NTS LogoSkeptical News for 16 July 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Textbook publisher wants to join lawsuit

[Editor's note: In 1995 John Buell was defending the use of the Pandas book in the Plano public school system. He claimed in a letter to The Dallas Morning News that the book was not meant to advance a religious purpose. The News then published my letter mentioning the same points made during the cross examination detailed below. I concluded by saying it makes us wonder about the use of the word "ethics."]


Article Last Updated: Friday, July 15, 2005 - 11:02:17 AM EST

Says company is not a religious organization


Of religion and science.

That's not what the book is about, John Buell said yesterday in Harrisburg's federal court.

And that's why Buell, the founder and president of the Texas-based Foundation for Thought and Ethics, publisher of the intelligent design textbook "Of Pandas and People," wants to intervene in a federal lawsuit against the Dover Area School District and its board.

An attorney for the 11 parents who filed the suit cross-examined Buell and chipped away at Buell's assertion that the Foundation is "not at all" a religious organization.

Several district parents filed the federal lawsuit, which alleges the board was religiously motivated last October when it voted to require a statement about intelligent design in science classes.

About 60 copies of the textbook were placed in the high school library for reference if students wanted to learn more about intelligent design, which says life is so complex that an intelligent being had to have had a hand in creating it.

Though board members have maintained that the books were donated by an anonymous source, board member Alan Bonsell's deposition names his father, Don Bonsell, as the donator of some of the books.

Buell said he doesn't want the book to be synonymous with the school board because the board, judging from what he has read, wanted intelligent design in its biology classes for religious reasons.

And equating intelligent design -- and thus his book -- to religion would be "catastrophic," Buell said.

"It would make that book radioactive," he said.

The foundation could lose as much as $525,000 in sales from the book and its next edition "Design of Life," to be released next year, he said.

Teachers wouldn't want to buy the book, and scientists and authors wouldn't want to work with the group to create books in the future, he said.

Is organization religious? Buell said his organization is "not at all" Christian or religious in nature. But attorney Eric Rothschild with the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton pointed out that the not-for-profit organization's Internal Revenue Service tax exemption form says their primary purpose is "promoting and publishing textbooks presenting a Christian perspective."

Buell blamed the "error" on a new accountant who was "not even from the state of Texas."

He said he had never seen the form until Rothschild pointed out that his initials were on the bottom of one page.

The organization's Articles of Incorporation from the state of Texas also mention religion, Christianity and the Bible.

Buell blamed that on the attorney who filed the papers.

"So the accountant got it wrong and the attorney got it wrong?" Rothschild asked.

"That's true," Buell said.

Rothschild also brought forth several other examples of the foundation's possible religious ties, including an early draft of the book, which in its infant stages was titled "Biology of Origins."

The draft mentioned "creationism" frequently. But in the final copy of the book, after the title was changed, the word creationism was replaced with the phrase "intelligent design."

Buell said the word creationism was a "placeholder term." The definition of creationism changed to include a religious context after the draft was written, so the writers changed the word, he said.

Lawyer disputes 'surprise': Rothschild said the foundation had no right to intervene by "claiming they were surprised to find" that the school board had religious motivations. He said the suit, which was filed in December, had progressed too far to enter another party.

Middle District Judge John E. Jones said he wanted to focus on Buell's legal rationale for becoming involved in the case, particularly why the timing of the case would be to his detriment and why the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the school board, would not already be representing his interests.

The board's attorney, Patrick Gillen with the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, also opposed the foundation's intent to join the case.

Gillen said the board doesn't consider intelligent design to be akin with creationism, so he will argue that point for the foundation.

Jones repeatedly asked Buell's attorney, Dennis Boyle of Lancaster-based Clymer & Musser P.C., to prove what the publishers would add to the suit, or in what way Thomas More would not be able to represent the foundation.

Jones said he would rule on the intervention "promptly."

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5434 or ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.

Suit opposes intelligent design book


Posted on Fri, Jul. 15, 2005

By John Sullivan

Inquirer Staff Writer

In a case that reopens the decades-old debate into the teaching of evolution in public schools, attorneys for 11 York County parents yesterday sought to depict the authors Of Pandas and People as motivated by religion, not science.

In a pretrial hearing here in federal court, the plaintiff's attorneys said an early draft of the textbook on intelligent design - the theory that the universe is too complex to have developed without some purposeful designer - had used the term creation.

The lawyers also produced a letter written by the book's publisher, Jon Buell, that said intelligent design could serve as an alternative to evolution that would alleviate the deep hostility toward Christian views of how the world came to be.

Buell, who is seeking to intervene in the case to defend himself and the book, said that he does not have a religious agenda and that the documents have been taken out of context. He said, for example, when the draft of the book was written, the terms creation and creationism were not associated with the belief that the world was created by God, as they are today.

At issue in the case is whether the Dover Area School District intended to teach religion when it required ninth-grade science teachers to read a statement saying evolution is a theory that contains unprovable gaps. The statement mentioned intelligent design as an alternative theory, and the school placed Of Pandas and People in the school library.

Attorneys argue that the teaching of intelligent design in public schools violates the separation of church and state. A series of court rulings has said that evolution can be taught because it was science, while creationism cannot because it is religion.

"Our children need to to be educated to be employable and we can't start them off by telling them something is science when it's not," said Bryan Rehm, 29, a father of four and a plaintiff in the suit.

Yesterday's arguments show that the case will be explosive, with the American Civil Liberties Union - whose lawyers represent the parents - attacking intelligent design as a Trojan horse for creationism.

"I'd say the ACLU has made it pretty clear that they intend to put intelligent design on trial," said Leonard G. Brown III, an attorney for Buell.

Defense attorneys are trying to show that the school board promoted intelligent design for educational purposes. To that end, defense attorneys have asked a federal judge to allow them to call two reporters as witnesses and review the notes they took while attending several school board meetings.

The stories quoted board members as making statements about Christ and religion when referring to the need to offer intelligent design. The board members deny any such statements.

Niles Benn, an attorney for the York Daily Record and the York Dispatch, asked the judge to deny the request, saying that the notes aren't relevant and that the reporters should not be forced to testify beyond affirming their stories. Benn offered to turn over the notes of one reporter who saved them and several e-mails of the other reporter, both of whom work as correspondents, for the judge to review.

"The court will not give these notes to anyone until it's determined whether they are relevant," said Benn, in explaining his decision to relinquish the notes.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, said he would review the notes before deciding whether the reporters could be called as witnesses and whether he would limit what they can be asked.

The courts have ruled that reporters enjoy a privilege when gathering news that protects them from being compelled to turn over notes or testify in court cases.

That means attorneys have to show that the testimony or materials are relevant and cannot be obtained by any other means.

Benn argued that more than 100 people attended the board meetings and that they should be deposed first.

Contact staff writer John Sullivan at 717-787-5934 or johnsullivan@phillynews.com.

Celebrities look for an edge with Scientology


Posted on Fri, Jul. 15, 2005


Houston Chronicle

Has actress Katie Holmes been brainwashed by fiancé Tom Cruise and mysterious religious forces to make her embrace both the superstar and Scientology?

On www.freekatie.net, visitors are invited to help ''liberate Katie, a young, gifted actress held captive by forces we may never understand.''

The site contends that Holmes, 26, is a prisoner of Cruise's public, even manic declarations of love and his involvement with Scientology.

Should we all be trying to ''free Katie'' by ordering a T-shirt?

Not necessarily, says Glenn Shuck, assistant professor of religion at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass.

For starters, Shuck, a former graduate student and instructor at Rice University in Houston, says brainwashing has been debunked by the psychological community.

''Brainwashing is out of the film 'Manchurian Candidate,''' Shuck says. ''In the (Sen. Joseph) McCarthy era, all of these new religions were said to be brainwashing because people couldn't understand why normal people would be making the choices that they were making -- choices that appeared aberrant and unacceptable... .''

In fact, noted Douglas E. Cowan, associate professor of religious studies and sociology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, all kinds of people convert to all kinds of religions before marriage.

And since Holmes has said she's had a crush on Cruise since childhood, ''if he were a Reformed Druid or a Tibetan Buddhist (like Richard Gere),'' Holmes would likely convert to that, Cowan says.

So Holmes, in fact, may have decided to marry Cruise and study his religion all on her own. Imagine.

Celebrities such as Cruise, Lisa Marie Presley, Kirstie Alley, John Travolta and Jenna Elfman are drawn to the religion because they're looking for a mental edge in a competitive world, Shuck says.

The fact that Travolta credits Scientology with the success of his career since the days of ''Welcome Back, Kotter'' can be an irresistible endorsement for other celebrities.

''It makes it into a chic religion just like Madonna has done with aspects of cabalism,'' Shuck says.

But Scientology's affiliation with Hollywood also opens it up to ridicule.

Cathy Norman, director of special affairs for the Scientology Church in Texas, says presenting Scientology as a ''cult'' is on a par with racial or ethnic slurs.

''I believe the word has become a meaningless, lazy pejorative, easiest to attach to new, small, or unfamiliar religions,'' she says.

Norman says practitioners are not coerced into the religion or asked to give up the faith of their birth, in order to study Scientology. They also aren't required to convert to marry a Scientologist.

''In general, Scientologists believe in the importance of freedom of religion and that one should respect the religious beliefs of others,'' Norman says.

Scientology, and its substudy, Dianetics, were developed by American author and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. In 1950, Hubbard published ''Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health.'' That work theorized that mental pictures of past events containing physical and emotional pain continue to act as a hidden influence, causing unhappiness and psychosomatic ills.

Hubbard used the word ''auditing'' to describe techniques for confronting such memories and erasing their impact. The goal of auditing is a state called ''Clear,'' in which one is freed from mental blocks.

Scientologists believe people are spiritual beings, distinct and separate from their bodies. ''You have lived lifetime after lifetime, and will live again,'' Norman says.

Norman estimates there are a few thousand active Scientologists in Texas. The Church of Scientology Mission of Houston may be the oldest continually existing Dianetics and Scientology organization in the world. Some Houston residents have been members since 1950.

Hubbard believed that artists are important to society, which may be another reason the religion appeals to creative types.

''The practice of Scientology can assist one to unlock his or her creativity, and perhaps deal better with the stresses of living a celebrity life,'' Norman says.

Cowan is convinced Cruise is sincere about his religion.

''Every time I see him on 'Oprah,' he's talking about how Scientology helped with his dyslexia and with his acting career,'' Cowan says. ''I can't fault the guy for that. I think he 'is' becoming a better actor. There was a whole middle period in his career where I couldn't watch him. But now? I've got to say, 'You've got something going on, dude.'''

Health care must include alternative medicine


Friday, July 15, 2005

Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

Thank you for the article on alternative medicine (July 7). While the article mentions twice that "over a third" of Americans have tried alternative medicine, the graph accompanying the story shows 74.6 percent of Americans have tried alternative medicine.

I am puzzled by FDA concerns about alternatives because of "a lack of scientific testing." There are scientific studies to determine correct dosage, side effects and risks of interactions.

This information is available from a naturopathic doctor with expertise in alternative medicine.

Although pharmaceutical drugs are tested, industry reporting of drug testing favors positive results. The editorial by GlaxoSmithKline (July 8) admits we have not had full disclosure of studies.

Even now we will only get "wider disclosure," which means drug side effects will not be clear until "tested" by the American public.

If a drug has severe side effects, it is pulled from the market. Similarly, if a supplement has severe side effects, it is pulled from the market.

The difference is that many alternatives have been "tested" by the American public for decades without serious side effects. Garlic, basil, cinnamon, turmeric and onions are all part of cooking.

When something as simple as garlic outperforms the leading antiviral drugs, it is time to put down the prescription pad and pick up a cookbook. The majority of Americans (74.6 percent) want alternatives.

It is time to integrate them into modern medical care rather than continue to play drug roulette.

Christopher Maloney

Naturopathic doctor



Physics News Update 737

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 737 July 14, 2005 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

CIRCUIT ELEMENTS FOR OPTICAL FREQUENCIES. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania propose to shrink circuits in order to save space and power and, more importantly, to accommodate electronic applications at much higher frequencies than are possible with current models, applications that include nano-optics, optical information storage, and molecular signaling. Electric circuit elements, among them resistors, capacitors, and inductors, come in a variety of sizes to deal with a variety of applications at a range of frequencies. The familiar electrical grid, for example, operates at a frequency of 60 Hz. A circuit designed to process radio signals operates at the 100-megahertz range. A typical frequency domain for computers is 1 GHz. Higher still, microwave applications often operate at the 10-GHz (10^10 Hz) level. Nader Engheta (engheta@ee.upenn.edu, 215-898-9777) and his Penn group would like to extend the circuit concepts up to optical frequencies, around 10^15 Hz. To do this, instead of just shrinking the classic circuit elements to fraction of the typical wavelength of the optical signal being processed (around 500 nm), the Penn proposal is to make nano-inductors, nano-capacitors and nano-resistors out of sub-wavelength nano-particles, fashioned from appropriate materials on a substrate with lithographic techniques. Possible applications would include direct processing of optical signals with nano-antennas, nano-circuit-filters, nano-waveguides, nano-resonators, and even nano-scaled negative-index optical structures. (Engheta et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article; http://www.ee.upenn.edu/~engheta/)

STRENGTHENING QUANTUM CRYPTOGRAPHY BY PUTTING ON BLINDERS. A Korea-UK team (contact Myungshik Kim, Queen's University, Belfast, m.s.kim@qub.ac.uk , or Chilmin Kim, Paichai University) has introduced a method for preventing several clever attacks against quantum cryptography, a form of message transmission that uses the laws of quantum physics to make sure an eavesdropper does not covertly intercept the transmission. Making the message sender and receiver a little blind to each other's actions, the researchers have shown, can bolster their success against potential eavesdroppers.

In quantum cryptography, a sender (denoted as Alice) transmits a message to a receiver (called Bob) in the form of single photons each representing the 0s and 1s of binary code. If an eavesdropper (appropriately named Eve) attempts to intercept the message, she will unavoidably disturb the photon through the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which says that even the gentlest observation of the photon will perturb the particle. This will be instantly detectable by Alice and Bob, who can stop the message and start again. Quantum cryptography is already being used in the real world and is even available commercially as a way for companies to transmit sensitive financial data. But in its real-world implementation, a weak pulse of light (rather than a perfect stream of single photons) is sent down a transmission line that is "lossy," or absorbs photons. So feasible attacks on quantum cryptography include the pulse-splitting attack (in which Eve splits a transmitted pulse into two pulses and examines one of them for information), the pulse-cloning attack (in which a transmitted pulse is copied to relatively high accuracy and then inspected for its information), and the "man-in-middle" or impersonation attack, in which Eve could impersonate Alice or Bob by intercepting the transmission and acting as sender or receiver.

A new paper proposes a solution to these three attacks by proposing a technique called "blind polarization." In this technique, Alice and Bob verify their identities to each other in a rather paradoxical way, by performing some actions that is their own private information. Yet these actions make the message completely indecipherable to a third party. Alice creates a pair of pulses, but with random polarizations (polarization indicates the direction or angle in which each pulse's electric field points relative to some reference, such as a horizontal line) Alice sends the pulses to Bob, who does not know the polarizations. Nonetheless, without measuring the polarization values, Bob is able to rotate the polarization of one pulse by one amount and the other pulse by another amount, but he doesn't tell Alice which pulses got which treatment. Alice receives the pulses, and then encodes them with a message (representing the binary value 0 or 1, which could stand for "no" or "yes), then blocks one of the pulses, without telling Bob which one was blocked. Bob then reverses the various polarizations by a certain amount to get the desired message. The various polarization adjustments are designed in such a way that either pulse Alice sends will yield the desired information. According to researcher Myungshik Kim, Alice has her own private information on which pulse is blocked, while Bob has his own private information on which pulse he rotated by a given amount. Once Alice begins the transmission, there is no way for Eve to have this private information which makes their protocol effective against the man-in-middle and other attacks. (Kye et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article). This paper is the latest in a wave that plugs up potential vulnerabilities in quantum cryptography (for an example of using "quantum decoys" to thwart attacks, see Lo et al, Physical Review Letters, 17 June 2005)

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

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Senator ditches 'divine' model


Friday, July 15, 2005

By Jennifer Dobner
The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah lawmaker who was kicking around the idea that Utah's schools should teach the theory of "divine" or "intelligent" design alongside biological evolution is abandoning the effort.

Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, said Thursday that after talks with the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Patti Harrington, he is comfortable -- at least for now -- with what Utah classrooms are teaching.

"She assured me in a phone call and then followed up with a letter, that we should not be teaching human evolution of any kind," Buttars said Thursday.

The state's core science curricula doesn't teach the evolution of the human species as a scientific fact, Harrington said. It does, however, emphasize that biological diversity is a result of millions of years of evolution.

"Science is a way of knowing and a knowing based up on evidence," Harrington said by telephone from Cedar City Thursday. "There is not evidence yet to claim how the Earth was created and no evidence to connect the family of apes with the family of man."

Buttars drew a lot of attention in recent weeks over his interest in intelligent design or as Buttars calls it, divine design -- the theory that an intelligent cause is behind the origin of the universes and its life forms. Proponents of the theory say it should be taught in classrooms as an alternative to Charles Darwins' theory of natural selection.

Opponents say "intelligent design" is just another form of "creation theory" and that the Bible doesn't belong in public schools.

Buttars believes in Bible teachings and says there are "a lot of people like me who believe that God created man."

He said his interest in "intelligent design" was inspired by at least 10 parents who said schools were telling students "we evolved from apes or monkeys or some other species and teaching it as fact."

"It's not fact," Buttars said. "It's a theory. You know, the trouble with the missing link, is that it's still missing."

Harrington says some Utah textbooks include information about the origin of man, along with the familiar drawings of hominoids in various stages of development. But nothing in state curricula suggests this information is the sole explanation for the existence of man.

"We also have a great deal of respect for individual beliefs, whether they come from home or church," she said.

Harrington said she welcomes the scrutiny of both parents and lawmakers. Buttars' concerns were raised as the state Office of Education was preparing materials for a summer core curriculum academy for teachers that includes a review of science instruction, Harrington said.

Buttars said he plans to monitor school teachings and renew a push for legislation if he feels it's warranted.

Copyright © 2005, Ogden Publishing Corporation

Let's dance: Viennese cardinal waltzes into U.S. evolution flap



By Agostino Bono
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Can a bespectacled, balding 60-year-old cardinal in Vienna waltz his way into a flap in the United States?

Definitely yes. The orchestration was proposing that the Catholic faith and aspects of evolutionary thinking are not good dancing partners. His suggestion stepped on the toes of those who see no conflict, while it swayed rhythmically with supporters of "intelligent design."

The reaction was almost immediate after Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna wrote an article in the July 7 New York Times. The piece questioned whether aspects of evolutionary thought such as random variations and natural selection are compatible with Catholic belief in God.

Although the cardinal's article did not use the term "intelligent design," it articulated the underlying principle that intelligent design is scientifically provable.

"Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science," said the article.

Within a week, the article and a follow-up news story generated more that 200 letters to the editor, pro and con, said Thomas Feyer, Times letters editor.

"This is a good, healthy response," he told Catholic News Service. The only bigger responses are when a regular columnist writes an article readers consider highly controversial, he said.

The cardinal's article also prompted three prominent U.S. scientists who oppose intelligent design to write a letter to Pope Benedict XVI to ask him to reaffirm church support for evolution.

The article appeared at a time when the controversy over intelligent design is more than an academic dance among scientists and religious thinkers.

It's also being debated in state legislatures and by local school boards. There is pressure to get public school science classes to step up criticisms of Darwinian evolution and to incorporate intelligent design in classrooms as an alternative.

Cardinal Schonborn's article did not raise the issue of teaching intelligent design in U.S. public schools.

Mark Ryland, a promoter of intelligent design and a friend of the cardinal, helped place the article in the Times.

The cardinal also called "rather vague and unimportant" a 1996 message by Pope John Paul II supporting the scientific evidence for evolution. This message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which includes many non-Catholics in its international membership, is used by scientists and theologians as proof that evolution and Catholicism are compatible.

Critics of intelligent design say that it is not science because it interprets data nonscientifically to conclude that there is a design and a purpose in nature, similar to the way Catholics use philosophy and theology to reconcile scientific data with their faith and belief in God.

"I disagree," said Michael Behe, biochemistry professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and a proponent of "intelligent design."

"Some parts of nature are better explained by an intelligent act rather than physical laws," said Behe, author of "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution."

He told CNS the formation of the Rocky Mountains can be easily explained scientifically.

"But if you look at Mount Rushmore, not all of the answer is scientific," he said referring to the four giant heads of U.S. presidents carved into the mountain.

"You can see clear evidences of design. This is not a philosophical conclusion, but physical evidence," said Behe.

"Things like Mount Rushmore are found in life," he said. "From empirical scientific evidence parts of life were the result of purposeful, intelligent activity."

As an example, Behe said that there are biochemical systems in nature that are "irreducibly complex" in that they need various components to work together in order to function, similar to a mousetrap. The coming together of these components cannot be explained by Darwinian evolution which says that improvements occur gradually and in tiny steps, he said.

Jesuit Father Kevin FitzGerald, who holds doctorates in molecular biology and philosophy, said that intelligent design advocates "see the unresolved problems of evolution and find data that doesn't fit the theory."

But then "they make a leap from the data" and evaluate it as saying that design and purpose are present in life forms and that this is a better explanation than evolution, said Father FitzGerald, professor of Catholic health care ethics at Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington.

He said that the scientific task is limited to discovering data, "but the data can be looked at from nonscientific perspectives such as philosophy, history, theology, even art."

"The question of design in the universe needs to be addressed and scientific evidence brought to bear. But the ultimate terrain to judge this would be philosophy, not science," he said.

"This is what intelligent design doesn't get right," he said.


Copyright (c) 2005 Catholic News Service/USCCB.

Scientific data supports design in evolution, says cardinal


Friday, July 15, 2005

Any evolutionary position that denies the "overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science" and incompatible with Catholic teaching, said Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna.

Many scientists want "to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science," he said in an article in the July 7 New York Times.

"Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of 'chance and necessity' are not science at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence," he said in the article which quoted the late Pope John Paul II.

'Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of 'chance and necessity' are not science at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.' ---Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Pope Benedict XVI holds the same position as his predecessor, said Cardinal Schonborn.

The article did not discuss the current debate in the United States over some local public school boards that want science classes to incorporate views holding that creation is the result of an intelligent design.

Cardinal Schonborn criticized unnamed "neo-Darwinian" scientists as claiming that "an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection" is acceptable in Catholic teaching.

"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," he said.

"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," he said.

"Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true," said the cardinal.

Cardinal Schonborn, who was one of the main editors of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," said that in the debates over evolution "the Catholic Church is in the odd position of standing in firm defense of reason."

The cardinal said that "neo-Darwinists" are claiming that Pope Benedict agrees with their views about an unguided and unplanned evolutionary process.

In refutation, he quoted from the pope's inaugural homily, in which the pope said: "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God."

In follow-up remarks published July 11 by Kathpress, an Austrian Catholic news agency, Cardinal Schonborn cited Popes Pius XII and John Paul II as saying that the theory of evolution --- as long as it remains within the realm of science and is not made into an ideological "dogma" which cannot be questioned --- is in conformity with Catholic teaching.

The cardinal quoted Pope John Paul as saying in 1985 that "the properly understood belief in creation and the properly understood teaching of evolution do not stand in each other's way."

Cardinal Schonborn did not include this papal quote in The New York Times article although several quotes from a 1985 papal general audience were included. The 1985 quotes stressed that human reasoning holds that the evolution of living beings points to the existence of a God who created the universe rather than to the formation of life through chance as advocated by materialistic philosophies.

The cardinal told Kathpress that it was the task of philosophy and the theory of science to determine the difference between scientific statements and extrapolations relating to a view of the nature of the world.

Erich Leitenberger, spokesman for Cardinal Schonborn, told Catholic News Service July 11 in a telephone interview that "the cardinal believes that evolutionism as an ideology is to be rejected" because it cannot explain the existence of the soul and the spiritual world.

"He believes in a grand design that is in nature and that makes us understand the existence of the universe and life on earth," said Leitenberger.

Leitenberger confirmed a July 10 New York Times news story saying that Mark Ryland, vice president of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports intelligent design, helped the cardinal place the article in the Times.

Ryland told CNS that the cardinal's piece was not support for intelligent design. "There is no mention of intelligent design in the essay," said Ryland.

"I see it more as an attack on Darwinism, which argues that there is no intelligent design in evolution," he said. "But it is not an affirmation of any scientific response to Darwin's theory."

Ryland said he recommended the media firm which submitted the article to the Times on Cardinal Schonborn's behalf. He noted that he has known the cardinal for five years.

Both are associated with the International Institute of Theology in Gaming, Austria. Cardinal Schonborn is the chancellor and Ryland is on the board.

More Intelligent Design


Friday, July 15, 2005

When anyone, such as letter-writer Bruce W. Erickson, claims that science "conclusively proves" anything, the one thing that that person conclusively proves is that he doesn't understand the nature of science ("Intelligence briefing, July 13 and TribLIVE.com).

Science is not about "proving" anything. It can disprove hypotheses. It can provide evidence for a hypothesis if the hypothesis is confirmed by repeated scientific experiments. But does evidence for a hypothesis "prove" that the hypothesis is the One True Explanation, that every other explanation is "superstition"? No!

Philosophical naturalism is the belief that every phenomenon has a natural explanation. If someone believes in philosophical naturalism and also believes that the consensus scientific view is always the correct natural explanation, fine. But he should not be indoctrinating our children with such beliefs, which are philosophical, not scientific.

Intelligent Design raises legitimate questions that implicitly challenge philosophical naturalism, questions such as "is there scientific evidence supporting the hypothesis that life was designed?"

Why is there so much opposition to asking this question in public school classrooms? This question poses no threat to science itself. But it may pose a significant threat to philosophical naturalism.

Jeff Jackson
Penn Hills

Creationists pin hopes on 'intelligent design'


By Steve Gushee

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, July 15, 2005

"Intelligent design" is a camel's nose in the tent of creationism. It's a tricky way of violating the constitutional prohibition against teaching a specific religious belief in public institutions. Nevertheless, it seems to be working.

The popular term implies that the complex wonders of creation cannot be a random event but must have a purpose-driven source carrying out a specific plan. Most people of faith agree with that but object to the implications others make of it.

Some fans of "intelligent design" use the term as an excuse to challenge Darwin's theory of evolution. They promote creationism, which insists that the prehistorical myths in Genesis tell us literally how creation came about.

They argue that since no one can, without question, prove Darwin's idea, both "theories" should be taught in public schools.

That's the most persuasive, if duplicitous, scheme yet tried by those who would teach their religion in school. Still, new standards are likely to open the door to teaching creationism in as many as 20 states.

Most Jews, Christians and Muslims agree that God is the architect of the universe. Such a belief, however, neither rejects Darwin's theory nor embraces Genesis' details of creation.

Pope John Paul II fervently believed that God was our creator but insisted that evolution was an established framework for understanding the origin of the species. Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna, echoed that last week in The New York Times.

Millions of others embrace this idea of theological evolution. That is the belief that God created all things, and evolution is the way God did it. But God as creator is a faith statement that cannot be taught in public schools. (Religious schools, on the other hand, can do whatever they choose.)

The Rev. James Usshert, a 17th-century Irish minister, reported that God created the world on Oct. 23, 4004 B.C., at midnight in the Garden of Eden, according to a marvelous little book, God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, by Adam Nicolson (HarperCollins, $24.95).

Puritan divines could be that precise even when they were wildly mistaken. Public-school curricula do not have that luxury. They are forbidden to teach religious speculation either from the wonderful stories of Genesis or the whimsical convictions of 17th-century divines. The idea of "intelligent design" does not change that.

The concept of intelligent design neither denies Darwin nor embraces Genesis. Still, some Christians use it to do both.


Robert L. Park Friday, 15 Jul 05 Washington, DC


As scientists battled efforts by Christian fundamentalists to counter the teaching of evolution, we took comfort in the more enlightened position of the Catholic Church. But as WN reported last week, a powerful cardinal wrote in the July 7 New York Times that evolution may be incompatible with the Catholic faith. His argument sounded like the the Discovery Institute's intelligent design nonsense. It was. The NYT revealed two days later that Schoenborn's essay had been written at the urging of Mark Ryland, vice president of the Discovery Institute, and submitted to the Times by the Discovery Institute's public relations firm.


Schoenborn's op-ed was meant to refute a May 17 NYT op-ed by Larry Krauss, then chair of physics at Case Western Reserve, which said the Catholic Church "has no problem with the notion of evolution." Krauss is not Catholic, but yesterday he was joined in a letter to Pope Benedict XVI by two well-known Catholic biologists: Francisco Ayala at UC Irvine and Ken Miller at Brown. They urge the Pope not to reestablish the divide that once existed between the scientific method and religious belief.


On Tuesday, at the National Press Club in Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick told reporters that Catholics can believe in evolution – as long as it's understood to have been guided by "the hand of God" rather than chance. The Church cannot accept the belief that "this is all an accident," he said.


As Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, hits book stores, we learn that Pope Benedict XVI is not a fan. "Those are subtle seductions that deeply distort Christianity in the soul," he wrote two years ago. Catechism number 2117: "All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion." You want to take magic out of kids books? Why not ban Cinderella? Scientists look at it differently: Magic and sorcery don't work.


The shuttle is still on the ground, the Kansas City Royals are 28 games behind, cold fusion is a memory, missile defense isn't even being tested, and intercessory prayer has no effect according to researchers at Duke reporting in Lancet. Didn't we already know that http://www.bobpark.org/WN04/wn120304.html? Prayer is just one of the things the Samueli Institute supports that don't work. The Institute is headed by Wayne Jonas, a genuine authority on the subject of things that don't work. Former head of the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine, Jonas authored Healing with Homeopathy http://www.bobpark.org/WN96/wn080296.html.


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

Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.bobpark.org

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Kansas board targets theory


Posted on Wed, Jul. 13, 2005

Changes encourage evolution criticism

By DIANE CARROLL The Kansas City Star

TOPEKA — The conservative-led Kansas Board of Education took up evolution again Tuesday and this time adopted changes that encouraged harsher criticism of Darwin's theory.

On 6-4 votes, the board approved a multitude of changes offered by conservative Republicans John Bacon of Olathe, Connie Morris of St. Francis, and Kathy Martin of Clay Center. The conservatives made it clear the science-writing committee, which is charged with reviewing those changes, should leave the changes alone.

"We value your comments but don't send us Draft 3 where you rip out all these changes we just put in," board member Bacon told committee co-leaders Steve Case and Carol Williamson, who were in the audience.

The two Democrats and two moderate Republicans who make up the minority of the 10-member objected, but to no avail.

"So why are we going through the charade of having them (the changes) considered" by the science-writing committee? asked Bill Wagnon of Topeka, a Democrat.

The 26-member science-writing committee began updating the standards a year ago in June. The first draft presented to the board did not call for any major changes. But eight members of that committee offered a minority report that called for substantive changes considered friendly to intelligent design, the idea that some aspects of the universe are too complex to be explained by natural causes alone.

The moderates on the board agree with scientists who say intelligent design is not science but the latest form of creationism, the belief that God created the world in accordance with the Genesis account.

The courts have found the teaching of creationism illegal.

Proponents of intelligent design, however, contend they oppose the teaching of creationism. They say design can be detected without introducing a designer. They say students should learn about all theories of origin.

Scientists steer away from theories of origin because they say they immediately bring God into the discussion. They say science is the study of life after it began.

Board Chairman Steve Abrams, a conservative Republican from Arkansas City, said a final vote on the standards might not take place until October. After the science-writing committee reports back to the board, the board plans to send the standards out for external review.

After the meeting, Williamson said the draft of the standards presented to the board in June by Martin, Morris and Abrams softened some of the suggestions in the minority report.

"Some of the changes today," Williamson said, "are intended to reinstate the minority report's stronger language that is more consistent with intelligent design."

There was, however, at least some new language added to the standards. The following paragraph, offered by Bacon, was adopted: "We also emphasize that the science curriculum standards do not include intelligent design, the scientific disagreement with the claim of many evolutionary biologists that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion. While the testimony presented at the science hearings included many advocates of intelligent design, these standards neither mandate nor prohibit teaching about this scientific disagreement."

The science-writing committee is to meet Aug. 2 in Topeka to review the changes. The committee has reviewed most of them before, Case said, because most of them come from the minority report.

At the board's request, the committee also will look at the teaching of microbiology, zoology, anatomy and physiology.

"There is a misunderstanding that the standards removed those things and they do not," Williamson said. "The standards give the major themes of the life sciences and those can be played out in courses like zoology, anatomy and physiology."

Case said the committee would insert some guidance for teachers to show how the content of the standards can be applied to the life science courses. Beyond that, Case said, "we're done working on the standards, is our understanding. At this point we are advisers."

To reach Diane Carroll, call (816) 234-7704

Evolution criticisms win more support


Published Wednesday, July 13, 2005

By Barbara Hollingsworth

The Capital-Journal

The Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday inserted more criticisms of evolution into the latest version of the state's science standards.

Critics charged that the changes pushed through by the state's dominant six conservative members would make the standards more friendly to intelligent design.

"We want scientific evidence," said Kathy Martin, a Clay Center member who supported the changes. "We don't want any other kind of evidence."

In August, the additions will go back to the committee originally appointed to rewrite the state's standards for teaching science, which will return its feedback. But there is little question what that group will say. It previously shot down changes suggested by a minority faction of its committee -- changes that have been supported by those active in the intelligent design movement.

"The committee is no longer in charge of the standards," said Steve Case, chairman of the writing committee. "The board is writing the standards."

Although the changes to the document say that the state board doesn't promote the teaching of intelligent design, the four opposing board members say the changes do just that.

Intelligent design is the idea that life is too complex to have been created by chance and that aspects of design can be seen. The scientific theory of evolution says that species change over time, responding to environmental and genetic pressures.

During much of the talks, Shawnee board member Sue Gamble picked through previously approved changes. She paused on changes that would add an origins of life debate into the standards. The subject wasn't there previously, Case said, because it isn't considered a core theory of science as is evolution and because the origin of life is different from the theory of evolution, which looks at descent with modification.

"My point is, why are we inserting something that is not in the standards, that is not a part of the accepted teaching of biology and evolution?" Gamble asked.

"Primarily," board chairman Steve Abrams said, "because the origins is important, and something that students need to try to understand is where we came from."

In May, board members heard three days of criticism of the theory of evolution during hearings that scientists boycotted, refusing to testify on the behalf of evolution. On Tuesday, Abrams frequently pointed to testimony board members heard during those hearings to back up changes.

Many of the changes added to the latest draft Tuesday incorporated suggestions made in a minority report -- a document created by a minority of Case's committee who were recommended to the writing committee by conservative board members. The minority report also has been touted by the Intelligent Design network and others active in the movement.

Gamble questioned the veracity of the minority report and asked when the board would address complaints it had received about the report -- some of which came from university professors.

"It was addressed May 5-12. That's what the science hearings were about," Abrams said.

Case's committee will consider the latest changes when it meets in early August. The committee also has been asked to consider better addressing in the standards such disciplines as anatomy, physiology, botany and zoology.

"I would suggest that this in no way precludes the science community from dissing this as much as they want to diss this," Abrams said to a few laughs. Their comments may not lead to changes, he added.

The science standards are to return to the full state board in August. Then they might go out for external review before final approval, at which time they will become the basis for creating science assessment tests for public school children in the state. School districts also will look to the standards as they develop curriculum for their districts.

Although Gamble argued about several of the changes, she essentially threw up her hands during the meeting.

"I think we are perilously close with this document of finding ourselves in court, but I'm in the minority," she said. "I'm not going to prevail, so the sooner the six votes pass the better."

Barbara Hollingsworth can be reached at (785) 295-1285 or barbara.hollingsworth@cjonline.com.


Conservatives favor science standards reflecting skepticism about evolution and designed to expose students to more criticism of the theory. Moderates support evolution-friendly standards.


Chairman Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City.

John Bacon, R-Olathe.

Kathy Martin, R-Clay Center.

Connie Morris, R-St. Francis.

Iris Van Meter, R-Thayer.

Ken Willard, R-Hutchinson.


Sue Gamble, R-Shawnee.

Carol Rupe, R-Wichita.

Bill Wagnon, D-Topeka.

Janet Waugh, D-Kansas City.

Intelligent Design old, false argument


Intelligent Design is an argument claimed by some (and opined on by syndicated columnist William A. Rusher, The Advocate, June 30) that proves the existence of God. It is an old and false philosophical argument that is now dressed up with a new name and claims of being another form of scientific inquiry.

Basically, Intelligent Design is another version of the Cosmological Argument. It goes something like this: The cosmos and the world are too complicated to understand and are thus unintelligible. And because their workings are so sophisticated, this implies that they cannot be the result of inanimate and random forces; therefore, the world is the product of an intelligent designer (God). This is similar to the analogy that a watch implies a watchmaker.

I refer readers interested in some historical background of the argument and blistering criticisms of it to David Hume's (1779) "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" and Bertrand Russell's (1945) "A History of Western Philosophy."

The design argument is basically illogical. It only proves that there is likely some antecedent action or structure "x"(not necessarily a person or a God) for each so-called unintelligible structure or process in the natural world. The argument assumes that if the whole is unintelligible then all the parts are unintelligible, which is not the case because we clearly understand many specific things about nature and man. It also denies in the conclusion what is asserted in the premises, namely, the unintelligible is intelligible or knowable to "x." Also, who or what says that the cosmos/world has to be intelligible to man?

Because the design argument is illogical it lacks credentials for being another form of scientific inquiry. In particular, it has no history of producing empirical data and techniques for understanding the cosmos and the Earth or any science-based applications for improving man's economy and health.

Science, while not perfect, has a long and distinguished record of doing these things. Also, it strives for logical consistency, internally and holistically, and is always open to independent verification or falsification.

God, by some definitions, is supposedly all-knowing and all-powerful, which is an argument for being all things for all people and times, no matter what; hence, such a God is illogical and thus irrational. Design advocates would do well to confine their so-called logic to the pulpit and reflect on an admonition (paraphrased here) attributed to Tertullian, a church father (~100-200 AD): - "In matters of God, faith is all that is needed." And I would add: "Please keep it to yourself!"

Jim Stone
Baton Rouge

An Unintelligent Decision


Scientists blast the Smithsonian for showing a creationist film

by Mike Martin

The Smithsonian Institution's decision to show a controversial film recently had scientists calling on the august national repository to censor itself and cancel a sponsored screening of The Privileged Planet.

"The Privileged Planet promotes creationism in the form of 'intelligent design,'" explained American Geophysical Union (AGU) executive director Fred Spilhaus. "It fosters the idea that science should include the supernatural. This is unacceptable."

Despite the outcry, the Discovery Institute—an intelligent design, or ID, think tank in Seattle—hosted its invitation-only showing of the documentary film on June 23 at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Based on the book of the same title by Iowa State University astronomy professor Guillermo Gonzalez and Discovery Institute fellow Jay Richards, The Privileged Planet posits that the Earth is uniquely positioned in the universe to support life.

While this "rare Earth" hypothesis has strong support from leading scientists—University of Washington paleontology professor Peter Ward co-authored a well-received book about the idea—Gonzalez and Richards take the thesis a step further, and into the firing line of the evolution-creationism debate, by suggesting that the Earth is unique because an unidentified intelligence designed it that way.

The idea of an "intelligent designer" suggests divine intervention to many scientists. By showing the film, "the Smithsonian Institution associates science with creationism and damages its credibility," AGU's Spilhaus said.

Like Galileo, Copernicus, and other astronomers who dared question the cosmic design, Gonzalez sees the resulting brouhaha as an attempt to affix the label "heretic" on him, in bold scarlet letters.

"I was not prepared for the level of venom, misinformation, and outright lies about our book and film," Gonzalez, who has authored some sixty articles in well-respected astrophysical journals about the formation and evolution of planetary systems, told Science & Spirit in an exclusive interview.

He said that his book and film are "based entirely on widely accepted, mainstream science," and believes the attacks were motivated by "scientific partisanship" that is distorting the definition of design.

"The only card our critics seem to keep playing is that we are 'creationists' and we are up to no good," he said. "Intelligent design has positive theistic implications, but it is not dependent on religious assumptions."

Planetary geologist and theologian Connie Bertka, who, like Gonzalez, studies the origin and evolution of planets, disagrees.

"The movie attempts to take a religious assumption and wrap it up in a scientific package," said Bertka, speaking as director of the AAAS Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion.

The museum did remove its name from the program and refund the Discovery Institute's $16,000 sponsorship money on the grounds that the film was "not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research"—a move the AAAS "applauds," said Bertka. "By recognizing the boundaries of science and religion—and being clear about when we are crossing those boundaries—the result will be a better understanding of science and a greater appreciation of religion," Bertka, formerly a senior researcher at the Carnegie Institution Geophysical Laboratory, added. "It's a tricky dance and a few toes will get stepped on, but in the end, we could come out with a more graceful act than we have."

Students become doctors of acupuncture



Associated Press

Though it's still met with skepticism by some medical providers in the West, traditional Chinese medicine has been steadily gaining acceptance.

It added another layer of legitimacy last weekend, when 19 students from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine became the first in the nation to receive clinical doctoral degrees in acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

Administrators at the Portland school spent a decade developing the two-year doctoral program in an attempt to train teachers and bring more alternative medicine research into integrated health settings.

"We are a health care profession just like any other health care profession," said Tim Chapman, vice president for academic affairs.

The postgraduate program is open to licensed acupuncturists who have been formally trained in Chinese herbal medication.

Roger Lore, 45, a full-time teacher of acupuncture at the college, said the program has made him a better teacher and made him more keen to write and conduct research.

"It's the only field I know of where some of its best research is 2,500 years old," said Lore, who is collaborating with one of his former instructors to translate ancient Chinese acupuncture texts into English.

The program allows students to specialize in pain management, women's health or geriatrics to better serve the growing numbers of women and elderly who want to take advantage of Chinese medicine, Chapman said. The program also addresses the ways in which alternative treatments can help chronic and complex medical conditions.

Students in the doctoral program were required to maintain their acupuncture practices, seeing at least 10 patients a week. They met each month on the Portland campus for four-day sessions of seminars and clinical work. Eight students were from Oregon, while others traveled monthly from California, Texas, Washington, Montana and New York; one student from Korea dropped out because of the commute.

The final six weeks of the program were dedicated to a clinical internship in China's Jiangsu Province, where the doctoral students treated patients alongside Chinese practitioners.

Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonian.com

Mind wide shut...the truth about Scientology (commentary)


By Bob Mackey

The Jambar - OpEd Issue: 7/14/05

Grabbing last week's issue of the Jambar, I was excited to see a front-page story on Scientology. I've had a sick fascination with the religion for quite some time, so I was more than interested in reading about it. Recently, Tom Cruise's shining star has brought Scientology out into the limelight, and I was eager to see if the article was going to deliver a hard-hitting exposé on it. Sadly, while the writer mentioned lots of fun, wacky things about the religion, he failed to get to the point of Scientology. That point being Scientology is hilarious.

Before I begin, I have to state that everything I'm writing here is pure, unadulterated truth. I feel the need to say this because whenever I tell people about the mostly unknown aspects of Scientology, they usually look at me in disbelief, with no respect for the amount of time I've spent doing research on the subject. It usually takes a lot of poking and prodding to get people to realize that I tell no lies about what Scientologists believe. When the truth finally sinks in, they walk away in utter shock and disbelief that someone could take the core beliefs of Scientology seriously. So if you're driving or holding a baby, I recommend that you brake suddenly or drop your infant to the ground before reading, lest shock overtake your central nervous system.

While last week's article mentioned Thetans, without explanation these "souls," as the article puts it, don't really seem that odd. But where do Thetans come from? Ah, therein lies the wackiness, and the core beliefs of Scientology.

You see, Scientologists believe that 75 million years ago, a galactic overlord named Xenu was in control of 76 planets, including our very own Earth. His collection of planets was facing a small overpopulation problem, so he did what any reasonable galactic overlord would do: he audited them. Thinking they were going in for a normal IRS-type procedure, these aliens were frozen as soon as they entered the audit centers. After the freezing process was complete, all 13.5 trillion of these alien-cicles were flown to Earth and dropped into volcanoes by DC8 airplanes. Still with me?

Because Xenu was a right bastard, after dropping everyone into volcanoes, he decided to hit the volcanoes with hydrogen bombs. I guess he had a few extra lying around. Of course, when you have that many dead aliens, you're going to have a major soulstorm. Ever the resourceful one, Xenu set up a bunch of electric traps to snatch up all the alien souls blowing around on earth. Instead of facing the sticky death of a roach motel, these alien souls were treated to movies. Sadly, the movies weren't very good, their purpose being to brainwash the alien souls in believing the crazy things non-Scientologists may believe in, such as Jesus and Mohammed and ridiculous things like common sense. With the souls no longer a threat, Xenu went on to ... well, I'm not sure, but he's probably pulling his tax collector shtick somewhere else in the galaxy.

This, my friends, is where the Thetans come in. These alien souls started to clump together until humans began to inhabit the earth, then they attached themselves to our race, and to this day cause all of our problems. Scientology is there to get rid of these alien ghosties; think of them as real-life Ghostbusters. Instead of getting to meet the wise-cracking Peter Venkman, you'll have to fork over tens of thousands of dollars for motivational books, DVDs and seminars. Hey, those alien ghosts aren't going to come out on their own! They need coaxing.

So, the next time you see Tom Cruise and start to bask in his man-beauty, look deeper into his soulless eyes and just remember that he sincerely believes everything that I've told you about. On the off chance that Tom Cruise confronts you about Scientology in a darkened alleyway, just remember that you're listening to the insane ramblings of a high-school dropout. Oh, and remember to run. Run very fast.

Further reading about the dangers of Scientology can be found at http://www.clambake.org/. Hail Xenu.

Call Bob Mackey at (330) 941-1913.

A flawed design in schools


Posted on Thu, Jul. 14, 2005

By Mark Franek

The recent migration of "intelligent design" curricula into public school science classes may be causing more than a few biology teachers to drop their beakers and calculators in alarm. This year alone, inspired perhaps by the success of conservatives in 2004 elections, 13 states are considering legislation requiring a more critical approach to the teaching of evolution. Many bills encourage the discussion of alternative explanations of the origin of humans, including the supernatural. All this in science class.

Dover, a rural Southeastern Pennsylvania community (center of our avowed "blue" state), in the fall is poised to become the first school district in the nation to require that students be taught intelligent design and be made aware of the alleged shortcomings of evolution in their ninth-grade biology classes. Parents have filed suit against the school board, arguing that intelligent design really is creationism in disguise.

The district, parents say, will be violating a 1987 Supreme Court decision banning creationism from public schools as part of the First Amendment's prohibition on government establishment of religion.

Dover is near to my heart. I grew up in the same county, York County, but attended a rival high school. I remember fierce battles between the Eastern Knights (my alma mater) and the Dover Eagles.

I can't prove the existence of macroevolution in a commentary, but I will bet one year's teaching salary on the hunch that biology teachers in the Dover area will quietly sidestep the requirement that they teach intelligent design.

Science-curriculum standards approved by Pennsylvania's State Education Board in 2002 specifically require students to "analyze the theory of evolution" by applying "the concept of natural selection to illustrate and account for a species' survival, extinction or change over time." Only the most nearsighted school board in the land would be willing to hoist their own district out of the tar pits and into the national limelight just because their biology teachers stick to evolution.

The basic tenet of intelligent design takes about five seconds to teach - the mechanisms of life are so complex that they could have only been orchestrated by a supreme power - but the implications of this belief are better taught and served in a religion or philosophy class, or better yet, in a place of worship.

Does Dover - or any school district for that matter - really want to become the ugly formaldehyde-suspended specimen of a Jay Leno or David Letterman joke? Curiously, the whole state of Kansas seems willing to risk it.

The state science standards in Kansas are up for revision later this summer, and a minority committee, spearheaded by intelligent-design advocates, has called for an emphasis not only on the limitations of evolution as a theory but also on arguments that attempt to undermine it. The committee also seeks to prop the door open to supernatural explanations of the origin and evolution of life, not just explanations found in the natural world, the realm of science.

In May, the Kansas state board of education held one-sided hearings that were boycotted by mainstream scientists on the grounds that the event was rigged against mainstream science and that participation would only confer the credibility that intelligent designers seek. The board, already acting with a solid conservative majority, has scheduled a final review of the curriculum committee's recommendations later this summer. I can only imagine what biology textbooks will soon look like in the state of Kansas. Actually, I have a pretty good idea.

In 1996, when I was teaching in Montgomery, Ala., a friend and colleague, a devout Christian and the daughter of a minister, was forced to teach from a biology textbook with a sticker blazoned on the inside-front cover that read (in part): "No one was present when life first began... . Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact."

Scientists the world over know that eyewitnesses are not required to prove a fact beyond a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, most Americans, even the most spiritual among us, know that religion should be kept out of public schools. And finally, most educated religious authorities, including those high up in the Roman Catholic Church, affirm that belief in God and evolution is not in conflict.

The problem with school boards that stick their noses this low to the curriculum-ground is that their directives usually aren't that intelligent.

If they really cared about the curriculum - especially omissions in the curriculum - they could do worse than to start with history teachers by insisting that they work backward from 9/11, at least for the first month of school. That way our kids would be guaranteed to get to the latter half of the 20th century, a period of discovery noticeably absent from the high school transcripts of a growing number of school board members around the country.

Mark Franek (mfranek@penncharter.com) is the dean of students at the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. He also teaches English.

Judge to review reporters' material in intelligent-design case


July 14, 2005, 7:38 PM

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- A federal judge Thursday asked to review notes and other source material of two freelance newspaper reporters subpoenaed in a lawsuit over a school district's inclusion of "intelligent design" in the ninth-grade biology curriculum.

Attorneys for the Dover Area School District board want the reporters to give sworn testimony in connection with the lawsuit. They also want to examine the reporters' records from two June 2004 meetings in which board members discussed "intelligent design," which holds that the universe is so complex, it must have been created by some kind of guiding force. The Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., is defending the school board.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III agreed to a suggestion by a lawyer for The York Dispatch and the York Daily Record/Sunday News that he examine the materials privately to determine whether they are relevant to the case before ruling on the lawyer's request to quash the subpoenas.

The lawyer, Niles Benn, said he would turn over notes and story drafts from Heidi Bernhard-Bubb, a correspondent for the Dispatch, and e-mails from Joe Maldonado, a correspondent from the Daily Record/Sunday News, by the end of the day on Tuesday.

"We think the court's going to find that the notes aren't relevant," Benn said after the court hearing.

The school district was believed to be the first in the United States to require students to be told about intelligent design during biology lessons on evolution when the board adopted changes to the science curriculum in October.

A Sept. 26 trial has been scheduled for the lawsuit, in which eight families argue that intelligent design is merely biblical creationism disguised in secular language and has no place in a science classroom.

An attorney for the Thomas More Law Center said the reporters' testimony and notes were essential to clearing up questions about the accuracy of their stories about the school board meetings.

In sworn testimony in January, school board members denied or said they did not remember making statements about creationism during the meetings, which both reporters included in their stories.

"Creationism was a term that was put in their mouths," Thomas More attorney Patrick Gillen said.

The plaintiffs' attorneys also had subpoenaed the reporters, but later agreed to accept affidavits from them and their editors attesting to the accuracy of the stories. Benn argued that the defense lawyers could get their questions answered by interviewing members of the public who attended the meetings.

"We have to be the court of last resort," Benn said.

Witold Walczak, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said the reporters' affidavits would suffice for now, but he wanted to reserve the right to seek their sworn testimony if Jones decided not to quash the defense's subpoenas.

If the reporters are ordered to testify, Benn said he wants Jones to issue an order that would limit their testimony to what was published and prohibit questioning about sources, notes or other materials used in their reporting.

Copyright © 2005 Detroit Free Press Inc.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Scientific data supports design in evolution, says cardinal


Any evolutionary position that denies the "overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science" and incompatible with Catholic teaching, said Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna.

Many scientists want "to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science," he said in an article in the July 7 New York Times.

"Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of 'chance and necessity' are not science at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence," he said in the article which quoted the late Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVI holds the same position as his predecessor, said Cardinal Schonborn.

The article did not discuss the current debate in the United States over some local public school boards that want science classes to incorporate views holding that creation is the result of an intelligent design.

Cardinal Schonborn criticized unnamed "neo-Darwinian" scientists as claiming that "an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection" is acceptable in Catholic teaching.

"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," he said.

"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," he said.

"Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true," said the cardinal.

Cardinal Schonborn, who was one of the main editors of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," said that in the debates over evolution "the Catholic Church is in the odd position of standing in firm defense of reason."

The cardinal said that "neo-Darwinists" are claiming that Pope Benedict agrees with their views about an unguided and unplanned evolutionary process.

In refutation, he quoted from the pope's inaugural homily, in which the pope said: "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God."

In follow-up remarks published July 11 by Kathpress, an Austrian Catholic news agency, Cardinal Schonborn cited Popes Pius XII and John Paul II as saying that the theory of evolution --- as long as it remains within the realm of science and is not made into an ideological "dogma" which cannot be questioned --- is in conformity with Catholic teaching.

The cardinal quoted Pope John Paul as saying in 1985 that "the properly understood belief in creation and the properly understood teaching of evolution do not stand in each other's way."

Cardinal Schonborn did not include this papal quote in The New York Times article although several quotes from a 1985 papal general audience were included. The 1985 quotes stressed that human reasoning holds that the evolution of living beings points to the existence of a God who created the universe rather than to the formation of life through chance as advocated by materialistic philosophies.

The cardinal told Kathpress that it was the task of philosophy and the theory of science to determine the difference between scientific statements and extrapolations relating to a view of the nature of the world.

Erich Leitenberger, spokesman for Cardinal Schonborn, told Catholic News Service July 11 in a telephone interview that "the cardinal believes that evolutionism as an ideology is to be rejected" because it cannot explain the existence of the soul and the spiritual world.

"He believes in a grand design that is in nature and that makes us understand the existence of the universe and life on earth," said Leitenberger.

Leitenberger confirmed a July 10 New York Times news story saying that Mark Ryland, vice president of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports intelligent design, helped the cardinal place the article in the Times.

Ryland told CNS that the cardinal's piece was not support for intelligent design. "There is no mention of intelligent design in the essay," said Ryland.

"I see it more as an attack on Darwinism, which argues that there is no intelligent design in evolution," he said. "But it is not an affirmation of any scientific response to Darwin's theory."

Ryland said he recommended the media firm which submitted the article to the Times on Cardinal Schonborn's behalf. He noted that he has known the cardinal for five years.

Both are associated with the International Institute of Theology in Gaming, Austria. Cardinal Schonborn is the chancellor and Ryland is on the board.

Prayer 'won't help sick'


July 15, 2005 - 10:39AM

Praying for people who are facing heart surgery does not raise their chances of a cure or of avoiding death, according to an unusual study published in the British medical weekly The Lancet.

US doctors enrolled 748 patients with coronary artery disease who were about to undergo cardiac or arterial treatment using a catheter, a technique that can be done under local anaesthetic and is less invasive than open surgery but still carries a risk.

The patients were assigned to two groups of roughly equal numbers.

The first group had prayers said for them at a distance by Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and others; the second one had no prayers said for them.

In addition to this, half of each group received bedside training in music, imagery and touch - practising relaxed breathing and listening to laid-back music to prepare for their operation - and half did not.

At a six-month follow-up check, there was no significant difference in the outcome between the prayer and no prayer groups, in terms of mortality, the number of heart attacks or readmissions to hospital.

AdvertisementBut in both groups, the patients who received the "music, imagery and touch" treatment did get a perceptible benefit.

They were less stressed and worried prior to the operation, and their death rate at six months was slightly lower when compared with patients who did not get this treatment.

The study was led by Mitchell Krucoff of the Duke University Medical Centre in North Carolina.

Panel Finds Misinformation in White House Web Site on Teenagers


Negative Messages About Gays, Sex, Single Parents Criticized, as Well as Lack of Information on Alcohol

By Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 14, 2005; Page A23

A government Web site intended to help parents and teenagers make "smart choices about their health and future" includes inaccurate or misleading information that may alienate some families or prompt riskier behavior, according to a team of medical experts who reviewed the material.

Three physicians and a child psychologist analyzed the Bush administration's 4Parents.gov Web site and concluded it made many incorrect assertions about condoms, sexual orientation, single-parent households and the dangers of oral sex.

They also found omissions of information that could go a long way toward raising healthy young adults, such as warning against the dangers of drinking alcohol.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a frequent administration critic who solicited the analyses, said the site is the latest example of "the distortion of scientific information" in favor of a conservative ideology focused predominantly on promoting abstinence-until-marriage programs.

"A federally-funded website should present the facts as they are, not as you might wish them to be," Waxman wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. "It is wrong -- and ultimately self-defeating -- to sacrifice scientific accuracy in an effort to frighten teens and their parents."

Laurence Steinberg, a child psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia and author of "The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting," complimented the site's information on eating disorders and some other topics. But Steinberg, one of the reviewers, said he was disturbed by negative messages about gays and single parents, and alarmed that the material was virtually silent on the dangers of drinking alcohol.

"If your concern really is to provide parents with information they can use to help raise healthy teenagers, there is a whole list of topics that need to be covered," he said. "Risky sexual behavior is just one of them, and frankly it's not even the most important one."

With a virtual army of medical and behavioral experts on its payroll, Waxman questioned why the Department of Health and Human Services paid the National Physicians Center for Family Resources $46,000 to develop the site. The group, which bills itself as a nonprofit focused on child welfare, is known for promoting a study by board member Joel Brind suggesting a link between abortion and breast cancer, assertions the administration first embraced but later withdrew from its Web sites.

In an e-mail, HHS spokesman Daniel Morales said officials had not reviewed Waxman's letter. The administration often hires outside contractors to design Web sites, he added.

"The purpose of the Web site is to equip parents with the resources they need to talk to their youth about sex and relationships; encourage their teens to remain abstinent from unhealthy risk behaviors; and to take an active role in the sexual health of their teens," he said.

John Whiffen, an orthopedic surgeon and chairman of the physicians center, said he is open to suggested changes and plans to add more information to the site, on alcohol and tobacco use, for example.

But he vigorously defended the site's emphasis on abstinence-only education and the failure rates of various contraceptives.

"The majority of parents in the United States would prefer their children don't have sex in high school," he said. "In the areas of sex before marriage, there is a great deal of misinformation out there and a great deal of misunderstanding."

John Santelli, a physician at Columbia University and a former division chief at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, agreed there are problems of misinformation in the field of sexual health. But Santelli, one of the specialists who reviewed the site, pointed the finger at 4Parents.gov.

Contrary to statements on the Web site, "there is little evidence that oral sex has increased over time or that this behavior has become widespread among 12 and 13 year olds," he wrote. And he complained that the Web site's approach is based on the fallacy "that young people . . . engage in sexual intercourse because they have access to condoms."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Creationism not confusing


TriCities.com Jul 12, 12:25 AM EDT

Bravo to all the students who wrote in support of John Battle High School teacher Larry Booher. Bravo also to Mr. Booher for having the courage to make Bible creationism information available to his students. Boo, hiss to the June 18 letter, "No place in classroom," which contained some very biased, unfounded and confusing comments.

Mr. Booher's creationism book didn't leave students confused and misinformed as the letter suggests. The students who wrote to this column prove the writer wrong on this point.

The letter writer suggests that Bible believers have a "flat Earth" mentality. The Bible itself teaches in Isaiah 40:22 that the Earth is round.

Evolutionists cannot believe in God; their religion of evolution won't allow it. The theistic evolution theory is also the Devil's work.

The writer's confusion can be further demonstrated by his misinterpretation of Genesis, Chapters One and Two. There are not two creation "stories." Chapter One is an overview of God's creation work. Chapter Two deals with the particulars of God's creation work. God's Word doesn't need "reinterpretation"; God got it right the first time.

The Theory of Evolution has never stood on firm ground. There are billions of fossils but not even one transitional (part one thing, part another thing) fossil of anything. There are no transitional fossils to be found because they have never existed. The so called "missing links" have all been proven to be hoaxes or misnomers. DNA research has totally nullified the theory of evolution. Furthermore, scientific discoveries continue to validate the "young Earth" (6,000 to 10,000 years old) position.

Mankind hopelessly struggles to prove the theory of evolution because there is only one other alternative: God.

Vince Cowan
Bluff City, Tenn.

Darwinism vs. creationism fight at OSU


July 12, 2005

A dispute has arisen concerning an alleged "Darwinist attack" on a doctoral candidate at Ohio State University in Columbus.

The Discovery Institute in Seattle has filed a public records request with OSU seeking documents related to doctoral candidate Bryan Leonard. The request was submitted in June by the institute's Center for Science and Culture under the Ohio Public Records Act.

Leonard's dissertation defense in the area of science education was postponed, allegedly after three "Darwinist" professors attacked Leonard's dissertation research. The professors, according to the center, were upset because the dissertation analyzed how teaching students evidence for and against macroevolution affected student beliefs.

Discovery Institute is a Seattle-based public policy think tank. The Center for Science and Culture is an Institute program supporting those who challenge Darwinism in favor of creationism.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Religion: Parsing a cardinal: Are Roman Catholics to give up on evolution?


Posted 7/12/05 By Jay Tolson

What to believe? About evolution, that is.

For many Roman Catholics, the question was raised–or possibly re-raised–last week when Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna and the lead editor of the official Roman Catholic catechism, published a provocative op-ed in the New York Times ["Finding Design in Nature"]. Saying that 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 cardinal seemed to be forging a link between the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the newest, most sophisticated refinement of creationist thinking–intelligent design.

Was this a new position? Did it muddy what many thought was the church's clearly established stand on Darwin's theory of evolution? Or was it simply an example of a prominent Roman Catholic theologian working within the legitimate wiggle room of that stand?

Intelligent design, as put forward by scientists like Michael Behe and championed by such groups as the Discovery Institute in Seattle, proposes that there is simply too much complexity in living organisms to be wholly accounted for by random chance. To arrive at something so astonishing as, say, the human eye, a guiding intelligence, they contend, is necessary. This position–possibly because it goes along, to a point, with much orthodox Darwinian thinking about natural selection–drives hard-core naturalists crazy. They say that it cannot be a legitimate theory because there is no way to prove or disprove it.

Judged by the content of Schönborn's op-ed and by subsequent reporting on the intellectual sympathies between the cardinal and the Discovery Institute, it does appear that the cardinal finds the intelligent design argument compatible with his understanding of Roman Catholic teaching. But despite outcries of many scientists and others that this represents a dangerous break with the church's far more "enlightened" stance on evolutionary theory, it is possible to see Schönborn's views as being largely, if not entirely, consistent with the past 55 years of Roman Catholic teaching.

Consider Pope Pius XII's 1950 encyclical Humani Generis, the document that officially made peace (or, arguably, a qualified peace) between the church and Darwin. The relevant lines:

The teaching authority of the church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter–for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.

Note that Schönborn endorses the same part of Darwinian theory that Pius XII did: the evolution of the physical form of the human species from pre-existing species. He does not, at least in his op-ed piece, emphasize the Roman Catholic position that God immediately creates the soul, though he could have argued so by drawing on a lively Roman Catholic intellectual tradition that includes Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin and his theory that consciousness–a crucial part of the soul–was itself the highest realization of divine intelligence in the physical cosmos.

Schönborn's interpretation of Roman Catholic teaching as being consistent with belief in purposeful and guided evolution could also have drawn on theologian Jacques Maritain's 1966 (pre-intelligent design) argument for a Thomistic-Aristotelian view of guided purpose behind the evolutionary process. In Maritain's view of evolution, simpler physical forms are "intended" to become more complex physical forms, culminating in man and his soul. "The ultimate end of all generation is, therefore, the human soul, and matter tends to this as its ultimate form," Maritain wrote.

But Maritain was not a pope, or even a cardinal. How do his thoughts bear on official church teaching? Well, in fact, Maritain's line of Thomistic thinking does seem present in the teaching of Pope John Paul II, which Schönborn points to in his op-ed. First of all, Schönborn notes that too much is made of the former pope's 1996 comment praising scientific research that "has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis." He was, Schönborn implies, simply giving science its due. Schönborn could have added that John Paul II, in those same comments, gave no ground on the matter of soul. In fact, to the dismay of biologist Richard Dawkins, who wrote critically of the pope's comments, John Paul II insisted that theories of evolution (and he used the plural) that "consider the mind as emerging from forces of living matter . . . are incompatible with the truth about man."

Schönborn emphasizes the former pope's 1985 pronouncement on evolution in which he gave his own convictions about a purposefully ordered direction to the process. "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, creator."

Obliges one to suppose. Note the words carefully. John Paul II was as much as saying that the world appears to have an order and design that can only oblige the faithful to be open to seeing the possibility of purpose and intention in the world. As a matter of faith, he was saying, he believed that science would lead to the confirmation of a belief in a purposefully created world, and in its creator.

Schönborn concludes that "scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as a result of 'chance and necessity' are not scientific at all, but as John Paul II put it, an abdication of human intelligence." That may be too harsh a view of the work of scientists who do not share Schönborn's faith and convictions. But it is true that positing the nonexistence of order and design to the universe is no less a matter of faith–a very different faith–than positing such an order and design to the universe. Science, whether it will ever confirm either faith, proceeds by established methods to explain, among other things, the causes of phenomena. And as long as scientists do not ignore the method or fudge the findings, they will continue to do the science that may, or may not, confirm their ultimate beliefs.

In the meantime, though, despite much hand-wringing to the contrary, it does not appear as though Roman Catholics have been ordered to desist from contemplating or exploring the elaborate mechanism of evolution. They have been asked to keep an open, even hopeful, mind about the answers to which such exploration might lead.

The great debate


MARK D. MAROTTA, Staff Writer07/12/2005

Whatever the fate of pending legislation in Harrisburg that would allow intelligent design to be taught in public education‚ the issue seems certain to generate plenty of controversy.

State Rep. Paul Clymer‚ R-145th District‚ is one of several legislators co-sponsoring HR 1007‚ which would allow public schools to teach intelligent design – which holds that intelligent causes are responsible for creation of the universe and its diverse life – where the theory of evolution is also taught.

A provision of the bill states that a teacher presenting evidence in support of intelligent design would not be allowed to "stress any particular denominational‚ sectarian or religious belief."

Clymer said it seemed to him that‚ with all the time that had passed since Charles Darwin presented the theory of evolution‚ there would be much more conclusive evidence supporting it.

He said no one was saying that evolution should not be taught‚ but that many academics concluded further evaluation was needed.

"These are credible people‚" Clymer said. "Why not begin to explore other alternatives?"

Clymer said his bill was "still in subcommittee‚" and probably would remain there at least until after the Legislature returns from recess in September.

Frank Kuserk‚ a Towamencin resident and professor of biology at Moravian College‚ said he was "absolutely" opposed to legislation allowing intelligent design to be taught in schools.

"Intelligent design is a philosophical or religious idea" looking to supernatural explanations for natural phenomena‚ Kuserk said.

He was concerned that it would give students a false idea of what science is all about.

"Science deals with the natural world‚ the observable world‚" Kuserk said.

"I can't say there aren't supernatural phenomena‚" but there is no evidence for it‚ Kuserk said.

He traced the roots of intelligent design to William Paley‚ who argued in the late 1700s that the order in the universe implied the existence of a designer. Kuserk said intelligent design was a restatement of creationism in a new form to avoid religious aspects that would not survive judicial scrutiny.

Lansdale resident Jonathan Bishop said he did not believe intelligent design should be taught in schools because it omitted reference to God "in an attempt to get around the falsely interpreted meaning of separation of church and state."

Bishop said he believed the biblical account of the creation should be taught instead.

Bishop believes evolution is "strictly a theory‚" as was the account in Genesis. However‚ he added‚ there was much more evidence that the Earth was of a young age.

Bishop believes that many of the facts on which evolution have been based have been disproven or are fabricated.

"If creation is going to be excluded from public school because it is a religion‚ then the religion of evolution ought to be excluded. If evolution is going to be taught‚ then so should creation. Anything else is a double standard and hypocritical‚" he said.

Lower Salford resident Roger Guttentag said that intelligent design proponents presented a "disingenuous argument" relying on confusion over the nature of scientific theories. Rather than merely being hunches‚ he said‚ scientific theories "make sense of and are confirmed by objective empirical evidence."

Scientists regarded theories as proven if they were supported by "extremely large" bodies of evidence‚ and if it was unlikely that contrary evidence would be found‚ Guttentag said.

John Mason‚ a geologist living in Upper Gwynedd‚ called evolution "a fact" people had observed in the fossil record and the development of drug-resistant bacteria‚ for instance‚ and that was best explained by the process of natural selection.

"The facts are the facts‚" Mason said‚ calling intelligent design "a major backward step in thinking" harking back to the Dark Ages.

But for Telford resident Alvin Jewell‚ evolution is "a lie‚" and the fact schools taught it was part of a pattern of not wanting to have anything to do with God. The country "will pay a terrible price" if it continues in that direction‚ Jewell said.

"There had to be a design‚" he said. "God created it all."

Raymond Hower‚ from Franconia‚ believes that intelligent design should be taught in schools. Students are being brainwashed by being exposed to only one perspective‚ he added.

"Let people make their own mind up‚" Hower said.

Robert C. Newman‚ professor of the New Testament at the Theological Biblical Seminary in Hatfield‚ wrote by e-mail that it was "hard to say" if intelligent design should be taught in public schools.

However‚ he added that public schools should make students aware of the problems with "an explanation of reality that rejects or ignores the clear evidence of design in both animate and inanimate nature."

He said that advocates who wanted only evolution taught in science classes were "effectively violating the separation of church and state by establishing the religion of secular humanism."

Gary Knerr‚ pastor of the Christ United Methodist Church in Towamencin‚ said a number of research scientists in the congregation had found that discoveries made over the past 20 years called into question much of what they had been taught concerning the origins of life. A class discussing intelligent design started meeting at the church several weeks ago‚ Knerr said.

He added that intelligent design was in the ascendancy because "there is more and better science that is supporting it" and questioning Darwinian evolution.

North Penn School Board President Vince Sherpinsky said he could not comment on intelligent design because he had not followed the issue.

Similarly‚ North Penn board member Don Hill said he was not familiar with the subject either.

Souderton Area School Board member Tracy Cole said she "would have to proceed very cautiously in making any kind of decision" on whether to incorporate intelligent design into the district's curriculum.

She added that her understanding of intelligent design was that it was religious conservatives' response to the teaching of evolution.

"Religion has no place in public education because public education deals with a very diverse population‚" Cole said.

©Reporter online.com 2005

Elemental beliefs of Scientology


Monday, July 11, 2005

Key points about Scientology from the Church of Scientology's Web site:

The word Scientology was conceived by L. Ron Hubbard. It comes from the Latin scio, which means "know" or "distinguish" and from the Greek word logos, which means "reason itself" or "inward thought." Thus it means the study of wisdom or knowledge. It means knowing how to know. Scientology, however, is defined as the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, universes and other life.

Developed by Hubbard, Scientology is a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one's true spiritual nature and of one's relationship with self, family, groups, mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the supreme being, or infinity.

Scientology is a body of knowledge that extends from certain fundamental truths. Prime among these are:

1. Man is an immortal spiritual being.

2. His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime.

3. His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized.

Scientology holds man to be basically good; his spiritual salvation depends upon himself and his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.

Scientology is not a dogmatic religion in which one is asked to believe anything on faith. An individual discovers for himself that Scientology works by applying its principles and observing or experiencing the results.ADVERTISEMENT - CLICK TO ENLARGE OR VISIT WEBSITE

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The ultimate goal of Scientology is true spiritual enlightenment and freedom for the individual. Source: www.scientology.org

Creation Watch


Hosted by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal

By Jason Rosenhouse

Proponents of intelligent design (ID) assert that certain complex biological systems could not emerge from a gradual evolutionary process. They argue instead that such structures are best explained via the deliberate action of an unspecified intelligent designer.

Few scientists endorse this conclusion, and they have good reasons for being skeptical. They understand that the prolonged action of natural selection can be expected to leave traces behind in the structure of modern organisms. And when scientists go looking for those traces they invariably find them in droves.

Recall that natural selection operates by preserving small, favorable variations that occur naturally in any population of organisms. Over time these variations accumulate to the point that large-scale change is the result. This implies that natural selection works by modifying structures already present in the organism. It does not craft new, complex systems from scratch.

This observation is crucial in distinguishing between those systems that could have been crafted by selection and those that could not have been. If we find that a particular organism possesses a complex system made from parts wholly distinct from anything to be found in the organism's closest evolutionary cousins, it will be difficult to explain that system via selection. But if we find that the system appears to be cobbled together from parts that were readily available, then natural selection remains a strong candidate.

Charles Darwin employed this principle in his studies of the complex systems used by orchids to attract pollinating insects. He discovered that these contrivances, as he called them, were indeed fashioned out of modified versions of parts present in closely related flowers. Stephen Jay Gould famously used the panda's "thumb" to illustrate the same principle. The panda possesses a sixth digit on its front paws that it uses to strip the leaves off of bamboo. This digit is not a true opposable thumb like that possessed by apes and humans. If it were, we would have a strong argument against natural selection in this case, since the panda's closest relatives have nothing like such a thumb. In reality, however, the panda's thumb is cobbled together from alterations in the bones found in the paws of other bears. Since examples like these are ubiquitous in nature we see that natural selection passes its first big test.

This principle extends to the biochemical realm as well. In his book Finding Darwin's God, cell biologist Kenneth Miller offers the following thoughts on the structure of the vertebrate blood clotting cascade:

The striking thing about this particular Rube Goldberg machine is how similar most of its parts are. Nearly all of the regulatory molecules belong to a single class of protein–cutting enzymes known as "serine proteases," and that…is the clue to understanding the system's evolution beginning with organisms that lacked a protein-based clotting system.

From this starting point Miller develops a scenario for the evolution of the modern blood clotting system from simple precursors found in invertebrates. An important step in his scenario involves a series of gene duplications, followed by the divergence of the duplicate copies. This explains why the individual proteins in the clotting systems are so similar. Miller goes on to describe ways of testing his scenario:

If the clotting cascade really evolved the way I have suggested, the clotting enzymes would have to be near-duplicates of a pancreatic enzyme and of each other. As it turns out, they are. Not only is thrombin homologous to trypsin, a pancreatic serine protease, but the six clotting proteases…share extensive homology as well. This is consistent with the notion that they were formed by gene duplication, just as suggested. But there is more to it than that. We could take one organism-humans for example-and construct a branching tree based on the relative degrees of similarity and difference between each of the clotting proteases. Now, if the gene duplications that produced the clotting cascade occurred long ago in an ancestral vertebrate, we should be able to take any other vertebrate and construct a similar tree in which the relationships between the clotting proteases match the relationships between the human proteases. This is a powerful test for our scheme because it requires that sequences still undiscovered should match a particular pattern. And…it is also a test that evolution passes in one organism after another.

Many other tests and predictions can be imposed on the scheme as well…If the modern fibrinogen gene really was recruited from a duplicated ancestral gene, one that had nothing to do with blood clotting, then we ought to be able to find a fibrinogen-like gene in an animal that does not possess the vertebrate clotting pathway.

Miller goes on to describe the discovery of such a gene in a sea cucumber, thereby producing another piece of evidence for his proposed scenario.

From this description a second principle emerges. Not only does every complex system studied in detail give the appearance of a Rube Goldberg machine cobbled together from available parts, but also evolutionary scenarios for their formation invariably lead to further testable predictions.

Contrary to the protestations of anti-evolutionists, insight into the evolutionary histories of complex systems seems to come out of laboratories on almost a daily basis. For example, the March 18, 2005 issue of the professional journal Science contained a research article on the evolution of swim bladders in fish. The accompanying commentary described the article's findings as follows:

Scuba divers wear air-filled dive vests to move up and down in the water column. Researchers have now used the fish family tree to piece together how the piscine equivalent, an internal air sac called a swim bladder, evolved a complex capillary network and special hemoglobin molecule to inflate it with oxygen. Moreover, according to the proposal presented … by Michael Berenbrink of the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, and his colleagues, these innovations helped fish expand their species diversity. "The scenario developed presents a fascinating picture of the evolution and radiation of fish," says Bernd Pelster, an animal physiologist at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

Shortly thereafter the March 2005 issue of the journal Genome Research published the results of recent research into the evolution of snake venom. In both cases the scientists applied logic similar to what Miller described, and they were rewarded with success in finding plausible evolutionary scenarios that were consistent with the copious data they had collected. Surely such consistent success in applying the logic of natural selection to modern complex systems counts as evidence in selection's favor.

Still, the evidence in these cases is inevitably circumstantial. It could hardly be otherwise considering that the systems whose formation we are trying to explain evolved long ago. With that in mind we might ask whether there is some "in principle" reason for rejecting natural selection as a plausible explanation. In other words, can we find some theoretical reason why natural selection is fundamentally inadequate to explain complex biological systems?

The main argument made by ID proponents in this regard is based on the idea of irreducible complexity. Michael Behe coined this term in his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box. He defined a system to be irreducibly complex if it consisted of several, well-matched parts each of which was essential for the system to function properly. It was his assertion that such a system could not evolve by gradual accretion, because any intermediate structures would have to be nonfunctional. Since there are plenty of biological systems that fit Behe's definition, the conclusion is that there are complex biological systems whose formation simply can not be attributed to prolonged selection, regardless of any other evidence.

If Behe were right, the observation of irreducible complexity would instantly trump whatever circumstantial evidence I could provide in favor of natural selection. But he is not right. Immediately after Behe's book hit the stores, scientists took up the thankless task of stating the obvious: irreducible complexity in the present tells us nothing about functional precursors in the past. This has been demonstrated in two ways: (1) by describing general schemes, based solely on known biological processes, whereby an irreducibly complex system could arise gradually (for example, irreducible complexity could result from the reduction in redundancy that occurs when subsequent mutations cause the two copies of a duplicated gene to diverge); (2) by using these schemes to produce scenarios for explaining specific biochemical machines.

In response to these observations ID proponents generally respond that the various schemes referred to in point (1) above are mere guesses, while the scenarios in point two (2) invariably lack sufficient detail to be considered definitive. Both of these objections miss the point. It is the ID proponents who are making sweeping assertions about what is possible and what is not. Scientists are simply offering an "in principle" response to an "in principle" argument. And since scientists base their scenarios solely on familiar processes, it is the ID folks who have to explain why irreducible complexity is something people should get worked up over.

ID proponents make other "in principle" arguments against natural selection, variously based on probability theory or on selection's lack of foresight, but all such arguments are completely without merit. The determination that a given system could not have evolved gradually can only be based on a detailed understanding of the structure and function of that system, not on any abstract, armchair reasoning.

There are further lines of evidence we could cite in support of natural selection's importance, but they will have to wait for future columns. Let us instead consider a different question: Circumstantial evidence notwithstanding, does ID provide a better explanation than natural selection for complex biological systems?

In considering that possibility we should begin with the observation that ID arguments are always indirect. ID proponents never argue, "We observe X. Therefore, ID." Instead they argue, "We observe X. X cannot plausibly be explained naturalistically. Therefore, ID." Since we have already seen that prolonged natural selection is capable both in theory and practice of explaining complex systems, the design hypothesis receives a serious blow right from the start.

But there is a graver objection. Design proponents try to present ID as a simple extrapolation from the actions of known intelligent agents. William Dembski expresses the argument this way in his book The Design Revolution :

It is well known that intelligence produces irreducibly complex systems. (For example, humans regularly produce machines that exhibit irreducible complexity.) Intelligence is thus known to be causally adequate to bring about irreducible complexity.

This is rather like claiming that mountains are evidence for the existence of giant moles. After all, molehills are something that moles are known to produce, and what is a mountain if not a giant molehill?

The fact is that the feats performed by the designer in ID are orders of magnitude beyond anything known intelligent agents are capable of. Human beings may possess the highest level of intelligence in the known universe, but we have no idea how to jigger with an organism's genome to bring a blood clotting cascade or a swim bladder into existence. And those are among the simpler things our hypothetical designer is called upon to do. Ask a scientist to create life, manipulate fundamental constants of the universe, or bring whole worlds into being, and he will stare at you helplessly. The fact is, if we were only extrapolating from known causes we would have to conclude that intelligence is fundamentally incapable of accomplishing what is being asked of it.

So the situation is this: On the one had we find that there is no reason in theory why evolution cannot account for complex systems. Furthermore, every one of the numerous complex systems studied in detail has just the structure it ought to have if it originated via known mechanisms. Scientists use this fact to formulate useful hypotheses about the history of these systems, and can claim one explanatory success after another as a result. For scientists the hypothesis that a system evolved by natural selection is the beginning, not the end, of their investigation.

On the other hand we find that ID proponents find it more plausible to invent out of whole cloth a designer capable of performing feats that can only be described as magical. They have not a single explanatory success to their credit, and have given no reason to believe their hypotheses can ever lead to anything useful. For ID proponents the assertion of design is the end of the investigation.

Which explanation do you think scientists should embrace?

Jason Rosenhouse is the author of EvolutionBlog , providing commentary on developments in the endless dispute between evolution and creationism.

Universe 'too queer' to grasp


By Jo Twist
BBC News science and technology reporter

Scientist Professor Richard Dawkins has opened a global conference of big thinkers warning that our Universe may be just "too queer" to understand.

Professor Dawkins, the renowned Selfish Gene author from Oxford University, said we were living in a "middle world" reality that we have created.

Experts in design, technology, and entertainment have gathered in Oxford to share their ideas about our futures.

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is already a top US event.

It is the first time the event, TED Global, has been held in Europe.

Species software

Professor Dawkins' opening talk, in a session called Meme Power, explored the ways in which humans invent their own realities to make sense of the infinitely complex worlds they are in; worlds made more complex by ideas such as quantum physics which is beyond most human understanding.

"Are there things about the Universe that will be forever beyond our grasp, in principle, ungraspable in any mind, however superior?" he asked.

"Successive generations have come to terms with the increasing queerness of the Universe."

Each species, in fact, has a different "reality". They work with different "software" to make them feel comfortable, he suggested.

Because different species live in different models of the world, there was a discomforting variety of real worlds, he suggested.

"Middle world is like the narrow range of the electromagnetic spectrum that we see," he said.

"Middle world is the narrow range of reality that we judge to be normal as opposed to the queerness that we judge to be very small or very large."

He mused that perhaps children should be given computer games to play with that familiarise them with quantum physics concepts.

"It would make an interesting experiment," he told the BBC News website.

ET worlds

Our brains had evolved to help us survive within the scale and orders of magnitude within which we exist, said Professor Dawkins.

We think that rocks and crystals are solid when in fact they were made up mostly of spaces in between atoms, he argued.

This, he said, was just the way our brains thought about things in order to help us navigate our "middle sized" world - the medium scale environment - a world in which we cannot see individual atoms.

This idea meant that life was probably "quite common" in the Universe, Professor Dawkins said.

He concluded with the thought that if he could re-engineer his brain in any way he would make himself a genius mathematician.

He would also want to time travel to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

More serious focus

Developing world economist and businesswoman Jacqueline Novogratz brought Professor Dawkins' thinking into focus, arguing that we need to fully engage with "developing worlds" to move away from "them and us" thinking.

"The world is talking about global poverty and Africa in ways I have never seen in my life," she said.

"At the same time I have a fear that the victories of G8 will see that as our moral absolution. But that is chapter one; celebrate it, close it and recognise we need a chapter two - a 'how to'.

"The only way to end poverty is to build viable systems on the ground that can deliver services to the poor in ways that are sustainable," she said.

Former Afghan finance minister Ashraf Ghani added that globalisation was "on speed" and needed real private investment and opportunities to flourish.

"Events of 7/7 and 9/11 remind us that we do not live in three different worlds; we live in one world."

He criticised the West for being only concerned with design issues that affect them, and solving environmental problems for themselves.

"You are problem solvers but are not engaging in problems of corruption," he told TED Global delegates.

"You stay away from design for developments. Your designs are selfish; it is for your own immediate use.

"We need your imagination to be brought to bear on problems the way meme is supposed to. It is at the intersection of ideas that new ideas and breakthroughs occur."

More than 300 leading scientists, musicians, playwrights, as well as technology pioneers and future thinkers have gathered for the conference which runs from 12 to 15 July.

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