NTS LogoSkeptical News for 8 July 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Friday, July 08, 2005

Stranger than fiction

http://www.salon.com/books/review/2005/06/28/dianetics/index.html

L. Ron Hubbard's "Dianetics" is a fantastically dull, terribly written, crackpot rant -- it's also the founding text of Scientology. So, what does it actually say?

Editor's note: This is the second in a four-part series chronicling the suddenly higher profile of the Church of Scientology. To read the first part, click here.

By Laura Miller

June 28, 2005 | Most of us respond instinctively to "Dianetics." We glimpse the covers (for some reason, you only see this book in battalions of copies), with their lurid pictures of spouting volcanoes emblazoned with screaming, foil-stamp lettering, and as if by reflex, our steps quicken, our eyes avert and our faces compose themselves into the expression of someone who would never, ever have time to fill out a 500-question "personality assessment." But then, last week, under cover of darkness, a copy of "Dianetics" was delivered to my doorstep with the terse order, "Review this." It was time, as they say on bad TV shows, to face my fears.

The first thing you notice about "Dianetics" is that it is spectacularly dull. L. Ron Hubbard promises, in this seemingly endless treatise, that his "modern science of mental health" will cure everything from schizophrenia to arthritis, claims for which he presents no credible evidence whatsoever -- unless you consider merely insisting that you've got evidence to be the same thing as offering it. But I am here to testify that "Dianetics" is a phenomenal remedy for at least one widespread affliction: insomnia.

"Dianetics" belongs to a category of books that will be instantly familiar to anyone who's done time reading the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts for a book publisher. This kind of book is typically an explanation of life, the universe and everything written by a choleric gentleman (often a retired military officer) who has holed up in a converted basement or former kid's bedroom to hammer out his ideas about how the world works -- ideas that have for too long been disregarded by the incompetents and assholes around him. (If you are not familiar with this sort of book, know that you have the slush pile readers of America to thank for that.)

Read our exclusive essay by Michael Finkel author of True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa

"Dianetics"

By L. Ron Hubbard

Bridge Publications
702 pages
Nonfiction

In a way, it's impressive. Hubbard not only managed to get one of these books published, it actually became a bestseller and the founding text for Scientology. It's not your garden-variety crank who can take a crackpot rant, turn it into a creepy gazillion-dollar church with the scariest lawyers around, and set himself up as the "Commodore" of a small fleet of ships, waited on hand and foot by teenage girls in white hot pants. But, I digress.

"Dianetics" begins with a stern admonition: "Important Note: In reading this book, be very certain that you never go past a word you do not fully understand. The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused or unable to learn is because he or she has gone past a word that was not understood." This seems a bit punctilious, as everyone knows that one of the main ways people learn the meanings of new words is by hearing or reading them in context. Since only a few pages later, we're promised that only "basic language" will be used in "Dianetics," how tough is this going to be?

Alas, it is not only individual words that can cause confusion. Perfectly clear words can be dragooned into sentences so grammatically torturous and incoherent that any meaning once inhabiting those words runs screaming from the wreckage. Context only helps you figure out a word's definition when the context itself makes sense, and in "Dianetics," it often doesn't. Still, there's a certain twisted panache to preemptively scolding your readers for not trying hard enough to grasp your point before you bedevil them with logic-defying exercises in the hanging modifier and the passive voice. You don't get it? That's because you didn't look up enough words! What did I tell you, idiot?

By the way, all that stuff about "basic language"? That's a bald-face lie. No sooner does Hubbard get going with whatever it is he's trying to do, than he starts mangling and making up words willy-nilly. Visual memories are rechristened "visio"; "evolute," a term that used to refer to the center of a curvature, serves as an entirely unnecessary synonym for "develop"; and sense impressions become "perceptics." Footnotes offer helpful definitions of commonplace idioms like "a far cry: only remotely related" and the sublimely tautological "present time: the time which is now."

Obviously, Hubbard is keen to depict Dianetics as "an organized science of thought built on definite axioms (statements of natural laws on the order of those of the physical sciences)," and so he wraps his "technology" in a cloak of impressive-sounding jargon and crams the bottoms of his pages with inane footnotes in order to create the impression of research. This doesn't keep him from sneering at doctors for obfuscating when (according to him) they call a cold a "catarrhal disorder of the respiratory tract," or from condemning the pretensions of a (hypothetical) "scholar" enamored of "Hegelian grammar." Then, with blithe hypocrisy, Hubbard proceeds to lard "Dianetics" with faux-learned name-droppings from the Western Civ. grab bag (Lucretius, Dante, Schopenhauer, etc.) -- all of it patently cribbed from Will and Ariel Durant's multivolume middlebrow classic, "The Story of Civilization."

So what is this guy on about? The premise of "Dianetics" is that the brain remembers everything we experience and is "utterly incapable of error" except for an evolutionary holdover called the "reactive mind." This portion of the mind, usually inaccessible to the reasoning or "analytical" mind, takes over when we are "unconscious." By "unconscious," Hubbard means not just the conventional sense of the word, but any condition of pain or fear. When you are "unconscious" and also suffering some kind of pain or discomfort, the reactive mind seizes upon all your sensory impressions at that moment and melds them together into an "engram." The engram is then "soldered" into the circuitry of the mind and, when retriggered by a combination of factors, causes people to think and behave in irrational and destructive ways.

The average person supposedly has thousands of these engrams gumming up his or her works, but with the help of Dianetics' "science of mind," and a process called "auditing," anyone can have them removed from the reactive mind and become a "Clear." Clears are "optimum individuals," devoid of engrams and other "aberrations" and furthermore blessed with "full color-visio, tone-sonic, tactile, olfactory, rhythmic, kinesthetic, thermal and organic imagination," in addition to other qualities akin to superpowers.

Auditing is the repetitive reliving of the engram-creating experience with the aid of a Dianetics auditor and while in a mild hypnotic trance. (The auditor is instructed to say "When I count from one to seven, your eyes will close." Hubbard maintains that the resulting state is "vastly different" from hypnosis because the subject isn't "asleep" and knows what's happening around him, but this just doesn't sound that different from what most hypnotherapists do.) The most significant engrams, the theory holds, are formed prenatally, starting with the moment of conception. Any words overheard in an "unconscious" state, even pleasant ones, will become a particularly tenacious and unpredictable part of the engram, which is why you must never ever speak to a woman who has, for example, just fallen down in the street. Help her up, but don't say a word! She might be pregnant!

It shouldn't take anyone 700 pages of gobbledygook to cover this material, so along the way it's easy to be distracted by Hubbard's numerous personal and writerly eccentricities. I kept scouting the book for hints of something I'd heard about, the wacky science fiction mythology that lies at the inner sanctum of Scientology, though I knew it wouldn't appear per se in "Dianetics." That's reserved only for those who have undergone the church's intensive training and indoctrination. Scientologists say they withhold this information because learning it can drive the unprepared person insane and give you pneumonia, but it's all over the Web, and it strikes me as far less likely to cause suffering than Hubbard's prose.

Critics say the church hushes up this story -- it involves an evil demiurge who, 75 million years ago, blew up 178 billion souls with hydrogen bombs planted in Earth's volcanoes, trapped them on "electrical strips," brainwashed them and packaged them into clusters that now cling to every human being and mess with our bodies and heads -- for two reasons. One is that the church needs a sufficiently dramatic payoff after stringing members along through years of courses and trainings, all costing upward of a quarter of a million dollars. The other reason is fear that revealing this fantasia of kooky stories might turn off potential converts -- but, hey, that never hurt the Old Testament.

Read our exclusive essay by Michael Finkel author of True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa

Not only does "Dianetics" offer precious little sideshow appeal, it's impossible to read much of it without realizing that it's the work of a very disturbed man. (Here's where things get less entertaining.) Hubbard's grandiose preoccupation with "an answer to the goal of all thought," the reiteration of fantasies of perfect mastery foiled by invasive, alien forces (engrams are described as "parasites"), the determination to envision the mind as a machine that can be brought under absolute control if only these enemies can be ejected -- all these are classic forms of paranoid thinking. The alarm bells really start to ring when Hubbard describes colorblindness as caused by a "circuit" in a person's mind that "behaves as though it were someone or something separate from him and that either talks to him or goes into action of its own accord, and may even, if severe enough, take control of him while it operates."

All self-help books -- and for all its attempts at intellectual hauteur, "Dianetics" is just that -- resort to examples and case studies, and those examples tend to reflect the values of their time and the author. When "Dianetics" was first published in 1950, pop psychology books were still widely read by men (now, it's mostly a women's genre), and they often tackled such problems as how to get ahead at the office and deal with wives who nagged or withheld sex -- the concerns of the average middle-class '50s guy.

"Dianetics" is way off the reservation in this department. Certain motifs keep recurring with a compulsive regularity that suggests Hubbard himself was anything but clear of past traumas. Eventually, these recurring images and examples gel into a sad and scary narrative that must have had particular power for Hubbard, since it keeps cropping up throughout the book.

It involves an adulterous wife and a brutal husband. The wife becomes pregnant (presumably by her lover) and fears discovery of the affair. She tries repeatedly to abort the pregnancy on her own, using orange sticks and other household objects. Her husband, suspecting the truth, beats her, punching her pregnant belly, calling her a "whore" and "no good." When the child is born, the parents pretend it was wanted, but the child's only true ally is a grandmother, who thwarted the mother's attempt to abort him and cares for the child when he's sick. Eventually, the mother starts beating the child, using many of the same insults her husband has flung at her.

This horrific tale never appears in its entirety in "Dianetics," but the book is haunted by it. Every time Hubbard reached into his mind for an example of how a fetus might come to feel pain, or how an engram "keys in," or how engrams are passed on through generations, he came up with a piece of this story.

The prevalence of physical violence -- almost exclusively domestic violence -- in "Dianetics" makes itself felt early on. Among the first examples in the book (meant to illustrate the condition of "unconsciousness") describes a woman being knocked down and kicked by her husband, and beaten women appear throughout with bizarre regularity. Hubbard also seemed to be obsessed with attempted abortion, which he believed to be widespread. Admittedly, when "Dianetics" was written, legal medical abortion wasn't available in the U.S., but even so, the assertion that "twenty or thirty abortion attempts is not uncommon" among women who aren't Clears is simply demented.

From reading "Dianetics" alone, you can glean a picture of Hubbard as a man wrestling with mental illness, who saw his mind as a potentially superhuman machine beset by invaders and parasites. Without knowing anything about his life, you can tell that this is someone raised in an environment of betrayal, secrecy, bullying and violence, someone who stands a good chance of re-creating the same conditions in his adult life if he's not careful. You can figure out all of this just from reading "Dianetics," like I did. Then, afterward, you can go on the Web and check out the many sites devoted to critiquing Scientology and documenting the truth about Hubbard. Chances are what you find there won't surprise you at all.

Physics News Update 735

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 735 June 29, 2005 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

SOLITON TRANSISTOR. A transistor based not on the customary sandwich of semiconductor layers but on a Josephson junction (itself a sandwich consisting of two superconducting layers separated by a thin film of insulating material) architecture, and involving not the gated flow of electrons or holes (the empty spaces left behind by electrons) but the controllable flow of tiny magnetic vortices, has been built and tested by Farshid Raissi, a scientist at the Toosi University of Technology in Tehran. The vortices, set in motion in the form of solitons (pulses that do not lose energy or their shape as they travel) travel at the speed of light and therefore are much faster than the electrons in ordinary transistors, possibly leading, Raissi argues, to quicker switching speeds (raissi@kntu.ac.ir). In his experimental transistor setup, which is about 800 microns long, trains of vortex solitons, created by applying small applied magnetic fields to the junction and set in motion by a applying a brief current into the junction, are used to control the flow of a separate soliton train. Part of the reason solitons can be used in this controllable way (and controlling flow---turning a component on or off---is one of the hallmarks of transistors) is the fact that solitons can be made to annihilate with anti-solitons (solitons consisting of vortices established with a contrary magnetic orientation). With his vortex-soliton transistor Raissi has observed switching speeds of 8 GHz, as fast or faster than the best existing transistors. Raissi expects no insurmountable problems in shrinking and mass producing his soliton device, and expects to achieve speeds of 200 GHz, which would make this transistor architecture quite attractive for use in supercomputers. (Applied Physics Letters, 27 June 2005 lab website, www.ee.kntu.ac.ir )

ULTRAVIOLET FREQUENCY COMB. Physicists at JILA, the joint institute of NIST and the University of Colorado, have created a new optical process to extend the production of coherent radiation into the extreme ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum. This process takes advantage of the fact that ultrafast laser pulses of femtosecond widths, separated by nanoseconds, manifest themselves as a superposition of light at different frequencies over a wide spectral band. The Fourier transform of these short pulses is long series of evenly spaced spikes; that look like the tines of a comb (for background, see Physics Today, June 2000). What's new is that the JILA researchers have pushed the coverage of the frequency comb into the extreme ultraviolet by generating a series of high harmonics of the original, near-infrared laser frequency comb. (A comparable result has also been achieved by Ted Hansch's group in Munich, a result to be published elsewhere.) In the JILA experiment, 50-femtosecond-long pulses, spaced 10 nanoseconds apart, are sent into a coherent storage device---an optical buildup cavity. The cavity length is determined so that each tine of the incoming frequency comb is matched to a respective cavity resonance mode. In other words, the pulse train is matched exactly into the cavity such that a pulse running around inside the cavity is reinforced by a steady stream of incoming pulses. After a thousand roundtrips through the cavity, the infrared laser light becomes sufficiently energized to directly ionize xenon atoms inside the cavity. The quick repatriation of the xenon electrons to their home atoms is what produces light pulses of high frequency harmonics. Coherent high harmonic generation has been achieved with other techniques, typically involving single, actively amplified, ultrashort laser pulses. The new approach demonstrated in the JILA work has drastically improved the spectral resolution of these high harmonic generated light sources by many orders of magnitude and will also permit an important increase of the efficiency of the harmonic generation process. Moreover, the buildup of intense UV happened without the need for expensive or bulky amplifying equipment. Optical frequency combs have led to demonstrations of optical atomic clocks and are furthering research in extreme nonlinear optics, precision spectroscopy, and laser pulse manipulation and control. Jun Ye (ye@jila.colorado.edu, 303-735-3171) and his colleagues believe that the new ultraviolet frequency comb promises to provide an important tool for ultrahigh resolution spectroscopy and precision measurement in that spectral domain. It will open the door to unprecedented spectral resolution, making it possible for scientists to study the fine structure of atoms and molecules with coherent XUV light. (Jones et al., Physical Review Letters, 20 May 2005, Cover Figure article; http://jilawww.colorado.edu/YeLabs/ )

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.

Evolution update: The Scopes anniversary approaches; creationist reversal in Tulsa; Project Steve in the NY

The eightieth anniversary of the Scopes trial approaches, while the decision to allow a creationism display in the Tulsa Zoo is reversed, and Project Steve appears in The New York Times.

THE SCOPES ANNIVERSARY APPROACHES

As the eightieth anniversary of the Scopes trial approaches, the media are beginning to cast a backward glance at the trial of the century. Two early and noteworthy contributions are to be found on National Public Radio and in Newsweek and Science. Under the title "The Scopes Monkey Trial, 80 Years Later," NPR is offering a suite of audio reports and written essays, including coverage of a recent controversy over evolution education in Cecil County, Maryland, a piece on the 1981 case McLean v. Arkansas, a discussion of the futility of formal debates with creationists and of "intelligent design" (featuring Kenneth Miller, Michael Behe, Eugenie C. Scott), and a detailed timeline of the events in the Scopes trial and its aftermath. In his essay "A Debate That Does Not End" in the July 4 edition of Newsweek, pundit George F. Will suggests that the controversy over evolution education is largely unchanged since 1925 (and characterizes "intelligent design" as "not a scientific but a creedal tenet -- a matter of faith, unsuited to a public school's science curriculum"). Similarly, in his editorial "Redefining Science" in the July 8 issue of Science, Alan I. Leshner observes "As we mark the 80th anniversary of the Scopes trial, the pressure to teach ID as a scientific alternative to evolution has been gaining ground in many U.S. states. There is also increasing ID activity in Latin America and Europe. ... The problem is that ID advocates attempt to dress up religious beliefs to make them look like science. By redefining what is and isn't science, they also put the public -- particularly young people -- at risk of being inadequately prepared to live in modern society."

For NPR's "The Scopes Monkey Trial, 80 Years Later," visit: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4726537

For Will's "A Debate That Does Not End," visit: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8358264/site/newsweek/

For Leshner's "Redefining Science," visit (subscription required): http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/309/5732/221.pdf

CREATIONIST REVERSAL IN TULSA

On July 7, 2005, the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Park Board voted 3-1 to reverse its June 7 decision to add a display depicting the Biblical account of creation at the Tulsa Zoo. Supporters of the display argued that the zoo already contains religious items, including a statue of the elephant-headed Hindu deity Ganesha outside the elephant enclosure and a globe carrying a Native American maxim, "The earth is our mother. The sky is our father." The idea of adding the creationist display was roundly criticized both during the June board meeting and afterwards; writing in the Tulsa World (June 26), the president and the executive director of the Oklahoma Museum Association decried the board's interference with the zoo's displays, warning, "The question that museums across the state and across the nation are facing today because of this decision is: 'Where does it stop?'" And a newly formed coalition, Friends of Religion and Science, organized to oppose the display, obtaining over 2000 signatures on a web petition. Although the decision to add a creationist display was reversed, Tulsa mayor Bill LaFortune broached the idea of removing the existing supposedly religious items from the zoo; no action was taken on his suggestion at the July meeting.

For the Washington Post's story on the reversal, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/07/AR2005070702015.html

PROJECT STEVE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

In her essay "How Quantum Physics Can Teach Biologists About Evolution," published in the July 5, 2005, issue of The New York Times, Cornelia Dean suggests that biologists would do better to defend evolution not by insisting on its truth per se but by explaining the scientific methodology on which it is based. En route, she writes: "And when scientists named Steve (hundreds of them by now) decided to advance the cause of evolution in the classroom and honor the evolutionary theorist Stephen Jay Gould by forming 'Project Steve,' the T-shirts they printed said in part, 'Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry.' Later, she mentions NCSE's sponsorship of Project Steve and quotes Ohio State University biology professor Steve Rissing (Steve #20) on the supposed "data contradicting evolution" -- if there were any, Rissing quipped, "I sure would want to be the scientist publishing them."

To date, 577 scientists named Steve (or cognates such as Stephanie, Stefano, Esteban, and so forth), from Stephen T. Abedon to Stephen L. Zegura, who have signed the Project Steve statement: "Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools." Since about 1% of the population of the United States enjoys the name Steve or cognates of it, the 577 signatories in effect represent about 57,700 scientists.

To read Dean's article in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/05/science/05essa.html

For information about Project Steve, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=18

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Scientists unearth surprises on Mars

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8488961/

Studies focus on geology that has more than meets the eye

The journal Nature's cover highlights a NASA rover view of Martian rocks and hills.

Updated: 7:59 p.m. ET July 6, 2005

On the whole, Mars can seem rather boring. It is covered with basalt, the most basic type of rock, and generally appears to lack geologic diversity. It does not shake or rumble much. And then there's that red dust everywhere.

But a closer look reveals pockets of rocks that rival the complexity of our own planet.

The finding means Mars is more active beneath the surface than scientists realized.

"When you look at the geology in the right spots, there is as much diversity in the rocks as you see on Earth," said Philip Christensen, an Arizona State University professor and a top scientist on three different ongoing Mars missions.

The results of this and six other studies are detailed this week by the journal Nature. The studies draw from data collected by NASA's orbiting Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey spacecraft, as well as the two rovers on the ground.

Collectively, the findings show that there is still much to learn about Mars. Specifically, it is not yet clear how much of Mars was ever covered with water, nor how deep any lakes or seas might have been. Part of the mystery is locked in the ubiquitous dust, which retains secrets even after close examination by the rovers.

The geologic history of Mars is a story that remains largely unwritten.

Diverse Mars

Researchers knew that Mars was geologically active early in its history. But its volcanoes seem to have mostly shut down, though the timing is unclear and recent evidence suggests activity may not be over yet. Yet, unlike Earth, modern Mars does not have anywhere near the amount of tectonic movement that creates earthquakes and keeps volcanoes active here.

In large-scale surveys, Mars reflects this simplicity in a consistency of minerals and rock types.

But close inspection reveals a host of rock types, from primitive volcanic material such as olivine-rich basalts to highly processed silica-rich rocks such as granite, the study found. The diversity implies that the surface rocks have been reconstituted many times over an extended period of time, perhaps into the present era.

Christensen explained: "You melt the mantle and you get olivine basalts; you melt them again and you get basalt; you melt that and you make andesite; you melt that and you make dacite; you melt that and you make granite."

Mars is "a very complex world underneath that veneer of basalt," Christensen said.

Mars is not like Earth, however.

"On Earth, we have mountain ranges made of granite, on Mars we have so far only found a couple of globs," Christensen said.

The work builds on several recent findings that Mars was and is geologically active.

Pictures last year revealed that Martian volcanoes might still be rumbling . Another study found Marsquakes might be more common than sketchy data had previously revealed. And pictures earlier this year hinted that glaciers and volcanic flows occurred recently.

Other surprises

Other findings reported in Thursday's issue of Nature show that, despite the rovers' uncovering signs of ancient water on Mars and the greater understanding of Martian chemistry and geology provided by various missions, the Red Planet continues to harbor many secrets.

Predictions of Mars' average atmospheric density, made prior to the twin-rover mission, were 8 percent too high, causing their parachutes to open later than planned as they descended to the surface early last year.

Satellite and telescope surveys provided less than accurate assessments of the geology to expect, according to an analysis led by Caltech researcher Matt Golombek. The Spirit rover, for example, did not find strong evidence for extensive amounts of water in Gusev Crater, as geologists anticipated.

Dust on Mars is made of similar material on opposite sides of the planet. That means wind must carry dust around the globe. The dust contains olivine, a mineral that breaks down quickly when wet, so the dust has not experienced a thorough soaking, according to a team led by Albert Yen of Caltech.

At the Opportunity rover's Meridiani site, wind-related features reveal that some sand stays put better than current theories can explain, say Cornell University scientist Robert Sullivan and colleagues.

Lots to learn

In a separate paper in the journal, David Catling of the University of Washington comments on the new results. Catling says the largest gap in our understanding of Mars is caused by the absence of detailed data on mineral chemistry.

Dust that coats the planet contains minerals of unknown origin, Catling said.

NASA's Phoenix mission, which could launch in 2007, would contain a powerful microscope to sift out answers, he said.

Finally, Catling said NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, slated to launch by 2011, could reveal how much of the salty material on Mars — found by the rovers — was the result of evaporated seas, versus how much came from Ice Age runoff or volcanic processes.

© 2005 Space.com

Scientists get chills over find in Alaska

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0507070186jul07,1,3882685.story

By Dan Joling
Associated Press
Published July 7, 2005

ANCHORAGE -- A track from a three-toed dinosaur thought to be about 70 million years old has been discovered in Denali National Park.

The track from a theropod, a meat-eater, is the first evidence of dinosaurs found in the park. Its track was found by a college student near the park road 35 miles from the park entrance.

Anthony Fiorillo, curator of earth sciences at the Dallas Museum of Natural History, said the importance of the find was its location in the Alaskan interior far from a coastline.

"It's not necessarily the track itself that's significant," he said. "It's where it is that has us all excited."

A dinosaur in the interior at a higher elevation likely would experience more seasonal climate variation than creatures to the north or south closer to coasts, Fiorillo said.

He and others for years have explored evidence of polar dinosaurs near the Colville River on Alaska's North Slope about 25 miles from the Arctic Ocean. Evidence of duckbilled, plant-eating dinosaurs and theropods also has been found on the Alaska Peninsula.

The discovery of the three-toed Cretaceous period dinosaur at Denali was made June 27 during a six-week field course of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Paul McCarthy, associate professor of geology, was showing two undergraduate students sedimentary rock that commonly preserves dinosaur tracks.

One of the students, Susi Tomsich, spotted the track on the underside of a ledge and pointed it out to McCarthy.

"I gave a little howl," he said. "It was a big rush."

Fiorillo said the creature would be roughly like a scaled-down Tyrannosaurus rex.

Finding Design in Nature

By CHRISTOPH SCHÖNBORN
Published: July 7, 2005
Vienna

EVER since 1996, when Pope John Paul II said that evolution (a term he did not define) was "more than just a hypothesis," defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma have often invoked the supposed acceptance - or at least acquiescence - of the Roman Catholic Church when they defend their theory as somehow compatible with Christian faith.

Forum: Op-Ed Contributors

But this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

Consider the real teaching of our beloved John Paul. While his rather vague and unimportant 1996 letter about evolution is always and everywhere cited, we see no one discussing these comments from a 1985 general audience that represents his robust teaching on nature:

"All the observations concerning the development of life lead to a similar conclusion. The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator."

He went on: "To all these indications of the existence of God the Creator, some oppose the power of chance or of the proper mechanisms of matter. To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us. In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without a cause. It would be to abdicate human intelligence, which would thus refuse to think and to seek a solution for its problems."

Note that in this quotation the word "finality" is a philosophical term synonymous with final cause, purpose or design. In comments at another general audience a year later, John Paul concludes, "It is clear that the truth of faith about creation is radically opposed to the theories of materialistic philosophy. These view the cosmos as the result of an evolution of matter reducible to pure chance and necessity."

Naturally, the authoritative Catechism of the Catholic Church agrees: "Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins. The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason." It adds: "We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance."

In an unfortunate new twist on this old controversy, neo-Darwinists recently have sought to portray our new pope, Benedict XVI, as a satisfied evolutionist. They have quoted a sentence about common ancestry from a 2004 document of the International Theological Commission, pointed out that Benedict was at the time head of the commission, and concluded that the Catholic Church has no problem with the notion of "evolution" as used by mainstream biologists - that is, synonymous with neo-Darwinism.

The commission's document, however, reaffirms the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature. Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul's 1996 letter on evolution, the commission cautions that "the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe."

Furthermore, according to the commission, "An unguided evolutionary process - one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence - simply cannot exist."

Indeed, in the homily at his installation just a few weeks ago, Benedict proclaimed: "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

Throughout history the church has defended the truths of faith given by Jesus Christ. But in the modern era, the Catholic Church is in the odd position of standing in firm defense of reason as well. In the 19th century, the First Vatican Council taught a world newly enthralled by the "death of God" that by the use of reason alone mankind could come to know the reality of the Uncaused Cause, the First Mover, the God of the philosophers.

Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of "chance and necessity" are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.

Christoph Schönborn, the Roman Catholic cardinal archbishop of Vienna, was the lead editor of the official 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Intelligence matters II

http://pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/opinion/letters/s_350726.html

Thursday, July 7, 2005

The letter writer suggested Intelligent Design isn't science because it requires belief in God. He used a "red herring" logical fallacy, to take the focus off science and claim Intelligent Design is religion and doesn't belong in the classroom.

True scientists are open to all possible theories that explain observed facts. Intelligent Design is the only theory that adequately explains the fact of irreducibly complex organisms.

Just as watches can't function without all their vital parts, the simplest living cells can't function, or survive, without all their vital parts. They couldn't have evolved through successive stages of development without having all their vital parts from the very beginning. Evolution can't explain this fact of science.

True, many reasonable people will think designer means "God." However, acknowledgment of God is not required. Well-known religious skeptics have supported Intelligent Design while saying they don't know what or who the designer is.

Biased science turns to evolution instead of the only reasonable conclusion because it might mean there is a God. That is not science, that is religion and does not belong in the classroom unless balanced with more logical, scientific explanations like Intelligent Design.

Gary Stewart
North Versailles

CONSERVATIVES AND EVOLUTION.

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w050704&s=adler070705

Evolutionary War
by Ben Adler Only at TNR Online
Post date: 07.07.05

Later this summer, the Kansas State Board of Education is widely expected to change its state science standards to cast doubt on evolution. The new standards will likely emphasize the unsolved problems in evolutionary theory's explanatory power, like gaps in the fossil record, that are the favorite hobbyhorses of creationists and advocates of "intelligent design." Intelligent design posits that certain biological mechanisms and the nature of DNA itself are too complex to have evolved--and therefore suggest the hand of an original designer. Advocates of intelligent design, including several of the witnesses who testified at the Kansas board's hearings that began in May, say that evolution and the origin of species are unsettled topics and that students should understand and debate different points of view. In the scientific community, however, the debate is one-sided. The 120,000-member American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) passed a resolution in 2002 declaring intelligent design a "philosophical or theological concept" that should not be taught in science classes. Indeed, the AAAS boycotted the Kansas hearings to avoid conferring legitimacy on intelligent design proponents who testified.

Pressure to temper the teaching of evolution in public schools has come overwhelmingly from conservatives; the Kansas board's re-examination of its evolution standards resulted from Republican gains last November that put an anti-evolution conservative majority on the board. So we were curious: How do leading conservative thinkers and pundits feel about evolution and intelligent design? We asked them. Here's what they said.

A few notes about the interviews: All were conducted via phone except where otherwise noted. The interviews are not presented in a chronological question-and-answer format. Instead, we've grouped each person's thoughts on particular subjects into subcategories, which are identified in italics, splicing these statements together with ellipses where necessary. Those interviewed spoke only for themselves.

William Kristol, The Weekly Standard

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I don't discuss personal opinions. ... I'm familiar with what's obviously true about it as well as what's problematic. ... I'm not a scientist. ... It's like me asking you whether you believe in the Big Bang."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I managed to have my children go through the Fairfax, Virginia schools without ever looking at one of their science textbooks."

Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I've never understood how an eye evolves."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "Put me down for the intelligent design people."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "The real problem here is that you shouldn't have government-run schools. ... Given that we have to spend all our time crushing the capital gains tax I don't have much time for this issue."

David Frum, American Enterprise Institute and National Review

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I do believe in evolution."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "If intelligent design means that evolution occurs under some divine guidance, I believe that."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. ... Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle."

Stephen Moore, Free Enterprise Fund

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I believe in parts of it but I think there are holes in the evolutionary theory."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "I generally agree with said critique."

Whether intelligent design or a similar critique should be taught in public schools: "I think people should be taught ... that there are various theories about how man was created."

Whether schools should leave open the possibility that man was created by God in his present form: "Of course, yes, definitely."

Jonah Goldberg, National Review

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Sure."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "I think it's interesting. ... I think it's wrong. I think it's God-in-the-gaps theorizing. But I'm not hostile to it the way other people are because I don't, while I think evolution is real, I don't think any specific--there are a lot of unknowns left in evolution theory and criticizing evolution from different areas doesn't really bother me, just as long as you're not going to say the world was created in six days or something."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't think you should teach religious conclusions as science and I don't think you should teach science as religion. ... I see nothing [wrong] with having teachers pay some attention to the sensitivities of other people in the room. I think if that means you're more careful about some issues than others that's fine. People are careful about race and gender; I don't see why all of a sudden we can't be diplomatic on these issues when it comes to religion."

Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Of course."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "At most, interesting."

Whether intelligent design should be taught in public schools: "The idea that [intelligent design] should be taught as a competing theory to evolution is ridiculous. ... The entire structure of modern biology, and every branch of it [is] built around evolution and to teach anything but evolution would be a tremendous disservice to scientific education. If you wanna have one lecture at the end of your year on evolutionary biology, on intelligent design as a way to understand evolution, that's fine. But the idea that there are these two competing scientific schools is ridiculous."

William Buckley, National Review

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Yes."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "I'd have to write that down. ... I'd have to say something more carefully than I can over the telephone. I'm a Christian."

Whether schools should raise the possibility that the original genetic code was written by an intelligent designer: "Well, surely, yeah, absolutely."

Whether schools should raise the possibility--but not in biology classes--that man was created by God in his present form? : "Yes, sure, absolutely."

Which classes that should be discussed in: "History, etymology."

John Tierney, The New York Times (via email)

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I believe that the theory of evolution has great explanatory powers."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "I haven't really studied the arguments for intelligent design, so I'm loath to say much about it except that I'm skeptical."

James Taranto, The Wall Street Journal

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Yes."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "I could not speak fluently on the subject but I know what the basic argument is."

Whether schools should teach intelligent design or similar critiques of evolution in biology classes: "I guess I would say they probably shouldn't be taught in biology classes; they probably should be taught in philosophy classes if there is such a thing. It seems to me, and again I don't speak with any authority on this, that the hypothesis ... that the universe is somehow inherently intelligent is not a scientific hypothesis. Because how do you prove it or disprove it? And really the question is how do you disprove it, because a scientific hypothesis has to be capable of being falsified. So while there may be holes in Darwinian theory, while there's obviously a lot we don't know, and perhaps Darwinian theory could be wrong altogether, I think whether or not the universe is designed is just a question outside the realm of science."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "It probably should be taught, if it's going to be taught, in a more thoroughgoing way, a more rigorous way that explains what a scientific theory is. ... You know, my general impression is that high school instruction in general is not all that rigorous. ... I think one possible way of solving this problem is by--if you can't teach it in a rigorous way, if the schools aren't up to that, and if it's going to be a political hot potato in the way it is, and we have schools that are politically run, one possible solution might be just take it out of the curriculum altogether. I'm not necessarily advocating that, but I think it's something that policy makers might think about. I'd rather see it taught in a rigorous and serious way, but as a realistic matter that may be expecting too much of our government schools."

Norman Podhoretz, Commentary (via email)

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "It's impossible to answer that question with a simple yes or no."

Richard Brookhiser, National Review

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Yes."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "It doesn't seem like good science to me."

Whether intelligent design should be taught in public schools: "No."

Pat Buchanan, The American Conservative

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Do I believe in absolute evolution? No. I don't believe that evolution can explain the creation of matter. ... Do I believe in Darwinian evolution? The answer is no."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "Do I believe in a Darwinian evolutionary process which can be inspired by a creator? Yeah, that's a real possibility. I don't believe evolution can explain the creation of matter. I don't believe it can explain the intelligent design in the universe. I just don't believe it can explain the tremendous complexity of the human being when you get down to DNA and you get down to atomic particles, and molecules, atomic particles, subatomic particles, which we're only beginning to understand right now. I think to say it all happened by accident or by chance or simply evolved, I just don't believe it."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "Evolution [has] been so powerful a theory in Western history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and often a malevolent force--it's been used by non-Christians and anti-Christians to justify polices which have been horrendous. I do believe that every American student should be introduced to the idea and its effects on society. But I don't think it ought to be taught as fact. It ought to be taught as theory. ... How do you answer a kid who says, 'Where did we all come from?' Do you say, 'We all evolved'? I think that's a theory. ... Now the biblical story of creation should be taught to children, not as dogma but every child should know first of all the famous biblical stories because they have had a tremendous influence as well. ... I don't think it should be taught as religion to kids who don't wanna learn it. ... I think in biology that honest teachers gotta say, 'Look the universe exhibits, betrays the idea that there is a first mover, that there is intelligent design.' ... You should leave the teaching of religion to a voluntary classes in my judgment and only those who wish to attend."

Tucker Carlson, MSNBC

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I think God's responsible for the existence of the universe and everything in it. ... I think God is probably clever enough to think up evolution. ... It's plausible to me that God designed evolution; I don't know why that's outside the realm. It's not in my view."

On the possibility that God created man in his present form: "I don't know if He created man in his present form. ... I don't discount it at all. I don't know the answer. I would put it this way: The one thing I feel confident saying I'm certain of is that God created everything there is."

On the possibility that man evolved from a common ancestor with apes: "I don't know. It wouldn't rock my world if it were true. It doesn't sound proved to me. But, yeah I'm willing to believe it, sure."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't have a problem with public schools or any schools teaching evolution. I guess I would have a problem if a school or a science teacher asserted that we know how life began, because we don't so far as I know, do we? ... If science teachers are teaching that we know things that in fact we don't know, then I'm against that. That's a lie. But if they are merely describing the state of knowledge in 2005 then I don't have problem with that. If they are saying, 'Most scientists believe this,' and most scientists believe it, then it's an accurate statement. What bothers me is the suggestion that we know things we don't know. That's just another form of religion it seems to me."

Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Yes."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "To the extent that I am familiar with it, and that's not very much, I guess what I think is this: The intelligent designers are correct insofar as they are reacting against a view of evolution which holds that it can't have been guided by God in any way--can't even have sort of been set in motion by God to achieve particular results and that no step in the process is guided by God. But they seem to give too little attention to the possibility that God could have set up an evolutionary process."

Whether intelligent design should be taught in public schools: "I guess my own inclination would be to teach evolution in the public schools. I don't think that you ought to make a federal case out of it though."

David Brooks, The New York Times (via email)

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I believe in the theory of evolution."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "I've never really studied the issue or learned much about ID, so I'm afraid I couldn't add anything intelligent to the discussion."

Creationism still about Judeo-Christian beliefs

http://www.atchisondailyglobe.com/main.asp?FromHome=1&TypeID=1&ArticleID=4303&SectionID=11&SubSectionID=37

Thursday, July 07, 2005

By Marissa Heffley

Re: "Evolutionists shouldn't be afraid of open discussion":

As a graduate of the KU journalism school, I've learned that censorship is never a way to solve problems. Mr. Gray certainly has a point in this respect. Open discussion allows one, if anything, to check his or her own views and beliefs.

The problem with the Kansas State Board of Education's choice to evaluate incorporating creationism into its curriculum doesn't necessarily lie in the discussion itself. The problem is that creationism has Judeo-Christian roots, which not every child in the state of Kansas believes in. The "science" that is creationism is believed only by a small percentage of people, all of whom are of Judeo-Christian background. The KSBE does not have the right to force religious teachings, whatever scientific teaching it may intend, on students.

While we're bringing up Copernicus and Galileo, let me just remind Mr. Gray that some creationist believe in Geocentrism. "Geocentrists accept a spherical earth but deny that the sun is the center of the solar system or that the earth moves. As with flat-earth views, the water of Noah's flood came from above a solid firmament. The basis for their belief is a literal reading of the Bible. "It is not an interpretation at all, it is what the words say." (Willis 2000) Both flat-earthers and geocentrists reflect the cosmological views of ancient Hebrews (www.talkorigins.org).

This belief, while not common amongst Creationists, comes directly from the Bible, as do the Creationism principles that may be implemented in the KSBE Science Curriculum.

Tulsa Zoo won't have Genesis display

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/070805dntexokzoo.83d3e7c3.html

Public outcry prompted 2 on Tulsa park board to change votes

08:23 PM CDT on Thursday, July 7, 2005

By ARNOLD HAMILTON / The Dallas Morning News

The Genesis account of creation won't be displayed at the Tulsa Zoo, after all.

One month after approving the biblical exhibit, the Tulsa Park and Recreation Board reversed itself Thursday, citing public outcry as a key reason.

"We've gained much better perception than we had June 7," said Joseph Schulte, one of two board members to change his mind.

Mr. Schulte said it became clear "the best thing to do" was to "leave the zoo just as it is."

Last month, the panel voted 3-1 to add a creationism display to the zoo's origins exhibit, alongside evolution science and other cultural beliefs about the origins of humans and the earth.

Thursday, at a specially scheduled meeting, Mr. Schulte and board chairman Walter Helmerich switched sides, leaving Mayor Bill LaFortune as the lone vote for the creationism display.

Tulsa architect Dan Hicks, who proposed the creationism display, decried the zoo oversight board's reversal, saying it "stepped on the constitutional liberties of Tulsa taxpayers."

He argued it is only fair to include Christian beliefs on origins, since the zoo already displays other religious symbols, including an elephant-like, Hindu statue.

But board member Dale McNamara said she believes the statue fits the zoo's "living museum" mission of developing displays that explain the cultural significance of animals.

"My 'no' vote was, on reflection, absolutely correct," said Ms. McNamara, the only board member to oppose the exhibit at both meetings.

Mr. Hicks, the 43-year-old son of African missionaries, said he does not know what he will do next, though he hinted at possible legal action.

"There must be something very special about the Genesis account of creation," he said, "for opponents to fight so hard to suppress these words."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

E-mail ahamilton@dallasnews.com


Thursday, July 07, 2005

40,000-year-old footprint of first Americans

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
(Filed: 05/07/2005)

A plastic replica of a 40,000-year-old, size eight foot has shattered previous theories of the identity of the first humans to walk in the Americas.

Scientists made the foot from tracks left on the shore of an ancient volcanic lake in central Mexico.

'The footprints were preserved as trace fossils in volcanic ash' The traditional view is that the first settlers walked across the Bering Strait, from Russia to Alaska, at the end of the last ice age around 11,500 to 11,000 years ago.

But the discovery of footprints in the Valsequillo Basin by a British-led team provides new evidence that humans settled in the Americas as early as 40,000 years ago, suggesting that there were several migration waves at different times by different groups.

The team, led by Dr Silvia Gonzalez from Liverpool John Moores University, has completed dating the footprints, which Dr Gonzalez found in an abandoned quarry with her Liverpool colleague Prof David Huddart and Prof Matthew Bennett, of Bournemouth University, in September 2003. The findings supported the theory that the first colonists might have been seafarers who took an "island hopping" route from Australia and Polynesia, when sea levels were lower, to the west coast, said Prof Bennett.

"There was a lot of sea ice at this time in the northern Pacific. People could have come around on the edge of the sea ice and then down the western seaboard of North America to Baja California and to Mexico," he said.

The first stage of their research, on show this week at the Royal Society in London, analysed 269 footprints, both animal and human.

DNA tests are being conducted on the remains of ancient Americans to see if genetics can help to solve the puzzle. New funding of £212,000 from the Natural Environment Research Council will allow the team to carry out more extensive investigations and to calculate the height, pace and stride of the human population present 40,000 years ago.

"The footprints were preserved as trace fossils in volcanic ash along what was the shoreline of an ancient volcanic lake," said Dr Gonzalez. They were scanned using laser technology and reproduced using rapid prototyping technology.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/07/05/wfoot05.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/07/05/ixworld.html

'Celestial Drops' no cure for canker

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/orl-aseccanker05070505jul05,0,3793083.story?page=1&coll=orl-home-headlines

Florida researched the use of water, possibly mystically blessed, to cure the disease.

The "1900 foot rule" hasn't been very successful at controlling the spread of citrus canker either, you know!

Submitted by: Bill 9:51 PM EDT, Jul 5, 2005

By Jim Stratton | Sentinel Staff Writer Posted July 5, 2005

Four years ago, as the state labored to eradicate citrus canker by destroying trees, officials rejected other disease-fighting techniques, saying unproven methods would waste precious time and resources.

But for more than six months, the state, at the behest of then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris, did pursue one alternative method -- a very alternative method.

Researchers worked with a rabbi and a cardiologist to test "Celestial Drops," promoted as a canker inhibitor because of its "improved fractal design," "infinite levels of order" and "high energy and low entropy."

But the cure proved useless against canker. That's because it was water -- possibly, mystically blessed water.

The "product is a hoax and not based on any credible known science," the state's chief of entomology, nematology and plant pathology wrote to agriculture officials and fellow scientists after testing Celestial Drops in October 2001.

In the same letter, Wayne Dixon recommended that the state break off its relationship with the promoters of Celestial Drops.

"We have expended considerable effort in trying to responsibly deal with this group and their products," he stated. "I wish to maintain our standing in the scientific community and not allow these individuals to use our hard-earned credibility for further name-dropping."

Dixon's sentiments were not a surprise to other scientists.

"The presentation of Celestial Drops as a citrus canker treatment was . . . largely unintelligible," according to a memo written more than a year earlier by one of the state's chief plant pathologists. "In general, the proposal comes across as unscientific and not worth pursuing."

So why did Florida spend months discussing and developing test protocols for Celestial Drops?

The initial push came from Harris, now a U.S. House representative and candidate for U.S. Senate. Harris, the granddaughter of legendary citrus baron Ben Hill Griffin Jr., said she was introduced to one of the product's promoters, New York Rabbi Abe Hardoon, in 2000.

Hardoon did not want to discuss Celestial Drops when contacted by the Orlando Sentinel.

But Harris said Hardoon told her he was working with Israeli scientists who had developed a compound that made plants resistant to canker. Harris acted as intermediary and urged state agriculture officials to work with Hardoon and his associates.

"I met with those [Israeli] scientists," Harris said Friday. "They were confident they had a cure for canker."

Harris said she then stepped back and allowed Hardoon and the state to work out the details. Agriculture Department officials insist she applied no political pressure.

"She just wanted to make sure it was brought to our attention," said agriculture spokesman Terence McElroy.

State records, however, suggest Harris had a keen interest in the project.

She was repeatedly sent copies of the letters and memos bouncing between Florida canker officials and Hardoon. In August 2001, Harris herself jotted a note to Hardoon.

"I would love to see this work," it says.

All the while, some canker researchers questioned why they were cooperating with Hardoon when he had produced little evidence that Celestial Drops worked. In one memo, a University of Florida citrus scientist suggested agriculture officials had been "put in a politically difficult position."

It did not say by whom.

In the past 10 years, Florida has been swamped by companies claiming to have a cure for canker.

In virtually all cases, the state has thanked the companies for their interest and delivered the same message: "Test the product using accepted scientific principles and then show us the results."

"We don't do the testing for them," said Tim Schubert, the head of plant pathology in the state's Bureau of Entomology, Nematology & Plant Pathology. "We're just not set up for that."

But though the state told other companies it could not test their products, it made an exception for Celestial Drops. After months of correspondence, researchers took the unusual step of testing the product for Hardoon and his partner, New York cardiologist Artur Spokojny.

In a two-day test in October 2001, they soaked canker cultures in Celestial Drops -- which by then had been given a new name -- and determined it had no effect.

The results weren't a surprise to researchers. After all, one bit of promotional material said the liquid they were testing was so pure the company had been allowed "to distribute this material as drinking water."

Department officials say they agreed to test the product to finally prove it was useless against canker -- not because of Hardoon's association with Harris.

Meanwhile, some scientists were wondering what role an ancient branch of Jewish mysticism played in the development of the solution.

One document in the state's files indicates an official had searched the Internet for information on Hardoon and Spokojny and discovered both practiced Kabbalah, a religious movement whose followers include celebrities such as Madonna. Hardoon also teaches Kabbalah.

Mystically blessed water is a vital part of the faith and is sold for $3.80 a bottle at Kabbalah centers throughout the country.

Believers maintain the blessings performed over the water change its molecular structure and imbue it with supernatural healing powers. The traits attributed to so-called Kabbalah water -- "elegant crystalline structures" and "high energy and low entropy" -- are virtually identical to those of Celestial Drops.

Hardoon said he did not want to discuss any possible connection between the two.

Asked whether the mystery cure was really Kabbalah water, he said, "I can't really give you that information."

Asked whether the canker project was related at all to Kabbalah, he said, "It is, and it isn't."

He then referred all further questions to the Kabbalah Centre of Los Angeles, headquarters of the movement. Officials there did not return calls, and Spokojny was not available for comment.

Harris seemed surprised Friday that the product she once hoped might cure canker may be nothing more than blessed water. In fact, after being contacted by the Orlando Sentinel, she called Hardoon. She said he blamed Celestial Drops' poor test performance on state scientists.

"He said they didn't follow the proper protocols," Harris said.

As for the possible Kabbalah connection, Harris said she was in the dark.

"Clearly, it isn't something I knew about," she said. "This is the first time I've heard any of this."

Jim Stratton can be reached at jstratton@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5379.

Many Immigrants Choosing Herbal Remedies

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/wire/sns-ap-herbal-health-care,0,6720747.story?coll=sns-ap-health-headlines

By JENNIFER KAY
Associated Press Writer

July 6, 2005, 4:29 PM EDT

MIAMI -- When Luckner Pierrsaint feels congested from the flu or bronchitis, he doesn't go to a doctor or a drugstore. He takes his own concoction: a spoonful of a sugar-and-purple-onion mixture left outside for three nights.

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

"In my country, it can take three days to see a doctor, so we know what to do," said Pierrsaint, 52, who grows ingredients in his North Miami backyard.

Faced with skyrocketing health care costs, lack of insurance and language barriers, many immigrants believe they are better off with homegrown remedies from their native cultures than conventional treatments.

Doctors once dismissed alternative therapies because there is no scientific proof the remedies work, but the treatments are beginning to win some mainstream acceptance.

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

But the Food and Drug Administration cautions that "natural" doesn't necessarily mean safe because alternative medicines do not undergo the rigorous testing required for conventional medicines. There are no scientific studies to determine the correct dosage, side effects, or risk of interactions with other medication or certain foods.

In 2003, for example, the FDA warned against drinking teas brewed from star anise plants, believed to soothe colic in infants. That is because the Chinese star anise is often indistinguishable from a toxic Japanese star anise plant, which can cause serious neurological problems such as seizures.

Dr. Marie-Denise Gervais, who practices at a free clinic in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood, has seen poor patients jeopardize themselves by relying on alternative therapies, such as a woman with high blood-sugar who was at risk for a diabetic coma.

She had difficulty buying insulin but paid $50 for a homegrown remedy.

"God knows if this potion is loaded with sugar," Gervais said.

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

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

Those restrictions have since been loosened, but the fear of being reported to authorities for lacking documentation still keeps some immigrants from consulting a doctor, said Elva Heredia, who founded a New Mexico organization to help migrant workers navigate the U.S. health care system.

Patients add to the treatment risks when they finally see doctors but fail to tell them about home remedies they have used.

"They consider it two different worlds," said Dr. Anthony Foong, a gastroenterologist in New York City's Chinatown.

Some of Foong's immigrant patients, he said, believe their herbal medicines must be safe because they have been used in China for thousands of years.

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

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

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

Still, he said U.S. doctors and their prescriptions cost too much, and he worries about side effects from conventional "chemical" medicines.

Doctors say patients who favor natural remedies should be reminded that many modern medicines were derived from plants, including aspirin, which was created from a substance in the leaves and bark of willow trees.

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 736 July 6, 2005 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein
A COULOMB EXPERIMENT FOR THE WEAK NUCLEAR FORCE. Physicists at the SLAC accelerator have measured, with much greater precision than ever before, the variation in the weak nuclear force, one of the four known physical forces, over an enormous size scale (a distance of more than ten proton diameters) for so feeble a force. Although the results were not surprising (the weak force diminished with distance as expected) this new quantitative study of the weak force helps to cement physicists' view of the sub-nuclear world. The SLAC work is, in effect, a 21st century analog of the landmark 18th experiments in which the intrinsic strength of the electromagnetic and gravitational forces were measured (by Charles Coulomb and Henry Cavendish, respectively) through careful observation of test objects causing a torsion balance to swing around.

The weak force, in the modern way of thinking, is a cousin of the electromagnetic (EM) force; both of them are considered as different aspects of a single "electroweak" force. The EM force is much better known to physicists and to non-experts: it's responsible for all electric, magnetic, and optical phenomena, and keeps atoms intact and holds atoms together in all the molecular and crystalline forms which make up our world. Over sizes larger than the atom, the strength of the EM force is prescribed by Coulomb's law, which states that the force between two charged objects (say, two electrons) is proportional to the charges of the electrons and inversely to the square of the distance between them. For sub-atomic distances the Coulomb way of describing electron scattering gets complicated because of vacuum polarization, a process which takes into account the fact that at short distances an electron can longer be portrayed as a lone pointlike particle; instead we must view it as accompanied by a cloud of virtual particles sprouting out of the vacuum. These extra short-lived particles serve to redefine, or "renormalize," the effective electron charge and along with it the very nature of the EM force mediating the interaction with the other electron.

The weak force is an important force---responsible for some kinds of radioactivity and for select fusion reactions vital to energy production inside the sun---but is very different from the electromagnetic force and generally operates only over the tight confines of the nucleus. In this realm, the weak force is right there along with the EM force, a doppelganger that can often be ignored because it is so very weak. But physicists, in search of a fuller explanation of the universe, don't want to ignore the weak force. At SLAC they painstakingly extract weak effects from the much larger EM effects involved when two electrons interact. In the case of their present experiment (E158), a powerful electron beam scatters from electrons bound to hydrogen atoms in a stationary target. By using electrons that have been spin polarized---that is, the electron's internal magnetism (or spin) has been oriented in a certain direction---the weak force can be studied by looking for subtle asymmetries in the way electrons with differing polarizations scatter from each other.

One expects an intrinsic falloff in the weak force with the distance between the electrons. It should also fall off owing to the great mass that the Z boson, unlike its EM counterpart, the massless photon. Finally, the weak force weakens because the electron's "weak charge" becomes increasingly shielded (just as the electron's electrical charge had been) owing to a polarization of the vacuum---but this time with virtual quarks, electrons, and W and Z bosons needing to be taken into account. Previously, the weak charge has been well measured only at a fixed distance scale, a small fraction of the proton's diameter. The SLAC result over longer distances confirms the expected falloff. According to E158 researcher Yury Kolomensky (yury@physics.berkeley.edu), the result is precise enough to rule out certain theories that invoke new types of interactions, at least at the energy scale of this experiment. (Anthony et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article; lab website, http://www-project.slac.stanford.edu/e158)

WHY IS THE SKY BLUE, AND NOT VIOLET? The hues that we see in the sky are not only determined by the laws of physics, but are also colored by the human visual system, shows a new paper in the American Journal of Physics. On a clear day when the sun is well above the horizon, the analysis demonstrates, we perceive the complex spectrum of colors in the sky as a mixture of white light and pure blue. When sunlight enters the earth's atmosphere, it scatters (ricochets) mainly from oxygen and nitrogen molecules that make up most of our air. What scatters the most is the light with the shortest wavelengths, towards the blue end of the spectrum, so more of that light will reach our eyes than other colors. But according to the 19th-century physics equations introduced by Lord Rayleigh, as well as actual measurements, our eyes get hit with peak amounts of energy in violet as well as blue. So what is happening? Combining physics with quantitative data on the responsiveness of the human visual system, Glenn Smith of Georgia Tech (glenn.smith@ece.gatech.edu) points to the way in which our eye's three different types of cones detect color. As Smith shows, the sky's complex multichromatic rainbow of colors tickles our eye's cones in the same way as does a specific mixture of pure blue and white light. This is similar to how the human visual system will perceive the right mixture of pure red and pure green as being equivalent to pure yellow. The cones that allow us to see color cannot identify the actual wavelengths that hit them, but if they are stimulated by the right combination of wavelengths, then it will appear the same to our eyes as a single pure color, or a mixture of a pure color and white light. (Smith, American Journal of Physics, July 2005)

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Finding Design in Nature

July 7, 2005

By CHRISTOPH SCHÖNBORN

Vienna

EVER since 1996, when Pope John Paul II said that evolution (a term he did not define) was "more than just a hypothesis," defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma have often invoked the supposed acceptance - or at least acquiescence - of the Roman Catholic Church when they defend their theory as somehow compatible with Christian faith.

But this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

Consider the real teaching of our beloved John Paul. While his rather vague and unimportant 1996 letter about evolution is always and everywhere cited, we see no one discussing these comments from a 1985 general audience that represents his robust teaching on nature:

"All the observations concerning the development of life lead to a similar conclusion. The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator."

He went on: "To all these indications of the existence of God the Creator, some oppose the power of chance or of the proper mechanisms of matter. To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us. In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without a cause. It would be to abdicate human intelligence, which would thus refuse to think and to seek a solution for its problems."

Note that in this quotation the word "finality" is a philosophical term synonymous with final cause, purpose or design. In comments at another general audience a year later, John Paul concludes, "It is clear that the truth of faith about creation is radically opposed to the theories of materialistic philosophy. These view the cosmos as the result of an evolution of matter reducible to pure chance and necessity."

Naturally, the authoritative Catechism of the Catholic Church agrees: "Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins. The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason." It adds: "We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance."

In an unfortunate new twist on this old controversy, neo-Darwinists recently have sought to portray our new pope, Benedict XVI, as a satisfied evolutionist. They have quoted a sentence about common ancestry from a 2004 document of the International Theological Commission, pointed out that Benedict was at the time head of the commission, and concluded that the Catholic Church has no problem with the notion of "evolution" as used by mainstream biologists - that is, synonymous with neo-Darwinism.

The commission's document, however, reaffirms the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature. Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul's 1996 letter on evolution, the commission cautions that "the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe."

Furthermore, according to the commission, "An unguided evolutionary process - one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence - simply cannot exist."

Indeed, in the homily at his installation just a few weeks ago, Benedict proclaimed: "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

Throughout history the church has defended the truths of faith given by Jesus Christ. But in the modern era, the Catholic Church is in the odd position of standing in firm defense of reason as well. In the 19th century, the First Vatican Council taught a world newly enthralled by the "death of God" that by the use of reason alone mankind could come to know the reality of the Uncaused Cause, the First Mover, the God of the philosophers.

Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of "chance and necessity" are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.

Christoph Schönborn, the Roman Catholic cardinal archbishop of Vienna, was the lead editor of the official 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church.

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html?emc=tnt&tntget=2005/07/07/opinion/07schonborn.html&tntemail1


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Nearly Two-thirds of U.S. Adults Believe Human Beings Were Created by God

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/050706/nyw130.html?.v=17

Wednesday July 6, 4:06 pm ET

Opinions are divided about evolution theories

ROCHESTER, N.Y., July 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Earlier this year, the State Board of Education in Kansas reignited an old debate -- whether or not creationism should be taught in public schools -- and shone the spotlight on a new theory, intelligent design. While many in the scientific community may question why this issue has been raised again, a new national survey shows that almost two-thirds of U.S. adults (64%) agree with the basic tenet of creationism, that "human beings were created directly by God." At the same time, approximately one-fifth (22%) of adults believe "human beings evolved from earlier species" (evolution) and 10 percent subscribe to the theory that "human beings are so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them" (intelligent design). Moreover, a majority (55%) believe that all three of these theories should be taught in public schools, while 23 percent support teaching creationism only, 12 percent evolution only, and four percent intelligent design only.

These are some of the results of a nationwide Harris Poll of 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed by telephone by Harris Interactive® between June 17 and 21, 2005.


    Other key findings include:
    -- A majority of U.S. adults (54%) do not think human beings developed
       from earlier species, up from 46 percent in 1994.
    -- Forty-nine percent of adults believe plants and animals have evolved
       from some other species while 45 percent do not believe that.
    -- Adults are evenly divided about whether or not apes and man have a
       common ancestry (46 percent believe we do and 47 percent believe we do
       not).
    -- Again divided, 46 percent of adults agree that "Darwin's theory of
       evolution is proven by fossil discoveries," while 48 percent disagree.

Factors such as age, education, political outlook, and region appear to guide views on this debate.


    -- In general, older adults (those 55 years of age and older), adults
       without a college degree, Republicans, conservatives, and Southerners
       are more likely to embrace the creationism positions in the questions
       asked.
    -- Those with a college education, Democrats, independents, liberals,
       adults aged 18 to 54 and those from the Northeast and West support the
       belief in evolution in larger numbers. However, among these groups,
       majorities believe in creationism.
    -- Despite the significant numbers who believe in creationism, pluralities
       among the demographic subgroups examined still believe all three
       concepts (evolution, creationism, and intelligent design) should be
       taught in public schools.


                                   TABLE 1
                   DID HUMANS DEVELOP FROM EARLIER SPECIES?
      "Do you think human beings developed from earlier species or not?"

    Base: All Adults

                                                        March        June
                                                         1994        2005
                                                           %           %
    Yes, I think human beings developed from
    earlier species.                                       44          38
    No, I do not think human beings developed
    from earlier species.                                  46          54
    Not sure/Decline to answer                             11           8

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding


                                   TABLE 2
               PLANT AND ANIMAL DEVELOPMENT FROM OTHER SPECIES
  "Do you believe all plants and animals have evolved from other species or
                                    not?"

    Base: All Adults

                                                          June
                                                          2005
                                                            %
    Yes, I believe plants and animals have evolved from
    some other species.                                    49
    No, I do not believe plants and animals have evolved
    from some other species.                               45
    Not sure/Decline to answer                              7

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.


                                   TABLE 3
                    DO MAN AND APES HAVE COMMON ANCESTRY?
         "Do you believe apes and man have a common ancestry or not?"

    Base: All Adults

                                                        July           June
                                                        1996           2005
                                                          %              %
    Yes, apes and man do have a common ancestry.          51             46
    No, apes and man do not have a common ancestry.       43             47
    Not sure/Decline to answer                             5              7

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.


                                   TABLE 4
          DARWIN'S THEORY OF EVOLUTION PROVEN BY FOSSIL DISCOVERIES?
       "Please tell me whether you agree or disagree with the following
  statement: Darwin's theory of evolution is proven by fossil discoveries."

    Base: All Adults

                                                       January          June
                                                         2004           2005
                                                           %              %
    Agree (NET)                                           43             46
    Strongly agree                                        19             15
    Somewhat agree                                        24             30
    Disagree (NET)                                        51             48
    Somewhat disagree                                     16             19
    Strongly disagree                                     35             29
    Not Sure/Decline to answer                             6              6


                                   TABLE 5
                            WHERE HUMANS COME FROM
  "Which of the following do you believe about how human beings came to be?"

    Base: All Adults

                                                        June
                                                        2005
                                                          %
    Human beings evolved from earlier species.            22
    Human beings were created directly by God.            64
    Human beings are so complex that they required a
    powerful force or intelligent being to help
    create them.                                          10
    Not sure/Decline to answer                             4

                                   TABLE 6
                          EVOLUTION IN THE CLASSROOM

"Regardless of what you may personally believe, which of these do you believe

                     should be taught in public schools?"

    Base: All Adults

                                                            June
                                                            2005
                                                              %
    Evolution only: "Evolution says that human beings
    evolved from earlier stages of animals."                  12
    Creationism only: "Creationism says that human beings
    were created directly by God."                            23
    Intelligent design only: "Intelligent design says that
    human beings are so complex that they required a
    powerful force or intelligent being to help create them."  4
    All three                                                 55
    Neither                                                    3
    Not sure/Decline to answer                                 3

                                   TABLE 7
         SUMMARY OF KEY QUESTIONS ABOUT HUMAN EVOLUTION- BY EDUCATION

    Base: All Adults

                                            Education
                         All        H.S.     Some     College    Post
                        Adults    or Less   College    Grad      Grad
                       (n=1,000)  (n=407)   (n=339)   (n=157)   (n=75)
                          %          %         %         %         %
    Human Development from Earlier Species
      Yes                 38        32        35        46        60
      No                  54        59        56        46        33
    PLANT AND ANIMAL DEVELOPMENT
      Yes                 49        44        48        55        65
      No                  45        48        45        39        32
    MAN AND APES HAVE COMMON ANCESTRY
      Yes                 46        46        41        53        57
      No                  47        47        50        39        40
    DARWIN'S THEORY OF EVOLUTION PROVEN BY FOSSIL EVIDENCE
      Yes                 46        40        44        55        64
      No                  48        51        51        39        34
    HUMAN EVOLUTION
      Belief in
       evolution          22        17        21        31        35
      Belief in
       creationism        64        73        66        48        42
      Belief in
       intelligent
       design             10         6        10        15        17


                                   TABLE 8
  SUMMARY OF KEY QUESTIONS ABOUT HUMAN EVOLUTION - BY PARTY ID AND POLITICAL
                                  PHILOSOPHY

    Base: All Adults

                                                Party ID
                             All Adults  Republican     Democrat   Independent
                              (n=1,000)      (n=391)      (n=439)      (n=170)
                                   %            %            %            %
    HUMAN DEVELOPMENT FROM EARLIER SPECIES
      Yes                         38           27           48           36
      No                          54           65           44           53
    PLANT AND ANIMAL DEVELOPMENT
      Yes                         49           37           61           47
      No                          45           58           33           42
    MAN AND APES HAVE COMMON ANCESTRY
      Yes                         46           30           61           44
      No                          47           62           32           47
    DARWIN'S THEORY OF EVOLUTION PROVEN BY FOSSIL EVIDENCE
      Yes                         46           37           55           43
      No                          48           58           40           45
    HUMAN EVOLUTION
      Belief in evolution         22           16           27           25
      Belief in creationism       64           73           58           57
      Belief in intelligent
       design                     10            9           11            7


                                              Political Philosophy
                                      Conservative      Moderate      Liberal
                                        (n=538)         (n=103)       (n=359)
                                            %               %             %
    HUMAN DEVELOPMENT FROM EARLIER SPECIES
      Yes                                  25              40            56
      No                                   65              52            37
    PLANT AND ANIMAL DEVELOPMENT
      Yes                                  38              50            65
      No                                   53              46            31
    MAN AND APES HAVE COMMON ANCESTRY
      Yes                                  37              36            63
      No                                   56              52            31
    DARWIN'S THEORY OF EVOLUTION PROVEN BY FOSSIL EVIDENCE
      Yes                                  36              40            62
      No                                   58              43            35
    HUMAN EVOLUTION
      Belief in evolution                  16              22            32
      Belief in creationism                75              63            48
      Belief in intelligent design          7               4


                                   TABLE 9
      SUMMARY OF KEY QUESTIONS ABOUT HUMAN EVOLUTION - BY AGE AND REGION

    Base: All Adults

                                  All                       Age
                                 Adults       18-34        35-54         55+
                               (n=1,000)     (n=258)      (n=374)      (n=340)
                                   %            %            %            %
    HUMAN DEVELOPMENT FROM EARLIER SPECIES
      Yes                         38           46           38           29
      No                          54           46           53           61
    PLANT AND ANIMAL DEVELOPMENT
      Yes                         49           51           50           46
      No                          45           45           44           46
    MAN AND APES HAVE COMMON ANCESTRY
      Yes                         46           57           45           39
      No                          47           37           48           52
    DARWIN'S THEORY OF EVOLUTION PROVEN BY FOSSIL EVIDENCE
      Yes                         46           57           48           35
      No                          48           41           44           58
    HUMAN EVOLUTION
      Belief in evolution         22           25           25           16
      Belief in creationism       64           60           59           73
      Belief in intelligent
       design                     10           11            9            9

                                                 Region
                               Northeast     Midwest       South        West
                                (n=213)      (n=220)      (n=349)      (n=218)
                                   %            %            %            %
    HUMAN DEVELOPMENT FROM EARLIER SPECIES
      Yes                         52           37           28           41
      No                          38           57           64           50
    PLANT AND ANIMAL DEVELOPMENT
      Yes                         63           47           41           51
      No                          28           48           54           42
    MAN AND APES HAVE COMMON ANCESTRY
      Yes                         60           43           40           44
      No                          32           50           52           48
    DARWIN'S THEORY OF EVOLUTION PROVEN BY FOSSIL EVIDENCE
      Yes                         58           43           36           52
      No                          37           47           56           47
    HUMAN EVOLUTION
      Belief in evolution         30           17           17           28
      Belief in creationism       52           72           71           56
      Belief in intelligent
       design                     13            9            8           10


    Methodology

The Harris Poll® was conducted by telephone within the United States between June 17 and 21, 2005 among a nationwide cross section of 1,000 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for sex, race, education, and region were weighted where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.

In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the overall results have a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points of what they would be if the entire U.S. adult population had been polled with complete accuracy. Sampling error for the sub- sample results (as shown in the tables above) is higher and varies. Unfortunately, there are several other possible sources of error in all polls or surveys that are probably more serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. They include refusals to be interviewed (nonresponse), question wording and question order, interviewer bias, weighting by demographic control data and screening (e.g., for likely voters). It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result from these factors.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.


     J24642
     Q900, Q905, Q910, Q915, Q920, Q925

    The Harris Poll® #52, July 6, 2005
    By Bill Dalbec, research director, Harris Interactive.

    About Harris Interactive®

Harris Interactive Inc. (http://www.harrisinteractive.com), the 15th largest market research firm in the world, is a Rochester, NY-based global research company that blends premier strategic consulting with innovative and efficient methods of investigation, analysis and application. Known for The Harris Poll® and for pioneering Internet-based research methods, Harris Interactive conducts proprietary and public research to help its clients achieve clear, material and enduring results.

Harris Interactive combines its intellectual capital, databases and technology to advance market leadership through its U.S. offices and wholly owned subsidiaries, HI Europe in London (http://www.hieurope.com), Novatris in Paris (http://www.novatris.com), and through an independent global network of affiliate market research companies. EOE M/F/D/V.

To become a member of the Harris Poll Online(SM) and be invited to participate in future online surveys, http://www.harrispollonline.com.

     Press Contacts:
     Nancy Wong
     Harris Interactive
     585-214-7316

     Kelly Gullo
     Harris Interactive
     585-214-7172

    Harris Interactive Inc. 7/05

Source: Harris Interactive

Schools Confront Science of Life Debate

http://wireservice.wired.com/wired/story.asp?section=Breaking&storyId=1059632&tw=wn_wire_story

Wednesday, July 06, 2005 1:18 p.m. ET
By BEN FELLER AP Education Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- For school districts across the country, the teaching of Darwinian theory reflects a re-emerging issue in public education. In local communities and state legislatures, evolution is being contested anew, prompting rebukes from scholars who fear politics and religion are eroding established science.

This debate of ideas, normally welcome in a classroom environment, is not embraced by instructors such as Terry Uselton, a high school science department chairman in Knoxville, Tenn.

"It's not about education or science, it's about politics," Uselton told The Associated Press during a group interview of teachers at the National Education Association's annual meeting. "That's the problem, and that's what we have a hard time separating out. Part of it doesn't have anything to do with the science being right or wrong."

Every time Lisa Marroquin teaches biological evolution, she knows some students will show up ready to talk creationism, a religious doctrine of how life came to be.

So she finds a way to satisfy their curiosity without straying from science, the fundamental theory that species evolved over millions of years through natural selection.

"I allow them to be creative thinkers, because that's what we're driving the kids to do _ be intelligent, analytical thinkers," said Marroquin, who teaches at Downey High School in a southern California district she describes as conservative. Yet evolution is a key part of California science standards, and she tells students they must learn it even if they don't like it, because "they've got to live in the real world."

In rural Pennsylvania, a school board has ordered that biology students hear about a competing theory of life called "intelligent design," prompting a court fight. In a Georgia county, officials placed disclaimers about evolution on text books before a judge overruled the move. In Kansas, officials may alter science standards to step up the criticism of evolution.

In Washington state, when students ask teacher Faye Haas about the role of a higher being in the origin of life, she tells them: "That's religion, that's a belief, it's not science theory."

"The thing about a (scientific) theory is it's supported by a large body of evidence," said Haas, a former biology instructor who teaches high school chemistry in a suburb of Seattle. "To spend half the time talking about things that speak against it doesn't make any sense."

Yet proponents of alternative views say they want young learners to hear critiques of evolution, and that science should be able to withstand the scrutiny.

Their push has been aided by the election of conservative lawmakers, and polls show that many adults are open to the teaching of criticism of Darwinism or creationist theories in class.

The beliefs of creationist groups vary widely, but the doctrine's principle is that a supernatural being created the universe and living things. Biological evolution refers to the process of change in which species formed from preexisting species through the ages.

Congress has weighed in with guidance to schools, saying in 2001 that students should be allowed to "understand the full range of scientific views" about biological evolution _ but also that students should be taught to distinguish between testable theories from religious or philosophical claims.

Religious accounts of life's creation are not permitted in public schools under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has ruled. Another theory fueling debate, intelligent design, asserts that some features of the natural world are so ordered and complex that they are best explained by an intelligent cause. Critics call that a rehashed version of creationism, stripped of overt religious references, a claim that intelligent design researchers vigorously dispute.

The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that represents many scholars who support intelligent design, is not seeking to require schools to teach the theory. Nor is it out to diminish the teaching of evolution, said Bruce Chapman, the institute's president.

"We want the scientific evidence for and against Darwin's theory taught. That's it," Chapman said. He said intelligent design is not sufficiently developed to be required teaching, but he points to more than 400 researchers who have signed onto a scientific dissent of Darwinism.

National science leaders are alarmed by these renewed questions about evolution. Bruce Alberts, a cell biologist and immediate past president of the National Academy of Sciences, recently wrote all of its members to warn of the "growing threat" to the teaching of science.

At the college level, the American Association of University Professors has deplored any efforts to force public school teachers or higher education faculty to teach theories of the origins of life that are "unsubstantiated by the methods of science."

Meanwhile, Uselton, the Tennessee teacher, fears the political feuding over evolution will turn off students and drive them into other disciplines. He encourages students to embrace the fact that science doesn't have all the answers, with hopes they'll see it as an opportunity.

"Like I tell my kids," he said, "somebody's got to be out there filling these gaps."

On the Net:

National Education Association: http://www.nea.org

Discovery Institute: http://www.discovery.org

National Academy of Sciences: http://www.nasonline.org

Copyright © 2005 Associated Press

He's betting on 'Intelligent Design'

http://www.gilroydispatch.com/opinion/contentview.asp?c=163060

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Dear Editor,

"Blessed are the meek as they shall inherit the earth." - Matthew 5:4.

Too bad James Brescoll blew his inheritance when he wrote that nasty letter on June 18 castigating me for defending David Kaeini, who wrote that abortion is killing at any stage and defended the Catholic faith.

Brescoll is just lucky he lost his inheritance of the earth. Look at the earth: wars, genocide, pestilence, AIDS, poverty, Michael Jackson and President Bush.

The controversy between Brescoll and I rises over the age-old question of "When does life begin?" I believe the cycle of life is perpetuated when the living ovum is fertilized by the living sperm.

Within that fertilized ovum is a helix of DNA encoded with a billion or more bits of information (intelligence) that will determine the characteristics of the developing embryo throughout life - youth, maturity and old age.

This determination of growth and development is determined at the time of fertilization. This complex development could not come about by chance. It is by Intelligent Design. Thus life is not only by design but with a purpose in the scheme of things (nature). Evolutionists would deny this.

The evolutionists are now under attack and are very defensive of their concept of how life began and how the human race developed over millions of years.

Fortunately today several top scientists admit there is overwhelming evidence for Intelligent Design. If Intelligent Design is true, then evolution is false.

But the false evolution concept is fundamental to our educational system. Evolution is taught as a fact at all levels of our schools, including universities.

The great challenge of Intelligent Design vs. evolution will not be solved overnight, but it makes an interesting and prolonged debate. Place your bets accordingly as determined by your world outlook.

J.G. McCormack, Gilroy

Creationism special: A sceptic's guide to intelligent design

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg18725073.800

09 July 2005
Bob Holmes James Randerson

Magazine issue 2507

Advocates of intelligent design argue it is a rigorous scientific alternative to natural selection. But just what is it, and is it science at all?

ADVOCATES of intelligent design argue that it deserves to be taken seriously as a rigorous scientific alternative to evolution by natural selection. But just what is it, and is it science at all?

Intelligent design (ID) is more sophisticated than its predecessor, "creation science", which sought to gather scientific evidence in support of the Christian creation story. By starting from a pre-conceived conclusion and selectively using evidence to back it up, creation science was clearly unscientific.

ID is different. Its supporters argue that we can use science to find evidence of a designer's handiwork in nature, while claiming to be agnostic about exactly who the designer is. "Often people think the designer is the Big Guy in the Sky. But it doesn't have to be that at all," says William Dembski, a mathematician, philosopher and leading ID proponent affiliated with the Discovery Institute, a creationist think tank in Seattle. He ...

The complete article is 1421 words long.

The Bait and Switch of "Intelligent Design" Creationism

http://www.americandaily.com/article/8086

By Keith Lockitch (07/05/05)

"Intelligent Design" is religion masquerading as science.

Eighty years after the famous Scopes "Monkey" Trial, the anti-evolution forces have regrouped. Today, the battle in school districts from Kansas to Pennsylvania is over the teaching of "intelligent design," the view that life is so complex it must be the product of a "higher intelligence."

Advocates of "intelligent design" try to portray themselves as a modern-day Scopes, victims of a dogmatic pro-evolution establishment that will not allow their scientific view into the schools. But the central issue is whether "intelligent design" is, in fact, a genuine scientific theory or merely a disguised form of religious advocacy, creationism in camouflage.

Proponents of "intelligent design" aggressively market their viewpoint as real science, insisting it is not religiously based. Writes one leading advocate, Michael Behe: "The conclusion of intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself--not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs."

Proponents of "intelligent design" claim that Darwinian evolution is a fundamentally flawed theory--that there are certain complex features of living organisms evolution simply cannot explain, but which can be explained as the handiwork of an "intelligent designer."

Their viewpoint is not religiously based, they insist, because it does not require that the "intelligent designer" be God. "Design," writes another leading proponent, William Dembski, "requires neither magic nor miracles nor a creator."

Indeed, "design" apparently requires surprisingly little of the "designer's" identity: "Inferences to design," contends Behe, "do not require that we have a candidate for the role of designer." According to its advocates, the "designer" responsible for "intelligent design" in biology could be any sort of "creative intelligence" capable of engineering the basic elements of life. Some have even seriously nominated advanced space aliens for the role.

Their premise seems to be that as long as they don't explicitly name the "designer"--as long as they allow that the "designer" could be a naturally existing being, a being accessible to scientific study--that this somehow saves their viewpoint from the charge of being inherently religious in character.

But does it?

Imagine we discovered an alien on Mars with a penchant for bio-engineering. Could such a natural being fulfill the requirements of an "intelligent designer"?

It could not. Such a being would not actually account for the complexity that "design" proponents seek to explain. Any natural being capable of "designing" the complex features of earthly life would, on their premises, require its own "designer." If "design" can be inferred merely from observed complexity, then our purported Martian "designer" would be just another complex being in nature that supposedly cannot be explained without positing another "designer." One does not explain complexity by dreaming up a new complexity as its cause.

By the very nature of its approach, "intelligent design" cannot be satisfied with a "designer" who is part of the natural world. Such a "designer" would not answer the basic question its advocates raise: it would not explain biological complexity as such. The only "designer" that would stop their quest for a "design" explanation of complexity is a "designer" about whom one cannot ask any questions or who cannot be subjected to any kind of scientific study--a "designer" that "transcends" nature and its laws--a "designer" not susceptible of rational explanation--in short: a supernatural "designer."

Its advertising to the contrary notwithstanding, "intelligent design" is inherently a quest for the supernatural; only one "candidate for the role of designer" need apply. Dembski himself, even while trying to deny this implication, concedes that "if there is design in biology and cosmology, then that design could not be the work of an evolved intelligence." It must, he admits, be that of a "transcendent intelligence" to whom he euphemistically refers as "the big G."

The supposedly nonreligious theory of "intelligent design" is nothing more than a crusade to peddle religion by giving it the veneer of science--to pretend, as one commentator put it, that "faith in God is something that holds up under the microscope."

The insistence of "intelligent design" advocates that they are "agnostic regarding the source of design" is a bait-and-switch. They dangle out the groundless possibility of a "designer" who is susceptible of scientific study in order to hide their real agenda of promoting faith in the supernatural. Their scientifically accessible "designer" is nothing more than a gateway god, metaphysical marijuana intended to draw students away from natural, scientific explanations and get them hooked on the supernatural.

No matter how fervently its salesmen wish "intelligent design" to be viewed as cutting-edge science, there is no disguising its true character. It is nothing more than a religiously motivated attack on science, and should be rejected as such.

Keith Lockitch is a Ph.D. in physics and a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute (http://www.aynrand.org/) in Irvine, CA. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

Scientists finally study Kennewick Man

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4651831.stm

By Melissa Lee Phillips in Seattle, Washington State

After a legal battle that lasted nearly eight years, scientists will finally get to study the ancient skeleton known as Kennewick Man.

The remains were found in July 1996 along the shores of the Columbia River in Washington State.

Estimated to be more than 9,000 years old, the Kennewick skeleton is one of the oldest, most complete specimens ever found in North America.

Eight anthropologists sued to study the bones after the US government seized them on behalf of Native American tribal groups, who claim Kennewick Man as an ancestor and want to rebury his skeleton.

Since early 2004, when the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the anthropologists' favour, scientists have been negotiating with government agencies on a study protocol, said Paula Barran, a lawyer for the plaintiff scientists.

"We've been chomping at the bit to get this thing done," she said.

On Wednesday 6 July, a team of researchers will gather at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle for a 10-day "measurement and observation trip".

The scientists want to figure out how chemical, biological and geological processes, as well as human actions, have altered Kennewick Man's skeleton since he died.

Finally getting to it

The scientists leading this week's study met briefly at the Burke Museum in December 2004 to examine the skeleton's condition and to outline an initial study plan, explained Thomas W Stafford Jr, a Colorado-based geochemist who will participate in the investigation.

First, a group led by Smithsonian Institution anthropologist Douglas Owsley will lay out the 300-plus bone fragments "so we can see the whole skeleton in anatomical correctness", Dr Stafford told the BBC News website.

Then, Dr Stafford's group will look for mineral stains and accumulation of sediment and calcium carbonate, which should tell them how the body was positioned in the ground.

"Was he a drowning victim, was he buried on purpose with arms folded in a certain way?" Dr Stafford said.

Scientists with other expertise will try to deduce Kennewick Man's cause of death, medical problems he had while alive and whether bone breakages happened during life or after death.

Throughout the process, Dr Stafford said, Dr Owsley's group "will do, from beginning to end, the definitive measurements and photographs".

Later analyses

Some of Dr Stafford's own work will wait until after Seattle. He will take with him a few remnants of bone that were used for radiocarbon dating several years ago.

KENEWICK MAN: TIMELINE
7,200 BC- Kennewick Man lives and dies
28 July 1996- Kennewick Man skeleton found in Columbia River
13 September 1996- Kennewick bones granted to American Indians for reburial
17 October 1996- Eight scientists begin legal battle to study Kennewick Man
4 February 2004- Appeals court sides with scientists

"I don't plan on taking any samples from the skeleton itself right now," he said.

Back in his lab, Dr Stafford will analyse the bones' protein composition, to see if there is enough for further radiocarbon dating to establish firmly Kennewick Man's true age.

"I may also be able to find that there's DNA preserved that hadn't been found before," he told BBC News.

A DNA sample would reveal which ancient and modern populations are most closely related to Kennewick Man, Dr Stafford added, but "if there's no DNA, then the fallback will have to be the physical measurements".

C Loring Brace, one of the plaintiffs and an anthropologist at the University of Michigan, US, thinks that the physical measurements will show that Kennewick Man was related to prehistoric inhabitants of Japan who may have migrated to the Americas separately from the people who gave rise to today's Pacific Northwest Indians.

But "just saying it is one thing," Dr Brace added. "I want to get my callipers on it, get the set of measurements, and run them through our database to see what they tell me."

The tribes who claimed Kennewick Man as an ancestor still do not want the remains studied, though.

"Our goal, our position has never changed," said Debra Croswell, a spokeswoman for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, one of the four tribes involved in the final court decision.

"We still want this individual reburied as soon as possible."

Dr Stafford does not agree: "If somebody else wants to look at it next week, next year, they should be able to come in just like we came in. This thing should be open. There should be no final opinion for maybe even years."


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