NTS LogoSkeptical News for 25 June 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Intelligent Design Theory: A Fresh Look at the Nature of Creation


Neuhauser calls his book "a basic inquiry into the nature of the creation, its Creator, and the relationship of the creation and ourselves to the Creator. Some of its conclusions are that every part of this vast universe was created in virtually an in...

Distribution Source : PRWeb

Date : Friday, June 24, 2005

(PRWEB) June 24, 2005 -- Intelligent Design Theory: A fresh look at the nature of creation.

Mill Creek Publishers announces the release of The Cosmic Deity , Where scientists and theologians fear to tread. by local author, Robert G. Neuhauser.

"Several thousand years ago," says Neuhauser, "probably around some desert campfire, the elders decided that since everything in this world seemed to be of the same substance and have the same nature that there must have been one power that created it all. They believed that that power was worthy of their highest veneration."

Neuhauser calls his book "a basic inquiry into the nature of the creation, its Creator, and the relationship of the creation and ourselves to the Creator. Some of its conclusions are that every part of this vast universe was created in virtually an instant, and that the entire creation exhibits the intelligence of its designer."

He also poses that its Creator is present in every part and parcel of this immense universe extending over the breadth of space and through the depth of time.

"I also have the audacity to include a section on "The Mind of God," and reflections on the matters of "Good and Evil,"" says Neuhauser.

An engineer by profession, he is also a social activist, who served on the Lancaster Fair Housing committee, and was the Quaker delegate on the religious pilgrimage to monitor the Paris peace talks that eventually ended the Vietnam War. He is presently on the board of the National Bridge-of-Hope, an organization that mentors homeless women with children, leading them to self sufficiency.

As a member of Torch International, an organization of professionals in many fields who present monthly papers to their membership, he has had six papers published in the national Torch magazine and won the national 2000 Paxton award for the best paper presented at a Torch club that year.

He has also recently written a history of RCA/Lancaster as the world capital of the high tech industry of television camera tubes, published by the Lancaster County Historical Society.

Neuhauser"s book, The Cosmic Deity, is available directly from Mill Creek Publishers. Orders may be placed online at www.millcreekpublishers.com or contact your local book store.

Robert Neuhauser

Intelligent Design: A Misnomer


By Wayne Adkins
June 25, 2005

Proponents of the intelligent design argument say that a complex and intricate universe exhibits characteristics of design in much the same way that a watch found on a beach implies a watchmaker. Of course they gloss over the fact that if complexity and intricacy are characteristics of design, then certainly a being as complex and intricate as God would also exhibit characteristics of design. Well they needn't worry about that because their first premise is wrong.

Useless-Knowledge.com © Copyright 2002-2005

'Intelligent design' deserves to be taught with evolution


Posted on Sat, Jun. 25, 2005

Clergy Column

By the Rev. Ken Codner

The conflict between "intelligent design" and evolution is intensifying. Many school districts are struggling with the issue of whether intelligent design should be included in their curriculum.

I believe in a literal account of creation as recorded in the book of Genesis: God, over a period of six 24-hour days, spoke the creation into existence. This position is consistent with the teaching of the Scriptures (Psalm 33:6-9, Psalm 148:1, Hebrews 11:3, 2 Peter 3:5).

I readily admit this is a premise that is not provable; I hold to this by faith. For this reason, many demand that intelligent design not even be mentioned, let alone taught in the public school system. I find that interesting in view of all the effort made to be tolerant, inclusive and open-minded in our pluralistic society.

Evolution is not a scientifically provable fact any more than intelligent design. Evolution begins with a premise, a bias, that there is no God. Consider the following quotes from some noted evolutionists:

u Dr. George Wald said, "A belief in some form of spontaneous generation is a philosophical necessity, because the only alternative is special creation."

u Sir Arthur Keith, a Scottish anatomist and anthropologist, said, "Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe in it because the only option is special creation and that is unthinkable."

u D.M.S. Watson, of the University of London, said, "Evolution is accepted, not because it has been observed but because the only other choice, special creation, is clearly incredible."

So much for the objectivity, freedom and critical thinking of the scientific mind pursuing the evidence wherever it leads, apart from dogma, intolerance and censorship.

Later in his life, Charles Darwin said this: "I was young with uninformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything, and to my astonishment, the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion of them."

But what about the evidence for evolution?

Consider this explanation of an elephant's trunk from Outside magazine and circulated in the April edition of Readers Digest:

"Since a trunk doesn't contain bones, it doesn't leave behind fossils, and without fossils, paleontologists have to get creative about studying the trunk's evolution. By tracing changes in two cavities on the front of the skull, they've found what they think is the granddaddy of all elephants, a dog-size creature called Phosphatherium escuilliei, which lived 55 million years ago.

"But this tapir-like animal seems to have been trunkless.

"So what happened? Natural selection. As Hezy Shoshani, a biology professor at Eritrea's University of Asmara, explains, most scientists believe that elephants are a product of Cope's Law, which states that most species get bigger as they evolve. Over time, as elephants grew away from the ground, they had a harder time reaching down to get their food. So the trunk was born -- probably morphing out of the lip and nose -- and soon the big guys had the ultimate browsing tool."

"Get creative," "may be," "seems to be," "believe," "probably" -- are those words of science? The teachings of evolution are riddled with such nebulous terminology.

The claim that evolutionary theory is consistent with the evidence is false. For example, evolution contradicts the laws of thermodynamics.

The second law of thermodynamics states simply that an isolated system will become more disordered with time. Evolution does not match the fossil record, the Cambrian level, the next to oldest level of rock strata. According to the theory, it should contain only the simplest forms of life, but it actually contains all major branches of the animal kingdom.

So, why is evolution the only theory of origin allowed in the public school system?

The Rev. Ken Codner is pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Spring Mills. He can be reached at khcodner@yahoo.com.

Documentary on Intelligent Design Premieres at Smithsonian Museum


Saturday, Jun. 25, 2005 Posted: 10:24:06AM EST

A new documentary on intelligent design (ID) made its debut Thursday at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

"The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe" is a 60-minute science documentary produced by Discovery Institute, based on the book written by Jay Richards -- the vice president of a Seattle-based ID think tank.

While the museum allowed the presentation on its premises, it did not co-sponsor the film as originally planned because it said the content was "not consistent" with scientific research, according to Agape Press.

"Upon further review we have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research," a statement from the museum read.

Richards meanwhile, said he wishes the argument about ID would be an "intellectual" one that discusses the evidence, not "motivations or theological implications," according to Agape Press.

"Unfortunately, this is one of a number of examples of opponents of intelligent design theory preferring to simply try to get discussion squelched," said Richards, the former Teacher Fellow of Princeton Theological Seminary. "They don't want to see a public debate about the evidence for design take place."

Richards further said such censorship will not last.

"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," he said.

The Smithsonian museum said it will provide space for the event, "given that the Discovery Institute has already issued invitations," adding that it "will not participate or accept a donation for it."

Marion Kim

On Autism's Cause, It's Parents vs. Research

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/25/science/25autism.html?incamp=article_popular_2&pagewanted=print June 25, 2005

Kristen Ehresmann, a Minnesota Department of Health official, had just told a State Senate hearing that vaccines with microscopic amounts of mercury were safe. Libby Rupp, a mother of a 3-year-old girl with autism, was incredulous.

"How did my daughter get so much mercury in her?" Ms. Rupp asked Ms. Ehresmann after her testimony.

"Fish?" Ms. Ehresmann suggested.

"She never eats it," Ms. Rupp answered.

"Do you drink tap water?"

"It's all filtered."

"Well, do you breathe the air?" Ms. Ehresmann asked, with a resigned smile. Several parents looked angrily at Ms. Ehresmann, who left.

Ms. Rupp remained, shaking with anger. That anyone could defend mercury in vaccines, she said, "makes my blood boil."

Public health officials like Ms. Ehresmann, who herself has a son with autism, have been trying for years to convince parents like Ms. Rupp that there is no link between thimerosal - a mercury-containing preservative once used routinely in vaccines - and autism.

They have failed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all largely dismissed the notion that thimerosal causes or contributes to autism. Five major studies have found no link.

Yet despite all evidence to the contrary, the number of parents who blame thimerosal for their children's autism has only increased. And in recent months, these parents have used their numbers, their passion and their organizing skills to become a potent national force. The issue has become one of the most fractious and divisive in pediatric medicine.

"This is like nothing I've ever seen before," Dr. Melinda Wharton, deputy director of the National Immunization Program, told a gathering of immunization officials in Washington in March. "It's an era where it appears that science isn't enough."

Parents have filed more than 4,800 lawsuits - 200 from February to April alone - pushed for state and federal legislation banning thimerosal and taken out full-page advertisements in major newspapers. They have also gained the support of politicians, including Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, and Representatives Dan Burton, Republican of Indiana, and Dave Weldon, Republican of Florida. And Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote an article in the June 16 issue of Rolling Stone magazine arguing that most studies of the issue are flawed and that public health officials are conspiring with drug makers to cover up the damage caused by thimerosal.

"We're not looking like a fringe group anymore," said Becky Lourey, a Minnesota state senator and a sponsor of a proposed thimerosal ban. Such a ban passed the New York State Legislature this week.

But scientists and public health officials say they are alarmed by the surge of attention to an idea without scientific merit. The anti-thimerosal campaign, they say, is causing some parents to stay away from vaccines, placing their children at risk for illnesses like measles and polio.

"It's really terrifying, the scientific illiteracy that supports these suspicions," said Dr. Marie McCormick, chairwoman of an Institute of Medicine panel that examined the controversy in February 2004.

Experts say they are also concerned about a raft of unproven, costly and potentially harmful treatments - including strict diets, supplements and a detoxifying technique called chelation - that are being sold for tens of thousands of dollars to desperate parents of autistic children as a cure for "mercury poisoning."

In one case, a doctor forced children to sit in a 160-degree sauna, swallow 60 to 70 supplements a day and have so much blood drawn that one child passed out.

Hundreds of doctors list their names on a Web site endorsing chelation to treat autism, even though experts say that no evidence supports its use with that disorder. The treatment carries risks of liver and kidney damage, skin rashes and nutritional deficiencies, they say.

In recent months, the fight over thimerosal has become even more bitter. In response to a barrage of threatening letters and phone calls, the centers for disease control has increased security and instructed employees on safety issues, including how to respond if pies are thrown in their faces. One vaccine expert at the centers wrote in an internal e-mail message that she felt safer working at a malaria field station in Kenya than she did at the agency's offices in Atlanta.

An Alarm Is Sounded

Thimerosal was for decades the favored preservative for use in vaccines. By weight, it is about 50 percent ethyl mercury, a form of mercury most scientists consider to be less toxic than methyl mercury, the type found in fish. The amount of ethyl mercury included in each childhood vaccine was once roughly equal to the amount of methyl mercury found in the average tuna sandwich.

In 1999, a Food and Drug Administration scientist added up all the mercury that American infants got with a full immunization schedule and concluded that the amount exceeded a government guideline. Some health authorities counseled no action, because there was no evidence that thimerosal at the doses given was harmful and removing it might cause alarm. Others were not so certain that thimerosal was harmless.

In July 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Service released a joint statement urging vaccine makers to remove thimerosal as quickly as possible. By 2001, no vaccine routinely administered to children in the United States had more than half of a microgram of mercury - about what is found in an infant's daily supply of breast milk.

Despite the change, government agencies say that vaccines with thimerosal are just as safe as those without, and adult flu vaccines still contain the preservative.

But the 1999 advisory alarmed many parents whose children suffered from autism, a lifelong disorder marked by repetitive, sometimes self-destructive behaviors and an inability to form social relationships. In 10 to 25 percent of cases, autism seems to descend on young children seemingly overnight, sometime between their first and second birthdays.

Diagnoses of autism have risen sharply in recent years, from roughly 1 case for every 10,000 births in the 1980's to 1 in 166 births in 2003.

Most scientists believe that the illness is influenced strongly by genetics but that some unknown environmental factor may also play a role.

Dr. Tom Insel, director of the National Institute for Mental Health, said: "Is it cellphones? Ultrasound? Diet sodas? Every parent has a theory. At this point, we just don't know."

In 2000, a group of parents joined together to found SafeMinds, one of several organizations that argue that thimerosal is that environmental culprit. Their cause has been championed by politicians like Mr. Burton.

"My grandson received nine shots in one day, seven of which contained thimerosal, which is 50 percent mercury as you know, and he became autistic a short time later," he said in an interview.

In a series of House hearings held from 2000 through 2004, Mr. Burton called the leading experts who assert that vaccines cause autism to testify. They included a chemistry professor at the University of Kentucky who says that dental fillings cause or exacerbate autism and other diseases and a doctor from Baton Rouge, La., who says that God spoke to her through an 87-year-old priest and told her that vaccines caused autism.

Also testifying were Dr. Mark Geier and his son, David Geier, the experts whose work is most frequently cited by parents.

Trying to Build a Case

Dr. Geier has called the use of thimerosal in vaccines the world's "greatest catastrophe that's ever happened, regardless of cause."

He and his son live and work in a two-story house in suburban Maryland. Past the kitchen and down the stairs is a room with cast-off, unplugged laboratory equipment, wall-to-wall carpeting and faux wood paneling that Dr. Geier calls "a world-class lab - every bit as good as anything at N.I.H."

Dr. Geier has been examining issues of vaccine safety since at least 1971, when he was a lab assistant at the National Institutes of Health, or N.I.H. His résumé lists scores of publications, many of which suggest that vaccines cause injury or disease.

He has also testified in more than 90 vaccine cases, he said, although a judge in a vaccine case in 2003 ruled that Dr. Geier was "a professional witness in areas for which he has no training, expertise and experience."

In other cases, judges have called Dr. Geier's testimony "intellectually dishonest," "not reliable" and "wholly unqualified."

The six published studies by Dr. Geier and David Geier on the relationship between autism and thimerosal are largely based on complaints sent to the disease control centers by people who suspect that their children were harmed by vaccines.

In the first study, the Geiers compared the number of complaints associated with a thimerosal-containing vaccine, given from 1992 to 2000, with the complaints that resulted from a thimerosal-free version given from 1997 to 2000. The more thimerosal a child received, they concluded, the more likely an autism complaint was filed. Four other studies used similar methods and came to similar conclusions.

Dr. Geier said in an interview that the link between thimerosal and autism was clear.

Public health officials, he said, are " just trying to cover it up."

Assessing the Studies

Scientists say that the Geiers' studies are tainted by faulty methodology.

"The problem with the Geiers' research is that they start with the answers and work backwards," said Dr. Steven Black, director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center in Oakland, Calif. "They are doing voodoo science."

Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, the director of the disease control centers, said the agency was not withholding information about any potentially damaging effects of thimerosal.

"There's certainly not a conspiracy here," she said. "And we would never consider not acknowledging information or evidence that would have a bearing on children's health."

In 2003, spurred by parents' demands, the C.D.C. asked the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the nation's most prestigious medical advisory group, to review the evidence on thimerosal and autism.

In a report last year, a panel convened by the institute dismissed the Geiers' work as having such serious flaws that their studies were "uninterpretable." Some of the Geiers' mathematical formulas, the committee found, "provided no information," and the Geiers used basic scientific terms like "attributable risk" incorrectly.

In contrast, the committee found five studies that examined hundreds of thousands of health records of children in the United States, Britain, Denmark and Sweden to be persuasive.

A study by the World Health Organization, for example, examined the health records of 109,863 children born in Britain from 1988 to 1997 and found that children who had received the most thimerosal in vaccines had the lowest incidence of developmental problems like autism.

Another study examined the records of 467,450 Danish children born from 1990 to 1996. It found that after 1992, when the country's only thimerosal-containing vaccine was replaced by one free of the preservative, autism rates rose rather than fell.

In one of the most comprehensive studies, a 2003 report by C.D.C. scientists examined the medical records of more than 125,000 children born in the United States from 1991 to 1999. It found no difference in autism rates among children exposed to various amounts of thimerosal.

Parent groups, led by SafeMinds, replied that documents obtained from the disease control centers showed that early versions of the study had found a link between thimerosal and autism.

But C.D.C. researchers said that it was not unusual for studies to evolve as more data and controls were added. The early versions of the study, they said, failed to control for factors like low birth weight, which increases the risk of developmental delays.

The Institute of Medicine said that it saw "nothing inherently troubling" with the C.D.C.'s adjustments and concluded that thimerosal did not cause autism. Further studies, the institute said, would not be "useful."

Threats and Conspiracy Talk

Since the report's release, scientists and health officials have been bombarded with hostile e-mail messages and phone calls. Dr. McCormick, the chairwoman of the institute's panel, said she had received threatening mail claiming that she was part of a conspiracy. Harvard University has increased security at her office, she said.

An e-mail message to the C.D.C. on Nov. 28 stated, "Forgiveness is between them and God. It is my job to arrange a meeting," according to records obtained by The New York Times after the filing of an open records request.

Another e-mail message, sent to the C.D.C. on Aug. 20, said, "I'd like to know how you people sleep straight in bed at night knowing all the lies you tell & the lives you know full well you destroy with the poisons you push & protect with your lies." Lynn Redwood of SafeMinds said that such e-mail messages did not represent her organization or other advocacy groups.

In response to the threats, C.D.C. officials have contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and heightened security at the disease control centers. Some officials said that the threats had led them to look for other jobs.

In "Evidence of Harm," a book published earlier this year that is sympathetic to the notion that thimerosal causes autism, the author, David Kirby, wrote that the thimerosal theory would stand or fall within the next year or two.

Because autism is usually diagnosed sometime between a child's third and fourth birthdays and thimerosal was largely removed from childhood vaccines in 2001, the incidence of autism should fall this year, he said.

No such decline followed thimerosal's removal from vaccines during the 1990's in Denmark, Sweden or Canada, researchers say.

But the debate over autism and vaccines is not likely to end soon.

"It doesn't seem to matter what the studies and the data show," said Ms. Ehresmann, the Minnesota immunization official. "And that's really scary for us because if science doesn't count, how do we make decisions? How do we communicate with parents?"

Copyright 2005 The New York Times

Physics News Update 734

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 734 June 22, 2005 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein
SUPERFLUIDITY IN AN ULTRACOLD GAS OF FERMION ATOMS has been demonstrated in an experiment at MIT, where an array of vortices has been set in motion in a molecular Bose Einstein condensate (BEC) of paired lithium-6 atoms. There have been previous hints of superfluidity in Li-6, for example, (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2004/split/681-1.html) but the presence of vortices observed in the new experiment clinches the case since vortices manifest the most characteristic feature of superfluidity, namely persistent frictionless flow. Wolfgang Ketterle and his MIT colleagues use laser beams to hold the chilled atoms in place and separate laser beams to whip up the vortices. In general the quantum behavior of bosonic atoms (those whose total internal spin---the spin of the nucleus added to that of the electron retinue---is an integral number of units) and fermi atoms (those with a half-integral-valued total spin) is very different. Gaseous Li-6 represents only the second known superfluid among fermi atoms, the other being liquid helium-3. (Superconductivity is also a form of fermion superfluidity, but in this case the constituents are charged particles, electrons, unlike the neutral atoms used in the experiments described here.) There are great advantages in dealing with a neutral superfluid in dilute gas form rather than in liquid form: in the gas phase (with a material density similar to that of the interstellar medium), inter-atomic scattering is simpler; furthermore, the strength of the pairing interaction can be tuned at will using an imposed external magnetic field. According to Ketterle, one of those who won a Nobel prize for his pioneering work with boson BECs, the study of fermionic superfluidity is much richer than for bosons: control over forces will permit researchers to vary the strength and nature of the pairing (fermi atoms must pair up before falling into BEC form) and to load atoms into an optical lattice. Additional pairing mechanisms can also be explored.

One further superlative: the ultracold lithium gas represents, in a narrow sense, the first "high-temperature" superfluid. Consider the ratio of the critical temperature (Tc) at which the superfluid transition takes place to the fermi temperature (Tf), the temperature (or energy, divided by Boltzmann's constant) of the most energetic particle in the ensemble. For ordinary superconductors, Tc/Tf is about 10^-4; for superfluid helium-3 it is 10^-3; for high-temp superconductors 10^-2; for the new lithium superfluid it is 0.3. (Zwierlein et al., Nature, 23 June 2005)

GRAVITY IS NORMAL DOWN TO THE 100-nm LEVEL. Gravity at the level of planets is well studied, and was known accurately even in Newton's day. This is owing to the fact that the other physical forces, such as the strong and weak nuclear forces, don't operate over such great distances, and electromagnetic forces between immense far-apart, electrically-neutral objects like planets are dilute. Gravity at shorter lengths, by contrast, is harder to measure, partly because all the other forces are in full play. Furthermore, theories of particle interactions hypothesizing the existence of additional spatial dimensions suggest that the strength of gravity will depart from Newton's famous inverse-square formulation. To test these propositions, various tabletop setups have been devised to probe gravity below the micron level. One previous experiment, conducted by Eric Adelberger's group at the University of Washington, ruled out extra gravity components having a strength comparable to conventional gravity down to a size scale of about 100 microns (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2000/split/pnu483-1.htm). A new experiment, carried out by a Indiana/Purdue/Lucent/Florida/Wabash collaboration examines a shorter distance scale---100 nm---but is able to rule out only corrections to gravity that are, in fact, a trillion times larger than gravity itself. Nevertheless, such measurements help to constrain the general pursuit of unified theories of particle physics, including explanations of gravity. The sort of "Yukawa" corrections being sought are analogous to the force proposed by Hideki Yukawa in the 1930s to explain how mesons transmit the nuclear force between nucleons and would come about because of transmission of the presumed force particles associated with the hypothetical extra dimensions. The present measurements improve the exclusion of such corrections by a factor of ten. According to Ricardo Decca of Indiana University-Purdue University (rdecca@iupui.edu, 317-278-7123), the sensitivity of the apparatus should grow by a factor of a hundred over the next year. The size of the sample is smaller here than in many other tabletop gravity experiments.

The flea-sized torsional apparatus must operate with such concern for forces acting over small distances that one of the chief goals here is reducing the background produced by the Casimir force---a quantum effect in which two very close objects are drawn together because of the way they exclude vacuum fluctuations (that is, the spontaneous creation of pairs of virtual particles) from occurring in a slender volume of space---between a flat plane and sphere lying only 200 nm apart. (Decca et al., Physical Review Letters, 24 June 2005)

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. It is provided free of charge as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists. For that reason, you are free to post it, if you like, where others can read it, providing only that you credit AIP. Physics News Update appears approximately once a week.

eSkeptic: The Woodstock of Evolution

the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society

Friday, June 24th, 2005

To view this newsletter with graphics and formatting, visit:



notes by Michael Shermer

Charles Darwin famously described the origin of species as the "mystery of mysteries," a phrase he cribbed from the astronomer John Herschel, whom Darwin visited in Capetown, South Africa during the five-year round-the-world voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. The meeting happened a few months after Darwin departed the Galapagos islands, at which point he had not yet solved the "grand mystery," despite the myth that Darwin first understood the mechanism of evolution in this magnificent archipelago. Darwin was, in fact, a creationist throughout the voyage, and did not accept evolution until he discovered natural selection a full ten months after leaving the Galapagos, when he was home working intensely on his collections. The Galapagos were an after-the-fact inspiration, and he could have kicked himself for not taking better notes while he was there.

How appropriate, then, that the 2005 World Summit on Evolution was held at the very location where the Beagle first dropped anchor -- Frigatebird Hill, on the coastal outskirt of the lively little fishing town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, on the island of San Cristobal, one of a dozen major islands that make up the Galapagos archipelago, located on the equator and a province of Ecuador. The four-day conference (June 9th-12th) was held at the Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS), a high-tech facility flanked by low-tech homes and businesses. GAIAS is operated by the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, the host of the conference, which obtained additional support from the National Science Foundation (who paid the way for graduate students in evolutionary biology to attend), Microsoft (who provided computers and internet technology for GAIAS), UNESCO, and OCP Ecuador S.A., an oil conglomerate that provided additional funding.

I got involved in the conference planning in June of 2004, when I was on a Galapagos expedition led by U.C. Berkeley Darwin scholar Frank J. Sulloway, in which we explored the volcanic highlands of San Cristobal. On the way home through Quito I met Carlos Montufar, the co-founder of the university who also happened to be a reader of Skeptic magazine, who invited me to speak on his campus. A year later Carlos and his colleagues turned an idea into a conference so successful that many veteran scientists, who have attended dozens of such gatherings in their careers, proclaimed this to be the finest conference they had ever seen. One even called it "the Woodstock of evolution." It was a veritable Who's Who of evolutionary theory, including William Calvin, Daniel Dennett, Niles Eldredge, Douglas Futuyma, Peter and Rosemary Grant, Antonio Lazcano, Lynn Margulis, William Provine, William Schopf, Frank Sulloway, Timothy White, and others.

For the eight days before the conference Frank and I led a tour of the archipelago that included 14 conference members on a 120-foot three-masted sailing vessel named the Sagitta. With a boatload of scientific minds, it was an exceptionally stimulating experience, and our naturalist guide, Juan Tapia (every tour must have a licensed Ecuadorian naturalist), was put through his paces with a never-ending barrage of questions from this august group.


With 210 people in attendance (in a healthy blend of graduate students and professors), the conference began on a hot and humid Wednesday night with a lecture on the geological history and biological diversity of the islands by Carlos Valle, the first resident of the Galapagos to ever earn a Ph.D. This was followed by Frank Sulloway's visually stunning presentation on his research project to document the ecological changes in the islands from his first visit in 1968 to the present (in which Frank has painstakingly hiked to the exact spots he stood decades ago so that photo comparisons are accurate and meaningful). Through before and after photos it became clear just how much damaged has been caused by such introduced species as goats, who have deforested entire mountains on some islands, thereby robbing the native species of a natural resource. Frank also debunked the myth that Darwin discovered natural selection in the Galapagos and became an evolutionist on the voyage. Darwin was a creationist from start to finish, says Sulloway, and he did not fully realize the importance of these islands until he returned home and began work on his extensive specimen collection. To his chagrin (once he became an evolutionist), Darwin realized that he had not recorded the island locations from which most of his specimens came from, and thus he had to rely on the notes taken by other Beagle crew members as well as the arch-creationist Captain Fitz-Roy.


The first session the following morning began with a lecture on the origins of life by Antonio Lazcano, President of the International Society for the Study of the Origins of Life and a scientist at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico, who theorized that there were three sources for the primordial soup: a reducing atmosphere from volcanic outgassing, high-temperature submarine vents and fumaroles, and space -- the 4.6 billion-year-old Murchison meteorite, discovered in Australia in 1969, for example, was loaded with amino acids, aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, hydroxy acids, purines, pyrimidines, and other chemical building blocks of life. "The evidence strongly suggests that prior to the origin of life the primitive Earth already had many different catalytic agents, polymers with sequences of nucleotides, and membrane-forming compounds," Lazcano concluded. This prebiotic soup led to a catalytic and replicative RNA world, which led to the DNA world of today.

UCLA paleobiologist William Schopf began his commentary on Lazcano's lecture by quoting the U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:

There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know.

Translating Rumsfeld, Schopf asked: "What do we know? What are the unsolved problems? What have we failed to consider?" Schopf answered:

We know the overall sequence of life's origin, from CHONSP (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus), to monomers, to polymers, to cells; we know that the origin of life was early, microbial, and unicellular; and we know that an RNA world preceded today's DNA-protein world. We do not know the precise environments of the early earth in which these events occurred; we do not know the exact chemistry of some of the important chemical reactions that led to life; and we do not have any knowledge of life in a pre-RNA world.

As for what we have failed to consider, Schopf suggested that the "'pull of the present' makes it extremely difficult for us to model the early earth's atmosphere and the biochemistry of early life."

In the discussion period University of Massachusetts theoretical biologist Lynn Margulis, in her inimitable rapid-fire style, hit Lazcano with a point-blank question: "In your opinion what came first, cells or the RNA world?" Lazcano answered:

If you define a cell as a membrane-enclosed system, then lipids-enclosed systems assisted in the polymerization of molecules, which led to RNA. Lipids and cells came first, then the RNA world.

Next up was Mikhail Fedonkin, head of the Laboratory of the Precambrian Organisms at the Paleontological Institute in Moscow, with a lecture on evolution in the Proterozoic and Archean Eons, which extend back to more than 3.6 billion years ago and cover the first microfossils and stromatolite fossils. Fredonkin suggested that a fall of global temperatures and the oxygenation of the biosphere due to photosynthesis played a major role in the dramatic change in the availability of heavy metals that he believes were crucial in the metabolic processes that led to the evolution of complex life. This metal-rich environment served as a catalyst: "Over 70 percent of known enzymes contain metal ions as a cofactor of an active site. Fast catalyzed reactions segregated life first dynamically and then structurally from the mineral realm." Once prokaryotes gave rise to eukaryotes (through symbiogenesis -- Fedonkin supports Margulis' theory of the origins of modern cells), life was off and running, exploding in the Cambrian with complex hard-bodied organisms.

Stefan Bengtson, from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, commenting on Fedonkin, asked "Why did the build-up to the Cambrian 'explosion' take so long?" Noting that 99.99999% of all living species who ever lived have gone extinct, Bengston reflected: "We do not know because we have nothing else to go on. Life is an evolutionary bush, not an evolutionary tree, but our data based on extant life induce us to prune the bush into a tree, so we need more data."

Richard Fortey from the British Museum of Natural History was next in the lineup, in which he discussed the evidence of evolution in the Phanerozoic (from 542 million years ago till the present), emphasizing the importance of mass extinction events in resetting the direction of evolution, the importance of evolutionary arms races in driving morphological innovation, the relationship of climate change and changing geography to evolutionary change, and the extent to which evolution can be described as directional. With half a billion years of a solid fossil record, Fortey said we can track the evolutionary periods of creativity and crises. Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life stimulated a lot of new ideas about the Cambrian explosion of life, he continued, and it soon became clear that there were a huge variety of organisms difficult to classify, such as those in the Burgess Shale. But there are a number of Cambrian fossil beds, such as in China, where important phyla such as Chordata evolved. "But what does all this diversity mean?" Fortey asked.

There are today 30 living phyla. In the Cambrian, some claim that there were as many as 100 phyla, but the evidence does not support this. We now believe that morphological diversity did not explode as much as Gould originally suggested, although the explosion in evolutionary experimentation was real. By the time we get to the Cambrian, like at the Burgess Shale, the systems are very complex, such as trilobite eyes. Evolution was experimenting with many wondrous varieties, such as all the armor on the heads of trilobites.

Interestingly, despite the impact of the five biggest mass extinctions (Ordovician 439 Ma, Devonian 367 Ma, Permian 245 Ma, Triassic 208 Ma, Cretaceous 65 Ma), many organism groups passed through all of these extinction episodes safely, such as the cockroach. "What is amazing is not only the extent of loss, but how fast life bounces back," Fortey concluded.

In the subsequent discussion session, Bill Schopf asked all the speakers the Gouldian question: if we reran the tape of life would we end up with something like what we have today? The collective response was that it depends on how the question is defined, as in "what do you mean by 'something like'?" There is evolutionary convergence, so clearly some things would be preserved (like eyes and wings). The experiment has been run in that sense. Fortey said that such "what if" questions are meaningless, but that's not true, since counterfactual history is a legitimate form of reasoning about cause and effect relationships.

Next on the roster was Peter Gogarten, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Connecticut, who asked "Is the 'Tree of Life' a Tree?" When we are talking about prokaryote evolution, horizontal gene transfer between organisms allows us to understand genealogical relationships, he explained.

Over long periods of time gene transfer makes organisms existing in the same environment more similar to one another. This is most clearly seen in the case of organisms that live in environments that are otherwise inhabited by distant relatives only.

Thus, Gogarten concluded,

the boundaries between prokaryotic species are fuzzy. Therefore the principles of population genetics need to be broadened so that they can be applied to higher taxonomic categories.

Margaret Riley, a colleague of Margulis at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, provided the commentary on Gogarten's talk, suggesting that we need a modification of Ernst Mayr's definition of a species to accommodate microbes. Mayr defined a species as: "A group of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations reproductively isolated from other such populations." The problem with applying this definition to microbes is that separate species are not truly reproductively isolated, and yet they still retain distinct features that keep them phenotypically apart. "Although horizontal gene transfer can and does occur, it does not obliterate the phenotypic groupings of organisms," Riley concluded.

Australian botanist and itinerant surfer Geoff McFadden, from the University of Melbourne, lectured next on "Protists and Cellular Phenomena in Evolution," opening with the semi-disgusting story of how Anton van Leeuwenhoek discovered the first protists by training his hand made microscope on his own diarrhoeal stool. Whatever it takes to get the data, I suppose, but I was glad that dinner was still hours away. Darwin apparently ignored protists, but Ernst Haeckel included them in his comprehensive tree of life, and Constantin Mereschkowsky was the first to appreciate the significance of protists in early eukaryotic evolution. A.F.W. Schimper noted that chloroplasts in plant cells very much resembled cyanobacteria, but the ultimate theoretical model was provided by Lynn Margulis: the key step was the endosymbiosis of cyanobacteria within a phagotrophic eukaryotic host, a process she calls symbiogenesis. In primary endosymbiosis, 1,000 genes were acquired by the nucleus from the incorporated cyanobacteria. In secondary endosymbiosis, there was a second round of gene transfer in which the eukaryote cell engulfs another plastid-containing eukaryote. Creationists and Intelligent Design theorists like to inquire how information can increase in a world filled with entropy and the decay of information. Symbiogenesis is one answer -- incorporating the genome of other organisms. Lynn Margulis would have much more to say on this in her lecture the last day.

One of the best talks of the conference was delivered by the U.C. Berkeley paleoanthropologist Timothy White, in which he opened with a prediction made by Stephen Jay Gould in the late 1980s: "We know about three coexisting branches of the human bush. I will be surprised if twice as many more are not discovered before the end of the century." A glance at the extant fossil record looks like Gould was right. There are at least two dozen fossil species in six million years of hominid evolution. But the bush is not so bushy, says White. The problem lies in the difference between "lumpers" and "splitters" in species classification, and the social pressures to publish extraordinary new discoveries. If you want to get your fossil find published in Science or Nature, and you want the cover illustration, you cannot conclude that your fossil is yet another Australopithicus africanus, for example. You better come up with an interpretation indicating that this new find you are revealing for the first time to the world is the most spectacular discovery of the last century and that it promises to overturn hominid phylogeny and send everyone back to the drawing board to reconfigure the human evolutionary tree. Training a more skeptical eye on many of these fossils, however, shows that many, if not most of these fossils belong in already well-established categories. White says that the specimen labeled Kenyanthropus platyops, for example, is very fragmented and is most likely just another Australopithicus africanus. "Name diversity does not equal biological diversity," White elucidated.

White then concluded his talk with a fascinating discussion of the recent discovery of fossil dwarf humans on Flores Island in the Malay Archipelago, located on the outside of Wallace's Line, meaning that even during the last ice age they could only have gotten there by boat. (White did note, however, that after last December's tsunami people were rescued from large floating rafts of natural debris, so it is possible that the founding population of Flores rafted there by accident and not design.) Found in Liang Bua cave, the type specimen of Homo floresensis was dated at 18,000 years old, meaning that they had to be modern humans because all other hominid species had long ago gone extinct. But with a cranial capacity of only 300cc -- about the same size as that of Lucy and modern chimpanzees -- this means that they were able to fashion complex tools (and possibly boats) with tiny brains; the implication is that brain architecture, not size, is what counts for creating higher intelligence. A second published specimen put to rest the pathology hypothesis that Homo floresensis was a microcephalic human. The best evidence, says White, points to insular dwarfing, a rapid punctuation event out of Homo sapiens that led to a shrinkage of these isolated people. Such dwarfing effects can be seen on this and other islands, where large mammals get smaller (like the dwarf elephant), and small reptiles get larger (like the Komodo Dragon). The chances of any living members of this species still existing in the hinterlands of Flores are extremely remote, but some observers have noted that the indigenous peoples of Flores recount a myth of small hairy humans who descend from the highlands to steal food and supplies.

University of Cambridge professor Peter Forster, an expert in archaeogenetics, followed Tim White by showing how prehistoric human migrations can be traced by mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) through the maternal line of modern humans. The mtDNA samples are taken through saliva cheek swabs, then dried to prevent molding before analysis is conducted in the lab. The process was first done in 1981, using the placenta of a woman in a maternity ward, and has since become a mainstay of researchers in this field. Forster outlined our migrational history over the past 200,000 years as follows: Between 190,000-130,000 years ago, a single female known formally as the "mitochondrial coalescent" but dubbed "mitochondrial Eve," gave rise to every living human today. Between 80,000-60,000 years ago, a large population from the center of Africa migrated to all areas of Africa, as well as the area of present-day Saudi Arabia. This migration may have taken two routes, a northern one up the Nile and around the Red Sea, and a southern one across the narrow straight which, during the last ice age would have only been five kilometers across (Forster thinks the latter the most likely route). Between 60,000-30,000 years ago there was a great migration to Southeast Asia, Northern Asia, and Europe. Between 30,000-20,000 years ago, people spread throughout the rest of the world, including Australia, and between 20,000-15,000 years ago they migrated into North America, making their way into South America between 15,000-2,000 years ago. The final migration over the past 2,000 years saw the settlement of the Pacific islands.

The next lecture would have sent Darwinian fundamentalists into skeptical paroxysms, as Leticia Aviles, a zoologist at the University of British Columbia, summarized the evidence for "multilevel selection." Darwinian fundamentalists (an intentionally pejorative term coined by Stephen Jay Gould) believe that the individual organism is the sole target of natural selection. Aviles said that below the individual, selection may occur at the level of genes, chromosomes, organelles, and cells. Above the individual, selection may occur at the level of social groups, demes, species, and multispecies communities. In that sense, Aviles said, "individual" depends on the frame of reference. She then applied multilevel selection to research on sex ratios, cooperation among non-relatives, and multicellularity. Social spiders are an example of group selection, Aviles continued. And sex ratios that depart from 1:1 cannot be accounted for by inbreeding alone, so group selection is here invoked. Likewise, the equilibrium of sex ratios is explained by both within-group selection and between-group selection. "When cooperation is not costly, groups, grouping, and cooperation evolve readily. But with increasing costs of cooperation, levels of cooperation decrease."

The highlight of the second day was the lecture by the husband and wife team Peter and Rosemary Grant, both from Princeton University, made famous by Jonathan Weiner in his 1994 book The Beak of the Finch. Every year for the past three decades the Grants have parked themselves on Daphne Major, a tiny volcanic plug of an island 120 meters high and a kilometer long to study Darwin's finches and the process of speciation.

Three million years ago an ancestral group of finches flew out to the Galapagos during a time of very active plate tectonics and the creation of the island archipelago. When this founder population arrived it encountered a very different environment from the one we see today: there were only five islands and the temperatures were much higher. Over the last three million years of fluctuations in global temperatures, there has been an overall net cooling of the islands. But when these little finches arrived 2.75 million years ago there was a permanent El Nino and the islands were warm and wet, during which there was an explosion of speciation. First came the warbler finch, then the tree finch (of which there are now five species) and then the ground finch (of which there are now six species). Following Ernst Mayr's theory of allopatric speciation (where a founder daughter population breaks away from the parental population), the first finches landed on San Cristobal, then migrated to Espanola, then to Floreana, then to Santa Cruz, and finally made their way back to San Cristobal. Along the journey the finches adapted to local conditions. Finches in highlands developed larger beaks to break hard beetles and seeds. Finches in lowlands evolved smaller beaks for eating small seeds and succulents. As an opportunistic species, some of these finches also ate sea turtle eggs and sucked the blood from blue-footed boobies. Different adaptations to different islands lead to speciation.

The strongest environmental factor the Grants have observed is the rainfall pattern over 30 years on Daphne Major. Arriving in 1973, the Grants immediately witnessed a draught that wiped out 85 percent of the population of two species of finches (the ground finch Geospiza fortis and the cactus finch Geospiza scandens). From 1975 to 1978 there was almost no rainfall and natural selection operated rapidly to change beak size. In 1983, an El Nino rainfall produced an abundance of plants and trees and cactus fruit, all covered by vines. Two years after the El Nino event, the island dried out and the large seeds were replaced by small seeds, leading to a favoring of small pointy beaked birds. Beak shape, beak size, and body size all changed in parallel. The Grants summarized four lessons they learned about natural selection on Daphne:

1. It is an observable, measurable process in a natural environment.

2. It oscillated in direction.

3. It occurs when the environment changes.

4. It has evolutionary significance.

The Grants have made another important observation on a reproductive isolating mechanism in finches: song. Song is learned during a short sensitive period early in the life of a finch (between days 10 and 30), while still in the nest and being fed by their fathers. Only the males sing. A few learn variations on the song. Rosemary recounted an endearing story about a finch who got a cactus spine stuck in its throat that made its song more croaky; his sons subsequently learned the new croakier song, as did their sons, and so on through the generations, a clear example of a meme.

The Grants are heroes among evolutionary biologists, and their mere presence lifted the conference to a higher status, which was reciprocated the final day of the conference when they were awarded honorary doctorates from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.


The third day was allocated for field trips to locales I had previously visited, so I took the opportunity to SCUBA dive off Kicker Rock, a volcanic plug sticking straight out of the ocean that is choc-a-block full of marine organisms of numerous species and colors, and bisected by sharks swimming through a ten meter slit in the rock, making this one of the top choices of divers in the archipelago. I was certified to dive back in the Devonian (1972) but it had been an epoch since I last dove (1988) and at 60 feet down on the first dive I made the mistake of looking up -- suddenly I had this crushing sense of anxiety, which subsided when I surfaced and descended slowly, staring at the wall and suppressing my vertical receptors. Darwin described and illustrated Kicker Rock, but until modern technology made it possible for humans to stay under water for extended periods, most evolutionary theory was based on surface-dwelling creatures.

I was slated as the keynote entertainment for Saturday night, and gave a lecture on Intelligent Design creationism. Since I certainly did not need to explain evolution to this eminent group, I focused instead on the IDers own works, beginning with their intellectual leader (these are slides from my Powerpoint presentation):

Intelligent design is a strictly scientific theory devoid of religious commitments. Whereas the creator underlying scientific creationism conforms to a strict, literalist interpretation of the Bible, the designer underlying intelligent design need not even be a deity. --William Dembski, The Design Revolution , 2003

Baloney. (I used a stronger descriptor this evening.) The fact is that virtually all Intelligent Design creationists are Evangelical Christians who privately believe that ID and God are one and the same. There is nothing wrong with that, but if they would at least be honest about it I would respect them more. In point of fact, this is just a public facade constructed for public school consumption. In other venues they are forthright. For example:

Thus, in its relation to Christianity, intelligent design should be viewed as a ground-clearing operation that gets rid of the intellectual rubbish that for generations has kept Christianity from receiving serious consideration. --William Dembski, "Intelligent Design's Contribution to the Debate over Evolution: A Reply to Henry Morris," 2005

The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to 'the truth' of the Bible and then 'the question of sin' and finally 'introduced to Jesus.' --Phillip Johnson, "Missionary Man," Church & State magazine, 1999

As I also demonstrated in my talk, IDers are disingenuous about their "science." They are not doing science and they know it. To wit:

Because of ID's outstanding success at gaining a cultural hearing, the scientific research part of ID is now lagging behind. --William Dembski, "Research and Progress in Intelligent Design," 2002 conference on Intelligent Design

We don't have such a theory right now, and that's a problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we've got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as 'irreducible complexity' and 'specified complexity'--but, as yet, no general theory of biological design. --Dr. Paul Nelson, "The Measure of Design," Touchstone magazine, 2004

To drive home the point, I show that even Christian biologists have no use for ID, as in this observation from Dr. Lee Anne Chaney, Professor of Biology at the Christian-based Whitworth College, from their house publication Whitworth Today, 1995:

As a Christian, part of my belief system is that God is ultimately responsible. But as a biologist, I need to look at the evidence. Scientifically speaking, I don't think intelligent design is very helpful because it does not provide things that are refutable -- there is no way in the world you can show it's not true. Drawing inferences about the deity does not seem to me to be the function of science because it's very subjective.

I then summarized the cognitive style of ID thusly:

1. X looks designed.

2. I can't think of how X was designed naturally.

3. Therefore X was designed supernaturally.

This is the old "God of the Gaps" argument: wherever there is a gap in scientific knowledge, God is invoked as the causal agent. This is comparable to the "Plane problem" of Isaac Newton's time: the planets all lie in a plane (the plane of the ecliptic). Newton found this arrangement to be so improbable that he invoked God as an explanation in Principia Mathematica: "This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being." Why don't IDers use this argument any more? Because astronomers have filled that gap with a natural explanation.

I also summarized ID in practice thusly:

1. Scientists do not accept ID as science.

2. Therefore ID is not taught in public school science classes.

3. I think ID is science.

4. Therefore I will lobby the government to force teachers to teach ID as science.

This is what I call the "God of the Government" argument: if you can't convince teachers to teach your idea based on its own merits, ask the government to force teachers to teach it. By analogy, in the early 1990s, I published a series of articles applying chaos and complexity theory to history. It is, of sorts, a theory of history, and I had high hopes that historians would adopt my theory, put it to practice, and perhaps even teach it to their students. They haven't. Maybe I didn't communicate my theory very clearly. Maybe my theory is wrong. Should I go to my congressman to complain? Should I lobby school board members to force history teachers to teach my theory of history? See how absurd this sounds? I particularly like this approach to ID because most IDers are Christians, most Christians are politically conservative, and most conservatives are in favor of small government. In fact, I close my lecture with an analogy between natural selection in nature and the invisible hand in the economy, where both produce design complexity without a top-down designer. Since most conservatives understand and support the workings of free markets, they should intuitively embrace the analogy.


The final day of the conference began with a completely unorthodox lecture by Cornell University evolutionary theorist William Provine. From the projection booth he provided periodic voice-over commentary on text slides we were supposed to read to ourselves ("I don't read slides" he proclaimed), but for which he left on the screen for a few fleeting seconds inadequate for reading (and compounded with loud music that forced him to shout into the microphone). The gist of his talk was that we need a new theory of evolution, after which he listed 11 problems that included this statement:

Natural selection does not shape an adaptation or cause a gene to spread over a population or really do anything at all. It is instead the result of specific causes: hereditary changes, developmental causes, ecological causes, and demography. Natural Selection is the result of these causes, not a cause that is by itself. It is not a mechanism.

Provine's White Whale is the theory of random genetic drift, and it tasks him. It is not random, he said.

The random assortment of chromosomes at meiosis is deterministic. What is the deterministic random number generator that produces random genetic drift? Random binomial sampling. Substitute inbreeding for random drift and then everything makes sense. Frequency of alleles at an individual locus drift, that is, they change in frequencies randomly. Linkage and recombination are ignored. Random drift is independent at each locus. When population size is small, the random drift is greater. Inbreeding and random drift are measured by the same variable, the inbreeding coefficient, F. Inbreeding increases frequency changes.

After providing numerous examples, Provine then concluded:

Random sampling from the allele pool doesn't exist. The 'gene pool' is a bad term. There is no such thing as a gene pool for a population or species. Sewall Wright's model requires each chromosome be cleaved at each locus each generation. This is a hopeless requirement. Random drift must be distinguished from inbreeding. Inbreeding effects stem from pairing chromosomes together with themselves, thus rendering them homozygous. Recessive traits are often revealed. Random drift must also be distinguished from founder effects. Founder effects lead to inbreeding effects, but not random drift because the new population is so small.

Since this is all beyond my pay scale, and since no one challenged him or even had a question in the discussion session, I privately canvassed the evolutionary theorists present for their opinion. With the exception of Lynn Margulis -- who said she thinks that Provine is basically right even if he doesn't communicate it clearly -- no one else present thought that there was any merit to Provine's challenges to modern evolutionary theory.

Next up was Niles Eldredge from the American Museum of Natural History who co-founded (with Stephen Jay Gould) the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which he nicely summarized in the first part of his talk that challenged Darwinian gradualism. But his primary focus was on Darwin, explaining that he practiced both Baconian induction and hypothetico-deduction. "At first Darwin was just collecting data, letting nature come to him, and then he formed hypotheses that could be tested." From his reading of Darwin's letters and notebooks, quotes from which he presented to the audience, Eldredge concluded that Darwin converted to evolution during the Beagle voyage. I asked Frank Sulloway about this later, and he said that this is absolutely false, adding that someone once asked Darwin if he became an evolutionist during his voyage, to which he unequivocally answered no.

University of Arizona evolutionary biologist Richard Michod delivered one of the finer lectures of the conference, clearly and succinctly outlining his research on Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality (ETIs). What is an individual?

In Latin it means indivisible; in philosophy it means distinct in space and time; in biology it means genetic homogeneity, genetic uniqueness, autonomy, and physiological unity.

Evolutionary individuals include genes, gene networks, prokaryote cells, eukaryotic cells, multicellular organisms, social groups, and mating pairs (sexual populations).

Evolution occurs not only through mutational change in populations but also during evolutionary transitions in individuality, when groups become so integrated that they evolve into new higher-level individuals.

Michod focused on two such ETIs: (1) asexual to sexual, (2) unicellular to multicellular. "Natural selection at any level requires heritable variation in fitness," Michod explained.

Fitness has two basic components, fecundity and viability, and resources invested in one component often detract from the other, leading to trade-offs in fitness components. Fitness trade-offs gain special significance during ETIs. For example, in unicellular individuals, the same cell must contribute both fitness components; however, in multicellular groups, cells may specialize in one component or the other, leading to the specialization of reproductive and vegetative functions. As cells specialize, they relinquish their autonomy in favor of the group; as a result, fitness and individuality are transferred from the level of the cell to the level of the group.

Michod's talk was the perfect lead-in for the penultimate lecture of the conference by the acknowledged star of the weekend, Lynn Margulis, famous for her pioneering research on symbiogenesis. Margulis began graciously by acknowledging the conference hosts and saying, "This is the most wonderful conference I've ever been to, and I've been to a lot of conferences." She then got to work, pronouncing the death of neo-Darwinism. Echoing Darwin, she said "It was like confessing a murder when I discovered I was not a neo-Darwinist." But, she quickly added, "I am definitely a Darwinist though. I think we are missing important information about the origins of variation. I differ from the neo-Darwinian bullies on this point." She then outlined the basis of her theory of the origin of the cell nucleus as a fusion between archaebacteria (thermoplasma) and Eubacteria (Spirochaeta). "We live on a bacterial planet," she reflected.

The cell is the fundamental unit of life. A minimal cell has DNA, mRNA, tRNA, rRNA, amino acylating enzymes, polymerases, sources of energy and electrons, lipoprotein membranes, and ion channels, all contained within a cell wall, and is an autopoietic (self-regulating feedback) system.

The biggest break in life, she explained, was between the prokaryotes (cells with nucleoids: monera, prokaryota; archaebacteria, eubacteria) and eukaryotes (cells with nuclei: protoctista, fungi, plantae, animalia).

In this framework, Margulis continued, all of life's history can be divided into three major eons: Archean (3,500-2,500 million years ago), Proterozoic (2,500-540 Ma), and Phanerozoic (540-0 Ma). "Most evolutionary biologists deal with the Phanerozoic, which is like saying that history began in 1909 when the Ford Motor Company opened shop in Dearborn, MI," Margulis quipped. The major steps in evolution involved symbiogenesis, which Margulis described succinctly as "the inheritance of acquired genomes" and more formally in its relationship to symbiosis, "the long-term physical association between members of different types (species)." The problem with neo-Darwinism, Margulis concluded, is that

Random changes in DNA alone do not lead to speciation. Symbiogenesis -- the appearance of new behaviors, tissues, organs, organ systems, physiologies, or species as a result of symbiont interaction -- is the major source of evolutionary novelty in eukaryotes -- animals, plants, and fungi.

There were no direct challenges to Margulis in the discussion period that followed, so I once again queried a number of the experts in this area after the lecture. The overall impression I received was that Margulis goes too far in her rejection of neo-Darwinism, but because she was right about the role of symbiogenesis in the origin of the first eukaryote cells, they are taking a wait-and-see approach. One scientist added that since Margulis was to receive an honorary doctorate that afternoon, it seemed inappropriate to challenge her in this venue.

The final talk was delivered by evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden, from Stanford University. Evolutionary skepticism must have been in the air, for on the heals of Margulis' pronouncement of the death of neo-Darwinism, Roughgarden proclaimed the death of Darwin's theory of sexual selection. Darwin said that males have stronger passions than females, that females are coy, and that females choose mates who are more attractive, vigorous and well-armed. "People are surprised to learn how much sex animals have for purely social reasons (including same-sex sexuality in over 300 species of vertebrates)," Roughgarden explained,

and how many species have sex-role reversal in which the males are drab and the females are colorfully ornamented and compete for the attention of males, and that most plants and perhaps a quarter of all animal species have individuals that cannot be classified as male or female.

In response, University of Georgia evolutionary biologist Patricia Gowaty noted that Roughgarden is right in identifying the exceptions to Darwin's theory and that there is much we still do not know, but added that since Darwin's time much has been learned about mate selection and competition that should not be dismissed.


In the end, what can be said about the state of evolutionary theory today? SUNY evolutionary biologist Douglas Futuyma, who wrote the book on evolution (literally -- he is the author of the best selling textbook on evolution biology), opined after a particularly contentious exchange, "I am tempted to quote from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado: 'I am right and you are right and all is right as right can be.'" Futuyma explained that he had agreements with everyone on some aspects of the various debates and controversies under discussion, but that in the end more research and more data will resolve some issues and open up new ones.

Herein lies science's greatest strength: not only the ability to withstand such buffeting, but to actually grow from it. Creationists and other outsiders contend that science is a cozy and insular club in which meetings are held to enforce agreement with the party line, to circle the wagons against any and all would-be challengers, and to achieve consensus on the most contentious issues. This conclusion is so wrong that it cannot have been made by anyone who has ever attended a scientific conference. The World Summit on Evolution, like most scientific conferences, revealed a science rich in history and tradition, data and theory, as well as controversy and debate. From this I conclude that the theory of evolution has never been stronger.


Contents are Copyright (c) 2005 Michael Shermer, the Skeptics Society, Skeptic magazine, eSkeptic newsletter. Permission to print, distribute, and post with proper citation and acknowledgment. www.skeptic.com

Evolution education update: antievolution legislation in SC again, AAUP and ACS statements on teaching evolution

Antievolution legislation is again on the horizon in South Carolina, while the American Association of University Professors and the American Chemical Society issue strong statements supporting the teaching of evolution in the public schools.


On June 1, 2005, a bill modeled on the so-called Santorum language stripped from the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was introduced in the South Carolina Senate and referred to the senate's Committee on Education. If enacted, S. 909 would require that "In the promulgation of policies and regulations regarding kindergarten through twelfth grade education, the State Board of Education shall implement policies and a curriculum that accomplish the General Assembly's desire to provide a quality science education that shall prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological evolution, the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society." Such bills have been common in state legislatures over the past few years, although none has been enacted.

The lead sponsor of S. 909 is Michael L. Fair (R-Greenville County), described in the June 17, 2005, issue of The State as the "dominant voice advocating for S.C. schools to teach more than Charles Darwins theories of evolution." In 2003, Fair attempted to amend a textbook bill to require a textbook disclaimer reading "The cause or causes of life are not scientifically verifiable. Therefore, empirical science cannot provide data about the beginning of life." Subsequently, he repeatedly but unsuccessfully attempted to pass legislation to establish a committee to "study standards regarding the teaching of the origin of species; determine whether there is a consensus on the definition of science; [and] determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools"; the Greenville News reported on May 1, 2003, that "his intention is to show that Intelligent Design is a viable scientific alternative that should be taught in the public schools."

S. 909 was introduced the day before the South Carolina legislature adjourned; the bill will therefore be at the top of the agenda when it reconvenes in January 2006. The State reports, "Fair says he plans to mount a major push during the next legislative session to win colleagues' support for his latest idea to modify standards for teaching science, particularly in high schools. Public school students, he said, should be told a 'full range of scientific views ... exist' when it comes to explaining how fauna, flora and man came to inhabit the earth," and quotes him as acknowledging that his critics "will say all this is a thinly veiled attempt to mandate that creationism must be taught," a charge he rejects. The newspaper's report noted that South Carolina's science standards include evolution but not "alternative theories" and also quoted the Reverend Baxter Wynn of Greenville's First Baptist Church as writing, "It is not necessary to choose between Christianity and evolution -- they are not mutually exclusive." Residents of South Carolina concerned about S. 909 are encouraged to get in touch with NCSE's Susan Spath at spath@ncseweb.org.

For the text of S. 909, visit: http://www.scstatehouse.net/sess116_2005-2006/bills/909.htm

For The State's story about S. 909, visit: http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/local/11915729.htm

For NCSE's reports on previous events in South Carolina, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=SC


In a press release issued on June 17, 2005, the American Association of University Professors announced that at its June 11, 2005, meeting, it adopted a statement in support of teaching evolution. The statement reads, in its entirety:

The theory of evolution is all but universally accepted in the community of scholars and has contributed immeasurably to our understanding of the natural world. The Ninety-first Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors deplores efforts in local communities and by some state legislators to require teachers in public schools to treat evolution as merely a hypothesis or speculation, untested and unsubstantiated by the methods of science, and to require them to make students aware of an "intelligent-design hypothesis" to account for the origins of life. These initiatives not only violate the academic freedom of public school teachers, but can deny students an understanding of the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding evolution.

The implications of these efforts for higher education are particularly troubling to this Meeting. To the degree that college and university faculty in the field of biology would be required to offer instruction about evolution and the origins of life that complied with these restrictions and was at variance with their own understanding of scientific evidence, their freedom to determine what may be taught and how would be seriously abridged.

This Meeting calls on local communities and state officials to reject proposals that seek to suppress discussion of evolution in our public schools as inimical to principles of academic freedom.

The American Association of University Professors is a nonprofit charitable and educational organization that promotes academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, and standards of quality in higher education. The AAUP has about 45,000 members at colleges and universities throughout the United States. It also publishes the bimonthy journal Academe, the January/February 2005 issue of which contained "Wedging creationism into the academy" by Barbara Forrest, a member of NCSE's board of directors, and Glenn Branch, NCSE's deputy director.

For the AAUP's press release, visit: http://www.aaup.org/newsroom/press/2005/amres.htm

For "Wedging creationism into the academy," visit: http://www.aaup.org/publications/Academe/2005/05jf/05jfforr.htm


In a press release issued on June 20, 2005, the American Chemical Society released a statement in support of teaching evolution, adopted by the ACS board of directors on June 5. The statement reads, in its entirety:

Statement on Teaching of Evolutionary Theory

The American Chemical Society (ACS) strongly supports the inclusion of evolution in K-12 science curricula, at an age-appropriate level, because evolution is central to our modern understanding of science. Evolutionary theory is not a hypothesis, but is the scientifically accepted explanation for the origin of species, and explains significant observations in chemistry, biology, geology, and other disciplines. Because of the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution, it has been recognized and endorsed as a key component of science education by all major scientific societies including the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). The ACS joins these prestigious organizations in recognizing the critical importance of the scientific principles embodied in evolutionary theory.

Science is a human activity that uses the observation of natural phenomena and systems, and the study of modifications to these systems, to develop models that explain the order and function of the universe. The theory of biological evolution is based on hundreds of years of scientific observation and experimentation and tens of thousands of scientific publications. It provides students with a unifying concept that explains the incredibly rich diversity of living things and their capacity to change and evolve over time to adapt to changing environments. It is a central component of modern biology and biotechnology. Evolution is an active field of research in which new discoveries continue to increase our knowledge and understanding of the specific processes and paths that biological evolution has followed over the millions of years that life has existed on earth.

Evolution cannot be dismissed or diminished by characterizing it as mere conjecture or speculation. Scientific explanations of the natural world have been reached through observation and experimentation, are testable through observation and manipulation of natural systems, and can be modified as a result of new information. The inclusion of non-scientific explanations in science curricula misrepresents the nature and processes of science and compromises a central purpose of public education -- the preparation of a scientifically literate workforce.

The American Chemical Society urges

* State and local education authorities to support high-quality science standards and curricula that affirm evolution as the only scientifically accepted explanation for the origin and diversity of species.

* Administrators and curriculum supervisors to ensure that evolution is taught in their classrooms, accurately represented in their science textbooks, and assessed on local and state science tests.

The American Chemical Society is a self-governed individual membership organization that consists of more than 158,000 members at all degree levels and in all fields of chemistry. The organization provides a broad range of opportunities for peer interaction and career development, regardless of professional or scientific interests. The programs and activities conducted by ACS today are the products of a tradition of excellence in meeting member needs that dates from the Society's founding in 1876.

For the ACS statement, visit: http://tinyurl.com/a64xx


In last week's evolution education update, it was claimed that five states -- Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Oklahoma -- currently omit the word "evolution" from their state science standards. The e-word is no longer absent from the Illinois state science standards.

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


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

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

The Geocentrism Challenge


CAI will write a check for $1,000 to the first person who can prove that the earth revolves around the sun. (If you lose, then we ask that you make a donation to the apostolate of CAI). Obviously, we at CAI don't think anyone CAN prove it, and thus we can offer such a generous reward. In fact, we may up the ante in the near future.

You can submit your "proofs" to our e-mail address cairomeo@aol.com. We will then offer a response. Both your "proof" and our response will be posted on the CAI science page at our website. If you do not want your actual name listed, we will change your name, but your contents will be posted. If you do not want either your name or your contents posted, then you are not eligible for a reply from CAI nor the $1,000 reward. CAI will be the sole judge of whether you have successfully proven your case. But since CAI is built on its reputation of honesty and truthfulness, rest assured that if you do indeed prove your case, you will be rewarded the money.

Now a word of caution. By "proof" we mean that your explanations must be direct, observable, physical, natural, repeatable, unambiguous and comprehensive. We don't want hearsay, popular opinion, "expert" testimony, majority vote, personal conviction, organizational rulings, superficial analogies, appeals to "simplicity," "apologies" to Galileo, or any other indirect means of persuasion which do not qualify as scientific proof.

The $1,000 Challenge will go on indefinitely. So, if you're up for the challenge, take your best shot!

Some may be tempted to say, "Oh this silly. Everyone knows the earth goes around the sun. What is CAI trying to prove, anyway?! What difference does it make?" Well here's the long and short answer to that question. It directly effects how you view God, Scripture, the Church and Modern Man.

* It effects your view of Modern Man because if he is wrong about the two teachings he has proposed as fundamental to modern knowledge (Evolution and Heliocentrism) this suggests that many other things man believes about the world are suspect of falsehood. As we know, modern man has continually used the Copernican model and its variant forms (Galileo, Kepler, et al) in an effort to weaken both the authority of Scripture and the authority of the Church to hold them accountable for the way they live their lives. If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times: "We don't have to take the Bible literally because, as we all know, the sun doesn't go around the earth, but Scripture says it does. So why should I trust the Bible?"

If Scripture can be dismissed by claiming that it is mostly a collection of myths and fables from ignorant and primitive people; and if the Church can be faulted for siding with an aberrant view of cosmology; then modern man thinks he has found the ultimate excuse for relieving himself of being bound by either Scripture or the Church.

That is not all. If one examines the so-called "scientific proofs" for either Evolution or Heliocentrism, the proofs simply do not exist. Yet modern man, so desperate to find his excuses, has turned mere theories into "facts," and has thereby convinced the world that IT, not the Church or Scripture, is the king of truth.

* It effects your view of the Church because if it can be proven that, after the Church clung so tenaciously to the view that the sun revolves around the earth, but that now the Church finally has to admit she was wrong about one of its more authoritative teachings in the seventeenth century, this does not bode well for convincing modern man to abide by the Church's official teaching on ANY issue. Unfortunately, this is precisely the attitude we have seen from modern man. Man, because he has convinced himself that his "science" has turned Scripture into superstitious myths and fables; and the Church into a mere purveyor of the same; has become so cock-sure of himself in the little world he has created, that he not only has no need for God, he has attacked, and thinks he has destroyed, the very foundations of that belief. The modern Church, because she has been weak in fighting this issue, and indeed, ever since the days of George Terrell and Teilhard de Chardin has been infiltrated by free-thinking evolutionists, it totters to-and-fro, in one instance apologizing and condoning, and in other instances drawing back and distancing itself, resulting in no sure-footing for the world to rest upon. Meanwhile, a recent poll of young people in Europe reveals that 47% of them attribute their spiritual apathy to the difference between the theological and scientific explanations for the origin of the world. As for the Church's previous condemnations of Copernicanism and Galileo, here are the facts: The Inquisition of 1615 in Rome declared the position of Galileo to be "scientifically false, and anti-Scriptural or heretical, and that he must renounce it" (Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 6, p. 344). Following this was a decree from the Congregation of the Index on March 5, 1616, prohibiting various heretical works, and among them were those advocating the Copernican system. As for the Pope at that time, Paul V, "there is no doubt that he fully approved the decision, having presided at the session of the Inquisition, wherein the matter was discussed and decided" (Ibid, p. 344). To Galileo's dismay, the next Pope, Urban VIII, would not annul the judgment of the Inquisition. The Encyclopedia concludes: "That both these pontiffs [Paul V and Urban VIII] were convinced anti-Copernicans cannot be doubted, nor that they believed the Copernican system to be unscriptural and desired its suppression. The question is, however, whether either of them condemned the doctrine ex cathedra. This, it is clear, they never did" (Ibid, p. 345). So despite what anyone says, the Catholic Church has never endorsed the Copernican theory and no pope has ever annulled the decrees of Paul V or Urban VIII. The only thing the Church has done is apologized for the treatment of Galileo in a 1992 address by John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Science.

* It effects your view of Scripture. Scripture is very clear that the earth is stationary and that the sun, moon and stars revolve around it. (By the way, in case you're wondering, "flat-earthers" are not accepted here, since Scripture does not teach a flat earth, nor did the Fathers teach it). If there was only one or two places where the Geocentric teaching appeared in Scripture, one might have the license to say that those passages were just incidental and really didn't reflect the teaching of Scripture at large. But the fact is that Geocentrism permeates Scripture. Here are some of the more salient passages (Sirach 43:2-5; 43:9-10; 46:4; Psalm 19:5-7; 104:5; 104:19; 119:90; Ecclesiastes 1:5; 2 Kings 20:9-11; 2 Chronicles 32:24; Isaiah 38:7-8; Joshua 10:12-14; Judges 5:31; Job 9:7; Habakkuk 3:11; (1 Esdras 4:12); James 1:12). I could list many more, but I think these will suffice.

Now, of course, someone will immediately object: "Well, we don't have to interpret these passages literally." Says who? The Church has made no dogmatic teaching saying that we don't have to take these Scriptures literally. In fact, Leo XIII taught in Providentissimus Deus (1893) that, in the first instance, Scripture MUST be interpreted literally, unless there is some compelling reason to interpret it otherwise.

In fact, I find it quite puzzling that Catholics, who would die for a literal interpretation of the Scripture "This is my body" in Matthew 26:26; or "unless a man is born of water and the Spirit" in John 3:5; or "upon this rock I will build my church" in Matthew 16:18; or "he who sins you shall forgive they are forgiven" in John 20:23, suddenly become so anti-literal when even clearer passages (i.e., those teaching Geocentrism) permeate Scripture. A common epithet foisted upon Catholics who disbelieve in Evolution and Heliocentrism is that they have "a Protestant mind-set," based on the prevailing opinion that some Protestants are known to read the Bible more literally. Yet isn't it ironic that to the Protestant mind it is the CATHOLIC who maintains the crassly literal interpretation of Scripture when, for example, passages such as Matthew 26:26 are interpreted by the Catholic Church to mean that we actually eat Jesus' body -- something absolutely repulsive to Protestants.

So it seems that the issues before us are not those revolving around whether one is Catholic or Protestant; rather, it's a matter of which Scriptures someone decides to interpret literally and which he decides not to interpret literally. Of course, that polarity leaves the whole thing wide open for discussion, which is precisely what we are seeking to do at CAI (except the passages that have been dogmatized by the Church).

* Finally, it also effects your view of God because God says that, even though for Him all things are possible (Matt 19:26), there is one thing that is absolutely impossible for Him: and that is to lie (Titus 1:2). Again, if we are to base our understanding of a passage, such as Matthew 26:26, on the precise literal meaning of Jesus' words because we believe that He actually said what He meant and could not lie to us, then why do some people find it so easy to read the above passages which speak about a stationary earth and a moving sun as mere figures of speech? The only reason is that people believe science has proven that the earth goes around the sun. If they are right then, of course, we would have to interpret those passages figuratively.

But the $64,000 question is: Are they right? Mind you, this cannot simply be a case of saying that the Heliocentric model works. Mathematically speaking, as several astronomers have told me, one could make Jupiter the center of the universe and work out a mathematical model in which all the motions of the heavenly bodies are accounted for, but a mathematical model is not necessarily reality (which is precisely the problem with modern science, since much of it is mere mathematical hypothesis, not necessarily physical reality).

The main question they have to answer is: Can it be proven, by direct and irrefutable scientific evidence, that the Heliocentric system is the ONLY viable system to understand the universe. I can safely tell you that the answer to that question is an unqualified NO, and thus I don't make the "CAI $1000 Challenge" lightly. Even the more astute heliocentric physicists have admitted as much. As the famous physicist Hans Reichenbach has said: "Here lies one of the reasons which led the scientists to accept the Copernican system, even though it must be conceded that, from the modern standpoint, practically identical results could be obtained by means of a somewhat revised Ptolemaic system" (From Copernicus to Einstein, p. 18). Hence, even if there is a possibility that the Heliocentric system is wrong and the Geocentric right, then it would behoove Scriptural exegetes to reserve their opinion on the passages of Scripture which teach Geocentrism, for science has not proven their case against them.

By the same token, did the Church seek advice and counsel from science when she, after interpreting Matthew 26:26, took a dogmatic stand on its literal meaning? Of course not, for science had nothing to offer in the way of irrefutable proof that Transubstantiation could not occur. In the same way, science has no irrefutable proof that the earth revolves around the sun, and this, in my opinion, demands a literal interpretation of the Geocentric passages in Scripture. If someday science can prove, irrefutably, that the earth indeed goes around the sun, then we will understand all those passages figuratively, but not until that time; and it is my opinion that we will NEVER have to do so.

If someone wants to argue that the Catholic Church takes Matthew 26:26 literally because the Tradition of the Church as far back as the early Fathers binds us to do so; well, the same can be said about Geocentrism, since all of the Fathers, without exception, were Geocentrists, even in the face of several Greek astronomers (Aristarchus of Samos; Heraclides of Pontus) who were already advocating Heliocentrism one thousand years before Copernicus.

So, if you're so inclined, take your best shot! We're laying our reputation on the line in order to bring this vital truth to the world, and we at CAI have the courage to do so.

Robert Sungenis
Catholic Apologetics International
May 7, 2002

Fight Continues Over Religious Exhibits At The Tulsa Zoo


A petition drive is underway to prevent the Tulsa Zoo from putting in a creationism display.

The city of Tulsa parks and recreation board approved the Biblical display earlier this month. Dan Hicks had lobbied the board after finding several other displays at the Tulsa Zoo that could have religious meaning. But a newly formed group called "Friends of religion and science" disagrees.

They say the zoo's current exhibits provide cultural context and don't promote any religious philosophy. Retired education curator Carol Eames: "they have to realize it was never our intent to promote religion, it was to show the way that various cultures around the world look at their natural world. How they look at plants, animals and how they create beliefs about it."

In a statement, Hicks says he finds it interesting that groups that claim to be about inclusion, now want to exclude." He's moving forward with plans for the display.

The group, Friends of religion and science, is circulating a petition and they hope to present it at the next meeting July 12th.

Ukraine To Teach Morals, Faith In Schools


Classes Will Be Voluntary

POSTED: 12:54 pm CDT June 24, 2005
UPDATED: 1:14 pm CDT June 24, 2005

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian public schools will begin teaching about morals and faith under a new curriculum being developed in part by Orthodox church leaders.

The voluntary classes will be introduced throughout the predominantly Orthodox nation starting in September, according to a leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

He said the curriculum will include lessons about morality and biblical creationism.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, who is Orthodox, gave his backing to the project in a private meeting with religious leaders last week, but his office said the curriculum must "satisfy all Ukrainians."

A presidential spokesman said, "Yushchenko as a father said he wants children to find a path to God -- not just intuitively but with the help of parents and school."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

© 2005, Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc.

Penn. Legislature Holds Hearing on Intelligent Design Bill


The debate over evolution and intelligent design has opened up again in Pennsylvania, where legislators heard testimonies on Monday on whether or not public schools in the state should teach intelligent design.

Friday, Jun. 24, 2005 Posted: 7:16:46AM EST

The debate over evolution and intelligent design has opened up again in Pennsylvania, where legislators heard testimonies on Monday on whether or not public schools in the state should teach intelligent design.

New legislation has been proposed that would allow school boards to require science teachers to teach intelligent design alongside evolution. The state has already had a nationally publicized court case over this issue – last year, the Dover Area School District passed a policy requiring ninth grade biology teachers to read a statement on intelligent design before teaching evolution lessons. Eight families filed a federal lawsuit charging the school district with violation of the separation of church and state. The case will be heard later this year.

Intelligent design – the idea that the world is so complex, there must be an unspecified divine being behind its creation – is the most recent theory stirring up controversy in the continuing creation-evolution debate.

In May, the Kansas State Board of Education held a hearing to air out arguments on both sides. Proponents of intelligent design brought in several witnesses from around the nation and from international circles. Scientist, however, boycotted the hearings, claiming that the hearings were already rigged against evolution. The three-member subcommittee - all of whom had prior concerns over evolution - plan to work with the state board to decide on new science standards this summer.

In Pennsylvania, experts on intelligent design and evolution testified before the House Subcommittee on Basic Education on Monday, bringing up many of the same arguments that were heard in Kansas.

Opponents claim that intelligent design is just another form of creationism, while supporters of the idea argue that it has no religious connections and simply acknowledges the existence of a higher being in the origin of life.

Others expressed concerns over how the state would be viewed by others if they allowed the teaching of intelligent design. States like Kansas were ridiculed when, in 1999, the Conservative-led school board removed most references to evolution from the science curriculum. Opponents to the bill worry that science-related groups- biotech companies, professors, researchers- will be dissuaded from working in the state if the legislation passes.

Representatives of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization known as the nation's leading intelligent design think tank, sent a letter to Representative Jess M. Stairs, Chair of the Pennsylvania House Education Committee on Thursday, stating that they "strongly oppose any effort by the government to mandate the teaching of intelligent design."

The organization instead recommended that the legislature encourage schools to teach both the strengths and weaknesses about the theory of evolution and protect the rights of teachers and students to examine all aspects of evolution.

Currently, the bill is not likely to gain approval as few legislators have shown support for the bill.

Susan Wang susan@christianpost.com

Friday, June 24, 2005


Robert L. Park Friday, 24 Jun 05 Washington, DC


The 1 Jul 05 issue will be a little different, but you might not even notice: The University of Maryland Department of Physics will now assume responsibility for sending it out. The Department of Physics has always been supportive of WN, even making it part of Bob Park's teaching assignment. WN will maintain its eclectic mixture of news and opinion, and will continue to be assembled by the same What's New team in the Washington Office of the APS. The APS Home Page, of course, will still have a link to What's New.


You may recall that WN reported a month ago that the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the oldest medical school in the nation, had formed a partnership with the Tai Sophia Institute to offer a master's degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine http://www.bobpark.org/WN05/wn051305.html. Friends of Penn Med are relieved to learn that it has quietly severed ties to Tai Sophia.


The front lines have shifted to Dover, PA where a federal judge will consider a lawsuit charging the School Board with violating the separation of church and state by requiring that children hear about Intelligent Design in science class. However, the Discovery Institute is still getting mileage out of the refusal of scientists to engage in a rigged debate in Kansas. This time it's Dr. John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, who seems to be in charge of explaining that ID is science. West teaches Political Science at Seattle Pacific University, where "we ground everything we do on the gospel of Jesus Christ." So much for science.


Copper bracelets 30 years ago. Magnets 10years ago. Now it's the titanium necklace, which regulates your body's electric currents.


His integrated circuit wrote the future more finely than anyone ever dared imagine. The smallest became the most powerful.

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

Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.bobpark.org
What's New is moving to a different listserver and our subscription process has changed. To change your subscription status please visit this link:

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design


The God Particle : If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?

Book from Delta
Release date: 01 January, 1994

Driving around yesterday, I was listening to Kojo Nandi on WKMU, one of those ultra-liberal, anti-American, Commie-inspired public radio stations. Someone called in to talk about evolution. I almost ran off the road as I heard this intelligent-sounding fellow talk about how many scientists have given up on evolution, that it's not even really a theory but a hypothesis, that there's no proof of evolution, that the fossil record is a joke, and that "fairness" demands that we teach Intelligent Design as well as evolution.

He was so full of buffalo lard, it's hard to even know where to begin, but the sad reality is that people like this can't be swayed by reason, logic, or facts. They've distorted the world to fit their own bizarre world view.

And then I remembered two things:

First, a quote in this month's Discover Magazine by Nobel laureate Leon Lederman in his 1993 book The God Particle. He said, "The Higgs field, the standard model, and our picture of how God made the universe depend on finding the Higgs boson." And I realized something. Scientists have no problem with God. Many physicists, biologists, astronomers and others are deeply religious. One of Einstein's most famous quotes was a result of his dismay at the implications of quantum physics--namely that the world is governed by probability curves and is not Newtonian. Einstein: "I cannot believe that God plays dice with the world.

Many scientists see no dispute between God and science. Why then do so many at the fringe of Christianity get themselves tied in knots over science.

Second, the notion that the Bible's to be taken literally and that the Lord created the world in 6 days. And I remembered that great quote from "Inherit the Wind," the play about the July 1925 Scopes Monkey trial over teaching evolution in school. At one point, Clarence Darrow put Williams Jenning Bryan on the stand (their names in the play were changed) and browbeats him into acknowledging that since God didn't create the sun until the 3rd (4th? I can't find my copy) day, how could one know that the first day was 24 hours--maybe it was 25 hours...or 25 million years.

But I come back, confused & bewildered by those who are either so ignorant or disingenuous as to preach that the English version of the Bible we read is the revealed word. Have they read the original version in Aramaic, or the subsequent Greek and Hebrew versions? Do they know how many conflicting passages there are in even the King James' version? I must confess, I don't understand their fear of evolution and science.

But I do know and fear their growing power and influence.

Intelligent Design Group Opposes PA Bill on Intelligent Design


Thursday June 23, 6:15 am ET

SEATTLE, June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation's top intelligent design think tank has sent a letter to the Pennsylvania State Legislature expressing opposition to a proposed bill that would authorize school districts to require the teaching of intelligent design.

In a letter to Rep. Jess M. Stairs, Chair of the House Education Committee, Discovery Institute officials stated that they "strongly oppose any effort by the government to mandate the teaching of intelligent design."

Instead, they urged the legislature to follow the example of states such as Ohio and Minnesota and encourage schools to teach students about scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory as well as the evidence favoring the theory. They also said legislators should protect the academic freedom of teachers and students to study all of the scientific evidence relating to Darwin's theory.

The letter was written by Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Institute's Center for Science and Culture, and attorney Seth Cooper, a Senior Program Analyst with the Institute.

Discovery Institute is the nation's leading research organization that supports scientists and scholars who conduct research and writing on intelligent design. It has more than forty affiliated scientists, philosophers of science, and other scholars, including most of the principal academic proponents of the theory of intelligent design.

The full text of the letter is available at http://www.discovery.org.

Source: Discovery Institute

The practice of energy


Qigong combines meditation and movement

By Darla Carter
The Courier-Journal

When Beverly Byrum tells local people that she teaches Qigong, a meditative practice also referred to as an exercise and healing art, many of them have no clue what she's talking about.

"I usually get a blank stare," said Byrum, an instructor at St. Matthews Martial Arts.

But the practice, which often combines deep breathing and visualization with movements that are sometimes reminiscent of tai chi, has been around for thousands of years.

In fact, in China where Qigong originated, it has been traced to inscriptions on tortoise shells from 2500 B.C. and to silk drawings found in 4,000-year-old tombs, according to "Ancient Herbs, Modern Medicine" (Bantam, 2003).

Qigong (pronounced chee gong or chi kung) is "really helpful for relaxation," said Joan Moore, a Chi-Lel or wisdom healing Qigong instructor at WaysMeet in Berea, Ky. "It's like any kind of meditation in terms of focusing the mind, but it's also using movement."

At its core is a belief in qi, which practitioners of Chinese medicine describe as vital energy that flows through the body in a system of subtle channels called meridians, according to "The Best Alternative Medicine" (Fireside, 2002).

"Qigong actually means the practice of energy," said Moore, a family nurse practitioner at Berea College Health Service. "Qi being energy and (gong being) practice or cultivation of energy."

Qigong -- which is sometimes written as two words -- is used to circulate or improve qi for the betterment of health.

Breath control

First, "you try to slow down your breath and make it quiet and even," said Yong You, who teaches a type called Wudong Qigong at Crane House in Louisville.

"Another thing that we do is deep abdominal breathing," You said. "That way — that method — gives some kind of massage to your internal organs.

"At the next level, you need to use your mind to control (what) we call qi," he said. "... If you keep the meridian open and the energy flow(s), then you don't have any illness or disease."

Though Qigong is widely used in clinics and hospitals in China, scientific literature on the practice is very limited in the United States, and the idea of manipulating energy for self-healing has been disputed by critics of alternative medicine.

But that doesn't sway devotees, such as Deborah Lissom, who teaches Qigong at Healing Options in Louisville.

"We have the ability to control a lot of functions that Western medicine has not really acknowledged that we have the ability to do," she said.

"When the body's given the opportunity to heal itself, it will. But we are so blocked up with stress and environmental pollution and emotions that we're just unable to because we keep our body in a state of stress all the time.

"In Qigong, we really are teaching people how to switch over into a healing mode," she said.

Moving meditation

Lissom describes Zhineng Qigong, the medically oriented type of Qigong that she practices, this way:

"It's a moving meditation — a very slow moving meditation — combined with affirmations that help you bring more energy into the body, harmonize the energy within the body already, and (involves) learning how to change your body chemistry with your thoughts and emotions," Lissom said. (She said she doesn't work directly through the meridian system, though.)

Lissom credits Qigong with helping her to successfully battle kidney disease. "I've lowered my blood pressure. I've raised my kidney functioning. I've gotten off pain medicine."

Similarly, Qigong plus tai chi has helped You to overcome an old back injury, he said. He also credits Qigong with positively affecting his sleep.

"I can sleep anywhere, anytime," he said. "That's because of the Qigong. I can calm myself down to like a sleeping state."

Moore said Qigong has improved swelling in her arm (lymphedema) from a bout with breast cancer as well as bursitis in her shoulder.

Byrum, a registered nurse, credits Qigong with helping her to deal with various health problems, including allergies and aching in her fingers. She teaches medical Chi-Lel Qigong, which is designed to strengthen the body; ease stress; improve concentration, intellect and mood; increase creativity and longevity; and promote healing.

"It's a great way to de-stress," Byrum said. "It's sort of a mini-vacation in your head."

Byrum said she doesn't advise her students to use Qigong to replace mainstream medicine but rather to complement it. "If one of my students has a medical problem, I ask, 'What did the doctor say about that?' I do not want to be a doctor substitute."

Peaceful thoughts

During a recent class, she and two female students made soft, gentle movements with their arms while listening to recorded prompts, which provided instructions and encouraged them to think peaceful thoughts.

At times, their hands hovered by their tan tien, a place near the belly button where they believe that qi is stored. At other times, the women stretched their arms down to the ground, spreading their fingers like flower petals, or reached up toward the ceiling.

During class, you may be "imagining that your hand is reaching out into the sky, maybe to grab a star, and then as your hand drops back in and your shoulder relaxes, you're thinking in your tan tien," Byrum said.

In other words, "you shift your attention back and forth and back and forth, and your energy will follow where your attention is," she said.

Moore made similar comments, noting that "you focus energy at different points of the body" as well as "opening up your body and releasing energy and pulling back energy in."

Kris Wilks Wright, who attends practice sessions with Moore, said she considers it to be a form of illness prevention.

"Rather than waiting until one gets sick, ... I think this is a really wonderful way to keep oneself healthy and emotionally well, so that the stress is not prevalent, and of course, there are so many stress-related illnesses," said Wright, an associate professor of health at Berea College.

"I think that energy can be life-giving or it can be life-taking and for me Qigong is a way to really move that healing energy, not only through my body but out into the universe as well," said Wright, 49.

"I use my breath and my energy as well, having positive thoughts that go out toward other people as well as myself, rather than having negative thoughts put out," she said.

For pain and tension

After one of Byrum's recent classes, Sandy Reese, 66, said Qigong has helped her with chronic pain in her shoulder, knee and back.

She and fellow classmate Pam Bloom, 58, of Louisville, also praised Qigong as a tension releaser.

"I feel like this weight has been lifted off my head," Bloom said.

Though Qigong can be done by anyone, Byrum said it can be "excellent for older people because it improves strength and flexibility in a gentle way. ... If the person is wobbly, they can do it sitting in a chair."

Lissom made similar comments, noting, "We have 80-year-olds. We have people in wheelchairs. We have every different level of persons in our classes.

"If a person can't bend all the way over, they just bend to their knees, but they visualize the energy and the movement going all the way down to their feet ... and in time, then they are able to do it," she said.

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