NTS LogoSkeptical News for 23 June 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Mixing science with creationism

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/05/24/creationism_museum/print.html

A new museum presents evolution from a biblical perspective, showing Adam and Eve living in harmony with dinosaurs.

By Paul Harris

May 24, 2005 | EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. -- The razor-toothed Tyrannosaurus rex, jaws agape, loomed ominously over the gentle Thescelosaurus, looking for plants to eat. Admiring the museum diorama were old and young visitors, listening on headphones to a stentorian voice describing the primeval scene. But the Museum of Earth History is a museum with a controversial difference. To one side, peering through the bushes, are Adam and Eve. The display is not an image of the Cretaceous. It is Paradise. "They lived together without fear, for there was no death yet," the voice intoned about man and dinosaur.

Nestled deep in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, in the heart of America's Bible Belt, this is the first dinosaur museum to take a creationist perspective. Already thousands of people have flocked to its top-quality exhibits, which mix high science with fundamentalist theology that few serious scientists accept.

The museum is riding a wave of creationist influence in America. Creationism, which holds that the Earth is just a few thousand years old and that the biblical account of Genesis is fact, is central to a rash of furious arguments across America. From school boards in Kansas to elections in Pennsylvania, the "debate" between creationism and evolution has become a political hot potato.

Even as America's scientists make advances in paleontology, astronomy and physics that appear to disprove creationism, Gallup surveys have shown that about 45 percent of Americans believe the Earth was created by God within the past 10,000 years. It's not just creationism, either. Last week, NBC's "Dateline" program investigated some miracles and concluded some could be real. It is hard to imagine Jeremy Paxman on BBC's "Newsnight" taking this stance.

That wellspring of popular belief, and the political clout that comes with it, are the inspiration behind the museum. It is not interested in debating with mainstream science. It simply wants to represent the view of a significant slice of America. "We want people to see that finally they have something that addresses their beliefs, to show that we do have a voice," said Thomas Sharp, business director of Creation Truth, the religious group that co-founded the museum.

No expense was spared. The fossil casts, which range from a Triceratops skull to an 18-foot-long Albertosaurus (a relative to T. rex), could easily grace London's Natural History Museum. Plans for a much bigger museum in Dallas are being considered. And "we would love to open in the United Kingdom if the right partner showed up," Sharp said.

The museum forms part of a Bible-based theme park in Eureka Springs. The parking lot is full of cars and coaches from all over the country. To enter the museum is to explore a surrealistic parallel world. Biblical quotes appear on displays. The first has dinosaurs, alongside Adam and Eve, living in harmony. The ferociously fanged T. rex is likely to be a vegetarian. Then comes the "Fall of Man" and an ugly world where dinosaurs prey on one another and the first extinctions occur. The destruction of the dinosaurs is explained, not by a comet striking the Earth 65 million years ago, but by the Flood. This, the museum says, wiped out most of the dinosaurs still alive and created the Grand Canyon and huge layers of sedimentary rock seen around the world.

Some dinosaurs survived on Noah's Ark. One poster explains that Noah would have chosen juvenile dinosaurs to save space. An illustration shows two green sauropods in the ark alongside more conventional elephants and lions. The final exhibit depicts the Ice Age, where the last dinosaurs existed with woolly mammoths until the cold and hunting by cavemen caused them to die out.

Scientists dismiss such claims as on a par with believing in Atlantis. Yet the museum is unlikely to be seen as a major threat to mainstream science. It was put in the heart of an area where Christian attractions are a mainstay of the local economy.

It was built in cooperation with the "New Holy Land" theme park, which re-creates the biblical Middle East in the Ozarks. A huge statue of Christ, the largest in North America, looms over Eureka Springs. The site is the setting for "The Great Passion Play," where each night, in a 4,500-strong arena, the last days of Christ are acted out. The play has attracted more than 7.2 million people.

But creationism is seeking to become more influential in other parts of the country. In Kansas the state school board recently held public hearings on the validity of evolution and the teaching of "intelligent design" in classrooms. The hearings were boycotted by scientists who believed they were rigged against evolutionists. The theory of intelligent design holds that the world is so complex it must have been created, and has been dubbed "creationism lite" by its critics. Kansas is now expected to recommend that schools include intelligent-design-friendly material in its science courses this summer.

In Pennsylvania, the issue dominated an election in the town of Dover after the school board decided to include mention of intelligent design in its science classes. A vote last week between anti-evolution and pro-evolution candidates ended in an electoral tie.

Creationism has found one high-level voice. President George W. Bush famously proclaimed: "The jury is still out on evolution." And a CBS survey late last year showed that 45 percent of Bush voters wanted creationism taught in schools instead of evolution, compared with 24 percent of voters for John Kerry. "Under the Bush presidency, we are clearly able to get a lot more done," Sharp said.

The Museum of Earth History may be the first dinosaur museum of its kind. It is not likely to be the last.

Review of science education could spur evolution debate

http://www.billingsgazette.com/index.php?id=1&display=rednews/2005/06/22/build/state/25-evolution.inc

By JOHN FITZGERALD
Of The Gazette Staff

While the debate rages in Kansas over how to teach evolution in public schools, the topic could come up this summer here.

Kansas officials are debating evolution versus "intelligent design," an increasingly popular theory that claims some elements of the natural world are too complex to be the result of randomness.

In some states, intelligent design has been proffered as a compromise between evolution, which suggests everything in the living world evolved naturally over millions of years, and creationism, which suggests all living things were created by God in a literal understanding of the Bible.

And although some school districts in the country, and even Montana, have adopted elements of creationism and intelligent design into their science curriculums, in Billings it has been a tough sell.

"We're talking about science classes, and this isn't science," Shaun Harrington, curriculum director for grades 9-12 in Billings, said of creationism.

Last spring in Darby, a town of about 1,000 in southwest Montana, the school board adopted a plan to include creationism in its science classes. Although the move sets the district at odds with the state's accreditation standards, school districts legally can create their own curriculum.

The decision was reversed before it could be implemented, however, when one of the board's pro-creationism members was voted out during the next regular board election.

The issue came up earlier this year when the Legislature was asked to weigh in.

Sen. Ken Toole, D-Helena, sponsored a bill urging the state to reaffirm the separation of church and state, and asking the state to teach only valid scientific principles. Meanwhile, Rep. Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman, wrote legislation that would allow schools to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.

While both bills died without a vote, the issue is far from settled.

State review

Intelligent design could become an issue again this summer as Montana undergoes its regular examination of the state science standards.

"We review all the different chapters of the accreditation standards every five years," said Steve Meloy, the executive secretary of the Board of Public Education. In addition to a regularly scheduled review, educators have their eye on the federal No Child Left Behind requirements for a standardized science test by 2008.

The Board of Public Education reviews the standards, but board members rely on the Office of Public Instruction for the information they need.

"Each subject, whether it's reading, math, science or whatever, we bring together a broad cross section of educators to review the standards," said OPI spokesman Joe Lamson.

He said the OPI will start the review process this summer, with a finished plan going to the Board of Public Education by 2006. The board will then conduct hearings on the science standards throughout the state, then make a decision on whether to approve the standards, probably by this time next year.

The Board of Public Education is made up of seven people appointed for seven-year terms by the governor. They meet eight times a year, and although Meloy wouldn't speak specifically about hearing from those who promote intelligent design, he did say the board works hard to be open to every Montanan.

"Anybody can bring anything at any time," he said.

Dueling bills

Toole, the Helena Democrat, filed his resolution during the last Legislature as a direct result of the Darby creationism incident.

He said someone in the Bitterroot Valley asked him if he could get a law passed against teaching creationism.

"I said no, but we can write a resolution," Toole recalled.

The resolution, which "supports the separation of church and state and promotes a quality science education," was forwarded to the Education and Cultural Resources Committee, where it died for lack of support.

"The committee held a hearing on it but didn't vote," Toole said, adding that the committee had the entire school funding issue on its plate during the session.

Meanwhile, Rep. Koopman, the Bozeman Republican, wrote but didn't introduce a bill that would allow for "teaching competing theories of origin."

"The purpose behind the bill was to preserve local control," Koopman said. "There was a bit of a hubbub in Darby, and the impression people were being left with is that the state frowns upon introducing any competing views of origin into science classroom."

Koopman's bill said the state couldn't prevent the teaching of competing theories.

"It didn't require anything or mandate anything, just that local schools have the option to design science curriculum as local people want," he said.

Koopman said there were two reasons he didn't introduce his bill.

"We felt we should just marshal our forces to stop Toole's bill, and we should wait until there's a stronger Republican presence in the Legislature," Koopman said. "It's sad but true that votes on the issue fall on party lines - most Democrats tend to be opposed to competing theories of origin. This was a good bill, but now is not the best time to bring it forward when there's not a lot of chance of it passing."

Billings viewpoints

Meanwhile in Billings, science educators don't see intelligent design as an alternative.

"Creationism is based on supernatural, religious, mystic beliefs," said curriculum director Harrington. "There is no scientific basis; it can't be proven or disproved with empirical data."

West High's science department head John Miller agreed that creationism and intelligent design are not science.

"There are reasons why it's not science. I'm not knocking anyone's beliefs, but it's not testable by the rigors of science."

He said the public needs to be wary of those promoting intelligent design.

"There are people saying they are in favor of this intelligent design theory and they say they have a Ph.D. or a doctorate, but what are they doctors in? I doubt very much it's in evolutionary science or biology or in any field related to evolution."

Harrington said evolution isn't a specific course in Billings, but is taught throughout the science curriculum beginning with a genetics unit in life science in seventh grade.

"In almost every science class, we teach that with all species there's change over time and that changes in the species are for survival," he said. "We don't get into the Big Bang or creationism."

He added that when a student brings up creationism, "we value the student's opinion and belief system. We don't discredit any of those things. Teachers tell them it's certainly one theory, and it's not covered in the course because it's not science-based."

Trish Loken, a seventh-grade science teacher at Castle Rock Middle School, said creationism rarely comes up. "Maybe once a year, a student asks a question," she said. "I just say we have to teach the scientific theory behind this. If somebody is really going to be confrontational about it, I say that religious points of view are not what we teach."

Parents bring it up rarely, she said, "maybe three or four times in the 20 years I've been teaching. Nobody has complained, as far as I know, or taken it to the principal or the school board."

Student opinions

Alex Palm and Jason O'Neil are both entering their senior year at Skyview High. They attend Harvest Church and both believe in creationism.

"I believe that the Bible is 100 percent correct and things are how it's described there," said Palm, 18.

Both said evolution was the predominant theory throughout their education.

"We asked about creationism and the teachers would discuss it but would find a way to direct the conversation back to evolution," O'Neil said.

Palm said he never felt ostracized by teachers because of his beliefs, but O'Neil, 17, said the tack taken by the teachers made him feel bad.

"It made me feel like our beliefs weren't important and not worth talking about. I felt like what I was talking about was wrong. ... They weren't disrespectful, they just wanted to focus on evolution. They said there's a time and a place for that discussion (on creationism)."

Catholic high school's stand

"I am a science teacher and we teach science. Intelligent design or whatever you call it is isn't science," said Deb Wines, a science teacher at Central Catholic High.

She added that the benefit of a Catholic education is that when a student has questions about the mixture of science and religion, they can go to a religion teacher to get the big picture.

"I encourage people to know the stories, know the theories, know the facts and study the religion to get the full, integrated picture," Wines said.

If a student is sent to a religion teacher, he might end up talking to Mike Martinson.

"The Bible is primarily a faith book, not a science or history book," Martinson said. "The mistake people make is when they look at Genesis is to look at it as a science book. ... Genesis isn't a science lesson, it's a faith lesson."

Martinson said believing in evolution is fine. There are three things along these lines that a Catholic must believe: God created all things, God creates the soul, and everyone came from two first parents, not multiple parents.

"Science is constantly discovering new things," he said. "You don't know what the latest finds will be."

Meanwhile, Wines is reticent on the issue.

"It's a touchy subject. People get all emotional without understanding the science, so everyone just cranks off and turns off their minds to it. It becomes like a debate between the far left and the far right."

Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.

Mother, daughter protest textbook

http://www.dailylocal.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=14734774&BRD=1671&PAG=461&dept_id=17782&rfi=6

06/22/2005
MICHA FRAZIER , Staff Writer

EAST WHITELAND -- The Great Valley School District found itself smack in the middle of the evolution/creationism debate Monday after a parent requested that a textbook stop being used because it teaches evolution.

A unanimous vote to retain the textbook upholds a recommendation from a committee made up of district educators, administrators, parents and students.

According to a statement read by board President Katherine Pettiss, the committee found the material in question, a ninth-grade biology text, "appropriate in meeting standards as described by the curriculum as well as in the state standards. So the committee recommends that we retain the textbook."

A 12-year veteran of the school board, Pettiss said this was the first time a disagreement over the teaching of evolution had been brought to the board's attention and only the second time the board had to vote on a complaint about published material in school.

But it mirrors the controversy in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, over whether evolution should be taught alongside other, more religious-based discussions of the origins of life on Earth.

On Monday in Harrisburg, the state House Subcommittee on Basic Education heard testimony on a bill that would allow local school boards to mandate that science lessons include intelligent design, a concept that holds the universe must have been created by an unspecified guiding force because it is so complex.

The legislation is sponsored by only a dozen lawmakers, and its prospects of passing the General Assembly are unclear as lawmakers try to meet a June 30 state budget deadline.

But a federal judge will consider the issue this fall, when a lawsuit against the Dover Area School District is scheduled to go to trial. The suit alleges the school board violated the constitutional separation of church and state when it voted in October to require ninth-grade students to hear about intelligent design during evolution lessons in biology class.

In Great Valley, the issue arose when a parent -- whom school officials declined to identify -- asked that her daughter be allowed to opt out of a portion of the ninth-grade biology class at Great Valley High School.

Superintendent Rita Jones said the parent and her daughter's concern initially was simply being exempted from the evolution discussion. But in the process, they filed a complaint with the school about the textbook.

Pettiss said the mother and her daughter filed a form letter, as per board policy, describing their qualms with the textbook.

"In this case the parent just objected to the mention of evolution because it is contrary to their religious beliefs ..so they wanted the textbook removed because it talked about evolution," Pettiss said in an interview Tuesday, following the vote.

Pettiss added that the form letter -- or request for reconsideration of textbooks and instructional materials -- was highly detailed, citing specific pages, chapters and units in the book. She refused to release the letter, saying it was not a public document.

However, in describing its contents, Pettiss said the letter stated that the parent and her daughter "believe solely in creationism (as) the formation of the Earth" and that the textbook material "opposes what we believe."

"This material is undermining our Christian foundation and belief system ..this material is untrue," Pettiss quoted the letter as saying. "Parts are fine or OK if not taught from the standpoint that they support Darwin's theory. I can't think of anything to recommend unless the school were to teach creationism."

Pettiss said that in their letter, the parent and her daughter did not make a recommendation for instruction in place of evolution, although they did mention creationism as their belief.

The letter was then reviewed by an ad hoc committee made up of high school Principal John Fidler, the school librarian, two teachers, an administrator, two parents and two students. The committee then made its recommendation to the school board.

Jones said although the school honors religious beliefs -- "and we absolutely honor religious beliefs" -- of their students and families, evolution is the accepted standard Pennsylvania's curriculum guidelines for science education.

Jones said there were two possible ways the issue could have been raised. She said the form letter in addition to opting out of evolution instruction was one way. Jones said they could have simply opted out of instruction or filed the form letter.

Fidler said he has been the Great Valley High School principal for eight years and this is the first time evolution had been debated in his school.

The continuing issue of evolution isn't worrying the district. Jones said there is "no concern" that the evolution debate will gain momentum within the district.

"It isn't someone raising a commotion, it's just one parent," that wanted her child exempt from evolution teachings, Jones said.

Pettiss said she was involved in discussions with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association about intelligent design.

"This topic comes up every once in a while," Pettiss said of the PSBA meetings. "All the discussions we've had is that evolution is science-based and intelligent design is religious-based and therefore the Supreme Court has told us not to do that. So that's where we're coming from," she said.

"My personal thought is there are a lot of different creation stories and that opens up a whole realm of possibilities. And it is perfectly acceptable to talk about those things in comparative literature or religion, but I don't know if they fall into the realm of science at this time," she said.

Frenkel: 'Intelligent design' a fancy term for creationism

http://www2.townonline.com/winchester/opinion/view.bg?articleid=271948

By David Frenkel/ Guest columnist
Thursday, June 23, 2005

The purveyors of so-called "Intelligent Design" are serving up just one more flavor of creationism. It is "Divine Design" cloaked in pseudo-science. Hucksterism is alive and well.

Intelligent design is the idea that the world is too complex and sophisticated to have been an accident of fate, and therefore must have been designed by some higher power.

Did this notion come built upon a platform of tangible evidence and scientific research? No. It originated with Phillip Johnson, a Berkeley law professor who became a born-again Christian after a bitter divorce in the 1980s and had an epiphany about creation. Johnson's intelligent design assertion (presented as a "theory") has a home and a movement based at the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in Seattle, Wash. The founders developed a plan known as the "wedge strategy" to drive a wedge into the theory of evolution and destroy it, replacing it with intelligent design. The movement is a public relations campaign based on fundamentalist Christian dogma. To support its assertion, the center offers no data, no papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and the scientists involved have no credentials relevant to a rigorous testing of the theory of evolution.

If one is going to come up with an alternative hypothesis to evolution, why stop at only two theories, evolution vs. divine design? Why not unintelligent design, or perhaps chaotic, committee, perverse, malevolent, or sadistic design? All could be supported with some evidence, provided one is prepared to ignore contradictory evidence.

Selective presentation of evidence and spin-meistering seem to pervade today's America at the political and religious level. What seems to be losing out here is rational evidence-based science and we shall all rue the day this started to spin out of control.

Were Charles Darwin to be alive today, as a scientist he would welcome new evidence that repudiated his theory or helped it to evolve (no pun intended). He would be thrilled to know more about the genome and molecular biology. He did the best he could with what could be observed then. Today our knowledge is vastly expanded. His theory, though modified by new discoveries, still stands up.

The proponents of "Intelligent Design" point to the beauty and symmetry in the universe as proof of a divine designer, while selectively ignoring the flaws of cancer and toxins and mutations, not to mention the vast societal flaws of bigotry, violence, and genocide.

One is tempted to believe all this talk of a higher intelligent power is an avoidance of personal responsibility to take action and make a difference when things do not measure up to our moral values. Sharing a moral code of behavior embodied in law and is uniformly taught and enforced seems to be more important to peaceful, prosperous and moral coexistence. More so than the historically divisive array of brands of religions that provide another factor to encourage xenophobia.

The pocketbook issue this raises is the decline of American competitiveness that will surely follow a decline in our ability to attract and retain top scientists because they feel religion and faith have no place in the laboratory or classroom. I wonder how much damage people will tolerate to their material standard of living before they recognize the elegant sanity that the founding father's brought to the United States with their unique constitution.

So far America is holding its own versus Europe because stem cell research there has also been hampered. But schools in Europe are not being attacked for teaching evolution and biology teachers are not being intimidated for daring to teach it. That is where we run the danger of frightening away people who believe in scientific method. Intelligent design advocates are merely a second wave of creationists cloaked in the guise of science intended to muddy the waters of analysis.

David Frenkel lives on Spruce Street.

Clymer: Teach intelligent design

http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/113-06222005-505747.html

By ALISON HAWKES
The Intelligencer

HARRISBURG - Bucks County Rep. Paul Clymer demoted evolution from a theory to a hypothesis as he was arguing in favor of letting schools teach an alternative and some say religiously based explanation of the origin of the species.

"Can you tell me one thing true about evolution?" Clymer, R-145, asked the pro-evolution panelists at a contentious education subcommittee hearing earlier this week on whether to allow public schools to teach intelligent design.

The hearing opened the door to debate about science itself, from the Big Bang theory, to the development of flagellum in cells and organisms' electrical systems - weighty topics for lawmakers to digest into public policy.

Intelligent design posits that the development of species and complex life functions, such as the cell, could have occurred only with guidance from a designer. It leaves God out of the debate, but many critics who argue against bringing religion into science classrooms question who else a "designer" could be.

Critics see intelligent design as junk science and an attempt by Christian conservatives to undermine evolution.

Supporters say Darwinian evolution itself lacks conclusive proof for insisting that random mutations lead to natural selection and would benefit by being pitted against an alternate explanation.

Clymer was one of only a dozen lawmakers who signed onto a bill that seeks to give legal bearing to the teaching of intelligent design. The bill comes as the Dover Area School District near Lancaster battles a First Amendment lawsuit brought by parents objecting to the teaching of intelligent design in ninth-grade biology classes.

A Baptist, Clymer said he tries to "stay strictly on the merits" on issues such as intelligent design, which he sees as a scientifically valid alternative to evolution. Clymer counts himself as a creationist, the biblically based belief that God created the universe, but said he realizes that allowing that account in public schools would be unconstitutional.

"That's out of the question," Clymer said. "But the next thing is something I believe should be discussed. It's the hypothesis of intelligent design."

Clymer agreed that a "designer" can only mean God, and teaching intelligent design could lead into a religious discussion in classrooms.

"You're right, that's a possibility," he said. "On the other hand ... do we continue to teach evolution and random selection, but there's no proof and nothing seems to work out? Why not let the debate begin and let students make that determination in their own minds?"

Though several fellow subcommittee members seemed to feel the same way, no one even asked that the bill be voted to the full Education Committee.

But Clymer said the point of a debate in Harrisburg is to simply get the ideas out there.

"Let the public read about it and think about it and that's how you address these issues," Clymer said.

Alison Hawkes can be reached at (717) 705-6330 or ahawkes@calkins-media.com

Letters on the Smithsonian Institution and Intelligent Design

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/jun2005/corr-j23.shtml

23 June 2005

Following are letters received by the WSWS on the article "An attack on science: Smithsonian Institution to show film on Intelligent Design"

This is in appreciation of your exposure of the shenanigans at the Smithsonian and the political spinelessness (at the very least) of the National Museum.

I also wanted to add that Intelligent Design cannot be understood as the antithesis of evolutionary science, for that supposes ID to be a legitimate scientific position. Instead, it is the opposite of Haphazard Design, the position that things are just thrown together, possibly by a creator. In this context, one can better understand the social vector in ID, and how it comes to be anchored in class interests (identifying, as you point out, Marx as one its antagonists). For it is the position that things are as they are intended to be, by some benevolent will, and that we had best not inquire too closely into matters, since, without a doubt, we will only find evidence at every turn that things as they are have been designed ... intelligently.

DK
21 June 2005

It is sickening to learn that the Smithsonian Institution is showing a film on "Intelligent Design." This sort of creeping theology has also found a place at the Grand Canyon, where pamphlets are available at a gift shop that provide a religious "explanation" for the creation of the Canyon for the benefit of religious visitors to the park who complained about the biological explanation. It was explained that the park received complaints of one-sidedness from religiously conservative visitors and therefore had to "balance" the content of its pamphlets to accommodate the beliefs of the backward and anti-science crowd. This is the thin end of the wedge.

I think it is past time for a volley of complaints to come from the other side, i.e., from the side of atheists and other rationalists, at the promotion of the idea of "intelligent design," an idea that is in no way intelligent, and for government-supported institutions to remember that the money they get from the government came from the citizens of the United States, among whom are a great many who don't subscribe to Christian (or any other) mythology.

CZ
San Francisco, California
20 June 2005

I am definitely not a believer in intelligent design, but I take issue with the quote: "The Seattle-based Discovery Institute is the country's most prominent advocacy group for the 'theory' of Intelligent Design, a quasi-religious teaching that seeks to undermine the science of evolution." Science is based in the fundamental belief that a reaction or behavior or physical principle is observable, explainable, measurable and most of all, able to be reproduced. Evolution does not meet a single one of these requirements and so it is, and will always be, merely a theory entrenched in the same kind of dogma that surrounds religious fundamentalism. Show me a biology professor at a major university who questions Darwinism and I will show you a person on his or her way to the unemployment office.

PK
20 June 2005

Voltaire once said that if you can get people to believe in absurdities, you can get them to commit atrocities—and the fundamentalists most certainly have atrocities on their minds, especially against other religions, and to aid in the coming of the end of the world. I am hoping, with the world being saturated with science from stem cell research to the TVs people watch, that this twelfth century mentality will hang itself with its own rope. The US is presently leading the way with its absurd administration; I am not suggesting that these people be ignored, rather that it is time for rational people to take a stand on all fronts against this terrible theocracy from the workers to professors. Ultimately what the world is facing is fascism; we all know that Hitler said his government needed "believers," and he was himself a crazy religious nut dabbling in the occult. Do we need this again? No. Are we getting it again? Yes. If workers do not gather to form a strong front against this the fundamentalists will be correct about one thing—the coming end of the world.

SN
British Columbia, Canada
20 June 2005

Nice piece. I have some observations though. Your response to Smithsonian's "intelligent design" presentation was not made in a spirit flowing from the pure belief of science. I shall explain this: The Smithsonian does not present a thesis to contradict. It washes somebody else's hypothetical linen and in doing so claims part of the dirt that belongs there. It seems that's what you are taking issue with. Fair as far as that goes. But not enough to hang Smithsonian.

So rather invite Smithsonian to present its views in the way it would like to prove its thesis. And then we take it from there. That would be quite interesting. Science is its own argument, its own judgment. Does it need defenders? Maybe it does at times like these.

I think Smithsonian fundamentally suicides itself by resorting to an anti-intellectual proposition that belittles science and reason. It should know that of course. But it doesn't seem to care two hoots about the scientific method. Really unbelievable. I think this is what needs to be addressed. The debate needs a new method. The old one is done with. Clarence Darrow took care of it quite well.

Don't get me wrong. I am in complete agreement with your views. I just think we need to open another style to challenge the neoconservative fundamentalists no different from Al Qaeda, it would seem.

LS
Shipai, Taiwan
20 June 2005

Creationism evolves wrong way

http://www.dailyemerald.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2005/06/23/42ba910a78930

Guest Commentary

June 23, 2005

Christian fundamentalists have often been accused of wanting to radically alter the laws and institutions of the United States. Actually, it is usually the other way around; most of the time those fundamentalists only try to prevent America's laws and institutions from being radically altered. For instance, fundamentalists may insist on the preservation of Christmas symbols and celebrations.

However, there is one area in which many Christian fundamentalists do indeed want to impose radical change: the teaching of Biblical creationism vs. evolution in public schools.

After losing favor since 1925 because of Tennessee v. John Scopes, the creationist movement is beginning to once again make serious inroads. For example, IMAX theaters in several southern cities are refusing to show "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" for fear of offending patrons, because the film makes a reference to evolution. In Dover, Pa., school administrators earlier this year ordered biology teachers to declare in class that "Darwin's theory... is a theory, not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence." In an Atlanta suburb in 2002, stickers were placed on textbooks stating that "evolution is a theory, not a fact." In January, a judge ruled the stickers unconstitutional.

In 1999, the Kansas state board of education voted to remove most references to evolution from state education standards, a decision that was reversed two years later.

According to a CBS poll conducted last fall, two-thirds of Americans favor teaching creationism in public schools together with evolution and 37 percent want to completely replace the teaching of evolution with creationism.

Saying that evolution is a theory is like saying that the earth revolving around the sun is a theory. Or that plate tectonics (continental drift) is a theory. Or that the idea of atoms making up our world is a theory. Just because such scientific elements are not apparent to the human eye doesn't mean they aren't factual.

Evolution is a fact. It simply happens that because it involves time periods spanning hundreds or thousands of generations, evolutionary change is often much too slow for humans to perceive.

In some cases, however, natural selection does occur quickly enough for us to perceive. Through mutations, new strains of antidote-resistant viruses are always emerging. The same holds true for pesticide-resistant insects. There is also the famous example of the peppered moth near Manchester, England. Starting out with light-colored wings, they were camouflaged as they rested on tree trunks of the same color. But, as industrial pollution made the trees dark, birds picked off the lighter-colored moths. Mutant moths born with black wings survived, reproduced, and multiplied.

Through observing a petri dish of bacteria, evolution can be witnessed in a matter of hours. Adding a certain antibiotic kills the majority of the bacteria, but some of the bacteria are immune and go on to mass-reproduce.

To take a human example, it is revealing that Nepalese Sherpas are generally much better at climbing Mt. Everest than anyone else. It is not just because of skill, but because their bodies seem to have adapted genetically to the extreme environment, according to scientists. How did this adaptation take place? Not because God decided one day to give all Sherpas a better oxygen-processing capability than other populations, but because of natural selection: The people whose bodies could not process oxygen in a high-altitude environment failed to survive, and failed to reproduce.

Suppressing the teaching of evolution or presenting it as a controversial "theory" would be a huge step backward in education.

Meanwhile, proponents of a concept called intelligent design argue that it is difficult to imagine how certain complex phenomena could have been constructed gradually through evolution, and conclude that an intelligent being must have played a part.

If science cannot explain how certain biological components were constructed (a big if in itself), then that point could be made in class. It would be up to students to draw their own conclusions as to how such unexplainable things came about, just as it is up to them to draw their own conclusions as to what causes gravity. (Could it be God?)

I think we can all agree that questioning the study of evolution, and instead teaching that the world as we know it was created some 6,000 years ago, in six days, would certainly be foolhardy.

Patrick D. Chisholm is principal of Accentance, LLC, a writing and editing firm in Chantilly, Virginia.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Darwinists, Skeptics Pressure Smithsonian to Yank Intelligent Design Film Sponsorship

http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/6/212005a.asp

By Jim Brown
June 21, 2005

(AgapePress) - The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, has reneged on its commitment to co-sponsor the June 23 national premiere of a film produced by a prominent "intelligent design" think tank.

The Smithsonian initially agreed to sponsor the presentation of "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe," a 60-minute science documentary that presents the view that the universe is designed for scientific discovery. However, after facing intense pressure from Darwinists and skeptics across the United States who oppose the film, the museum partially buckled by dropping its co-sponsorship while allowing the event to go forward on Thursday.

Discovery Institute vice president Jay Richards, who wrote the book on which "The Privileged Planet" is based, feels the Smithsonian's snub of the film demonstrates a disturbing pattern. "We wish that the argument about intelligent design would be an intellectual argument that would be talking about the evidence," he says, "and not about motivations or theological implications."

But Richards contends that is not the case. "Unfortunately, this is one of a number of examples of opponents of intelligent design theory preferring to simply try to get discussion squelched," he says. "They don't want to see a public debate about the evidence for design take place."

The Smithsonian claims the content of "The Privileged Planet" film is not consistent with the mission of the museum's scientific research. Richards believes the museum will likely come to regret its move to drop sponsorship of the film in the future.

"The reality is that attempts at censorship and suppressing ideas that people are interested in -- it never works in the long run," the Discovery Institute spokesman notes. "It may work in the short run, but whenever someone tries to silence a public debate about intelligent design in one place, it seems to spring up in 20 other places."

Although the Smithsonian is no longer sponsoring "The Privileged Planet" documentary debut, Richards says the film will still be premiering at the museum's Baird Auditorium on Thursday.

Jim Brown, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online.

© 2005 AgapePress

PA lawmakers debate teaching "intelligent design" along with evolution

http://www.wbir.com/news/news.aspx?storyid=26620

Experts on both sides have had their say in Pennsylvania during a debate over whether public schools should teach "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution

A state House subcommittee heard testimony yesterday on a bill that would allow local school boards to mandate that science lessons include intelligent design. It's a concept that holds the complexity of the universe means it must have been created by a guiding force.

Lehigh University professor Michael Behe told the subcommittee that intelligent design has no religious underpinnings. But critics say it's a secular form of bible-based creationism.

The Dover Area School District is scheduled to go to trial this fall over accusations the school board violated the constitutional separation of church and state when it required teaching of intelligent design.

The bill is sponsored by 12 lawmakers and its future is unclear as lawmakers try to meet an end of the month deadline on the budget.

copyright AP
Katie Allison Granju , Online Producer
Last updated: 6/21/2005 9:37:05 AM

House looks at intelligent design

http://www.eveningsun.com/Stories/0,1413,140~9956~2931567,00.html

Article Last Updated: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - 12:08:34 PM EST

By RICHARD FELLINGER
Evening Sun Harrisburg Bureau

Lawmakers studied a controversial bill Monday to allow any Pennsylvania school to teach intelligent design, the alternative to the theory of evolution that has divided the Dover Area School District.

The House Subcommittee on Basic Education heard four hours of testimony from a seven-member panel that offered mixed views on the bill from state Rep. Tom Creighton (R-Lancaster).

Creighton's bill would insert the concept of intelligent design, which is the idea that life is so complex it must have been created by an intelligent designer, into the Public School Code. The state's current education standards don't prevent school districts from teaching alternatives to evolutionary theory, but they do not specify that districts may do so.

Two college professors, a Kansas City attorney and a recent high school graduate from Lehigh County, argued for the bill Monday.

One college professor, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State opposed it. The ACLU has joined 11 parents who are suing the Dover district over its decision to add intelligent design to its biology curriculum.

The subcommittee meeting was marked by pointed exchanges and lengthy discussions on science, religion and the origin of life.

When subcommittee Chairman Sam Rohrer (R-Berks) instructed lawmakers to limit their initial questions of the panelists, he drew a sharp reaction from Rep. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), who said the issue needed scrutiny that Rohrer was unlikely to give it. Rohrer is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Still, the bill faces significant hurdles in the Legislature.

Rep. Ron Miller (R-Jacobus), a member of the subcommittee, predicted the bill will stay bottled up in committee because of pressure from critics who say the bill is an attempt to introduce religion in science class.

Even so, Miller said he could support the bill with certain changes. He is interested in changes proposed Monday by Kansas City lawyer John Calvert, a supporter of intelligent design and managing director of the Intelligent Design Network.

Calvert suggested amending the bill to clarify the definition of intelligent design and state that districts can teach criticism of evolutionary theory. Miller believes the changes would ensure that intelligent design is not about teaching religion.

The bill's critics and supporters disagreed Monday on whether intelligent design is a religious movement.

Janice Rael, president of the Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said proponents of intelligent design "are activists who are struggling to impose their particular religious viewpoint on us all."

Randy Bennett, associate professor of biology at Juniata College in Huntingdon, said intelligent design can't be tested and doesn't belong in the science curriculum. He said it has gathered momentum as a conservative political and religious movement.

Larry Frankel, legislative director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said courts have ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not allow teaching of religious doctrine in science classes. But Frankel said intelligent design could have a place in courses on philosophy or comparative religion.

Intelligent design supporter Michael Behe, biochemistry professor at Lehigh University, insisted that the concept "is an argument based on empirical, physical data."

Philosophy professor Michael Murray of Franklin & Marshall College dissected four common arguments against intelligent design and sought to prove why they are mistaken. But he also acknowledged that researchers need to do more work on intelligent design, and concluded that teaching intelligent design should be permitted even though districts would have good reasons to reject it now.

Recent high school graduate Samuel Chen of Emmaus, said there are flaws in evolutionary theory that teachers refuse to study.

"Educators who often do not know what intelligent design truly is assert that intelligent design is anti-scientific and based on ignorance, while claiming evolution to be a scientific fact," Chen said.

Creighton said his bill is needed because evolutionary theory "has never been updated, and the possibility for variations on that theory have never been brought forth." Intelligent design "is forcing the biologists to come up with a little better theory," Creighton said.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Integrating lessons of evolution, creationism

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/states/pennsylvania/11936644.htm

Posted on Mon, Jun. 20, 2005

Many religious schools have been teaching intelligent-design theories, though some stress just one: God was the designer.

By Martha Woodall

Inquirer Staff Writer

While the teaching of intelligent design in science courses has triggered a new debate in public schools, area religious schools have quietly been teaching both evolution and creationism for decades.

Christian-school students also learn these theories: evolution guided by God; old-earth creationism, in which God used the big bang to form the universe 14 billion years ago; and young-earth creationism, which holds that God made everything in six 24-hour days about 10,000 years ago.

"I think the real question for us is, 'Did God do it?' Yes. Absolutely," said Mark Witwer, who chairs the upper-school science department at Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square. "How'd he do it? Our community doesn't agree."

In one of his school's biology classrooms, the red construction-paper sign on the bulletin board sums up teacher Chris Maffet's approach to science: "Through Him All Things Were Made... John 1:3."

"The theme is to look to see what we observe in the living world," said Maffet, a 30-year science teacher. "Is this something that could have been the result of just chance assembly of molecules over time? Or does it look like this is something that was put together by someone or something?"

The theory of intelligent design maintains that natural selection alone cannot adequately explain the universe. Proponents say the intricacies of life revealed through breakthroughs in chemistry, biology and other fields suggest the presence of an intelligent, purposeful designer.

Critics of intelligent design say the concept flies in the face of scientific evidence amassed over a hundred years and is so close to creationism that it should not be taught in public schools.

The movement has gained new traction with recent writings by scientists such as Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, said Paul MacQueen, a biology teacher at Phil-Mont Christian Academy in Erdenheim, Montgomery County.

Intelligent-design proponents say their view is secular and not grounded in the Bible. They do not name God as the designer.

Evangelical Protestants say the scientific evidence cited by the intelligent-design movement supports their belief in God as creator. But, they say, intelligent design proponents should give God the credit.

"We would just say God did this and not have to use some terminology to get around the religious aspect of it," said Don Netz, principal of Gloucester County Christian School in Sewell.

In local Catholic schools, students learn the theory of evolution, along with other scientific theories.

"There is always room for science in faith," said Louis P. D'Angelo, director of curriculum and instruction for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "But we teach one truth: that God is the creator."

Although most Christian schools teach students several competing scientific theories, some stress one.

"We want the kids to have an understanding of what people think in the world around them, so they can better understand what we believe here," said Carolyn J. Eckert, vice principal of Calvary Christian School in Philadelphia's Far Northeast. "Plus, showing the other theories, we believe, gives proof to ours."

Her school, which was founded in 1995 for the children of families who belong to the Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, teaches that "God created the Earth and everything in it within the seven days... as stated in the Bible."

Other evangelical Protestants see it differently.

John W. Storey, director of the Association of Christian Schools' Mid-Atlantic region in Lancaster, said all 350 member schools "believe that God is the intelligent designer of all things."

But beyond that, he said, there is disagreement.

"There are those who take Genesis 1 and 2 literally as God created the universe in six days and on the seventh day he rested, and they find that to be in keeping with the science," he said. Others believe Genesis should not be taken literally and that "the process happened over an indeterminate amount of time," he said.

Storey said schools operated by churches are more likely to follow doctrine than independent Christian schools, such as Phil-Mont and Delaware County Christian. The best schools, he said, allow for a healthy debate.

Because Delaware County Christian Academy draws its 960 students from several Protestant denominations and 150 churches, teachers attempt to make sure students understand the theories and why people hold them.

"We have tried to deal with the diversity of opinions among Christians, rather than taking an official school stance and saying: 'This is what we're going to teach,' " Witwer said.

During a recent review session for biology finals, sophomore Mark Lester said students aren't taught what to believe.

"We're shown what science says and what God says... . We're learning how to interpret each within a biblical worldview," said Lester, 16, of West Chester.

Stephen P. Dill, Delaware County Christian headmaster, said people often confuse evolution with "naturalism." Evolution is a biological process, he said, while "naturalism is a philosophy that it all works by itself without any divine interaction."

He said many evangelical Christians accept evolution as a process that can cause small changes within a species over time but see God's hand in the emergence of new species and other major changes.

"It takes less faith to believe that God put this all in place for me," Dill said, "than for the amount of faith it takes that a blind-chance combination of atoms over how many billions of years" created the universe.

Contact staff writer Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or at martha.woodall@phillynews.com.

Donald J. Weinshank: 'Intelligent design' advocates want to have it both ways

http://www.lsj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050620/OPINION02/506200334/1087/opinion

Published June 20, 2005

Creationists prove unfaithful to science, and to their faith, too

Science can tell you how quickly things fall, but not why you shouldn't kick canes out from under old ladies. If you want to answer THAT question, look to your religion and your system of ethics and morals.

When people - all people anywhere - talk about "religion," they mean that they believe in some being who is utterly beyond full human understanding. They come to "know" the being with the absolute truth of faith, rather than by scientific discovery that uses the tools of this world: the microscope, the telescope or the particle accelerator.

Sadly, for "intelligent design" creationists, religious truth is not enough. They want to use the "this world" tools to prove that the being exists. They draw a line in the sand and say, "Up to here, it is science; beyond this line, science cannot work, and only an intelligent designer can explain things."

Once scientists demolish their arguments, as they already have done, in "15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense" (which you can download free from www.sciam.com), the very people who would "buy into" the I.D. argument feel their belief in God is under attack.

Fifty years ago, the great theologian Paul Tillich warned us in "The Dynamics of Faith" not to fall into this trap: "The distinction between the truth of faith and the truth of science leads to a warning, directed to theologians, not to use recent scientific discoveries to confirm the truth of faith. ... Theology, in using physical theories in this way (i.e., to prove religion from science) confuses the dimension of science with the dimension of faith. The truth of faith cannot be confirmed by latest physical or biological or psychological discoveries - as it cannot be denied by them."

Those "intelligent design" people who are Christians - as most of them are - also commit a deadly sin by being unfaithful to their obligation to witness openly.

They are descendants of the early Christians who were thrown to the lions by Rome for witnessing to their belief in Jesus as the Messiah. But the "intelligent design" folks hide behind terms like "intelligent designer." They want to escape court challenges to their efforts to introduce their brand of religion into the public schools.

They talk glibly about the "intelligent designer" but refuse to attach a name ("God" or "R2D2" or any other).

See my Web site at www.cse.msu.edu/~weinshan/ for my debate with Professor Tom Woodward of Trinity College of Florida, where he flatly refuses to name the designer.

The "intelligent design" creationists are "neither fish nor foul." They are not scientists because they don't abide by rules of science, which require that you explain "this world" problems using only "this world" techniques and solutions.

They are not faithful Christians because they use "smoke and mirrors" to hide their religious position instead of witnessing to their faith.

They should have no place in our schools and no place in any religion for which a forthright belief in God is central to making sense of the world.

Donald J. Weinshank lives in East Lansing.

Bill would allow Pa. schools to teach "intelligent design"

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/11942328.htm

Posted on Mon, Jun. 20, 2005

MARTHA RAFFAELE

Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Experts on both sides of the debate over whether public schools should teach "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution - a question already before a federal court - sparred in front of a state legislative panel Monday.

The House Subcommittee on Basic Education heard testimony on a bill that would allow local school boards to mandate that science lessons include intelligent design, a concept that holds the universe must have been created by an unspecified guiding force because it is so complex.

The legislation is sponsored by only a dozen lawmakers, and its prospects of passing the General Assembly are unclear as lawmakers try to meet a June 30 state budget deadline.

But a federal judge will consider the issue this fall, when a lawsuit against the Dover Area School District is scheduled to go to trial. The suit alleges that the school board violated the constitutional separation of church and state when it voted in October to require ninth-grade students to hear about intelligent design during evolution lessons in biology class.

Michael J. Behe, a biological sciences professor at Lehigh University, told the subcommittee that intelligent design has no religious underpinnings. Critics argue that it is a secular variation of creationism, the biblical-based view that regards God as the creator of life.

Behe said intelligent design merely contends that evidence of complex physical structures shows that design, rather than evolution, is responsible for an organism or cell.

Some lawmakers struggled to understand the concept.

"I've always viewed evolution as sort of the ultimate design. It would change and adapt and accommodate to whatever the situation was," said Rep. P. Michael Sturla, D-Lancaster. "When did the intelligent design occur, in your theory?"

Behe had no answer.

"Questions like, 'When did the designing take place?' ... are all good questions. We'd love to have answers for them, but they are separate questions from the question, 'Was this designed in the first place?'" Behe said.

John Calvert, a retired attorney who is representing intelligent-design advocates who want more criticism of evolution in Kansas' science standards, said he supports the Pennsylvania bill but suggested it be revised so that teachers can cover more alternatives to evolution.

"Those criticisms are now being systematically suppressed," Calvert said. "A primary goal of the National Science Teachers Association is to ensure that schools and teachers do not weaken evolutionary theory."

The Arlington, Va.,-based teachers' association opposes mandating intelligent design.

The American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups that filed the federal lawsuit, contends that allowing intelligent design to be taught would undermine the state's science standards, which specify the teaching of evolution.

"How many new biotechnology companies will want to locate here in Pennsylvania if our students are being taught a watered-down version of the complexities of evolution," said Larry Frankel, legislative director for the state's ACLU chapter.

Martha Raffaele covers education for The Associated Press in Harrisburg.

Cruise's Scientology hard sell turn off Johansson?

http://www.azcentral.com/offbeat/articles/0621people0621.html

Suzanne Condie Lambert
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 21, 2005 12:00 AM

Did Scarlett Johansson suddenly bow out of Mission: Impossible 3 citing "scheduling difficulties" after Tom Cruise gave her the Scientology hard sell?

Radaronline.com reports that the starlet joined Cruise for a business meeting, which turned into a proselytizing marathon.

After two hours' worth, Cruise invited Johansson to dinner. But he didn't have anything intimate in mind. advertisement

"Cruise opened a door to reveal a second room full of upper-level Scientologists who had been waiting to dine with the pair, at which point the cool-headed ingénue politely excused herself," Radar reports.

The site also reports that Johansson was only one stop on Cruise's pre-Holmes invasion tour; other young actresses said to be on his hit-on list include Jessica Alba, Kate Bosworth and Lindsay Lohan.

The Inquiring Minds Program

CSICOP is pleased to announce the Inquiring Minds premiere issue of their online newsletter geared towards young people, parents and caregivers, and educators of all kinds. To kick off the summer, the Inquiring Minds newsletter is unveiled on the longest day of the year so that you have plenty of time to do your reading! The newsletter will appear four times a year, at the start of each season. It will include articles, reviews, activities, resources, events, crafts, recipes and more!

http://www.inquiringminds.org/newsletter/0502/

The premiere issue features a fascinating article on lake monsters by Sharon Hill, an enlightening piece on moral judgments by Brant Abrahamson, the first in a series for Skeptic Detectives, the adventures of Brett Hanover and his high school Paranormal Club, a 10 year old's suggestion for a new skeptic mascot, a short story about the afterlife, a recipe for freethinkin' pretzels, and much more!

With an invitation to new contributors and a request for your feedback and ideas, we expect our online newsletter to develop and evolve to become a leading source for skeptical education and resources.

Please join us in our new adventure and e-mail us at web@inquiringminds.org if you would like to contribute to future issues or would like to offer your comments and suggestions on the Inquiring Minds online newsletter.

Classics of Skeptical Investigation
August 11-14, 2005
University of Oregon at Eugene

The Skeptics' Toolbox 2005 will focus on the classics of skeptical investigation.

A classic skeptical investigation uncovers the true explanation for a seemingly anomalous event or phenomenon. It also provides insights into how people get to believe false claims. Classic investigations are successful.

We will also look at unsuccessful investigations.

We will contrast the successful to the unsuccessful investigations. In this way, we will seek the factors that discriminate good from bad skeptical inquiry.

Topics to Be Covered Include:

The Girl With The X-Ray Eyes (see http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/)
Davey's Seances
Memory In Water
The House of Mystery at the Oregon Vortex
The Soal-Goldney Experiments
Clever Hans
Ancient Classics

The workshop will also include the opportunity to work with teams on assigned cases.

For More Information Please Visit: http://www.skepticstoolbox.org/

Shroud of Turin 'a fake'

http://www.news24.com/News24/Technology/News/0,,2-13-1443_1724886,00.html

21/06/2005 18:34 - (SA)

Paris - A French magazine said on Tuesday it had carried out experiments that proved the Shroud of Turin, believed by some Christians to be their religion's holiest relic, was a fake.

"A mediaeval technique helped us to make a Shroud," Science & Vie (Science and Life) said in its July issue.

The Shroud is claimed by its defenders to be the cloth in which the body of Jesus Christ was wrapped after his crucifixion.

It bears the faint image of a blood-covered man with holes in his hand and wounds in his body and head, the apparent result of being crucified, stabbed by a Roman spear and forced to wear a crown of thorns.

In 1988, scientists carried out carbon-14 dating of the delicate linen cloth and concluded that the material was made some time between 1260 and 1390. Their study prompted the then archbishop of Turin, where the Shroud is stored, to admit that the garment was a hoax. But the debate sharply revived in January this year.

Drawing on a method previously used by skeptics to attack authenticity claims about the Shroud, Science & Vie got an artist to do a bas-relief - a sculpture that stands out from the surrounding background - of a Christ-like face.

A scientist then laid out a damp linen sheet over the bas-relief and let it dry, so that the thin cloth was moulded onto the face.

Using cotton wool, he then carefully dabbed ferric oxide, mixed with gelatine, onto the cloth to make blood-like marks. When the cloth was turned inside-out, the reversed marks resulted in the famous image of the crucified Christ.

Fixative

Gelatine, an animal by-product rich in collagen, was frequently used by Middle Age painters as a fixative to bind pigments to canvas or wood.

The imprinted image turned out to be wash-resistant, impervious to temperatures of 250°C and was undamaged by exposure to a range of harsh chemicals, including bisulphite which, without the help of the gelatine, would normally have degraded ferric oxide to the compound ferrous oxide.

The experiments, said Science & Vie, answer several claims made by the pro-Shroud camp, which says the marks could not have been painted onto the cloth.

For one thing, the Shroud's defenders argue, photographic negatives and scanners show that the image could only have derived from a three-dimensional object, given the width of the face, the prominent cheekbones and nose.

In addition, they say, there are no signs of any brushmarks. And, they argue, no pigments could have endured centuries of exposure to heat, light and smoke.

For Jacques di Costanzo, of Marseille University Hospital, southern France, who carried out the experiments, the medieval forger must have also used a bas-relief, a sculpture or cadaver to get the 3-D imprint.

Booming market

The faker used a cloth rather than a brush to make the marks, and used gelatine to keep the rusty blood-like images permanently fixed and bright for selling in the booming market for religious relics.

To test his hypothesis, di Costanzo used ferric oxide, but no gelatine, to make other imprints, but the marks all disappeared when the cloth was washed or exposed to the test chemicals.

He also daubed the bas-relief with an ammoniac compound designed to represent human sweat and also with cream of aloe, a plant that was used as an embalming aid by Jews at the time of Christ.

He then placed the cloth over it for 36 hours - the approximate time that Christ was buried before rising again - but this time, there was not a single mark on it.

"It's obviously easier to make a fake shroud than a real one," Science & Vie report drily.

The first documented evidence of the Shroud dates back to 1357, when it surfaced at a church at Lirey, near the eastern French town of Troyes. In 1390, Pope Clement VII declared that it was not the true shroud but could be used as a representation of it, provided the faithful be told that it was not genuine.

In January this year, a US chemist, Raymond Rogers, said the radiocarbon samples for the 1988 study were taken from a piece that had been sewn into the fabric by nuns who repaired the Shroud after it was damaged in a church blaze in 1532.

Rogers said that his analysis of other samples, based on levels of a chemical called vanillin that results from the decomposition of flax and other plants, showed the Shroud could be "between 1 300 and 3 000 years old."


Monday, June 20, 2005

Opting Out in the Debate on Evolution

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/21/science/21evo.html?

By CORNELIA DEAN

Published: June 21, 2005

When the Kansas State Board of Education decided to hold hearings this spring on what the state's schoolchildren should be taught about evolution, Dr. Kenneth R. Miller was invited to testify. Lots of people thought he was a good choice to speak for science.

Dr. Miller is a professor of biology at Brown University, a co-author of widely used high school and college biology texts, an ardent advocate of the teaching of evolution - and a person of faith. In another of his books, "Finding Darwin's God," he not only outlines the scientific failings of creationism and its doctrinal cousin, "intelligent design," but also tells how he reconciles his faith in God with his faith in science.

But Dr. Miller declined to testify. And he was not alone. Mainstream scientists, even those who have long urged researchers to speak with a louder voice in public debates, stayed away from Kansas.

In general, they offered two reasons for the decision: that the outcome of the hearings was a foregone conclusion, and that participating in them would only strengthen the idea in some minds that there was a serious debate in science about the power of the theory of evolution.

"We on the science side of things strong-armed the Kansas hearings because we realized this was not a scientific exchange, it was a political show trial," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, which promotes the teaching of evolution. "We are never going to solve it by throwing science at it."

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, a large organization of researchers and teachers, and the publisher of the journal Science, also declined to participate.

"If the evidence for modern Darwinian theory is so overwhelming, they should have called the bluff on the other side and come and made their arguments," said John West, a political scientist and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a research organization that supports work challenging the theory of evolution. "They should have put up or shut up."

Dr. West said that although most of the institute's resources support research on intelligent design, the theory that life on earth is far too complex to have evolved without the guidance of an intelligent agent, the organization does not advocate that students be required to learn it. Nor does it object to the teaching of evolution, he said.

"The majority of biologists obviously support Darwinian evolution in its full-fledged view," he said. "The question is, are there legitimate, peer-reviewed criticisms? If there are, students should know about them."

In theory, this position - "teach the controversy" - is one any scientist should support. But mainstream scientists say alternatives to evolution have repeatedly failed the tests of science, and the criticisms have been answered again and again. For scientists, there is no controversy.

Dr. Miller said he decided to stay away from the hearings because he was convinced that the panel would recommend a "teach the controversy" approach regardless of the testimony presented. "The people running things were people whose minds were already made up," Dr. Miller said in an interview in May, before the panel's recommendations were announced.

He said he had anticipated that "they would say, 'This is such a fascinating controversy that what we need to do is let the children of Kansas have the same benefit' " of learning about it.

When the hearings ended, the subcommittee running them concluded just that. The hearings had produced "credible scientific testimony that indeed there are significant debates about the evidence for key aspects of chemical and biological theory," the panel said, and it is "important and appropriate for students to know about these scientific debates."

Still, scientists who stayed away say they did the right thing.

Declining to testify "can be made to look as if you do not want to defend science in public, or you are too afraid to face the intelligent design people in public," Dr. Miller said.

But, he said, taking part in this kind of argument only contributes to the idea that there is something worth arguing about, and "I wasn't interested in playing a role in that."

Dr. Alan I. Leshner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said that when the association was invited to present its views at the hearings he raised the issue with his board. Although some members said "go straighten them out," he recalled, the consensus was that the association should stay away.

"We were invited to debate one supposed theory against another," Dr. Leshner said, when in fact there was no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution.

Dr. Scott said that until recently she believed scientists should seize opportunities to debate the opponents of evolution. "I was one of the holdouts, saying yes, appear with these guys, yes, tell them what is wrong with their ideas, go to their conferences, treat them like scholars," she said.

Like other scientists, she said that if someone identified a flaw in evolutionary theory that could not be dealt with, science would have to modify the theory or even scrap it. But the criticisms raised have fallen in the face of scientific scrutiny, she and others say, yet opponents of evolution raise them again and again.

So a few years ago, she said, "even I threw in the towel."

"Our willingness to engage their ideas," she went on, "was not being reciprocated."

Dr. West, of the Discovery Institute, argues that scientists have shown the same unwillingness to engage when they talk about evolution. In Kansas, he said, "there was a sort of arrogance - claiming that 'since we are the majority scientific view we don't owe an explanation to anyone, especially these public officials we think are stupid.'

"Well, they can have that attitude, but whether they like it or not we have public officials who are charged with making decisions," he said. "They seem to think the A.A.A.S. should just appoint a panel and replace every elected school board."

Despite their decision to stay away from Kansas, scientists continue to make the case for evolution.

For example, a number of scientists, including Dr. Miller, plan to testify in a case in Dover, Pa., where teachers were directed to instruct that intelligent design was a scientific alternative to evolution. "In a court of law, you have standards, rules and laws you are interpreting," Dr. Scott said, in explaining why scientists are taking part in this case. "In Kansas, it was a free-for-all."

Earlier this month, the National Academy of Sciences started a Web site (nationalacademies.org/evolution) with information about evolution and assurances that no credible scientific challenge to evolutionary theory has been raised. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (aaas.org, click on "evolution resources") and other organizations maintain similar sites.

Dr. Leshner wrote an opinion article about the evolution issue that ran in The Kansas City Star before the hearings were held this spring. The essay dealt with one of the powerful issues underlying the debate about evolution: whether science and religious faith can coexist.

It is not surprising that defenders of evolution are staying away from the hearings, he wrote, "since it's a debate that can't be won."

"After all, interpretations of Genesis are a matter of faith, not facts," he wrote. But faith and facts "should not be pitted against each other; the theory of evolution does not, in fact, conflict with the religious views of most Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu followers."

But some scientists have made the point that it is difficult to make the case for evolution at a time when many Americans view it as an assault by the secular elite on the values of God-fearing people.

"The creation and evolution issue is not just about science," Dr. Scott said. "The science is necessary but not sufficient. It is ultimately and predominantly a political and cultural kind of issue rather than a scientific issue."

Now that the panel that conducted the hearings has recommended that challenges to evolution be taught in Kansas, "we may appear to have at least temporarily lost the battle," Dr. Leshner said. "But we have not fallen prey to allowing them to redefine science, and that's the core issue."

He added: "Evolution is not the only issue at stake. The very definition of science is at stake."

Misinformation hampers efforts to tackle breast cancer

http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/Monday/NewsBreak/20050620162525/Article/indexb_html

Sulaiman Jaafar

KOTA BARU, KELANTAN, Mon.

Misinformation and traditional taboos are hampering efforts to lower the incidence of breast cancer in the country.

In Malaysia, the disease is the number one killer of women, with the National Cancer Registry reporting 3,723 cases in 2003.

Prof Madya Dr Biswa Mohan Biswal of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) said, however, the chances of recovery today had increased with the availability of new drugs and medical advances.

Dr Biswa, who is with the university's Department of Nuclear Medicine, Radiotherapy and Oncology, said modern treatments, including the use of the drug docetaxel, had "significantly improved" the survival rate for breast cancer patients.

"USM handles 700 to 800 new cancer cases annually, of which about 40 per cent are breast cancer," he told a recent seminar for 120 cancer survivors at the USM health campus here.

"It is a highly curable disease if detected early but here, many patients disappear after they're told that their breasts need to be removed."

He said most patients would look for alternative medicine, but 80 per cent returned to the hospital after the disease had reached a critical stage.

"Other medicines can be taken as a complement but not as an alternative to the treatment they receive at hospitals. They should also discuss with their doctors before taking other medicines, as the drugs might be harmful and dangerous."

Dr Biswa said women need not fear the disfigurement of breast removal.

"We have the technology now to reconstruct the breast by using excess fat from the tummy," he said, "but most patients reject the idea."

Dr Biswa said it was regrettable that in some cases, relationships between patients and husbands or families had turned sour after treatment.

"Some patients suffer from inferiority complex and withdraw from society. This should not be the case as they have recovered and can lead a normal life just like before the problem was detected."

Integrating lessons of evolution, creationism

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/states/pennsylvania/11936644.htm

Posted on Mon, Jun. 20, 2005

Many religious schools have been teaching intelligent-design theories, though some stress just one: God was the designer.

By Martha Woodall

Inquirer Staff Writer

While the teaching of intelligent design in science courses has triggered a new debate in public schools, area religious schools have quietly been teaching both evolution and creationism for decades.

Christian-school students also learn these theories: evolution guided by God; old-earth creationism, in which God used the big bang to form the universe 14 billion years ago; and young-earth creationism, which holds that God made everything in six 24-hour days about 10,000 years ago.

"I think the real question for us is, 'Did God do it?' Yes. Absolutely," said Mark Witwer, who chairs the upper-school science department at Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square. "How'd he do it? Our community doesn't agree."

In one of his school's biology classrooms, the red construction-paper sign on the bulletin board sums up teacher Chris Maffet's approach to science: "Through Him All Things Were Made... John 1:3."

"The theme is to look to see what we observe in the living world," said Maffet, a 30-year science teacher. "Is this something that could have been the result of just chance assembly of molecules over time? Or does it look like this is something that was put together by someone or something?"

The theory of intelligent design maintains that natural selection alone cannot adequately explain the universe. Proponents say the intricacies of life revealed through breakthroughs in chemistry, biology and other fields suggest the presence of an intelligent, purposeful designer.

Critics of intelligent design say the concept flies in the face of scientific evidence amassed over a hundred years and is so close to creationism that it should not be taught in public schools.

The movement has gained new traction with recent writings by scientists such as Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, said Paul MacQueen, a biology teacher at Phil-Mont Christian Academy in Erdenheim, Montgomery County.

Intelligent-design proponents say their view is secular and not grounded in the Bible. They do not name God as the designer.

Evangelical Protestants say the scientific evidence cited by the intelligent-design movement supports their belief in God as creator. But, they say, intelligent design proponents should give God the credit.

"We would just say God did this and not have to use some terminology to get around the religious aspect of it," said Don Netz, principal of Gloucester County Christian School in Sewell.

In local Catholic schools, students learn the theory of evolution, along with other scientific theories.

"There is always room for science in faith," said Louis P. D'Angelo, director of curriculum and instruction for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "But we teach one truth: that God is the creator."

Although most Christian schools teach students several competing scientific theories, some stress one.

"We want the kids to have an understanding of what people think in the world around them, so they can better understand what we believe here," said Carolyn J. Eckert, vice principal of Calvary Christian School in Philadelphia's Far Northeast. "Plus, showing the other theories, we believe, gives proof to ours."

Her school, which was founded in 1995 for the children of families who belong to the Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, teaches that "God created the Earth and everything in it within the seven days... as stated in the Bible."

Other evangelical Protestants see it differently.

John W. Storey, director of the Association of Christian Schools' Mid-Atlantic region in Lancaster, said all 350 member schools "believe that God is the intelligent designer of all things."

But beyond that, he said, there is disagreement.

"There are those who take Genesis 1 and 2 literally as God created the universe in six days and on the seventh day he rested, and they find that to be in keeping with the science," he said. Others believe Genesis should not be taken literally and that "the process happened over an indeterminate amount of time," he said.

Storey said schools operated by churches are more likely to follow doctrine than independent Christian schools, such as Phil-Mont and Delaware County Christian. The best schools, he said, allow for a healthy debate.

Because Delaware County Christian Academy draws its 960 students from several Protestant denominations and 150 churches, teachers attempt to make sure students understand the theories and why people hold them.

"We have tried to deal with the diversity of opinions among Christians, rather than taking an official school stance and saying: 'This is what we're going to teach,' " Witwer said.

During a recent review session for biology finals, sophomore Mark Lester said students aren't taught what to believe.

"We're shown what science says and what God says... . We're learning how to interpret each within a biblical worldview," said Lester, 16, of West Chester.

Stephen P. Dill, Delaware County Christian headmaster, said people often confuse evolution with "naturalism." Evolution is a biological process, he said, while "naturalism is a philosophy that it all works by itself without any divine interaction."

He said many evangelical Christians accept evolution as a process that can cause small changes within a species over time but see God's hand in the emergence of new species and other major changes.

"It takes less faith to believe that God put this all in place for me," Dill said, "than for the amount of faith it takes that a blind-chance combination of atoms over how many billions of years" created the universe.

Contact staff writer Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or at martha.woodall@phillynews.com.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Intelligent design is good topic for religion, not biology, class

http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_2810902

By David R. Keller

Article Last Updated: 06/18/2005 02:57:01 PM

As expected, the "intelligent design" controversy has come to Utah, with proponents arguing that the hypothesis should be taught side-by-side with biological evolution in public school (Salt Lake Tribune, June 3, A1, A5).

Intelligent design theory is nothing new. Two hundred years ago, English Archdeacon William Paley argued that we correctly attribute the design and construction of watches, which exhibit the systematic arrangement of parts, to watchmakers. By analogy, according to Paley, living beings, which also exhibit the systematic arrangement of parts, must also be attributable to a maker, or God.

Certainly, due to its importance in the history of the Western tradition, intelligent design theory is worthy of study. For example, it is noteworthy that Charles Darwin fully accepted Paley's account until his expedition on the HMS Beagle.

But the agenda by certain political leaders to insert intelligent design into the biology curriculum, and present it as a plausible alternative to evolution, is seriously mistaken.

Combined with modern genetics, evolution by natural selection offers a consistent, coherent and empirically verifiable account of the genesis, structure and function of all organisms. As the unifying paradigm of life science, evolution is scientific law.

It is easy to see why evolution is so threatening. Contrary to the notion that humans represent the pinnacle of life on earth and are in some way manifestations of divine intentionality, evolutionary law demonstrates that humans are simply one type of a panoply of life forms, all sharing the same genetic material and arising from one common ancestor. As such, like all species, eventually Homo sapiens is destined to become extinct, possibly hastened, ironically, by our own hand.

Against this, the unstated but obvious motivation behind the intelligent design agenda is to inculcate students with religious ideology, namely, Christian monotheism. However, it appears that the champions of intelligent design theory are unaware that the very arguments they advocate in fact entail exactly the opposite of what they intend.

First, intelligent design theory does not evoke an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent Lord. The problematic design and superfluousness of some organs, not to mention the existence of famine, pestilence and suffering, all point to flaws in nature rather than perfection.

Thus, if design in nature is the result of some intelligent being, it is entirely possible that the earth was an early, mediocre experiment of an infantile deity who abandoned this undertaking and moved on to bigger and better projects elsewhere.

Second, consonant with deism, the favored theology of the founders of this nation, God may have constructed this world, set it in motion, and departed, ultimately unconcerned with humanity and our fortune or fate -- hardly the loving and caring God of Christianity.

Third, elaborate and intricate projects require a team effort. So, according to intelligent design theory, design in nature hints of a cooperative effort by a committee of gods. Laughably, pagan polytheism is probably not what pundits of intelligent design theory intend to promulgate.

The question of why the cosmos exists or why evolution should have occurred at all is a philosophical and theological quandary. As religious conjecture, intelligent design theory has absolutely no place in the biology curriculum.

From a scientific standpoint, to elucidate the complexity of nature by positing the existence of some supernatural numinous force beyond the pale of sensory experience is utterly devoid of explanatory power. Explaining one mystery (life) with another mystery (God) is neither intellectually satisfying nor academically honest.

Intelligent design theory deserves discussion in seminary and courses on religion. But foisting intelligent design theory onto students of biology is a waste of scarce public education resources, especially in a state where concerns about the wise use of taxpayer money are so conspicuous.

David R. Keller is associate professor of philosophy at Utah Valley State College.

Herald poll response -- Intelligent design

http://www.newutah.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=57653&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

Sunday, June 19, 2005 - 12:00 AM

The Daily Herald

Editor's note: The Daily Herald recently asked readers if intelligent design, or creationism, should be taught in Utah. Here are the comments we received:

Evolution, creationism deserve equal time

Evolution is a theory and should be taught as such. In my nearly 70 years I have seen many theories debunked and altered as new facts and information are made available.

Intelligent design should be taught as alternative possibility. Students can then discuss the subject with their parents.

Don M. Liston,

Highland

Leave intelligent design for Sunday School classes

I am 13 years old and will be an eighth-grader this coming school year. I disagree with teaching intelligent design in our school science classes. Intelligent design is religion and belief. I personally believe that God created the earth and us even though I don't know what process he took to do it. It has no scientific data to back it up. Now, the Theory of Evolution has physical evidence to back it up, like fossils and skeletal remains. Which makes it theory and science.

Sidney Patchett,

Provo

Students need to hear intelligent design as well

An interesting scripture says in nothing does God offend man more, nor incur his wrath when we fail to acknowledge his hand in all things. I certainly say we ought to teach the truth about the creation. If they want to study evolution and any cases of that that represent truth to them, go for it. But there must needs be an opposition in all things.

Hugh Bradley

Payson

Keep dogma in church, science in classrooms

Schools should teach solid science in the classroom, and leave intelligent design for church and home. When I was in junior high, I was taught evolution as a dogma. I rejected it because it conflicted with my religious beliefs. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I became aware of solid evidence that creatures do indeed adapt through genetic mutation and the fittest do outsurvive the less fit. Had I been presented with evidence for evolution, I might have learned a little more about it. Science shouldn't be presented as dogma, and religion shouldn't be presented as science.

Brenda Kimball,

Highland

Elements of truth exist in evolution, creationism

As regards creationism versus evolution, there are elements of truth in each model. The one single factor I cannot accept is that God (Creator) has nothing to do with the development of living things. Surely God could, and probably does, utilize natural selection as an evolutionary tool. Surely evolution means there is something greater than atoms and mere chance to make living things. It is a profound mistake to accept wholly one model to the complete rejection of the other. We come closest to truth when we refine a new model with the best elements of the old ones.

Willis H. Brimhall,

Spanish Fork

Evolution a religious doctrine of irreligious

Utah's public schools could be dismantled over this issue, as the explosion of charter and private schools indicates. Evolution, as it is usually taught, is a powerful form of state-sponsored religion and needs to be countered. Does the fact that, in its pure form, evolution is explicitly anti-Christian magically make it not religion? That is an absurd argument, as even those who use it endlessly must surely realize. Were the atheistic, social-Darwinism-preaching communists not teaching a religion when they mostly removed Christianity from their empire by force? That is merely the logical form of atheistic proselytizing.

Kent Huff,

Spanish Fork

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A6.

Experts won't back Dover

http://ydr.com/story/doverbiology/74477/

School district lawyer claims conflict with intelligent-design advocates
By LAURI LEBO
Daily Record/Sunday News
Sunday, June 19, 2005

Seemingly, they're would-be allies.

But a disagreement last week over legal representation means three experts with connections to the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute will not be testifying in a federal court case on behalf of the Dover Area School Board.

The three experts — William Dembski, Stephen Meyer and John Campbell — were slated for testimony on the debate over intelligent design.

But last week, their names were removed from the list before they could give depositions in the case.

Eric Rothschild, plaintiffs' attorney with Pepper Hamilton, said he was baffled by the decision.

Meyer is the director of Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, which funds research projects related to intelligent design. Dembski and Campbell are senior fellows there.

Dembski, a mathematician and scientific philosopher, said the Thomas More Law Center, which is defending the school board, basically fired him because he wanted to have his own attorney present during the depositions.

He said he's puzzled and frustrated by Thomas More's refusal to let him participate.

"I felt like I was in the crossfire," Dembski said.

Even though Discovery is probably the country's leading proponent of intelligent design, it opposes the Dover Area School Board's decision to make the concept regarding life's origins part of its science curriculum.

Its members say they don't oppose intelligent design being taught in the schools, they merely oppose it being mandated.

In December, 11 parents filed a lawsuit against the decision, arguing that the board violated the First Amendment clause prohibiting the establishment of religion.

While Dembski said he disagrees with many aspects of Darwinism, "there is still a long way at hammering out ID as a full-fledged research program. That said, there is nobody I know that says intelligent design should be mandated. I think this is the problem with Dover. It's not a way you build consensus and help education along."

But Richard Thompson, Thomas More president, said the decision to not use the three experts had nothing to do with their positions on intelligent design and whether it should be mandated in a classroom.

Rather, he said he objected to the experts bringing along their own lawyers, calling it a "conflict of interest."

"The case involves the school board and the parents," he said. "Now, if you have attorneys coming in and representing the experts and their attorneys are saying, 'Don't answer that question,' then you have a conflict with the aims of the school board."

Thompson said the problem arose in the past several weeks when the Discovery Institute insisted that its people have separate legal representation.

But Thompson said the defense remains well represented.

Scott Minnich of the University of Idaho and Michael Behe of Lehigh University, along with Warren Nord, a University of North Carolina professor, and Dick Carpenter of Focus on the Family, have already given their depositions and are prepared to testify.

Behe and Minnich are also Discovery fellows. They gave their depositions before the debate over legal representation began.

No one at the Discovery Institute returned repeated calls for comment.

In addition to his connections with Discovery, Dembski is also working as an editor and writer for the Foundation of Thoughts and Ethics, publishers of the pro-intelligent design book, "Of Pandas and People."

Last month, the nonprofit textbook publisher filed a motion to join the fight against the lawsuit. The lawsuit could harm the Texas company's financial interests and educational goals since "Of Pandas" is being used in the district, its attorneys argue.

"FTE primarily will focus on plaintiffs' purpose to destroy both intelligent-design theory as a viable scientific explanation to the origins of life and FTE's ability to market textbooks," according to a motion filed Monday in U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg.

Dembski said he thinks the whole issue is unfortunate.

"Discovery and Thomas More have their differences," he said. "I have a lot of loyalty with Discovery."

Dover and intelligent design

On Oct. 18, when its school board voted 6-3 to approve science curriculum changes, the Dover Area School District is believed to have become the first district in the country to include intelligent design in its high-school biology curriculum.

Intelligent design is the idea that life is too complex to have evolved solely through natural selection and therefore must have been created by some intelligent force.

Its supporters say it's about fairness — giving time to alternative views to evolution.

Its critics say it's not science, but a way of forcing Christianity into biology class. In December, 11 parents filed a federal civil-rights suit against the district.

On Jan. 18 and 19, as part of the school board's mandate, district administrators read a statement to ninth-grade biology students in which intelligent design was mentioned.

Immigrants choose herbal remedies over conventional medicines

http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050618/APN/506180503&cachetime=3&template=dateline

By JENNIFER KAY
Associated Press Writer

June 18, 2005

Pierrsaint fled Haiti for Florida in 1989, but he still relies on the plant-based remedies he first learned back home from his father and grandfather, both voodoo priests.

Faced with skyrocketing health care costs, lack of insurance and language barriers that make communicating with doctors difficult, Pierrsaint and other immigrants say they are better off with homegrown remedies that are popular in their cultures.

Pierrsaint, 52, grows many of his remedies in his North Miami backyard. U.S. doctors and their prescriptions cost too much, Pierrsaint said, and he also worries about side effects of conventional "chemical" medicines. "In my country, it can take three days to see a doctor, so we know what to do," he said.

Alternative therapy was once dismissed by the established medical community because there is no scientific proof the treatments work. But it is finding its way into the curriculums of conventional medical schools and is winning mainstream acceptance as some people look for natural remedies for their ailments.

More than a third of American adults have tried alternative medical therapies, including prayer, folk medicine and natural products, according to a 2002 survey of 31,000 people by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health.

But the Food and Drug Administration cautions that "natural" doesn't necessarily mean safe. People who rely on natural treatments are taking risks because these therapies don't undergo the rigorous testing - and regulatory scrutiny - to ensure effectiveness and safety as is required for conventional medicines.

There are no scientific or clinical studies, for example, to determine the safe dosage, side effects or whether there are potentially dangerous interactions with prescriptions, over-the-counter medications or certain foods.

In 2003, for example, the FDA warned against drinking teas brewed from star anise plants, believed to soothe colic in infants, partly because a toxic Japanese star anise plant when dried or processed is indistinguishable from the generally safe Chinese star anise. The toxic star anise teas caused symptoms ranging from serious neurological effects, such as seizures, to vomiting, jitteriness and rapid eye movement.

Dr. Marie-Denise Gervais, who practices at a free clinic in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood, has seen patients jeopardize themselves by relying on alternative therapies because of poverty. She recalls a patient who came to the clinic with a high blood-sugar level that put her at risk for a diabetic coma.

"It's difficult (financially) for her getting insulin, but this person paid $50 to get this potion from a botanica, and God knows if this potion is loaded with sugar," said Gervais, who works at a clinic operated by the Center for Haitian Studies.

"On Haitian radio, you hear ads. People have some syrup or herb that's good for HIV, fertility, erectile dysfunction. These are all poor people spending money they don't have and yet won't come to see a doctor for basic labs," she said.

Nearly half of foreign-born non-citizens in the United States lacked health coverage in 2003, according to a recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Partly to blame, the nonpartisan research group said, was a 1996 federal law banning legal immigrants' participating in public insurance programs for five years after arriving in this country.

Those restrictions have since been loosened, but the fear of being reported to immigration authorities for lacking the right documentation still keeps some immigrants from seeking conventional medical attention, said Elva Heredia, who founded an Albuquerque organization to help migrant workers navigate the U.S. health care system.

"They worry because their finances are low and they don't have papers to live here, or some migrants have papers but they don't have insurance. They think they don't have rights, and they call us," Heredia said. "We teach them about how they can prevent (illness) at home."

She teaches curanderismo, or indigenous folk medicine from Mexico and other Latin American countries, along with patients' rights so that people can try, for example, treating cold symptoms at home with an onion-and-lemon drink before seeing a doctor, she said.

Patients sometimes turn to alternative therapies when conventional medical treatments do not help or cost too much - but don't often tell their doctors that they're doing so.

"If you don't ask, they won't tell you either. They consider it two different worlds," said Dr. Anthony Foong, a gastroenterologist who practices in New York City's Chinatown.

Some of Foong's immigrant patients, he said, tell him that since their herbal remedies have been used in China for thousands of years, they must be safe. Foong points out that side effects can be delayed; for example, the prescription painkiller Vioxx was withdrawn from the market when new studies revealed it doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

"My recommendation to patients is that no system is perfect, Western or Chinese. But you might as well use a system where the side effects and medications are studied more," Foong said.

Pierrsaint said he is aware of some of the dangers. He knows, for example, that a tea brewed from the leaves from an almond tree lowers blood pressure but can be harmful if too much is consumed.

"Your blood pressure might be so low, that you might be dead," he said. "If I have to use it, I use the small leaves."

But that's not the same as a regulatory required warning label. And some patients who favor a natural remedy should know, doctors say, that many conventional medicines are also derived from plants and are safer. Aspirin, for example, was derived from a substance in the leaves and bark of willow trees.

Even so, Lola Robledo said conventional prescriptions only make her feel sicker. She prefers to make teas and tinctures from plants such as garlic, vervain and marigolds, which she first learned to make from her parents and grandparents, all immigrants from Mexico.

"I feel very empowered by this kind of medicine. I make them for myself and my family, and I know what goes into them," said Robledo, 61, who organizes classes in curanderismo at the University of New Mexico.

Remedies from a familiar source can soothe a patient's spiritual ailments - a facet of health often overlooked in Western medicine, said Debbie Helsel, a registered nurse and professor of sociology at California State University, Fresno.

Helsel is researching shamans in the Hmong community in California's Central Valley who believe medical problems are caused by restless spirits, ancestors in neglected graves in Laos or an aging soul wearing out its "life visa."

Some shamans, though, are beginning to trust U.S. doctors to treat physical problems their herbs and rituals cannot heal, she said.

"Many are good at telling patients, 'This is a physical problem, not a spiritual problem,'" Helsel said.


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