NTS LogoSkeptical News for 2 August 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bush's "Intelligent Design:" Teach Creationism!


August 2, 2005

Washington, DC: The Knight Ridder news service reported today that on Monday, George W. Bush "essentially endorsed efforts by Christian conservatives to give intelligent design equal standing with the theory of evolution in the nation's schools." The report notes that most scientists "consider intelligent design an attempt to inject religion into science courses."

The article adds, "Bush compared the current debate to earlier disputes over 'creationism,' a related view that adheres more closely to biblical explanations. As governor of Texas, Bush said students should be exposed to both creationism and evolution." Bush himself said to reporters, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. ...You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes." (Click here for full story.)

"George W. Bush's latest statements are yet another example of this White House's war on science; apparently he would gladly add America's public schools to the 'flat earth society' to which the current White House science team belongs," said National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira N. Forman. "Bush is suggesting that our public schools teach 'different ideas' to their captive audiences of school children, regardless of whether or not they're rooted in science or fact. I have a suggestion: let's also teach school kids about my new 'theory' -- that the Earth was created by space aliens. You see, teaching my theory and teaching 'intelligent design' in public schools enjoy the same level of support from the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science: none. Zero. Zip.

"Public school science classes should teach just that: science. There is a time and place to teach religion to our children -- either at home, or in private or religious schools, or after the public school day and on weekends in our houses of worship. America's public schools are no place for this President to advance his 'flat earth society' mentality," Forman added.

We Now Know Where George Bush Stands On Creationism In Schools


by Joe Gandelman

You just had to suspect President George Bush supported creationism being taught in schools, it's just that it didn't seem as if he'd embrace the idea publically — until now:

President Bush said Monday he believes schools should discuss "intelligent design" alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life.

During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.

Christian conservatives — a substantial part of Bush's voting base — have been pushing for the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. Scientists have rejected the theory as an attempt to force religion into science education.

Three things on this:

(1)Isn't it fascinating how modern politics (on the left and right) resorts to a kind of Orwellian attempt to obscure a concept? "Intelligent design" is to "creationism" what "pre-owned cars" is to "used cars."

(2)If the two were taught side by side — particularly if it was ever somehow mandated by the federal government — it would indeed represent a SHIFT.

(3)Whatever happened to the days when conservatives made it a point of saying a matter such as what's taught in schools was something that strictly belonged to the states and is not a matter for the feds? Barry Goldwater had it right.

On the other hand, in terms of public opinion, Bush is with the MAJORITY on this issue. A CBS News poll in November found that most Americans don't think humans evolved, don't want evolution totally replaced in schools — but two-thirds believe it should be taught alongside evolution in the schools.

So, if this poll is correct, it is NOT accurate to say Bush is merely pushing the agenda of social conservatives on this issue.

Scientology deserves respect as religion


Tuesday, August 02, 2005 - 12:00 AM

Lora Mengucci

Everyday statements are made that denigrate others' beliefs. Being a transplant to Utah, I have had many things said to me about the LDS religion by the uniformed.

One distinct portrayal, is that Mormons have many wives. Since people don't understand the religion, or parts of the history of the LDS faith, many misconceptions can be strewn about like chicken feed.

Being a practicing Scientologist, I noted that your paper carried an article regarding my religion. The article was not factual to my faith. I believe that people should have the truth from a more accurate source.

The Church of Scientology, realized its own spiritual nature in 1954, and individuals established the church, and L. Ron Hubbard as founder. He was a philosopher, writer, humanitarian, explorer and lived life fully. He loved mankind and wanted to help individuals realize their own abilities.

In trying to explain what Scientology is, many try to compare it to other religions. It is not like any other religion you have ever encountered. It is a religion that can be applied to life.

Contained in the material of Scientology there are answers to questions such as: Who are we? What is the purpose of all of this? What happens when I die?

In brief, the answers to those questions are as follows: You are a spiritual being, distinct and separate from a body. You are seeking survival for yourself, your family, mankind, life, the physical universe and to survive as a spirit. Only when you have attained that level of spiritual enlightenment, will you come to truly understand the Creator of the Universe or infinite.

You have lived lifetime after lifetime, and will live again.

This may sound familiar to those with some background in the Eastern religious traditions. What is different in Scientology is the ways and means of achieving those goals.

Scientology is a modern religion, born in the technical age of the 20th century. Scientologists will tell you that they have found tools to use in their day to day life. That help them achieve their purposes and greater happiness.

There is virtually no part of existence Scientology cannot be applied to.

Lora Mengucci is the Director of Special Affairs, Church of Scientology, Utah and is a parishioner for 29 years.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A5.

Clergy group attacks Bible study course in schools


Aug. 1, 2005, 5:01PM

Associated Press

AUSTIN — A religious watchdog group went on the attack today against a Bible study course taught in hundreds of schools in Texas and across the country, complaining it pushes students toward conservative Protestant viewpoints and violates religious freedom.

The Texas Freedom Network, which includes clergy of several faiths, said the course offered by the Greensboro, N.C.-based National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools is full of errors and dubious research that promote a fundamentalist Christian view.

The producers of the Bible class dismissed the Texas Freedom Network as a "far left" extremist organization trying to stifle academic review of a historical text.

The National Council on Bible Curriculum Web site says its elective course is offered in high schools and junior highs by more than 300 school districts in 37 states.

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said her group looked at the course after the Odessa school board voted in April to offer the class. It asked Southern Methodist University professor and biblical scholar Mark A. Chancey to review the class curriculum. Miller said Chancey was not paid for his work.

Chancey's review found the Bible is characterized as inspired by God, discussions of science are based on the claims of biblical creationists, Jesus is refereed to as fulfilling Old Testament prophecy and archaeological findings are erroneously used to support claims of the Bible's historical accuracy. He said the course suggests the Bible, instead of the Constitution, be considered the nation's founding document.

All of those points may be acceptable to some religions, but not to others, Chancey said.

His review also found the curriculum relies on many nonacademic sources and directs teachers and students to sectarian Web sites and research materials. In other areas, entire pages or chapters appears to be lifted from other publications without proper sourcing, Chancey said.

"No public school student should have to have a particular religious belief forced upon them," the Rev. Ragan Courtney, pastor of The Sanctuary, a Baptist congregation in Austin.

Chancey said it's possible to teach a course on the Bible with a scholarly approach without presenting a personal belief.

"I do it all the time," Chancey said.

Elizabeth Ridenour, president of the Bible class group, says on the Web site the course is concerned with "education rather than indoctrination of students." She accused the Texas Freedom Network of censorship.

"They are actually quite fearful of academic freedom, and of local schools deciding for themselves what elective courses to offer their citizens," Ridenour said in a statement.

According to the Texas Freedom Network, 52 Texas school districts offer the class. In Odessa, more than 6,000 people signed a petition in support before it was approved in April.

The class is to offered starting in fall 2006.

Miller said Texas Freedom Network supports study of the Bible as a significant historical text, but would send letters to state, federal and local school officials across Texas about Chancey's report. Elective courses like the Bible study class are not certified by the Texas Education Agency.

Miller said the clergy group is not trying to stop schools from offering classes about the Bible, but referred to this one as "tabloid scholarship."

"The study of the Bible can be an enriching way to learn about history and literature," she said.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Fundamentalist education raises eyebrows in Britain


By Frederick Studemann

Published: August 1 2005 20:55 | Last updated: August 1 2005 20:55

With all the prizes handed out and after a few words from the principal, the end of term ceremony ends with a prayer. "Heavenly Father," intones one of the governors of the King's Academy in Middlesbrough, north-east England, "You are the foundation of all we do here."

Prayers are not unusual in British schools. Unlike many other European countries and the US, the UK does not seek to keep religion out of state education. Churches operate state schools, religious education is on the national curriculum and prayers are an optional feature of morning assembly.

Yet the celebration of God at the King's Academy has raised eyebrows since the secondary school was opened two years ago as one of the flagships of a government programme to transform the UK's worst schools in the state sector with the involvement of private money and expertise. The school, free of charge and non-selective, is one of 17 city academies, a number the government hopes to multiply.

On the outskirts of Middlesbrough, an ailing industrial city, the school is backed by Sir Peter Vardy, the multimillionaire head of one of the UK's biggest car dealerships and an evangelical Christian.

Teaching unions, already suspicious of private sector involvement in state education, claim Sir Peter is using his influence as sponsor to promote Christian fundamentalist beliefs and in particular "creationism". Creationism follows a literal Biblical interpretation of the genesis of humanity as opposed to the widely accepted theory of evolution.

"I don't think our members understand why rightwing Christian fundamentalists can pay £2m [$3.5m, €3m] of £20m [school] start-up costs and have control of a curriculum that posits creationism," says Mary Bousted, head of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Sir Peter rejects such claims, saying he accepts evolution theory and is "not some sort of nutcase".

He notes that while city academies such as King's are free from the control of local government, which usually has responsibility for education in Britain, it chooses to follow the national curriculum, which teaches evolution theory.

Pupils are also told of alternative viewpoints, including creationism, and encouraged to "consider the claims of the Bible" along with the national curriculum. A Christian ethos is present in many aspects of school life – for example, in a biblical proverb on a plaque commemorating the opening of the school by Tony Blair, the UK's prime minister.

King's is the second school backed by Sir Peter. A third opens in September and he says he would like to open several in the next few years. Bob Edmiston, another multimillionaire car dealer, based in the English Midlands, last month announced plans to open two "Christian ethos" academies.

Nigel McQuoid, Belfast- born principal of King's, says the "Christian view" is the "driving force" behind an emphasis on values such as hard work, honesty, courage, respect and a sense of purpose. "I am not a great worshipper of science," he says, adding that while secularists may be willing to explore the idea of the existence of extraterrestrial existence, they will not accept a "fifth dimension" may be God.

The bookshelves in his office include titles such as Responding to the Challenge of Evolution and Darwin and the Rise of Degenerate Science. He says he wants "a school where people are talking about these things" but that no particular views are imposed on children.

"They do give you a different perspective," says Andrew Emmerson, a sports-mad 16-year-old, who describes himself as not at all Christian. Since starting at King's last year, he says he has become "a lot more aware" of religious issues.

Of greater concern for Mr Emmerson was the lack of flexibility over the blazered school uniform pupils must wear. It is an expression of the "traditional values" King's espouses. Others are strict discipline and organisation of pupils into "houses" that generate internal competition.

Sir Peter and Mr McQuoid say such things improve behaviour and academic achievement. But critics say claims that academies achieve better results are unproven and that they have unfairly benefited from generous government spending on buildings and facilities. Research showing that exam scores for 16-year-olds from academies have improved faster than the national average are based on a limited number of examples, critics claim.

King's says parents want many features associated with traditional education that have disappeared from many UK state secondary schools. At the prize-giving ceremony some parents expressed approval of the regime, though some said they found it a bit strict. But, at best, only half joined in the prayer.

Let's Have No More Monkey Trials


Web Exclusive | Charles Krauthammer

To teach faith as science is to undermine both

Posted Monday, Aug. 01, 2005

The half-century campaign to eradicate any vestige of religion from public life has run its course. The backlash from a nation fed up with the A.C.L.U. kicking crèches out of municipal Christmas displays has created a new balance. State-supported universities may subsidize the activities of student religious groups. Monuments inscribed with the Ten Commandments are permitted on government grounds. The Federal Government is engaged in a major antipoverty initiative that gives money to churches. Religion is back out of the closet.

But nothing could do more to undermine this most salutary restoration than the new and gratuitous attempts to invade science, and most particularly evolution, with religion. Have we learned nothing? In Kansas, conservative school-board members are attempting to rewrite statewide standards for teaching evolution to make sure that creationism's modern stepchild, intelligent design, infiltrates the curriculum. Similar anti-Darwinian mandates are already in place in Ohio and are being fought over in 20 states. And then, as if to second the evangelical push for this tarted-up version of creationism, out of the blue appears a declaration from Christoph Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna, a man very close to the Pope, asserting that the supposed acceptance of evolution by John Paul II is mistaken. In fact, he says, the Roman Catholic Church rejects "neo-Darwinism" with the declaration that an "unguided evolutionary process--one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence--simply cannot exist."

Cannot? On what scientific evidence? Evolution is one of the most powerful and elegant theories in all of human science and the bedrock of all modern biology. Schönborn's proclamation that it cannot exist unguided--that it is driven by an intelligent designer pushing and pulling and planning and shaping the process along the way--is a perfectly legitimate statement of faith. If he and the Evangelicals just stopped there and asked that intelligent design be included in a religion curriculum, I would support them. The scandal is to teach this as science--to pretend, as does Schönborn, that his statement of faith is a defense of science. "The Catholic Church," he says, "will again defend human reason" against "scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of 'chance and necessity,'" which "are not scientific at all." Well, if you believe that science is reason and that reason begins with recognizing the existence of an immanent providence, then this is science. But, of course, it is not. This is faith disguised as science. Science begins not with first principles but with observation and experimentation.

In this slippery slide from "reason" to science, Schönborn is a direct descendant of the early 17th century Dutch clergyman and astronomer David Fabricius, who could not accept Johannes Kepler's discovery of elliptical planetary orbits. Why? Because the circle is so pure and perfect that reason must reject anything less. "With your ellipse," Fabricius wrote Kepler, "you abolish the circularity and uniformity of the motions, which appears to me increasingly absurd the more profoundly I think about it." No matter that, using Tycho Brahe's most exhaustive astronomical observations in history, Kepler had empirically demonstrated that the planets orbit elliptically.

This conflict between faith and science had mercifully abated over the past four centuries as each grew to permit the other its own independent sphere. What we are witnessing now is a frontier violation by the forces of religion. This new attack claims that because there are gaps in evolution, they therefore must be filled by a divine intelligent designer.

How many times do we have to rerun the Scopes "monkey trial"? There are gaps in science everywhere. Are we to fill them all with divinity? There were gaps in Newton's universe. They were ultimately filled by Einstein's revisions. There are gaps in Einstein's universe, great chasms between it and quantum theory. Perhaps they are filled by God. Perhaps not. But it is certainly not science to merely declare it so.

To teach faith as science is to undermine the very idea of science, which is the acquisition of new knowledge through hypothesis, experimentation and evidence. To teach it as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of religious authority. To teach it as science is to discredit the welcome recent advances in permitting the public expression of religion. Faith can and should be proclaimed from every mountaintop and city square. But it has no place in science class. To impose it on the teaching of evolution is not just to invite ridicule but to earn it.

Email the Columnist

The Bait and Switch Of "Intelligent Design" Creationism


"Intelligent Design" Is Religion Masquerading As Science

By Keith Lockitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But does it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2005 Ayn Rand Institute.

Schools stay out of evolution fray


Posted on Mon, Aug. 01, 2005

The theory will still be taught in Catholic schools - despite a prominent cardinal's writings.

By Martha Woodall

Inquirer Staff Writer

American Catholic educators are not changing how science is taught in Catholic schools even though a prominent Austrian cardinal has said evolution is incompatible with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

But three leading American scientists are so concerned that an essay by Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna, could signal a shift in the Catholic Church's long-standing support for evolution, they have asked Pope Benedict XVI to clarify the church's position.

"It has been very important that the Catholic Church has been supportive of evolution," said Lawrence M. Krauss, a physics professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who wrote the letter.

Schonborn set off the rippling controversy last month with an opinion piece in the New York Times that stated evolution proponents had wrongly claimed that the writings of Pope John Paul II say evolution is compatible with church teachings.

Although the essay was not submitted on behalf of the Vatican, Schonborn told the Times that he had discussed it with Pope Benedict XVI shortly before then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in April.

Schonborn, a member of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, has said there are no plans to issue new guidelines for teaching science in Catholic schools, although he believes that students should also learn about other theories.

Catholic educators, including those in Philadelphia and Camden, are monitoring the debate but do not expect changes.

"Evolution should be taught as one of many theories," said Louis P. DeAngelo, who oversees curriculum for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "But the one true principle above all is there's one creator."

Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association, which represents Catholic schools, does not expect a shift in science instruction "unless this changes from theory to dogma."

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, Va., chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Science and Human Values, said Schonborn was reiterating that the Catholic Church has always linked evolution to God.

The bishop said the essay did not contradict a December letter to U.S. bishops in which DiLorenzo advised: "Assured that scientific truth and religious truth cannot be in conflict, Catholic schools should continue teaching evolution as a scientific theory backed by convincing evidence."

DiLorenzo wrote the letter as the debate over teaching intelligent design in public schools was heating up.

Intelligent design maintains that natural selection alone cannot explain the universe. Proponents say the intricacies of life suggest the presence of an intelligent, purposeful designer. The designer is not identified, but opponents say intelligent design is creationism in a new guise.

Several parents from the Dover Area School District in York County have filed suit in federal court, arguing that an intelligent-design book used by that district promotes religion.

Meanwhile, three scientists - two of them Catholic - have asked the Pope to clarify the church's position. "We hope very much that the Vatican would issue some form of clarification," said Kenneth Miller, a biology professor at Brown University who signed the letter.

Miller - a Catholic and the author of Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution - said the church had long held that evolution could be seen as part of God's plan.

The third scientist to sign the letter was Francisco J. Ayala, a biology professor at the University of California, Irvine. He is a former Dominican priest.

In the July 12 letter to the Pontiff, first reported by the Times, Krauss wrote: "In his magnificent letter to the Pontifical Academy in 1996 regarding the subject of evolution, Pope John Paul II affirmed that scientific rationality and the church's spiritual commitment to divine purpose and meaning in the universe were not incompatible."

Krauss added: "It is vitally important... that in these difficult and contentious times the Catholic Church not build a new divide, long ago eradicated, between the scientific method and religious belief."

He has not received a reply.

Without clarity, adherents of intelligent design would use the cardinal's words to further their agenda, Krauss said.

The Discovery Institute in Seattle, a leader in the intelligent-design movement, publicized Schonborn's piece on its Web site. An institute official had encouraged the cardinal to write the essay, a spokesman said.

Schonborn told the Times that his essay was a response to a piece that Krauss had written for the newspaper in May and that had said: "Popes from Pius XII to John Paul II have reaffirmed that the process of evolution in no way violates the teachings of the church."

Schonborn told the Times that he had been "angry" for years that many writers and theologians had "misrepresented" the church's position. In his essay, he dismissed Pope John Paul II's widely quoted letter to the Pontifical Academy as a "rather vague and unimportant 1996 letter about evolution."

Schonborn wrote: "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not."

Miller, the biologist at Brown, said Schonborn was wrong to say the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution must be atheistic. He said the church's support for evolution in a God-centered context had been affirmed over the years. Most recently, he said, that view was set forth by the Vatican's International Theological Commission in a long document released in July 2004. Pope Benedict XVI headed the commission.

Contact staff writer Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@phillynews.com.

Science teachers use care when teaching 'e-word'


Monday, August 1, 2005


August 1, 2005

The students in Kerri Graham's sophomore biology class habitually slump into their seats, apparently unfazed that they are at the bull's-eye of the intelligent design movement, whose "teach the controversy" slogan intends to rile up high school classrooms just like this one. Intelligent design theorists contend that a purposeful creator is responsible for the beginning and diversification of life on the planet. But these sleepy teenagers care more about reaching driving age than the age of the Earth.

They don't know that at 6:30 that morning their teacher joined four colleagues to discuss the introduction of the "e-word." The group met in a small conference room, surrounded by more than 20 different textbooks — all decried by evolution critics as misleading and one-dimensional — to chart their course through what the National Academies of Science call "the most important concept to understanding biology."

Graham ushers in the e-word with three pages of definitions: one for what evolution is and two for what it's not.

"I want to share what I believe are misconceptions or what you might have heard in the news," Graham says.

She navigates the class through some disclaimers: "Evolution is NOT a fact. Evolution is NOT an accidental or random process. Evolution was NOT developed to undermine religion. Evolution does NOT deny the existence of God."

What evolution is not is a religious conflict, says fellow teacher Vicky Kyrimis, who found the definition pages on a Web site managed by the Evolution and Nature of Science Institute at Indiana University. Kyrimis shared them with her colleagues that morning because the teachers anticipate what resistance they meet from their students will be in God's name, if they meet any at all.

Graham doesn't. She works her way through natural selection, gene mutation, inheritable traits. She polls the class about the controversy behind evolution, and only three students say they have heard about it. She asks for comments, discussion, concerns. No one responds. She moves on.

If intelligent design advocates are aiming to make waves, they will need something bigger to reach this class. And they're going for it.

This spring, celebrities of the intelligent design community gathered in Topeka, Kan., to argue for inserting evolutionary criticism in the state's science standards. The cast of characters has mushroomed since 1999. That's when the Kansas Board of Education was ridiculed internationally for deleting most mentions of evolution from the standards after public hearings its critics say legitimized scientific dissent delivered by non-scientists.

After elections ousted the conservative board members behind the change, a new board reversed the decision in 2001. The debate resurfaced in May with pundits and PowerPoint.

Attorney John Calvert brought together the 23 intelligent design advocates speaking before the Kansas Board of Education. A retired securities lawyer, Calvert attended the 1999 board hearings, where he met William Harris, a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri- Kansas City.

The two teamed up to found the Intelligent Design Network in Shawnee Mission, Kan., a Midwest depository for criticism of evolution and promotion of intelligent design theory. In honor of the events surrounding their acquaintance, in 2001 the organization gave its annual Wedge of Truth award to the 1999 board members.

This year, Harris is on the science standards writing committee, dissenting from the majority to include evolution criticism in the curriculum.

The attempt is an encore of a 2002 effort led by the intelligent design community in Ohio, where the science curriculum was primed for evolution skepticism. In 2004 the state developed a sample lesson plan for teachers to present criticisms of the theory. This time, in Kansas, evolution scientists refused to pit their ideas against a courtroom-style interrogation, afraid of creating the illusion of a scientific controversy where they say none exists.

High school science standards are crafted to mirror the predominant research in scholarly fields. By the time a topic makes it into the standards, it has been rigorously tested and supported by a scientific consensus.

That's why scientists such as Dan Miller, head of the Science Department at Hickman High School, say evolution's critics are trying to bypass the scientific process and head straight to the classroom, via politics and rhetoric.

"We start out the evolution unit knowing it's a hot potato," he says.

Miller is tuned into the controversy. He knows about intelligent design, about state Rep. Cynthia Davis' bill to require criticism of evolution in science texts, about the pro-evolution lobbying of the National Center for Science Education and the intelligent design powerhouse, the Discovery Institute. He says he's not married to Charles Darwin; he just understands the nature of science and wants his students to understand it as well.

"The intelligent design bills come from lawyers, not scientists," Miller says. "It's all about pushing an agenda."

Evolution gives teachers a chance to go back to the basics of what science can and cannot do, Miller says.

That's why Ilayna Pickett begins this year's evolution unit with a vocabulary lesson, as she has done for the past 25 years. "What is a theory?" she asks her students.

The class falls quiet, unsure if the seemingly trivial question is a trick.

Pickett is chairwoman of the science department at Rock Bridge High School. In front of the class, she leads an animated back-and-forth with students, who begin calling out predictable responses: A hunch? A guess? An unproven statement?

Actually, Pickett explains, a scientific theory is a systematic explanation of natural phenomena, based on a well-supported, testable hypothesis.

And what is science?

"Science explains how," Pickett says. "Religion explains why.

"Can science tell us the right way to live? Why is there truth or beauty? In science class, shouldn't you be learning science?" Pickett asks. Missouri science standards state that "genetic variation sorted by the natural selection process explains evidence for biological evolution."

In Columbia the curriculum compels teachers to use fossils, similarities in anatomy and DNA between species to support the theory of evolution. Neither state nor local standards tell schools which materials to use.

Like many teachers at Rock Bridge, Pickett doesn't teach from one book. In fact, most of her colleagues use textbooks as supplemental materials, along with science journal articles and videos. The most widely used biology text in Columbia schools and in much of Missouri is the Prentice Hall "dragonfly" book — nicknamed for the insect sprawled across its cover. It was co-written by Brown University professor Ken Miller, an ardent evolution defender in the national debate.

Pickett says the evolution controversy has resurfaced every 20 years or so since she can remember, but she finds it hard to understand why the issue persists. The rest of the world has long since accepted evolution, she says.

The volume of evolution skepticism is unique to the United States, where Gallup polls have repeatedly shown nearly 50 percent of Americans to be unreceptive to the theory. In 2002, surrounding the heated controversies of how evolution should be treated in Ohio science standards, a Zogby International poll asked respondents if they wanted alternative theories of life's development to be taught in public schools. More than half answered yes, although a survey by the University of Cincinnati showed the vast majority could not name or define any such options.

The intelligent design slogan, "teach the controversy," implies that evolution is being challenged and that public schools are shielding students from the debate.

The National Academies of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the vast majority of scientists around the world disagree.

"In science, checks and balances come from other scientists," Pickett says.

She is echoing those who cite the lack of intelligent design or creationist arguments in peer-reviewed scientific journals and professional conferences as evidence that such claims are not based in science.

But the controversy motto is strong and catchy, and it has already changed the way teachers approach the evolution unit.

The day after Graham's class slumbered through its introduction to evolution, Roy Morris' students settle into the same classroom for the same lesson. It's not yet 8 a.m., and Morris works to compensate for the early time with a fast pace.

"How many of you've heard that evolution is against religion?" he asks. Most of the students nod; some exchange whispers. Morris knows he has hit a spark, and he inquires further.

In recent years, Morris showed his students the Creation/Evolution continuum — a slope stretching from flat-Earth creationists to atheistic evolutionists — developed by the National Center for Science Education. He challenged his students to find their place in the gamut, to really examine why they think the way they do. Today, he just asks his students what they've heard.

One student reports a classmate's concern.

"(She) wants me to say that the controversy is that God made everything perfect the first time around," she says.

"What about the missing links? Have they ever found any fossils to prove that?" asks another.

"Creationists say evolution is against the Second Law of Thermodynamics."

"It's saying people were made just like that."

It's easy enough to explain transitional fossils and to clear up confusion in physics. Explaining to science students how to reconcile their faith with their homework takes finesse.

Teachers across the country have uneasily taken on that role. A poll released in March by the National Academies of Science showed that 30 percent of teachers felt pressured to de-emphasize or drop evolution from their curricula and that the pressure was coming from students and parents concerned about its religious subtext.

"I'm not trying to change anyone's belief or insult anyone's belief," Morris tells his class. "It's just how science explains how things change over time."

For the past few years, the Science Teachers of Missouri's annual fall meetings featured seminars on how to handle evolution in high school classrooms. The group's president, Linda Dudley, says some Missouri teachers are compelled by pressures from students and parents to skip over the evolution unit. Others gloss over it quickly or actively teach against it. The organization received complaints that some schools in southwest Missouri taught the Genesis creation story in biology class.

"We generally get resistance from kids," says Dudley, who teaches biology at Lebanon High School. "What they hear is usually what's been taught at church."

So she went to the source. Earlier this year, a member of the Second Baptist Church in Lebanon invited Dudley to clear up confusion over evolution. A youth group member watched a video in school and wanted to know more about the theory. Dudley obliged.

"In science we really try to avoid saying 'and then a miracle happened,'" she told the church group.

Dudley talked to her young audience about the nature of science: It must be testable and falsifiable; it must make predictions and raise more questions than it answers. She closed by assuring the crowd that many evolutionists believe God created life on Earth, they just believe he did it through evolution.

The audience left satisfied, she says.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The conflict continues Tuesday in the pews of Columbia, where interpretations of evolution take as many shapes as the interpreters themselves. Creationists discount evolution, saying it leaves no room for God. Atheistic evolutionists say the same, but discard God in favor of science. Many Missourians, including First Christian Church Minister John Yonker, are somewhere in the middle.


Mass extinction: Natural selection predicts that as the environment changes, only those organisms with suitable variations will survive and reproduce. Others will die out, leaving habitats and resources into which the survivors may expand. Embryonic development: Embryos, humans, chickens, fish and many other animals look similar, supporting the idea that they descended from a common ancestor.

Fossils: The fossil record is the backbone of evolutionary theory, providing evidence that life first appeared more than 3 billion years ago, that many species have since evolved and gone extinct and that intermediate forms help link today's diversity of life to a historical common ancestor.

Vestigial organs: The human appendix and male nipples are considered to be remnants of organs that were useful to a distant ancestor but have since lost their function.

Homologous parts: A whale's fin, a bat's wing and a human's arm have similar bone structures, supporting the idea that these species shared a common ancestor, then diverged to adapt to their respective environments.

Microbiology: New technology has shown that DNA similarities between species support the traditional "tree of life" developed by scientists to chronicle how Earth's diverse species arose from a common ancestor.

Source: Prentice Hall biology textbook


Motto: "Teach the controversy"

Rationale: For centuries biologists have acknowledged that the world appears designed. Given the cause-and-effect structure of the world, an intelligent designer better explains the complexity of the world than unplanned forces of nature.

Leader: Discovery Institute in Seattle.

Key concepts: In 1802, William Paley published "Natural Theology," a strategy for detecting intelligent design. He reasoned that walking down the street, if you come across a watch, you will logically conclude that a watchmaker produced it. Similarly, modern design theorists claim there are dependable, telltale signs of a designer in man-made and natural systems: irreducible complexity and specified complexity.

Lehigh University biology professor Michael Behe coined the term irreducible complexity to describe a system of many well-matched parts with no obvious independent function and, if any were removed, the entire system would stop working. Behe uses a mousetrap as an example of such a system, reasoning that if the spring, the board or the bar were removed, the apparatus would cease to function entirely. Intelligent design theorists say irreducibly complex systems cannot have come about by natural selection because the parts have no functional advantage to have individually survived to combine into the whole. Therefore, they reason, the system must have been designed in its entirety.

William Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher, refers to any information as having the quality of specified complexity. "Life is both complex and specified," he writes. Dembski gives the example of the alphabet, each letter imbued with a specified meaning but not complex by itself. A random assembly of letters, however complex, is unlikely to carry a meaningful pattern, while a Shakespearean sonnet, both complex and meaningful, is an example of specified complexity. Intelligent design theorists apply the concept to the structure of DNA, claiming that the sequence is both complex and has a specified meaning that is unlikely to have assembled by chance.

Sources: The Discovery Institute Web site at www.discovery.org

Related stories

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/story.php?ID=15187 -- Much ado about evolution 7-31-2005

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/story.php?ID=15188 -- How the evolution debate evolved 7-31-2005

Copyright © 2005 Columbia Missourian

New Evidence Suggests Noah's Sons Rode Flying Dinosaurs


For years, Creation Scientists have disputed how Noah was able to quickly collect millions of indigenous animals from remote, inaccessible regions of the world for a 40-day ride in his ark. New evidence from an archeological find in China supports the long held Christian belief that Noah's sons rode giant flying dinosaurs to transport duck billed platypuses from Australia, and penguins and polar bears from the Antarctic, to name a few. "Those must have been some mighty big flying dinosaurs," says Pastor Deacon Fred. "Imagine the look on Noah's face when his sons flew in for a landing with a pair of Hippos strapped to the back of one of them things! Glory to God!"

"The Lord is just amazing," says Creation Scientist, Dr. Jonathan Edwards. "Whenever Atheist scientists make a new find, they think it will hack away at our Christian beliefs. They must get pretty peeved at how sneaky our Lord is, because whenever they unearth something, it only provides more support for the historical accuracy of the Holy Bible And these flying dinosaurs they keep finding are no exception!"

Dr. Edwards explains that it would have been impossible for Noah's sons to travel to the four corners of the earth to areas that were previously inaccessible on foot. "Noah and his sons had to collect two of every single creature on the face of the planet," he says. "We're talking about a big haul here. At first we just attributed it to what Creation Scientists call, the Holy Finger Snapping Theory. That's where God snaps his fingers and just makes it so." Edwards points out that Creation Scientists are still unanimous in attributing the fact that Noah was able to load 100 million plus animals onto a 450 foot ark "in the selfsame day" (Genesis 7:13-14) to the Finger Snapping Theory. In the case of how the animals were collected from remote regions of the world in the first place however, recent archeological finds indicate that Noah's sons were able to tame giant flying dinosaurs and in turn, load them up with food supplies and hitch rides for long trips around the world to China, South America, Australia, Greenland, and the North Pole.

Creation Scientists estimate that since the Earth is only ten-thousand years old, human beings were living among dinosaurs and had plenty of time to tame them. "I would have loved to have been around to see Cain and Abel rolling around in the grass outside the Garden of Eden playing with the pet raptors their father, Adam, gave them for their birthdays," says Pastor Deacon Fred. "What a glorious time that must have been!"

Through tithing donations from Landover Baptist Church members, the Center for Creation Research was able to secure several fossilized remains of flying dinosaurs valued at over $14 million. The remains will be studied exhaustively for evidence of the leather harnessing used to secure Noah's sons for their long transcontinental journeys.


Sunday, July 31, 2005

How the evolution debate evolved


Sunday, July 31, 2005


July 31, 2005

1925 In the Scopes "Monkey" Trial, high school teacher John Scopes is convicted of violating Tennessee law by teaching evolution to high school students.

1961 John C. Whitcomb Jr. and Henry Morris publish "The Genesis Flood," supporting the biblical account of creation with interpretations of scientific evidence.

1963 Morris and colleagues launch the Creation Research Society, which publishes the creationist journal Creation Research Society Quarterly.

1968 In Epperson v. Arkansas, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down an Arkansas statute prohibiting the teaching of evolution.

1972 Henry Morris founds the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, an institution for creationist literature and advocacy.

1981 Stanley Weinberg founds the National Center for Science Education, a pro-evolution advocacy organization, now in Oakland, Calif.

1982 In McLean vs. Arkansas Board of Education, a federal court declares unconstitutional a "balanced treatment" statute requiring creationism to be taught alongside evolution.

1984 In response to mounting social challenges posed by creationists, the National Academies of Science distribute "Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences," a booklet decrying creationism as a nonscience and instructing teachers on the importance of teaching evolution.

1986 Famed evolutionist and ardent atheist Richard Dawkins publishes "The Blind Watchmaker," elucidating the case for evolutionary theory and blasting its challengers.

1987 The U.S. Supreme Court rules creation science in public schools unconstitutional in Edwards v. Aguillard, striking down the Louisiana "Creation Act" as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

1989 The Foundation for Thoughts and Ethics publishes "Of Pandas and People," intended as a textbook supplement criticizing evolution and promoting intelligent design.

1991 Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson publishes "Darwin on Trial," the intelligent design manifesto credited with stirring the movement.

1996 Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe introduces "irreducible complexity" as a challenge to natural selection in his book "Darwin's Black Box." The Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank in Seattle, launches its Center for the Renewal of Culture and Science, the leader in the intelligent design movement.

1999 The Kansas State Board of Education de-emphasizes evolution in state science standards. The decision is reversed two years later.

2002 Intelligent design advocates launch the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design, a professional organization with annual conferences and a quarterly online journal.

2004 A school district in Dover, Pa., orders teachers to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution; a lawsuit in federal court ensues.

2005 Lobbied by intelligent design advocates, the Kansas State Board of Education is again redrafting science standards to challenge evolution.

Copyright © 2005 Columbia Missourian

Primitive perspectives from the elite

With the Kansas State Department of Education considering changes to science instruction that would cast some doubt on the theory of evolution, the New Republic decided to contact leading conservatives and ask for their thoughts on evolution and the competing theory of intelligent design. The results betray a perspective that's less highly evolved than you might expect from such an erudite group.

Of the 15 high-profile commentators contacted by the magazine, eight were willing to state unequivocally that they believe in evolution: George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum; William F. Buckley, Richard Brookhiser, Ramesh Ponnuru and Jonah Goldberg of the National Review; Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post; James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal; and David Brooks of the New York Times.

Of the remaining seven conservatives, some expressed doubts about evolution, while others declined to give a definitive answer. Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, withheld his "personal opinion," but he did offer this eye-opener: "I managed to have my children go through the Fairfax, Va., schools without ever looking at one of their science textbooks." (Are congratulations in order?)

Tax-cut zealot Grover Norquist responded, "I've never understood how an eye evolves." But don't bother suggesting that Norquist cruise down to the research library; he made it clear that his day planner is completely filled. "Given that we have to spend all our time crushing the capital gains tax," he said, "I don't have much time for this issue."

Pat Buchanan brushed the idea of Darwinian evolution aside, claiming it cannot "explain the creation of matter" -- though we're not sure the creation of matter, as opposed to the development of living matter, is what evolution attempts to explain. Buchanan also insisted that evolution has been a "malevolent force" in Western history, used by non-Christians to justify "horrendous" policies. Were we the only ones expecting Buchanan to cite religion, and not evolution, as a historically malevolent force?

Tucker Carlson, liberals' favorite box-tied chatterbox, said he would not "discount" the idea that God "created man in his present form."

Predictably, some of those who lined up behind mainstream science nevertheless kept their politics to the far right. "I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools," said Frum, putting his logic and math skills on display. "Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle."

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life puts the number of Americans who are Christian at roughly 75 percent, not 90 percent, while a Gallup poll from 2004 indicated that not every Christian is offended by evolution. According to the poll, about one-third of Americans believe in evolution, while 45 percent believe God created humans 10,000 years ago.

A couple of the conservatives ultimately allowed reason to prevail. Goldberg dismissed intelligent design as "God-in-the-gaps theorizing," while Krauthammer said the proposal to teach intelligent design as a "competing theory to evolution is ridiculous." But on the whole, we'd suggest that these well-heeled members of the commentariat hit the books, beginning with the "The Origin of Species."

-- Aaron Kinney

[03:15 EDT, July 15, 2005 ]


Saturday, July 30, 2005

In search of Bigfoot - BBC Even the scientists who are DNA testing hair found in a suspected Bigfoot print say they expect the results to come back as bear or bison. Why is the myth of this huge ape-like beast so powerful for many cultures?

Bigfoot n. - large, hairy, humanoid creature said to wander the wooded wilds of the Pacific Northwest. Also known as Sasquatch (Canada), the Yeti or Abominable Snowman (Asia), Mapinguari (the Amazon) and Yowie (Australia). In the Himalayas there's an old Sherpa saying that, "There is a Yeti in the back of everyone's mind; only the blessed are not haunted by it."

Many cultures have legends about solitary man-beasts, and recorded sightings in North America and Asia date back to the early 1800s. Despite numerous sightings, photos and footprints of often questionable origin, there has never been conclusive proof that these creatures exist. No droppings, no bones, no hair and no bodies found - alive or dead.

And this week, geneticists at the University of Alberta are putting the legend to the test as they scrutinise hair alleged to have come from Bigfoot. The results are due on Thursday. The tuft was collected by residents in Teslin, Yukon, who claim to have found it in a massive footprint left behind by a 3m-tall human-like creature which tromped through their backyards earlier this month.

Wildlife geneticist Dave Coltman expects that the hair will have come from a known mammal such as a bear or bison, but says he is curious enough to test this theory. "If Sasquatch is indeed a primate, then we would expect the sample to be closer to humans or chimpanzees or gorillas. That would be kind of cool, wouldn't it?"

Man-beast or myth

Regardless of his findings, the myth of Bigfoot does not need hard facts to persist.

The creatures are real enough to those who say they have spotted them, but opinion is divided on the nature of the beast. Some say it is flesh-and-blood; others, including various Native American tribes, believe it to be a spirit being which appears to humans in times of crisis. Ralph Gray Wolf, an Athapaskan Indian from Alaska, has told reporters that Sasquatch makes appearances to help troubled communities "get more in tune with Mother Earth", bringing a message that there is a need to change.

Nor are such creatures confined to the vast, isolated tracts of land in North America and Asia - in the UK, such legends date back centuries.

Two years ago, investigators and the media descended on Bolam Lake, near Newcastle, following a spate of sightings of a tall, shadowy figure over the previous 18 months. In their week in the wooded, lakeside park, six of the party spotted the so-called Beast of Bolam.

Richard Freeman, of the Centre for Fortean Zoology centre, says one of his colleagues was among the witnesses.

"What they saw was not Bigfoot, or Sasquatch as I prefer to call him; it was an enormous shadowy figure in the trees, more like a ghost than flesh-and-blood. In a park not far from a city centre, you're not going to get a nine-foot ape-like creature - England doesn't have the habitat to support it."

His theory is that sightings such as this - and Scotland's Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui and the Grey King in Wales - are of a paranormal being.

"I don't mean that these are the ghosts of some creature which has died; I think it is more complex than that."

In his time as a professional monster hunter, Mr Freeman has travelled the world gathering tales of weird and wonderful creatures - and in every culture, the same types crop up time and again. He calls it the "international monster template", which is made up of dragons and other huge reptiles; large ape-like creatures, such as Sasquatch and the trolls of Medieval Europe; little people, such as fairies and goblins; giant birds; and phantom dogs and cats.

"I believe these are analogues of the creatures which inhabited the plains of Africa millions of years ago, which our ancestors would have had to deal with. We now have a fossil memory of these creatures. Under certain conditions, the human mind creates 3D images of these analogues."

Mind games

Sceptics such as Benjamin Radford, of the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, also believe that such sightings are our minds playing tricks on us. For it is actually very easy to fool ourselves into believing what we want to believe.

What often happens, he has said, is that out in the wilderness, in areas known as Bigfoot or Yeti stomping grounds, someone will see something dark or hairy or fast out of the corner of their eye that startles them. "If they're already thinking that there's a Bigfoot in the area, it's easy to make the leap between saying: 'I saw something, I don't know what it is,' to: 'I saw something and it's Bigfoot.'"

As for the latest find, it will soon be known whether the hair is from a creature thus far unknown to science. And until then, the truth simply lies in the eye of the beholder.


First documented report was prints found by a Canadian trader in 1811 Name dates from 1958 media reports of giant footprints found in California Ray Wallace, who died in 2002, claimed to have faked these Most famous footage shot in 1967 and contested ever since

Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2005/07/28 10:40:38 GMT

Friday, July 29, 2005

Physics News Update 739


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 739 July 28, 2005 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

NEW SPINTRONIC SPEED RECORD. Spintronics is the science devoted to gaining greater control over digital information processing by exploiting electron spin along with electron charge in microcircuits. One drawback to implementing a scheme of magnetic-based memory cells for computers has been the relatively slower speed of spin transistors. Hans Schumacher of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunscheig, Germany, has now devised the fastest yet magnetic version of a random access memory (MRAM) cell, one that switches at a rate of 2 GHz, as good as or better than the fastest non-magnetic semiconductor memories. The MRAM architecture is a sandwich, consisting of two magnetic layers, with a tunneling layer in between. When the magnetic layers are aligned (their spin orientation is the same) resistance in the cell is low; when they are counter-aligned resistance is high. These two conditions establish the binary 1 or 0 states. The speed of writing or reading data to and from the cells has, for MRAMs, been limited to cycle times of 100 MHz by magnetic excitations in the layers. This problem has now been overcome, according to Hans Schumacher (hans.w.schumacher@ptb.de), through a novel approach referred to as ballistic bit addressing. In the case of the new MRAM architecture, the influence of magnetic excitations is eliminated through the use of very short (500 picosecond) current pulses for carrying out the write operation and that even a bit whose value will remain the same undergoes a complete 360-degree precession, whereas a change of status (say, from a 0 to a 1) will be achieved by pivoting the magnetic status of the cell through 180 degrees. The 2-GHz switching speed (the rate at which writing can be accomplished) is faster than static RAM (or SRAM) memories, currently the fastest memories, can accomplish. Furthermore, the magnetic memories are non-volatile, which means that the status of the memory does not disappear if the computer is shut down. (Schumacher, Applied Physics Letters, 25 July 2005; and Journal of Applied Physics, August 1; general MRAM website at www.mram-info.com)


French scientists have studied how the transition from liquid to gas and back again slows down in a weightless environment and how an artificial form of gravity can be simulated using high-speed vibration of the sample. This work has implications for work in space, where fluids don't behave the way they do on the ground.. Past studies have shown that vibrating an astronauts' legs and feet help to prevent muscle decay or bone decalcification. Daniel Beysens, a researcher at the Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA, dbeysens@cea.fr) and his colleagues study this problem at the much more basic level of individual bubbles and droplets, and what happens to them when you add or subtract the effects of gravity.

Movement between liquid and vapor states is aided by buoyancy: bubbles rise and droplets fall. But without gravity these actions cease and liquids condense only by the haphazard and slower process of collision between droplets or bubbles. In the new experiment a 20-cubic-millimeter sample of liquid/gaseous hydrogen was levitated in a strong magnetic field; the field grabs onto the magnetic moments of the H2 molecules, helping to suspend them. This essentially creates an artificial weightlessness (only about 1% of Earth's gravity remains) and this allows one to see how capillary forces and "wetting" (the process by which a liquid layer builds up on a surface) are dominant in a freefall environment. Then some of the effects of gravity are artificially added back in, this time in the form of high-speed but low-amplitude vibrations. The vibrations cause motion in the fluid, which induces effects that resemble gravity. Bubbles and droplets go "up" and "down" again when the vibration is turned on. As far as simulating gravity, vibrations seem to work (Beysens et al., Physical Review Letters, 15 July 2005)


Neutrinos have very little mass and interact but rarely, but are made in large numbers inside the sun as a byproduct of fusion reactions. They are also routinely made in nuclear reactors and in cosmic ray showers. Terrestrial detectors (usually located underground to reduce the confusing presence of cosmic rays) have previously recorded these various kinds of nu's. Now, a new era in neutrino physics has opened up with the detection of electron antineutrinos coming from radioactive decays inside the Earth. The Kamioka liquid scintillator antineutrino detector (KamLAND) in Japan has registered the presence of candidate events of the right energy; uncertainty in the model of the Earth's interior makes the exact number vague, but it might be dozens of geo-nu's. The neutrinos presumably come from the decays of U-238 or Th-232. They are sensed when they enter the experimental apparatus, where they cause a 1000-ton bath of fluid to sparkle. Scientists believe the Earth is kept warm, and tectonic plates in motion, by a reservoir of energy deriving from two principal sources: residual energy from the Earth's formation and additional energy from subsequent radioactive decays. The rudimentary inventory of geoneutrinos observed so far is consistent with the theory. (Araki et al., Nature, 28 July 2005.)

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

Faith, Health and the Constitution

After tiptoeing into that controversial territory, the University of Minnesota has been forced to backtrack in the face of a lawsuit by a group that opposes the intertwining of religion and government. But controversy lingers over the university's involvement in a clinical graduate program on the intersection of faith and health, which Minnesota officials insist they will not offer in a way that violates the Constitution.

In 2002, the university's Academic Health Center joined with Luther Seminary, which is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and Fairview Health Services, a health care organization, to form the Minnesota Faith Health Consortium. Among the group's goals, according to its Web site, were increasing understanding of the links between religious faith and health, and "enhancing leadership capacity to link faith and health."

One way the consortium planned to do that was by developing the Faith/Health Clinical Leadership program, a set of three courses jointly sponsored by the university, the seminary and Fairview. Materials promoting the program, which was originally supposed to be offered beginning this year, described it as a "pioneering effort" to "prepare students from a variety of professional backgrounds for a role in faith/health leadership."

That description caught the eye of officials at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin based group that advocates for the separation of church and state. A lawsuit the group filed in March charged that the public university's involvement in the consortium and the clinical leadership program violated the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against government endorsement of religion.

"In our opinion this entangles a public university and religion inextricably," says Annie Laurie Gaylor, the foundation's executive director.

This month, the university quietly withdrew from the Faith Health Consortium, citing the lawsuit. But Gaylor calls that step "empty" because the university remains involved in the clinical leadership program.

She cites materials Minnesota produced about the courses and their curriculums this spring, which describe one of the three courses, "Healer's Journey," as letting students "reflect on their own personal, professional, and spiritual values as a means of assisting others to use their own spiritual background for enhancing their own well-being and healing."

Mark B. Rotenberg, Minnesota's general counsel, said he believed the foundation was "jumping the gun" in deciding the constitutionality of courses that Minnesota has yet to offer to any students. He noted that plans for what it would cover are still under discussion ­ and that lawyers for the Freedom From Religion Foundation are involved in those deliberations.

"I am interested in listening respectfully to the plaintiffs' complaints about what they believe the course may be, and we are prepared to make any modifications that are appropriate," said Rotenberg. "They believe the course constitutes an unconstitutional entangling with religion, and of course we're not going to allow that. It is unquestionable that the university will not be engaging in proselytizing, religious advocacy, or promoting a religious perspective."

Rotenberg said the university's caution about making sure that the clinical program is constitutional does not mean its officials believe that a public university must entirely avoid discussion of religion and its role in health.

"While it's certainly important, required even, that we steer clear of proselytizing, advocating, or even encouraging particular religious perspectives or viewpoints, it absolutely is possible for the university to offer a course that engages students who may come to these questions from a particular faith perspective," he said.

Rotenberg threw out a hypothetical: Let's say the university developed a course that took as its thesis that "patients who have a deep faith are more likely to be successful in their course of treatment than patients who do not," he said. "Clearly it would be inappropriate for the university to officially take a position on that; first of all, it's unknowable, and even if it were, it would be taking a position on a faith proposition.

"But it's not at all problematic," Rotenberg said, "to have a discussion of that question."

He added: "We are not at all unmindful of the constitutional limitations here. But it's too easy to say you can't talk about faith in the health sciences. I don't think that's what the Constitution requires."

­ Doug Lederman


Galaxies hold chemical key to the past


Article Published: Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 6:32:11 PM PST

Spitzer Space Telescope detects organic compounds

By Kimm Groshong , Staff Writer

PASADENA -- Massive galaxies dating from the universe's infancy hold chemicals thought to be key to our own solar system's formation, scientists say.

Caltech researchers using the Spitzer Space Telescope's infrared vision have detected organic chemical compounds carbon-based molecules that are the building blocks of life in galaxies about 10 billion light years away.

"That's a huge, vast distance away,' said Lin Yan, a research scientist at Caltech's Spitzer Science Center and lead author of a new study that details the finding.

Considering the galaxies date from a time when the universe was about one-fifth of its current 14 billion years old, "it's really not crazy to imagine there is life in another system,' she said.

Yan is still analyzing data Spitzer began collecting last August, chemically analyzing chunks of the sky and about 52 massive galaxies. But Yan said she would guess that at least one-third of that bunch show signs of the molecules polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Co-author George Helou, director of Caltech's Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, said the finding is particularly interesting because the chemicals indicate at least one generation of stars predated those in the detected galaxies. That's because the compounds include elements such as carbon and oxygen which are thought to have been absent after the Big Bang until they formed through fusion within stars.

Also, he said, the chemicals "play an important role in the physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium.'

In order for clouds of gas and dust to become solar systems, they must collapse in on themselves. But as they do so under their own weight, they heat and reach a point where they can no longer collapse. As very effective radiators, the chemical compounds can help the hot clouds cool down and collapse to form stars. Therefore, Helou said, "in a way, they would have seeded our own solar system.'

Previously, scientists had only found the chemicals within the Milky Way and nearby galaxies. Spitzer enabled the researchers to collect the chemical data with 100 times greater sensitivity than its heat-seeking predecessors.

As Yan continues to analyze the first batch of data, the scientists hope to conduct an additional survey and learn more about the galaxies. Exactly how large are they? How many stars did they produce? Why did these objects form so much earlier in the life of the universe than our own sun?

"Understanding what is special about certain galaxies, certain parts of the universe, is essential for understanding how the universe that we're living in came about,' Helou said.

Other co-authors of the study, which will appear in the Aug. 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal, include Ranga-Ram Chary, Lee Armus, Harry Tepliz, David Frayer, Dario Fadda, Jason Surace and Philip Choi.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Spitzer Space Telescope for NASA.

Kimm Groshong can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4451, or by e-mail at kimm.groshong@sgvn.com

Scientists Get Better Look at Dinosaur Development

Posted July 29, 2005 10:33AM

The embryo, a Massospondylus, belongs to a family of dinosaurs called prosauropods. Distantly related duckbill dinosaurs in the late Cretaceous period, 99 million to 65 million years ago, also seemed to have cared for their young.

Scientists have cracked open a 190-million-year-old egg to reveal the oldest known dinosaur embryo. The finding, reported today in the journal Science, gives paleontologists new insights into the physical development of dinosaurs. Examination of the fetal skeleton also suggests the hatchling would have required parental care to survive. This would be the earliest evidence of nurturant behavior, more than 100 million years earlier than previous examples.

"It's a very exciting prospect that means this is the oldest example of parental care," says lead researcher Robert Reisz, paleontologist at the University of Toronto at Mississauga.

Since the 4.7-inch-long skeleton fills the slightly round 2.4-inch-long egg, it appears the dinosaur was near hatching.

The egg containing the embryo was discovered in 1978 in South Africa, but it was too tiny and delicate to be dissected. Using a special microscope Reisz created and miniature excavation tools, researchers were able to expose the skeleton from the surrounding rock and eggshell. Reisz says it is "superbly preserved."

The embryo, a Massospondylus, belongs to a family of dinosaurs called prosauropods. Distantly related duckbill dinosaurs in the late Cretaceous period, 99 million to 65 million years ago, also seemed to have cared for their young, but according to Thomas Holtz Jr., vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland, "duckbills are mental giants" compared with the prosauropods.

The most significant aspect, Holtz says, is that "even very primitive dinosaurs were showing fairly sophisticated parental behavior."

James Clark, professor of biology at George Washington University, is not convinced. He says the actual ability of the baby dinosaur "is something that is really hard to know." What he finds more impressive in the study are "the changes that they documented going from the embryos up through the adults. It looks like they were changing their body posture."

Adult prosauropods were about 16.4 feet long, primarily walked on their hind limbs and might have looked a bit like Fred Flintstone's pet Dino, Holtz says.

The tiny embryo has a large head and larger forelimbs, suggesting it would have initially walked on all four legs. It appears the forelimbs grew more slowly than the hind limbs, leading the prosauropod to change its gait.

The skeleton also may provide insight into an evolutionary mystery. Prosauropods are precursors to sauropods, a family that includes large dinosaurs such as the Apatosaurus, also known as brontosaurus. Some features of the embryo resemble adult sauropods, so sauropods may have evolved through paedomorphosis, a process where young traits are retained in adulthood.


The problem with Darwinian solutions


Sean Carroll and Michael Ruse argue that "evo devo" undermines intelligent design. ID advocate William Dembski begs to differ.

By William A. Dembski (July 29, 2005)

In his review of Endless Forms Most Beautiful , Sean Carroll's new book on evo devo, Michael Ruse faults intelligent design (ID) for harping on evolution's unsolved problems. Moreover, Carroll as well as Ruse suggest that evo devo has now resolved one of the major problems on which design theorists have been harping.

Wrong on both counts. Intelligent design does not have a problem with problems. It has a problem with bogus solutions that Darwinists like Ruse and Carroll dress up as real solutions to the problems of biological origins.

Evo devo is a case in point. This term, coined in the mid 1990s, attempts to merge two sub-disciplines of biology: evolutionary biology, which studies the mechanisms by which populations of organisms change over generations, and developmental biology, which studies the mechanisms by which individual organisms grow from conception to mature form.

Evo devo takes as its starting point that genetic mechanisms are the key to both evolutionary and developmental biology. The merger of evolutionary and developmental biology, therefore, looks to key genes that influence development and could in principle also influence changes in development and, thereby, lead to macroevolutionary change.

What if, for instance, a gene that controls development could somehow induce a change early in development? Even a small change early in development might have huge consequences for the organism's anatomy and physiology. Think of an arrow aimed accurately at a target. Left to fly unperturbed, the arrow will land in the target's bull's-eye. Yet the earlier in flight that the arrow is diverted from its trajectory, the wider it will be off the mark when it lands.

The promise of evo devo is that genetically induced changes early in development, though small and easily attainable in themselves, might nonetheless lead to macroevolutionary changes.

In other words, just as the arrow diverted early from its course will land wide of the mark, so development diverted early from its course might lead to significant evolutionary change. In this way evo devo seeks to do an end-run around the more traditional neo-Darwinian approach to macroevolution, with its steady accumulation of microevolutionary changes leading to macroevolution. Evo devo, by contrast, promises rapid evolutionary change at a small cost, namely, the cost of mutating a few key genes that control early development.

To be sure, evo devo's study of genes that control development continues apace. And the field is making some progress in understanding how genetic developmental mechanisms assist in microevolutionary change — such as changes in butterfly eyespots. The problem is that evo devo looks to conserved genes, which are genes that are essentially the same across widely different organisms, to study how macroevolutionary change might have occurred.

But that raises a fundamental problem. Elizabeth Pennisi, in a report about evo devo for the journal Science, dated Nov. 1, 2002, stated the problem this way: "The lists [of conserved genes give] no insight into how, in the end, organisms with the same genes came to be so different."

The very universality of these genes invalidates the grand claims that are made for them. Here's why: if biological structures are determined by their genes, then different structures must be determined by different genes. If the same gene can determine structures as radically different as a fruit fly's leg and a mouse's brain, or an insect's eyes and the eyes of humans and squids, then that gene really isn't determining much of anything at all.

My colleague, the biologist Jonathan Wells, put it this way in my book, Signs of Intelligence :

Consider the analogy of an ignition switch in a vehicle. One might find similar ignition switches in vehicles such as automobiles, boats, and airplanes — vehicles which are otherwise very different from each other. Perhaps, in some sense, an ignition switch can be called a "master control"; but except for telling us that a vehicle can be started by turning on an electrical current, it tells us nothing about that vehicle's structure and function. Similarly, except for telling us how an embryo directs its cells into one of several built-in developmental pathways, homeotic genes tell us nothing about how biological structures are formed. As homeotic genes turn out to be more and more universal, the "control" they exercise in development turns out to be less and less specific.

To sum up, developmental geneticists have found that the genes that seem to be most important in development are remarkably similar in many different types of animals, from worms to fruit flies to mammals.

Initially, this was regarded as evidence for genetic programs controlling development. But biologists are now realizing that it actually constitutes a paradox: if genes control development, why do similar genes produce such different animals? Why does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly instead of a barracuda?

If evo devo actually resolved the problems raised by these questions, then more power to it. Yet the real problem here is that Darwinian biologists like Carroll and Darwinian philosophers of biology like Ruse are pretending that evo devo has resolved fundamental problems of evolutionary biology when in fact it hasn't.

Regardless of whether such failures provide an opening for ID, they must be honestly admitted. Certainly, they must not be swept under the rug for fear that they might open the door to ID. Ironically, by overselling evolution, misleading reviews and interviews like those here are hastening the reception of ID among many thoughtful scholars.

William A. Dembski is the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he heads its new Center for Science and Theology. He is also a senior fellow with Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture in Seattle. What's New Friday July 29, 2005 ECHINACEA: THE THEME THIS WEEK IS "THINGS THAT DON'T WORK."

There is no reason why herbal remedies couldn't work. The bark and leaves of the angiosperms are packed with biologically active chemicals. Surely, among the thousands of herbals on the market, one must work. With a budget of over $100M, and under pressure to show it's not biased against alternative medicine, the new National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at NIH set out to find it. Well, ephedra worked, but side effects were fatal http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN04/wn010204.html. Why not ask herbalists what would be a sure thing? Answer: "Echinacea." Millions of Americans use the purple cone flower to prevent or treat colds. Native Americans used it, and we all know that primitive societies had wondrous cures that today's narrow-minded scientists can't explain. But in initial tests, it didn't seem to work http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN04/wn052804.html. This week, the New England Journal of Medicine published a convincing NCCAM funded test: Echinacea does not prevent or cure colds.


Prayers for the sick are probably the most widely practiced healing tradition in the world. An earlier study with the same lead author, Mitchell Krucoff, MD, at Duke University Medical Center, continues to be widely cited as scientific evidence for the power of prayer. In a much larger follow-up study, however, 748 patients who had common cardiac procedures were not helped by intercessory prayers of groups throughout the world, drawn from Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Buddhist denominations. You will not be surprised that the authors conclude that so-called "noetic" therapies, defined as therapies that don't involve the use of tangible drugs or devices, deserve further scientific scrutiny. Science assumes that all events result from natural causes http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN04/wn120304.html.


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

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

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Horoscopes? Hogwash


People who depend on astrology to plan their day have stars in their eyes. By Jim Kundreskas

Date published: 7/16/2005

A STRONOMY IS REAL science and so, can be argued, are aerospace engineering and aeronautics, but astrology is pure and simple tripe and twaddle.

Go ahead, sharpen your pencils now to write your letters of challenge; I unwaveringly stand my ground that every single aspect of astrology and all those daily horoscopes in so many newspapers across this land are nothing more than utter nonsense.

Why do you think they're so often printed near the comics?

One of my best friends recently had a horrible day with regard to her job. It was so very awful that it would easily rank in her top five most terrible days at work. Here's her horoscope from two different newspapers for that very day: "Pay your own way. People are in a generous mood tonight but even so, chip in on expenses" and "You're used to breaking new ground, but today's the day to let others do it for you. Good leaders learn when to delegate."

Uh-huh. What in the world do those two examples of ridiculous information have to do with my friend pondering whether to quit her current profession? Right now, that's a really important question for her. Even if the horoscope on that day did have something in it that was job-related, it would be only pure coincidence.

As I understand it, the "science" of astrology is based upon the fact that heavenly bodies such as our sun, moon and some nearby planets out there exert a kind of force upon our bodies, and the exact nature of that energy is critically dependent upon precisely when we were born.

Right. Millions of people who started their lives within the Gemini dates are pretty much all alike?

That's crazy.

Astrologers point out the fact that the sun and moon do wield some influence every day over our oceans here on Earth, in the form of tides.

That's not disputed.

However, they then carry their belief a little further by insisting that since the human body is mostly water, those same forces must affect us, too.

That's like saying that if you eat a pizza you become Italian, or being born under Leo makes you lionhearted and courageous.

I don't think so.

The 12 signs of the zodiac, time-wise, are all messed up anyway on today's calendar, and that must drive devoted astrology followers crazy.

Astrology is an ancient obsession, and when those zodiac dates were set so long ago with regard to which constel- lation the sun was residing in, nobody bothered to take into consideration the wobble of Earth on its axis.

Bona fide scientists today know that quiver is for real, and it causes Earth to change zodiac signs every 2,500 or so years. If you look in the paper today, the dates are April 20 to May 20 for people to be born into the Taurus family. In reality, those dates should more accurately be May 15 to June 21, for that's when the sun is really there now, in the year 2005.

Today, we even have a 13th constellation in the zodiac and it's called Ophiuchus, or "the serpent bearer." This is really true, for astronomers now recognize 13 constellations to the zodiac and not just those more familiar 12 the astrologers out there acknowledge.

How many folks in the Sagittarius community do you think realize today they were actually born under Ophiuchus instead?

I'll bet darn few of them, but the dates for Ophiuchus are Nov. 30 to Dec. 18, in case you're actually interested.

So, let's review. Horoscopes have zero reliability and, besides that, the whole line of analysis with astrology is flawed because the signs of the zodiac are no longer where they were when this hogwash all got started.

Like a popular cold meat, my friends, it's all baloney.

Here's what's so alarming. Millions of people believe in this stuff, really trust it, too, and I'm not talking exclusively idiots here.

You may have heard of Joan Quigley. Ms. Quigley was a prominent personal astrologer for lady named Nancy Reagan.

I'm sure you're familiar with Nancy.

We all know who Nancy's husband was, too, and not a bad word could ever be uttered about that admirable man.

No, sir, not unless you really want to start a frightful fracas does anyone today dare tarnish the image of our beloved 40th president but it is accepted knowledge that he did put a lot of faith in astrology.

One of his trusted advisers even admitted that his own calendar had certain dates circled in green (good days coming) and red (don't make any important decisions now) and the president actually paid attention to that stuff.

(This would be a perfect time to insert a Bonzo joke, but I'm not going there.)

Suffice it to say, having the knowledge that the president of the United States, arguably the most powerful man on Earth, consulted an astrologer before making vital decisions is a chilling thought.

Still, that doesn't give astrology any kind of scientific or truly reliable substantiation, but rather it's just an endorsement from one man. Granted, one very noteworthy man, but still just one man.

Lots of folks once believed there were witches in Salem, Mass. Burning innocent women at the stake didn't make that any more true than having an official astrologer in the White House gives astrology any real legitimacy.

Congress never confirmed Ms. Quigley anyway.

There is hope for us, though. When I punched "astrology" into my Yahoo server on the Internet, it indicated that there were 18,600,000 entries to peruse.

Yeah, if I had maybe 300 years to look at them all.

However, when "astronomy" is put in there, Yahoo gave a much bigger number: 30,300,000. Something real versus just fake claptrap won easily. Even "Shakespeare" beat astrology, with 19,400,000.

That's heartening to know, too.

So, what's your sign?

JIM KUNDRESKAS of Louisa County near Lake Anna has been an outdoors writer for more than 20 years. Contact him at Zbasser@aol.com.

Date published: 7/16/2005

Party hard


Ben Goldacre
Thursday July 21, 2005
The Guardian

Talk about bad science here.

· In our eagerness to focus on the supply side of pseudoscience - the dismal outpourings of flaky humanities graduates in the media and the bogus pseudoscience of people with products to sell - we've neglected an important area of study: the impact on the end market. Take this from reader Richard Neville, last weekend, who was simply trying to get a drink: "I was at the bar buying a round," he begins. "'Grapefruit and soda please.' I said. The barman adopted a pained expression. 'I should point out to you, sir, that this juice is 100% pure organic and, therefore, I don't like to add chemicals - you see, I don't know what's in soda water.' 'Well,' I said, 'I think it's mostly water - which, of course, is a chemical plus a little bicarbonate of soda and added carbon dioxide.' He didn't look happy, while I just looked thirsty and persisted: 'Well,' he warned, 'if you'll take full responsibility ...'"

· So it occurs to me: if I have a grandiose delusion, it is that we're engaged in a useful project here, the study of the Public Misunderstanding of Science. And this is uncharted territory. So I'm asking for qualitative research; I'm asking for your help in a grand experiment, with the widest possible sampling frame, that is: you. Only you can help me to document the stupidity that's out there.

· I'll get the ball rolling. Last week, I was at a party and somebody starting telling me that the theories produced by science would be different if it had been done by women. I asked her whether she thought Newton's three laws of motion might have turned out differently if he had been a woman, and she said yes, of course. I asked her how, exactly, she thought that Newton could single-handedly change the fact that acceleration of a body is proportional to the force acting on it, divided by its mass? And she walked off. Chalk up one to the nerds; and this is only the most stupid thing I've heard this week. Perhaps someone has tried to tell you that "science, you know, it's kind of a belief system, like any other religion," in a way that made you want to slap them particularly hard. Perhaps you did slap them. Perhaps they told you scientists say we're all energy so nothing is real. Perhaps they told you that the stuff they believe is "outside of science". Perhaps they told you that science wants to reduce their life to simple laws. Forget the media, we know we've lost there. I want to know: what's the most stupid thing anyone has ever said to you about science at a party?



By Paul Krassner

Tom Cruise may consider himself educated about the negative aspects of psychiatry, but I suspect he doesn't know jack shit about the dark side of Scientology, the source of that education.

In 1971, I announced in an ad the features that would be included in the 13th-anniversary issue of The Realist. Among them, "The Rise of Sirhan Sirhan in the Scientology Hierarchy." The Church of Scientology proceeded to sue me for libel; they wanted $750,000 for those nine words, the title of an article that I had not yet written.

What's relevant here is the paranoid mindset of Scientology, as revealed in this excerpt from their complaint:

"...Defendants have conspired between themselves and with other established religions, medical and political organizations and persons presently unknown to plaintiff. By subtle covert and pernicious techniques involving unscrupulous manipulation of all public communication media, defendants and their co-conspirators have conspired to deny plaintiff its right to exercise religious beliefs on an equal basis with the established religious organizations of this country."

I published their complaint in The Realist and told my attorney, James Wolpman (now an OSHA judge), that I wanted to fight the lawsuit in court on a First Amendment basis.

But when Scientology learned that (a) The Realist had no assets, and (b) that I was in the habit of publishing satirical articles, they offered to settle for $5,000. I turned 'em down. Then they offered to drop the suit altogether if I would publish an article by Chick Corea, a jazz pianist and member of Scientology. I explained that this was not how I made my editorial decisions, and again I refused to settle. They dropped the suit.

I cultivated a source inside Scientology (Deep E-Meter) and found out that their records showed that under the heading "Operation Dynamite"—their jargon for a frame-up—a memo read: "Got CSW from SFO not to do this on Krassner. I disagree and will pass my comments on to DG I US as to why this should be done. SFO has the idea that Krassner is totally handled and will not attack us again. My feelings are that in PT, he has not got enough financial backing to get out The Realist and other publications and when that occurs, will attack again, maybe more covertly but attack, nonetheless."

I finally finished writing "The Rise of Sirhan Sirhan in the Scientology Hierarchy" in 2003, and it will be included in my upcoming collection, One Hand Jerking: Reports from an Investigative Satirist.

Hey, maybe Tom Cruise could play me in the movie version.

Volume 18, Issue 29 ©2005

Chiropractors v. Vaccination


Tuesday, Jun. 07, 2005

Some in the profession take on those who argue that the practice doesn't work


Polio is back with a vengeance, especially in backward countries where vaccinations are often regarded with suspicion. In Nigeria, for example, polio vaccinations were halted by government authorities in 2003 and 2004 after rumors spread that vaccines were instruments of a Western and Zionist plot to sterilize Muslim women and to hasten the spread of AIDS.

That's ridiculous, of course, and it couldn't happen here. Or could it? Despite the fact that vaccination has saved untold millions of lives, many Americans are being advised to avoid it on grounds as false as those rumored in Nigeria. Critics here charge that it is largely responsible for increases in such disorders as asthma, autism, juvenile diabetes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). That advice, unfortunately, is being dispensed to patients by chiropractors, far too many of them. How many? Several studies have shown that a solid minority of chiropractors are against vaccinations. One survey of chiropractors in Alberta, Canada, found that 27.2 percent of them encouraged or advised their patients against having themselves or their children vaccinated.

Chiropractors are accustomed to, and generally ignore, such criticism from the medical profession. In fact, the International Chiropractors Association sells a book entitled Vaccination: 100 Years of Orthodox Research Shows that Vaccines Represent a Medical Assault on the Immune System.

But now a small number of gutsy chiropractors are themselves speaking out against anti-vaccination doctrine. Writing in a recent issue of Dynamic Chiropractic, for example, chiropractors Stephen Perle and Randy Ferrance are harshly critical of their "zealously anti-vaccination" counterparts. They note that "the level of fervor within this subset of the profession is extremely high... similar to the level of fanaticism one sees in some religious meetings."

The authors take issue with their profession's authorities, such as the World Chiropractic Alliance, which claims that chiropractic "adjustments" have a positive impact on the immune system. That implication is clear; vaccines can be replaced by adjustments. "We are not aware," Perle and Ferrance protest, "of a single well-controlled study which found that chiropractic care prevented any infectious disease or reduced the severity of such a disease." Claiming that it can, they charge, is either "scientific misconduct, error or willful ignorance."

Going further, the two question the ethics of chiropractors who warn their patients about the danger of vaccinations, which in extremely rare cases can indeed cause serious side effects, but are silent about the risks of manipulation of the neck This technique causes strokes in perhaps one in 100,000 patients, the authors estimate, and this fact should also be disclosed. "What is good for the goose," they conclude, "is good for the gander."

Both endorse the guidance of the College of Chiropractors of Ontario, which in its Standard of Practice, states "Chiropractors may not, in their professional capacity express views about immunization/vaccination as it is outside their scope of practice." That's sound advice that all chiropractors would do well to follow.

Copyright © 2005 Time Inc.

Echinacea does little against colds-study

27 Jul 2005 21:00:33 GMT

Source: Reuters

By Gene Emery

BOSTON, July 27 (Reuters) - Echinacea, the herbal remedy widely believed to prevent or ease the misery of the common cold, turns out to be no more effective than a placebo, according to a new study by the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

The finding, published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, is the latest to show no benefit from the herb, which is widely billed as an immune system booster and promoted by advocates of "natural" remedies as a proven treatment.

Whether the conclusions will influence sales of echinacea is a matter of debate.

In a commentary in the Journal, Wallace Sampson, editor of the scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, said a study disproving the effectiveness of such remedies "rarely leads the supplement industry to reduce production or the public to decrease use. In fact, advocates often dismiss disproof."

The reputation of echinacea, also known as purple coneflower, is so vaulted that the herb is recommended by the World Health Organization as a treatment for the common cold.

The study, led by Ronald Turner of the University of Virginia, tested echinacea on 399 volunteers to determine whether any of three preparations had an active ingredient that reduced the risk of infection or symptoms if an infection took hold.

Although the researchers tested the echinacea species originally used by Native Americans in the Midwest and endorsed by WHO, the treatment was no more effective than a placebo.

There are many types of echinacea preparations, so it would be difficult to test them all, Turner said. "Our study, however, adds to the accumulating evidence that suggests that the burden of proof should lie with those who advocate this treatment."

In his commentary, Sampson said most of the previous tests that helped build echinacea's reputation "were of small, inadequately controlled studies sponsored by industry."

Turner's study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a government agency that pays for research largely on the basis of the popularity of the unconventional treatment.

"Since 1999, the (National Institutes of Health) has spent almost $1.5 billion in grants for research into alternative methods. NCCAM has spent almost half that amount and has found no evidence of efficacy and little evidence of inefficacy," Simpson said.

He said it's time to devote that money to tests of treatments that have "passed through the sieve of plausibility and that is consistent with basic sciences, other applied sciences, and history _ all molded by wisdom and common sense."


It's a bison.


A hair sample that some claimed belonged to a sasquatch in the Yukon is actually the fur of the large mammal.

David Coltman, an University of Alberta geneticist who did a DNA test on a hair sample, confirmed that it was 100-per-cent bison.

"We compared it to human samples and bison samples that we had here on hand," said Dr. Coltman.

He said the DNA sample was not fresh.

During the procedure, follicles were separated from about 10 hairs and a standard DNA extraction was conducted. Copies of the genes were created and a DNA sequence was developed, which matched the genetic code of bison.

The hair sample was taken from a bush near Teslin, Yukon, near the B.C. border earlier this month where several people said they had seen and heard a large, hairy creature crash through their backyard. They also claim that there was also an unusally large footprint at the site.

If the DNA had come out as an unknown sequence, perhaps of a sasquatch, Dr. Coltman said he would try to find the most closely related species on the evolutionary tree to match it.

"If they came from a primate, we'd expect it to be most similar to humans or chimpanzees or gorillas, but also to stick out on its own," he said.

© Copyright 2005 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.

MIOS MEETING Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Hear Don R. Patton, Ph.D.


Stones Of Israel

The Creation Evidence Museum is now officially working in partnership with the Department of Antiquities of Israel to excavate the City of David in Jerusalem. Exciting archeological evidence, further documenting the Biblical account, is being uncovered almost daily. These discoveries are wielding a dramatic influence in Israel and around the world.

Dr. Patton has been named one of the area supervisors in this effort. He returned from a very productive dig just weeks ago. He will present an overview of the newly discovered evidence as well as an objective overview of archeological evidence relating to the historicity of the Bible.

Bunky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX

Tuesday, August 2nd, 7:30 PM

Current News  News Back Issues

What's New | Search | Newsletter | Fact Sheets
NTS Home Page
Copyright (C) 1987 - 2008 by the North Texas Skeptics.