Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
By Ahmed K. Sultan Salem** July 18, 2005
The bacterial flagellum is the logo of the ID movement due to the complexity of its structure
Intelligent Design (ID) is the assertion that the universe and living things show signs of having been designed by an intelligent agent. This article provides a general discussion of ID and its relation to science and religion.
The Confirmation Bias
ID seems very much to support the idea of a creator; a superintellect who masterminded the whole universe. Strictly speaking, however, ID does not make any claims as to the attributes of the intelligent designer; identifying the intelligent designer as God appears to be a natural conclusion. Therefore, some religious people find a lure in the ID theory as it confirms their religious beliefs and counters the purely materialistic and naturalistic worldviews that either deny the existence of the Creator, or marginalize Him by making Him equivalent to nature or even subservient to the laws of nature.
Because of this, religious people may fall trap to the confirmation bias while evaluating ID. The confirmation bias is the tendency of humans to pay attention to, emphasize, and at many times overemphasize the evidence that confirms one's own preexisting ideas. At the same time, it is the tendency to de-emphasize, discard, or dismiss as unauthentic any evidence that disconfirms or refutes one's preexisting beliefs and assumptions. Despite its potential, ID should be analyzed as objectively as possible lest one would only be affirming what he or she already believes in. We should strive to go beyond our biases while assessing the merits and demerits of ID. By doing so, we preserve the integrity of both religion and science.
What Is ID?
ID, according to leading ID theorist William Dembski1, is committed to an ontological claim and an epistemological claim2. The ontological claim is that the universe shows signs of design, which is fundamentally distinct from chance and necessity3. The epistemological claim is that design can be observed and detected4. ID is a type of statistical inference where a hypothesis is rejected if the outcome falls within a region in the space of possible outcomes that has a very small probability given the hypothesis under investigation5. The outcome here may, for instance, be a biological organ, structure, or mechanism. The hypothesis is a scientific combination of chance and necessity that explains the outcome. By "very small probability" the ID researchers refer to a specific value of probability that takes the whole probabilistic resources of the universe into account. Dembski calls this value the "universal probability bound" and calculates it to be 1 in 10150. (That is, the universal probability bound is equal to one divided by one followed by 150 zeros--an extremely small number.6)
In other words, if the estimated probability of a biological structure emerging according to the Darwinian theory of evolution7 is below the universal probability bound, then the organ is said to be designed because even if the whole probabilistic resources of the universe collaborate together to give rise to the structure, it is still highly unlikely to come to existence as determined by the Darwinian scenario.
Science and the Types of Naturalism
Metaphysical naturalism adopts the belief that nature is the ultimate reality
For the sake of this discussion, naturalism8 can be classified into two types: metaphysical and methodological. Metaphysical (or ontological or anti-teleological) naturalism asserts that there is nothing in the universe but chance and necessity. In this worldview, science relies on chance and necessity only, because nature itself constitutes a self-contained reality that exists, subsists, and operates solely on the basis of deterministic and non-deterministic laws. Methodological (or pragmatic) naturalism, on the other hand, "pretends" that there is nothing but chance and necessity, for the purpose of advancing science and our understanding of nature in a coherent and systematic way9. It is clear that metaphysical naturalism ensues when one adopts methodological naturalism in addition to the belief that nature is the ultimate reality, and that science can explain everything. But can it?
Science does have its metaphysics and its own assumptions and beliefs that are taken for granted. These beliefs, such as the belief in the uniformity of nature, the comprehensibility of the universe, and causality, are very reasonable but they cannot be "proved" in a strict sense. Many scientists look down on religion, because religion involves belief, not realizing that they themselves have their own biases and beliefs. This, of course, does not mean that science is a mere subjective project as claimed by some postmodernists, or that all beliefs are equally plausible.
A quick glance at how scientific theories are confirmed reveals that science is far from providing absolute certainty. Unfortunately, there are two extremes: one adopting science as the only means of discovering the truth, and another, aware of the shortcomings of the scientific methodology, denigrating science as an endeavor where reality plays a little role, if any, in the construction of scientific knowledge. I adopt the middle position that recognizes the limitations of science but, at the same time, acknowledges the utmost importance of science as a superb source of knowledge about ourselves and our world10.
Is ID a Part of Science?
ID operates somewhere near the boundaries of science, and it can play an important role that is discussed below. ID cannot be considered a part of science proper, however. It lacks the features that make it an acceptable scientific theory including the ability to make predictions to be verified by experiment. For, if the conclusion is that there is an intelligent designer without knowing anything about his attributes and capabilities, how can we make testable predictions from that conclusion?
Though ID is grounded in science, its conclusion is very special and contradicts the methodological naturalism on which science is based. Science uses necessity, chance, or a combination of both to explain different phenomena. It appears that methodological naturalism is the best way of doing science. Science aims at providing explanations for the phenomena present in the universe. To many religious people, God is the Creator. This provides an "ultimate" explanation to everything. But since this belief explains everything, it does not help the scientific process. I can point at any natural system and say wholeheartedly that this is the work of God. But what can we do afterwards? It is methodological naturalism that allows us to explain a phenomenon in such a way that it can be utilized, hopefully for the benefit of humankind and to discharge the obligations of vicegerency11.
Having said so, one must also emphasize that methodological naturalism is not without problems. When combined with a belief in the unlimited explanatory power of science, it degenerates into metaphysical naturalism masqueraded as science. This is manifest, for example, in the "science" of evolutionary psychology where all human good deeds are regarded as mere strategies for facilitating survival, and morality as an "adaptation" to further our reproductive ends12. The movement of ID is clearly motivated by such insults to our moral sensibilities, and by the disciplines that gain scientific recognition by demonstrating their unfettered commitment to metaphysical naturalism.
Powers (and Perils) of ID
If ID is not part of science proper, this does not mean that it is useless. ID can provide a type of assessment of whether or not a proposed scientific explanation is adequate to explain a phenomenon. That is, ID is an excellent paradigm to define the plausibility of a set (or superset) of existing hypotheses.
Objectively speaking, if ID proves that the probability of a proposed explanation is below the universal probability bound, the best that can be said is that science, till now, cannot explain the phenomenon, assuming of course that the calculation is correct. If one trusts the calculation and thinks that it covers a whole set of hypotheses, then the conclusion may be that no scientific theory would be able to account for the observed phenomenon. But one can also make the claims that: (a) the known mechanisms are operating in unknown ways, or (b) unknown mechanisms may be operative. This type of debate, unless there is a clear miscalculation, is often subjective and dependent on one's views on the scope of scientific inquiry and investigation. Put simply, ID can expose the inadequacy of a current explanation without making further judgments13. Based on one's confidence in the ID calculation and one's metaphysical framework, one can then proceed to form his or her metascientific conclusion.
Two arguments can be made. The first is that ID is an impediment to science as it moves from the deficiency of the current hypotheses to a statement that we will never succeed in explaining the phenomenon scientifically. This can be countered by another argument that ID, by showing the inadequateness of current explanations, may help awaken the scientists from their intellectual slumber, something that often takes place given the inertia of the scientific culture (and other cultures). ID can be a motivator for scientists to think outside the box and try to propose alternative hypotheses. It is extremely unlikely that all the scientists will take an ID result and stop hunting for naturalistic explanations. The point is that ID may harm science, but ignoring it may also harm science. After all, everything has its share of merits and demerits.
Religion and Science: A Final Word
I completely agree with the assertion of ID that the universe shows signs of design. Nevertheless, I have the concern that ID may be a self-defeating exercise. By insisting that the discernment of the existence of an intelligent designer is a clear-cut part of science, ID runs the risk of perpetuating the belief that science is the sole tool for searching for the truth, and that if one does not make scientific arguments, then his or her case is null and void. Though myself being a firm believer in science and the competence of the human intellect, I think the domain of science, albeit huge, is limited. Reason, revelation, experimentation, and intuition should form together the foundations of our knowledge. And, ultimately, it is revelation that provides answers to the really fundamental questions.
This article reflects solely the opinion of the author.
Ahmed K. Sultan Salem is a PhD student in the Space, Telecommunications, and Radioscience Laboratory (STARLab) at Stanford University. Your emails to will be forwarded to him by contacting the editor at: ScienceTech@islam-online.net.
1- For the ideas and positions of the ID movement, I have mainly relied on Dembski's writings. Books include: The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998; Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe, Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute, vol. 9 (coauthored with Michael J. Behe and Stephen C. Meyer), San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000; No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence, Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002; The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design, Downer's Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2004. Articles include: In Defense of Intelligent Design; Reflections on Human Origins; Making the Task of Theodicy Impossible? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evil; etc. Dembski's articles are available from http://www.designinference.com/
2- In philosophy, ontology is the study of being or existence, while epistemology is the study of the sources and scope of knowledge.
3- "Necessity" refers to deterministic laws.
4- In the exact words of Dembski from Making the Task of Theodicy Impossible? (see endnote 1), "[ID] is committed to an ontological claim and an epistemological claim. The ontological claim: Material mechanisms are incomplete---they are not coextensive with secondary causes. The epistemological claim: Design is empirically detectable."
5- Statistical hypothesis testing is a procedure designed to confirm or disconfirm a set of hypotheses that are claimed to explain a certain phenomenon or a set of observations.
6- Given the age of the universe, the quantum requirement that the smallest possible time step is the Planck time (approximately 5.391e-44 seconds), and the number of particles in the universe, Dembski argues that the value of 1 in 10150 is a reasonable, and in fact highly conservative, universal probability bound.
7- In order to keep the focus on ID, I avoid any discussion of the Darwinian theory of evolution in this article.
8- Naturalism is a theory that denies that an event or object has a supernatural significance; specifically it is the doctrine that scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena.
9- Note that methodological naturalism does not imply that science has nothing to say about the supernatural. Imagine religion X that is based on a belief in a supernatural being who created the whole universe 30,000 years ago and mentioned this fact in no unequivocal terms to people in a revealed book. Accumulated scientific findings show that the text of religion X is simply not true though they do not at all falsify the existence of the creator. If the issue is not mentioned in the book of religion X clearly, i.e., it is open to a number of interpretations due to linguistic ambiguities, then it is the interpretation that the universe was created 30,000 years ago that is proven false. Other interpretations may survive the scientific attempts at falsification and require further investigation to ascertain their validity.
10- One example of a domain which I do not think science will completely solve its mysteries is that of "free will"---our ability to choose. Since free will means that humans have the capacity to transcend randomness, and genetic, psychological, and environmental determinism, science, with its insistence on the combination of chance and necessity, is unqualified to fully explain it. In fact, metaphysical naturalists, when they take their beliefs to their logical conclusion, consider that "free will" is a mere illusion, a fantasy that humans have created in order to survive the evolutionary struggle.
11- According to the Quranic account, God created Adam as a vicegerent on earth. Humans are supposed to conduct the affairs of the planet following a comprehensive moral code that defines their relationship vis-à-vis Allah, fellow humans, and the environment.
12- Dembski dedicates a section titled "Morality, Altruism, and Goodness" in his article Reflections on Human Origins (see endnote 1) to critically discuss evolutionary ethics and evolutionary psychology. As mentioned in endnote 5, I avoid going into the details of the evolutionary theory for the sake of keeping the focus on ID. For more information about evolutionary psychology, refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology
13- That is the problem with the name "intelligent design." I think the conclusion of the ID calculation should stop at showing the defect of an explanation.
Please feel free to contact the Health & Science editor at: ScienceTech@islam-online.net
Where does the debate now stand over science and the Bush administration?
Chris Mooney; July 19, 2005
For policy wonks and issue advocates, a new area of specialization has recently arrived on the scene: "Scientific integrity." Bills on the subject have been introduced in Congress. Interest groups, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), now specialize in tracking political interference with science. Foundations are dedicating energy and funding to the area; journalists, commentators, pundits and bloggers have also climbed on board. One (yours truly) even has a book coming out on the subject. There's room, it almost seems, for a career here.
All of this activity has been triggered by repeated charges that the Bush administration has reached a new low in its willingness to twist and undermine scientific information to suit desired policy objectives. Such accusations have a four year history, stretching from early concerns over whether the administration would even name a science adviser, through 2001 debates over stem cells and global warming, past reports complied by members of Congress denouncing the administration's meddling with science going on at federal agencies and the composition of scientific advisory committees, and up to a landmark moment--a February 2004 statement by the Union of Concerned Scientists (and assorted scientific community superstars) that denounced the Bush administration for unprecedented and systematic abuses and misuses of science.
However, the story doesn't end there. If anything, it has gathered momentum since the pivotal UCS statement, as new anecdotes and examples have repeatedly popped up suggesting that the Bush administration hasn't learned the error of its ways. Whistleblowers from branches of government ranging from the Climate Change Science Program to the Bureau of Land Management have come forward with stories of cynical informational meddling that have made the front pages of papers ranging from The New York Times to The Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, the UCS and PEER have begun to survey scientists within federal agencies -- so far they've tackled the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service --to determine whether they think political players are meddling with scientific information. Scores of surveys have now come back with answers in the affirmative.
Perhaps most important of all in focusing attention on the issue of "scientific integrity" have been the climate change fiascos in the run up to the G8 summit. Shortly before President Bush departed for Gleneagles, Scotland, whistleblower Rick Piltz dropped a bomb with his revelations, reported on in The New York Times, that a political appointee at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (who had formerly worked at the American Petroleum Institute) had taken a metaphorical red pen to government climate science reports and inserted language that had the effect of magnifying uncertainty about various conclusions. A media frenzy began as this same individual--Philip Cooney--then resigned and promptly went to work at ExxonMobil, now perhaps the leading corporation encouraging skepticism about the ongoing climate crisis.
All of these events have had a cumulative effect, making it virtually impossible to take seriously the ongoing denials from the White House that anything unusual is going on. Those denials do, of course, persist; with each new revelation comes a dutiful response: "there's nothing out of the ordinary here"; "this is a typical interagency review process"; "the debate here is really over policy, not science"; and so forth. But such replies don't hold up very well when you consider that the critics of the administration are themselves current or former government agency scientists who know very well what an "interagency review process" is and nevertheless insist that such processes have been corrupted in this administration. Even if we concede that some of these whistleblowers may have an ax to grind, we're nevertheless left with a huge horde of disgruntled government scientists who can't possibly all be wrong.
Where does that leave us? Assuming--as I think we must given all of the evidence--that something alarming is happening here at the interface between science and politics, it's worth asking why exactly that might be so. My conclusion is that what we're seeing is the result of a certain type of constituency-driven politics, in which federal agencies get staffed with Republican political appointees who know very well who their friends are and are willing to listen to them on matters of science. So business interests get their "scientific" arguments privileged at agencies that are supposed to be protecting endangered species and the environment, even as religious conservative interests get their "science" humored at agencies dedicated to public health and even, to some extent, medical research.
We don't have to postulate a nefarious conspiracy, then, to explain the war on science that has manifested itself during the Bush administration. We need only point to an army of political appointees in government agencies who are going about their jobs the only way they know how--i.e., talking a lot to their industry or religious right allies and frequently rewarding their lobbying attempts in scientific areas. In short, it's a politico-scientific spoils system. And as this particular spoils system proceeds to allocate rewards, it simultaneously undermines, cheapens, and compromises federal agencies as reliable, public-oriented sources of scientific analysis and information.
But if we're looking at a government-wide problem based on staffing and a culture that has developed within federal agencies, that suggests it won't be easily solved. In fact, the damage done could long outlast the Bush administration, because the integrity of the federal government will have been compromised and because taxpayer-funded agencies may not recover quickly (or at all) from the traumas they've been put through. Here's where the political abuse of science becomes a core issue for the nation's future: The crisis promises to leave Americans with a less reliable, less effective, less professional, and ultimately less respectable government. The consequences will be felt in a wide range of areas, ranging from public health to the environment.
In conclusion, then, "scientific integrity" emerged virtually out of nowhere as a central issue under the Bush administration, and has since transmogrified into a broad-scale concern about good governance and the effectiveness and integrity of agencies funded by the public purse. The standard way to address concerns about good government is to initiate reform, and momentum has now begun to build in support of precisely that outcome, at least among Democrats in Congress. (Though there are prominent exceptions, most GOP representatives remain unwilling to seriously investigate or criticize the Bush administration.) In the meantime, however, political science abuse shows no sign of going away. And already, the wounds it has inflicted will take a very, very long time to heal.
WSET LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) _ Supporters of creationism are meeting this week in Lynchburg.
More than 12-hundred people enrolled in the weeklong conference, which was organized by a national organization called "Answers in Genesis."
Company C-E-O Ken Ham says they chose Liberty University for the conference because it's one of the fastest growing Christian universities in the country.
The group says many Christian universities don't require a course in creationism, but Liberty does.
Ham says the goal of the conference is to gain more support for the creationist theory, and he believes it's working.
He says evolution versus creationism controversies are going on in about 20 states in one form or another -- in relation to school boards or textbooks and such.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press
Jul 19 2005
Robin Turner, Western Mail
A SELF-STYLED "detoxification therapist" accused of falsely claiming he could cure cancer walked free from court yesterday after the case against him collapsed.
Roy McKinnon, 62, a former Royal Bank of Scotland official, had been treating ill people including cancer patients with a battery powered "zapper" which he said could alter their DNA.
He also offered herbal remedies and his practices made him and another therapist the subject of an investigative programme by BBC Wales's Week In Week Out team.
The programme involved input from Malcolm Mason, professor of oncology at the University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, who said a cure for cancer "did not exist".
Working from his semi-detached home in Garden Crescent, Gorseinon, Swansea, Mr McKinnon based some of his therapies on work by Hulda Regehr Clark, a doctor in Tijuana, Mexico, who claims in a book to have discovered "the cure for all cancers".
But at Swansea Crown Court yesterday, Judge David Hale said there was no evidence that Mr Mackinnon had ever claimed that he could cure cancer.
He said the complainant in the case, Janet Evans, did not specify in her evidence that Mackinnon told her he could cure cancer.
Mackinnon, charged under the 1968 Trade Descriptions Act with "recklessly making a statement he could cure the condition known as cancer", was preparing for trial having entered a not guilty plea.
Crown prosecutor Frances Jones attempted at the last minute to change the wording of the charge, inserting the word "halt" instead of "cure".
But eventually the prosecutor agreed to offer no evidence and Mackinnon was declared not guilty before a jury was sworn in.
Afterwards he said, "It's a relief because this has been hanging over me for two years. This has been a waste of taxpayers' money.
"After finishing my life as a banker I started to learn about alternative medicine. Now I regard myself as a teacher who can help others to understand their medical problems. I never said I could cure cancer."
He added that he believed the battery-powered zapper could help to alter people's DNA and help clear the body of toxins.
Asked if he would now continue treating people following his acquittal, he said, "I don't know. I'm no spring chicken now."
As Mackinnon left court yesterday, he clutched a book written by Hulda Clark, entitled The Cure for All Cancers.
She claims that all cancers and many other diseases are caused by "parasites, toxins, and pollutants" and can be cured within a few days by administering a low-voltage electric current, herbs and other non-standard treatments.
Mackinnon added yesterday, "As the judge said, I did not say I had the cure but I have helped people. I specialise in detoxification therapy and have been doing this now for around 20 years."
A spokesman for Week In Week Out said, "It would not be advisable to comment at this stage."
Researchers from Exeter University have warned that some websites on alternative or complementary medicine have been discouraging patients from using conventional cancer therapies.
One website was criticised for false claims about chemotherapy, key to treating many cancers. It suggested "women with breast cancer are likely to die faster with chemotherapy than without".
Professor Edzard Ernst who headed the study said, "Cancer patients get confused in the maze of claims and counter-claims and often turn to the internet for information which can give advice that has led to real harm and even death in some cases."
By Jim Brown and Jody Brown
July 20, 2005
(AgapePress) - A federal court is being asked to dismiss an ACLU lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Pennsylvania school district's science policy.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State are challenging a new policy that requires teachers in the Dover School District to read a one-minute statement at the beginning of ninth-grade biology classes. Students are told that evolution is a theory that contains flaws, and that intelligent design is an alternative explanation for the origins of life.
Richard Thompson is president of the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the district. He says the ACLU's claims that the policy violates the so-called "separation of Church and State" are unfounded.
"This is really a tempest in a teapot," Thompson asserts. "Basically a one-minute statement, where intelligent design is mentioned twice, would never have been considered by our founding fathers -- when they wrote the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment -- [to constitute] establishment of religion in [violation] of that clause."
According to the attorney, the brief disclaimer that teachers are required to read does not promote religion -- in fact, the policy expressly forbids that. "This minor change to Dover's science curriculum was simply a modest step by a small-town school board to improve the science education of its students," he says.
A press release from the Michigan-based Law Center notes the ACLU's persistence in using the Establishment Clause as a means to remove from public life anything that might be considered favorable to religion -- things such as prayer, display of the Ten Commandments, and Nativity scenes. But even recent Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution, says the TMLC, do not go to the extent being espoused by the ACLU to prevent students from simply being told that alternatives to Darwinism exist.
"The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are so zealously attacking this one-minute statement because they don't want any [indications] of success by any school board that questions Darwin's theory," Thompson explains. Their opposition, he contends, is based on a fear that "once that starts, you know, it's like trying to plug a hole in the dike."
The ACLU and the judge have yet to respond to the district's motion for summary judgment. A trial date as already been set for late September.
© 2005 AgapePress all rights reserved.
Before Darwin: Reconciling God and Nature
2005, Yale University Press; 336p., illustrations
creationism:history, religion:history, science:history
Caught up in our own times, we can easily be deceived into thinking that the battle between those who view the Bible as literally true and the scientists who come up with demonstrations that it is not is something that started sometime around the Scopes trial. But for 200 years before Darwin, scientists and philosophers had faced the difficulties that Enlightenment thinking had brought for those who thought the Bible literally true. Keith Thomson gives the history of the conflict before Darwin's Theory of Evolution was proposed and became the cornerstone of biology. He examines thinking on both sides of the issue, and is fair to both; after all, science came up with flawed evaluations for, say, the age of the Earth or for heredity, and the clerics came up with explanations that only seem absurd with the hindsight we have the luxury of displaying from the twenty-first century. It is a great story of a march toward eventual understanding, full of odd personalities and dramatic events. It ends up, indeed, with the famous debate between "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce and "Darwin's Bulldog" T. H. Huxley in 1860, a debate that occurred within the Oxford University Museum. Thomson has been the director of the museum, as well as a Professor of Natural History, so his qualifications to tell this story are exemplary. Thomson covers especially the controversy within England (although it was hot throughout Europe) because contributing to it were many Englishmen on both sides. Christians had to reconcile their faith with what scientific evidence demonstrated to them, not only about the age of the earth but about the imperfections within creatures and the amorality of animals in competition for resources. Thomson shows that the way forward for Christians devoted to their Bibles as well as to natural history was to accept that the sacred texts were not scientific texts, and were metaphorical. Science and religion would deal with two different realms.
[ Reviewed by Rob Hardy, email@example.com ]
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In traditional radiation therapy, one must use multiple beams of x rays to deliver a uniform dose to a lung tumor; often at least one of the x-ray beams will exit from the healthy (non-tumor-containing) lung and potentially damage it. On the other hand, positively charged, subatomic protons only travel a limited distance through the body; they never make it to the other lung, and they also are more likely to spare nearby organs such as the esophagus and heart. However, the protons' finite range makes their trajectories particularly sensitive to density changes in the lung, caused, for example, by the expansion of the lung during inhalation. For that reason, if the proton treatment is not carefully planned, there is the chance of missing the tumor, thus decreasing the chance of curing the patient. So in planning the treatment of lung cancer patients, the researchers adopted the 4D approach, which is already used in traditional x-ray cancer therapy. In the 4D approach, one takes into account how the patient's breathing moves the lung back and forth over time (the fourth dimension) so that the radiation hits the tumor precisely over all phases of a patient's breathing cycle.
In a study of four patients at Massachusetts General Hospital, the researchers have found that planning and carrying out 4D proton therapy delivers excellent dose levels to lung tumors in all cases. The only thing preventing this technique from wider use is the need to develop an algorithm that cuts down the currently lengthy time it takes to calculate and plan the proton beam's direction and intensity for each breathing phase. The 4D approach is also applicable to radiation therapy using carbon ions, which is currently being used to help defeat lung cancer in a couple of centers in Japan. (Paper WE-E-J-6C-7; for more information on the meeting; go to http://www.aapm.org/meetings/05AM/)
While currently small, the numbers of proton therapy centers are expected to grow exponentially over the next 20 years; for example, a major proton therapy center is scheduled to open at the University of Texas's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Spring 2006.
ELECTRON PARAMAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (EPRI) may become a useful tool for determining crucial oxygen levels in tumors and other biological tissue. Oxygen is central to many diseases; for example, the absence of oxygen makes a cancer cell more resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. Taking advantage of the properties of electrons in certain biochemical compounds, Charles Pelizzari (firstname.lastname@example.org) and his colleagues use a novel technique to form images of the oxygen distribution in small animals with millimeter spatial resolution. In a talk at the AAPM meeting, Pelizzari's group will present EPR oxygen images superimposed on MRI anatomical images of animals. Developing these tools at the Center for In-Vivo EPR Imaging at the University of Chicago, the researchers create these important maps of oxygen levels by magnetically manipulating the unpaired electrons in certain oxygen-containing molecules, including free radicals. Most electrons in atoms and molecules form pairs that mutually cancel out their internal magnetic properties, but unpaired electrons can give the atom/molecule "paramagnetic" properties that cause them to be weakly attracted to an external magnetic field.
Electron paramagnetic resonance imaging (EPRI) obtains pictures of molecules with unpaired electrons in a way that is similar to the way MRI obtains images of atomic nuclei such as the hydrogen in water: an image is formed when paramagnetic molecules, lined up in a magnetic field, absorb and then re-emit electromagnetic waves in or near the microwave portion of the spectrum. Using a series of magnetic fields that vary in strength over a given region of space, these emissions can be reconstructed into a 3D image.
Where EPRI is advantageous over MRI is in providing quantitative images of the distribution of oxygen in living tissues. Pelizzari expects that one day this EPR methodology will obtain submillimeter-resolution maps and also be scaled up to human dimensions. A potential long-term benefit of EPR imaging should be in obtaining both maps of radiation-resistant tumor regions before treatment and in providing quick feedback on the results of cancer therapy in days or even hours, without the use of PET scans which require radioactivity. (Meeting talk WE-D-I-609-8)
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"DIVINE DESIGN" LEGISLATION ON HOLD IN UTAH
Chris Buttars, the Utah state senator who recently announced his plans to introduce legislation requiring instruction in "divine design" in the state's public schools, is now having second thoughts. On July 15, 2005, the Associated Press reported that "after talks with the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Patti Harrington, he's comfortable -- at least for now -- with what Utah classrooms are teaching." According to Buttars, Harrington told him that "we should not be teaching human evolution of any kind," while Harrington herself was quoted as saying, "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." In a subsequent article in the Salt Lake Tribune, Buttars said, ominously, that his conversation with Harrington assured him that teachers who teach human evolution "will be dealt with." If not, he will consider introducing his "divine design" legislation in the 2007 legislative session.
But the state's director of curriculum, Brett Moulding, told the Tribune that although teaching human evolution is not specifically mandated by the state science standards, it is not prohibited either, adding that no action would be taken by the state against teachers who taught human evolution. Moulding suggested that Harrington's remarks quoted by the Associated Press were misunderstood; she was not available to comment to the Tribune. University of Utah professor Dennis Bramble was aghast at the very idea that teachers might be penalized for teaching human evolution: "I think the job of public schools is to present modern science as we know it and inform students about how science works," he said. "The genetic similarity between modern apes and modern humans is extremely high ... That combined with an increasingly complete fossil record ... is compelling."
The Tribune subsequently noted in a July 18 editorial that "the Utah public schools have a state board, a state superintendent and officials and experts of various specialities seeking to do what is, under the best of circumstances, a difficult job. What Utah schools clearly do not need is a Grand Inquisitor, no matter how badly state Sen. Chris Buttars wishes to secure the position." The editorial also argued that while the state standards mandate "the teaching of evolution as exactly what it is, 'central to modern science's understanding of the living world,'" they also stress that "'[s]cience is a way of knowing,' not the way of knowing, and thus the necessary understanding of evolution should not be seen to challenge any religion or other belief system." The Provo Daily Herald was briefer: it awarded a "buffalo chip" to Buttars "for mucking around where religion doesn't belong -- in the public school curriculum."
For NCSE's previous coverage of the threatened "divine design" bill, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2005/UT/547_divine_design_legislation_th_6_9_2005.asp
For the Salt Lake Tribune's story, visit: http://www.sltrib.com/ci_2864394
For the Salt Lake Tribune's editorial, visit: http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_2869583
FTE SEEKS TO INTERVENE IN DOVER
The case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board took a twist during a hearing on July 14, 2005, when lawyers for the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) sought to intervene in the case. A successful intervention would make FTE a co-defendant with the Dover Area School Board, able to bring in its own lawyers and expert witnesses. FTE served in effect as the institutional headquarters of "intelligent design" before the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture was founded in 1996, and was responsible for publishing Of Pandas and People (first edition 1989; second edition 1993), which popularized "intelligent design" as a supposed alternative to evolution.
Pandas is at the heart of the case in Dover. It was implicated in the controversy early, when Dover Area School Board member William Buckingham attempted to have it adopted as a supplementary textbook. After he was unsuccessful, fifty-eight copies of the book -- two classroom sets -- were anonymously donated to the district. The board subsequently required a statement to be read to Dover biology students suggesting "intelligent design" as a credible scientific alternative to evolution, and concluding "The reference book, Of Pandas and People , is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves."
According to the York Dispatch, Jon Buell, the president of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, told the court that FTE is "not at all" a religious organization, and that he "doesn't want the book to be synonymous with the school board" because "judging from what he has read, [the board] wanted intelligent design in its biology classes for religious reasons." Buell said that a ruling that "intelligent design" was religious would make the Pandas textbook "radioactive" in public schools, and would be "catastrophic" for the marketability of both the present (second) edition of Pandas and the forthcoming third edition (to be retitled The Design of Life), citing possible losses in the neighborhood of half a million dollars.
On cross-examination, Eric Rothschild, of the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton produced a copy of FTE's tax return, on which its primary purpose is described as "promoting and publishing textbooks presenting a Christian perspective," and a copy of its articles of incorporation, according to which its purposes include "making known the Christian gospel and understanding of the Bible." Buell blamed the phrases on the accountant and attorney who prepared the documents. Rothschild also produced a copy of an early draft of Pandas that used the term "creationism" regularly, and pointed out that the term "creation" in the draft of Pandas was replaced with "intelligent design" in the published version. Buell claimed that "creation" was a "placeholder term" and was devoid of religious connotations when the drafts were written.
The judge is expected to issue a decision on FTE's motion to intervene in the case shortly. In other news from Dover, William Buckingham, the school board member who was instrumental in fomenting the controversy, is moving to Mount Airy, North Carolina, for health reasons; the Thomas More Law Center, representing the defendants in Kitzmiller, filed a motion for summary judgment in the case, which is not expected to be successful; and the court is currently considering the question of whether reporters for the local newspapers -- the York Daily Record and the York Dispatch -- will be required to be deposed, amid accusations from the defense of their inaccuracy and bias. The trial is presently scheduled to begin in late September.
For the York Dispatch's story on the hearing, visit: http://www.yorkdispatch.com/Stories/0,1413,138~10021~2966761,00.html
For the Philadelphia Inquirer's story on the hearing, visit: http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/12135742.htm
For the York Daily Record's archive of relevant articles, visit: http://www.ydr.com/news/doverbiology/
For NCSE's previous coverage of Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=PA
For NCSE's page of resources on Pandas, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=21
TEACHER CONVICTED OF TEACHING EVOLUTION
Yesterday, July 21, was the eightieth anniversary of the conviction of John Thomas Scopes in Dayton, Tennessee, for violating the state's Butler Act, which forbade teachers in public schools "to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." (The news was announced on the front page of The New York Times with the prolix headline, "Scopes Guilty, Fined $100, Scores Law; Benediction Ends Trial, Appeal Starts; Darrow Answers Nine Bryan Questions.") The conviction was later overturned on a technicality, but the Butler Act remained on the books until it was repealed in 1967, anticipating the Supreme Court's 1968 ruling in Epperson v. Arkansas that such statutes violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
For more on the background, events, and aftermath of the Scopes trial, there is no better treatment than Edward J. Larson's Pulitzer-Prize-winning Summer for the Gods : The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (Basic Books 1997; Harvard University Press 1998). On the web, try the comprehensive Scopes Trial website run by Douglas O. Linder, a professor of law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Also on the web is a trove of unpublished photographs from the trial, recently discovered in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution by Marcel C. LaFollette (who, by the way, was the editor of Creationism, Science, and the Law: The Arkansas Case , MIT Press 1983 -- the essential book about McLean v. Arkansas, which successfully challenged the constitutionality of Arkansas's equal time for creation science law).
For the July 21, 1925, story in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0721.html#article
For Douglas O. Linder's comprehensive Scopes Trial website, visit: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/scopes.htm
For the photographs from the trial recently discovered in the Smithsonian, visit: http://www.siarchives.si.edu/research/scopes.html
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Why do so many evolutionists feel threatened by Intelligent Design Theory?
If you read the letters to the editor by evolutionists, you will find that evolution today is no longer a science but a fundamentalist, close-minded religion (Jim Stone letter, July 13, "Intelligent Design old, false argument").
The reason the fundamentalist evolutionists become so upset with competing theories is not because it threatens their science, but it threatens their faith.
If you want to test this idea, just make this statement to any fundamentalist evolutionist: "I do not believe evolution as presented." Notice I did not say I do not believe in evolution, only that I do not believe their theories. You will find people such as Mr. Stone will call you a heathen, a blasphemer and an infidel. Sound familiar?
Evolution as practiced today has become a right-wing, close-minded fundamentalist religion. If you do not convert you will be persecuted. If evolution is a real science I could question it without persecution. In academics, if I question established ideas, I am considered intellectual, except for evolution.
Here is how science works today. You make a discovery, then you make up a story about evolution that sounds like it could have happened. If I discover something about genetics, I am forced by the science establishment to make up a story about how evolution did this. The real irony about this is that evolutionists laugh at silly Bible stories, while their stories about evolution sound as ridiculous as genetic mutations will turn us all into Spiderman and X Men one day.
It is the responsibility of evolutionists to present a theory that I can accept. It is not my responsibility to just believe. If your theories about evolution are so weak that no one believes you, then it is your fault. The reason you are losing the debate is you have taken the science of evolution and turned it into just one of those old, prehistoric religions of worshiping stones, animals, celestial bodies etc.
Harold Daigle Jr.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Among the idolatrous altars the right now worships at in its rush to rescind the Enlightenment is the church of "Intelligent Design." According to the scripture of this religion, something as complex as the human eye could not have evolved on its own without the guidance of God (or God's equivalent, and, therefore, God) managing the process.
Similarly, according to this view, an intelligence lies behind the unfolding of the entire universe.
I hope the reader will consider it a healthy skepticism that asks supporters of intelligent design to explain the following:
A story: a person clearly troubled by the seeming irreconcilability of a good God and the world all around, once asked a Tanna -- one of the earliest rabbis and, clearly, a believer in intelligent design--why fruit rots. The reason, responded the sage, is so that produce merchants cannot hold on to their merchandise indefinitely, selfishly driving up the price.
Questioning a belief in intelligent design -- a God-controlled creation -- is as old as the Bible. No -- as old as human reason.
Scientists claim the problem with intelligent design is that it is not subject to testing; it cannot be proved or disproved and thus is must remain in the realm of religion. But this is an unsatisfying conclusion because it still leaves us with the possibility that it might be true. And it can't be.
Here is the real reason why: If the mechanisms of Darwinian evolution are, in fact, an accurate model for the development of life on Earth, then it is reasonable to expect that some life forms and structures would come out looking like they were intelligently designed while others would not.
But if Darwin was wrong and the development of life is, in fact, directed by a, well, Director of Life, then everything would have to be designed intelligently. And very clearly it is not. Of course one could argue that God, (or the equivalent of God -- for those who want to smuggle intelligent design into our science curriculum) has a "design" which we limited human beings cannot discern. This is God's answer to Job in the Bible. But it cannot be acceptable to us.
I can go with mosquitoes -- even though it seems to me that an intelligent designer could have made frogs vegetarians, concurrently solving the problem of pond scum. But I just get stuck at childhood leukemia.
Proponents of intelligent design hurt the cause of religion. Ethical monotheism requires a belief in a God who not only creates, but who is good. And intelligent design is not reconcilable with the notion of a good God. God created the laws of the universe and, so far as we can discern, there is a certain randomness built into these laws. Yet it is out of this that life evolves.
All those forms and structures which make no sense, or which defy meaning, give us the opportunity to use our own intelligence to make things better -- as we do when we scour our bathtub, care for the sick and seek a cure for cancer. A good God needs human beings to improve on the unintelligent events of evolution. In doing so, we become more fully human -- partners with God in a less than perfectly intelligent universe.
( Jonathan Gerard is Rabbi of Temple Covenant of Peace in Easton and a brief, solution-focused marriage and family therapist.
By KELLY DAVIS
July 22, 2005
For Lewis Young, it boils down to statistics.
He said it simply was unlikely the exotic animals gracing the lobby of the travel agency where he works or the holly, lilies and begonias lining the walk to the door, came into being without something smart to help nature along.
"I don't care what the fossil record says," he said recently in a meeting room in the Greenville offices of Piedmont Travel, where he is a group tour coordinator. "There is no way statistically (Charles) Darwin's theory of evolution can function."
Mr. Young is a self-described "pre-suppositionalist." In his definition, one who habitually questions the conclusions about the world that come from educators, peers and life experience.
The 59-year-old Greenville native said he was so concerned about what he has read lately about the flaws in evolutionary theory, that he has coordinated an August forum on the subject, just in time for the start of school.
This year also happens to be the 80th anniversary of the Scopes "Monkey" Trial, the Tennessee court case that featured a sensational debate about the validity of evolution as a science topic in public education.
Mr. Young said he was bothered the debate is now all but dead, with the U.S. Supreme Court having dictated only mainstream science views of evolution are to be taught in public schools — of which he was a proud product.
He also is a 1963 Wofford College graduate in English and possesses a homebuilder's license from a previous career as a custom home builder.
Named "Uncommon Dissent Forum: Scientists Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing," the three-day event Aug. 4 through Aug. 6 at the Palmetto Expo Center is to consist of a panel of nine individuals, six of them scientists, all of them prominent in the cultural debate raging about the origins of life. He offers a $30 discount to the $145 registration fee to students and teachers.
Supported by the Discovery Institute, he plans up to 15 similar conferences around the nation over the next five years if the Greenville event draws enough interest.
Mr. Young's desire to set up the forum was kindled last November after reading several articles on the topic and a book with a similar title edited by philosopher William Dembski.
Mr. Dembski also is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute of Seattle, a think tank whose president, Bruce Chapman, former deputy assistant to President Ronald Reagan, characterizes Darwinism as "a theory in crisis."
The panelists were recommended to Mr. Young and contacted on his behalf by the institute, a leading force in the intelligent design movement.
Developed as an alternative to theories of life's origins relying on spontaneous development of reproducing systems, intelligent design proffers the idea that only an intelligent force could have created complex biology.
Wary of being labeled metaphysical or pseudoscientific, its proponents typically do not give a name to the designer and avoid Christian or other religious references.
But the planned master of ceremonies, Thomas Woodward, is a bible and theology professor at Trinity College of Florida.
The title of his 2003 doctoral dissertation was "A Rhetorical History of the Intelligent Design Movement."
Concerned about a religious extremist response to the forum that could water down its message, Mr. Young said forcefully it was not organized to promote intelligent design.
Some area academicians are unhappy it was organized at all. They say theories that turn to supernatural forces to explain life are beyond science, cannot be considered science and should not be presented as science to students, teachers or anyone else.
Clemson University evolutionary biologist and assistant philosophy professor Kelly C. Smith was blunt: "Intelligent design is a savvy political movement," he said. "It's not a movement within science or philosophy. It's very clever. They organize conferences, put out glossy publications and slick Web sites, but the whole thing is designed to give people the false impression there are bigger problems with evolution than there really are."
Mr. Young said students and scientists should not be embarrassed about wondering if something intelligent created life.
"I go on record as an evolutionist," Mr. Young said. "I believe very strongly there is evidence that supports evolution, but not to the degree that Darwin's theory presents it."
Kelly Davis can be reached at (864) 260-1277 or by e-mail at davisk@IndependentMail.com.
By Terence P. Jeffrey July 23, 2005
You might think it a pretty good indicator the federal government is spending too much money on medical research when it began paying advocates of "alternative" medicine to study the effect of yoga on "generalized anxiety."
But then you are not Sen. Arlen Specter, the liberal Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for the National Institutes of Health, the federal agency that funds medical research.
Thanks to Mr. Specter, the full Appropriations Committee last week approved a record $29.4 billion in funding for NIH in fiscal 2006. That is $1.1 billion more than fiscal 2005, and $905 million more than President Bush requested. In fiscal 1994, when Bill Clinton was president and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, the NIH spent only $10.95 billion. Since then, with Republicans controlling Congress, NIH spending has almost tripled. In 2000, when Mr. Bush first ran for president as a "compassionate conservative," he promised by 2003 he would double NIH spending from fiscal 1998's $13.6 billion. He was as good as his word.
But now, like an uncontrollable malignancy, NIH won't stop growing. Explaining the new NIH-spending increase he is pushing now, Mr. Specter said: "The biggest bang for the buck in the federal budget is health-care spending." Nonsense. NIH suffers from bloated bureaucracy syndrome, vomiting tax dollars on unnecessary projects all over the country. Congress needs to give it a full fiscal exam and then amputate the extremities.
Consider some current grants: NIH is funding a yoga study at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). NIH calls it a "collaboration with the Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF and the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana in India to establish the Center on Yoga, Health and Meditation."
This is part NIH's effort "to establish global collaborations and cross-cultural exchange among foreign and U.S. institutions to design and implement research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches that have emerged from traditional indigenous medical systems." In other words, a form of foreign aid.
Members of Congress who vote for increased NIH funding should explain to taxpayers in places like Nashville, Tenn., and Searchlight, Nev., why the federal government should force them to subsidize a yoga project at a state university hospital on the fringes of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district.
And it is not as if UCSF got the only yoga-related grant. The NIH grants database lists 15 other ongoing projects involving this specific "traditional indigenous medical system." Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, for example, is working on a five-year study titled, "Yoga as a treatment for insomnia."
At the University of Colorado in Denver, NIH is funding a study of "Yoga for Generalized Anxiety Disorder." This is "an exploratory study assessing the feasibility and promise of studying yoga for the treatment of persons with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)."
Never heard of GAD? If the NIH abstract for this grant is correct in stating GAD is "a chronic and debilitating condition that affects 5 percent of the general population," it is almost certain one of your neighbors or co-workers must have it. Now, your tax dollars will help researchers in Denver "test whether unique positive psychospiritual outcomes are associated with use of our yoga treatment."
Congress needs to study the "psychospiritual outcome" paying for this research has on hardworking taxpayers. My hypothesis is more than 5 percent will get sick just reading about it.
Congress must heal itself here. It can start by putting NIH spending in perspective. The administration requested a 2006 budget of $20.3 billion in discretionary spending for the Justice Department, the agency responsible for prosecuting terrorists inside the United States. That is $9 billion less than Mr. Specter's pumped-up NIH budget. Congress, meanwhile, has a clear constitutional mandate to maintain a Justice Department, which carries out a core function of the federal government. But nothing in the Constitution authorizes Congress to fund and operate a medical research service that overlaps and often subsidizes the work of private pharmaceutical and health-care companies, not to mention those devoted to "traditional indigenous medical systems."
If Congress sends President Bush an NIH budget even more bloated than what he proposed, he should puncture it with a veto pen. When that causes anxiety among the faculty at certain universities, and among certain members of Congress, they should lie down and do some yoga.
Terence P. Jeffrey is a nationally syndicated columnist.
HYDROGEN HURDLES: THEY AREN'T POT HOLES, THE BRIDGE IS OUT.
In the other technology initiative of the Bush administration, House subcommittees on both energy and research heard Wednesday about some of the problems. They could have found out a year ago by reading the APS Panel on Public Affairs report on the Hydrogen Initiative http://www.aps.org/publicaffairs/index.cfm. But while members of Congress never tire of hearing about the absence of greenhouse emissions and how hydrogen could reduce dependence on Arab oil, they seem less interested in production and storage.
WORLD PEACE: THE INFLATION RATE EXCEEDS THAT OF REAL ESTATE.
Avant-garde film director David Lynch ("Mulholland Dr.") wants to raise $7B to create world peace through a massive Transcendental Meditation program. A corps of 8,000, trained in TM, would create a coherent unified field over Earth. I don't mean to be a cynic, but in the 1993 Demonstration Project to reduce violence John Hagelin had 5,000 meditating over an 8 week period for only $1M. He offered to end the war in Kosovo with 7,000 Yogic flyers (flyers are better trained). After 9/11, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi himself, in a full-page ad in the NY Times, turned to "the world's wealthiest." He proposed to create world peace with a corps of 40,000 flyers for $1B. "There must be a few peace-loving billionaires who can raise the money in one day," he said. We see from Iraq that not one cheapskate billionaire came through.
MISSILE DEFENSE: THAT'S EVEN BETTER THAN I THOUGHT IT WAS.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III, director of the Missile Defense Agency, quoted in today's Washington Post: "We have a better than zero chance of successfully intercepting, I believe, an inbound warhead. That confidence will improve over time."
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NANJING, China, July 17 - The captivating tale of Zheng He, a Chinese eunuch who explored the Pacific and Indian Oceans with a mighty armada almost a century before Columbus discovered America, has long languished as a tantalizing footnote in China's imperial history.
Zheng He (pronounced jung huh) fell into disfavor before he completed the last of his early 15th-century voyages, and most historical records were destroyed. Authorities protected his old family home in Nanjing, but it was often shuttered, its rooms used to store unrelated relics.
Now, on the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's first mission in 1405, all that is changing. Zheng He's legacy is being burnished - some critics say glossed over - to give rising China a new image on the world stage.
Books and television shows, replicas of Zheng He's ships and a new $50 million museum in Nanjing promote Zheng He as a maritime cultural ambassador for a powerful but ardently peaceful nation.
Officials have even endorsed the theory, so far unproven, that one of Zheng He's ships foundered on the rocks near Lamu island, off the coast of today's Kenya, with survivors swimming ashore, marrying locals and creating a family of Chinese-Africans that is now being reunited with the Chinese motherland.
The message is that Zheng He foreshadowed China's 21st-century emergence as a world power, though one that differs in crucial respects from Spain, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and, most pointedly, the United States.
"In the heyday of the Ming Dynasty, China did not seek hegemony," says Wan Ming, a leading scholar of the era. "Today, we are once again growing stronger all the time, and China's style of peaceful development has been welcomed all over the world."
The Communist Party hopes to signal to its own people that it has recaptured past glory, while reassuring foreign countries that China can be strong and non-threatening at the same time.
Even within China, though, the use of poorly documented history as modern propaganda prop has generated a backlash.
Several scholars have publicly criticized the campaign as a distortion, saying Zheng He treated foreigners as barbarians and most foreign countries as vassal states. His voyages amounted to a wasteful tribute to a maniacal emperor, some argue.
Zheng He resonates, favorably or not, in Asia. Arguably for the first time since his final voyage in 1433, China is vying to become a major maritime power.
Beijing has upgraded its navy with Russian-built Sovremenny-class guided missile destroyers, Kilo-class diesel submarines and a new nuclear submarine equipped to carry intercontinental ballistic missiles. It has flirted with the idea of building an aircraft carrier, according to conflicting reports in state media.
Sustained double-digit increases in defense spending have helped make China one of the largest military powers in the world, though still well behind the United States. China says it aims only to defend itself. But others are skeptical.
"Since no nation threatens China, one wonders: why this growing investment?" Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asked recently in a speech on China's buildup during a visit to Singapore last month.
Beijing clearly hopes history will help answer the question.
Zheng He was a Chinese Muslim who, following the custom of the day, was castrated so he could serve in the household of a prince, Zhu Di.
Zhu Di later toppled the emperor, his brother, and took the throne for himself. He rewarded Zheng He, his co-conspirator, with command of the greatest naval expedition that world had ever seen. Beginning in July 1405, Zheng He made port calls all around Southeast Asia, rounded India, explored the Middle East and reached the eastern coast of Africa.
The three ships Columbus guided across the Atlantic 87 years later, the Niña, Pinta and Santa María, could fit inside a single large vessel in Zheng He's armada, which at its peak had up to 300 ships and 30,000 sailors. Some of China's maritime innovations at the time, including watertight compartments, did not show up on European vessels for hundreds of years.
Zheng He was China's first big ocean trader, presenting gifts from the emperor to leaders in foreign ports and hauling back crabapples, myrrh, mastic gum and even a giraffe.
In time, though, the emperor turned against seafaring, partly because of the exorbitant cost, partly because of China's religious certitude that it had nothing to learn from the outside world. By the latter part of the 15th century the country had entered a prolonged period of self-imposed isolation that lasted into the 20th century, leaving European powers to rule the seas.
For Chinese officials today, the sudden end of China's maritime ambitions 600 years ago conveniently signals something else: that China is a gentle giant with enduring good will. Zheng He represents China's commitment to "good neighborliness, peaceful coexistence and scientific navigation," government-run China Central Television said during an hourlong documentary on the explorer last week.
Earlier this month, authorities opened a $50 million memorial to Zheng He. Tributes to him fill courtyard-style exhibition halls, painted in stately vermillion and imperial yellow. A hulking statue of Zheng He, his chest flung forward as in many Communist-era likenesses of Mao, decorates the main hall.
As the Zheng He anniversary approached, delegations of Chinese diplomats and scholars also traveled to Kenya to investigate the claims that islanders there could trace their roots to sailors on Zheng He's fleet.
On one remote island, called Siyu, the Chinese found a 19-year-old high school student, Mwamaka Sharifu, who claimed Chinese ancestry. Beijing's embassy in Nairobi arranged for her to visit China to attend Zheng He celebrations. Beijing has invited her back to study in China, tuition-free, this fall.
"My family members have round faces, small eyes and black hair, so we long believed we are Chinese," Ms. Sharifu said in a telephone interview. "Now we have a direct link to China itself."
The outreach effort has generated positive publicity for China in Kenya and some other African countries, as well as around Southeast Asia, where Zheng He is widely admired.
But Zheng He has been more coolly received by some scholars in China and abroad.
Geoff Wade, a China specialist at the National University of Singapore, argued in an academic essay that Zheng He helped the Ming state colonize neighboring countries. His far-flung expeditions aimed at enforcing a "pax Ming" through Southeast Asia, allowing China to wrest control of trade routes dominated at that time by Arabs, he wrote.
Several Chinese experts also questioned whether Zheng He's legacy is as salutary as government officials hope.
Ye Jun, a Beijing historian, said the official contention that Zheng He was a good-will ambassador is a "one-sided interpretation that blindly ignores the objective fact that Zheng He engaged in military suppression" to achieve the emperor's goals.
"These matters should be left to scholars," Mr. Ye said.
Australopithecus afarensis , the early human who lived about 3.2 million years ago, walked upright, according to an "evolutionary robotics" model.
The model, which uses footprints to predict gait, suggests "Lucy", as the first fossil afarensis was called, walked rather like us.
This contradicts earlier suggestions that Lucy shuffled like a bipedally walking chimpanzee.
The research is published in the Royal Society Interface journal.
"I think it is very interesting work," Professor Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, told the BBC News website. "There was controversy as to whether [footprints purported to be from afarensis ] were showing a human pattern. And it looks like they do."
Lucy was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, by a team of palaeoanthropologists who were fans of the Beatles' song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
The ancient hominid had many features reminiscent of her early ape ancestry, but she also carried hints of her future descendents.
Her jaw was protruding and her forehead sloped back. But she seemed human, too; her posture being more upright than that of a chimpanzee.
However, there has been a debate about how "human" Lucy's posture actually was.
Some scientists maintain she was probably rather stooped and may have shuffled awkwardly, much like a modern chimp does when it is walking bipedally for short distances; while others think she was upright, routinely walking tall on two legs.
Twenty-five years ago, some footprints were found in Laetoli, Tanzania. The lonely path, trodden by at least two individuals walking side by side, was preserved immaculately in volcanic ash. It is thought to have been left by a pair of Australopithecus afarensis , vainly retreating from an erupting volcano.
The discovery of the Laetoli footprints generated a flurry of interest in scientists hoping to clear up the "posture debate".
Some felt the prints suggested a human-like gait but others were not convinced.
Now, a team of scientists from around the UK have used computer robotic techniques to work out the most energy efficient gait for afarensis based on Lucy's skeleton and the Laetoli footprint trails.
They claim to have cleared up the debate by finding that, based on their model, Lucy almost certainly did walk tall.
"Assuming that the early human relative Australopithecus afarensis was the maker of the Laetoli footprint trails, our study suggests that by 3.5 million years ago at least some of our early relatives - despite their small stature - could sustain efficient bipedal walking at absolute speeds within the range shown by modern humans," co-author Weijie Wang, from Dundee University, told the Scotsman newspaper.
However, Professor Stringer believes the controversy will not vanish overnight.
"There are still some people who argue that, looking at the anatomy of the foot bones of afarensis , that they were unlikely to have made the Laetoli footprints," he told the BBC News website.
"So it doesn't end the argument because there is still the possibility that there were different creatures around at the time."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/07/20 12:29:35 GMT
© BBC MMV
By LAURAN NEERGAARD
The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 19, 2005; 8:20 PM
WASHINGTON -- The government assembled some leading scientists Tuesday to try again to lay to rest public suspicions that a mercury-based preservative once used in childhood vaccines causes autism.
A day before parents who blame the chemical were to complain to Congress, federal health officials stressed that the only childhood vaccines that still contain the preservative are some, but not all, flu shots _ and that there's no credible evidence that it caused the brain disorder anyway.
But they brought no new data to the unusual gathering that might close the case on thimerosal.
"We don't know, unfortunately, for most kids with autism what causes it," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We are committed to getting answers. It's not going to happen overnight."
A scientist who also has a 12-year-old autistic daughter joined the government in urging that the focus shift to hunting the real culprit and a good treatment.
"We need a war on autism, not a war on childhood vaccines," said Dr. Peter Hotez of George Washington University, who said he may rail against his daughter's grueling brain disorder but is sure that it "had absolutely nothing to do with vaccines she received."
Hotez is a microbiologist attempting to develop a vaccine against hookworm, which attacks children in developing countries.
Autism is a complex developmental disorder best known for impairing a child's ability to communicate and interact. Recent data suggest a 10-fold increase in autism rates over the last decade, although it's unclear how much of the surge reflects better diagnosis and how much is a true rise.
Thimerosal has been used as a pharmaceutical preservative since the 1930s. Although the amount of mercury it contains is very small, it was phased out of routine child vaccines as of 2001 because of concern about increasing doses as babies received ever-more shots.
Studies tracking thousands of children have found no association between autism and thimerosal, but critics say those studies are flawed.
Today, the last childhood shot to contain the preservative is flu vaccine. This fall, manufacturer Aventis Pasteur will provide 8 million thimerosal-free pediatric flu shots, double last year's amount, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., has introduced legislation to speed thimerosal's phase-out from flu vaccine, and parents' groups plan a rally Wednesday to urge more study of thimerosal's past role.
"It's not surprising that some members of the public are left hanging because they're not doing what they should do to look at the issue," said Sallie Bernard, co-founder of SafeMinds. "There's research they (the government) could do that specifically looks at autistic kids and mercury burden."
The National Institutes of Health is funding a California researcher to do that, part of $102 million in autism research this year, said pediatric disease chief Dr. Duane Alexander.
On the Net:
Health and Human Services on autism: http://www.hhs.gov/autism
The Associated Press Wednesday, July 20, 2005; 8:55 PM
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Former televangelist Tammy Faye Messner said Wednesday that cancer has returned to her lungs, marking her third battle with the illness.
Messner was first diagnosed with colon cancer nearly a decade ago and last year announced that the disease has spread to her lungs. It has since reappeared in her lungs, she said.
"I'm not worried, I'm not afraid," Messner said in a telephone interview from New York City. "By the third time you have cancer, you begin to think about your mortality."
The Charlotte resident was just preparing for the premiere of a television documentary on her experience in beating cancer in 2004 when she found out that colon cancer had returned for a second time to one of her lungs.
The documentary titled "Tammy Faye: Death Defying," on Women's Entertainment channel July 25, was a way for her to help others going through the same troubles, she said.
"I wanted to help people," she said. "I felt with cancer and AIDS and these debilitating diseases, we could maybe show the inside (of the experience) and make it a little less frightening."
Despite her ailment, Messner is planning to continue traveling the country to give inspirational talks.
"I thank God, I'm truly one of the lucky ones," Messner said. "There's always people that are worse off than you are, and that's what I look at to give me strength."
The former Tammy Faye Bakker divorced Jim Bakker in 1992 while he was serving a sentence for financial fraud.
The Center for Changing Worldviews
Posted May 30, 2005
Should an effort be made to explain that evolution is just a theory when teaching it in public school? Should teachers explain the racist philosophical views of Darwin and his advocates? How about telling them that the full title of Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, includes The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life?
Could it just be possible that teaching evolution as fact, that students come from animals and without purpose, be responsible in any way for the increase of crime and other social problems, such as rape, that we're seeing amongst our youth today?
Could teaching the 'theory' of creation, that each person is created uniquely with and for a purpose, at least with equal time in the classroom, engender a sense of dignity, justice and a greater value for human life in them?
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that teaching young people that everything about them, including their emotions, aspirations and sense of worth are simply the behavior of nerve cells, would have less than a favorable impact on them.
For instance, as pointed out by Gary DeMar in his editorial, "The Dark Side of Evolution," two evolutionists, writing in the Academy of Science magazine, The Sciences, stated, "Rape is a 'natural, biological' phenonmenon, springing from men's evolutionary urge to reproduce." Couple this with the over-the-edge sex-ed now being taught in schools, should we be surprised when we hear that middle school kids are having sex, even in the classroom?
By teaching students Darwin's theory of evolution on race, that race is nothing more than a part of the evolutionary process, with blacks at the bottom and whites at the top, could it be possible to encourage, even incite, some to white supremacy actions or 'hate crimes' that are on the rise by young people today?
For instance, T. H. Huxley, a 'disciple'of Darwin, wrote, "It may be quite true that some negroes are better than some white men, but no rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the average white man....The highest places in the hierarchy of civilization will assuredly not be within the reach of our dusky cousins...."
It doesn't stop with Darwin. Hitler accepted, and thus promoted, Darwin's theory of stronger and weaker races. Sir Arthur Keith wrote: "The German Führer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution."
Lenin used evolution to brainwash the Soviet Union into a 'scientific atheism.' Mao, responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people, had two favorite books, one by Darwin and the other by Huxley. And Nietzsche, who declared to the world 'God is dead,' believed in the breeding of a master race.
On the one hand students are taught diversity in schools, on the other, evolution. It's time to stop messing with our kid's minds! And it's time to tell them like it is.
If you're not outraged about this, you're not paying attention.
For more on the racist roots of evolution: Go to Changing Worldviews TALK Radio with Sharon Hughes broadcast archives (dated 5/2/05) http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/changing_worldviews/Archives.asp
The Ascent of Racism http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-164.htm
Racism Before and After Darwin http://uk.encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_781529466/Racism.html
Racism: Definition, History http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racist
© Sharon Hughes 2005
Sharon is the President of The Center for Changing Worldviews, and hosts Changing Worldviews TALK Radio which is heard on KDIA AM1640 San Francisco, KGDP in Santa Maria, CA and WITA AM1490 Knoxville,TN, as well as online daily at Oneplace.com, and Thursdays on RighTalk.com. Her column appears on several online news sites including American Daily.com , CaliforniaRepublic.org , ChronWatch.com , Intellectual Conservative , MichNews.com , NewsWithviews.com , Opinionet RenewAmerica.us , and more. For further information visit her: Website www.changingworldviews.com
Science community resists Intelligent Design Theory
Sharon Hughes July 19, 2005
Darwin said that everyone believed in evolution except "the ignorant, stupid or wicked." If you check out MSNBC's online emphasis on the future of evolution you may be surpised to see what's going on today regarding Darwin's 'worldview.' For one thing, teachers at the recent NEA (National Education Association) convention debated on how to teach creationism 'without stifling creative thinking.'
As reported by Ben Feller for MSNBC, teachers want their students to be creative thinkers, like Lisa Marroquin, a biology teacher at Downey High School in a Southern California, who says she tells her students that 'they must learn it (evolution) even if they don't like it, because 'they've got to live in the real world.' In California the real world includes evolution as a key part of California science standards.
There is a growing challenge today regarding teaching evolution-only in schools, due in great part to the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. But, this challenge is not without reaction from those who fear that teaching creationism will erode 'real' science. Intelligent Design is called religious vs. scientific, 'supernatural' vs. natural, while Darwinism is called theory. This is the very reason evolution is being challenged by a growing number of ID advocates in the scientic community.
Biologist, Professor Dean Kenyon of S.F. State, challenged this issue 10 years ago, teaching Intelligent Design while rejecting the term creationism, "because immediately people stereotype me as a biblical fundamentalist." (San Jose Mercury News, 2/6/94) Rather, he would teach that an 'Intelligent Designer' created the first life on earth. This brought some complaints by students and great enmity by his colleagues in the science community. However, at SF State, on what is certainly one of the most liberal campuses in the country, he found support among his fellow professors. U.C. Berkeley Law Professor, Phillip E. Johnson, the unofficial spokesman for the ID movement, is one of those who are carrying the baton in this decade.
Then there are those who believe in 'intelligent design' but not by a Creator. They believe an alien life force is a possible option for explaining creation, and they're serious. Many may be surprised to know that Francis Crick, Nobel Prize winner and one of the discoverers of the DNA, believes that life forms were sent to earth in a space ship by a dying civilization. As a matter of fact, both discoverers of the DNA, Watson and Crick, are outspoken atheists.
Could this 'atheistic worldview' be the cause of the battle over allowing creationism to be taught in schools?
Objective scientists in the Intelligent Design movement are investigating whether or not there is empirical evidence that life on earth was designed by an Intelligent Designer. However, despite ID sometimes being called a theory, the scientific community does not recognize it as such. I have a question for them: Why would you, the scientific community, not welcome the search for evidence in regards to the possibility of Intelligent Design when it is the very purported nature of science to explore all possibilities? Or is this no longer true?
The Intelligent Design community is throwing out the question: Is science broad enough to allow for theories of human origins which incorporate the acts of an intelligent Designer? And is the teaching of the theory of ID appropriate in public education, using scientific evidence, the same that is claimed to be used in teaching Darwinism?
In my previous article on evolution, I covered the racist roots of Darwin's theory of evolution. What is worthy of note here is that he also believed that there is no ultimate foundation for ethics; that there is no ultimate meaning in life; and that free-will is a human myth. Scientific materialism which is quietly ruling in schools is not based so much on sound science as on a worldview that leaves God out. Let's not forget that Darwin was an atheist.
The theory of evolution has only existed since the 19th century. Christianity has existed for over 2,000 and Judaism, longer still, and all religions acknowledge a Creator/God. So, is the debate over teaching creationism alongside evolution in schools a sound scientific battle... or a worldview/religious battle? I think the answer is obvious.
Teachers debate how to handle evolution http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8487329/
The future of evolution http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7093738/
Designed by Aliens? http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v25/i4/aliens.asp
The Center for Science & Culture, Discovery Institute http://www.discovery.org/csc/
International Society for Complexity, Information and Design http://www.iscid.org/
The Racist Roots of Evolution http://www.changingworldviews.com/GuestCommentaries/sharonhughesart28.htm
Sharon Hughes is the president of the Center for Changing Worldviews, and hosts Changing Worldviews TALK Radio, which is heard on KDIA AM1640 San Francisco; WITA AM1490 Knoxville, TN; nationally on Rightalk.com; and internationally on Oneplace.com. Her column appears on several online news sites, including AmericanDaily.com, CaliforniaRepublic.org, ChronWatch.com, Ediblog.com, MichNews.com, Newsbull.com, NewsWithViews.com, RaidersNewsUpdate.com, RenewAmerica.us, and others.
For further information on her lineup of guests and topics, visit www.changingworldviews.com and http://changingworldviews.blogspot.com (blogsite). She can be contacted at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2005 by Sharon Hughes http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/hughes/050719
Press Release Source: Discovery Institute
Wednesday July 20, 6:55 pm ET
SEATTLE, July 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti maps what he depicts as a growing scientific case against neo-Darwinism in his new book, Why is a Fly Not a Horse? (July 2005) Sermonti challenges the myth that all critics of Darwinism are American religious fundamentalists and argues that since genetics does not explain even the present forms of life, genetic mutations cannot alone explain their origin.
The book extends beyond genetics, drawing on a variety of disciplines. "Sermonti describes biology which contradicts Darwinian expectations: leaf insects appearing in the fossil record before leaves, insects before plants, and biological forms that reflect abstract mathematical expressions," said biochemist Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box. "He shows that there are more things in life than are dreamt of in Darwinian philosophy."
Why is a Fly Not a Horse? is the first in a new series of science books from Discovery Institute Press. The Italian version of the book has already generated controversy on the Internet, inviting attacks from pro-Darwin sites in anticipation of its release in English.
Working against this current, Dr. Leendert Van Der Hammen, a member with Sermonti of the Osaka Group for the Study of Dynamic Structures, defended Sermonti's book. He said that by tying together insights from disciplines often studied in isolation -- genetics, molecular biology, morphogenetics, physic, chemistry and mathematics -- Sermonti was able to uncover new weaknesses in the modern theory of evolution.
For Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Jonathan Witt, a former English professor, one of the most remarkable things about the book was its style: "Anyone who believed in reincarnation would say Sermonti was a poet in a former life. His descriptions are phenomenal."
Sermonti is a retired Professor of Genetics at the University of Perugia. He discovered genetic recombination in antibiotic-producing Penicillium and Streptomyces and was Vice President at XIV International Congress of Genetics (Moscow, 1980). He is Chief Editor of Rivista di Biologia, one of the world's oldest biology journals still in publication.
Why is a Fly Not a Horse? is available at bookstores and online from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Source: Discovery Institute
Theory 'great white elephant of contemporary thought'
Posted: July 21, 2005 1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2005 WorldNetDaily.com
More than 400 scientists from all disciplines have signed onto a growing list of skeptics of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life, according to the Seattle-based Discovery Institute.
"Darwin's theory of evolution is the great white elephant of contemporary thought," said David Berlinski, a mathematician and philosopher of science with Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, or CSC. "It is large, almost completely useless, and the object of superstitious awe."
The Discovery Institute, a leading proponent of Intelligent Design, first published its Statement of Dissent from Darwin in 2001.
The think tank challenged statements made in the PBS "Evolution" series, which claimed that no scientists disagreed with Darwinian evolution.
"The fact is that a significant number of scientists are extremely skeptical that Darwinian evolution can explain the origins of life," said John G. West, associate director of the CSC. "We expect that as scientists engage in the wider debate over materialist evolutionary theories, this list will continue to grow, and grow at an even more rapid pace than we've seen this past year."
The institute says that in the past three months, 29 scientists, including eight biologists, have signed the statement, which includes more than 70 biologists.
Two prominent Russian biologists from Moscow State University, Lev V. Beloussov and Vladimir L. Voeikov, are recent signers.
Voeikov is a professor of bioorganic chemistry and Beloussov is a professor of embryology. Both are members of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences.
Voeikov said, "The ideology and philosophy of neo-Darwinism which is sold by its adepts as a scientific theoretical foundation of biology seriously hampers the development of science and hides from students the field's real problems."
West says the talk in media about "science vs. religion" is misleading.
"This list is a witness to the growing group of scientists who challenge Darwinian theory on scientific grounds," he said.
Other prominent biologists who have signed the list include evolutionary biologist and textbook author Stanley Salthe;Richard von Sternberg an evolutionary biologist at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Biotechnology Information;and Giuseppe Sermonti, Editor of Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum.
The list also includes scientists from Princeton, Cornell, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Ohio State University, Purdue and the University of Washington.
RELATED OFFER: Get the book that has answered countless requests for a concise, reader-friendly yet authoritative survey of the very latest scientific evidence against evolution – "The Case Against Darwin " – only $7.95 at WND's online store.
by: Ron Brown / Lynchburg News & Advance
July 20, 2005
--published July 16, 2005
Organizers of the 2005 Creation Mega Conference at Liberty University next week will attempt to prove that teachers of evolution are all about monkey business.
With 27 Christian speakers, many of them with doctorate degrees, the conference will battle the theories of Charles Darwin with science, not religion, organizers say.
Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution, believed that human beings evolved from lesser organisms over many generations.
Darwin's theory, not creationism, is taught in most public schools.
"We'll be able to show people the mounting scientific evidence that supports creationism," said David DeWitt, the director of Liberty University's Center for Creation Studies. "There is so much propaganda out there depicting Creationists as ignorant. We're not a bunch of flat Earthers."
LU is co-hosting the conference with Answers in Genesis, a group headed by Ken Ham, who is one of the chief creationist proponents in America.
"This will be our annual national meeting," said Mark Looy, vice president of outreach and co-founder of Answers in Genesis. "This will be our biggest conference of the year."
Evening sessions of the conference will be open to the public. The sessions will be held at LU's Vines Center.
About 1,100 people had registered for the conference by Friday and more are expected to register Sunday.
The conference will run from Sunday through Friday.
LU was selected as the site for the conference because Answers in Genesis personnel have come to know many LU professors, Looy said.
DeWitt, who is a biology professor at the school, will make a presentation on the molecular evidence of creation.
He says DNA science is consistent with the teachings of the Bible.
Proponents of evolution have used only about 1 percent of the DNA markers in supporting their assertions that human beings are the product of evolution, he said.
Genetic codes for molecules that make up organisms typically have about 3,000 markers, DeWitt said.
"They excluded major portions of the DNA letters and ignore major regions of the DNA where there are significant differences," DeWitt said. "By looking at the full range of DNA letters, I will show important anatomical differences between humans and chimpanzees. Chimpanzees are designed to walk on four legs."
The molecular evidence is only one area that will be explored during the conference.
The overriding theme of the conference is to debunk secular theory and to show a creator's hand in the development of the universe.
"Science rightly interpreted is consistent with the Bible," DeWitt said. "The speakers all believe in the Biblical account of creation."
© 2005 Media General
Thursday, Jul. 21, 2005 Posted: 10:48:14AM EST
A campus ministry has built a devoted training program over the last 19 years for those students interested in deepening their faith.
The Leadership Training program, developed by Great Commission Ministries, is an accelerated discipling program that takes place over the summer. About 180 students participate each summer at two locations, Colorado and Florida.
In Orlando, the students live together in apartment complexes side by side with other college students. In Colorado, all the students live and work at the YMCA. Each student is required to have a full-time job.
In the evenings, different speakers share fundamental values, and this year's Orlando Christian business leaders will address how to integrate Christian faith as an influential leader.
The program emphasizes leadership and quiet time with God. There is also the added bonus of group support and fellowship.
"The students are distracted over the school-year, but this is a summer they can focus on growing," said Dave Schubert, the program director.
Schubert said he is most passionate that the program helps students to become world-changers with a Biblical worldview.
"I just love the idea of mobilizing students from secular college campuses into ministry with a Biblical worldview and go out into the world with the purpose of being missionaries in a sense, regardless of what other careers they have."
The ministry has established a presence on 44 U.S. campuses and 23 countries. Since 1996, over 2400 college students have experienced Leadership Training, the summer missions program that develops leaders.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
By Jeff Coyle
Re: "Evolution theory supports a series of hoaxes and frauds."
To quote Mark Juhl of Bendena: "The Bible still stands firm: 'In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.' That is real science."
I regret to inform Mr. Juhl that this is not "real science," this is real theology. Science cannot begin with a statement from scripture, which is considered to be revealed knowledge. Revealed knowledge is the proper intellectual object of belief. Theology begins from what has been revealed to us by God in the scriptures and in sacred tradition. Science begins with sense knowledge and our experience of the world around us. It is not possible to "prove" creation by any means other than revelation. This is what St. Thomas Aquinas taught in the Middle Ages and it holds true today.
Therefore, since creation is , properly speaking, an object of belief, it cannot be the object of a "real science."
Virginia group sees threat to Darwinist teaching
By Peter Slevin
The Washington Post
Updated: 3:58 a.m. ET July 20, 2005
WASHINGTON - A grass-roots group troubled by recent Republican triumphs and the influence of the Christian right is fighting back in Northern Virginia by defending the teaching of Darwinian evolution, a battleground in the national culture war.
An e-mail last month seeking support from more than 300 local Democratic campaign volunteers and other potential supporters described efforts across the country to challenge evolutionary theory. It warned against "politically infused theological pseudo-science" and said silence risks undermining Virginia schools and weakening the state's economy.
The e-mail was the first shot from an unlikely group led mostly by Vietnam-era protesters who describe their aim as beating Republicans who oppose teaching evolution at their own organizational game. Based in Northern Virginia, the group says its immediate goal is a Fairfax County School Board endorsement of modern Darwinian theory, which faces attacks in many states by Christian groups and education activists.
The group's bigger dream is a statewide repudiation of intelligent design, a movement positing that life is too complex to spring from chemistry and biology alone. Followers, often asserting that a creator must have guided the origins of earth and man, believe public schools would better serve students by teaching unresolved aspects of evolutionary theory.
From Minnesota to Pennsylvania to Georgia to Texas, critics of modern Darwinism have battled to change textbooks and classroom approaches. Politicians, scientists and faith leaders on both sides have joined in the struggle. At hearings in May, the Kansas Board of Education, which has a conservative majority, supported teaching alternatives to evolution, a theory accepted by the vast majority of the scientific establishment.
'I fear for my country'
Evolution's newest defenders, who came together in frustration after the November elections, have little political experience, apart from hoisting Kerry-Edwards signs in morning traffic. They mostly are middle-class people with day jobs. Some had protested the Vietnam War but had rarely felt inspired to undertake political activism since. Together, they call themselves the Message Group and depict themselves as "determined and balanced" voters worried about social conservatives.
"I fear for my country. That sounds like a radical notion, something from the '60s, but there is a pervasive fear, a scariness," said Richard Lawrence, 63, a retired Environmental Protection Agency employee who voted for Nixon. "We're just a small group, maybe with a powerful idea. We don't have a clue, but we're not letting go."
Phillip A. Niedzielski-Eichner (Providence), chairman of the Fairfax School Board, opposes the teaching of creationism or intelligent design, but he questions the need for activism.
"There's no indication this is something we have to clarify for our community or those who teach science in our schools," said Niedzielski-Eichner, who has a degree in biology. It might make sense "if it ever came to light that some of our science teachers were hedging their bets because of concern they wouldn't have the support of the community."
The Message Group was created out of its members' disappointment. After President Bush was reelected and Republicans strengthened their hold on Capitol Hill, the group's future comrades were among millions of demoralized Kerry voters who had invested fresh emotional energy and elbow grease in politics, only to fall short.
Starting from scratch
The members do not hide the fact that they are starting from scratch. Seven months ago, a dozen members were learning one another's names. Five months ago, they were choosing a mission. Now, though their aim of defeating intelligent design is explicit, their strategy is, well, evolving.
They selected evolution after deciding that other issues, such as Social Security revisions, were well-covered by bigger, richer groups. The emerging duel over the teaching of science, they reasoned, was important, local and manageable, an area in which they could make a small impact -- and if they got lucky, a big one.
Lawrence, for the first time in his life, had volunteered for a campaign, holding aloft signs last year for the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), at Wilson Boulevard and North Glebe Road in Arlington during morning rush hour. At a post-election meeting of the Virginia Grassroots Coalition, Lawrence wrote his name and Falls Church phone number on a blackboard and said, "If you want to do something, here's my name and number, and my living room is free."
A few people approached, including Irving Wainer, 61, a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health. At a meeting Dec. 12, they were joined by Mary Detweiler, 54, a fellow Kerry sign-carrier. She had grown "very depressed" about the election, she said, but after feeling energized by the campaign -- her first political role since opposing the Vietnam War -- she did not want to let the spirit go.
At the December meeting at Lawrence's house, the dozen or so guests agreed that they had become more frustrated since the election, not less. They discussed drafting a "biting and pertinent" leaflet to distribute at Metro stations to inspire action from like-minded administration opponents.
But action for, or against, what? It was Wainer who suggested the focus on evolution.
"I decided I had personally had enough," said Wainer, a District resident who said he believes that the activism of the religious right is inhibiting science. He contends that the scientific establishment, initially dismissive of the intelligent-design forces, has been slow to see the debate as a primarily political battle.
"If you can [cast] enough doubt on evolution," the Rev. Terry Fox, a Southern Baptist minister in Kansas, said this year, "liberalism will die."
By February, the group decided to focus on evolution in Virginia. With little money or manpower, they figured their biggest potential advantage lay in the fact that the intelligent-design debate had not reached Virginia. They decided to make a stand by getting there first and setting the terms of the discussion, just as pro-creationism Republicans have done elsewhere, they said.
Greg Tinkler, a young neuroscientist sympathetic to the cause, presented a lesson on Darwinian theory and intelligent design.
"I'm just a citizen, not a scientist," Detweiler said. "I've even had to do a lot of reading to catch up."
She was not alone. A draft leaflet that the group sent to about 75 like-minded people landed with an ugly thud. It warned that "small special-interest groups" were threatening the teaching of evolution in communities across the United States. If science education suffered, the state would suffer, said the 19-line flier, which ended with the cry, "Keep Virginia Evolving!"
The most salient responses, the group's members figured, were the ones that asked why evolution and why now. Most respondents did not see the urgency or a threat. The media director for one national organization advised them to leave well enough alone. If the intelligent-design forces were ignored, she suggested, maybe they would fade away.
"Here we are in our cocoon of Democratic people in Arlington, and we're not getting the response we expected," Detweiler recalled thinking.
Wainer said wryly: "We've got a lot of work to do. The masses are not going to rise up."
The Message Group went back to work. The members decided they needed publicity and a new approach. Lawrence drafted the letter that went to 300-plus campaign workers and others. Announcing a strategy session this month, he wrote that the organization was trying to learn whether "regular citizens could take effective action to counter the Cultural War initiated by the leaders of the Religious Right."
"Could creationism be taught under the guise of science in Virginia, you ask? . . . It took several years, but the newly installed, right-wing Kansas state school board is expected soon to require that students be taught that evolution is to be doubted."
One Message Group plan is to hold a mock Scopes trial this fall, with the anti-Darwinian cause in the dock, the reverse of the 1925 Tennessee case that challenged the teaching of evolution. The group then hopes to persuade the Fairfax School Board to endorse the continued teaching of evolution, perhaps with a nod to Roanoke authorities, who recently chastised a high school biology teacher for distributing a 500-page homemade text arguing that God created the universe.
If the issue takes off, the group believes, it could be raised during next year's race for governor of Virginia. And Wainer expects a fight in a state in which Liberty University, founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, is co-sponsoring the Creation Mega-Conference this month.
"If we poke a stick at them, they'll come. If the Fairfax County School Board gets out there, there isn't any way they can't counterattack," Wainer said. "We may lose. These guys are well-funded. They have better connections."
Conservative Fairfax School Board member Stephen M. Hunt (At Large), who favors teaching the missing pieces in evolutionary theory, said the Message Group, by making an issue of something that has not been important in Virginia, might inspire voters "to come out and defend their beliefs and vote Republican."
"I think it's a great idea," he said with a laugh, "because they'll expend a lot of energy and really not accomplish much."
The new activists describe the effort as a catharsis, no matter the outcome.
Wainer, who once led sit-ins against the Vietnam War and helped start a civil rights group in Philadelphia, found himself griping about the Bush years but doing little. His wife challenged him: "You used to be so active. You used to be so smart. Why don't you get off your butt and do something?"
Patty Zubeck, 48, sees herself atoning for her Vietnam-era youth, when "by being naive, I didn't do enough."
Lawrence was on the other side, a soldier who "believed I had to go save the world from communism." He traces his current advocacy to anguish over his upbringing in southern Virginia, where he watched in church on Sundays as white friends and relatives spoke of tolerance, yet fostered racism.
"All these respectable people around me said nothing," Lawrence said. "That mass silence. That's what got me after 30 years, waving those Kerry signs. I felt I couldn't be silent anymore."
Detweiler believes too many skeptics were too quiet about Vietnam for too long. "We don't want to wait that long, until we get to a crisis," said Detweiler, who said she sees the religious right as a pernicious foe.
"I don't feel the depression I felt a year ago," she said. "My hope is, we are going to be coming to our senses as a country."
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
© 2005 MSNBC.com
Tim Radford, science editor
Thursday July 21, 2005
British scientists have identified the cell machinery that gave animals a head start - by evolving a neck to go on their shoulders.
Georgy Koentges of University College London and colleagues report in Nature today the startling discovery that two kinds of embryo stem cell begin the process of fitting a neck to the shoulders, while attaching the appropriate muscles to the right bones. In effect, muscle and bone are not separate components but composite ones.
Nature does not put flesh on the bones of a living creature. It grows both together, using embryonic stem cells. Embryo stem cells are the microscopic agents that help a single, fertilised egg the size of a full stop turn into a baby of 100 trillion cells of almost 300 different kinds. The new research shows that they make more than just tissue: they provide the scaffolds upon which shapes begin to form.
"If you go into the Natural History Museum and see the big dinosaurs, you would think all those bones are probably the basic units of organisation," Dr Koentges said. "Your perception is really tricked by ancient mechanisms and shapes and forms that lead you astray. But if you look at the developmental origins of these structures, you suddenly find that nature is much more clever. What nature does is define codes of connections first, and then puts the bones on the flesh." The researchers tracked the way cells developed in a mouse embryo to begin the process of forming neck and shoulders.
The research began from a simple desire to understand more about vertebrate evolution. The earliest fossil fishes literally have no necks: jaws are fused to the spine. But within 150 million years of evolution, a flexible neck emerged.
"This shoulder region - the way the muscles are connected and so forth - hasn't really changed at all for the past 400 million years: you find the same muscles in a fish as you find in us," he said. "So this is an incredibly ancient region of the vertebrate body which has so far escaped analysis because you couldn't do this type of genetic tracing in any animal."
The implication is that other limbs and joints must have their own specific stem cell origins. But the discovery could also pay off in a new understanding of certain rare conditions.
"We can now understand a number of human diseases in which the neck and shoulder region is affected and we can connect dots that were not connected before," Dr Koentges said.
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
(07-20) 18:12 PDT WASHINGTON, (AP) --
Global warming is caused primarily by humans and "nearly all climate scientists today" agree with that viewpoint, the new head of the National Academy of Sciences — a climate scientist himself — said Wednesday.
Ralph Cicerone's views contrasted with Bush administration officials' emphasis on uncertainty about how much carbon dioxide and other industrial gases warm the atmosphere like a greenhouse.
"Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now at its highest level in 400,000 years and it continues to rise," said Cicerone, an atmospheric scientist who left as chancellor of University of California-Irvine to become academy president this month. "Nearly all climate scientists today believe that much of Earth's current warming has been caused by increases in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mostly from the burning of fuels."
Cicerone, testifying before a Senate Commerce subcommittee on global climate change, cited data from weather stations and ships indicating the surface of the Earth is generally hotter by about seven-tenths of 1 degree Fahrenheit just since the early 1970s.
The administration officials stressed the $5 billion spent yearly on U.S. climate programs, mostly research. David Conover, a principal deputy assistant energy secretary, said President Bush would lead on the issue though "the scientific and technology challenges are considerable."
James Mahoney, assistant commerce secretary for oceans and atmosphere, said, "We know that the surface of the Earth is warmer, and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem." But he did not go further than that.
"We see economic growth, addressing the climate change problem and energy security as integrally related," said Daniel Reifsnyder, director of the State Department's Office of Global Change.
Just three senators — David Vitter, R-La., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska — were at the hearing. All three shared concerns about coastlines disappearing.
Cicerone also bolstered a 2004 Pentagon report that two private consultants prepared on potential global impacts of an abrupt and severe change in the world's climate. When the report was issued, it was met with some skepticism and disbelief — even by the Pentagon official who commissioned the study.
Among the dire consequences sketched out were surging seas breaking down levees in the Netherlands in 2007, making the Hague "unlivable," and Europe's climate becoming "more like Siberia's" by 2020. They saw possible "mega-droughts" in southern China and northern Europe.
"It was well done," Cicerone said of the report. "I didn't think it was fictional."
Last month, the National Academy of Sciences — an independent organization chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific matters — joined with similar groups from 10 other nations in calling for prompt action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Those nations were Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan and Russia.
Bush said earlier this month he recognizes that human activity contributes to a warmer Earth. But he continues to reject the Kyoto treaty on global warming that all other G-8 industrialized nations signed, because developing nations weren't included in it.
His administration has argued strongly against mandatory climate-related emissions caps, contending that its voluntary program is countering the growth of those emissions, but not actually reducing the tons annually being released into the atmosphere.
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