NTS LogoSkeptical News for 12 June 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Survival of the fittest theory


Survival of the fittest. Adapt and thrive. Develop to meet new challenges in the environment. Those are terms commonly associated with the theory of evolution. In the future, evolution may have to adapt to meet new challenges from a competitor to prove its fitness as a theory in Utah's public schools.

Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, plans to introduce legislation in the 2006 session which would require that "divine design" be taught in conjunction with evolution, with students being able to make up their own minds about the two theories.

Divine design, also known as "intelligent design," is not Biblical creationism, but rather a theory that the complexity of the natural world leads to the conclusion that it could not have occurred without being created, or at least set in motion by, some sort of superior power, which may or may not be God. Some leading proponents of intelligent design do not take a position on evolution. Some state that it is possible that evolution and divine design could work together.

It should be remembered that evolution is a scientific "theory" - meaning it is the best hypothesis scientists have to explain their observations in the natural world. Theory is a long way from scientific "fact." Even though evolution is supposed to be taught as scientific theory under the present educational system, if young people are only presented with one theory, they are likely to assume that is either fact or the only way to explain things. Teaching divine design in conjunction with evolution gives students a better opportunity to understand that, at this point, we don't have all the facts yet. They will have an opportunity to weigh the two theories in their own mind and decide how each one relates to his or her own beliefs.

Some will argue that this is an inappropriate mixture of science and religion, but again, divine design does not purport to say who or what the designer was. Furthermore, discussing evolution necessitates discussing the origins of life on this planet and the development of the human race - two areas of discussion that are bound to raise metaphysical questions in the minds of students. There is nothing wrong with giving them an alternate theory that helps them address some of those questions without necessarily telling them that evolution is incorrect in any way.

Putting evolution and divine design together in the same curriculum is also not another example Utah wandering off out of the mainstream and taking extreme positions. Nine other states, including New York, are debating the merits of allowing intelligent design to be taught along with evolution.

Up until now, evolution has had no competition in the classroom. Now it's time for the theory to enter into a contest of survival of the fittest - theory that is.

Originally published June 12, 2005

Creationism has no place in schools


Bristol Herald Courier
Jun 12, 12:33 AM EDT

A high school biology classroom isn't the proper place to talk about the Biblical account of the Earth's creation.

That's been the law of the land for more than 15 years and public school teachers are obligated to follow it, no matter their personal religious beliefs. If their faith won't allow them to follow the law, they can always teach at a private school or teach a different subject.

School administrators have a duty, too. They must make sure that teachers adhere to the rules and that the curriculum complies with the law.

But that's not what happened at John Battle High School – a Washington County school just outside the Bristol Virginia city limits. Instead of following the law, a well-regarded high school biology teacher made his own rules and his own textbook – teaching creationism for two decades before anyone noticed.

The situation is troubling for a number of reasons. At a minimum, teacher Larry Booher used poor judgment when he distributed the text to his Biology II students. There isn't enough evidence to say that he willfully flaunted the law, but he clearly lacked an adequate understanding of it.

If you believe school administrators – including the superintendent and the School Board chairwoman – they were caught by surprise when a freelance reporter from another part of the state called to inquire about the homemade text, "Creation Battles Evolution." They say they had no idea about the unauthorized curriculum.

Perhaps they didn't know. Perhaps no parent ever mentioned the creationism textbook to the principal, superintendent, central office staff or any School Board member. Most parents might even have approved of the curriculum, since it would be in line with the theology of most major religious sects in the area. That isn't the point. Popularity doesn't make it right.

School administrators have a duty to know what's being taught in the schools. If they winked and nodded at Booher's unauthorized lesson plans, that's a problem. If they were truly unaware, that's a more serious problem.

To their credit, administrators are taking steps to correct the situation. Booher's book is no longer being distributed and all teachers will attend a training session this summer on separation of church and state.

Administrators also would be advised to conduct a district-wide review of all curriculum. If creationism was being taught at John Battle for years, the same thing could have happened at other schools in smaller communities. The School Board has a duty to make sure that's not the case.

Believing in the Biblical account of creation – whether a literal interpretation or the theory of intelligent design – is a tenet of faith for many in the region. It's properly taught at home, in a church or synagogue or in a private school, but not in the public school system. A line was crossed at John Battle. School officials need to take pains to make sure it is not crossed again.

Evolve sensibilities with study of all ideas of creationism


Article Last Updated: 06/11/2005 12:52:08 PM

Eileen McCabe-Olsen

I was saddened to learn that state Sen. Chris Buttars will be bringing the volatile evolution vs. creationism-in-the-schools debate to the forefront in Utah.

This debate so often draws its lines with emotion, by pitting faith against science. In the front-page article of June 3, one word that kept cropping up was "belief."

Belief, or faith, is about what we feel in our hearts to be true. Science is about what we can prove to others through observation and analysis. Neither represents a complete picture, and both deserve our respect and attention.

Sciences classes are for the teaching of ideas that have been submitted to the scientific method. Under this method, a hypothesis is formed, experiments are designed to test the hypothesis, data are collected, the data are analyzed and the results are published for peer review.

I welcome the inclusion of any ideas in science classes that meet these criteria. Further, I recognize that as scientific theories are tested, some may be abandoned as the evidence takes us in a new direction.

At the present time, evolution is a scientific theory that has widespread acceptance in the scientific community in light of the large body of data that has been collected and due to its applicability in biological modeling, such as virus mutation.

Is it "truth"? No. But it is our best scientific theory currently, subject to constant re-evaluation as new discoveries are made. To my knowledge, neither faith-based creation stories, nor intelligent design have been subjected to the rigor of the scientific method. I would welcome such an analysis.

The purpose of the scientific method is not only to prove or disprove ideas, it is to provide a common ground on which competing ideas may be compared and discussed. Until this methodology is applied, it is inappropriate to present any idea as a scientific theory in the context of a science class. To do so would be to dilute in importance for students the stepwise discipline of the scientific method to any research or analytic endeavor.

Utah, especially Salt Lake County, has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the country, including communities from all over the world. We have an opportunity to embrace this diversity and create a model for the rest of the country.

I would suggest as an alternative to Sen. Buttars' proposal - that middle school curricula include a social studies class that would compare and contrast a collection of different ideas about the creation of the Earth and the creation of humans.

The biggest challenge educators would have in designing such a class would be in deciding whose creation stories we would include. Certainly there would be interest in including Genesis from the Judeo-Christian Bible. Then there are the Pacific Islander stories of Lono, the North American tribal legends of Turtle Island and Dog Boy, as well as Hindu, Buddhist, African, Zoroastrian . . . the possibilities are endless.

Whichever stories we include, we would bring dignity to traditions that define us as ethnicities, faiths, tribes and nations.

By remembering the difference between beliefs and scientific theories, and making room for both, we honor and enhance both. Let us avoid the rancor that other communities have experienced and take a more expansive approach.

Eileen McCabe-Olsen is a software engineer for a Salt Lake company.

Intelligent Design Seeks a Place in Utah Schools


A new front has opened up in the debate over evolution and creationism in Utah, with a proposal to require the teaching of divine design in public schools.

Monday, Jun. 6, 2005 Posted: 8:22:00AM EST

A new front has opened up in the debate over evolution and creationism in Utah, with a proposal to require the teaching of divine design in public schools.

State Senator Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan) has agreed to take the lead in pushing new legislation on the teaching of divine design, also known as intelligent design, in conjunction with evolution in schools.

Buttars is supported by a strong conservative lobby, headed by the Eagle Forum, which has previously sought the inclusion of divine design in the public school science curriculum.

School officials argue that any laws requiring the teaching of divine design could be found in violation of the separation of church and state under the First Amendment.

Supporters of the proposal contend, however, that divine design is not the same as creationism. Unlike creationism, divine design simply acknowledges that the world is so complex, its development must have been guided by some higher power. Proponents do not specify who that higher power is.

Currently, public schools in Utah are required to teach evolution, but not alternative theories. Some teachers have independently chosen to introduce the topics of creationism or divine design in their classrooms.

The issue of what to teach in schools regarding evolution has been an ongoing debate. Recent cases have gained nationwide attention.

In May, the Kansas Board of Education held hearings to decide on new science standards. A three-member committee heard arguments from proponents of intelligent design and evolution. Last week, written arguments from both sides were submitted to the Board. The Board is expected to decide on new standards by the end of the summer.

One of the most publicized cases last year concerned evolution disclaimer stickers that were placed on the cover of ninth grade science books in Atlanta, Georgia. The stickers said that "evolution is a theory, not a fact," and warned students that "material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."

Six parents filed a suit against the Cobb County School District, charging that the stickers violated the separation of church and state. The school district argued that the stickers were meant to open up discussion on the topic of evolution and alternative theories of the origin of life.

In January, a federal judge ordered the stickers to be removed. The school district began removing stickers from over 30,000 books in May, although an appeal is pending on the judge's ruling.

The new proposal in Utah is yet another iteration of the creation-evolution debate. The issue is expected to be brought up when the next legislative session begins in January.

Susan Wang

Theory isn't science, teachers group says


Opponents say intelligent design is like creationism
June 6, 2005


The national debate over how life began is landing in the quiet southwest Michigan village of Richland, where the school district is threatened with a lawsuit over teaching the theory of intelligent design in science classes.

The three theories of how life began:

•Evolution: Charles Darwin's theory that life evolved in tiny stages, each stage more adaptable to the current conditions than the last through a process called natural selection.

•Creationism: Basically holds that God created all life and includes the explanation found in the Bible, in Genesis.

•Intelligent design: Agrees with natural selection but says some life forms, such as humans, are too complex to have been created by accident so there must have been an intelligent designer. It does not discuss the designer's identity.

Intelligent design holds that the universe is too complicated to have been created by accident, as the theory of evolution implies. Consequently, there must have been some sort of "intelligent designer" behind creation. The question is whether intelligent design is science -- or religion?

Backers say the theory is not creationism because it doesn't speculate about the identity of the designer.

Critics, including the National Science Teachers Association, call it nothing more than a thinly disguised version of creationism and a back-door attempt to get religion into public schools.

"It's the religious right that's pushing this. This is mixing religion and science," said Gerry Wheeler, president of the association.

The issue worked its way into Gull Lake Community Schools, which includes Richland, when two middle school science teachers, Julie Olson and Dawn Wenzel, put a book on intelligent design called "Of Pandas and People" on the district's annual textbook list. Wenzel and Olson also added a lesson including "Of Pandas and People" into the district's binder-thick science curriculum. The school board subsequently approved both.

"I am fully confident that our school board never studied this page, never had it brought to their attention and never knew what it meant even if they did see it," Superintendent Rich Ramsey said in a statement made through the district's attorney.

Olson said intelligent design is being embraced by a growing number of scientists, but she wouldn't comment on whether personal or religious beliefs contributed to their decision to teach the subject.

"I feel that's kind of irrelevant since we're discussing science. We don't talk about the designer, we strictly teach the science aspect," Olson said.

They quietly taught intelligent design alongside evolution for two years until a parent complained last fall. Then the administration told them to stop teaching the theory while a committee, including the two teachers, studied whether it belonged in the curriculum.

The committee voted 5-2 in May against teaching intelligent design, with Wenzel and Olson the only dissenting votes.

In the meantime, the teachers turned to the conservative Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor. The center, which is suing a Pennsylvania school district over not allowing intelligent design to be taught, notified Gull Lake it's likely to be sued as well.

"People were aware they've been teaching this," said Richard Thompson, the law center's chief counsel.

"Basically what we think happened -- and we will find out -- is that some outside pressure was put on the superintendent to prohibit the teaching of intelligent design."

There was no outside pressure, said the district's attorney, Lisa Swem. School officials didn't know Olson and Wenzel were teaching intelligent design until they received the complaint.

"There was never any approval or authorization for intelligent design," Swem said.

The debate between teaching creationism or evolution is not new. During the last few years, however, it's been refueled by intelligent design. In May, the Kansas State Board of Education held a hearing on teaching evolution. Three states -- Ohio, New Mexico and Minnesota -- have adopted standards that could allow intelligent design to be taught in schools.

A survey by the science teachers' association this year found almost one-third of its members feel a growing pressure from students or parents to teach creationism or intelligent design.

"It's just not fair to present unsupported, unproven data to our students," said association president Wheeler. "The key issue is, is intelligent design testable? There's no test that one can set up to prove it, and that's the test of science."

The theory is hotly debated in the scientific community, with most mainstream scientific journals discounting it. Advocates point to a handful of papers published in peer-reviewed journals, including one in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a periodical that requires three established scientists review all papers in order to be published.

The article caused a furor among the society's members, who went on to endorse a statement saying there was no credible evidence that intelligent design is legitimate science.

Meanwhile, the debate continues in the Gull Lake community.

"It wasn't until creationism was ousted from public schools that intelligent design was brought in," said Mark Jennings, a Gull Lake Community Schools parent and pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Richland. "I've always thought the school should leave teaching about God to the church and we'll leave science to the schools."

But another parent, Brian Showerman of Augusta, said kicking out intelligent design limits what students can learn.

"Our kids need to have the freedom to learn all aspects of a thing, to figure it out for themselves," he said.

Contact PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI at 586-469-4681 or pwalsh@freepress.com.

Energy medicine papers (7)

From: Thomas J Wheeler

This will be the last in this series of papers on energy medicine that I had saved up for presentation to the list, though I probably will report occasionally on similar papers in the future. I'll also give one follow-up post with some additional comments.

Also, I forgot to mention in connection with paper #6 that the author acknowledged "T. Darnell and The Prince of Wales Foundation for Integrative Health for helping to stimulate" the research (but financial support was from other sources).

This paper follows #6 in the on-line journal, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. For those who wanted a more quantitative treatment, note that it includes an equation!

The Systemic Theory of Living Systems and Relevance to CAM

Part I: The Theory

José A. Olalde Rangel

Adaptogenic Educational Medical Centers and Venezuelan Association of Systemic Medicine
Caracas, Venezuela


The Systemic Theory of Living Systems is being published in several parts in eCAM. The theory is axiomatic. It originates from the phenomenological idea that physiological health is based on three factors: integrity of its structure or organization, O, functional organic energy reserve, E, and level of active biological intelligence, I. From the theory is derived a treatment strategy called Systemic Medicine (SM). This is based on identifying and prescribing phytomedicines and/or other medications that strengthen each factor. Energy-stimulating phytomedicines increase available energy and decrease total entropy of an open biological system by providing negative entropy. The same occurs with phytomedicines that act as biological intelligence modulators. They should be used as the first line of treatment in all ailments, since all pathologies, by definition, imply a higher than normal organic entropy. SM postulates that the state of health, H, of an individual, is effectively equal to the product of the strength of each factor H = O x E x I. SM observes that when all three factors are brought back to ideal levels, patients' conditions begin the recovery to normal health.

For the free full text:


The Logic: "The concept of a functional biological Intelligence, as differentiated from the structural, is not fully described in this section since it will be explained in more detail in the next articles. The author is aware that this is an essential concept that should be fully covered. I ask the reader to bear with me until the publication of the next article."

Life's Common Denominator: "The common denominator in all living systems is the trio: I, E, and O. This is a self-evident truth and an essential condition to all living systems in the known universe."

I, E, and O as a Health Triangle: "The E, I, O triangle is not equilateral, because the system's intelligence acts as a generating entity. It is not necessarily a two-dimensional triangle either. It may be spherical, elliptical or hyperbolic. However, the determination of this was not essential to develop the systemic technology. Finally, I is the most important side of the triangle, since it concurrently generates both energy and organization (20)."

Example of I, E, and O Increase by Providing Panax ginseng: "Panax ginseng provides an example of a phytomedicine capable of enhancing I, E and O simultaneously in the living system."


The origin of the name of the author's institution, "Adaptogenic Educational Medical Centers," is explained by this sentence from "Early History...": "The next step was taken by Soviet scientists led by Lazarev and Brekhman, who investigated properties of substances, with the ability to increase adaptability and resistance to stress. They named these 'adaptogens'." I have never heard this term used other than by advocates of herbs and supplements.

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:
NEW! 2005 updates now available.

Teaching Evolution Controversy


June 10, 2005 Episode no. 841

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: One of the battlegrounds in the culture wars is the debate over teaching evolution in high school biology classes. State by state, sometimes school district by school district, religious conservatives are campaigning to have evolution presented as just one of several theories about how life developed. They see evolution as both scientifically flawed and as a denial of the truth of the Bible. Perhaps the most bitter fight has been in Kansas, where a new anti-evolution majority on the state board of education has been holding hearings on the issue and plans to vote later this summer on what the Kansas biology curriculum should be. Fred de Sam Lazaro reports.

KEN BINGMAN (High School Biology Teacher): Our prediction here is ...

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For 42 years, Ken Bingman has been covering a lot of biology's basics with high schoolers in this suburban Kansas district. Among the current assignments to his students: a paper on the Kansas Board of Education hearings. Bingman says those hearings have very little to do with biology, but everything to do with how biology will soon be taught in Kansas.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I believe that intelligent design theory is a scientifically valid understanding of origins.

DE SAM LAZARO: For months, the board of education has debated how -- and what -- high school students should be taught about the origin and development of life. The debate deeply troubles Bingman.

Mr. BINGMAN: These hearings are not about science. Science is alive and well around the world. This is about religion, and it's about their strict fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.

DE SAM LAZARO: Today, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is accepted by the overwhelming majority of biologists. It holds that life evolved naturally over billions of years by random mutation and the survival of the best adapted -- the fittest.

But today many conservative Christians say the theory of evolution is an affront to the Bible's account, the so-called "young earth belief" that God created the earth and all life as it is now in six days about 6,000 years ago. Many critics of evolution, like Kathy Martin of the Kansas Board of Education, say it ignores God's intention.

KATHY MARTIN (Kansas Board of Education): We're here for a reason. We weren't just evolved out of nothing.

DE SAM LAZARO: With Martin's election to the Kansas board last November, critics of evolution gained majority control. They insist the evolution debate now goes well beyond religion. One ally was Stephen Meyer, a scholar with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute.

The Discovery Institute is leading the challenge to the way science is taught in this country. It favors teaching evolution as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that should not be questioned.

Dr. STEPHEN MEYER (Discovery Institute): The public is starting to catch on that there's more to this debate than the stereotyped view of the enlightened scientist versus the backwoods Bible thumper.

DE SAM LAZARO: Meyer has a doctorate in philosophy from Cambridge University. He says evolution -- he calls it "neo-Darwinism" -- leaves many unanswered questions. He favors an alternative explanation called "intelligent design" or "ID."

DISCOVERY INSTITUTE VIDEO: And in the scientific community, growing numbers of scholars are expressing doubts about Darwin's theory.

DE SAM LAZARO: Intelligent design proponents argue that at the level of life's building blocks, the DNA and RNA -- illustrated in this Discovery Institute video -- there's simply no way such elaborate "systems" could develop through random mutations and natural selection.

DISCOVERY INSTITUTE VIDEO: Consider the difficulty of generating just two lines of Shakespeare's play "Hamlet" by dropping Scrabble letters onto a tabletop. Then consider that the specific genetic instructions required to build the proteins in even the simplest one-celled organism would fill hundreds of pages of printed text.

DE SAM LAZARO: They say such complexity has to have been designed, which means there had to be a designer.

Dr. MEYER: Many advocates of the theory of intelligent design happen to think that intelligence was likely to be God. They think that the evidence has theistic implications. But it is logically possible that it could be something else.

DE SAM LAZARO: However, most scientists say intelligent design is not science. Nor, they say, is scientific theory just opinion. They say science has to be understandable in natural terms, predictable and testable.

Mr. BINGMAN: Our major assumptions are that the natural world is, one, understandable; two, is testable; and three, is predictable. And you cannot test intelligent design. That's religion. That's taking us out of the realm of natural sciences, and it's just dumb.

DE SAM LAZARO: Eugenie Scott heads the National Center for Science Education, a California-based group that's fighting efforts to change the science curriculum.

Dr. EUGENIE SCOTT (Executive Director, National Center for Science Education): Well, the intelligence is God, so let's be grown-ups and just use the "G" word here. So what intelligent design says is that if something is really, really complicated, and we can't explain it, God did it. And once you allow yourself to say, "God did it," then you stop looking for a natural explanation. That's a science stopper.

DE SAM LAZARO: There may still be unanswered questions with evolution, Scott says, but in science, any hypothesis has to come from nature.

Dr. SCOTT: Science is neutral on whether or not God acts in nature. But, if we're trying to explain how something works or explaining why water flows downhill, we use natural cause.

DE SAM LAZARO: And she says it must be tested.

Dr. SCOTT: We cannot test for the influence of a supernatural creator. If we ever invent a theometer, then we can, but until then we have to just stick with our natural cause. And this may be tossed on its ear in Kansas.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: On behalf of the state board of education, I welcome you to these hearings.

DE SAM LAZARO: Conservatives on the Kansas Board of Education are not arguing openly against teaching evolution. They want other explanations, such as intelligent design, taught as well. They call this "teaching the controversy."

Ms. MARTIN: Since there is a controversy, we ought to be able to allow students to address that controversy in our public schools. Especially if our parents and the communities are saying, "Hey, you know, we don't like the way this is being taught to our students. It sounds like indoctrination to us."

DE SAM LAZARO: Polls show most Americans agree with Martin's position. That is, they support teaching both creationism and evolution even though evolution is accepted by most mainline Protestants and Catholics.

(To Kathy Martin): If you're Catholic, Catholic schools teach evolution, macro-evolution, have no problem with it. The pope has no problem with it.

Ms. MARTIN: You don't think so? Have you talked to the new pope?

DE SAM LAZARO: We did talk to Father Dirk Dunfee, a Jesuit scholar.

Father DIRK DUNFEE (Jesuit Scholar): I suppose a lot of Catholics would be surprised to learn that official Catholic teaching accepts the theory of evolution and recommends that it be taught in school because it's science.

DE SAM LAZARO: Dunfee belongs to a group of clergy who say they're alarmed by a debate that distorts their priorities and the mainstream Judeo-Christian view that God works through evolution -- that one needn't choose one or the other.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: When I've asked ministers why they don't say something in their churches, they tell me that they're afraid. They're afraid somebody will go to the board -- annoy some people in the congregation, they're going to quit, they're going to withdraw their funding -- and they've said to me, "Well, you know, it's not worth it."

DE SAM LAZARO: Yet these ministers agreed there's an appeal to a worldview that offers certainty, as they say biblical literalism does.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm facing chaos everywhere I look. I want to go to a church where they're going to tell me what's right, what's wrong, and there's no in between.

Prof. KEITH MILLER (Department of Geology, Kansas State University): Unfortunately, what I think has happened essentially is some of those fears and concerns have been scapegoated onto the scientific community.

DE SAM LAZARO: Evangelical Christian and geology professor Keith Miller believes that senses of chaos and insecurity have turned the biology classroom into a venue for a much larger debate on social issues.

Prof. MILLER: We have two groups that are both trying to politicize science. Two groups that are both trying to use the findings of science to promote particular social or political objectives.

DE SAM LAZARO: Miller says he's often considered an oddity as a Christian believer who accepts the discoveries of modern science.

Prof. MILLER: Some people just cannot conceive of someone having a firm, personal, vibrant Christian faith and also fully embrac[ing] the conclusions of modern science.

DE SAM LAZARO: Ken Bingman worries that the debate has become so bitter that many Kansas teachers will give short shrift to a critical subject in science.

Mr. BINGMAN: I know personally that that's happened. The churches in those areas have a tremendous influence on the community. So what the teacher does is that he either downplays it or skips it. But it's giving students less than a quality education when we do that.

DE SAM LAZARO: For now, Bingman's own students have had a crash course in the interplay of biology, religion, and politics.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: I think it's kind of good that people are actually conflicting over this because this -- eventually we're going to figure out how this is, and we're going to get closer and closer to the real facts. And by having this conflict here, we're going to figure out what is going on and how really we came to be.

DE SAM LAZARO: In the meantime, Discovery Institute scholars say the Kansas debate is a blueprint for what they want to happen in every state.

For RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY, this is Fred de Sam Lazaro, in Topeka, Kansas.

Related R&E Material:

Teaching Evolution, February 25, 2005

Evolution and Ingelligent Design, September 28, 2001

Teaching Evolution in the Public Schools, July 28, 2000

Related Reading:


DARWINISM, DESIGN AND PUBLIC EDUCATION edited by John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer

DARWIN: DISCOVERING THE TREE OF LIFE by Niles Eldredge (forthcoming)




Related Links:

Kansas State Board of Education

Intelligent Design Network

Kansas Citizens for Science

National Center for Science Education

The New Yorker: "Master Planned" by H. Allen Orr, May 30, 2005

WBUR: Teaching Evolution

The Privileged Planet

Slate: "What Matters in Kansas" by Will Saletan, May 11, 2005

© 2005 Educational Broadcasting Corporation.




June 12, 2005 -- I hate people and I'm below average in every single area of my life. That's what the Church of Scientology told me after I ventured to take a 200-question personality test and life evaluation by one of their church employees on West 46th Street.

Within one minute of stepping through the door I was told to buy a book on Scientology by founder L. Ron Hubbard. I was then taken to a screening room and a movie started with the claim Scientology is a "bona fide religion," determined by 65 courts around the world. The narrator ends the 35-minute film with the threat that if you walk out of the church and never think about Scientology again, it's the equivalent of "shooting yourself in the head," and describes Scientology's detractors as "raving lunatics."

I learned there are "levels" of Scientology and I'm at No. 1. Tom Cruise is rumored to have reached Level 4 and is "moving out of fixed conditions into the ability to do new things."

One new thing he is doing is Katie Holmes - who may join Cruise and other celebs in the brain-bending belief that humans are infested with the souls of dead space aliens who were brought to Earth 75 million years ago. The goal of Scientologists is to rid themselves of these negative souls and achieve a state of "clear." At the highest level, believers say you can control thought, energy and even time.

But you'll have to pay thousands for the books and classes and alien-cleansing sessions to get there. After the film came the personality test. Do I peruse phone books for pleasure? Do my muscles twitch? Do I bite my fingernails? Am I a slow eater? Am I embarrassed by hugs?

I wondered if John Travolta, Beck and Cruise actually lasted through this thing. I checked off yes, no or maybe for each. It was graded and, computer printout in hand, I was taken to a small office with Alex, a church "auditor."

"Looks like you hate basically everyone," he explained sadly, "even yourself - but you do know how to deal with people and get your own way." He said I also needed help with decision-making, personality withdrawal and irresponsibility. I was also depressed and nervous. On a positive note, he told me I don't let anyone bully me around.

I asked him if I didn't just need a shrink.

"Scientology doesn't support psychiatry or psychiatric medications," Alex told me.

He said the only way I could solve my many issues was through the Scientology book "Dianetics" and classes. He said it would help me get rid of the "toxic" people and situations in my life. With regular auditing, I could rid myself of "engrams," or destructive memories lurking in my mind that cause me to "react without thinking." You can even raise your IQ, Scientologists claim. After joining in 1986, Cruise said it helped him overcome the dyslexia he had since he was 7 years old. He also claimed he has helped hundreds of people get off drugs using a vitamin mixture described in a Scientology handbook. I picked up the sheets and read about myself: "You are cold hearted and extremely withdrawn."

"I'm actually pretty outgoing and very loud," I told Alex. Annoyed, he said I wasn't supposed to read that. I walked out thinking, now I hated Alex, too.

To make sure I wasn't the only person getting such advice about a problem personality, a colleague — who could only be described as sweet, unassuming and articulate - ventured in to take the same test. She was diagnosed as being overly aggressive and having no communication skills. She was also told to buy "Dianetics."

The written personality test is not the only diagnostic tool employed by Scientologists. I was also told to take a "stress test," where the intensity of your thoughts are purportedly gauged by something called an "e-meter" - a gadget that looks like two soup cans attached to a black, electronic box.

"Think of someone in your life who has caused you stress," the volunteer said.

An ex named John popped in to my head and the needle started bouncing wildly into the terror zone.

She told me to think of more people. For every one, the needle landed in the red zone. Mom, red zone. Roommate, red zone. Strangers rushing by, red zone.

"Who are you thinking of?" the volunteer asked. "Whoever it is is causing a problem."

"Everybody," I told her. "I hate everybody."

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Controversial Book In Area Schools


10 June 2005






RANDY WHITE "like any good teacher any concerned teacher let`s kids see both side of every issue."



ALAN LEE "which prohibits us to do anything to advance a particular religion."

ALAN LEE "he said at no time did he use it in the classroom."


ALAN LEE "he had even had instances where students tried to engage him in conversation in a religious nature and he would tell them this this is not a sunday school class."


RANDY WHITE "if their poetry that may not be in a book or a certain type of poetry and I think my kids are interested in i`ll give it to them"

Va. biology teacher ordered to stop teaching creationism


Saturday, June 11, 2005 By BOB LOWRY Associated Press writer

ROANOKE, Va. — For 15 years, in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, Larry Booher taught creationism in his high school biology class. He even wrote a textbook and passed out copies of it in three-ring binders.

The school superintendent didn't know what was going on. Neither did the school board president. Then, they got an anonymous tip.

On Thursday, Booher agreed to revise his lesson plan, though he maintained that he only handed out the book, titled "Creation Battles Evolution," to his Biology 2 students as a voluntary, extra-credit option.

"He told the students, 'You may read this. You don't have to. It has some Bible references in it,' " said Alan Lee, superintendent of Washington County schools. "This teacher felt like he wasn't doing anything wrong."

The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism, the belief that God created the universe as explained in the Bible, is a religious belief — not science — and may not be taught in public schools along with evolution.

"Creationism is not biology and has no place in a biology class," said Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.

"What makes it wrong is not the theory of creationism, but the teaching of creationism as part of a science class."

Lee said Booher's source book material was never presented to the school board or to his office for approval. He declined to say what punishment — if any — Booher would face, calling it a personnel matter.

Elizabeth Lowe, chairwoman of the school board, described Booher, 48, as "one of the finest science teachers I've ever been around" and said Booher would return to the classroom in the fall since he agreed to stop distributing the creationism materials.

"He must teach evolution exclusively — observable scientific fact, not beliefs or religion," Lee said.

"I fully believe he will comply. He just stepped over the line."

Day of the Bible Belt propaganda movie moves closer


HANNAH McGILL June 06 2005

On Cinema

The newfound commercial potential of documentary, bolstered by the attention-grabbing and prize-winning work of Michael Moore, has been one of the most interesting cinematic developments of the past five years. The coming months promise some fascinating documentary works, as varied in style and content as their fictional counterparts. Whereas once they might have sidled straight into the television market, they can now sail into multiplex slots, flush with festival acclaim. Inside Deep Throat, released on June 10, explores the history of the hardcore porn film that went mainstream enough for Jackie Onassis to get in line for a ticket, but made pariahs of its performers Harry Reems and Linda Lovelace. Guerrilla: The Taking of Patti Hearst, out on July 1, follows another intriguing 1970s news phenomenon: the kidnapping, demonisation and rehabilitation of the heiress-turned-bank-robber. Later in the summer, look out for Overnight – a compelling car-crash vision of success turned sour, which relates the rise to fame and downfall of an up-and-coming film director – and The Devil and Daniel Johnston, a beautiful portrait of America's best-kept singing/songwriting secret. Those individuals still given to the contention that contemporary cinema is all the same are just advertising their own laziness. The expansion of the documentary market has added another dimension to a movie market that caters to a kaleidoscope of tastes.

There is a potentially sinister side to the broad mainstream acceptance of the documentary form, however. Class something as a "documentary", and it takes on a certain authority. Line up a lot of talking heads, coin a few statistics, and add a few jazzy graphics, and you've got yourself a platform to advertise whatever agenda might be profitable to you – with a spoonful of seriousness and credibility to help the medicine go down. Naturally, objective truth being the elusive little creature that it is, each of the films mentioned above has its own take on the story it tells. Overnight, is a deliberate hatchet job by two erstwhile collaborators who were themselves decisively shafted by the film's subject. Even-handedness is not high on their agenda. Inside Deep Throat, for its part, is stubbornly pro-porn – or pro-"sexual liberation" – and gives any opposing argument insultingly short shrift. The wobbly arguments and shameless partisanship of Michael Moore have been widely critiqued. Most people are smart enough to know that every documentary maker comes at his or her story from an angle. But when an absolute tissue of nonsense can gain currency by being framed in a documentary format, dangerous precedents may be being set. Observe the current release What The Bleep Do We Know!?, a runaway American success just released on these shores. This hare-brained blend of spiritualist self-help and inane pop-science is being punted as a "non-fiction" work – indeed, the most profitable such film since Morgan Spurlock's fast food odyssey Super-Size Me. But quite what qualifies it as non-fiction, except for the fact that people talk straight to the camera, is hard to establish. For one thing, it leans very heavily on drama (though I'm not convinced that's the right word for its succession of awkward and irritating reconstructions of life situations), and has a cast of actors, led by Marlee Matlin. For another thing, it passes off clumsy supposition as science (its main contention being that we create our own reality, that nothing physically exists and that our brains simply project whatever we've trained them to see). Most sinisterly, however, it devotes much of its screen time to the observations of a woman only later identified as a 35,000-year-old "mystic, philosopher, master teacher and hierophant" named Ramtha. She runs a School of Enlightenment in Washington State, where all three of the film's credited directors have studied. Yes – this is essentially a recruitment video for a well-funded religious cult. Now, feasibly Fahenheit 9/11 appears no less sinister to some than What The Bleep . . . appears to me; and freedom of speech arguably extends equally to those who believe themselves to be reincarnations of ancient seers. But where Moore is a propagandist committed to confronting his detractors and stimulating debate, What The Bleep . . . presents a bizarre philosophical fait accompli, under the pretence of genuine intellectual engagement.

Interestingly, its UK release coincides with a controversial decision by the Smithsonian Institute in New York to screen a documentary that argues against evolutionary theory and in favour of creationism. Titled The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe, the film is a product of the Discovery Institute, a central proponent of the Intelligent Design movement, who secured their screening spot at the Smithsonian in exchange for a $16,000 donation. Given that recent statistics have a majority of Americans favouring creationism, maybe the only surprise is that the film isn't following What The Bleep . . . into a major distribution deal. Perhaps all that protects us from a Biblical flood of conservative documentaries is the enduring, disproportionate liberal bias of Hollywood; and the fact that God has inexplicably failed to bless his most fervent supporters with much in the way of creative inspiration. Give it time. If rancid dribble such as What The Bleep . . . can gain a mainstream audience, if anti-evolution theme parks can teach kids that there were dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden, and if Tom Cruise can hit the headlines every time something offends his Scientologist beliefs, targeted Bible Belt propaganda movies are surely not too far away.

Film That Shows Evidence of a Creator Called 'Not Scientific'


June 6, 2005

by Josh Montez, correspondent

Smithsonian recants support of documentary concerning intelligent design.

The Smithsonian Institution has withdrawn sponsorship of a film called, "The Privileged Planet—The Search for Purpose in the Universe."

The Discovery Institute, the organization behind the film concerning intelligent design, said when the Smithsonian staff first reviewed the project, they were excited about sponsoring the film and showing it to the public. Based on that, the Discovery Institute put up $16,000 to have the Smithsonian sponsor the film. In turn, the Smithsonian took Discovery through the steps of inviting dignitaries to the showing.

Now Rob Crowther, director of communications at the Discovery Institute, believes it was pressure from evolutionists that convinced the Smithsonian to withdraw support.

"It wasn't really out of the ordinary until the event became known," he said, "and then some people started complaining, which caused the Smithsonian to sort of backtrack and decide to 'further review' the event."

Crowther said the Smithsonian is now claiming the film is not scientific.

"The 'Privileged Planet' deals with cosmology, physics, astronomy—sort of the fine-tuning of the universe," he said. "It does not deal in any way with Darwinian evolution or biological evolution."

Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist with Answers in Genesis, is also disappointed in the Smithsonian.

"Institutions like this are going to respond to the complaints of people," he said. "Therefore I think we Christians need to make a case that we would like to see films that challenge atheistic ideas."

Although the Smithsonian is no longer a sponsor, the film will still be shown at the Smithsonian on June 23.

Right Idea


By William Tucker

Are We A Privileged Planet?

For a few moments there, "Intelligent Design" seemed to be making headway.

Two weeks ago, the Smithsonian announced it would screen the movie, "The Privileged Planet," produced by the Discovery Institute, at the National Museum of History on June 23rd. The outcry in the New York Times and The Washington Post was immediate. The Smithsonian was caving to religious fundamentalists. "While `The Privileged Planet' is an extremely sophisticated religious film, it is a religious film nevertheless," pronounced The Post in an editorial entitled "Dissing Darwin."

Within a week, the Smithsonian had yielded to liberal opinion. It cancelled its "co-sponsorship" of the event and gave back Discovery's $16,000 contribution – although the movie will still be shown on schedule. It's a fitting resolution. Thanks to the Times and Post, Discovery will now have an extra $16,000 with which to spread its heresies.

I haven't seen the movie, but I did read the excerpt from the book, The Privileged Planet, in the March 2004 issue of The American Spectator. I don't know whether I'd call authors Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards' argument "religious." "Creepy" would seem a better term.

Some of "Privileged Planet" is legitimate science. Gonzalez and Richards are addressing the question of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. We know there are billions of galaxies, each of them containing somewhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000 stars. (The Spectator made a telling typographical error when it said there are "1022 visible stars." They meant to say "1022.") With astronomers now finding that planets are fairly common around nearby stars, the odds that there is life out there somewhere seem reasonably good.

Not so fast, say Gonzalez and Richards. Instead they approach the question from a different angle. There may be billions and billions of stars with billions of planets circling around them, but how many of these planets are right in the earth's sweet spot – the "temperate orbit" where temperatures range only between 0o and 100o so that life can survive? How many have a liquid ocean, rather than icebergs or infernos? How many have a moon that massages the oceans so they circulate nutrients and even (so G&R claim) stabilize the parent planet in its orbit? How many suns are in the mid-range of their galaxy, where they aren't overwhelmed by cosmic radiation or starved for lack of it?

Fair enough. These are legitimate arguments that illustrate the earth's very unique position in relation to the solar system and the galaxy.

But then Gonzalez and Richards start talking about other strange "coincidences." How many planets have a clear atmosphere so they can look out on the stars? they ask. How many have a moon that is exactly the size of the sun in its sky? Without that, say Gonzalez and Richards, we wouldn't be able to see a perfect solar eclipse. "Newton was able to examine the spectrum of sunlight because of the solar eclipse," they argue. "Einstein's Theory of Relativity was only proved by observing the bending of starlight during a solar eclipse."

All this leads them to one conclusion. Not only is our planet "designed" for life, it is also "designed" with a "purpose"—to breed a species just like ourselves capable of looking out on the rest of the universe and discovering its secrets.

Now wait a minute. Are you trying to argue that not only did God put us here on earth but also arranged the size of the sun and the moon so that Einstein's theory of relativity could be verified? This seems a little far-fetched to me. I don't think even firm believers in Hinduism, Christianity, or any other religion who would go quite that far.

Instead of arguing that everything on earth has been "designed" for some mysterious "purpose," I think it's much more instructive to look at some of God's little errors. The one that has always struck me is the density of ice.

One thing we learn right away in elementary physics is that gas is the least dense state of matter, liquids are in the middle, and solids are the densest. That's because the molecules are loosely associated in gases, adhere together somewhat in liquids, and are tightly bound together in solids.

There is one glaring exception, however—ice. Unlike any other element or compound, H2O is lighter as a solid—ice—it is as a liquid—water. No other substance has this property. Is this a big deal? It certainly is. It just so happens that it made the evolution of life possible.

If ice were heavier than water, it would sink to the bottom in a lake or shallow sea. Then, more water would freeze on the surface and sink again and soon the whole body of water would be frozen solid from top to bottom. Anything living in that lake or shallow sea would die. Since most life originated in water, living forms never could have survived.

Instead, ice floats. Why? There doesn't seem to be any real explanation. I've always thought it was evidence that God was willing to admit His mistakes and bend the rules when it counted. When He was finished designing the fundaments of the universe – gases, liquids, and solids – He said, "Oh, darn, I forgot. This isn't going to work." So, He made that one exception. All solids shall be denser than their liquids except water. That way life could evolve.

Is there a better explanation? The Darwinian "anthropogenic" view now popular in scientific circles, would say, "Of course ice has to be lighter than water. Otherwise we wouldn't be here to observe it. Therefore, Q.E.D." At the other end of the room, the "Privileged Planet" people would say, "It has to be more than coincidence. Things like that don't just happen. It's proof of Intelligent Design."

Personally, I prefer the explanation offered in the Book of Job. "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" The ways of God are still more mysterious than any of us can comprehend.

NOTE: You'll notice I haven't even gotten around to mentioning Charles Darwin, who is supposed to be the target of "Intelligent Design" theory. Next week I'll talk about whether complexity theory supports ID—as Dan Peterson argues in this month's American Spectator— or whether it indicates something different.

William Tucker is a contributing writer for TAE Online.

ISU prof's book stirs film fuss


June 9, 2005

A book coauthored by an Iowa State University professor is the basis for a film that caused a minor dustup at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The latest round in the battle between evolution proponents and opponents is over "The Privileged Planet." That film is based on a book by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards of the Discovery Institute, a group based in Seattle that supports "intelligent design," or the idea that natural selection cannot explain all of the complex developments observed in nature and that an unspecified intelligent designer must be involved.

Gonzalez, an assistant professor of astronomy, says intelligent design doesn't begin with a religious text - like the chapter of Genesis in the Bible.

"It's open to design in the universe," he said. The intelligent part of the theory is attributed to you-know-who.

It was when the Discovery Institute donated $16,000 to the Smithsonian and scheduled a screening of the film at the National Museum of Natural History that eyebrows were raised. The museum said Friday it would give back the money but not cancel the screening, which is set for June 23.

That seems like the right way to go. Otherwise you're encouraging the same censorship that led IMAX theaters in the South not to show "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," which explored the connections between our human genetic material and microbes found in undersea volcanoes.

The controversy has increased interest in Gonzalez's book.

"Some of it has been rather negative, rather vicious, especially on the Internet," he said. "Of course, a lot of stuff gets said on the Internet."

Gonzalez does wonder whether his support of intelligent design may hurt his academic career..

"It's certainly a concern of mine but I believe it and I'm willing to stand by it," he said. "If it's wrong, then over time it will be shown to be wrong."

Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming


June 8, 2005

A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.

In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved. In many cases, the changes appeared in the final reports.

The dozens of changes, while sometimes as subtle as the insertion of the phrase "significant and fundamental" before the word "uncertainties," tend to produce an air of doubt about findings that most climate experts say are robust.

Mr. Cooney is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues.

Before going to the White House in 2001, he was the "climate team leader" and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the interests of the oil industry. A lawyer with a bachelor's degree in economics, he has no scientific training.

The documents were obtained by The New York Times from the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit legal-assistance group for government whistle-blowers.

The project is representing Rick S. Piltz, who resigned in March as a senior associate in the office that coordinates government climate research. That office, now called the Climate Change Science Program, issued the documents that Mr. Cooney edited.

A White House spokeswoman, Michele St. Martin, said yesterday that Mr. Cooney would not be available to comment. "We don't put Phil Cooney on the record," Ms. St. Martin said. "He's not a cleared spokesman."

In one instance in an October 2002 draft of a regularly published summary of government climate research, "Our Changing Planet," Mr. Cooney amplified the sense of uncertainty by adding the word "extremely" to this sentence: "The attribution of the causes of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is extremely difficult."

In a section on the need for research into how warming might change water availability and flooding, he crossed out a paragraph describing the projected reduction of mountain glaciers and snowpack. His note in the margins explained that this was "straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings."

Other White House officials said the changes made by Mr. Cooney were part of the normal interagency review that takes place on all documents related to global environmental change. Robert Hopkins, a spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, noted that one of the reports Mr. Cooney worked on, the administration's 10-year plan for climate research, was endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences. And Myron Ebell, who has long campaigned against limits on greenhouse gases as director of climate policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian group, said such editing was necessary for "consistency" in meshing programs with policy.

But critics said that while all administrations routinely vetted government reports, scientific content in such reports should be reviewed by scientists. Climate experts and representatives of environmental groups, when shown examples of the revisions, said they illustrated the significant if largely invisible influence of Mr. Cooney and other White House officials with ties to energy industries that have long fought greenhouse-gas restrictions.

In a memorandum sent last week to the top officials dealing with climate change at a dozen agencies, Mr. Piltz said the White House editing and other actions threatened to taint the government's $1.8 billion-a-year effort to clarify the causes and consequences of climate change.

"Each administration has a policy position on climate change," Mr. Piltz wrote. "But I have not seen a situation like the one that has developed under this administration during the past four years, in which politicization by the White House has fed back directly into the science program in such a way as to undermine the credibility and integrity of the program."

A senior Environmental Protection Agency scientist who works on climate questions said the White House environmental council, where Mr. Cooney works, had offered valuable suggestions on reports from time to time. But the scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because all agency employees are forbidden to speak with reporters without clearance, said the kinds of changes made by Mr. Cooney had damaged morale. "I have colleagues in other agencies who express the same view, that it has somewhat of a chilling effect and has created a sense of frustration," he said.

Efforts by the Bush administration to highlight uncertainties in science pointing to human-caused warming have put the United States at odds with other nations and with scientific groups at home.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who met with President Bush at the White House yesterday, has been trying to persuade him to intensify United States efforts to curb greenhouse gases. Mr. Bush has called only for voluntary measures to slow growth in emissions through 2012.

Yesterday, saying their goal was to influence that meeting, the scientific academies of 11 countries, including those of the United States and Britain, released a joint letter saying, "The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action."

The American Petroleum Institute, where Mr. Cooney worked before going to the White House, has long taken a sharply different view. Starting with the negotiations leading to the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty in 1997, it has promoted the idea that lingering uncertainties in climate science justify delaying restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases.

On learning of the White House revisions, representatives of some environmental groups said the effort to amplify uncertainties in the science was clearly intended to delay consideration of curbs on the gases, which remain an unavoidable byproduct of burning oil and coal.

"They've got three more years, and the only way to control this issue and do nothing about it is to muddy the science," said Eileen Claussen, the president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a private group that has enlisted businesses in programs cutting emissions.

Mr. Cooney's alterations can cause clear shifts in meaning. For example, a sentence in the October 2002 draft of "Our Changing Planet" originally read, "Many scientific observations indicate that the Earth is undergoing a period of relatively rapid change." In a neat, compact hand, Mr. Cooney modified the sentence to read, "Many scientific observations point to the conclusion that the Earth may be undergoing a period of relatively rapid change."

A document showing a similar pattern of changes is the 2003 "Strategic Plan for the United States Climate Change Science Program," a thick report describing the reorganization of government climate research that was requested by Mr. Bush in his first speech on the issue, in June 2001. The document was reviewed by an expert panel assembled in 2003 by the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists largely endorsed the administration's research plan, but they warned that the administration's procedures for vetting reports on climate could result in excessive political interference with science.

Another political appointee who has played an influential role in adjusting language in government reports on climate science is Dr. Harlan L. Watson, the chief climate negotiator for the State Department, who has a doctorate in solid-state physics but has not done climate research.

In an Oct. 4, 2002 memo to James R. Mahoney, the head of the United States Climate Change Science Program and an appointee of Mr. Bush, Mr. Watson "strongly" recommended cutting boxes of text referring to the findings of a National Academy of Sciences panel on climate and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that periodically reviews research on human-caused climate change.

The boxes, he wrote, "do not include an appropriate recognition of the underlying uncertainties and the tentative nature of a number of the assertions."

While those changes were made nearly two years ago, recent statements by Dr. Watson indicate that the admnistration's position has not changed.

"We are still not convinced of the need to move forward quite so quickly," he told the BBC in London last month. "There is general agreement that there is a lot known, but also there is a lot to be known."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Pet Psychics Have A Message For Humans Pets Have Mission To Make Owners Happy

CINCINNATI -- You can teach them tricks, dress them up and even make them listen, but how well do you know your dog? Is your dog trying to tell you something, and if he is, are you listening?

We feed them and primp them. They are man's best friend, but is man dog's best friend? How would we even know?

News 5's Ken Broo has his dog Zoe. All he knows is that she chews on his shoes and never comes when she is called. He won't even talk about how house training is going.

Victor Paruta has been a psychic since 1979. The pet part of his business picked up steam about 10 years ago.

"Animals can figure out what we're trying to tell them. But, so often it's difficult for us to figure out what they're trying to tell us," Paruta said.

Dogs tell their owners what they want, Broo reported. The problem is that the humans aren't listening. That's part of what Paruta does best.

"They respond with everything through their hearts," Paruta said.

Psychics say they connect with animals, even without the specific pet being in the room. Unlike humans, Paruta said animals are completely honest.

So what about Zoe?

"She likes the finer things in life. There are certain things that confuse her," Paruta said. "I think that a lot of times she's still learning the dynamic of your family ... the people in the house.

"She's very comfortable in the kitchen. I think she likes when things are going on in the kitchen."

Paruta said Zoe had been trying to tell her owner these things for months.

"Animals have a mission in their lifetime. Just as each of us has a purpose, a dog also has a purpose," he said.

Most of the time, he said, the mission is simply to make their owners happier people.

So the next time someone believes their dog has been talking to them, maybe they've been to see a psychic -- or maybe they've been drinking.

Either way, Broo said he's going to try to listen to Zoe.

More Information: victorthepsychic.com

(Newscast video available at site)

Evolution education update: legislation threatened in UT, creationism in Tulsa zoo, Jefferys on The Privileged Plane


Utah is abuzz with the news that a state senator plans to introduce legislation to teach "divine design" in the state's public schools. Not so long ago, a Deseret Morning News article on evolution education in Utah referred to "Utah's non-war over evolution." Writing in the March 19, 2005, issue of the newspaper, Elaine Jarvik observed, "One might suppose, given that Utahns tend to be both conservative and religious, that evolution would be a contentious topic in Utah's schools; but yet another legislative session has passed with no mention of Charles Darwin. And Brett Moulding can count on his fingers the number of anti-evolution phone calls he's gotten in the past 10 years, first as science education specialist and then as curriculum director for the Utah State Office of Education." Part of the lack of controversy may be due to the fact that in Utah, as elsewhere, teachers frequently succumb to pressure to downplay or omit evolution. Additionally, Jarvik wrote, "Utah students often don't believe what they've been taught anyway, because they've learned something different from teachers in LDS Church seminary classes," although it is disputed whether or not the Mormon faith in fact rejects evolution. The article concluded by reporting Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, to have plans "to tackle evolution" -- and so she did.

According to a story in the June 5, 2005, issue of the Salt Lake City Tribune, Senator Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan), with the support of the Utah Eagle Forum, plans "to lead the fight for instruction of divine design in Utah public schools," apparently when the Utah state legislature reconvenes in January 2006. "Divine design," according to Buttars, "doesn't preach religion ... The only people who will be upset about this are atheists. ... It shocks me that our schools are teaching evolution as fact." The Eagle Forum's Ruzicka explained her motivations for supporting the threatened legislation: "What an insult to teach children that they have evolved from a lower life to what they are now, and then they go home and learn that they are someone special, a child of God. ... This is not right." But Brett Moulding, the curriculum director for the state board of education, explained, "We don't teach religion in school," and Scott Berryessa, president of the Jordan Education Association, representing about 2,100 Utah teachers, lamented, "Teachers wish that our Legislature would stop micromanaging the process of education -- especially when it comes to issues as personal as these."

A pointed editorial in the June 6 Salt Lake City Tribune criticized Buttars's proposal as not also wrong but counterproductive: "Except for his new label for an idea called 'intelligent design' -- itself a euphemism for the oxymoron 'creation science' -- the proposal from the West Jordan Republican is an echo of battles that are already being fought in Kansas, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama, battles that consume a great deal of the oxygen that ought to be expended solving real problems, from health care to poverty to war." It concluded, "Forcing religion to stand in for science does no favor to religion, to science, or to our children. How wonderful it would be if Utah understood that." And on June 9, a similarly trenchant editorial in the Ogden Standard-Examiner also ridiculed Buttars's coinage of "divine design" before deploring how, "[b]y trying to inject religious indoctrination into the schools, Buttars and his fellow supporters of 'divine design' are inviting state control over matters now exclusively left to parents and families." Utahns concerned about the threatened "divine design" legislation are encouraged to get in touch with Duane Jeffrey, a professor of biology at Brigham Young University and a member of NCSE's board of directors, at duane_jeffery@byu.edu.

For the Deseret Morning News's article, visit: http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,600119354,00.html

For the Salt Lake City Tribune's article, visit: http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_2777333

For the Salt Lake City Tribune's editorial, visit: http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_2779923


On June 7, 2005, the Park and Recreation Board of Tulsa, Oklahoma, voted 3-1 to approve adding a display depicting the Biblical account of creation at the Tulsa Zoo. According to an Associated Press news report, the decision came after "more than two hours of public comment from a standing-room-only crowd." Supporters of the proposed delay argued that the zoo already displays religious items, including a statue of the elephant-headed Hindu deity Ganesha (which appears outside the elephant enclosure at the zoo) and a globe carrying a Native American maxim, "The earth is our mother. The sky is our father." Tulsa resident Dan Hicks applauded the board's decision, saying, "I see this as a big victory ... It's a matter of fairness. To not include the creationist view would be discrimination." In 1995, Hicks succesfully lobbied the zoo to post a disclaimer reading in part, "There are many views on the origins of biological species and their behaviors."

The idea of adding the creationist display was opposed during the meeting by a number of zoo employees as well as by representatives of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministers, and the Tulsa Geology Society, on the grounds that "religion shouldn't be part of the taxpayer-funded scientific institution." The Reverend Marlin Lavanhar objected to the proposed display as divisive, saying, "The fundamentalist perspective is being placed, putting one Christian view above others." And a zoo curator expressed qualms to the Associated Press about the zoo's delving into theological debate: "I'm afraid we are going in the wrong direction," she said. The exact nature of the creationism display is as yet unclear; a zoo curator estimated that it will take about six months to research and prepare the display, which will include a disclaimer explaining that it represents only one view. Attorneys for the city have also urged the zoo to include it as part of a presentation of different cultures' views of creation.

For the Associated Press's report (via USA Today), visit: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2005-06-09-tulsa-zoo-genesis_x.htm

For the website of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit: http://www.biosurvey.ou.edu/oese/


In light of the recent controversy over the screening of the film The Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, William H. Jefferys's review of the book on which the film is based is sure to be of interest. He writes in part:

The fundamental error made by Gonzalez and Richards, as with most creationists (including "intelligent design" [ID] creationists), is that they imagine that they can prove the existence of their "intelligent designer" by merely alleging evidence against a particular strawman naturalistic scenario, and, without clearly specifying an alternative model, simply assert that the only other explanation possible is that everything was created by a "designer". Under this strategy, no details are specified about what we would expect to see if the "designer" existed, or why we would expect to see that and not something else. It is, as we shall see, not a scientific theory.

Jefferys is the Harlan J. Smith Centennial Professor of Astronomy, Emeritus, at the University of Texas at Austin; his review will appear in a forthcoming issue of Reports of the NCSE.

To read Jefferys's review, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/784_review_of_emthe_privileged_p_6_7_2005.asp

For NCSE's story on the screening of the film, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2005/US/911_intelligent_design_at_nmnh_6_3_2005.asp


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

Energy medicine papers - follow-up

From Thomas J Wheeler

Here are a couple of additional points related to "energy medicine":

1. As I have noted, some research in this field is supported by the National Institutes of Health, through the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. NCCAM recently issued a new strategic plan for 2005-2009, which can be seen at: http://nccam.nih.gov/about/plans/2005/index.htm

There are 8 sections in the research area, one of which is energy medicine. The goals here are:

Apply in studies of energy medicine the same standards used in designing experiments in physics, chemistry, and other scientific disciplines. (Objectives: Develop preclinical models - cells, tissue, animal - to validate measuring devices and test the effects of verifiable energy sources; ensure that the methodology of clinical studies of energy medicine using verifiable sources conforms to standard procedures/protocols used in other clinical studies.)

Accelerate progress in understanding the source and biological effects of putative energy fields. (Objectives: Investigate currently available devices purported to detect and quantify energy fields; study the biological effects of putative healing energy sources, with rigorous attention to regimen, dosages, controls, and objective outcom measures in cells, organ systems, and animals before undertaking clinical studies.)

Enhance understanding of what transpires in the course of energy healer-patient interactions. (Objectives: Study characteristics of practitioners as clues to the nature of the putative healing energies they may be transmitting to a subject; study the psychosocial aspects of healer-patient relationships to determine to what extent aspects of the placebo effect - expectation, belief, desire to please - contribute to outcomes.)

Comment: In my opinion, NIH should not be wasting any money in this area. The burden should be on proponents to demonstrate the existence of their "putative energy fields," not the public. Since these unknown forms of energy violate current understanding of physics, they are extremely unlikely to be correct. However, demonstration of such phenomena would win the investigators fame and fortune, which should be enough incentive for them to fund their research through their own resources or private investors.

There was a "Strategic Planning Workshop" of the "Energy Medicine Working Group" for this strategic plan last May. One of the Co-Chairs was Joan Fox of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. You can see read about her research on reiki here: http://www.balancedlivingmag.com/Sept%20-%20Oct%2003%20Issue/Interview%20With%20Joan%20Fox.htm

Among the members are:

Steven Bolling, M.D., Professor of Surgery, University of Michigan Medical School. He is one of the directors of a Complementary and Alternative Research Center there, and is involved in a study of qigong:

"Qigong (pronounced chee-gung) is a Chinese medical practice based on the idea that people are born with a system of energy currents in the body. These energy currents are a necessary life sustaining system, analogous to the nervous, lymphatic, respiratory, and circulatory systems. When a person contracts a disease or sustains an injury, the currents are interrupted. In order for healing to take place, the energy currents must be restored to their original condition.

"The Chinese medical practice teaches that the energy currents of the body can be consciously moved with the mind. Therapists trained in Energy Healing may have the ability to direct their energy currents to other persons to aid in healing health disorders. Qigong is one type of Energy Healing Therapy.

"In a Qigong session, a patient lies down fully clothed on a bed while a therapist places his or her hands in a sequential pattern moving from the patient's head to toes. This removes 'blocked energy,' possibly reducing pain levels and improving wound healing.

"This study examines the effects of a traditional Chinese medicine practice known as Qigong, the transfer of energy fields to a patient to hasten healing. Specifically, researchers are looking at Qigong as a healing procedure after coronary artery bypass surgery..."


F. Edward Dudek, PhD - Colorado State U. (an expert on epilepsy; I don't see that he is involved in CAM research)

Clair Francomano, M.D. - NIH; chief of Human Genetics and Integrative Medicine Section.

Shin Lin, PhD, University of California, Irving; Director, International Alliance on Mind/Body Signaling and Energy Research. He is also in the Samueli Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and was one of the authors of my paper #3.

Robert Park, PhD, Director of Public Information, American Physical Society. Many of you probably know him as the author of the weekly "What's New" column. Its nice that at least one skeptic was in the group, but apparently he couldn't persuade them that none of this deserved funding.

Roderic Pettigrew, M.D., Ph.D. - NIH; director, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. I don't see that he is involved in CAM research.

Gerald Pollack, PhD, Detp. of Bioengineering, University of Washington. Again, no apparent links to CAM research. I assume that these last three, as well as Dudek, were included because of their expertise in areas that might be used to evaluate claims in "energy medicine."

2. Earlier this year I had a reiki practitioner speak to my class on alternative medicine. She gave a handout on energy medicine, which appears to have come from the web site http://www.janelledurham.com/janelle/energy/

For those who want some demonstration of the existence of the human energy field, check out these sections in "Excerises to Experience Energy" http://www.janelledurham.com/janelle/energy/exercises.htm

"Then move your hands till they are about 12" apart, and begin moving them slowly toward each other, focusing on the sensations. You may feel some tingling or warmth. You may find that at some point, it feels as if there is resistance; it may feel like 'the air is thicker' or like there's outward pressure like magnets pushing each other away. This is because you have met the edge of the energy field emanating from the other palm. Gently move the hands a little closer together (about an inch). You may now feel tingling on the back of your hands. The energy field of each hand has passed through the other hand."

(I once read something like this in an article on therapeutic touch in a nursing journal.)

"'Seeing' the Rotation of a Chakra. (This technique is described in Brennan, Baggott, and Batie.)

"Find something to use as a pendulum: it should hang from a string or chain, and be symmetrical around its vertical axis. A ring or large bead hung on a string can work.

"'Hold the pendulum on a string about 6" long over the chakra and empty your mind of all bias as to the state of the chakra* Be sure that the pendulum is as close to the body as possible without touching it. Your energy flows into the field of the pendulum to energize it. This combined field of the pendulum and your energy then interacts with the field of the subject, causing the pendulum to move.' (Brennan, 81) Observe the motion of the pendulum.

"Batie says that circular motion indicates a healthy energy condition, 'whereas movement of the pendulum in a straight line [back and forth] might indicate that an energy block exists.' (Batie, 16)

"Brennan states that open chakras tend to circle in a clockwise direction, versus blocked chakras circle in a counterclockwise direction."

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:
NEW! 2005 updates now available.

WHAT'S NEW Friday, June 10, 2005

Robert L. Park Friday, 10 Jun 05 Washington, DC


The media loved the story. The first I heard of it was an e-mail from an evangelical Christian that began: "This is what happens when you take moral certainty out of the picture." Something called the Health Partners Research Foundation surveyed several thousand scientists funded by NIH. Overall, one-third of the respondents admitted engaging in at least one sort of misbehavior in the last three years. Does that mean the chances are one in three that the numbers in the study were fudged? Any scientific misconduct is too much, of course, but they're not just talking about research misconduct as defined by the Office of Science and Technology Policy: "fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism." They also include stuff like, "inadequate record keeping," and "overlooking the use of flawed data by others." Misbehavior, of course, is not limited to scientists. Consider the next item.


A lawyer with no scientific training, Phil Cooney was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute fighting greenhouse-gas restrictions before moving to the White House. The chief of staff to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Cooney was assigned to edit government climate reports to make them more supportive of Administration policy. According to the New York Times, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the President's science advisor, John Marburger III, also approved the reports.


In 1994, the Tangipahoa Parish school board voted to require teachers to read students an it's-only-a-theory disclaimer before they studied the theory of evolution in science class. In 1997, a Federal District Court found the disclaimer violated the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment. The School Board appealed the case, and lost again. So they appealed to the Supreme Court, and struck out for good. Meanwhile, the courts repeatedly told the Board to put a stop to prayers at school functions, including school board meetings. But by now the board had a taste for losing, and appealing that decision. Experts say this could also end up in the Supreme Court. Encouraged by the political climate, the Board has outside financial help from the Alliance Defense Fund, a powerful Christian legal group.

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

Evolution Creationism and Intelligent Design Conflict Resolved


By Prudent Press Agency

By Michael Cohen - An attraction-based nature sensitivity program identifies how to increase well-being through conscious sensory contact with nature's creation energies.

The conflicts between Evolution, Creationism and Intelligent Design result from our socialization excessively separating us from nature," says Dr. Michael J. Cohen, Director of Project NatureConnect at the Institute of Global Education. He claims our separation from nature prevents us from understanding how nature perfectly produces and sustains life at its optimums of diversity, purity and cooperation. In an online article edited from his book, "The Web of Life Imperative," Cohen, an Organic Psychologist describes how we can beneficially reduce our separation from nature by making conscious sensory contact with nature's grace and restorative powers, backyard to backcountry.

Cohen says "The schizms of Intelligent Design, Evolution and Creationism are like the schizms of seven blind men who argue about the nature of an elephant. Each argues his case based upon what part of the elephant he is touching. While one calls the elephant a pipe (the tusk), another says the elephant is a snake (trunk) or like a rope (tail)."

"Our omission of information gained by thoughtfully sensing and feeling attractions in natural areas blinds us," says Cohen. "It makes us discount important knowledge about nature's ways, knowledge that can best be gained from contact with authentic nature. With respect to how nature works, nature itself is the fountainhead of authority."

Cohen demonstrates that while in attractive natural settings, our senses and feelings recognize that relationships, physical or otherwise, are held together with a fundamental attraction force, a unifying form of love that is part of nature's wisdom and spirit around and within us. He says that Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk and many others recognized this, but our nature-disconnected lives prevent nature's attractions from entering our thinking. This omission in our intellect produces the conflicts of Evolution, Creationism and Intelligent Design, along with many other stresses we suffer.

Cohen's article helps us resolve our evolution Vs creation conflicts through the use of sensory nature-connecting activities. They empower us to create moments that let Earth teach. In these moments in natural areas, natural attractions touch our psyche and help us understand as well as recycle our conflicted thoughts and feelings. We recognize Intelligent Design, Evolution and Creationism as incomplete truths about the wholeness of life and the Devine. Quoting Elbert Hubbard, Cohen notes, "Nature is the unseen intelligence that loved us into being."

Cohen's Web of Life article is located at http://www.ecopsych.com/insight2005.html He can be contacted at 360-378-6313, nature@interisland.net, www.ecopsych.com.

HERALD POLL Intelligent design vs. evolution


Friday, June 10, 2005 - 12:00 AM

The Daily Herald

It was bound to happen.

The anti-evolution movement finally bounced into Utah, after hitting Kansas and Pennsylvania and attempting to get a hearing at the Smithsonian Institution.

State Sen. W. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, wants Utah schools to teach "intelligent design" alongside Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

The intelligent design theory, to put it simply, states that the universe and living things are of such complex design that they could not have been created by random forces. Something had to be driving the process.

Essentially, it's creationism, but with God remaining anonymous.

Intelligent design proponents claim they don't want to bring religion to the classroom. And Buttars at least deserves some credit for removing that fig leaf by calling the theory "divine design."

"The divine design is a counter to the kids' belief that we all come from monkeys. Because we don't," said Buttars, who retired from running the Utah Boys Ranch, a school for troubled youth. "It shocks me that our schools are teaching evolution as fact."

Buttars plans to introduce legislation in January requiring schools to mention divine design along with evolution. And he's already got the backing of the ultraconservative Utah Eagle Forum.

"What an insult to teach children that they have evolved from a lower life to what they are now, and then go home and learn that they are someone special, a child of God," Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka told a reporter.

This is not the first time Darwin has been at the center of controversy, and it won't be the last. Evolution was the subject of the infamous 1925 Monkey Trial, when Tennessee schoolteacher John Scopes was convicted of violating a state law that forbade the teaching of evolution.

After attempts to teach "creationism" in the classroom failed on grounds that it violated the doctrine of separation of church and state, intelligent design was introduced by anti-evolutionists as a way to keep kids from hearing about evolution, or at least to offer an alternate explanation for life, the universe and everything.

From the scientific perspective, evolution is not a law. It has not been irrefutably proved. It is a theory, but a theory backed by considerable evidence. Observation of nature suggests that natural selection does indeed happen, and that organisms can adapt to their environment (antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria are one illustration of the latter).

Intelligent or divine design, on the other hand, offers scant evidence. It is, at best, an educated guess. While anyone who's studied anatomy or astronomy may find that divine design could explain some observable phenomena -- like the fact that the Earth is at the ideal place in the solar system to support life -- there is nothing but faith to warrant teaching it in a science class.

Hence the controversy. Intelligent design, no matter how well dressed-up it is, remains religious doctrine. Religious questions are best left to the churches, according to most Americans, even religious ones.

Evangelicals and Southern Baptists, for the most part, take the Bible literally when it speaks of mankind's parents, Adam and Eve. Islam remains firmly creationist, while various Protestant churches have mixed approaches.

The Catholic church allows for the possibility that man's body developed from previous biological forms under God's guidance, but it insists on the special creation of the soul. Musician David MacDonald observed on his Catholic-oriented Web site, www.davidmacd.com: "We Catholics have been around the block a bit when it comes to dealing with scientists. We learned a powerful lesson from our experience with Galileo. We learned we must be very slow and careful when we are making an official statement on scripture and interpreting its application to science."

Galileo's book, "The Dialog on the Two World Systems," was banned by the church, and Galileo himself was kept under house arrest from 1633 to his death in 1642 for promoting the Copernican theory that the earth revolves around the sun.

The LDS Church has taken the stance that humans are literal descendants of the biblical Adam and Eve, who were created by God. But the church is neutral on evolution itself. In 1931, the First Presidency told church leaders: "Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, archaeology and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the church."

Intelligent design may be a subject best left to theologians. Evolution, on the other hand, belongs in the science classroom, where it can be presented with other scientific theories that are subject to human observation and measurement.

Anyway, it's not as though Utah school students are only hearing about evolution while they're in school. There's plenty of time in a day for parents, ecclesiastical leaders and teachers who take the Bible literally to debunk science. So Buttars's wish is already being granted without an additional act of the Legislature.

By hearing each theory proposed in the appropriate setting, students will be well-rounded and better equipped to sort out the issues for themselves.

What do you think?

Should intelligent design be taught in Utah schools? Send your comments to dhpolls@heraldextra.com or call 344-2942. Please leave your name, hometown and phone number with your comments. E-mail comments should not exceed 100 words; voice-mail comments should be no longer than 30 seconds. Anonymous and unverifiable responses will not be published.

The Daily Herald will publish comments on June 19.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A6.

Katie Holmes Joins Tom Cruise in Scientology


Tom Cruise inspired Katie Holmes to look into scientology; she finds it a wonderful thing.

Tom Cruise inspired Katie Holmes to look into scientology, religious movement founded by Ron Hubbard, a sci-fi writer who revealed that 75 million years ago aliens, called thetans, invaded Earth on spaceships.

Katie Holmes was asked if she is a scientologist and if she had looked into this controversial religious church herself.

"I have looked into it myself and I really like it and I think it's really wonderful," said Katie.

Has Katie Holmes tried any auditing? (In scientology "auditing" is a form of personal counseling assisted by an electric device to help locate areas of distress.)

"Yeah, yeah," said Katie. "And it's really… I feel like I'm bettering myself. So it's great."

Tom Cruise claims to have helped people fight drug and other addictions through scientology religion.

Nicole Kidman reportedly didn't share this belief with Tom Cruise.

Other famous Hollywood scientologists are John Travolta, Jason Lee, Kirstie Alley, Giovanni Ribisi, Juliette Lewis, and Lisa Marie Presley.

No wonder many consider scientology a "power religion of Hollywood."

"This kind of religious truth isn't provided for free - at least not by the church of Scientology," notes Rick Ross of Cultnews.Com. "The price to learn this truth in 1997 was reportedly almost $20,000."

Sources: agencies, rickross.com, scientology.org

Biblical account of creation to go on display at Tulsa Zoo


June 9, 2005

TULSA (AP) - The Tulsa Zoo will add a display featuring the biblical account of creation following complaints to a city board about other displays with religious significance, including a Hindu elephant statue.

The Tulsa Park and Recreation Board voted 3-1 Tuesday in favor of a display depicting the account in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

The vote came after more than two hours of public comment from a standing-room-only crowd.

Zoo employees, religious leaders and others spoke in opposition, saying religion shouldn't be part of the taxpayer-funded scientific institution.

But those who favored the creationist exhibit, including Mayor Bill LaFortune, argued that the zoo already displayed religious items, including the statue of the Hindu god, Ganesh, outside the elephant exhibit and a marble globe inscribed with an American Indian saying, "The earth is our mother. The sky is our father."

"I see this as a big victory," said Dan Hicks, the Tulsa resident who approached the Tulsa Zoo with the idea for the exhibit. "It's a matter of fairness. To not include the creationist view would be discrimination."

Hundreds of people had signed a petition supporting a biblically based creation exhibit.

The new display will include a disclaimer that says it represents one view of origins. City attorneys also advised it be placed alongside other cultures' views of creation.

Tulsa Zoo exhibit curator Kathleen Buck-Miser estimated it would take about six months to research and organize the creationist exhibit. She expressed qualms about the zoo delving into theological debate.

"I'm afraid we are going in the wrong direction," she said.

Zoo officials argued that the zoo, as a scientific institution, does not advocate religion and that displays like the elephant statue are meant to show the animal's image among cultures. The same exhibit includes the Republican Party's elephant symbol.

Board member Dale McNamara, who voted against the proposal, said the zoo is dedicated to animals and science, not religious beliefs.

"I do not like the idea of scripture at the zoo," she said.

Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, pastor of All Souls Unitarian Church, expressed concern about differing accounts among Christians of the Earth's origins.

"The fundamentalist perspective is being placed, putting one Christian view above others," Lavanhar said. "We feel this will be divisive."

In 1995, Hicks came to the park board with a similar complaint involving Earth's origin.

Then, the board agreed to post a disclaimer on signs around the zoo that reads, "There are many views on the origins of biological species and their behaviors. The information that accompanies our displays is based on evidence of the natural sciences. Because scientific knowledge is subject to change these displays may be revised as new information becomes available."

Friday, June 10, 2005

Disassembling the Dissemblers


Rick Wilson

Last week many Americans learned a new word: dissemble. The person who introduced the good word was our president, George W. Bush.

In a May 31 press conference where the president addressed Amnesty International's damning commentary on recent U.S. treatment of prisoners Mr. Bush said, "It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of--and the allegations--by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble--that means not tell the truth."

For good reason Mr. Bush has been lampooned by multiple media outlets, including print, electronic, radio and television.

Why? Because he got the meaning correct and the word wrong. He charged Amnesty International with an attempt to "disassemble" and goofed in his attempt to define the term as "not to tell the truth."

Apparently Mr. Bush's writers meant for him to say that Amnesty International had attempted to dissemble, which does mean to alter the truth.

In fact Mr. Bush confessed what he and his single-minded followers hope to do: disassemble the standards of judgment and discourse about important issues in our culture. Such disassembly is the most insidious kind of dissembling.

All Americans need to be diligent in the face of such efforts to turn the truth into less than the truth.

Also last week there was another example of dissembling and disassembling. The drama unfolded in Washington by way of Seattle.

In April the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based "think tank" committed to promoting Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolution, paid $16,000 to the Smithsonian Institution for a chance to screen a pseudo-documentary entitled "The Privileged Planet" at the respected Washington museum of natural history.

The facts are simple: (1) the Smithsonian regularly accepts requests from private groups to screen films from a variety of groups; (2) the Smithsonian only accepts films from groups that are neither politically partisan nor explicitly religious; (3) as a matter of policy the Smithsonian becomes a co-sponsor of all screenings and receptions.

After the screening of "The Privileged Planet" was accepted, the Discovery Institute dissembled–that means that they did not tell the truth–about the event.

On their Web site they overstated the relationship between their film and the Smithsonian Institute. With some bombastic suggestion the Discovery Institute left the impression that the Smithsonian approved the content of the film, which is distinctly anti-evolution.

Then followed an expected media campaign to push further the idea that the alleged intelligent design alternative to the theory of evolution had gained some respectability.

Once the dissembling–that means being less than truthful–became public, the Smithsonian Institution had the fortitude to reconsider their decision. The Smithsonian did two courageous things. First they refused to co-sponsor the event and returned the $16,000. Then they allowed the screening of the film to proceed.

Hooray for the Smithsonian Institute for disassembling the dissembling of the Discovery Institute.

This episode may help disclose the character of the Discovery Institute. Founded in 1991 by Bruce Chapman, who cut his political teeth in the Regan administration, the goals of the institute are summarized in their "wedge strategy" that includes the bald intent to "overthrow … materialism [i.e., the traditions of natural and social science] and its cultural legacies."

The "wedge strategy" also intends "to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview (sic), and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

A major component of the "wedge strategy" also includes fostering, if not controlling, public opinion. In the wake of the flap with the Smithsonian Institute there is strong evidence that for folks at the Discovery Institute shaping public opinion requires dissembling–not telling the truth about significant issues.

All Americans need to be diligent in the face of such efforts to turn the truth into less than the truth. Christians have an even greater reason to be diligent in the face of efforts to turn the truth into less than the truth.

Dissembling--not telling the truth--in matters of faith can only tarnish the truth of the Gospel we proclaim and claim to live by.

When dissemblers appear there is only one strategy to follow: disassemble their half-truths by demanding the whole truth. When the whole truth is known half truths crumble.

Richard Wilson is Columbus Roberts Professor of Theology and chair of the Roberts Department of Christianity at Mercer University in Macon, Ga

Legislating absolutes


Article Last Updated: 06/10/2005 12:11:05 AM

When will Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, get it? In my short 26 years I've learned I'll never know all the answers. Yet Sen. Buttars is again trying to legislate on phony absolutes.

He suggests legislation in 2006 that would teach creationism in our public schools. Although the merits of that idea (such as, which of the world's thousands of versions of creationism are we going to teach, if any?) deserve debate, his arguments in favor of the bill show his total lack of contact with reality.

In reference to his upcoming legislation, Sen. Buttars says, "The only people who will be upset about this are atheists." Well, as a God-loving, Christian man, I take offense at that. Either he doesn't believe I have the right to disagree with him or he's labeling me an atheist because I have a different political view from his. Either estimation on his behalf is wrong.

I went through Utah's public schools - as I imagine many who read this paper did also. According to census data, most grew up to believe in God, even without school instruction. I learned my Christianity in my home, church and in society in general. I learned it in school, too, not because it was taught but because those around me practiced it.

However, I am glad we're not formally teaching creationism (which I believe in) in our schools, and I hope it remains that way.

Adam G. Bass
Salt Lake City

Group Creates Pro-Evolution Site


By Amit Asaravala

02:00 AM Jun. 10, 2005 PT

Seeking to quell a growing movement to teach creationism in U.S. schools, the National Academies has unveiled a new section of its website dedicated to teachers' resources on evolution.

"The theory of evolution is one of science's most robust theories, and the National Academies has long supported the position that evolution be taught as a central element in any science education program," said a statement released by the organization Thursday.

The site was designed "to confront advocates of intelligent design, which is not a science," according to National Academies spokesman Bill Kearney.

The site features academic papers supporting evolutionary theory and supplements for educators detailing how to teach evolution in the classroom.

Between 2001 and 2003, religious activists convinced school boards and legislators in more than 40 states to consider downplaying evolution in favor of a theory known as intelligent design, according to the National Center for Science Education, a pro-evolution watchdog.

Intelligent design is an updated form of creationism that claims life was created by an "intelligent designer."

The National Academies and other scientific organizations have long said that intelligent design should not be taught in schools because it counters many scientific observations about biology and the origins of life.

The National Academies is a collection of private, nonprofit organizations that provide science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter.

Creationism Teacher Is Told to Stop


June 10, 2005

The Associated Press
The Boston Globe

For 15 years, in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, Larry Booher taught creationism in his high school biology class. He even compiled a textbook of sorts and passed out copies in three-ring binders.

The school superintendent didn't know what was going on. Neither did the school board president. Then, they got an anonymous tip.

Booher has agreed to revise his lesson plan, though he maintained that he handed out the book, titled "Creation Battles Evolution," to his Biology 2 students only as a voluntary, extra-credit option.

Smithsonian Gives Grudging OK to Film Backing ID Argument


Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

A film about the origins of the universe that makes a subtle argument for intelligent design (ID) has left the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History with egg on its face. Museum officials say they are reluctantly hosting the upcoming event, even though it violates the museum's scientific and educational missions, because of an ironclad contract with the Discovery Institute, which is sponsoring the private screening. But after heavy criticism from its scientists and outsiders, the museum promises it won't happen again.

The controversy was triggered by a 26 May story in The New York Times that the Washington, D.C., museum would be co-hosting a film titled The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe. The film is based on a book by Guillermo Gonzalez, an astronomer at Iowa State University in Ames, and Jay Richards, a philosopher at the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based nonprofit organization that has been a leader of the ID movement. It presents findings to conclude that the suitability of Earth as a habitat for scientific observation is evidence that the universe was designed for human beings to discover its principles.

In early April, the museum agreed to conduct a private screening of the film in return for $16,000 and co-sponsorship, a requirement for all special events it hosts. But soon after the news broke, museum director Cristián Samper announced that "the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research." Samper said the museum would "honor the commitment made to provide space for the event, but will not participate or accept a donation for it."

The episode has triggered a reexamination of the museum's policies for screening such requests, which preclude events with a religious, political, or commercial message. An initial review by paleontologist Hans Dieter-Sues, associate director for research and collections, came back clean, says museum spokesperson Randall Kremer. But the museum did a second review, Kremer says, "after we realized that people were interpreting our hosting of the event as an endorsement of the Discovery Institute's views."

That review also found that the film fell within the museum's guidelines for such events, says anthropologist Richard Potts. "But it was very clear that the film was trying to situate science within the wider realm of belief," says Potts, who chairs the museum's human origins program. "The idea that human beings have been placed on Earth to discover the principles of the universe is not a position that stems from science; it is a metaphysical and religiously based conclusion."

Having signed a contract, museum officials felt that the event couldn't be canceled. But Potts says the museum may broaden the definition of religious content in its special events guidelines and assign the reviewing to a panel instead of a single person.

Some museum scientists wanted the event canceled. "There's a real concern among many scientists here that the Discovery Institute will use the screening and this association with the Smithsonian to try to gain validity," says paleontologist Scott Wing. But Jack Krebs, vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science, whose members e-mailed protest letters to the museum, says a complete reversal "could have given the Discovery Institute yet another martyrdom story." Summary of this Article

Volume 308, Number 5728, Issue of 10 Jun 2005, p. 1526.

Copyright © 2005 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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