafted into flagellum-building. Indeed, there's now strong evidence that several flagellar proteins once played roles in a type of molecular pump found in the membranes of bacterial cells.

Behe doesn't consider this sort of "indirect" path to irreducible complexity--in which parts perform one function and then switch to another--terribly plausible. And he essentially rules out the alternative possibility of a direct Darwinian path: a path, that is, in which Darwinism builds an irreducibly complex structure while selecting all along for the same biological function. But biologists have shown that direct paths to irreducible complexity are possible, too. Suppose a part gets added to a system merely because the part improves the system's performance; the part is not, at this stage, essential for function. But, because subsequent evolution builds on this addition, a part that was at first just advantageous might become essential. As this process is repeated through evolutionary time, more and more parts that were once merely beneficial become necessary. This idea was first set forth by H. J. Muller, the Nobel Prize-winning geneticist, in 1939, but it's a familiar process in the development of human technologies. We add new parts like global-positioning systems to cars not because they're necessary but because they're nice. But no one would be surprised if, in fifty years, computers that rely on G.P.S. actually drove our cars. At that point, G.P.S. would no longer be an attractive option; it would be an essential piece of automotive technology. It's important to see that this process is thoroughly Darwinian: each change might well be small and each represents an improvement.

Design theorists have made some concessions to these criticisms. Behe has confessed to "sloppy prose" and said he hadn't meant to imply that irreducibly complex systems "by definition" cannot evolve gradually. "I quite agree that my argument against Darwinism does not add up to a logical proof," he says--though he continues to believe that Darwinian paths to irreducible complexity are exceedingly unlikely. Behe and his followers now emphasize that, while irreducibly complex systems can in principle evolve, biologists can't reconstruct in convincing detail just how any such system did evolve.

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. It's significant, for instance, that the proteins that typically make up the parts of these systems are often similar to one another. (Blood clotting--another of Behe's examples of irreducible complexity--involves at least twenty proteins, several of which are similar, and all of which are needed to make clots, to localize or remove clots, or to prevent the runaway clotting of all blood.) And biologists understand why these proteins are so similar. Each gene in an organism's genome encodes a particular protein. Occasionally, the stretch of DNA that makes up a particular gene will get accidentally copied, yielding a genome that includes two versions of the gene. Over many generations, one version of the gene will often keep its original function while the other one slowly changes by mutation and natural selection, picking up a new, though usually related, function. This process of "gene duplication" has given rise to entire families of proteins that have similar functions; they often act in the same biochemical pathway or sit in the same cellular structure. There's no doubt that gene duplication plays an extremely important role in the evolution of biological complexity.

It's true that when you confront biologists with a particular complex structure like the flagellum they sometimes have a hard time saying which part appeared before which other parts. But then it can be hard, with any complex historical process, to reconstruct the exact order in which events occurred, especially when, as in evolution, the addition of new parts encourages the modification of old ones. When you're looking at a bustling urban street, for example, you probably can't tell which shop went into business first. This is partly because many businesses now depend on each other and partly because new shops trigger changes in old ones (the new sushi place draws twenty-somethings who demand wireless Internet at the café next door). But it would be a little rash to conclude that all the shops must have begun business on the same day or that some Unseen Urban Planner had carefully determined just which business went where.

The other leading theorist of the new creationism, William A. Dembski, holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, another in philosophy, and a master of divinity in theology. He has been a research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University, and was recently appointed to the new Center for Science and Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (He is a longtime senior fellow at the Discovery Institute as well.) Dembski publishes at a staggering pace. His books--including "The Design Inference," "Intelligent Design," "No Free Lunch," and "The Design Revolution"--are generally well written and packed with provocative ideas.

According to Dembski, a complex object must be the result of intelligence if it was the product neither of chance nor of necessity. The novel "Moby Dick," for example, didn't arise by chance (Melville didn't scribble random letters), and it wasn't the necessary consequence of a physical law (unlike, say, the fall of an apple). It was, instead, the result of Melville's intelligence. Dembski argues that there is a reliable way to recognize such products of intelligence in the natural world. We can conclude that an object was intelligently designed, he says, if it shows "specified complexity"--complexity that matches an "independently given pattern." The sequence of letters "jkxvcjudoplvm" is certainly complex: if you randomly type thirteen letters, you are very unlikely to arrive at this particular sequence. But it isn't specified: it doesn't match any independently given sequence of letters. If, on the other hand, I ask you for the first sentence of "Moby Dick" and you type the letters "callmeishmael," you have produced something that is both complex and specified. The sequence you typed is unlikely to arise by chance alone, and it matches an independent target sequence (the one written by Melville). Dembski argues that specified complexity, when expressed mathematically, provides an unmistakable signature of intelligence. Things like "callmeishmael," he points out, just don't arise in the real world without acts of intelligence. If organisms show specified complexity, therefore, we can conclude that they are the handiwork of an intelligent agent.

For Dembski, it's telling that the sophisticated machines we find in organisms match up in astonishingly precise ways with recognizable human technologies. The eye, for example, has a familiar, cameralike design, with recognizable parts--a pinhole opening for light, a lens, and a surface on which to project an image--all arranged just as a human engineer would arrange them. And the flagellum has a motor design, one that features recognizable O-rings, a rotor, and a drive shaft. Specified complexity, he says, is there for all to see.

Dembski's second major claim is that certain mathematical results cast doubt on Darwinism at the most basic conceptual level. In 2002, he focussed on so-called No Free Lunch, or N.F.L., theorems, which were derived in the late nineties by the physicists David H. Wolpert and William G. Macready. These theorems relate to the efficiency of different "search algorithms." Consider a search for high ground on some unfamiliar, hilly terrain. You're on foot and it's a moonless night; you've got two hours to reach the highest place you can. How to proceed? One sensible search algorithm might say, "Walk uphill in the steepest possible direction; if no direction uphill is available, take a couple of steps to the left and try again." This algorithm insures that you're generally moving upward. Another search algorithm--a so-called blind search algorithm--might say, "Walk in a random direction." This would sometimes take you uphill but sometimes down. Roughly, the N.F.L. theorems prove the surprising fact that, averaged over all possible terrains, no search algorithm is better than any other. In some landscapes, moving uphill gets you to higher ground in the allotted time, while in other landscapes moving randomly does, but on average neither outperforms the other.

Now, Darwinism can be thought of as a search algorithm. Given a problem--adapting to a new disease, for instance--a population uses the Darwinian algorithm of random mutation plus natural selection to search for a solution (in this case, disease resistance). But, according to Dembski, the N.F.L. theorems prove that this Darwinian algorithm is no better than any other when confronting all possible problems. It follows that, over all, Darwinism is no better than blind search, a process of utterly random change unaided by any guiding force like natural selection. Since we don't expect blind change to build elaborate machines showing an exquisite coördination of parts, we have no right to expect Darwinism to do so, either. Attempts to sidestep this problem by, say, carefully constraining the class of challenges faced by organisms inevitably involve sneaking in the very kind of order that we're trying to explain--something Dembski calls the displacement problem. In the end, he argues, the N.F.L. theorems and the displacement problem mean that there's only one plausible source for the design we find in organisms: intelligence. Although Dembski is somewhat noncommittal, he seems to favor a design theory in which an intelligent agent programmed design into early life, or even into the early universe. This design then unfolded through the long course of evolutionary time, as microbes slowly morphed into man.

Dembski's arguments have been met with tremendous enthusiasm in the I.D. movement. In part, that's because an innumerate public is easily impressed by a bit of mathematics. Also, when Dembski is wielding his equations, he gets to play the part of the hard scientist busily correcting the errors of those soft-headed biologists. (Evolutionary biology actually features an extraordinarily sophisticated body of mathematical theory, a fact not widely known because neither of evolution's great popularizers--Richard Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould--did much math.) Despite all the attention, Dembski's mathematical claims about design and Darwin are almost entirely beside the point.

The most serious problem in Dembski's account involves specified complexity. Organisms aren't trying to match any "independently given pattern": evolution has no goal, and the history of life isn't trying to get anywhere. If building a sophisticated structure like an eye increases the number of children produced, evolution may well build an eye. But if destroying a sophisticated structure like the eye increases the number of children produced, evolution will just as happily destroy the eye. Species of fish and crustaceans that have moved into the total darkness of caves, where eyes are both unnecessary and costly, often have degenerate eyes, or eyes that begin to form only to be covered by skin--crazy contraptions that no intelligent agent would design. Despite all the loose talk about design and machines, organisms aren't striving to realize some engineer's blueprint; they're striving (if they can be said to strive at all) only to have more offspring than the next fellow.

Another problem with Dembski's arguments concerns the N.F.L. theorems. Recent work shows that these theorems don't hold in the case of co-evolution, when two or more species evolve in response to one another. And most evolution is surely co-evolution. Organisms do not spend most of their time adapting to rocks; they are perpetually challenged by, and adapting to, a rapidly changing suite of viruses, parasites, predators, and prey. A theorem that doesn't apply to these situations is a theorem whose relevance to biology is unclear. As it happens, David Wolpert, one of the authors of the N.F.L. theorems, recently denounced Dembski's use of those theorems as "fatally informal and imprecise." Dembski's apparent response has been a tactical retreat. In 2002, Dembski triumphantly proclaimed, "The No Free Lunch theorems dash any hope of generating specified complexity via evolutionary algorithms." Now he says, "I certainly never argued that the N.F.L. theorems provide a direct refutation of Darwinism."

Those of us who have argued with I.D. in the past are used to such shifts of emphasis. But it's striking that Dembski's views on the history of life contradict Behe's. Dembski believes that Darwinism is incapable of building anything interesting; Behe seems to believe that, given a cell, Darwinism might well have built you and me. Although proponents of I.D. routinely inflate the significance of minor squabbles among evolutionary biologists (did the peppered moth evolve dark color as a defense against birds or for other reasons?), they seldom acknowledge their own, often major differences of opinion. 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. Though people often picture science as a collection of clever theories, scientists are generally staunch pragmatists: to scientists, a good theory is one that inspires new experiments and provides unexpected insights into familiar phenomena. By this standard, Darwinism is one of the best theories in the history of science: it has produced countless important experiments (let's re-create a natural species in the lab--yes, that's been done) and sudden insight into once puzzling patterns (that's why there are no native land mammals on oceanic islands). In the nearly ten years since the publication of Behe's book, by contrast, I.D. has inspired no nontrivial experiments and has provided no surprising insights into biology. As the years pass, intelligent design looks less and less like the science it claimed to be and more and more like an extended exercise in polemics.

In 1999, a document from the Discovery Institute was posted, anonymously, on the Internet. This Wedge Document, as it came to be called, described not only the institute's long-term goals but its strategies for accomplishing them. The document begins by labelling the idea that human beings are created in the image of God "one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built." It goes on to decry the catastrophic legacy of Darwin, Marx, and Freud--the alleged fathers of a "materialistic conception of reality" that eventually "infected virtually every area of our culture." The mission of the Discovery Institute's scientific wing is then spelled out: "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies." It seems fair to conclude that the Discovery Institute has set its sights a bit higher than, say, reconstructing the origins of the bacterial flagellum.

The intelligent-design community is usually far more circumspect in its pronouncements. This is not to say that it eschews discussion of religion; indeed, the intelligent-design literature regularly insists that Darwinism represents a thinly veiled attempt to foist a secular religion--godless materialism--on Western culture. As it happens, the idea that Darwinism is yoked to atheism, though popular, is also wrong. Of the five founding fathers of twentieth-century evolutionary biology--Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, J. B. S. Haldane, Ernst Mayr, and Theodosius Dobzhansky--one was a devout Anglican who preached sermons and published articles in church magazines, one a practicing Unitarian, one a dabbler in Eastern mysticism, one an apparent atheist, and one a member of the Russian Orthodox Church and the author of a book on religion and science. Pope John Paul II himself acknowledged, in a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, that new research "leads to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis." Whatever larger conclusions one thinks should follow from Darwinism, the historical fact is that evolution and religion have often coexisted. As the philosopher Michael Ruse observes, "It is simply not the case that people take up evolution in the morning, and become atheists as an encore in the afternoon."

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. Meanwhile, more than eighty per cent of Americans say that God either created human beings in their present form or guided their development. As a succession of intelligent-design proponents appeared before the Kansas State Board of Education earlier this month, it was possible to wonder whether the movement's scientific coherence was beside the point. Intelligent design has come this far by faith.

The work of an Iowa State University assistant professor has made its way into the Smithsonian Institute.

http://www.amestrib.com/site/news.cfm?BRD=2035&dept_id=333477&newsid=14622840&PAG=461&rfi=9

A 60-minute documentary titled "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe" will premiere at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History on June 23. The film is based on a book co-authored by Guillermo Gonzalez, an ISU assistant professor of astronomy and physics.

"I am very pleased that it is going to be shown at such an important locale," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez's theory in "The Privileged Planet" creates a link between the design for life and scientific discovery. The rare qualities that make a planet habitable also provide the best overall conditions for observing the universe around us, he explains.

For example, the transparency of the atmosphere that allows people to see distant stars and galaxies is a result of the high oxygen content of the atmosphere, a condition that also is needed for complex life.

The book also discusses how our place in the cosmos is designed for discovery, Gonzalez said, noting the way perfect eclipses can be seen from earth.

"It's not just a coincidence that there is life on earth and that we can observe eclipses," Gonzalez says. "Those two are actually intimately linked."

The book was co-authored by Jay Richards, the vice president and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, a public policy think tank in Seattle. Within the institute, Richards works for the Center for Science and Culture, a research fellowship program that supports and promotes research regarding evidence of design and purpose in the universe.

While the theory does argue for intelligent design, it is not an argument for or against Darwin's theory of evolution.

"It has absolutely nothing to do with biological evolution," Richards said. "We are talking about the things that you need to produce a habitable planet, which is a prerequisite for life. It doesn't tell you anything about how life got here."

The Smithsonian's co-sponsorship of the film does not mean the museum endorses the ideas expressed in the film, according to the Web site. An event held at the Smithsonian cannot be a personal event, fund-raising event or an event of a religious or partisan political nature, according to the Smithsonian's special events policy.

Following the premiere, the documentary is planned to run on Public Broadcasting Stations across the country.


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