NTS LogoSkeptical News for 7 August 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Bush endorsement of ID no surprise


Sunday, August 7, 2005

No doubt many people will be elated to hear that President Bush believes schools should discuss intelligent design creationism in science classes. Others will be dismayed at yet another example of the scientifically illiterate leader of our nation dismissing the advice of his own qualified scientists when that advice does not support his policies.

In March 2004, White House science advisor John H. Marburger III told The Chronicle of Higher Education, "Evolution is a cornerstone of modern biology" and "much of the work supported by the National Institutes of Health depends heavily on the concepts of evolution."

In a speech last February, Marburger said, "Intelligent design is not a scientific theory. I don't regard intelligent design as a scientific topic" (Chris Mooney, "Intelligent Denials," The American Prospect Online, Feb. 22, 2005).

I'm willing to bet that Bush would be quite unable to articulate a coherent scientific theory of intelligent design; but that's not a fair bet, as even the grand poobahs of the intelligent design movement (i.e., the Discovery Institute of Seattle, Washington) cannot do so.


Museum exhibits a creationist viewpoint


New front opens in debate over origins

By Lisa Anderson
Tribune national correspondent
Published August 7, 2005

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. -- Tucked into a leafy fold of the Ozark Mountains, a new dinosaur museum boldly goes where few museums have gone before--deep into the pages of Genesis.

At first glance, with its research-quality replicas and lush dioramas of prehistoric Earth, the Museum of Earth History, which opened in April in this Victorian spa town, may seem like any other facility devoted to dinosaurs and fossils. But with exhibits aligned with the Bible's six days of creation, it also is emblematic of the increasing volume in the national debate over how evolution should be taught in public schools and the emboldening of those who oppose or question evolution.

At issue, in state legislatures, school boards, museums and other cultural institutions across the country, is whether evolution, Charles Darwin's widely accepted theory that all life descended from common ancestors and developed through natural selection and random mutation, should be presented alone or in conjunction with alternative explanations.

Most visitors to the Museum of Earth History prefer the explanation in Genesis. And that is exactly what the museum, a joint project of the non-profit, Oklahoma-based Creation Truth Foundation and Eureka Springs' Great Passion Play outdoor Bible theme park, offers.

Suspended overhead in one display, for example, is a replica of a Pteranodon, a pointy-headed flying reptile with a 33-foot wingspan, hollow bones and a bony ruffle on its skull. Visitors are told: "Each of these unique design features indicate that Pteranodons were created to fly, not that they slowly evolved into flying creatures."

Similar creationist viewpoints appear on plaques throughout the museum, a 3,500-square-foot prototype for a series of regional museums 10 times that size, the first of which is planned for Dallas in 2007.

Finishing the tour with their two sons in tow, Robert and Debbie Archer, surgeons from Tulsa, said they were gratified to visit a museum that reflects their beliefs and not Darwin's.

That is why he developed the museum, said G. Thomas Sharp, founder and chairman of the Creation Truth Foundation.

"There is so much demographic data telling us that about 50 percent of the American public believes in the biblical story of origins," said Sharp, 62, a former high school science teacher.

According to a November 2004 Gallup Poll, 45 percent or "almost half of the U.S. population believes that human beings did not evolve, but instead were created by God--as stated in the Bible--essentially in their current form about 10,000 years ago." The number of Americans who say they believe that has not dipped below 44 percent since Gallup began polling on the issue in 1982.

"However, there was not an entertaining, educational cultural center to visit that presents that story," Sharp said.

There are various creationist-themed centers and museums around the country, but Sharp's museum represents a new wave. These museums are offering high-quality dinosaur replicas near major cities or tourist destinations, such as the Great Passion Play, which draws about 400,000 people a year to its 4,100-seat outdoor amphitheater and its New Holy Land Tour of life-size replicas of biblical sites.

Debbie Archer, 45, said of evolutionists, "They hold all the other ideas as false. They act as if creationism is based all on faith and fantasy and not on fact. And that's simply not true."

No explanation of the origins of life on Earth can be proved definitively. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1987 case of Edwards vs. Aguillard that creationism, which the court deemed to be religion, may not be taught in public schools because it would violate the 1st Amendment's establishment clause calling for separation of church and state.

Partly as a result, the dominant current challenger to evolution in education is intelligent design, which asserts that there is a scientific argument that some complexities of nature, unexplained by Darwin's theory, cannot be the result of random mutation, but must be the work of an unnamed intelligence. Some critics call it "creationism lite."

Bush ramps up debate

President Bush unexpectedly amplified the debate last week, fortifying proponents of intelligent design and biblical creationists. Bush, who as Texas governor favored teaching both evolution and creationism, said students today should be taught evolution and intelligent design "so people can understand what the debate is about."

"Teach the controversy" is one of intelligent design's marketing mantras. But the mainstream scientific community holds that there is nothing scientific about intelligent design and no credible controversy over evolution as the foundation block of modern biology.

In a statement, the National Science Teachers Association described itself as "stunned and disappointed" by Bush's words. But the president is in a powerful position on the issue, as the majority of Americans long have agreed with his view. Since the early 1980s, polls have consistently indicated that a majority or near-majority of Americans believe both evolution and creationism, the biblical account of human origins, should be taught.

That may not be surprising in a nation where more than a quarter of Americans are evangelical Christians, many holding creationist views, and 96.8 percent claim some religious belief, according to the 2004 National Survey of Religion and Politics released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

"Many Americans think these religious ideas should be taught in school because they believe them and they're true. But a lot of Americans say that because they think it's fair," said John Green, a Pew fellow and director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, which conducted the poll.

Dual teachings

"We who teach in the more liberal academies tend to forget that those who take biology classes are also being taught on the weekends how to interpret that in church," said Phillip Goff, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University. America's argument over evolution, which grabbed the world's attention at the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial," is an old one, perhaps the oldest in the culture wars, according to David Masci, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum.

"I think one of the reasons it's popping up now is you have a tremendous infrastructure of conservative Christian groups, connected to conservative Christian churches, that's grown up in the last 40 years," he said.

It is evident around the country that evolution's critics and opponents are bringing their views more assertively into the public square.

In Oklahoma, Tulsa's Park and Recreation Board voted in June to install a display of the biblical account of creation in Genesis at the Tulsa Zoo, then reversed itself in July under sharp criticism.

In Kentucky, a $25 million, 50,000-square-foot Creation Museum, slated to open in 2007, is under construction by the non-profit Answers in Genesis, one of the world's largest creationist organizations.

In Texas, the Odessa school board is under fire this month for voting to introduce an elective biblical history and literature course that opponents say contains blatantly sectarian and creationist material.

And soon, the Kansas State Board of Education is expected to finalize new science standards that criticize Darwin's theory and open the door to alternative explanations of human origins, including intelligent design.

So far in 2005, intelligent design has been considered for curricula inclusion in at least 25 cases by state legislatures and school boards, according to the National Center for Science Education, a non-profit organization in Oakland that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools.

Devoid of any reference to the biblical or the divine, intelligent design thus far has skirted the Supreme Court's ban on creationism in the classroom. That issue and the scientific validity of intelligent design will be put to the first major test in September, when a federal judge hears the case brought by a Pennsylvania parent group against the Dover Area School District's decision to include intelligent design in biology classes.

Creationists like Sharp don't think intelligent design goes far enough but nevertheless are buoyed by its rising profile.

"You've got these incredibly credentialed scientists who are starting to question what, for 100 years, has been accepted as standard," he said, referring primarily to the fellows at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that is funding research into intelligent design by scientists.

Riding the dinosaurs

Meanwhile, dinosaurs provide a potent platform for evangelism.

"Everyone is totally fascinated by dinosaurs," said Dennis Lindsay, president and chief executive officer of Christ for the Nations, a non-profit international Bible ministry that is co-founding the Dallas museum.

"It will be an attraction to have those and share the story that, from our position and opinion, dinosaurs did not live 65 million years ago," he said, referring to many creationists' belief in a biblical Earth age of less than 10,000 years.

It is important to many creationists that man and dinosaur lived simultaneously because they believe there was no death in the world until Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. If the Genesis story is false, they say, then there would be no need for Jesus Christ to redeem the sins of the world.

Thus, at the Museum of Earth History, Genesis dictates gentle, vegetarian dinosaurs sharing Eden with Adam and Eve, whose vaguely Polynesian appearance represents all races, according to a guide. Another exhibit confirms that dinosaurs, like all land creatures created on Day 6, were on Noah's Ark. The exhibit maintains that the ark could accommodate them because it was huge--450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high--and only smaller, adolescent dinosaurs were put on board.

Such literal interpretation is essential, Sharp said, because "if we lose Genesis as a legitimate scientific and historical explanation for man, then we lose the validity of Christianity. Period."


Monkey See, Monkey Do

Offering ID as an alternative to evolution is a cruel joke. It walks and talks like science but in the lab performs worse than medieval alchemy.

By Jonathan Alter

Aug. 15, 2005 issue - A teacher in Kansas, where war over Darwin in the schools is still raging, calls the theory of intelligent design "creationism in a cheap tuxedo." Great line, but unfair to the elegant tailoring of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based think tank that has almost singlehandedly put intelligent design on the map. Eighty years after the Scopes "monkey trial," the threat to science and reason comes less from fundamentalists who believe the earth was created in six days than from sophisticated branding experts and polemical Ph.D. s who are clever enough to refrain from referring to God or even the Creator, and have now found a willing tool in the president of the United States.

Lest you think this is merely of academic interest, consider the stakes: the Pentagon last week revealed that it is spending money to train certain scientists how to write screenplays for thrillers related to their specialties. Why? Because the status of science has sunk so low that the government needs these disciplines to become sexy again among students or the brain drain will threaten national security. One of the reasons we have fewer science majors is the pernicious right-wing notion that conventional biology is vaguely atheistic.

Now President Bush has given that view a boost. When Bush was asked about intelligent design last week, he answered, "Both sides ought to be properly taught... so people can understand what the debate is about." This sounds reasonable until you realize that, as the president's own science adviser, John H. Marburger III, admits, there is no real debate. "Intelligent design is not a scientific concept," Marburger told The New York Times, committing a bit of candor that will presumably earn him a trip to the White House woodshed.

Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute claims ID uses a scientifically valid "inference to the best explanation" to back up its theories. That might be good enough for a graduate course in the philosophy of science (and the ACLU should not prevent it from being discussed in high-school humanities and philosophy classes), but the idea of its being offered as an alternative to evolution in ninth-grade biology is a cruel joke. Its basic claim—that the human cell is too complex to be explained by natural selection—is unproven and probably unprovable. ID walks like science and talks like science but, so far, performs in the lab worse than medieval alchemy.

It's not God who's the problem but ID's assault on Darwin. Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller (who attends mass every week) says the "unspoken message" peddled by the Discovery Institute is that evolution is the single shakiest theory in science. In fact, despite its flaws, it remains among the most durable theories in all of science.

Even as the president helps pit faith against science in the classroom, popes and other clerics have long known that religion and evolution are not truly at odds. Evolution does not, for instance, challenge the idea that the universe began with a spark of divinity. Darwin himself wrote movingly of God. Only the scientific process—not the scientist—must be agnostic. Long before Darwin, enlightened Christians understood that religion and science are best kept in separate realms. In the fifth century, for instance, Saint Augustine criticized other Christians who "talk nonsense" about the laws of nature.

The most clever thing about intelligent design is that it doesn't sound like nonsense. It conjures up Cambridge, not Kansas. The name evokes Apple software, the MoMA gift shop or a Frank Gehry chair. The scholarly articles are often well written and provocative. But the science within these papers has been demolished over and over by other scientists. As Miller explains, science is perhaps the last true marketplace of ideas. After a decade in circulation, intelligent design has failed the market test. So now its backers are seeking the equivalent of a government bailout, by going around their scientific peers to Red State politicians trying to slip religious dogma into the classroom.

While the Discovery Institute calls God the "designer," to appear less creationist, some of its biggest funders are serious fundamentalists. An internal fund-raising memo leaked in 1999 laid out its theological agenda and intention to use ID as a "wedge" to triumph in the culture wars.

Last week Fox News lent a hand. Bill O'Reilly says that the National Academy of Science is guilty of "fascism" for arguing that ID should not take up valuable class time in high-school biology. (Not to be outdone, Dr. James Dobson compared embryonic-stem-cell research to "Nazi experiments.") These are the same modest gents who decry relativism and curricular inclusiveness in the humanities, where it is far more justifiable than in the sciences.

Bush's policy of politicizing science—retreating from the field of facts and evidence on everything from evolution to global warming to the number of cell lines available to justify his 2001 stem-cell compromise—will eventually wreak havoc with his legacy. Until then, like his masquerade-ball friends, the president will get more clever at harming science while pretending to promote it. Monkey see, monkey do.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.
© 2005 MSNBC.com

URL: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8853604/site/newsweek/

The strange roots of Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard


By Michael Crowley
Last Updated: Aug. 6, 2005

Our summer of Tom Cruise's madness and Katie Holmes' creepy path toward zombie bridedom has been a useful reminder of how truly strange Scientology is.

By now, those interested in the Cruise-Holmes saga may be passingly familiar with the church's creation myth, in which an evil, intergalactic warlord named Xenu kidnaps billions of alien life forms, chains them near Earth's volcanoes and blows them up with nuclear weapons.

Strange as Scientology's pseudotheology may be, though, it's not as entertaining as the life story of the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

To hear his disciples tell it, Hubbard, who died in 1986, was the subject of "universal acclaim" and one of the greatest men who ever lived.

Not only did he devise the church's founding theory of Dianetics, which promises to free mankind of psychological trauma, he was a source of wisdom about everything from jazz music to nuclear physics.

The official Web site dedicated to his life features subsites that expound upon his brilliant callings: "The Humanitarian," "The Philosopher," "The Writer," "The Artist," "The Poet/Lyricist," "The Music Maker," "The Yachtsman" and "Adventurer/Explorer: Daring Deeds and Unknown Realms."

Visitors can hear an audio recording of Hubbard singing one of his own poems or learn about the soundtrack he composed for his 1,000-page sci-fi epic, "Battlefield Earth," later brought to Hollywood by Scientologist John Travolta.

Hubbard's composition "utilized elements from several genres - from honky-tonk and free-swinging jazz to cutting-edge electronic rock. The result is a wholly new dimension in space opera sound."

There's a deep chasm between the erudite, noble Hubbard of Scientology myth and the true identity of the church's wacky founder. To those not in his thrall, Hubbard might be better described as a pulp science-fiction writer who combined delusions of grandeur with a cynical hucksterism.

Yet he turned an oddball theory about human consciousness - which originally appeared in a 25-cent sci-fi magazine - into a far-reaching and powerful multimillion-dollar empire. The church now claims about 8 million members in more than 100 countries.

The slow creep of Scientology's anti-drug programs into public schools, the presumably tens of millions of dollars the church keeps with the help of its tax-exempt status and the accusations that the church has convinced people to hand over their life savings, make Hubbard's bizzarro legacy seem less like tragicomedy and more like a scandal.

Comparable crackpots-in-chief like Lyndon LaRouche and Sun Myung Moon have had almost no detectable national influence. But famous Scientologists - Cruise, Travolta, the singer Beck, and even (say it ain't so) the voice of Bart Simpson, have given Hubbard a veneer of popular credibility and his church a perpetual recruitment ticket.

Hubbard always imagined himself a great man of history. "All men are your slaves," he once wrote in a diary entry unearthed during a 1984 lawsuit.

He reportedly once claimed to have written a manuscript that contained such brutal truths that anyone who read it went insane or committed suicide.

He fancied himself a nuclear physicist, never mind his lack of training, and posited that fallout from Cold War nuclear tests were interfering with Scientology therapies.

Hubbard reportedly constructed the myth that he was a World War II combat hero when, in fact, the Navy reprimanded him after a San Diego-based ship he commanded shelled some nearby Mexican islands for target practice.

Hubbard's version is understandably preferable to the reality, which was a dark farce.

Hubbard was born in 1911 in Tilden, Neb. After flunking out of George Washington University, he became a pulp science-fiction and adventure writer.

In the mid-1940s, he fell in with John Parsons, a wealthy and brilliant young rocket scientist in California, who also happened to be under the tutelage of the infamous satanist Aleister Crowley (no relation to yours truly, thankfully).

According to Russell Miller's damning biography of Hubbard, "Bare-Faced Messiah," Parsons was a science-fiction fan who briefly hosted Hubbard at his Pasadena, Calif., mansion, which featured a domed backyard temple and a rotating cast of occultists and eccentrics.

Parsons described Hubbard as his "magical partner," and, together, the men engaged in a rite in which Parsons tried to impregnate with an antichrist child a woman he considered the whore of Babylon, a goal that Crowley had long promoted.

Years later, when Hubbard had grown famous and realized the antichrist episode didn't comport with his image as a man of culture and wisdom, he would reportedly claim to have been working on an undercover mission for U.S. Naval Intelligence to investigate black magic.

Dabbling in (or investigating) witchcraft didn't pay the bills, and by the late 1940s, Hubbard was in debt and despondent.

Then, in 1950, he published "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health", which he billed as "a milestone for man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and arch."

The theory of Dianetics promised to cure almost any physical and mental ailment - including wrinkles - by cleansing people's memories of traumatic past experiences so they could arrive at a "clear" mental state.

Well-poised to capitalize on a growing national fascination with psychotherapy, the book was an instant bestseller. Dianetics groups and parties sprung up nationwide.

Hubbard became an icon, and thousands of fans sought him out. In 1954, as the book's success - and his income - began to fade, Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology.

His son Ron Jr. claimed in a 1983 interview with Penthouse that money was the motive, saying his father "told me and a lot of other people that the way to make a million was to start a religion."

Hubbard made his millions quickly and used them to style himself as a sophisticated aristocrat, relocating to an English country home dubbed Saint Hill Manor.

But Hubbard quickly alienated governments at home and abroad. He and his followers developed a reputation for intimidating critics and church defectors.

An official inquiry in Australia concluded that Scientology is "evil" and "a serious threat to the community, medically, morally and socially; and its adherents sadly deluded and often medically ill."

In 1963, federal agents, suspicious that Hubbard's therapy might pose a health risk, raided the church's Washington, D.C., branch.

The Internal Revenue Service concluded soon after that Hubbard was skimming millions of dollars from church funds and revoked Scientology's tax-exempt status. (The church won back that status in 1993 after a long, fierce campaign; several European countries still don't recognize Scientology as a religion.)

In 1967, Hubbard fled to the high seas for most of the next eight years. During this period, he dreamed up the "Sea Org," a special branch of Scientology whose members wear sharp blue naval uniforms and sign contracts pledging their service for 1 billion years.

Hubbard finally returned to land in 1975, first to Washington, D.C., and then to the California desert. Lying low, Hubbard was doted on by a special group of teenage "messengers" who pulled on his socks and followed him with ashtrays when he smoked.

He developed Howard Hughes-like eccentricities, flying into rages if he smelled detergent in his clothes, which caused the terrified messengers to rinse his laundry in multiple water buckets.

Meanwhile, the church's ongoing paranoia and vindictiveness culminated in a shockingly elaborate operation, which Hubbard dubbed "Snow White," to spy on and burglarize multiple federal offices, including the IRS and the Justice Department, with the aim of stealing and destroying government documents about Scientology.

The Scientologists even planted moles in some federal offices. In 1983, 11 church leaders, including Hubbard's wife, were convicted and sentenced to prison for the conspiracy. Though Hubbard was named as a co-conspirator, he was never indicted.

By that time, in any case, he had gone into hiding. On or around Jan. 17, 1986, Hubbard suffered a catastrophic stroke on a secluded ranch near Big Sur, Calif. A week later, he was dead.

Scientology attorneys arrived to recover his body, which they sought to have cremated immediately. They were blocked by a county coroner, who, according to Scientology critics, did an autopsy that revealed high levels of a psychiatric drug.

That would seem like an embarrassment given the church's hostility to such medications (witness Cruise's recent feud with Brooke Shields), but it didn't stop the church from summoning thousands of followers to the Hollywood Palladium days after Hubbard's death.

There, they were told that Hubbard "willingly discarded the body after it was no longer useful to him," and that this signified "his ultimate success: the conquest of life that he embarked upon half a century ago."

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Hubbard's ultimate success lay in convincing millions of people he was something other than a nut.

Michael Crowley is a senior editor at the New Republic. This article first appeared in the online magazine Slate.

Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Aug. 7, 2005.

Evolution education update: Bush on "intelligent design"; over for FTE in Dover; Kansas science committee denounces change

The big news, of course, is President Bush's remarks on "intelligent design"; but there's also news from Dover, Pennsyvlania, and from Kansas.


During a press conference with a group of Texas reporters on August 1, 2005, President George W. Bush responded to a question about teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools. The reporter referred to "what seems to be a growing debate over evolution versus intelligent design" and asked, "What are your personal views on that, and do you think both should be taught in public schools?" In response, Bush referred to his days as governor of Texas, when "I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about." (It is noteworthy that Bush tacitly equated "intelligent design" and creationism.) Pressing the issue, the reporter asked, "So the answer accepts the validity of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution?" Bush avoided a direct answer, construing the question instead as a fairness issue: "you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

Although there was nothing unexpected about Bush's response, which is consistent with his previous statements on the topic, the present heightened awareness of issues involving evolution education ensured a media frenzy. NCSE was widely consulted for comment. The New York Times quoted NCSE's Susan Spath on the specious appeal to fairness: "It sounds like you're being fair, but creationism is a sectarian religious viewpoint, and intelligent design is a sectarian religious viewpoint," she said. "It's not fair to privilege one religious viewpoint by calling it the other side of evolution." NCSE's Glenn Branch concurred, telling the Los Angeles Times that because "[t]he question was presented to him as a fairness issue," it was not surprising that Bush expressed the view that "both sides ought to be taught." Branch also told the Financial Times that "Bush would have done better to heed his White House science adviser, John Marburger, who [has] said that evolution was the 'cornerstone of modern biology' and who has characteri[z]ed ID as not even being a scientific theory."

When interviewed by The New York Times, Marburger reiterated that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and that "intelligent design is not a scientific concept." According to the Times, Marburger -- who is Science Adviser to the President and Director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy -- suggested that it would be "over-interpreting" Bush's remarks to endorse equal treatment for "intelligent design" and evolution in the public schools. Instead, he said, Bush's remarks should be interpreted as recommending the discussion of "intelligent design" as part of the "social context" in science classes. Marburger's charitable interpretation was not shared, however, by Richard Land, the president of the ethics and religious liberties commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, whom the Times quoted as construing Bush's remarks as supportive of the view he favors: "if you're going to teach the Darwinian theory as evolution, teach it as theory. And then teach another theory that has the most support among scientists" -- presumably alluding to "intelligent design."

The scientific and educational communities are already rushing to deplore Bush's remarks. The American Geophysical Union issued a press release in which its executive director Fred Spilhaus stated, "President Bush, in advocating that the concept of 'intelligent design' be taught alongside the theory of evolution, puts America's schoolchildren at risk." The American Physical Society accepted Marburger's interpretation of Bush's remarks, but emphasized that "only scientifically validated theories, such as evolution, should be taught in the nation's science classes." The American Institute of Biological Sciences issued a press release (not yet on-line) in which its president Marvalee Wake stated, "Intelligent design is not a scientific theory and must not be taught in science classes." The National Science Teachers Association, the world's largest group of science educators, was "stunned and disappointed that President Bush is endorsing the teaching of intelligent design -- effectively opening the door for nonscientific ideas to be taught in the nation's K-12 science classrooms." The American Federation of Teachers, with over 1.3 million members, described Bush's remarks as "a huge step backward for science education in the United States," adding that "[b]y backing concepts that lack scientific merit, President Bush is undermining his own pledge to 'leave no child behind.'"

On editorial and op-ed pages, Bush's remarks are also taking a hammering. The Washington Post's editorialist wrote, "To pretend that the existence of evolution is somehow still an open question, or that it is one of several equally valid theories, is to misunderstand the intellectual and scientific history of the past century." Referring to "intelligent design," the Baltimore Sun's editorialist wrote, "It's creationism by another name, and if it makes its way into schools at all, it should definitely not be part of science classes." In its editorial, the Sacramento Bee connected the dots between Bush's remarks and the Wedge strategy for promoting "intelligent design," commenting, "America's children deserve a first-rate education in science in public school and not a false, politically motivated 'Teach the Controversy' debate between science and religion." And in his column in The New York Times, the economist Paul Krugman perceptively remarked, "intelligent design doesn't have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory."

To read the transcript of the press conference on the Washington Post's website, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/02/AR2005080200899.html

To read the coverage in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Financial Times, visit:

To read the statements from AGU, APS, NSTA, and AFT, visit:

To read the editorials and op-ed columns mentioned, visit:


In a ruling issued on July 27, 2005, the judge presiding over Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board ruled that the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) was not entitled to, and would not be allowed, to intervene in the case. In documents filed with the court in May and then in a hearing before the court in July, FTE -- the publisher of the "intelligent design" textbook Of Pandas and People -- argued that a ruling that "intelligent design" was religious would have severe financial consequences, citing possible losses in the neighborhood of half a million dollars. By intervening, FTE would have become a co-defendant with the Dover Area School Board, able to bring its own lawyers and expert witnesses to the case. Testifying on July 14, FTE's president Jon Buell implied that if allowed to intervene, FTE would bring William Dembski and Stephen C. Meyer as expert witnesses; both were originally slated to be expert witnesses for the defense, but subsequently withdrew. Both the plaintiffs -- represented by the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Pepper Hamilton LLP -- and the defendants -- represented by the Thomas More Law Center -- opposed the motion to intervene.

In his decision, Judge John E. Jones III ruled that FTE was not entitled to intervene in the case because its motion to intervene was not timely, describing FTE's excuses for not trying to become involved earlier as "both unavailing and disingenuous." In a footnote, he remarked: "It is clear to the Court that FTE improperly assumed that its rights would be protected so long as Dembski remained an expert for the Defendants. As such, we believe that the real motivation or underlying reason that FTE filed the instant Motion was because Defendants terminated Dembski as an expert in this case, which led FTE to conclude that its rights were no longer being protected. Notably however, Dembski was involved in this litigation only as a disclosed witness, and never as an agent or representative of FTE. It was only after Dembski apparently subjected The Design of Life [the prospective third edition of Of Pandas and People] to a premature release by including it in his March 30, 2005 expert report, as previously noted, that the various machinations which led to his termination commenced."

Although FTE's failure to move to intervene in a timely fashion was sufficient to disqualify it, Judge Jones also held that FTE failed to demonstrate that it has "a significantly protectable interest in the litigation warranting intervention as a party" and that its interests will not be adequately represented by the defendants. Jones was apparently unimpressed with FTE's arguments on the latter score, writing, "despite repeated questioning in that regard by the Court during the July 14, 2005 hearing, FTE was unable to verbalize how its interests and the Defendants' interests diverge concerning the merits of the lawsuit," adding, "It is absurd to the Court that Buell has now testified on multiple occasions that he would go to jail prior to revealing the draft text of The Design of Life; however, if the Court allows FTE to intervene, Buell would place that issue squarely back into play by FTE's apparent intention to use Dembski as its expert witness." Plaintiff Cyndi Sneath was relieved by the ruling, telling the York Dispatch: "My concern about the Foundation for Thought and Ethics wanting to intervene is that it would actually end up costing more money and prolonging the trial."

For the story in the York Daily Record, visit: http://www.ydr.com/story/doverbiology/79153/

For the story in the York Dispatch, visit: http://www.yorkdispatch.com/Stories/0,1413,138%257E10021%257E2985417,00.html

For Judge Jones's ruling, visit: http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/opinions/jones/04v2688a.pdf


The committee originally charged with revising Kansas's state science standards has resoundingly denounced the changes imposed by the antievolutionist majority on the state board of education. On August 2, 2005, the committee voted 16-3 to submit a lengthy critique of the board's revisions to the draft standards, which closely followed those proposed by a local "intelligent design" organization. Steve Case, the co-chairman of the committee, acknowledged that the board, apparently determined to compromise the place of evolution in the standards, was unlikely to heed the committee's rejection of the changes. But, he told the Wichita Eagle, "[w]e owe them our best expert advice, and this response includes our best expert advice." Most of the members of the committee requested that their names be deleted from the latest draft. When the board next meets, on August 8 and 9, it is expected to vote to send the latest draft for external review; a final decision on the standards is then anticipated in September or October.

In its critique of the board's changes to the draft standards, posted on a discussion board at the website of Kansas Citizens for Science, the committee noted that the board was not following the established process for developing state educational standards, that the changes to the standards were previously considered and rejected by the committee, and that the strategy of selectively calling for "critical analysis" of evolution is not only "confusing and inappropriate" but also clearly intended to provide a pretext for "'alternative' theories to evolution" to be introduced in the science classroom." The Intelligent Design Network's John Calvert was quoted by the Eagle as responding, "We have from inception sought only a level scientific playing field." But Jack Krebs, the vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science, replied that criticisms of evolution "need to make an impact in the world of science" before they appear in the state's science standards.

To read the story in the Wichita Eagle, visit: http://www.kansas.com/mld/eagle/living/education/12289542.htm

To read the committee's critique of the board's changes, visit:

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

Intelligent design rears its head


Evolution and schools

Jul 28th 2005 | WASHINGTON, DC

From The Economist print edition

It's subtler than creationism, and may be coming soon to a classroom near you

SOMETIME within the next few months, the Kansas Board of Education will decide whether to allow a form of creationism to be taught in the state's schools. It seems likely to do so. The proposed curriculum changes have been given preliminary approval by the board and were written after hearings dominated by anti-evolutionists.

The changes, which affect the standards used in statewide science tests, include adding the word "may" to the assertion that "gradual changes...over many generations may have resulted in variations among populations and species." They would tell students that "in many cases the fossil record is not consistent with gradual, unbroken sequences postulated by biological evolution." And they would call the notion that one species evolved from another "controversial...based on inferences from indirect or circumstantial evidence."

None of these propositions is false. But the cumulative effect, as some members of the board themselves approvingly noted, would be to encourage teachers to discuss alternatives to evolution—a theory one member, Connie Morris, has dismissed as "a fairy tale".

Kansas is one of many states where teaching evolution is under attack. In Georgia's Cobb County, for instance, the local school district stuck labels on textbooks saying "Evolution is a theory, not a fact". It was told to remove them by a district judge. Georgia's state superintendent of schools proposed removing the E-word altogether from the biology curriculum, though she later backed down.

In Pennsylvania, the state House of Representatives is discussing a bill to introduce an alternative to evolutionary theory into the public-school code, while Dover, Pennsylvania, has become the first district in the country to adopt the following guideline: "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design." This being America, a trial is due to begin in September to decide whether that guideline contravenes the first amendment, which bans state sponsorship of religion. In all, disputes involving evolution are bubbling in around 20 of the 50 states.

It is tempting to see this as one more example of the surging influence of the religious right. But that is only partly true. The battles over evolution are being fought in secondary schools; there is no argument at universities, where evolutionary science is uncontroversial.

Nor are there signs of any recent increase in popular opposition to teaching evolution. In 1999, the Kansas guidelines were even less scientific than they could soon become; back then they omitted all reference to evolution, the age of the earth or anything inconsistent with old-fashioned creationism. They changed because creationists were removed from the Board of Education in elections in 2000. A new board rewrote the guidelines to bring them into line with accepted science, but that board was in turn removed in 2004, bringing back an anti-evolutionist majority, along with pressure to change the guidelines again.

The implication is that anti-evolution in America is a persistent rather than a resurgent phenomenon. It ebbs and flows. The reason for its increase now has less to do with any fundamentalist backlash than with the lobbying power of proponents of a theory of evolution called "intelligent design".

Intelligent design derives from an early-19th-century explanation of the natural world given by an English clergyman, William Paley. Paley was the populariser of the famous watchmaker analogy. If you found a watch in a field, he wrote in 1802, you would infer that so fine and intricate a mechanism could not have been produced by unplanned, unguided natural forces; it could have been made only by an intelligent being. This view—that the complexity of an organism is evidence for the existence of God—prevailed until 1859, when Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species" showed how natural selection could indeed "explain so many classes of facts" (as Darwin put it).

Proponents of intelligent design are renewing Paley's argument with a new gloss from molecular biology. Darwin himself acknowledged that "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." Intelligent designers claim that living things are full of such examples at the molecular level. Blood clotting is one: ten proteins have to work together in sequence for the process to occur. So-called eukaryotic cells, which digest nutrients or excrete waste, are another: these cells contain an elaborate "traffic system" which directs proteins to the right compartments.

In both cases, argues Michael Behe, whose book "Darwin's Black Box" is one of the bibles of intelligent design, you have complex systems that will work only if all the components operate at once. He argues that you could not get such a thing from "successive, slight modifications". Hence the molecular machines inside living beings are evidence of an intelligent designer—God.

Intelligent design asks interesting questions about evolution, but since all its answers are usually "God", scientists have rejected it. As the National Academy of Sciences has said, intelligent design "and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life" are not science because their claims cannot be tested by experiment and propose no new hypotheses of their own. (Instead, intelligent designers poke holes in evolutionary theory.)

In addition, biologists point out that the intelligent designers' favourite examples of "irreducible complexity" often prove not to be. Some organisms, for example, use only six proteins to clot blood—irreducibility reduced. In other cases, single parts of a complex mechanism turn out to have useful functions of their own, meaning that the complex mechanism could have been produced by step-by-step evolution. When the Discovery Institute, a promoter of intelligent design, came up with a list of 370 people with science degrees who backed their ideas, the National Centre for Science Education responded with almost 600 scientists called Steve or Stephanie who rejected them.

But if intelligent design has few friends among scientists, it has won a significant following among the general public. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, evolution itself seems to stick in the craw of anyone with strong beliefs, not just those who are religious. Stalin's Soviet Union rejected evolution, for example, on the ground that only economic conditions could be said to determine human behaviour. The Nation of Islam, an American Muslim group, also rejects it.

Religious conservatives have a special reason for disliking natural selection. There may be nothing necessarily anti-Christian about Darwin's theory (which was hailed by Charles Kingsley, a contemporary clergyman, as evidence of the majesty of God), but if God has a plan for the world and everyone in it, as most American Protestants and President George Bush say they believe, then it is much easier to imagine evolution occurring under divine guidance than as a result of random mutations and the survival of the fittest. By providing an explanation consistent with those beliefs, intelligent design has proved tempting to conservative Christians everywhere, not just in America.

In early July, Christoph Schönborn, the cardinal archbishop of Vienna, rejected "the supposed acceptance—or at least acquiescence—of the Roman Catholic Church" in "neo-Darwinian dogma". He conceded that "evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true", but argued that "evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense—an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection—is not." The Catholic Church has long turned its back on a literal reading of the Book of Genesis. It does not seem to be doing the same with intelligent design.

Second, though there has been no big increase in opposition to evolution, there is enough to be going on with without it. Two-thirds of Americans think humans were directly created by God (as opposed to 22% who think people "evolved from an earlier species"). Half do not think apes and men had a common ancestor.

With its claims (however spurious) of scientific respectability, intelligent design promises to reconcile mass anti-evolutionism with science. Strict creationism has been long discredited and, since the Supreme Court decision of Edwards v Aguillard (1987), may not be taught in state schools. But intelligent design is a different matter. Its proponents accept that the earth is billions of years old. They agree that gene mutation and natural selection occur within species, though not necessarily between species. They concede that scientific method, not biblical authority, is the arbiter of truth. Proponents do not even demand that intelligent design should replace evolution in the classroom, merely that schools should "teach the controversy" (which they themselves have created). In short, religious Americans who find evolution distasteful are jumping at the chance to teach an alternative that claims to be science.

Whichever way the argument over intelligent design is finally resolved, it is likely to damage science teaching. This is not because bad science standards will necessarily be adopted but because—as Diane Ravitch of the Brookings Institution showed in "The Language Police" in 2003—the biggest threat to high standards is the unwillingness of state Boards of Education to offend any sort of pressure group, whether right or left. Instead, they avoid controversial topics altogether. In 2000, a survey by the Fordham Foundation found that only ten states taught evolution fully, six did so skimpily and in 13 the treatment was considered useless or absent. (Kansas received an F minus, and "disgraceful".) These failings shame American evolution teaching, and the manufactured controversy over intelligent design will do nothing to make them better.

Creation Scientist Challenges Intelligent Design


One of the world's leading experts in origin of life research issued a statement on Friday saying that intelligent design should not be taught in schools because it is not science.

Saturday, Aug. 6, 2005 Posted: 9:12:30AM EST

One of the world's leading experts in origin of life research issued a statement on Friday saying that intelligent design should not be taught in schools because it is not science.

Dr. Fazale Rana, vice president for science apologetics of the organization Reasons to Believe, said in his statement, "As currently formulated, Intelligent Design is not science. It is not falsifiable and makes no predictions about future scientific discoveries."

Dr. Rana further commented on the idea of teaching intelligent design in schools.

"As a biochemist, I am opposed to introducing any idea into the educational process that is scientifically ludicrous," said Dr. Rana. "Proponents of Intelligent Design lose credibility, for instance, when they say that the Earth is thousands of years old when the scientific evidence and the fossil record clearly prove our Earth is at least 4.5 billion years."

Intelligent design, the idea that the earth is so complex, there must have been a divine being behind its creation, is the most recent challenge to the theory of evolution. In the past year, several school districts have considered whether or not to incorporate the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. Some state legislatures are deciding on bills that would require science teachers to teach intelligent design alongside evolution.

The debate is a familiar one, an offshoot of the creation-evolution debate, and one that has generated conversation across international circles. Probably the most publicized debate was held in May, when the Kansas State Board of Education called together witnesses from around the world to testify about intelligent design. The state board is currently deciding whether to adopt new science standards to allow the teaching of intelligent design and other alternative theories on the origin of life in schools. Scientists boycotted the hearings.

Dr. Rana's position gives him a unique perspective on the issue. As a scientist and a Christian, Dr. Rana provides a point of view that is often overlooked in the debate. As a leader of Reasons to Believe, Dr. Rana works to bridge the gap between science and faith, especially on issues such as the origin of life.

"At Reasons to Believe, our team of scientists has developed a theory for creation that embraces the latest scientific advances. It is fully testable, falsifiable, and successfully predicts the current discoveries in origin of life research," said Dr. Rana.

"With the creation model approach every perspective is encouraged to participate in the scientific process to see which theory best fits the emerging data," continued Dr. Rana. "With this cutting edge program no philosophical or religious perspective is denied access."

"It holds the possibility of bringing to resolution the creation /evolution controversy once and for all."

Susan Wang

Questions remain about effectiveness of St. John's wort



Aug. 5, 2005 06:15 PM

As a mood-enhancing remedy, St. John's wort has a blemished track record.

In a well-controlled, multi-center study first reported in 2002 in the new edition of the American Journal of Health System Pharmacists, scientists from the University of Southern California's School of Pharmacy found the herbal remedy to be no more effective than a placebo for adults with moderately severe major depression. That research remains the most often cited material when discussing St. John's wort's effectiveness.

Yet, a German study published February in the British Medical Journal showed St. John's wort to be slightly more effective than the popular antidepressant Paxil for people with moderate to severe depression. It is the latest in a string of mostly European studies suggesting that this "natural" substance is better than placebos for treating milder forms of depression. advertisement

What are consumers to make of such varying outcomes?

"I would hold to the position that there has not been sufficient evidence in depression of any severity to recommend it at present," said Dr. Richard C. Shelton, a professor of psychiatry and chief of the adult psychiatry division at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn.

Shelton, one of the original investigators in the U.S. study, said the positive studies "all have fatal flaws in design, execution or analysis."

Yet many alternative and natural medicine specialists insist the body of evidence supports use of St. John's wort for alleviating mild to moderate forms of depression. In Europe, it is widely prescribed for treating depression.

Extract of Hypericum perforatum, more popularly known as St. John's wort, has been used for centuries to treat mental disorders as well as nerve pain, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Today, some people use it to treat depression, anxiety, or sleep disorders.

People who prefer using herbal remedies over pharmaceutical agents may find St. John's wort an appealing alternative. It is also less costly than prescription antidepressants and can be purchased over the counter in the form of capsules, extracts and teas.

St. John's wort contains many chemical compounds, including hypericin and hyperforin, believed to the active ingredients that produce the herb's effects, NCCAM said. While it isn't known how these compounds work in the body, preliminary studies suggest St. John's wort may prevent nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing serotonin or reduce levels of a protein involved in the body's immune system functioning.

Perhaps a clearer picture will emerge in the not-too-distant future. The National Institutes of Health is in the midst of a four-year study, begun in February 2003, to determine the safety and effectiveness of St. John's wort and the antidepressant Celexa (citalopram) versus placebo for treating minor depression. The $4 million study is being funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, NCCAM and the Office of Dietary Supplements.

Meantime, experts warn of certain risks with taking St. John's wort. Research shows the herb may interact with other drugs a person may be taking, including blood thinners, estrogen and other hormones, chemotherapy drugs, immunosuppressants, medicines for HIV, heart medications, antidepressants and antipsychotics, Shelton said.

"Unfortunately, most of these are not recognized in medical practice because the doctor doesn't know that the person is on (St. John's wort) or often doesn't know about the interactions," he added.

The American Herbal Products Association recommends that manufacturers of products containing St. John's wort advise consumers to consult their physician if they are taking any prescription drugs.

On the Web:

nccam.nih.gov, where the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine can give you more facts about St. John's wort.

Design for Confusion

August 5, 2005


I'd like to nominate Irving Kristol, the neoconservative former editor of The Public Interest, as the father of "intelligent design." No, he didn't play any role in developing the doctrine. But he is the father of the political strategy that lies behind the intelligent design movement - a strategy that has been used with great success by the economic right and has now been adopted by the religious right.

Back in 1978 Mr. Kristol urged corporations to make "philanthropic contributions to scholars and institutions who are likely to advocate preservation of a strong private sector." That was delicately worded, but the clear implication was that corporations that didn't like the results of academic research, however valid, should support people willing to say something more to their liking.

Mr. Kristol led by example, using The Public Interest to promote supply-side economics, a doctrine whose central claim - that tax cuts have such miraculous positive effects on the economy that they pay for themselves - has never been backed by evidence. He would later concede, or perhaps boast, that he had a "cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit."

"Political effectiveness was the priority," he wrote in 1995, "not the accounting deficiencies of government."

Corporations followed his lead, pouring a steady stream of money into think tanks that created a sort of parallel intellectual universe, a world of "scholars" whose careers are based on toeing an ideological line, rather than on doing research that stands up to scrutiny by their peers.

You might have thought that a strategy of creating doubt about inconvenient research results could work only in soft fields like economics. But it turns out that the strategy works equally well when deployed against the hard sciences.

The most spectacular example is the campaign to discredit research on global warming. Despite an overwhelming scientific consensus, many people have the impression that the issue is still unresolved. This impression reflects the assiduous work of conservative think tanks, which produce and promote skeptical reports that look like peer-reviewed research, but aren't. And behind it all lies lavish financing from the energy industry, especially ExxonMobil.

There are several reasons why fake research is so effective. One is that nonscientists sometimes find it hard to tell the difference between research and advocacy - if it's got numbers and charts in it, doesn't that make it science?

Even when reporters do know the difference, the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism get in the way of conveying that knowledge to readers. I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, "Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth." The headlines on many articles about the intelligent design controversy come pretty close.

Finally, the self-policing nature of science - scientific truth is determined by peer review, not public opinion - can be exploited by skilled purveyors of cultural resentment. Do virtually all biologists agree that Darwin was right? Well, that just shows that they're elitists who think they're smarter than the rest of us.

Which brings us, finally, to intelligent design. Some of America's most powerful politicians have a deep hatred for Darwinism. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, blamed the theory of evolution for the Columbine school shootings. But sheer political power hasn't been enough to get creationism into the school curriculum. The theory of evolution has overwhelming scientific support, and the country isn't ready - yet - to teach religious doctrine in public schools.

But what if creationists do to evolutionary theory what corporate interests did to global warming: create a widespread impression that the scientific consensus has shaky foundations?

Creationists failed when they pretended to be engaged in science, not religious indoctrination: "creation science" was too crude to fool anyone. But intelligent design, which spreads doubt about evolution without being too overtly religious, may succeed where creation science failed.

The important thing to remember is that like supply-side economics or global-warming skepticism, intelligent design doesn't have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory. That, together with the political muscle of the religious right, may be enough to start a process that ends with banishing Darwin from the classroom.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com


Faith vs. evidence

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-darwin6aug06,0,6571234.story?coll=la-news-comment-editorials August 6, 2005 latimes.com


SCIENTISTS WHO MOANED when they read this week that President Bush favors teaching "intelligent design" along with the Darwinian theory of evolution should be grateful for how far the president has come. In 1999, as Texas governor and GOP presidential front-runner, George W. Bush said much the same about creationism, which tried to force natural history to match the biblical creation story. At least creationism's successor, known as ID to its adherents, makes room for paleontology and human descent from apes.

Beyond that, politicians' support for what they call "balance" still damages both science and faith.

In a broad interview Monday with Texas newspapers, Bush agreed with the idea of teaching intelligent design as well as evolution, saying, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought." If only different schools of thought (say, capitalism versus Marxism) were involved, we'd say, sure, go for it. However, ID and evolutionary theory are not just irreconcilable; they are in realms as distant as astronomy and the polka.

ID posits (quoting from the Intelligent Design Network website) "that certain features of the universe and of living things" — the eye is often cited — "are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process like natural selection." Its adherents see the "intelligent cause" as a divine one.

Evolutionary theory doesn't claim to explain everything, but theorizes that from the earliest life, genetic mutations providing a survival edge were retained and amplified, leading to species diversity and specialized traits (such as Lance Armstrong's lung capacity or fluorescent deep-water fish).

Both are, to a certain point, about biology. But ID also demands belief in the untestable. There it becomes faith, not science. Science explicitly rejects belief without direct or indirect evidence. Teaching students, at taxpayer expense, to see them as comparable leads straight off the path of scientific rigor. The best scientists may, of course, cherish a religious faith, but they don't confuse one for the other.

Still, the fight plays out in school districts across the nation, egged on by politicians who see religion as a path to votes. Bush is far from alone. In 1999, soon after Bush said "both [creationism and evolution] ought to be taught," Vice President Al Gore said through a spokesman that schools should teach evolution but local boards "should be free to teach creationism as well." Gore backtracked, but he deserved all the scorn aimed his way by scientists and teachers.

Bush's rather offhand statement this week may have been unconsidered. In that case, he should clarify what he meant by "schools of thought." Or it may have been well-considered, getting his message across to the base without being too specific.

His administration has not been kind to natural scientists. Some have left government after their findings were disregarded or changed to match policy. Teaching intelligent design would be an even greater blow to U.S. scientific credibility.

Looking for intelligent design in America


Kathleen Parker (archive)

August 5, 2005 | Print | Recommend to a friend

I'm not sure it's kosher to play devil's advocate when the subject is evolution vs. intelligent design, but here goes.

Americans are atitter following President George W. Bush's comments that public schools ought to teach both evolution and the nascent theory of "intelligent design" (ID). The president's remarks, now dissected more ways than Genesis, were in response to questions from a group of Texas journalists.

His words seem uncontroversial enough - that kids ought to be taught both ID and Darwin (not necessarily in equal amounts, though he wasn't explicit on that point) "so people can understand what the debate is about."

So far, that seems a galaxy or two short of left field. Then, as reported by The New York Times, he clarified:

"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, and the answer is yes."

Atheists, secularists and others whose aversion to religion sometimes borders on fanaticism - there's no dogma like no dogma - see in Bush's remark a subversive move toward replacing Darwin's theory of evolution with a creationist view of man's origin.

Proof of this nefarious conspiracy is hinted at by the Times' mention that ID has been discussed in a weekly Bible study group at the White House. What else would they discuss in Bible study? Howard Dean?

I don't doubt that deeply religious Americans weary of assaults on everything from the Ten Commandments in public buildings to God in the "Pledge of Allegiance" find solace in any public expression of respect for their beliefs. That some will exploit Bush's comments to their further comfort - and even to advance their own educational preferences - will surprise no one.

But there's no reason to assume from Bush's comments that Darwin is facing extinction, or that Americans suddenly will sprout webbed toes and retreat into the slime if ID is mentioned in schools.

Before I forget, one quick correction to the Times story deserves mention. In a Freudian slip of biblical proportions, the reporter misquoted Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, an advocacy group for ID. Commenting on Bush's remark, Meyer was quoted as saying:

"We interpret this as the president using his bully pulpit to support freedom of inquiry and free speech about the issue of biblical origins." Except Meyer didn't say "biblical"; he said "biological origins." The Times promised a correction.

Back to playing devil's advocate, what if ID were taught in the interest of making education more interesting? Whatever else is true or merely theoretical, the question of man's origin is endlessly fascinating, as demonstrated by headlines and blogs this week. The Web site technorati.com, which tracks public interest in the blogosphere, counted 17,000 blog entries on ID as of midday Thursday.

If adults find the issue that compelling, might not high school students also? I realize students have been rendered nearly insomniac by the intense level of intellectual stimulation commonly found in public schools, but what's the harm in spiking the punch a little?

Meanwhile, the father of evolutionary theory seems in no danger of being displaced by Bush or advocates of ID, which, by the way, is not the same as creationism, as is often misunderstood.

John G. West Jr, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, explains that while creationism defends a literal interpretation of Genesis and a biblical God, the theory of ID "is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text.

"Instead, intelligent design theory is an effort to empirically detect whether the 'apparent design' in nature observed by biologists is genuine design (the product of an organizing intelligence) or is simply the product of chance and mechanical natural laws."

Not exactly wacky wisecracking from the lunatic fringe. Objectively, what would be the harm in inviting discussion of this new theory alongside others that have the imprimatur of modern science? Truth has nothing to fear from charlatans, after all. And alert, stimulated children incited to prove or disprove intelligent design would hardly suggest a failure of public education.

As an indefatigable fan of metaphor, I am personally disinclined to go literal on most anything beyond instructions for dismantling bombs. But if the creationists are right and Genesis is to be taken literally, I'd bet my immortal soul that God is shaking his head right now thinking, "I never shoulda created the apple."

©2005 Tribune Media Services

Teach students facts, not `bogus science'


Posted on Sat, Aug. 06, 2005

Re the Aug. 1 story Bush endorses teaching ''intelligent design': The Discovery Institute and other conservative entities betray their disingenuousness by misusing words such as ``theory'' and ``significant.''

Theories have withstood repeated testing and are bolstered by an overwhelming store of evidence. This definition clearly applies to evolutionary theory, but not to intelligent-design creationism. The term ''significant,'' as used by the Discovery Institute in reference to the 400 scientists who have expressed doubts regarding evolution, implies some kind of statistical relevance. In light of the fact that there are well over a million scientists in the United States, 400 appear to be extremely insignificant.

Strong, intellectually robust science can never be dismantled by reactionary politics. But high-school science curricula, which act as the intersection between academia and the general public, can be influenced by conservatives wielding cheap rhetorical tricks. High-school biology teachers who teach students intelligent design need to rethink their choice of profession. I'm sure they can find an opening teaching a religion class.

PETER KONEN, Miami Shores

President Bush's remarks supporting the teaching of ''intelligent design'' are out of line. A basic principle of science is that its hypotheses and theories do not invoke any supernatural entities to explain the workings of nature. By requiring an omniscient intelligence, intelligent design cannot be considered to be a truly scientific hypothesis.

It has no legitimate place alongside evolution, which has been vindicated by thousands of scientific tests and is a cornerstone of biological and earth sciences. Those who misrepresent intelligent design as a valid scientific hypothesis are duping the public and merely trying to introduce their religious beliefs into our school system.

Bush should stay out of our classrooms and laboratories. He shouldn't use his bully pulpit to support bogus science.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 5 Aug 05 Washington, DC

science n. the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. (Oxford English Dictionary, eleventh edition)


Conservative Christian supporters are gloating. On Tuesday, in an interview with Texas reporters, the President of the United States came down on the side of equal time for intelligent design. Referring back to his time as Governor of Texas, Mr. Bush said, "I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught." Which two sides are those Mr. President? I don't think we can teach the Genesis story in science class, even after you pack the Court. Surely you're not talking about the "intelligent design" thing? Can someone tell us who or what is doing the designing? I think that will tell us whether it's science or religion.


The Washington Post on Saturday had a little-noticed letter from Bruce Chapman, founder and President of the Discovery Institute. Director of the White House Office of Planning and Evaluation under Ronald Reagan, Chapman learned from the master. Facts are not important, what matters is conviction. "The only religious believers in all this," he writes, "are the Darwinists, who are out to punish scholars who see the weakness of Darwin's theory." And who are these scholars? This brings up another alarming trend, conservative think tanks manned by "scholars" who do no research, but spew out books laden with conviction. Chapman perfected this by recruiting bright young believers to the cause and assigning them the task of becoming biology PhDs.


Asked by the New York Times to comment, John Marburger responded, "Evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology .... intelligent design is not a scientific concept." Good response. It would be nice if the President's science advisor advised the President.


A cardinal close to the pope has ties to the Discovery Institute http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN05/wn071505.html, but in today's issue of The Tablet, Britain's Catholic Weekly, Father George Coyne, an American Jesuit priest and a distinguished astronomer, directly attacked Cardinal Schoenborn's position on evolution.


Tormented by fears of nanorobots turning the planet into "grey goo," and poisoning by genetically modified foods, Prince Charles fights science by embracing homeopathy, coffee enemas, organic farming, and now "biodynamics," which involves planting according to cycles of the moon and signs of the Zodiac. In a monarchy you are stuck with what you get, while in a democracy we can pick the best qualified among us to lead. But it's only a theory.


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 What's New is moving to a different listserver and our subscription process has changed. To change your subscription status please visit this link:

Physics News Update 740

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 740 August 5, 2005 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

TRACKING FLUID FLOW INSIDE A POROUS MATERIAL can now be performed with remote MRI viewing. MRI is an important means for sub-surface viewing of soft objects like biological tissue or moist in solid things like rice grains. In a new approach, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley in collaboration with Schlumberger-Doll Research have developed a style of MRI that can be used to see how a gas flows through a porous rock, an experimental tool with possible applications in oil exploration, in situ monitoring of natural and manmade structures, and industrial processes where the flow of a fluid through an opaque material is important. To accomplish this, Josef Granwehr (joga@waugh.cchem.berkeley.edu) and Yi-Qiao Song (ysong@SLB.com) and their colleagues use not one radio coil but two, separated in space. In MRI it is customary to cause atomic nuclei in a sample (given an orientation by an external magnet) to be disturbed by magnetic waves induced by the coil. The same coil is used a moment later to detect the radio waves given back out by the target nuclei, thus providing information about their whereabouts. In the Berkeley setup, one coil surrounds the porous sample and can, in combination with magnetic field gradients, selectively disturb nuclei of the fluid in a voxel (a tiny volume element) anywhere in the sample, while a second independent coil, positioned at the exit of the sample, can detect the emerging material. The first coil is therefore used to tag certain nuclei at a given point in time, while the second coil is used to record the time of flight of the affected nuclei as they leave the sample. Possessing location and velocity of any portion of the gas allows researchers, in effect, to look inside the rock and watch its flowing and unfolding. One can trade off the minimum detectable partial pressure of the target nuclei (tens of millibar up to one bar) for time resolution (tens of microseconds to milliseconds) or vice versa. (Granwehr et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article)

A NEW KIND OF NANOPHOTONIC WAVEGUIDE has been created at MIT, overcoming several long-standing design obstacles. The resultant device might lead to single-photon, broadband and more compact optical transistors, switches, memories, and time-delay devices needed for optical computing and telecommunications. If photonics is to keep up with electronics in the effort to produce smaller, faster, less-power-hungry circuitry, then photon manipulation will have to be carried out over scales of space, time, and energy hundreds or thousands of times smaller than is possible now. One or two of these parameters (space, time, energy) at a time have been reduced, but until now it has been hard to achieve all three simultaneously. John Joannopoulos and his MIT colleagues have succeeded in the following way. To process a photonic signal, they encrypt it into light waves supported on the interface between a metal substrate and a layer of insulating material. These waves, called surface plasmons, can have a propagation wavelength much smaller than the free-space optical wavelength. This achieves one of the desired reductions: with a shorter wavelength the spatial dimension of the device can be smaller. Furthermore, a subwavelength plasmon is also a very slow electromagnetic wave. Such a slower-moving wave spends more time "feeling" the nonlinear properties of the device materials, and is therefore typified by a lower device-operational-energy scale, thus achieving another of the desired reductions. Finally, by stacking up several insulator layers, the slow plasmon waves occupy a surprisingly large frequency bandwidth. Since the superposition of waves at a variety of frequencies can add up to a pulse that is very short in the time domain, the third of the desired scale reductions is thereby achieved. Reducing energy loss is another great virtue of the MIT device. The plasmons are guided around on the photonic chip by corrugations on the nano-scale. In plasmonic devices the corrugations have usually been in the metal layer; this has always led to intractable propagation losses. However, in the MIT device they reside in the insulator layer; this, it turns out, allows for a drastic reduction of the losses by cooling. (Karalis et al., Physical Review Letters, 5 August; contact Aristeidis Karalis, aristos@mit.edu) POSSIBLE NEW PLANETS in our solar system have been spotted recently. Reservations about claiming new planets arises not from anything to do with the observations, but with semantics; there is no universally accepted definition for planet. Even Pluto is not a planet according to some scientists. The two newest planet candidates are the latest residents to be discerned in the Kuiper Belt, the zone of debris material beyond the orbit of Neptune. Two earlier specimens go by the name of Sedna (www.aip.org/pnu/2004/split/677-1.html) and Quaoar (www.aip.org/pnu/2002/split/608-3.html). One of the new objects, discovered by astronomers at the Sierra Nevada Observatory in Spain, is called EL61, with an orbital radius of about 51 AU (1 AU, or astronomical unit, is equal to the Earth-sun distance) and a size about 2/3 that of Pluto (which itself orbits at a distance of about 32 AU). The other object is called UB313 and was spotted by astronomers at the Palomar observatory in California and the Gemini telescope in Hawaii. It orbits at a distance of 97 AU and has an estimated size larger than Pluto).

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.

King David's Palace Is Found, Archaeologist Says


By STEVEN ERLANGER Published: August 5, 2005

JERUSALEM, Aug. 4 - An Israeli archaeologist says she has uncovered in East Jerusalem what may be the fabled palace of the biblical King David. Her work has been sponsored by a conservative Israeli research institute and financed by an American Jewish investment banker who would like to prove that Jerusalem was indeed the capital of the Jewish kingdom described in the Bible. Skip to next paragraph Enlarge This Image Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

Eilat Mazar, an Israeli archaeologist, stood amid the ruins of a huge public building of the 10th century B.C. that she believes may be the remains of King David's palace in a biblical Jewish capital.

Other scholars are skeptical that the foundation walls discovered by the archaeologist, Eilat Mazar, are David's palace. But they acknowledge that what she has uncovered is rare and important: a major public building from around the 10th century B.C., with pottery shards that date to the time of David and Solomon and a government seal of an official mentioned in the book of Jeremiah.

The discovery is likely to be a new salvo in a major dispute in biblical archaeology: whether the kingdom of David was of some historical magnitude, or whether the kings were more like small tribal chieftains, reigning over another dusty hilltop.

Friday, August 05, 2005

New Wonder Drug for HIV/Aids


Posted to the web August 3, 2005

Hilary Bainemigisha

THERE is new hope for people living with HIV/AIDS. A new drug called canova, is set to enter the Ugandan market. Application of Canova is even simpler -- just 10 drops under the tongue three times a day. For those critically ill, the frequency may be increased to six times a day. For those with respiratory infections like TB or pneumonia, there is canova inhaler.

According to Dr Curthbert Agolor, who is in the process of getting it approved by the National Drug Authority (NDA), Canova is a non-toxic immune system enhancer. It requires no dose monitoring and reduces the viral burden to almost non-detectable levels in some cases. It is approved by FDA (US Food and Drug Administration).

"It prolongs the life of HIV patients, improves their quality of life and is easy to administer," said Ogolor, a doctor at Uganda Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. No side effects have been reported in the countries where it is in use; Brazil, India, Botswana, Lesotho, Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya.

Samuel Kali, NDA's legal officer, said Alternative Medicine Centre Limited applied to register Canova as a herbal medicine which may be considered this week. Once it is registered, it can be imported and distributed in Uganda.

Dr Agolor, who has had numerous presentations to TASO, doctors, members of Parliament, NDA and the army, says canova acts on the main cells of the immune system called macrophages, enhancing their functions.

The treatment

Agolor says the treatment is conducted under homeopathy -- a German science that has been in practice for 200 years. Unlike conventional medicine, homeopathy stimulates the body to heal itself.

According to Dr Nilesh Naik, the in-charge of canova distribution in Asia and Africa, canova was discovered by Dr Francisco Canova over 50 years ago while researching for a painkiller for his mother who had cancer. As a cancer remedy, Canova was hailed by researchers: "It stimulates the immune system by activating macrophages (special cells that destroy disease-causing organisms in the body) which stimulate lymphocytes (White blood cells) to increase their cytotoxic action (cell killing power) in response to tumour growth or infection," said an article published last year in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research.

Canova was introduced in the Brazilian market in 1998, and has since been licensed to be manufactured in Botswana. It is being distributed to several African countries.

The Tanzania experience

Dr. Sigsbert Rwegasira of Dar es Salaam was quoted by the East African Business Week as saying Canova has improved quality of patients' life in just three months since the Tanzania government gave it a special permit. "The quality of life for about 70 patients affected by HIV/AIDS went up from 45% to 196% in a three-month period since February this year." The percentage was calculated from CD4 count that climbed from the lowest average of 14 to 889. A normal CD4 count for a healthy person is 500 and above.

Plans in Uganda

Once registered, Alternative Medicines Centre Limited plans to import large stocks. "I have enough stock for the Uganda market," Dr Naik said from Botswana. The centre intends to distribute it at $25 - $30 (sh43,750 - sh52,500) per bottle. A bottle lasts about a month, says Dr Agolor.

"For people already on ARVs, Canova can be taken concurrently for much better results," Dr agolor said. "It brings back like for people whose health is already deteriorating while on ARVs. For those who haven't started ARVs, it can ensure a healthy life, free from opportunistic infections and slow down the speed to a life with ARVs," he said.

Aidah Naiga was wasting away with AIDS when her cousin, Massud Muganda, a businessman from Masaka, brought her Canova from Tanzania. She regained strength and was able to resume her work in a month. "I had given up hope. It was a miracle. Canova is now my life. I am told I cannot even qualify for ARVs now!" She said. Her CD4 count shot up to 600, above the level of a patient put on ARVs.

Debating the Causes of Autism


Dr. Marc Siegel

posted August 3, 2005 (web only)

Dr. Marc regularly answers readers' questions on matters relating to medicine, healthcare and politics. To send a query, click here.

Dear Readers,

There follows a group of letters on mercury, thimerosal and vaccines. Those of you who have been following my column know that this has been a recurring topic. I will respond to the letters individually, but I also wanted to start the column with a general statement:

Drug companies manufacture vaccines, several of which are mandated for use by our infants. Despite the vulnerability the public has to chemicals introduced into our bodies, the drug companies tend to be defensive and laissez faire about the need for changing they way they do things. Thimerosal is such an example. This additive, which contains trace amount of mercury, has been shown to cause irritability in mice, and could well have been removed from routine vaccines long ago. But this is not the same thing as concluding that thimerosal causes autism, as many people argue.

To be sure, there is a significant increase in autism and environmental factors appear to play a role as does improved diagnostic sensitivity to autism. But in several epidemiological studies, no association between autism and thimerosal has been proven. Does this mean that no such association exists? No, it does not. Further study, perhaps even a large prospective double blind randomized trial, may be warranted.

In the meantime, I am concerned that all the attention paid to thimerosal takes the focus away from a much larger issue: We Don't Know why autism is on the rise. Too much thimerosal-mongering distracts us from a true scientific investigation of what is really causing all the autism. Too often, we need to know answers right away and we (the public) use this impulse to latch on to the first explanation we can find. This does science a disservice. You'll see from the letters that follow that I take much heat from consumer advocates on this subject. I don't take it personally, and in fact I welcome these letters. I am concerned, however, that the vehemence is misdirected towards me. We are on the same side, after all.

Reporters can be deposed in intelligent-design case


The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Two newspaper reporters who wrote that school board members discussed creationism during public meetings may be questioned by lawyers for a school district that has been sued over its "intelligent design" teaching requirement, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge John E. Jones III ruled that lawyers for the Dover Area School District board can interview the reporters but cannot have access to their notes and e-mails pertaining to two school board meetings in June 2004.

Lawyers representing the school board had sought the materials, contending the reporters' stories were false and biased against the school board. However, Jones, who privately reviewed the documents, said the materials were not important to the case and did not reveal bias against the school district.

At issue is the theory of intelligent design, which holds that the universe is so complex, it must have been created by some kind of guiding force.

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

The school board destroyed the taped recordings of the meetings.

Reporters can be questioned in creationism case


Posted on Wed, Aug. 03, 2005

HARRISBURG - Two newspaper reporters who wrote that school board members discussed creationism during public meetings can be questioned by lawyers for the Dover Area School District, which has been sued over its "intelligent design" teaching requirement, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

But Judge John E. Jones III ruled that the lawyers could not have access to one reporter's notes and another's e-mails pertaining to two school board meetings in June 2004.

The York Dispatch and the York Daily Record/Sunday News had sought to block having their reporters deposed, saying the plaintiffs could simply interview other witnesses of the school board meetings.

At issue is the theory of intelligent design, which holds that the universe is so complex it must have been created by some kind of guiding force. A trial is scheduled for Sept. 26. - AP

But Is It Intelligent?



Thursday, August 4, 2005; Page A22

FOR MORE THAN 30 years, the conservative movement in America has been doing battle with the forces of relativism, the "do your own thing" philosophy that eschews objective truth and instead sees all beliefs and all personal choices as equally valid. Instead, philosophically minded American conservatives have argued that there is such a thing as objectivity and that some beliefs really are better, truer or more accurate than others. Given this history, it seems appropriate to ask: Is President Bush really a conservative?

The question arises because earlier this week, while talking to a group of Texas newspaper reporters at the White House, the president was asked his views on the subject of "intelligent design," the quasi-scientific, quasi-religious movement that promotes the idea that an unseen force led to the development of the human race, as opposed to the big bang, biology, physics and evolution. Mr. Bush said, "Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about." He added, "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

Of course the president is right that, in the context of a philosophical debate, it would be appropriate to discuss both sides of an issue before arriving at a conclusion. In the context of a religious discussion, it would also be very interesting to ponder whether the human race exists on Earth for a purpose or merely by accident. But the proponents of intelligent design are not content with participating in a philosophical or religious debate. They want their theory to be accepted as science and to be taught in ninth-grade biology classes, alongside the theory of evolution. For that, there is no basis whatsoever: The nature of the "evidence" for the theory of evolution is so overwhelming, and so powerful, that it informs all of modern biology. To pretend that the existence of evolution is somehow still an open question, or that it is one of several equally valid theories, is to misunderstand the intellectual and scientific history of the past century.

To give Mr. Bush the benefit of the doubt, he may have been catering to his Texas constituents, a group of whom, in the city of Odessa, were recently found to have turned an allegedly secular public high school Bible studies course into a hodgepodge of myth and religious teaching. But politics are no excuse for indulging quackery, not from a president -- especially not from a president -- who claims, at least some of the time, that he cares about education.

Fanning the Controversy Over 'Intelligent Design'


By putting 'intelligent design' on a par with evolutionary theory, President Bush goes further than any president has since Ronald Reagan advocated teaching creationism


Posted Wednesday, Aug. 03, 2005

A light-hearted White House conversation with representatives of Texas newspapers may have opened a new controversy for President George W. Bush. The President laughed when Knight-Ridder's Ron Hutcheson asked for Mr. Bush's "personal views" about the theory of "intelligent design", which religious activists advocate should be taught in U.S. schools as an alternative to theories of evolution. After joking that the reporter was "doing a fine job of dragging me back to the past," to his days as governor of Texas, Bush said: "Then, I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught..."

"Both sides ought to be properly taught?" asked Hutcheson.

"Yes," Bush answered, "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Hutcheson followed up: "So the answer accepts the validity of 'intelligent design' as an alternative to evolution?" Bush replied, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought, and I'm not suggesting — you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

Hutcheson tried one more time: "So we've got to give these groups—" But the president cut him off: "Very interesting question, Hutch," which provoked laughter.

Despite the jocular tone of the exchange, Bush's comments could have immense fallout. The president has gone farther in questioning the widely-taught theories of evolution and natural selection than any president since Ronald Reagan, who advocated teaching creationism in public schools alongside evolution. "Intelligent design" is not pure creationism. Its proponents tend not to believe, for instance, the Biblical claim that the Earth is less than 6,000 years old. But they do suggest that the complex array of species on Earth could not have evolved on the basis of natural selection, and instead suggest the it reflects the hand of a hidden designer, most likely God — although some have suggested maybe aliens are a possibility.

Either way, they've found a powerful champion in the President of the United States who has gone beyond advocating local control to say that school children "ought to be exposed" to a theory that critics describe as being tantamount to religion.

Darwin's foes try an 'intelligent' tactic


Sheryl McCarthy

President George W. Bush ignited another skirmish in the culture wars when he told some Texas journalists this week that he thinks "intelligent design" ought to be taught in the public schools, along with evolution.

Suddenly the president's conservative Christian supporters were jumping for joy, saying this is what they've been fighting for all along. Meanwhile, those who are opposed to religious dogma creeping into the education system were crying foul.

Bush's comments actually sounded reasonable, given the way he put it. "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," he said, noting that both sides of the issue should be taught "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Who can quarrel with the all-American idea of exposing students to varied points of view? But there's a disturbing backstory here that can't be ignored.

Creationists, who believe in the biblical account that God created the universe and everything in it in six days, before taking a day off, have failed repeatedly to get the courts to OK the teaching of creationism in the public schools.

The Supreme Court has twice rejected their position. In 1968 the court said Arkansas couldn't forbid the teaching of evolution because the law had a clearly religious purpose and was therefore unconstitutional. And in 1987 the court ruled that Louisiana couldn't ban the teaching of evolution unless creationism was also taught, because that law was also trying to advance a religious doctrine.

Now the creationists "are looking for a new horse to ride," says Charles Haynes, senior scholar at The First Amendment Center of The Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va. And that horse is intelligent design.

The intelligent design theory tries to plug the holes in Darwin's theory of evolution and its idea of natural selection with the theory that there's an intelligence behind life's creation, whether it's God or some kind of alien life force.

Haynes concedes that intelligent design is not just warmed-over creationism, because it proposes alternative ways of looking at the same scientific data that the evolutionists use to support their theory. The problem is that the people pushing for it to be taught don't know very much about the theory themselves.

"With all due respect to the president," Haynes says, "I doubt if he knows if intelligent design is scientifically sound or not." The theory is a relatively new one that has not been been much written about in scientific journals. And it's been soundly rejected by the National Academy of Sciences and by the National Center for Science Education.

Until it's more thoroughly explored by scientists, Haynes warns, what we could get in the schools is "a cartoon version" that's not very good science.

Moreover, many of its supporters are people who have long opposed evolution as being dangerous and a threat to their religious beliefs. By promoting intelligent design, they claim they're not pushing a religious agenda, when in many cases they are.

Haynes, who co-wrote a manual on how to teach religion in the schools without promoting a specific religion or violating the Constitution, says he believes students should be taught about the controversy over evolution. But it should be done properly.

He envisages a short unit in a biology course that tells students the history of the controversy, the different viewpoints, and that people are debating serious religious world views that challenge evolution.

Others have suggested that it be taught in social studies classes, as a political debate, not a scientific one.

But the religious fundamentalists shouldn't be allowed to do an end run around their rejected creationism courses and foist their beliefs on others in the name of science.

Sheryl McCarthy's e-mail address is mccart731@aol.com

No room in biology for creationism lesson



Thursday, August 04, 2005

Should biology be taught in Sunday school?

Sunday school teachers would do their very best to make a monkey out of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.

No, biology should be taught in a science class in a school classroom.

And creationism should be taught in homes, churches and Sunday schools - not in the classroom.

President Bush endorsed the teaching of intelligent design in the nation's classrooms during a group interview with Texas newspaper reporters this week in the White House. His remarks were quickly hailed by religious conservatives who are pushing school boards, lawmakers and courts to make room for intelligent design instruction in the classroom.

However, just as a freshman student is told in biology class when he dissects his first frog, it is important not to look too closely at Bush's remarks. Or, at least, we hope so. Bush's science adviser, John R. Marburger III, said it would be "overinterpreting" the president's remarks to say he supports equal treatment for intelligent design and evolution in the classroom.

Intelligent design is just an alias for creationism, stripped of references to the Bible to skirt concerns about the separation of church and state. A professor in Kansas called it "creationism in a cheap tuxedo."

Schools cannot teach the biblical account of creation without violating the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment protections against government recognition of established religion.

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that prohibited any teaching of evolution in public schools unless the course also included the teaching of biblical creationism, saying the law violated the separation of church and state.

Teaching biology without teaching evolution would be like teaching American history while denying that the American Revolution ever took place.

The National Academy of Sciences, which was created in 1863 to advise Congress and other branches of government on the sciences, states that creationism has no place in any science curriculum in any public classroom.

The Bible is a religious book, not a science text. Its rightful place is in Sunday school.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Intelligent design remarks create stir


Posted on Thu, Aug. 04, 2005


By Peter Baker And Peter Slevin


WASHINGTON - President Bush invigorated proponents of teaching alternatives to evolution in public schools with remarks that schoolchildren should be taught about intelligent design, a view of creation that challenges established scientific thinking and promotes the idea that an unseen force is behind the development of humanity.

Although he said curriculum decisions should be made by school districts rather than the federal government, Bush told Texas newspaper reporters in a group interview at the White House on Monday that he believes that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution as competing theories.

"Both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about," he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added, "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, and the answer is yes."

These comments drew sharp criticism Tuesday from liberals, who said there is no scientific evidence to support intelligent design theory and no educational basis for teaching it.

The White House said Bush's comments were in keeping with positions dating to his Texas governorship, but aides say they could not recall him ever addressing the issue while president. His remarks heartened conservatives who have been asking school boards and legislatures nationwide to teach students that there are gaps in evolutionary theory and explain that life's complexity is evidence of a guiding hand.

"With the president endorsing it, at the very least it makes Americans who have that position more respectable, for lack of a better phrase," said Gary Bauer, a Christian conservative leader who ran for president against Bush in the 2000 Republican primaries. "It's not some backwater view. It's a view held by the majority of Americans."

John West, an executive with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank supporting intelligent design, issued a written statement welcoming Bush's remarks. "President Bush is to be commended for defending free speech on evolution, and supporting the right of students to hear about different scientific views about evolution," he said.

Opponents of intelligent design say there is no legitimate debate. They see the case increasingly as a political battle that threatens to weaken science teaching in a nation whose students already are falling behind.

"It is, of course, further indication that a fundamentalist right has really taken over much of the Republican Party," said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., a leading liberal in Congress.

Bush gave no sign that he intended to wade that far into the debate. The issue came up only when a reporter from Knight Ridder News Service asked him about it; participants said the president did not seem especially eager to be asked.

"Very interesting question," he told the reporter playfully.

Which Alternative Medicine Treatments Work?


Thursday, August 4, 2005

Posted Wednesday, July 27, 2005 :: infoZine Staff

Consumer Reports' survey of 34,000 readers finds hands-on treatments most successful; for menopause symptoms, alternatives provide little relief.

Yonkers, N.Y. - Consumer Reports - August 2005 Issue - infoZine - - Alternative medicine is no longer truly alternative. A Consumer Reports survey of more than 34,000 readers reveals that many people have tried it, and more and more doctors are recommending it. Readers gave the highest marks to hands-on treatments, which worked better than conventional treatments for conditions such as back pain and arthritis. Chiropractic was ranked ahead of all conventional treatments, including prescription drugs, by readers with back pain. (Readers said it also provided relief for neck pain, but neck manipulation can be risky and is not recommended by CR.) Deep-tissue massage was found to be especially effective in treating osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. While readers suffering from back pain deemed acupuncture and acupressure less effective than chiropractic and massage, one-fourth of readers who had tried these therapies said they helped them feel much better. Of all the hands-on alternative therapies, acupuncture has the most scientific support.

Readers also reported good results for exercise, not only for conditions such as back pain, but also for allergies and other respiratory ills, anxiety, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, insomnia, and prostate problems. Those results are consistent with a broad range of clinical studies of treatments for all of these conditions except allergies and respiratory ailments.

On the other hand, well-known, heavily promoted herbal treatments such as echinacea, St. John's wort, saw palmetto, melatonin, and glucosamine and chondroitin didn't work as well for readers. Readers reported that alternative treatments were far less effective than prescription drugs for eight conditions: anxiety, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insomnia, prostate problems, and respiratory problems. Interpreting these results of the reader survey is somewhat difficult because the U.S. regulates alternative and conventional medicines differently. Federal laws ensure that a bottle of prescription or over-the-counter pills contains the amount and kind of medicine stated on the label, and dosages are standardized, but no such standards apply to dietary supplements. Moreover, there are no standard recommended dosages.

Treating symptoms of menopause

A separate Consumer Reports survey of 10,042 women who had gone through menopause or were experiencing it found that a large minority of women have turned from hormone replacement, which can be risky, to black cohosh, soy supplements, and vitamin E for relief from hot flashes. However, those alternatives were far less effective. Sixty percent of respondents who took estrogen plus progestin said it helped them feel much better, as did 53 percent of those who took estrogen by itself. The botanicals scored far lower. Black cohosh was typical. It helped 17 percent of women feel much better, but 51 percent said it did nothing at all. Some, but not all, studies have found that black cohosh is modestly helpful against hot flashes and night sweats. However, its long-term safety has not been studied. Most studies of soy supplements have suggested that they're not very helpful, and breast-cancer patients should talk with their doctor before taking large amounts of soy. For other supplements, studies show little or no evidence of benefit.

In general, CR recommends the following:

Ask your doctor. Many doctors will refer patients to preferred alternative practitioners. And your doctor may be able to steer you away from potentially hazardous alternative treatments.
Do your own research. Objective online references include the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (nccam.nih.gov), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health; Medline Plus (medlineplus.gov), for plain-language medical information; and Consumer Reports Medical Guide (ConsumerReportsMedicalGuide.org), which rates treatments, including alternative treatments, for several dozen common conditions. It costs $24 per year or $4.95 per month; the others are free.
Consult other reliable sources. If your doctor doesn't have a referral list of practitioners, check with a local hospital or medical school. You can also turn to national professional organizations, many of which have geographic search functions on their Web sites.
Check your health plan. Many cover some alternative therapies.
Check the practitioner's credentials. Make sure your practitioner has the proper license, if applicable, or check for membership in professional associations, which require minimum levels of education and experience. Some also make practitioners pass an exam.

The August 2005 issue of Consumer Reports is on sale now wherever magazines are sold. To subscribe, call 1-800-765-1845.

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Thu Aug 4, 5:00 AM ET

A SCIENTOLOGY-run "detoxification" clinic in Manhattan is endangering patients because of its leaders' strict adherence to the church's teachings, a whistle-blowing former employee has told City Confidential.

The source, who until recently worked at the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification program on Fulton Street, said he witnessed "strange practices" at the tax-funded center, which was co-founded by Tom Cruise.

These include: treating ill World Trade Center rescue workers without doctors present, strictly following Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's medical techniques even when patients were in distress, and a reluctance to call 911 for help.

"Somebody's going to get hurt from this," the former employee said. "There was no responsibility on the medical side of the project."

The whistleblower's bombshell revelations come after The Post reported this week that Scientologists from around the country pumped nearly $115,000 into the Manhattan borough-president campaign of Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, who has steered more than $600,000 in public funds to the facility.

The former staffer was especially disturbed by the hours maintained by the two doctors at the center.

"They worked from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.," the source noted. "But the clinic is open for at least 12 hours a day, and patients were coming in at all times."

"[Sometimes,] the doctors would only be there on Tuesdays and Thursdays."

When the doctors weren't around, there was only one source to consult for treatment: Hubbard's book "Clear Mind, Clear Body," the text in which "detoxification" was created.

A disaster was narrowly averted last summer when a firefighter ran out of a 170-degree sauna — part of the detoxification method, along with exercise and large doses of niacin — because he was "having trouble breathing," according to one witness.

As the firefighter's hands were "turning blue," a call was made to clinic higher-ups for guidance.

"They said it was just a 'manifestation' and that we should go back to the book until it passed," one horrified witness recalled.

"We were told to take him to the hospital if absolutely necessary, but to drive him there, instead of calling 911."

The firefighter was given oxygen and his condition eventually stabilized.

A spokesman for the clinic defended the operation.

"The detoxification program is under the general medical supervision of a board-certified physician," said Keith Miller. He added that the clinic "has a clear policy to call 911 when needed."

Miller said 500 rescue workers and their families had benefited from the program so far. Many called The Post yesterday to express their support for the project.

While the techniques employed at the clinic were partly responsible for the staffer's decision to quit, the employee gave notice only after witnessing what the employee called "an extremely disturbing event" involving a co-worker.

"This girl who worked there had a boyfriend whose brother had left the Church of Scientology," the source said. "They told her that the only way she could keep working there [would be] if her boyfriend has no further contact with his brother."


Editorial: Another wedge issue
Bush weighs in on science education

Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, August 4, 2005

Story appeared in Editorials section, Page B6

If you thought the debate over teaching creationism in public schools was settled in the 1920s, think again.

Eighty years after the famous Scopes Trial in Tennessee, President Bush believes public schools should teach "intelligent design" (the new euphemism for creationism) alongside evolution. In an interview with five Texas newspapers Bush said, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought." As governor of Texas, Bush also said students should be exposed to both creationism and evolution.

Bush doesn't go as far as three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who in the 1920s supported a constitutional amendment banning public schools from teaching evolution.

But Bush is following the script of the "intelligent design" movement and its founder, Phillip E. Johnson, in singling out evolution to get religious concepts into public school science classes.

Johnson and a think tank called the Discovery Institute laid out what they called their "wedge strategy" in a 1999 document and Johnson's 2000 book, "The Wedge of Truth." They see the predominant scientific view that includes evolution as a "giant tree"; their strategy is to "cut it off at its source" by functioning as a "wedge that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points."

A key component of that strategy is a campaign to "Teach the Controversy." As Bush stated it Monday, the foot in the door is to teach intelligent design "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Why do Bush and proponents of intelligent design single out evolution for special treatment in the science curriculum? No scientist or textbook claims that evolution, or any scientific theory, answers all questions about the origins of life.

Evolution is no different than other scientific concepts attempting to explain relationships in the natural world - such as the moon orbiting Earth or tides being caused by the gravitational attraction of sun and moon. As with all science, evolution isn't incompatible with religious belief - although it obviously conflicts with the literal belief in a six-day biblical account of creation.

And that, of course, is the crux of the matter. The singling-out of evolution is about religious belief, not science.

This 1920s debate isn't going away and the president, unfortunately, is playing a part in keeping it alive. Yet America's children deserve a first-rate education in science in public school and not a false, politically motivated "Teach the Controversy" debate between science and religion.

Science can only deal with what is observable. It is not equipped to deal with ultimate questions and divine intervention. Nor does it claim to. Most scientists are perfectly content to leave that to the realm of religion. The president should be content to leave science education to scientists.

The debate in depth

Here's a sampling of books, Web sites and magazine articles that deal with the debate over evolution and intelligent design:

The case for science:

• "The Evolutionists: The Struggle for Darwin's Soul ," Richard Morris (Henry Holt & Co., May 2001).

www.talkorigins.org. This Web site is a prominent defender of biological evolution.

• "Master planned: Why intelligent design isn't," H. Allen Orr, May 30 issue of The New Yorker (newyorker.com).

The case for intelligent design:

• "The Wedge of Truth ," Phillip E. Johnson (InterVarsity Press, July 2000).

• "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution ," Michael J. Behe (Free Press, March 1998).

www.discovery.org. This site is a leading detractor of the theory of evolution.

Leading Republican differs with Bush on evolution


By Jon Hurdle

Thu Aug 4, 3:18 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A leading Republican senator allied with the religious right differed on Thursday with President Bush's support for teaching an alternative to the theory of evolution known as "intelligent design."

Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a possible 2008 presidential contender who faces a tough re-election fight next year in Pennsylvania, said intelligent design, which is backed by many religious conservatives, lacked scientific credibility and should not be taught in science classes.

Bush told reporters from Texas on Monday that "both sides" in the debate over intelligent design and evolution should be taught in schools "so people can understand what the debate is about." "I think I would probably tailor that a little more than what the president has suggested," Santorum, the third-ranking Republican member of the U.S.

Senate, told National Public Radio. "I'm not comfortable with intelligent design being taught in the science classroom." Evangelical Christians have launched campaigns in at least 18 states to make public schools teach intelligent design alongside Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Proponents of intelligent design argue that nature is so complex that it could not have occurred by random natural selection, as held by Darwin's 1859 theory of evolution, and so must be the work of an unnamed "intelligent cause."

Santorum is the third-ranking member of the U.S. Senate and has championed causes of the religious right including opposition to gay marriage and abortion.

He is expected to face a stiff challenge from Democrat Bob Casey in his quest for re-election next year in Pennsylvania, a major battleground state in recent presidential elections.

The controversy over intelligent design is a hot topic in Pennsylvania, where the Dover Area School District in south central Pennsylvania has included the theory in its biology curriculum.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued to block the policy, calling it a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state. Most Americans believe that God created human beings or guided the process of evolution, according to a CBS poll last November. Two-thirds said they wanted creationism taught alongside evolution in schools.


Critics, including many science teachers, say intelligent design cannot be scientifically tested and has no place in a science curriculum. Santorum sided in part with intelligent-design proponents in saying that there were gaps in the theory of evolution. "What we should be teaching are the problems and holes -- and I think there are legitimate problems and holes -- in the theory of evolution. What we need to do is to present those fairly, from a scientific point of view," he said in the interview.

"As far as intelligent design is concerned, I really don't believe it has risen to the level of a scientific theory at this point that we would want to teach it alongside of evolution."

Santorum had proposed an unsuccessful measure in 2001 that would have required discussing the "controversy" of evolution when the theory is taught in classes.

Bush's science adviser, John Marburger, was quoted in The New York Times this week as saying intelligent design was not a scientific concept, and that Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean he thinks the concept should be taught as part of the "social context" in science classes.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bush remarks prompt new debate on intelligent design


Washington, Aug. 03 (CWNews.com) - Secularists and defenders of evolutionary theory have reacted angrily to a statement by US President George W. Bush endorsing the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools.

In an August 1 session with reporters, Bush said that schools should introduce students both to standard evolutionary theory and to the "intelligent design" approach, which says that the appearance of human life was the result of an intelligent plan. "Both sides ought to be properly taught," the President said, adding that educators should "expose people to different schools of thought."

Critics of the "intelligent design" approach contend that the scientific theory is guided by religious faith, and should therefore be excluded from public schools. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said that Bush's remarks were "irresponsible." Evolution and intelligent design are not comparable hypotheses, he said, because "one is a religious viewpoint and one is a scientific viewpoint."

Proponents of intelligent design, however, replied that the theory has withstood scientific scrutiny, and asked for an open debate with evolutionary theorists. John West of the Discovery Institute-- a Seattle organization that supports research on intelligent design-- commended the President for "defending free speech on evolution and supporting the right of students to hear about different scientific views."

Bush backs intelligent design


President says students 'ought to be exposed to different ideas'

Posted: August 3, 2005 1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2005 WorldNetDaily.com

President Bush jumped feet-first into the current debate raging in many states over how evolution should be taught in the nation's schools, when he said both the evolution and intelligent design theories should be presented to students.

Speaking with reporters Monday, Bush backed local control of how the origin of life is taught, but parted with the scientific establishment on its evolution monopoly.

"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 president declined to give his personal views on intelligent design, which proposes that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.

The current edition of WND's monthly Whistleblower magazine is dedicated entirely to the debate between evolution and intelligent design. It's titled, "CENSORING GOD: Why is the science establishment so threatened by the intelligent design movement? "

In response to the president's expression of support, a leading promoter of intelligent design, John West, commented: "President Bush is to be commended for defending free speech on evolution, and supporting the right of students to hear about different scientific views about evolution." West is associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle.

Bush Remarks On 'Intelligent Design' Theory Fuel Debate

By Peter Baker and Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 3, 2005; A01

President Bush invigorated proponents of teaching alternatives to evolution in public schools with remarks saying that schoolchildren should be taught about "intelligent design," a view of creation that challenges established scientific thinking and promotes the idea that an unseen force is behind the development of humanity.

Although he said that curriculum decisions should be made by school districts rather than the federal government, Bush told Texas newspaper reporters in a group interview at the White House on Monday that he believes that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution as competing theories.

"Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about," he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added: "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, and the answer is yes."

These comments drew sharp criticism yesterday from opponents of the theory, who said there is no scientific evidence to support it and no educational basis for teaching it.

Much of the scientific establishment says that intelligent design is not a tested scientific theory but a cleverly marketed effort to introduce religious -- especially Christian -- thinking to students. Opponents say that church groups and other interest groups are pursuing political channels instead of first building support through traditional scientific review.

The White House said yesterday that Bush's comments were in keeping with positions dating to his Texas governorship, but aides say they could not recall him addressing the issue before as president. His remarks heartened conservatives who have been asking school boards and legislatures to teach students that there are gaps in evolutionary theory and explain that life's complexity is evidence of a guiding hand.

"With the president endorsing it, at the very least it makes Americans who have that position more respectable, for lack of a better phrase," said Gary L. Bauer, a Christian conservative leader who ran for president against Bush in the 2000 Republican primaries. "It's not some backwater view. It's a view held by the majority of Americans."

John G. West, an executive with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank supporting intelligent design, issued a written statement welcoming Bush's remarks. "President Bush is to be commended for defending free speech on evolution, and supporting the right of students to hear about different scientific views about evolution," he said.

Opponents of intelligent design, which a Kansas professor once called "creationism in a cheap tuxedo," say there is no legitimate debate. They see the case increasingly as a political battle that threatens to weaken science teaching in a nation whose students already are lagging.

"It is, of course, further indication that a fundamentalist right has really taken over much of the Republican Party," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a leading liberal lawmaker. Noting Bush's Ivy League education, Frank said, "People might cite George Bush as proof that you can be totally impervious to the effects of Harvard and Yale education."

Bush's comments were "irresponsible," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He said the president, by suggesting that students hear two viewpoints, "doesn't understand that one is a religious viewpoint and one is a scientific viewpoint." Lynn said Bush showed a "low level of understanding of science," adding that he worries that Bush's comments could be followed by a directive to the Justice Department to support legal efforts to change curricula.

Bush gave no sign that he intended to wade that far into the debate. The issue came up only when a reporter from the Knight Ridder news service asked him about it; participants said the president did not seem especially eager to be asked. "Very interesting question," he told the reporter playfully.

At a morning briefing yesterday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush was simply restating long-standing views. "He has said that going back to his days as governor," McClellan said. "I think he also said in those remarks that local school districts should make the decisions about their curriculum. But it's long been his belief that students ought to be exposed to different ideas, and so that's what he was reiterating yesterday."

In comments published last year in Science magazine, Bush said that the federal government should not tell states or school boards what to teach but that "scientific critiques of any theory should be a normal part of the science curriculum."

The president's latest remarks came less than two months after Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna and an influential Roman Catholic theologian, said evolution as "an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection" is not true.

"Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science," Schonborn wrote in the New York Times. He said he wanted to correct the idea that neo-Darwinism is compatible with Christian faith.

Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, warned this year in a "Dear Colleagues" letter of "increasingly strident attempts to limit the teaching of evolution."

The most prominent debate is underway in Kansas, where the conservative state board of education is expected to require the teaching of doubts about evolution to public high school students. A challenge to the teaching of intelligent design is scheduled for trial in Dover, Pa., while a federal court in Georgia said textbook stickers questioning evolution were unconstitutional.

Slevin reported from Chicago.


Group raises concerns about Bible elective


Texas Freedom Network says the class has a clear evangelistic bent

By Ginger Pope

Odessa American

Texas Freedom Network officials say one of the nation's more widely used Bible class texts fails to teach history and literature and has a clear sectarian bias.

The Texas Freedom Network held a news conference Monday at the Texas Education Agency in Austin to outline their concerns on the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.

The NCBCPS is one of the textbooks being considered by the Ector County Independent School District for a Bible elective in 2006-07.

Kathy Miller, Texas Freedom Network president, said the ECISD's interest in the NCBCPS fueled the TFN's decision to commission a study by Southern Methodist University biblical studies Professor Mark Chancey.

"We're certainly concerned anytime religious freedom is threatened," Miller said. "The NCBCPS promotes a narrow Protestant view. It interferes on the rights of families to pass on their religious values and beliefs to their children, which is the bedrock of religious freedom."

On April 26, the ECISD School Board voted 6-0 to implement a Bible elective for the 2006-07 year. Board Trustee Bill Rutherford was absent from that meeting.

The TFN states it is a nonpartisan organization of religious and community leaders to advance a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties. On their Web site TFN has posted Chancey's study as well as scholars, who reviewed the research.

In a phone interview Monday, Chancey said it was the media attention given to ECISD that drew his interest in conducting an eight-week study of the NCBCPS.

"Partly, because of the Odessa American's reporting on this situation. Also, most biblical scholars don't know about this group," Chancey, a Methodist said.

"I am a strong supporter of public education and I also have a strong commitment to Jewish-Christian relations."

Chancey's report states that Elizabeth Ridenour, founder and director of the NCBCPS based in North Carolina, is a member of the Council on National Policy, a politically involved group from the religious right.

Chancey, who said he read the complete text of the NCBCPS, also stated that the materials improperly endorses the Bible as the "word of God" and it attempts to persuade teachers and students to adopt views of the Bible that are common in some conservative Protestant circles.

Chancey's report outlines what he referred to as "shoddy" research and that the textbook has some factual errors with the Jewish calendar and the number of years Herod ruled as king.

"This curriculum (NCBCPS) should not be used in any public school," he said. "I do hope someone develops more appropriate curriculum."

In a phone interview Monday, Ridenour said she had not seen all of the TFN report, but said she has heard that the TFN is a fringe-left group with an agenda. She referred questions to NCBCPS Attorney Mike Johnson.

Johnson, who also works as an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, said after looking at the report he doesn't see any smoking gun.

"It's pretty clear that they cited passages out of context," Johnson said. "They have misrepresented our curriculum and content."

Johnson referred to page two of the NCBCPS text has a written statement that says exposure to other works and outside materials can broaden perspectives and stimulate thought, but the NCBCPS does not necessarily endorse or express agreement with these works.

"We want to leave it up to the students to draw their own conclusions," Johnson said. "We're talking about an elective. Students have to opt to take this course."

Johnson said Chancey and the TFN are entitled to their opinions, but because this material has been adopted in so many other school districts, it has met legal muster.

The NCBCPS said its curriculum is in nearly 1,000 public schools in 36 U.S. states. One West Texas school district, Brady, has used the NCBCPS materials for about three years now.

Johnson said he will appear on several national cable news networks this week defending the NCBCPS.

"I don't know what the sudden uproar is," he said. "It's clear somebody has an opposing political agenda. This NCBCPS has been out there a long time."

The NCBCPS was founded in 1996.

During the April 26 ECISD School Board meeting, Odessa resident John Waggoner gave the board a pro-Bible course petition with nearly 6,000 signatures on it. More than 200 people attended the board meeting, and the crowd spilled over to the outside, where youth and adults were praying and singing.

Inside the Board Room of the administration building members of several church denominations were present and five families spoke in favor of the Bible class and one individual asked the board to consider a variety of Bible class texts.

Raymond Starnes, assistant superintendent for instruction and accountability, said the ECISD will carefully consider the concerns the TFN announced Monday.

"No decisions have been made on this," Starnes said. "We will take our time and be methodical about this."

Starnes said subject-area coordinators David Singleton and Ian Roark are reviewing the Bible class material. The available Bible class texts include the Bible Literacy Project, based in New York, and materials used by Big Spring High School.

Big Spring has had a Bible class for about 65 years.

Starnes said Singleton and Roark will look at the study done by Chancey and the TFN.

"This kind of information alerts them to issues and concerns people have with the curriculum," Starnes said.

Starnes said while there is no exact timeline for the implementation of a Bible elective, most of the summer has been for review of course materials. He said that a handful of county residents have reviewed the NCBCPS material at the ECISD office and have told Starnes and his staff of their concerns.

"We'll take today's announcement seriously. Our review needs to be very analytical," he said. "We Want to approach with eyes wide open."

Starnes said there will be issue with any Bible class materials chosen. He said he wants the district to have training for the teachers of this course so that they will know where to draw the line.

"We want this to be a successful learning experience and not any type indoctrination," he said.

Waggoner said he is confident that the NCBCPS can stand the test as an appropriate coursework materials for a Bible class.

Waggoner said as far as he knows there has not been much activism from Ector residents, who favor the NCBCPS.

"As far as I know everybody is sitting back waiting for ECISD," he said. "I have heard it will come up again in curriculum overall."

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