NTS LogoSkeptical News for 11 July 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Monday, July 11, 2005

Night of the Crusher

http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20050709/bob9.asp

The waking nightmare of sleep paralysis propels people into a spirit world

Bruce Bower

As a college student in 1964, David J. Hufford met the dreaded Night Crusher. Exhausted from a bout of mononucleosis and studying for finals, Hufford retreated one December day to his rented, off-campus room and fell into a deep sleep. An hour later, he awoke with a start to the sound of the bedroom door creaking open—the same door he had locked and bolted before going to bed. Hufford then heard footsteps moving toward his bed and felt an evil presence. Terror gripped the young man, who couldn't move a muscle, his eyes plastered open in fright.

The Nightmare, 1781, Henry Fuseli. Founders Society purchase, with funds from Mr. and Mrs. Bert L. Smokler and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman. Photograph © 1997 The Detroit Institute of Arts

Without warning, the malevolent entity, whatever it was, jumped onto Hufford's chest. An oppressive weight compressed his rib cage. Breathing became difficult, and Hufford felt a pair of hands encircle his neck and start to squeeze. "I thought I was going to die," he says.

At that point, the lock on Hufford's muscles gave way. He bolted up and sprinted several blocks to take shelter in the student union. "It was very puzzling," he recalls with a strained chuckle, "but I told nobody about what happened."

Hufford's perspective on his strange encounter was transformed in 1971. He was at that time a young anthropologist studying folklore in Newfoundland, and he heard from some of the region's inhabitants about their eerily similar nighttime encounters. Locals called the threatening entity the "old hag." Most cases unfold as follows: A person wakes up paralyzed and perceives an evil presence. A hag or witch then climbs on top of the petrified victim, creating a crushing sensation on his or her chest.

It took Hufford another year to establish that what he and these people of Newfoundland had experienced corresponds to the event, lasting seconds or minutes, that sleep researchers call sleep paralysis. Although widely acknowledged among traditional cultures, sleep paralysis is one of the most prevalent yet least recognized mental phenomena for people in industrialized societies, Hufford says.

Now, more than 30 years after Hufford's discovery, sleep paralysis is beginning to attract intensive scientific attention. The March Transcultural Psychiatry included a series of papers on the condition's widespread prevalence, regional varieties, and mental-health implications.

Sleep paralysis differs from nocturnal panic, in which a person awakens in terror with no memory of a dream. Neither does sleep paralysis resemble a night terror, in which a person suddenly emerges from slumber in apparent fear, flailing and shouting, but then falls back asleep and doesn't recall the incident in the morning.

A detail from The Nightmare, 1781, Henry Fuseli (see full credit, above)

Curiously, although the word nightmare originally described sleep paralysis, it now refers to a fearful or disturbing dream, says Hufford, now at the Penn State Medical Center in Hershey, Pa. Several hundred years ago, the English referred to nighttime sensations of chest pressure from witches or other supernatural beings as the "mare," from the Anglo-Saxon merran, meaning to crush. The term eventually morphed into nightmare—the crusher who comes in the night.

Sleep paralysis embodies a universal, biologically based explanation for pervasive beliefs in spirits and supernatural beings, even in the United States, Hufford argues. The experience thrusts mentally healthy people into a bizarre, alternative world that they frequently find difficult to chalk up to a temporary brain glitch.

Hufford doesn't believe that an invisible force attacked him in his college room or during several sleep paralysis episodes that have occurred since then, but he sees the appeal of such an interpretation. "We need to deeply question 2 centuries of assumptions about the nonempirical and nonrational nature of spirit belief," he says.

Ominous presence

In the past 10 years, psychologist J. Allan Cheyne of the University of Waterloo in Canada has collected more than 28,000 tales of sleep paralysis. According to one of the chroniclers, "The first time I experienced this, I saw a shadow of a moving figure, arms outstretched, and I was absolutely sure it was supernatural and evil." Another person recalled awakening "to find a half-snake/half-human thing shouting gibberish in my ear." Yet another person reported periodically waking with a start just after falling asleep, sensing an ominous presence nearby. The tale continues: "Then, something comes over me and smothers me, as if with a pillow. I fight but I can't move. I try to scream. I wake up gasping for air."

Many who experience sleep paralysis also report sensations of floating, flying, falling, or leaving one's body. The condition's primary emotion, terror, sometimes yields to feelings of excitement, exhilaration, rapture, or ecstasy. "A small number of people, while acknowledging fear during initial episodes of sleep paralysis, come to enjoy the experience," Cheyne says.

Cheyne runs a Web site (http://watarts.uwaterloo.ca/~acheyne/S_P.html) where visitors fill out surveys about their experiences during sleep paralysis. Several thousand individuals also provide online updates about recurring episodes.

A detail from The Nightmare, 1781, Henry Fuseli (see full credit, above)

It doesn't surprise Cheyne that those who contact him seem to be average, emotionally stable folk. In surveys that he has conducted with large numbers of college students and other volunteers, about 30 percent report having experienced at least one incident of sleep paralysis. Roughly 1 in 50 people cites repeated episodes, often one or more each week. Cheyne regards the sights, sounds, and other sensations of sleep paralysis as hallucinations that share a biological kinship with dreaming.

Cheyne notes work by Japanese researcher Kazuhiko Fukuda of Fukushima University. Fukuda enlisted volunteers who had experienced many incidents of sleep paralysis. In a sleep laboratory, the Japanese team monitored the volunteers, whom they roused at various times during the night to trigger the phenomenon. The researchers found that during sleep paralysis, the brain, suddenly awake, nonetheless displays electrical responses typical of sleep characterized by rapid eye movement (REM).

Two brain systems contribute to sleep paralysis, Cheyne proposes. The most prominent one consists of inner-brain structures that monitor one's surroundings for threats and launches responses to perceived dangers. As Cheyne sees it, REM-based activation of this system, in the absence of any real threat, triggers a sense of an ominous entity lurking nearby. Other neural areas that contribute to REM-dream imagery could draw on personal and cultural knowledge to flesh out the evil presence.

A second brain system, which includes sensory and motor parts of the brain's outer layer, distinguishes one's own body and self from those of other creatures. When REM activity prods this system, a person experiences sensations of floating, flying, falling, leaving one's body, and other types of movement, Cheyne says.

Hufford, however, regards the intrusion of REM activity into awake moments as inadequate to explain sleep paralysis. Dream content during REM sleep varies greatly from one person to another, but descriptions of sleep paralysis are remarkably consistent. "I don't have a good explanation for these experiences," he says.

Pushy ghosts

Psychiatrist Devon E. Hinton has heard his share of terrifying stories. While sitting in Hinton's office in Lowell, Mass., a 48-year-old Cambodian woman recounted two such tales from her own life. The first detailed nearly weekly nocturnal events of a type known among her fellow Cambodians as "the ghost pushes you down." At these times, the woman said, she awakens from sleep unable to move. Three ghastly demons stalk into her room, each covered in fur and displaying long fangs. One of the creatures then leans close to her head; the second holds down her legs; and the third pins down her arms. She told Hinton that when these terrors befall her, she knows that the demons want to scare her to death and she feels that they might succeed.

Her second tale was even more dreadful. She told Hinton that the ghost terrors usually trigger a flashback to an actual incident that occurred more than 20 years ago. Before reaching the United States, she survived the genocidal reign of Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, who directed the slaughter of roughly 2 million Cambodians. On one occasion, the young woman witnessed soldiers escorting into a nearby clump of trees three blindfolded persons, whom she recognized as friends from her village. Soon, she heard the sickening sounds of her friends being clubbed to death.

In his therapy, Hinton, who speaks the woman's Khmer language, asked the woman to establish a connection between the two sets of stories. She told him that the three demons are the spirits of her three executed friends, who return to haunt her so that she won't forget them. She also related her worries that a sorcerer would make the spirits enter her body, causing insanity, or will instruct the spirits to place objects inside her, causing anxiety and physical illness.

Each ensuing episode of sleep paralysis over the years has intensified the woman's flashbacks, sleep difficulties, and other symptoms of what psychiatrists call post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Hinton says that many Cambodian refugees relive past horrors through sleep paralysis. He notes that few people discuss these incidents with their physicians. "Unless you specifically ask about sleep paralysis, you don't know that a patient has it," Hinton says.

So, Hinton surveyed people at his outpatient clinic in Lowell, which has the second-largest Cambodian population in the country. Of 100 consecutive Cambodian refugees whom Hinton saw as patients at the clinic in 2003, he notes, 42 reported currently experiencing at least one sleep-paralysis episode each year. Most reported seeing an approaching demon or other entity that created pressure on their chests and typically triggered panic attacks. Among the refugees questioned, 45 had been diagnosed with PTSD. Of those, 35 reported being afflicted by sleep paralysis, usually with at least one episode a month.

The Cambodians told Hinton that sleep paralysis permits people who suffer unjust deaths to haunt the living and creates "bad luck." These cultural ideas foster panic attacks, Hinton asserts.

Panic attacks, PTSD, and other mental disorders may indirectly promote sleep paralysis by disrupting the sleep cycle and yanking people out of REM sleep during the night, he adds. Other factors that disturb sleep, such as jet lag and shift work, have also been linked to sleep paralysis.

Psychological treatment that delves into the personal meaning of bouts of sleep paralysis reassures sufferers that these encounters aren't signs of physical illness or supernatural visits, Hinton says.

Evidence from Shanghai also supports a connection between sleep paralysis, PTSD, and panic attacks. Albert S. Yeung of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and his team interviewed 150 psychiatric outpatients in Shanghai. About one-quarter of these patients had experienced sleep paralysis at least once, and more than half of those with PTSD or panic attacks described incidents of sleep paralysis, according to Yeung.

However, unlike the Cambodian immigrants whom Hinton studied, nearly all of Yeung's Chinese study participants in retrospect regarded the incidents as innocuous. Most had experienced feelings of dread but didn't encounter supernatural creatures.

For African Americans who experience panic attacks, sleep paralysis is also especially common, according to community surveys conducted by psychologist Cheryl M. Paradis of Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. Although 25 percent of the African-American participants reported having experienced sleep paralysis, nearly 60 percent of blacks who had panic attacks said that they regularly experienced sleep paralysis. In contrast, sleep paralysis turned up among only 7 percent of whites who have panic attacks, Paradis says.

High stress levels in African Americans, at least partly the result of poverty and racism, contribute to anxiety, sleep problems, and sleep paralysis, she suggests.

Sexual abuse may also make a person susceptible to sleep paralysis. Harvard University psychologists Richard J. McNally and Susan A. Clancy have found that, among adults who report having been sexually abused during childhood, nearly half describe at least one past episode of sleep paralysis. In their study, only 13 percent of participants who hadn't been sexually abused reported sleep paralysis.

Long-standing sleep disturbances in those who have been sexually abused may foster the phenomenon, McNally suggests.

Alien invaders

There is a kinship between waking nightmares starring Night Crushers and reports of alien abductions, McNally and Clancy find. For more than a decade, they have been studying people who claim to have been abducted by aliens from outer space. McNally and Clancy are convinced that these claims derive from sleep-paralysis hallucinations.

Accounts of space-alien encounters typically begin with the abductee waking in the night while lying face up, McNally says. The person can't move but senses electric vibrations. A feeling of terror makes breathing difficult. Alien beings advance to the foot of the bed or climb on top of the person, who then experiences a sense of floating or of being transported to an alien craft.

Days or weeks later, in response to a therapist's hypnotic suggestions, the abductee may generate details of being sexually probed or otherwise assaulted by the aliens, McNally notes.

Claims of abductions by space aliens trigger much controversy, media attention, and ridicule. The late Harvard psychiatrist John Mack fueled the hubbub by defending the accounts as descriptions of actual encounters with visitors from other planets.

There's another, far more likely, explanation for the reported experiences of the "abductees," says McNally. Traumatic encounters that a person seems to experience during sleep paralysis feel as vividly real as anything that happens during the day does, he notes.

Despite their fantastic claims, these people are mentally healthy, says McNally. "Sleep paralysis is an entirely natural phenomenon," he remarks. "In isolated cases, it's no more pathological than a case of the hiccups."

McNally and Clancy linked the claims of 10 alien abductees to episodes of sleep paralysis. Memories of the scary incidents sparked heart-rate increases and other physiological stress reactions that exceeded those previously reported for Vietnam veterans with PTSD as they recalled distressing combat events.

Even the most rational people who experience sleep paralysis often find it difficult to write off their nighttime ordeals as unreal, Hufford notes. He has interviewed many U.S. medical students who, even after hearing about REM sleep and the brain's threat-detection system, insist that their frightening meetings with the Night Crusher were real. Until sharing their stories with Hufford, most of the students had never told them to anyone.

"I suspect that millions of people in the United States are walking around never having told anybody about having these terrifying experiences," Hufford says.

That's unlikely to change anytime soon, he adds. Scientists and physicians treat reports of mingling with supernatural creatures and spirits as evidence of mental imbalance. And mainstream religions condemn connections with ghosts, demons, and evil presences.

But the world of sleep works according to its own rules. Whether shunned or embraced, Hufford says, the Night Crusher returns with frightening regularity.

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References:

Cheyne, J.A. 2001. The ominous numinous: Sensed presence and 'other' hallucinations. Journal of Consciousness Studies 8:133-150. Abstract available at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/imp/jcs/2001/00000008/F0030005/1203. Reprint available at http://www.nidsci.org/pdf/cheyne.pdf.

Hinton, D.E., et al. 2005. 'The ghost pushes you down': Sleep paralysis-type panic attacks in a Khmer refugee population. Transcultural Psychiatry 42(March):46-77. Abstract available at http://tps.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/42/1/46.

Hufford, D.J. 2005. Sleep paralysis as spiritual experience. Transcultural Psychiatry 42(March):11-45. Abstract available at http://tps.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/42/1/11.

McNally, R.J., and S.A. Clancy. 2005. Sleep paralysis, sexual abuse, and space alien abduction. Transcultural Psychiatry 42(March):113-122. Abstract available at http://tps.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/42/1/113.

Paradis, C.M., and S. Friedman. 2005. Sleep paralysis in African Americans with panic disorder. Transcultural Psychiatry 42(March):123-134. Abstract available at http://tps.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/42/1/123.

Yeung, A., Y. Xu, and D.F. Chang. 2005. Prevalence and illness beliefs of sleep paralysis among Chinese psychiatric patients in China and the United States. Transcultural Psychiatry 42(March):134-145. Abstract available at http://tps.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/42/1/135.

Further Readings:

Fukuda, K., et al. 1998. The prevalence of sleep paralysis among Canadian and Japanese college students. Dreaming 8(June):59–66. Abstract available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/B:DREM.0000005896.68083.ae.

For J. Allan Cheyne's Web site, with extensive information about sleep paralysis, go to http://watarts.uwaterloo.ca/~acheyne/S_P.html.

Sources:

J. Allan Cheyne
Department of Psychology
University of Waterloo
200 University Avenue
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1
Canada

Susan A. Clancy
INCAE
Camps Francisco de Sola
Carretera Sur
Km. 15.5 Managua
Nicaragua

Devon E. Hinton
Southeast Asian Clinic
Arbour Counseling Services
Lowell, MA 01852

David J. Hufford
Department of Humanities
Penn State College of Medicine
Hershey, PA 17033

Richard J. McNally
Department of Psychology
Harvard University
1230 William James Hall
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Cheryl M. Paradis
Department of Psychology
Marymount Manhattan College
221 East 71st Street
New York, NY 10021

Albert S. Yeung
Massachusetts General Hospital
Depression Clinical & Research, 4th Floor
50 Staniford Street
Boston, MA 02114

From Science News, Vol. 168, No. 2, July 9, 2005, p. 27.

Copyright ©2005 Science Service.

Kennewick Man yields ancient secrets

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002373062_kennewick11m.html

Monday, July 11, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

By Sandi Doughton

Seattle Times staff reporter

For being more than 9,000 years old, Kennewick Man is in remarkably good shape, say scientists who began studying the ancient bones last week after a nine-year legal battle with Native American tribes and the federal government.

The skeleton is yielding even more information than expected, said Doug Owsley, the forensic anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution who is leading the research team.

"This guy is really trying to help us tell his story," Owsley said. "I would not have thought we would get this level of detail."

From the shape of fractures to the color of algae stains, the scientists have been cataloging so much data that they've been able to process only two or three bones a day, Owsley said at a media briefing yesterday. But it's already clear that when the work is done, there will be answers to long-standing questions, including whether the man was buried intentionally, Owsley predicted.

"I feel we are going to be able to make strong statements, and I wasn't really sure that would be possible when we began this," he said. The patterns of calcium deposits offer some hints on the burial mystery, said University of Wisconsin geochemist Thomas Stafford Jr. If the man were laid to rest face up, those compounds would concentrate on backs of his bones. And indeed, some of the leg bones examined so far show such a pattern — though others are less clear.

Stafford also is planning another round of carbon dating to better pin down the skeleton's age. Earlier tests yielded a wide range, from about 7,000 years to 9,500 — with the best guess being about 9,200 years.

"That's unacceptable," Stafford said. "We really don't know how old this skeleton is."

Kennewick Man timeline

July 1996: College students stumble across a human skull along the Columbia River.

August 1996: Analysis shows the bones are about 9,000 years old.

September 1996: Several tribes claim the bones as an ancestor; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will hand them over for reburial.

October 1996: Eight leading anthropologists sue for the right to study the remains.

August 2002: A U.S. magistrate rules the bones should be studied by scientists, because it is impossible to establish an ancestry linking the bones with Native Americans.

July 6, 2005: Scientists begin first phase of studies on the skeleton.

Remnants from previously tested hand, foot and shin-bone fragments will be used for the new tests, so no additional material will have to be removed from the skeleton. The samples also will be tested for an array of chemical isotopes that can reveal what Kennewick Man ate and whether he lived all his life in the Northwest or roamed the country.

Stafford has zeroed in on two parts of the skeleton that are most promising for DNA tests: the teeth and a dense bone from the inner ear. Earlier efforts failed to extract genetic material, which would help determine the man's origins and his closest living relatives.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the land where the skeleton was discovered and still controls access to the bones, hasn't yet granted permission to take any additional samples.

"If you're going to find out who he is related to, that's the only scientific way to do it," Stafford said.

Two college students stumbled across the skeleton on the banks of the Columbia River in 1996, and the remains quickly became the focus of controversy.

The federal government and several Native American tribes insisted the bones be reburied under a law meant to stop desecration of Indian graves. Eight scientists, including Owsley, sued and won the right to study what is one of the oldest, most-complete sets of human remains ever discovered in North America.

"This is a very important skeleton," he said. "You can count on one hand the number of skeletons this old."

The skull's dimensions are very different from existing and historic Native American populations, suggesting the Northwest might have been colonized at different times by people from different parts of Asia, anthropologists say.

The nine-year delay in being able to examine the bones has actually provided a kind of scientific advantage, Owsley said, displaying clear plastic models of the skull and portion of the man's hip bone with a stone spear tip embedded in it.

Only in the past five years has high-powered CT-scanning technology been able to produce the detailed, three-dimensional images used to create the models.

The hip model already has revealed that the tip of the spearpoint had broken off, possibly when the man tried to snap off the spear shaft. Closer analysis should determine what direction the blow came from, how bad the wound was and how long it took to heal.

The high-tech approach and painstaking analysis being used to probe Kennewick Man's past will set a new standard for working with such rare and old skeletons, Owsley predicted.

The work is being done under tight security at the University of Washington's Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. But the atmosphere is electric, said C. Wayne Smith, artifact-conservation specialist from Texas A&M University.

"We've brought this massive set of resources together to be able to see the story these bones can tell us," he said. "It's very exciting every day."

Hugh Berryman, a forensic anthropologist from Middle Tennessee State University, put it another way: "This is like working with a Rembrandt. It's one of a kind."

The skeleton will be held by the Corps of Engineers for study indefinitely, said Jennifer Richman, an attorney in the agency's Northwestern Division. Long after the current studies are wrapped up, future anthropologists with new techniques may be able to tease out even more information from the bones.

"Ten years from now, who knows what we can do?" Stafford asked.

Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or doughton@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sex and Significance

http://slate.msn.com/id/2122093

How the Heritage Foundation cooked the books on virginity.
By Jordan Ellenberg
Posted Thursday, July 7, 2005, at 3:48 AM PT

It's a confusing time to be a confirmed virgin in America. In March, the Journal of Adolescent Health published a paper by sociologists Hannah Brückner and Peter Bearman, which found that adolescents who pledged to remain virgins until marriage had STD infection rates as young adults that were statistically indistinguishable from those of nonpledgers. Last month, Robert Rector and Kirk Johnson of the Heritage Foundation delivered two conference papers and a press release that accused Yale's Brückner and Columbia's Bearman of reaching an "inaccurate" conclusion that "misled the press and public."

Strong words, especially considering that the authors agree on many key points. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, from which both papers draw their data, shows that, while most pledgers don't keep their promises, they do wait longer than nonpledgers before having sex and have fewer partners. (Of course, it's very difficult to know what proportion, if any, of this difference is a result of the pledge. Teens with a pre-existing belief in virginity are presumably more likely to make virginity pledges and more likely to stay virgins. A stronger study would compare adolescents who pledged with adolescents who didn't pledge but would have, had the option been available.)

Still, it's reasonable to expect the pledgers to be at reduced risk for STDs. The numbers in the adolescent health study seem, at first, to bear that out. Urine samples taken in early adulthood showed 5.8 percent of pledgers and 6.9 percent of nonpledgers tested positive for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or trichomoniasis. The quarrel between the two papers centers on how to interpret these percentages. It's an argument about math, not sex. And mathematically, the Heritage paper comes up short.

The debate here is one over statistical significance, a mathematical measure of the persuasiveness of an experiment. Suppose you flip a coin 10 times. You'd probably guess that the coin is equally likely to land heads or tails; that's called the null hypothesis. But if your first 10 flips came up all heads or all tails, you might doubt that null hypothesis; if the coin were fair, the chance of getting the same result 10 straight times would be one in 512, or 0.002. If the first ten flips yielded eight heads or eight tails, you'd have less reason to think something was amiss; a fair coin yields such a lopsided outcome in 56 out of 512, or 0.11, of cases.

Statisticians would say that the first result has a significance level (or p-value) of 0.002, and the second result has a p-value of 0.11. (Note: The p-value is the probability of obtaining the observed result, supposing that the null hypothesis were true. It is not the probability that the null hypothesis is true!) It's statistical custom to call a result statistically significant if its p-value is at most 0.05. That means 10 heads in a row is significant evidence that the coin is biased; eight out of ten isn't.

If you called a coin unfair every time you got eight heads in 10 throws, you'd make a lot of false accusations. That's something that statisticians, a conservative crowd, want to avoid. The choice of 0.05 as a threshold is arbitrary, but statisticians have used 0.05 for decades, and holding to a common benchmark imposes a healthy impartiality on our analyses. (You can find a clear and thorough discussion of this point here . Disclosure: The author is my wife's first cousin's husband.)

No matter which paper you look at, the difference in tested STD rates between pledgers and nonpledgers fails the test of statistical significance. Brückner and Bearman say the p-value is 0.15; Rector and Johnson say it's somewhere between 0.06 and 0.13. Even so, the latter authors blast the former for writing that the STD rate among pledgers "does not differ" from that of nonpledgers.

But Brückner and Bearman's language is the conventional way of describing differences that aren't statistically significant. As another paper puts it, "If a variable is not statistically significant, it means that the variable has no statistically discernable difference between the coefficient value and zero, so there is no effect." That language comes from a 2001 paper by Rector, Johnson, and Patrick Fagan that claims race alone has no effect on poverty rates; finding an effect with a p-value of 0.15, the authors threw out the result. Four years later, they've adopted a more forgiving stance toward insignificant results—at least the ones that support the Heritage Foundation's policy stances.

Rector and Johnson claim their analysis is the more thorough one because "Bearman and Brückner used only one STD measure (the presence of three STD's in urine samples)," while "the present paper analyzes five STD measures based on urine samples, STD diagnoses, and STD symptoms." But Rector and Johnson's four new measures, all of which yield favorable results for pledgers with p-values less than 0.05, rely on subjects' self-reports. That adolescents who took virginity pledges might be less likely to report STD symptoms is a possibility Rector and Johnson don't seem to consider; but they should. When it comes to sex, people often lie. Urine samples don't.

Worse still is the just-plain-wrong claim that Brückner and Bearman use only one STD measure. They use two: the gonorrhea-chlamydia-trichomoniasis test cited above and a urine test for human papilloma virus. In Rector and Johnson's paper, the HPV test has disappeared. It's hard for me to see any reason but the obvious one: The HPV test also showed no statistically significant difference—but pledgers scored a little higher than nonpledgers.

What's particularly frustrating about Rector and Johnson's paper is how easy it would be to write a better one. They could have pointed out that, while no effect was found in this study, that's no proof the effect isn't there and that a larger study, or one designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of pledges and not just detect correlations, might yield more conclusive results. Instead, they damage their own credibility by attacking the perfectly reasonable methodology of Brückner and Bearman's article.

It's telling that Rector and Johnson accuse Brückner and Bearman of waging a "campaign against abstinence education." They seem to believe that the two sociologists have a predetermined conclusion in mind and will hack and knead the data as necessary to support it. In other words, in a failure of imagination, they see their fellow authors as versions of themselves.

But Brückner and Bearman aren't campaigning. They don't try, for example, to hide the finding that virginity pledges delay and decrease nonmarital intercourse; they even wrote a long paper in 2000 on the contexts in which pledges are most effective. They're not sneering libertines lobbing condoms over the walls of your daughter's virtue; they're scientists, doing their jobs. Rector and Johnson are spinners, doing theirs. If you want to study a significant difference, look no further.

Jordan Ellenberg is an assistant professor of mathematics at Princeton University. His first novel is The Grasshopper King.

Finding Design in Nature

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/07/opinion/07schonborn.html

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.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Leading Cardinal Redefines Church's View on Evolution

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/09/science/09cardinal.html

July 9, 2005
By CORNELIA DEAN and LAURIE GOODSTEIN

An influential cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, which has long been regarded as an ally of the theory of evolution, is now suggesting that belief in evolution as accepted by science today may be incompatible with Catholic faith.

The cardinal, Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, a theologian who is close to Pope Benedict XVI, staked out his position in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Thursday, writing, "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."

In a telephone interview from a monastery in Austria, where he was on retreat, the cardinal said that his essay had not been approved by the Vatican, but that two or three weeks before Pope Benedict XVI's election in April, he spoke with the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, about the church's position on evolution. "I said I would like to have a more explicit statement about that, and he encouraged me to go on," said Cardinal Schönborn.

He said that he had been "angry" for years about writers and theologians, many Catholics, who he said had "misrepresented" the church's position as endorsing the idea of evolution as a random process.

Opponents of Darwinian evolution said they were gratified by Cardinal Schönborn's essay. But scientists and science teachers reacted with confusion, dismay and even anger. Some said they feared the cardinal's sentiments would cause religious scientists to question their faiths.

Cardinal Schönborn, who is on the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, said the office had no plans to issue new guidance to teachers in Catholic schools on evolution. But he said he believed students in Catholic schools, and all schools, should be taught that evolution is just one of many theories. Many Catholic schools teach Darwinian evolution, in which accidental mutation and natural selection of the fittest organisms drive the history of life, as part of their science curriculum.

Darwinian evolution is the foundation of modern biology. While researchers may debate details of how the mechanism of evolution plays out, there is no credible scientific challenge to the underlying theory.

American Catholics and conservative evangelical Christians have been a potent united front in opposing abortion, stem cell research and euthanasia, but had parted company on the death penalty and the teaching of evolution. Cardinal Schönborn's essay and comments are an indication that the church may now enter the debate over evolution more forcefully on the side of those who oppose the teaching of evolution alone.

One of the strongest advocates of teaching alternatives to evolution is the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which promotes the idea, termed intelligent design, that the variety and complexity of life on earth cannot be explained except through the intervention of a designer of some sort.

Mark Ryland, a vice president of the institute, said in an interview that he had urged the cardinal to write the essay. Both Mr. Ryland and Cardinal Schönborn said that an essay in May in The Times about the compatibility of religion and evolutionary theory by Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, suggested to them that it was time to clarify the church's position on evolution.

The cardinal's essay was submitted to The Times by a Virginia public relations firm, Creative Response Concepts, which also represents the Discovery Institute.

Mr. Ryland, who said he knew the cardinal through the International Theological Institute in Gaming, Austria, where he is chancellor and Mr. Ryland is on the board, said supporters of intelligent design were "very excited" that a church leader had taken a position opposing Darwinian evolution. "It clarified that in some sense the Catholics aren't fine with it," he said.

Bruce Chapman, the institute's president, said the cardinal's essay "helps blunt the claims" that the church "has spoken on Darwinian evolution in a way that's supportive."

But some biologists and others said they read the essay as abandoning longstanding church support for evolutionary biology.

"How did the Discovery Institute talking points wind up in Vienna?" wondered Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, which advocates the teaching of evolution. "It really did look quite a bit as if Cardinal Schönborn had been reading their Web pages."

Mr. Ryland said the cardinal was well versed on these issues and had written the essay on his own.

Dr. Francis Collins, who headed the official American effort to decipher the human genome, and who describes himself as a Christian, though not a Catholic, said Cardinal Schönborn's essay looked like "a step in the wrong direction" and said he feared that it "may represent some backpedaling from what scientifically is a very compelling conclusion, especially now that we have the ability to study DNA."

"There is a deep and growing chasm between the scientific and the spiritual world views," he went on. "To the extent that the cardinal's essay makes believing scientists less and less comfortable inhabiting the middle ground, it is unfortunate. It makes me uneasy."

"Unguided," "unplanned," "random" and "natural" are all adjectives that biologists might apply to the process of evolution, said Dr. Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of biology at Brown and a Catholic. But even so, he said, evolution "can fall within God's providential plan." He added: "Science cannot rule it out. Science cannot speak on this."

Dr. Miller, whose book "Finding Darwin's God" describes his reconciliation of evolutionary theory with Christian faith, said the essay seemed to equate belief in evolution with disbelief in God. That is alarming, he said. "It may have the effect of convincing Catholics that evolution is something they should reject."

Dr. Collins and other scientists said they could understand why a cleric might want to make the case that, as Dr. Collins put it, "evolution is the mechanism by which human beings came into existence, but God had something to do with that, too." Dr. Collins said that view, theistic evolution, "is shared with a very large number of biologists who also believe in God, including me."

But it does not encompass the idea that the workings of evolution required the direct intervention of a supernatural agent, as intelligent design would have it.

In his essay, Cardinal Schönborn asserted that he was not trying to break new ground but to correct the idea, "often invoked," that the church accepts or at least acquiesces to the theory of evolution.

He referred to widely cited remarks by Pope John Paul II, who, in a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, noted that the scientific case for evolution was growing stronger and that the theory was "more than a hypothesis."

In December, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, chairman of the Committee on Science and Human Values of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, cited those remarks in writing to the nation's bishops that "the Church does not need to fear the teaching of evolution as long as it is understood as a scientific account of the physical origins and development of the universe." But in his essay, Cardinal Schönborn dismissed John Paul's statement as "rather vague and unimportant."

Francisco Ayala, a professor of biology at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Dominican priest, called this assessment "an insult" to the late pope and said the cardinal seemed to be drawing a line between the theory of evolution and religious faith, and "seeing a conflict that does not exist."

Dr. Miller said he was already hearing from people worried about the cardinal's essay. "People are saying, does the church really believe this?" He said he would not speculate. "John Paul II made it very clear that he regarded scientific rationality as a gift from God," Dr. Miller said, adding, "There are more than 100 cardinals and they often have conflicting opinions."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Despite Scopes, Evolution Still on Trial

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/09/AR2005070900268.html

By BILL POOVEY
The Associated Press
Saturday, July 9, 2005; 4:57 AM

DAYTON, Tenn. -- Jim Sullivan stood outside the Rhea County Courthouse and recalled the carnival-like atmosphere during the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, when the teaching of evolution was put on trial.

"They had fights on all these corners and people all over the place," said Sullivan, 85, who remembers seeing Bible-toting preachers and monkeys on leashes.

As the town prepares for its annual re-enactment of the trial here eight decades later, debate over teaching evolution lives on.

Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, said it is increasingly difficult to teach American students the basics of evolution.

"We have been facing more anti-evolution activity in the last six months than we have ever faced in a comparable period before," Scott said Friday.

In Kansas, the state school board could change science standards to include criticism of evolution. In Cobb County, Ga., labels describing evolution as a "theory, not a fact" were required in some textbooks before a court overturned the order.

Scott said 31 states this year have had "some kind of incident, such as efforts to get creationism taught or limit teaching of evolution."

Meanwhile, residents in Dayton, a town of about 6,100 people 35 miles north of Chattanooga, are sprucing up the historic courthouse for the annual re-enactment of the trial, in which John Scopes was convicted of violating a state law against teaching evolution. The three-day Scopes Play and Festival starts July 15.

"One of the reasons we do the re-enactment is to give people a common ground for discussion," said Tom Davis, the organizing chairman. He is also a spokesman for Bryan College, a religious college named for the trial's prosecutor, William Jennings Bryan.

The festival is expected to draw about 1,100 people, some from other countries and some who attend every year, Davis said.

At the trial, orator and presidential candidate Bryan prosecuted and lawyer Clarence Darrow defended Scopes in a courtroom fight that pitted evolution against the biblical story of creation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment provision for the separation of church and state forbids religious accounts of life's creation to be taught in public schools.

Sullivan said Rhea County, where public schools had Bible classes for 51 years until a federal judge ordered them stopped in 2002, has always been very attuned to religious influences.

"There is a church on every corner," he said. "People are either going to church or the bank all the time."

On The Net:

Scopes Play & Festival: http://www.rheacountyetc.com/chamber/scopes.html

National Center for Science Education: www.ncseweb.org

© 2005 The Associated Press

Creationism special: A battle for science's soul

10:00 09 July 2005
NewScientist.com news service
Debora MacKenzie

ON 10 July 1925, a drama was played out in a small courtroom in a Tennessee town that touched off a far-reaching ideological battle. John Scopes, a schoolteacher, was found guilty of teaching evolution (see "The monkey trial - below"). Despite the verdict, Scopes, and the wider scientific project he sought to promote, seemed at the time to have been vindicated by the backlash in the urban press against his creationist opponents.

Yet 80 years on, creationist ideas have a powerful hold in the US, and science is still under attack. US Supreme Court decisions have made it impossible to teach divine creation as science in state-funded schools. But in response, creationists have invented "intelligent design", which they say is a scientific alternative to Darwinism (see "A sceptic's guide to intelligent design"). ID has already affected the way science is taught and perceived in schools, museums, zoos and national parks across the US.

In the US, Kansas has long been a focus of creationist activity. In 1999 creationists on the Kansas school board had all mention of evolution deleted from its state school standards. Their decision was reversed after conservative Christian board members were defeated in elections in 2002. But more elections brought a conservative majority in November 2004, and the standards are under threat again.

This time the creationists' proposals are "far more radical and much more dangerous", says Keith Miller of Kansas State University, a leading pro-evolution campaigner. "They redefine science itself to include non-natural or supernatural explanations for natural phenomena." The Kansas standards now state that science finds "natural" explanations for things. But conservatives on the board want that changed to "adequate". They also want to define evolution as being based on an atheistic religious viewpoint. "Then they can argue that intelligent design must be included as 'balance'," Miller says.

In January in Dover, Pennsylvania, 9th-grade biology students were read a statement from the school board that said state standards "require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence". Intelligent design, it went on, "is an explanation for the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view". Fifty donated copies of an ID textbook would be kept in each science classroom. Although ID was not formally taught, students were "encouraged to keep an open mind".

"Proposed school standards redefine science to include supernatural explanations for natural phenomena"These moves are part of numerous recent efforts by fundamentalist Christians, emboldened by a permissive political climate, to discredit evolution. "As of January this year 18 pieces of legislation had been introduced in 13 states," says Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which helps oppose creationist campaigns. That is twice the typical number in recent years, and it stretched from Texas and South Carolina to Ohio and New York (see Map). The legislation seeks mainly to force the teaching of ID, or at least "evidence against evolution", in science classes.

The fight is being waged on other fronts as well. Scott counts 39 creationist "incidents" other than legislative efforts in 20 states so far this year. In June, for example, the august Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC allowed the showing of an ID film on its premises and with its unwitting endorsement. After an outcry, the endorsement was withdrawn - officials insisted that it was all a mistake, although the screening did go ahead (New Scientist, 11 June, p 4).

Also in June, a publicly funded zoo in Tulsa, Oklahoma, voted to install a display showing the six-day creation described in Genesis. The science museum in Fort Worth, Texas, decided in March not to show an IMAX film entitled Volcanoes of the Deep Sea after negative reaction to its acceptance of evolution from a trial audience. The museum changed its mind after press coverage evoked an outcry, but IMAX theatres elsewhere in the US have not screened science films with evolutionary content to avoid controversy. Since 2003 the bookstores at the Grand Canyon, part of the US National Park Service, have sold a young-Earth creationist book about the canyon, repeating the creationist assertion that it was formed by Noah's flood.

"Creationists depict evolutionists as a cultural elite, out of touch with American society"Anti-Darwin campaigners have not won everywhere. A Georgia court ruled that stickers describing evolution as "theory not fact" must be removed from textbooks. A bill in Florida that might have allowed students to sue teachers "biased" towards evolution died. And Alaska rewrote its school science standards to emphasise evolution. But religious fundamentalists have succeeded in insinuating a general mistrust of evolution. "Creationists depict evolutionists as a cultural elite, out of touch with American society," says Kenneth Miller of Brown University in Rhode Island.

Creationism has had less cultural impact in Europe, but in the UK some state schools are incorporating it into science classes. The English education system allows private donors to invest in the refurbishment of state-funded schools in deprived areas, in return for controls over what is taught there. Emmanuel College at Gateshead in north-east England opened in 1990, financed by millionaire car dealer and Christian fundamentalist Peter Vardy. It teaches both evolution and creationism in science classes and, school officials say, lets children make up their own minds. Little notice was taken until 2002, when Vardy proposed opening more schools. A second opened last year in Middlesbrough, and a third will open near Doncaster in September.

Last September, Serbia briefly banned the teaching of evolution in schools. It changed its mind days later after scientists and even Serbian Orthodox bishops spoke out. There was also uproar over creationism in the Netherlands. The Dutch have several sects that teach creationism in their own schools. But in May, Cees Dekker, a physicist at the Delft University of Technology published a book on ID, and persuaded education minister Maria van der Hoeven that discussion of ID might promote dialogue between religious groups. She proposed a conference in autumn, but dropped the plan after an outcry from Dutch scientists.

In Turkey there is a strong creationist movement, sparked initially by contact with US creationists. Since 1999, when Turkish professors who taught evolution were harassed and threatened, there is no longer public opposition to creationism, which is all that is presented in school texts. In another Muslim country, Pakistan, evolution is no longer taught in universities.

"What is happening is a political effort to force a change in the nature of science itself"Fundamentalist Christianity is also sweeping Africa and Latin America. Last year Brazilian scientists protested when Rio de Janeiro's education department started teaching creationism in religious education classes.

The fear among creationism's critics is that a pattern is emerging that will culminate in a new wave of creationist teaching. They are worried that this will undermine science education and science's place in society. "The politicisation of science has increased at all levels," says Miller. "What is happening is a political effort to force a change in the content and nature of science itself."

THE MONKEY TRIAL (from above)

In 1925, John Thomas Scopes was a 24-year-old physical education teacher at the secondary school in Dayton, Tennessee. He was put on trial after confessing to teaching evolution while acting as a substitute biology teacher - something Tennessee had recently made illegal. The so-called "monkey" trial became a media circus and struck a powerful chord in American society.

The reasons are still with us. Natural selection provides an explanation for the origins of living things, including humans, that depends entirely on the workings of natural laws. It says nothing about the existence, or otherwise, of God.

But to many believers in such a God, if humans are just another product of nature with no special status, then there is no need for morality. Worse, evolution with its dictum of survival of the fittest seems to encourage the unprincipled pursuit of selfishness. At the time of the Scopes trial these were not merely academic concerns. The first world war had convinced many of the brutalising effects of modernity.

Scopes lost. The newborn American Civil Liberties Union paid his $100 fine and planned to appeal to the US Supreme Court, where they hoped laws like Tennessee's would be declared illegal. They were thwarted when the verdict was overturned on a technicality.

In Dayton, though, it appeared that Darwin had won. The anti-evolutionists and rural, religious society generally had been held up to nationwide ridicule by the urban press covering the trial. As a result there were few overt efforts to pursue such legal attacks on evolution for decades.

But for some historians Scopes was no victory for Darwinism. The prosecutor, populist politician William Jennings Bryan, was seen as speaking for the "common people". Those people, repelled by an alien, arrogant, scientific world that seemed opposed to them and their values, developed a separate society increasingly bound to strict religious laws. Before the trial, evolution had not been an important issue for these people. Now it was. For many Americans, being in favour of evolution is still equated with being against God.

Debora MacKenzie

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

REMINDER

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

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
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National Center for Science Education, Inc.
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Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

Cardinal disputes church's stance on evolution

http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/nation/12089633.htm

Posted on Sat, Jul. 09, 2005

Essay says natural selection is incompatible with Catholic faith

BY CORNELIA DEAN and LAURIE GOODSTEIN

Dr. Francis Collins

New York Times

'There is a deep and growing chasm between the scientific and the spiritual world views.'

An influential cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, which has long been regarded as an ally of the theory of evolution, is now suggesting that belief in evolution as accepted by science today may be incompatible with Catholic faith.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, a theologian who is close to Pope Benedict XVI, staked out his position in an opinion column in the New York Times on Thursday, writing, "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."

The archbishop of Vienna said in a telephone interview from a monastery in Austria, where he was on retreat with seminarians, that his essay was not approved by the Vatican but that two or three weeks before Pope Benedict XVI's election in April this year, he spoke with the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, about the church's position on evolution.

"I said I would like to have a more explicit statement about that, and he encouraged me to go on," Schoenborn said.

The cardinal said he had been "angry" for years about writers and theologians, many of them Catholics, who he said "misrepresented" the church's position as endorsing Darwinism.

Opponents of Darwinian evolution said they were gratified by Schoenborn's essay. But scientists and science teachers reacted with confusion, dismay and even anger. Some said they feared the cardinal's sentiments would cause religious scientists to question their faiths.

Schoenborn, who serves on the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, said that the office had no plans to issue new guidance to teachers in Catholic schools on evolution. But he said he believes that students in Catholic schools, and all schools in fact, should be taught that evolution is just one of many theories. Many Catholic schools teach as part of their science curriculum Darwinian evolution, in which accidental mutation and natural selection of the fittest organisms drive the history of life.

Darwinian evolution is the foundation of modern biology. While researchers may debate details of how the mechanism of evolution plays out, there is no credible scientific challenge to the underlying theory.

U.S. Catholics and conservative Christians have been a potent united front in opposing abortion, stem cell research and euthanasia, but had parted company on the death penalty and the teaching of evolution. Schoenborn's essay and comments in the interview are an indication that the church may enter the debate over evolution more forcefully on the side of those who oppose the teaching of evolution alone.

One of the strongest advocates of teaching alternatives to evolution is the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which promotes the idea, termed intelligent design, that the variety and complexity of life on Earth cannot be explained except through the intervention of a designer of some sort.

Mark Ryland, a vice president of the Discovery Institute, and an acquaintance of Schoenborn's, said in an interview that he had urged the cardinal to write the essay. Both Ryland and Schoenborn said an essay in the Times about the compatibility of religion and evolutionary theory by Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, suggested to them that it was time to clarify the church's position on evolution.

Ryland said supporters of intelligent design were "very excited" that a church leader had taken a position opposing Darwinian evolution. "It clarified that in some sense the Catholics aren't fine with it," he said.

But some biologists and others said they read the essay as abandoning longstanding church support for evolutionary biology.

"How did the Discovery Institute talking points wind up in Vienna?" wondered Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, which advocates the teaching of evolution.

Dr. Francis Collins, who headed the official American effort to decipher the human genome, and who describes himself as a Christian, though not a Catholic, said Schoenborn's essay looked like "a step in the wrong direction" and said he feared it "may represent some backpedaling from what scientifically is a very compelling conclusion, especially now that we have the ability to study DNA."

"There is a deep and growing chasm between the scientific and the spiritual world views," he went on. "To the extent that the cardinal's essay makes believing scientists less and less comfortable inhabiting the middle ground, it is unfortunate. It makes me uneasy."

"Unguided," "unplanned," "random" and "natural" are all adjectives that biologists might apply to the process of evolution, said Dr. Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University and a Catholic. But even so, he said, evolution "can fall within God's providential plan.

"Science cannot rule it out," he said. "Science cannot speak on this."

Miller, whose book "Finding Darwin's God" describes his reconciliation of evolutionary theory with Christian faith, said the essay seems to equate belief in evolution with disbelief in God. That is alarming, he said. "It may have the effect of convincing Catholics that evolution is something they should reject."

Collins and other scientists said they could understand why a cleric might want to make the case that, as Collins put it, "evolution is the mechanism by which human beings came into existence but God had something to do with that, too." Collins said that view, theistic evolution, "is shared with a very large number of biologists who also believe in God, including me."

But it does not encompass the idea that the workings of evolution required the direct intervention of a supernatural agent, as intelligent design would have it.


Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Randomized Clinical Trial of Acupuncture Compared with Sham Acupuncture in Fibromyalgia

http://www.annals.org/cgi/content/abstract/143/1/10

Nassim P. Assefi, MD; Karen J. Sherman, PhD; Clemma Jacobsen, MS; Jack Goldberg, PhD; Wayne R. Smith, PhD; and Dedra Buchwald, MD

5 July 2005 | Volume 143 Issue 1 | Pages 10-19

Background: Fibromyalgia is a common chronic pain condition for which patients frequently use acupuncture.

Objective: To determine whether acupuncture relieves pain in fibromyalgia.

Design: Randomized, sham-controlled trial in which participants, data collection staff, and data analysts were blinded to treatment group.

Setting: Private acupuncture offices in the greater Seattle, Washington, metropolitan area.

Patients: 100 adults with fibromyalgia.

Intervention: Twice-weekly treatment for 12 weeks with an acupuncture program that was specifically designed to treat fibromyalgia, or 1 of 3 sham acupuncture treatments: acupuncture for an unrelated condition, needle insertion at nonacupoint locations, or noninsertive simulated acupuncture.

Measurements: The primary outcome was subjective pain as measured by a 10-cm visual analogue scale ranging from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain ever). Measurements were obtained at baseline; 1, 4, 8, and 12 weeks of treatment; and 3 and 6 months after completion of treatment. Participant blinding and adverse effects were ascertained by self-report. The primary outcomes were evaluated by pooling the 3 sham-control groups and comparing them with the group that received acupuncture to treat fibromyalgia.

Results: The mean subjective pain rating among patients who received acupuncture for fibromyalgia did not differ from that in the pooled sham acupuncture group (mean between-group difference, 0.5 cm [95% CI, –0.3 cm to 1.2 cm]). Participant blinding was adequate throughout the trial, and no serious adverse effects were noted.

Limitations: A prescription of acupuncture at fixed points may differ from acupuncture administered in clinical settings, in which therapy is individualized and often combined with herbal supplementation and other adjunctive measures. A usual-care comparison group was not studied.

Conclusion: Acupuncture was no better than sham acupuncture at relieving pain in fibromyalgia.

Editors' Notes

Context

A substantial number of patients use acupuncture to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia, but previous randomized trials of this intervention are inconclusive, in part because of control groups that did not permit adequate blinding of the patients.

Contribution

This study randomly assigned 100 patients with fibromyalgia to 12 weeks of either true acupuncture treatment or one of 3 types of sham acupuncture. No differences in pain were identified between acupuncture and sham acupuncture.

Cautions

The study had too few patients to detect small differences between the groups. Patients could use other fibromyalgia therapies, so this study evaluates acupuncture as adjunctive treatment.

–The Editors

Author and Article Information

From the University of Washington and The Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies, Seattle, Washington.

Acknowledgments: The authors thank the research staff at the University of Washington (Roxanne Geller, Leigh Kochan, and Jovine Umali) and at the Clinical Monitoring Unit at the Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies (Rene Talenti, John Ewing, and Christel Kratohvil), the acupuncturists, and the study participants.

Grant Support: By grant RO1AT00003 from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest: Grants received: N.P. Assefi, J. Goldberg, W.R. Smith, D. Buchwald (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine).

Corresponding Author: Dedra Buchwald, MD, Box 359780, 1730 Minor Avenue, Suite 1760, Seattle, WA 98101.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Assefi: Management Sciences for Health, House 24, Darulaman Road, Ayub Khan Mina, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Drs. Buchwald, Goldberg, and Smith and Ms. Jacobsen: Box 359780, 17360 Minor Avenue, Suite 1700, Seattle, WA 98101.

Dr. Sherman: 1730 Minor Avenue, Suite 1600, Seattle, WA 98101.

Author Contributions: Conception and design: K.J. Sherman, D. Buchwald.

Analysis and interpretation of the data: N.P. Assefi, K.J. Sherman, C. Jacobsen, J. Goldberg, W.R. Smith, D. Buchwald.

Drafting of the article: N.P. Assefi, K.J. Sherman, C. Jacobsen.

Critical revision of the article for important intellectual content: N.P. Assefi, K.J. Sherman, C. Jacobsen, J. Goldberg, W.R. Smith, D. Buchwald.

Final approval of the article: N.P. Assefi, K.J. Sherman, C. Jacobsen, J. Goldberg, W.R. Smith, D. Buchwald.

Provision of study materials or patients: D. Buchwald.

Statistical expertise: C. Jacobsen, J. Goldberg, W.R. Smith.

Administrative, technical, or logistic support: N.P. Assefi, K.J. Sherman, W.R. Smith.

Collection and assembly of data: N.P. Assefi, K.J. Sherman, C. Jacobsen, W.R. Smith.

Neither evolution nor creationism meets the science test

http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2005/072005/07052005/109582

Date published: 7/5/2005

A recent letter states that intelligent design is not a scientific theory and has been thoroughly discredited ["'Intelligent design' is nothing more than bogus science," June 16]. The author provides no scientific evidence supporting these claims.

In fact, neither creationism nor evolution is a scientific theory in the strictest sense of the term. The true basis of science is repeatable events, which should precede, or necessarily follow, the formation of theories.

In this case, we are dealing with singular events that had no witnesses. Given the scientific limitations in this debate, any claim made by either theory must be substantiated by existing evidence, not predictions and conjecture.

Transitional forms do not exist in the fossil record. Darwin identified this as a primary difficulty with his theory 150 years ago, and it remains so today. This evidence supports creationism.

Evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Self-ordering tendencies exist in nature on a small scale, but long-term, natural processes do not increase in complexity and order; they tend toward disorder.

Evolution does not explain the design in our bodies; creationism does. Look at a car and imagine it designing and building itself over a long period of time.

Evolution does not adequately explain dualism, macroevolution, the genesis of life, and many other issues. Antony Flew, one of the most renowned atheists of the 20th century, recently converted to deism because of his belief that an intelligent creator offers the best explanation for the complex life in our universe.

In addition to the misleading discussion about science, the letter contains logical fallacies. An ad hominem argument is directed against creationists who apparently are not academically equipped to join the debate.

An ad populum argument attempts to defend evolution on the grounds that most scientists accept the theory as fact.

About 600 years ago, most scientists also believed the world was flat.

Glenn McCoy

Spotsylvania

Michael Behe's 'intelligent design' theories need to withstand peer review

http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2005/072005/07052005/109884

Date published: 7/5/2005

I would like to respond to William E. Nowers' recent letter ["Evolutionists refuse to hear other perspectives of creation," June 23].

Evolution is not a religious belief and never has been. Just because secular humanists support evolution as an explanation of how the world works doesn't make it a religious belief, just as our support of vaccinations to prevent infections is not a religious belief.

Secular humanists believe that science is the better tool to use to find answers than revealed religion. Science is not a viewpoint or an opinion. It attempts to solve problems or explain our world. Science education should teach the truth and should not be about fairness.

Evolution, like most accepted science hypotheses, is subject to rigorous testing by other scientists. Only when a hypothesis is duplicated is it accepted by the science community, or it is discarded.

Evolution was first identified by Charles Darwin in 1858 when he presented his research and its conclusions to other scientists. Since that time, evolution has never been refuted, although some of the interpretations have changed over the years.

Even then, religious leaders of the day attempted to suppress Darwin's work because it conflicted with their religious views of the world and nature.

Mr. Nowers mentioned Michael Behe's book, "Darwin's Black Box." The book is a prime example of pseudoscience. Behe has yet to present his ideas for peer review--as Darwin did back in 1858--or present any formal paper on his idea.

However, Behe's ideas have been refuted nonetheless by other scientists, including noted evolutionist Richard Dawkins.

Intelligent design, or creationism, will never be accepted science until it is subjected to the same peer-review process that Darwin went through in 1858.

Until that happens, we are doing a disservice to our children and the community at large by allowing it to be taught.

Douglas Berger

Columbus, Ohio

Debate over evolution shuts down IMAX film

http://www.capecodonline.com/cctimes/debateover5.htm

July 5, 2005

By CONOR BERRY STAFF WRITER

WOODS HOLE - It seemed innocuous enough: a 40-minute movie about underwater volcanoes that briefly mentions life on Earth may have arisen from the sea.

But the 2003 IMAX film ''Volcanoes of the Deep Sea,'' whose producer consulted with scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and used its Alvin submersible to film the underwater volcanoes, has been banned by some theater owners and managers in the Bible Belt because it briefly mentions the theory of evolution.

The controversy, coupled with a nascent effort to include teaching ''intelligent design'' alongside evolution in public school curricula, has helped thrust the long-running battle between religion and science back into the limelight.

Proponents of religion argue that evolution is ''theory,'' not fact. Supporters of science point to the time-tested underpinnings of Darwin's theory of evolution, a pillar of the modern life sciences since it was introduced in the mid-19th century.

The evolution reference in ''Volcanoes,'' which includes footage filmed from Alvin at depths of more than 12,000 feet, prompted officials of more than a dozen IMAX theaters to ban the film. Previews indicated some audiences found the big-screen movie blasphemous because it contradicts the biblical account of how life on Earth began.

The Bible's Book of Genesis says God created Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. But the film purports that life on Earth may have started around hydrogen-sulfide-spewing hydrothermal vents located at the bottom of the ocean. Creatures that thrive in the super-heated environment have the same DNA as humans.

That sort of conjecture presented as fact, however, bothers supporters of both creationism - the literal belief in the Genesis account - and proponents of intelligent design, which holds that only the presence of an unspecified superior intellect could account for the complexity and diversity of Earth's living organisms.

The intelligent design concept has spread over the past 20 years.

However, many scientists, including members of the American Geophysical Union and the National Center for Science Education, say I.D., as intelligent design is commonly known, is merely religion masked as science. .

An unexpected reaction

The Canadian producer of ''Volcanoes'' said he did not set out to ruffle any feathers, though his film helped kindle the creation-evolution debate. It is part of an ongoing debate about the role of religion in secular society, fueled partly by faith-based politics and issues such stem-cell research, abortion and euthanasia, as evidenced by the Terri Schiavo case.

''The E-word - you know, evolution - was the one that triggered this response,'' Stephen Low, the film's Montreal-based producer and director, said of the uproar.

Low, who recently finished shooting an IMAX film about Air Force fighter jets, said about 15 IMAX theaters in the South and Midwest rejected ''Volcanoes,'' citing the film's evolution hypothesis and a general desire to avoid controversy.

IMAX currently has 250 theaters in 36 countries, including six in New England. Jackson Myers, a media relations official with IMAX, which is headquartered in New York and Toronto, said individual theaters determine which films to show. IMAX screens operate like franchises and are mainly located in museums, planetariums, maritime centers and aquariums.

There was no vocal opposition when the movie played last spring at the New England Aquarium's IMAX theater, according to an aquarium spokesman in Boston.

Low said he was not surprised by the reaction of creationists, who deny the tenets of evolution.

''Science is nothing more than a celebration of God, and all knowledge is simply a celebration of life,'' he said. ''But, you know, the creationists don't like that; they don't like the interchanging of the words 'God' and 'nature.' To me, that's what God is: God is nature, not a guy with a beard.''

Supporting an alternative

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a bipartisan think tank that supports the teaching of intelligent design in schools, does not specifically object to evolution.

Institute officials, however, strongly believe an alternative should be taught alongside evolution, particularly since the theory does not answer every scientific question about the origins of life on Earth.

''Volcanoes of the Deep Sea'' was not an issue for the Discovery Institute, said Robert L. Crowther, the director of communications for the organization's Center For Science and Culture. ''We certainly have no problems with films like that. We weren't actively involved in (efforts to ban the film).''

The organization does not want to ''get rid of evolution,'' he insisted.

Many of the ''pioneers'' of I.D. - a concept formed in the late 1970s and early 1980s - are associated with the Discovery Institute, founded in 1990. The Center for Science and Culture, which promotes the teaching of I.D., was founded in 1996.

To date, more than 400 scientists have signed the center's ''dissent list'' against Darwinism, Crowther said.

Members of the Discovery Institute believe many features of the natural world are best explained ''as a result of an intelligent agent, or agency, or cause,'' he said.

Crowther said I.D. does not use the word ''God'' and is scientifically based, while ''creationism is a religious assumption.''

Dr. Peter Folger, a Falmouth native and a hydrogeologist with the Washington, D.C.-based American Geophysical Union, gets angry when I.D. proponents portray the concept as science.

''Intelligent design is a half-baked idea that's being considered alongside real science,'' said Folger, a 1978 Falmouth High School graduate who played hockey and football there. ''It's dressed up creationism. It's the new medium being pushed at the state and local level very hard.''

Folger said I.D. is more insidious, however, because it attempts to camouflage its religious roots - that a greater entity or power created life on Earth, not a series of chemical and biological processes.

''Is it affecting the science we do right now? No. But it will affect how science is done if they (I.D. proponents) can influence people's understanding of how science works.''

WHOI so far has not seen a drop in federal funding for research because of faith-based politics, said Shelley M. Dawicki, the institution's director of public and community relations.

''We have no evidence of that at this point. It hasn't happened, but it's something we're aware of,'' she said, noting that WHOI receives about 75 percent of its funding from federal sources, including the National Science Foundation.

'Speak up for science'

''Volcanoes'' cost about $8 million to produce and more than three years to film. Sponsors included Rutgers University and the National Science Foundation.

American Geophysical Union members recently encouraged scientists to ''speak up for science'' by voicing their opposition to plans by the Smithsonian Institution to show a pro-I.D. film.

Fred Spilhaus, American Geophysical's executive director, said the movie ''A Privileged Planet'' promotes ''creationism in the form of intelligent design.'' and fosters the idea that science should include a ''supernatural'' component.

''By associating with the Discovery Institute, the Smithsonian Institution will associate science with creationism and damage its credibility,'' Spilhaus wrote in the June 14 edition of the American Geophysical Union weekly newspaper.

The film was based on a book whose authors are affiliated with the Discovery Institute.

Dr. David G. Gallo, the director of special projects for WHOI, said he was surprised by some people's reaction to ''Volcanoes of the Deep Sea.'' An oceanographer and underwater volcano expert, he served on the film's scientific advisory board.

A Roman Catholic who once considered the priesthood, Gallo said he does not have difficulty reconciling his faith with his profession.

''I don't see a conflict in what we're doing (as scientists) and what's said in the Bible. I just think that there's no need to have this kind of conflict.''

Low, director and producer of ''Volcanoes,'' said efforts to ban the film are misguided: ''To do anything to prevent children from looking at this spectacular place is wrong.''

Conor Berry can be reached at cberry@capecodonline.com.

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

IRS questions Hinn's tax-exempt status

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/religion/stories/070605dnmetbennyhinn.79d51006.html

Exclusive: Ministry says questions about finance, structure are routine

07:19 AM CDT on Wednesday, July 6, 2005

By MARK WROLSTAD / The Dallas Morning News

The IRS is questioning televangelist Benny Hinn's organization about its operations and finances – issues that underlie its tax-exempt status as a church.

The inquiry into the flamboyant faith healer's ministry began a year ago, and the IRS has asked for dozens of detailed answers, according to documents provided to The Dallas Morning News by a watchdog group. The Trinity Foundation has investigated Mr. Hinn for more than a decade and condemns his leadership as autocratic and his lifestyle as lavish.

The IRS wouldn't discuss the case, and it's unclear whether the agency's concerns about the ministry, which is estimated to raise more than $100 million annually, are close to being resolved or will open an audit.

A representative for Benny Hinn Ministries confirmed that the inquiry is under way and characterized it as routine, but an IRS spokesman said the agency is "extremely careful" in questioning churches and starts an inquiry only when it believes an organization "may have stepped over the line" of tax regulations.

Separately, The News found that another watchdog group's complaint to the IRS – that the ministry lacks financial oversight and independent governance – may have led the agency to question the operation through what's called a church tax-inquiry letter.

While detractors argue that Mr. Hinn improperly profits from a ministry that hasn't met the IRS definition of a church for years, his public-relations contractor dismissed the possibility that the tax exemptions – worth millions a year – could be at risk. He repeatedly warned The News should "be very careful about what it reports."

Hinn spokesman Ronn Torossian said the ministry has "fully cooperated with the IRS" and is not being audited. He said the agency each year sends "thousands of letters of inquiry to a sampling of nonprofits."

Mr. Hinn's ministry, formally renamed the World Healing Center Church in 2000, has had its administrative and mail-processing headquarters in Grapevine since a year earlier, when the persuasive, self-trained Pentecostal sold his church complex in Orlando, Fla.

He and his family soon moved to Orange County, Calif., and although he promised to build a $30 million shrine to faith healing in Las Colinas and raised money for it, the World Healing Center never materialized.

Respect and ridicule

Mr. Hinn, 52, has few peers and many imitators in televangelism's realm, and he's both revered and lampooned for his money-and-miracle-based brand of preaching.

Known for his eccentric swirl of hair and a touch that topples the faithful like dominoes on stadium stages, the Israeli-born son of Greek Orthodox parents has built a worldwide ministry, one of the most popular and most profitable, as well as one of the most panned.

His ubiquitous This Is Your Day TV show and nonstop globetrotting to lead lucrative crusades have attracted millions of followers, as well as long-standing accusations of unverified healings, unrestrained spending and unaccountability.

Mr. Hinn and his attorneys, who declined to be interviewed, have regularly denied criticisms of concealed finances and such ostentation as his mansion parsonage, maintaining the ministry uses proper accounting.

"I love my precious Lord too much to ever trifle with the money entrusted to me by His dear people," Mr. Hinn said in a March statement after the latest network news report detailing the ministry's alleged exorbitance.

Some of the organization's secrecy appears to have been penetrated by the dedicated digging – literally – of the Trinity Foundation, self-styled televangelism monitors based in Dallas.

Hinn ministry responses to IRS questions and a purported salary list for ministry officials are among many documents that Trinity members said they salvaged recently from trash bins outside Hinn-related offices.

The salary document lists Mr. Hinn as CEO and his annual earnings as $1.325 million. Attorneys for the ministry, in a letter to The News , said the document was either a fake or had been stolen.

Mr. Hinn acknowledged two years ago that his ministry took in donations of $89 million in 2002, including TV, crusades and direct-mail, and said the annual figure was growing at double-digit rates.

Last month on his program, produced at the ministry's studios in Aliso Viejo, Calif., Mr. Hinn said his TV ministry "costs me $1.8 million every five days," not counting his crusades. "Nobody wants that burden," he said.

He indicated he spent $7 million for recent crusades to India and the Philippines and another $4 million in Nigeria, where attendance reportedly was far below the 6 million to 8 million people a day that Mr. Hinn had predicted.

Churches don't have to pay taxes or make their finances public and don't even have to apply for tax-exempt status – they can simply claim it.

A church pastor's income and benefits also are tax-exempt as long as they're deemed reasonable. Like all nonprofits, however, churches must follow federal rules in financial and other matters.

Starting an inquiry requires triple approval – from an IRS lawyer, a three-person committee and the director of the exempt organizations division, now located in Dallas. Besides ordering that violations be corrected, the IRS can revoke tax exemptions, seek back taxes and impose penalties.

"There has to be solid evidence of wrongdoing before the IRS looks at removing tax-exempt status," said Kenn Vargas, an IRS spokesman in Austin. "It's not done often, especially with churches."

The "probe and response" of an inquiry can go back and forth for many months, resulting in the IRS either satisfying its concerns and closing the case or undertaking the next step and auditing the group.

A revocation means donations are no longer tax-deductible. "That's the most devastating problem," said Connie Smith, a lawyer for a Denver law firm that represents scores of religious organizations.

For churches, a primary tax-exempt no-no is known as inurement – one or more persons getting substantial financial benefit from the operation. Other common complaints include conducting prohibited political or for-profit business activity.

'Extremely sensitive'

The IRS wouldn't provide an official to talk about tax-inquiry dealings with churches. "It's just extremely sensitive," said Phil Beasley, a spokesman in Dallas.

During an inquiry, the IRS can also use 14 recognized factors to determine whether a group constitutes a church and, by definition, should be tax exempt. Those flexible criteria include having regular congregations, services and places of worship, members not associated with other churches and religious instruction for its ministers and youngsters.

Mr. Hinn's critics contend that his ministry falls short on all those counts, that he keeps tight control of his small board by nominating and dismissing the other two or three directors and that he has relatives in highly paid jobs.

The ministry has been the subject of critical news reports for years. Detractors of Mr. Hinn's controversial prosperity theology, vast TV fundraising and a lifestyle of private jets and hotel suites view the IRS action as an overdue accounting.

Wall Watchers, an advocacy group for religious donors, recently issued an alert about the Hinn ministry through its Ministry Watch Web site.

"The IRS should examine the organization and revoke its church status," said Rod Pitzer, Wall Watchers' research director. "The organization is set up for Benny Hinn, for his private inurement."

Wall Watchers, based in North Carolina, sent a letter to the IRS early last year calling for an investigation of the Hinn Ministry, Mr. Pitzer said.

"It's set up fraudulently as a church," he said. "It's akin to a dictatorship, and when there's no accountability and one person is in charge, it leads to a lot of abuses."

In August, the IRS announced an initiative to stop what it called the increasing abuses by tax-exempt groups that pay excessive compensation and benefits to insiders. The agency planned to contact nearly 2,000 organizations as part of the enforcement project, which started at the end of July.

The Hinn ministry received a tax-inquiry letter dated June 30, 2004, according to a 17-page draft of its February response to the inquiry – a document the Trinity Foundation said it found in the trash bin of the ministry's attorneys in Irving. The ministry also has accountants in the Dallas area. Trinity has a track record of digging through trash bins as a strategy against televangelists.

Ole Anthony, Trinity's director, said the group has sent copies of the recovered documents, as well as briefs of its own, to the IRS, answering the questions posed to the Hinn ministry and arguing, point by point, why the ministry should lose its tax exemptions.

"Every red flag in the universe will go off when the IRS sees what he really gets," Mr. Anthony said.

But church tax issues aren't black and white, said Milt Cerny, a former IRS officer in the exempt organizations division. Churches aren't necessarily "contained within four walls," he said.

"If the pastor lives in an expensive house and gets a million-dollar salary ... the service would have to establish that it was unreasonable," said Mr. Cerny, who was not told of the Hinn inquiry.

The draft response from Hinn attorneys shows that the IRS asked about operations that would support its church designation.

The inquiry asked, "Who controls the organization?" It questioned financial oversight and whether officers sell books, videos and CDs. The IRS also asked about a ministry subsidiary holding title to the oceanside parsonage, which Dateline NBC reported in March to be worth $10 million. As for regular services and a place of worship, the draft refers to employee gatherings at the Grapevine headquarters and at the California property where This Is Your Day is taped.

"Are there live audiences for some of these shows?" asks a note in the ministry's response, one of many internal questions that hadn't yet been answered.

"What is the basic evolution ... from a bricks and mortar church in Orlando to the facilities in Texas and California to the television/broadcast ministry ... ?" asks another of the internal notes.

The document has handwritten initials throughout, matching the names of ministry attorneys and officials who ostensibly were to provide the necessary answers.

Each page is labeled "2/1/05 DRAFT." David Middlebrook, an attorney for Mr. Hinn, called the document "a working draft" in "a routine tax inquiry" in a court affidavit during an earlier fight to keep it from being publicized.

Expenses documented

The ministry's temporary restraining order against a Houston TV station – while Mr. Hinn held a crusade there – was quickly overturned, but the station didn't report the IRS inquiry. Trinity later showed what it said were the original documents to The News and gave copies to the paper.

One document shows that the ministry has paid more than $112,000 a month on the 10-year lease of a Gulfstream III jet.

Other documents indicate that Mr. Hinn was paid $360,000 last year as a consultant for Clarion Call Marketing, which was incorporated in 2003 with Mr. Middlebrook as its registered agent.

The salary document, which Trinity said it found in February, had been shredded into long strips but was reassembled by Trinity. The sheet shows 12 ministry employees making between $135,000 and $180,000 a year.

Mr. Hinn's wife, Suzanne, is referred to as the pastor's assistant at $166,000 a year. Their daughter, Jessica Koulianos, is listed as "assistant" at $65,000; her husband, Michael, a "partner relations specialist" at $90,000.

Other documents show Mr. Middlebrook's firm billing the ministry for 373 hours of work in a one-month period last fall.

Though the attorney didn't want to be interviewed, he has written about tax-inquiry issues repeatedly in a column for Church Executive magazine.

"The IRS has contacted one or more of our church clients recently" at least partly due to its initiative examining tax-exempt compensation, Mr. Middlebrook wrote in October. "Having the IRS penalize your church or remove its church designation could have profound financial consequences. You do not want your member-donor base to come to believe that you or your pastor makes too much money or that the church is not being operated in proper nonprofit fashion."

In November, he wrote about how the IRS defines a church and a case in which a designation was revoked, partially because its structure "tended to personally benefit the founder's family."

"The lack of regular church services with a body of believers that assemble regularly," he wrote, "dictated the IRS response."

And in last month's issue, he warned church lawyers and accountants to take care to destroy documents because often those "thrown in the trash dumpster are considered abandoned."

"Beware of 'dumpster divers' – people who look through trash dumpsters for confidential documents," Mr. Middlebrook wrote.

Paul Nelson, head of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, said the Hinn ministry seems to have invited IRS scrutiny.

"If I was their counsel, I would say that," he said. "I don't think anybody envisioned a $10 million parsonage.

"That's absolutely grotesque."

E-mail mwrolstad@dallasnews.com

TIMELINE

1970 – As a high school senior, Benny Hinn leaves his family's Greek Orthodox faith for Pentecostalism.

1983 – He establishes Orlando Christian Center in Florida.

1990 – Mr. Hinn begins monthly faith-healing crusades in the U.S. and abroad.

1999 – He makes a surprise announcement that he is moving his ministry to Dallas-Fort Worth.

1999 – Mr. Hinn announces that his Orlando center has been sold to a neighboring church. He promises a $30 million faith-healing memorial in the Dallas area that is never built.

2000 – He opens new administrative offices for World Healing Center Church in Grapevine.

2001 – He begins construction on a multimillion-dollar oceanside parsonage in Orange County, Calif.

2003 – Mr. Hinn acknowledges that his ministry took in a record $89 million in donations in 2002.

2004 – His ministry receives a tax-inquiry letter from the IRS.

2005 – A spokesman confirms that the inquiry continues but hasn't become an audit.

BENEDICTUS 'BENNY' HINN

Occupation: Senior pastor, president and chairman for life of Benny Hinn Ministries in Grapevine; operates World Media Center in Orange County, Calif.

Born: Dec. 3, 1952, in Jaffa, Israel

Education: Attended Catholic schools in Israel and public high school in Toronto; did not graduate and has no formal religious training

Family: Wife, Suzanne, and four children

Residence: Dana Point, Calif.

Science of life evolving or revolving?

http://www.cnn.com/2005/EDUCATION/07/06/teachers.evolution.ap/index.html

Schools confront familiar debate

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- 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."

Marroquin's challenge in teaching 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, Tennessee.

"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."

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.

Science leaders alarmed

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."

40,000 year old human footprints (80 mi SE of Mexico City) in the Valsequillo Basin

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1521234,00.html

Mexico offers up ancient footprints Maev Kennedy Tuesday July 5, 2005 The Guardian A group of British scientists claimed yesterday to have identified human footprints in central Mexico that are 40,000 years old, almost three times older than the most generally accepted evidence for human settlement in the Americas. The team from universities in Liverpool, Bournemouth, and Oxford are convinced that the footprints are human and represent several adults and children who walked in freshly fallen volcanic ash in the Valsequillo Basin, about 80 miles south-east of Mexico City. Working with international colleagues, they have applied dating techniques on the sediment itself and on finds including a land snail, a water snail and a mammoth tooth, all of which came back with an age of around 40,000 years. The footprints had to be disentangled from animal tracks, more than 250 marks in all. Casts, which Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University described as "unmistakably human" were produced from laser modelling at the site, employing a technique used to make industrial prototypes. Although the findings were announced after two years of work at the British universities and elsewhere, they are controversial, defying the conviction of many scientists that humans arrived in the Americas not more than 15,000 years ago. The tracks were made in gritty ash from the volcano, protected by later sediment layers, and underwater for long periods. The ash layer has since become as hard as concrete, and was locally quarried as a building material, which is how the footprints resurfaced. Scientists partially excavated the quarry in the 1960s, and found ancient animal bones and hints of a very early habitation site, but with the technology of the day could not date them accurately. The British team revisited the site two years ago. Silvia Gonzalez, from Liverpool John Moores University, first spotted the trail of marks, and described her instant conviction that they were human and very ancient as "like a thunderbolt in my mind".

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

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.nature.com/news/2005/050704/full/050704-4.html

Ancient 'footprints' found in Mexico Rex Dalton Find may push back dates of when people arrived in the Americas.

Could this be a footprint from 40,000 years ago? Silvia Gonzalez Researchers think they may have found footprints in southern Mexico that mark the oldest evidence for the presence of humans in the Americas. The impressions, preserved in volcanic ash outside the city of Puebla, have been dated to about 40,000 years ago, beating the oldest accepted evidence of humans in the Americas by some 25,000 years. If proven, the prints would lend support to controversial theories that people reached this land much earlier than previously thought. The researchers themselves say more work needs to be done to confirm that they have found the mark of human steps. "I believe they are footprints," says geoarchaeologist Silvia Gonzalez of Liverpool John Moores University, UK, who is originally from Mexico. "But we are being cautious, as we need to do more work." Gonzalez reported the discovery on 4 July at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition in London. Long-distant runners A path of 'prints' in the ash field of an ancient volcanic eruption. Silvia Gonzalez The team first stumbled on the prints in the summer of 2003 while hiking between archaeological sites near the dried bed of Valsequillo Lake. They found an ash field peppered with more than 200 impressions that seem to be footprints from several people, including children, along with birds, cats, dogs and species with cloven feet. Gonzalez thinks they might have been fleeing an eruption from the nearby Cerro Toluquilla volcano. The prints are plainly exposed and in an area that sees traffic in everything from miners who quarry the ash to recreational cyclists. Some worry that human interference, along with heavy rains, might have acted to make the impressions that now look like footprints. Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford, UK, used radiocarbon dating on shells in sediments just above the layer of ash and found they were about 40,000 years old. Early arrival The prevailing theory is that people first migrated from northern Asia between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago, crossing to America over a land bridge at the Bering Strait. But controversial genetic analyses of Native American populations indicate that some immigrants may have arrived much earlier than that, up to 40,000 years ago. That predates the ice age that held much of North America in its grip some 20,000 years ago. No direct evidence has been found for this early arrival. The oldest archaeological evidence is found in Chile's Monte Verde ruins, which contains signs of campfires and other clues of human occupation from about 14,500 years ago. Debate continues about what the marks really represent. "I've seen them up close and personal, and I don't think they are footprints," says Paul Renne, a geochronologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Renne is keen for the team to find further evidence of human occupation that might shore up its claim. Bruce Latimer, a human anatomist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio who helped identify some 3.5-million-year-old Laetoli footprints in Tanzania, agrees that caution is necessary. He says that human prints are usually so distinctive they are hard to miss. "I have not seen them. But if you have to equivocate, it is probably not human." The team plans to excavate the site in the Valsequillo Lake basin early next year, in an attempt to uncover other footprints or signs of human life. Late last month, the British Natural Environment Research Council gave the Gonzalez team a US $370,000 grant to continue their work.

Design Film Sparks Angst

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/008/4.22.html

Christianity Today, August 2005

Under fire, Smithsonian disavows presentation on Intelligent Design.

by Denyse O'Leary in Washington | posted 07/06/2005 09:30 a.m.

In late May, 200 attractive Earth-shaped invitations landed quietly in mailboxes across North America. They announced, "The director of the National Museum of Natural History and Discovery Institute cordially invite you to the national premiere and evening reception of The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe."

The Smithsonian Institution (SI), the well-known museum with an evolutionary outlook, had given Discovery Institute (DI), which promotes Intelligent Design (ID), approval to show a new film produced by California-based Illustra Media. The film is based on a book by philosopher Jay Richards and Iowa State University astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez. The Privileged Planet (Regnery, 2004) explicitly contradicts the views of late astronomer and skeptic Carl Sagan, whose "pale blue dot" theme was featured in the immensely popular Cosmos.

DI's $16,000 donation came with the right to invite 200 people to the film and reception on June 23.

DI had already shown the film at the Museum of Flight in its hometown, Seattle, in October 2004. However, the Smithsonian requires that the institution's director cosponsor all fundraising events for outside groups.

After information about the premiere first surfaced in blogs on May 25, controversy raged. The New York Times picked up the story, announcing that the film was "against evolution." The film says nothing about evolution, but many responded to internet-based denunciations and assailed the Smithsonian for permitting it.

The Smithsonian quickly disavowed the film, saying, "[The film] takes a philosophical bent rather than a clear statement of the science, and that's where we part ways with them." The Smithsonian further announced that it was returning the donation. The film still could be shown, but without the Smithsonian's imprimatur.

Days before the event, the Smithsonian quietly informed DI that it was keeping $5,000 of the $16,000 donation, for "expenses."

Reactions to the showing varied.

Jewish mathematician David Berlinski, a well-known critic of Darwinism, told Christianity Today, "I thought the uproar was indecent. I am in general appalled but not surprised by the willingness of academics to give up every principle of free speech and honest debate whenever they think they can do so without paying a price."

Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, which promotes Darwinian evolution, said "the outcome is about as good as could be expected. The DI got its party, and the SI didn't have to sponsor it."

Not everyone was happy, however. Todd Peterson, a biologist who works for the federal government, told CT, "That the Smithsonian as an institution pulled its support is really indicative of society today. That scientists centuries ago had no problem putting science and theism on the table at the same time is historical. That we cannot do so today is degenerative or retrograde."

O'Leary, a Toronto-based journalist, broke this story at her website, http://post-darwinist.blogspot.com.

Copyright © 2005 Christianity Today.
August 2005, Vol. 49, No. 8, Page 22

Creationism talk suggests need to revisit Catholic education

http://www.catholiccincinnati.org/tct/july0805/070805creationism.html

ARCHDIOCESE — You've heard the one about a young child asking, "Where did I come from?" While Catholic parents stammer to explain Adam and Eve, the embryo and fertilized egg, the frustrated child clarifies, "No, I mean, like my friend Johnny is from Pittsburgh."

The question, nevertheless, is a serious and timeless exercise in understanding our origin: Where do we come from? Where are we going? What is our end? Yet, for Catholics, the answers are not as complex as you might think.

The Catholic church's teachings on creation don't provoke much debate in the public arena because Catholics respect the scientific studies that "have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man," according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (283).

"These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give Him thanks for all His works and for the understanding and wisdom He gives to scholars and researchers." (283)

According to the Catechism, "It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin: Is the universe governed by chance, blind fate, anonymous necessity or by a transcendent, intelligent and good Being called 'God'? And if the world does come from God's wisdom and goodness, why is there evil? Where does it come from? Who is responsible for it? Is there any liberation from it?" (284)

"When we read Genesis, we want to focus on what it says about our relationship with God, and that we owe God a big thank you for the gift of life and creation," said Father Tim Schehr at Mount St. Mary's Seminary.

Therefore, the importance of Genesis for Catholics is what it leads the Catholic faithful to, said Ken Gleason, director of the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis (OEC). "God is the source of all human life," so "the deeper issue is the relationship we have with God."

"We like science. It teaches us how Creation began," said Dave Riley, OEC regional director. The bigger issue, he agrees, is what happens next.

As clear as that teaching is, David Byers, executive director of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Science and Human Values from 1984 to 2003, believes Catholic educators need to develop better teaching programs "to correct the anti-evolution biases that Catholics" are hearing, in light of community conflicts about creation and evolution popping up in the United States.

"The official church sees little danger in evolution," said Byers, in a bylined article in the Feb. 7 issue of America, a weekly magazine published in New York by the Jesuits. Citing a 1996 speech by Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Science and a 2004 document, "Communion and Stewardship," by the Vatican's International Theological Commission, Byers said the document "properly recognizes evolutionary theory as firmly grounded in fact."

But, he said, "our educational leadership has been very slow to correct the anti-evolution biases that Catholics pick up from prominent elements in contemporary culture."

Sermons and religious education materials, he said, "routinely describe Adam and Eve as if they were an essentially modern couple," although "it is reasonable to suppose that the first humans, whatever their stature in the eyes of God, looked and lived like other hominids of their time."

The Genesis creation stories should not be read literally, he said, because "they are stories, after all," said Byers, currently executive director of the bishops' Committee on the Home Missions. They are meant to express "deeper truths" about God's intent in creating humans. "It is wise to encourage an understanding of Scripture consistent with what we know (or think we know) in the 21st century."

Locally, Gleason is also concerned about the influence of opposing religious views on creation because of announced plans by the Answers in Genesis global ministry headed by Ken Ham to build a 50,000-square-foot Creation Museum & Family Discovery Center in northern Kentucky. Gleason said some parents are already worried that their children will be drawn unwittingly to the center at an impressionable age and become confused about church teachings.

The proposed center is expected to offer science museum exhibits, interpreted as proof, of a biblical account that states God created the Earth and all that is in it over six days in only 6,000 years.

Such views are contrary to accepted accounts of the Earth's origin by a majority of scientists who believe that life evolved from genetic material that appeared in Earth 3.9 billion years ago and from which the modern Homo sapiens emerged 50,000 years ago.

The issue, of course, is deeper than possible field trips to what the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Baptist evangelist and chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., is calling a future "mini-Disney World" in recent media sources.

It is a catechetical and faith formation challenge for Catholics of all age— an invitation to focus on Catholic teachings about the relationship between science and religion.

Many Catholics question whether their religion is as in touch with reality as science is, he said. "Dialogue between religion and science can help assuage their doubts, clearing away obstacles to a vital faith," he said.

Without a church view of human creation that is consistent with currently accepted scientific knowledge — and reinforced with a strong teaching program — "Catholicism may begin to seem less and less 'realistic' to more and more thoughtful people," Byers said. "That dynamic is a far greater obstacle to religious assent than evolution." — CNS.

(Lenore Christopher contributed to this article.)


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