NTS LogoSkeptical News for 6 September 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Antiabortion group celebrates Katrina's work


The Iraqi branch of al-Qaida apparently issued a statement Sunday in which it declared that God had answered "the prayers of oppressed" by unleashing Hurricane Katrina on the United States. We heard TV pundits complain that the statement was an attempt to score political points from tragedy. Fair enough, but when will they say the same about the religious right -- or at least start to demand that the more moderate voices on the right repudiate the rantings of their fringe?

As we noted last week, the anti-abortion group Columbia Christians for Life claimed that Katrina is God's punishment for America's tolerance of abortion rights. The proof? The group says a satellite image of Katrina as the hurricane struck land in Louisiana looks just like the ultrasound image of a 6-week-old fetus.

The group is out with a new message now, and it's claiming victory. New Orleans had five operating abortion clinics before Katrina, the group says. Now it has none. "As sad as it is to see the heart-aching loss of life and the suffering of people in New Orleans, " the Columbia Christians say in their latest e-mail message, "we can only give praise to God for sparing the lives of the innocent unborn who have been murdered by the tens of thousands in New Orleans and the rest of the state of Louisiana, year-after-year-after-year, despite prophetic warnings from men of God."

The group continues: "God is not mocked. We reap what we sow ... The city of New Orleans has sown innocent bloodshed and violence in the womb for years and years and has now reaped bloodshed and violence on her streets. May the people in the city of New Orleans be broken by God's Holy Law, receive, by God's grace, his gift of faith ... and receive his great salvation through Christ alone, repenting of their sins, and receiving Jesus Christ (Yahshua Messiah) as their Lord and Savior. Hallelu-Yah ! Then, may New Orleans be delivered from her many sins!"

Believers, stop fearing the plain truth about evolution


Date published: 9/6/2005

Do the complexity of certain biochemical processes really refute the theory of evolution? Reader Shawn Smart thinks so ["OK, evolutionists, how do you explain blood clotting?" Aug. 18].

The example regarding blood clotting comes from a book called "Darwin's Black Box," by Michael Behe.

Dr. Behe is a biochemist at Lehigh University and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle organization that advocates "Intelligent Design." Behe is also a devout Catholic.

Anyone with a serious interest in this issue should also read "Finding Darwin's God," by Kenneth R. Miller. Dr. Miller is a cell biologist at Brown University, author of many scientific papers and textbooks, and also a practicing Catholic.

In his book, he clearly shows why Dr. Behe's blood-clotting theory, like all the other arguments presented by "creationists" and "intelligent design" advocates, is bogus. The blood-clotting mechanism in humans is fully consistent with evolution.

Mr. Smart and others seem to be troubled by the idea that the development of life forms took place "without direction."

Acceptance of evolution does not require a person to believe that life is without meaning, or that the development of life totally lacked direction.

Many evolutionists are also believers. A believer who is not afraid to confront this mountain of valid scientific evidence is called a "theistic evolutionist."

And this is a good kind of believer to be, because it is the Bible that tells us that "perfect love casts out fear" and that "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

The truth is nothing to be afraid of.

Sarah Marcus


Date published: 9/6/2005

Science Becomes Just Another Tool in the Radical Partisan Agenda of the Bush Administration, According to Journalist Chris Mooney



"Obviously I'm using a metaphor to describe what is essentially a comprehensive assault on scientific expertise. I don't mean a literal war, but I'm referring to the fact that scientific expertise has been undermined very systematically by the Bush Administration and by the Republican Congress on issues ranging from evolution to global climate change to embryonic stem cell research. I think that it's appropriate to talk about this comprehensive assault, using that kind of figurative language." -- Chris Mooney

Chris Mooney is a former editor of The American Prospect. He has also written for Mother Jones, Wired, the Boston Globe and Slate. He specializes in the relationship between politics and religion. His 328-page book was released this fall.

BuzzFlash: Your book is called The Republican War on Science . We wanted to first explore the word "war." That's a pretty big word. Obviously we have the war in Iraq. There's a book over 300 pages. Some Administrations adopt some policies that might be adverse to science. You call this a war in terms of the Republicans and the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress. Why did you use that word?

Chris Mooney: Obviously I'm using a metaphor to describe what is essentially a comprehensive assault on scientific expertise. I don't mean a literal war, but I'm referring to the fact that scientific expertise has been undermined very systematically by the Bush Administration and by the Republican Congress on issues ranging from evolution to global climate change to embryonic stem cell research. I think that it's appropriate to talk about this comprehensive assault, using that kind of figurative language.

BuzzFlash: Okay, from a political perspective, it seems to BuzzFlash that there are two main motivations -- not the only ones -- for the Bush Administration/Republican Congress' war on science. One, it benefits the companies that donate to the Republican Party, particularly companies using natural resources, to make claims that aren't true about scientific evidence, whether it be global warming or cutting down trees and so forth. And two, it benefits the Bush Administration/Republican Party politically -- at least they believe so -- by reinforcing the religious convictions of the most fundamentalist base that science is, in essence, a modern-day attack on creationism, or, in the latest euphemistic transformation, on intelligent design.

Chris Mooney: Exactly.

BuzzFlash: Are those the two basic motivations for their war on science?

Chris Mooney: Yes. I mean, you've essentially articulated what I would say is possibly the central argument of my book. And I think that actually although there's been a lot of complaining about the politicization of science during the Bush Administration, this explanation about the two constituencies that you've discussed has really not been adequately expressed by the scientists complaining, because I think that they're hesitant to get into the realm of political analysis. But it is the gist that I feel.

The modern conservative movement, which now dominates the Republican Party, has a lot of key constituencies, but among those are the two that you just mentioned -- religious conservatives and regulated industry. And they want very different things, but their desires frequently stray into scientific areas. So the religious conservatives want to challenge evolution. Many fossil fuel interests want to challenge anybody who's suggesting advantages of reducing global warming. And when you cater to these constituencies, as the Republican Party and the Bush Administration have done, that essentially leads politicians and political appointees to conduct pseudo-scientific lobbying. And that doesn't mean that no other advocacy groups and no other interests ever politicize science. Science is always to some extent politicized. But it does mean that in today's Republican Party, what we essentially have is a perfect storm of science politicization and abuse.

And that's especially the case because there's no check on the Administration's abuses of science from Congress, because the Republican Party controls Congress as well. And a lot of people are very concerned about what's been happening to science in the federal agencies, where the oversight role should be played by Congress. There is clearly a huge threat to the integrity of scientific information coming from the EPA or NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]. You'd think that Congress would investigate and that some heads would roll, but that hasn't happened.

That is the big picture, very central to it. I think that there are a lot of other things going on as well, and I'd have to talk about that if you want. But that is very, very essential.

BuzzFlash: Let me ask you about what is -- to us, a central hypocrisy in this issue -- what is science in terms of the Bush Administration? Bush has repeatedly used a kind of PR gambit to defer any criticism, for instance, of this Administration not supporting the Kyoto Agreement and many other issues by saying he was going to wait until the science comes in -- this is sort of paraphrasing him -- implying that the science hasn't come in. What the heck is he talking about? I mean, what science is he talking about? Until they fudge the numbers?

Chris Mooney: He's essentially employing a tried-and-true tactic that's used constantly in the political abuse of science, which is the exaggeration of scientific uncertainty. And essentially, science never provides absolutely certain knowledge about the world. Scientific knowledge is, by its very nature, tentative. We can always imagine a new study reaching a different conclusion. And sometimes new studies raise more questions than they answer.

So unlike, faith-based knowledge, scientific knowledge is, by its nature, tentative. So there are always things we don't know completely. And what happens with something like global warming is that you find the so-called skeptics or the President trying to single out the things that aren't known and make a big fuss about them. And admittedly there are some things that aren't known. But what's an abuse of science about doing this is that they refuse to acknowledge what scientists are very confident in, which, in the case of global warming, is that humans are causing global average temperatures to rise, now, through their greenhouse gas emissions.

There's still some uncertainty about precisely what role is being played by natural causes as opposed to human ones. I mean, I don't think anyone can exactly quantify that. But you can't explain the trends we're seeing without invoking human causes. So it's magnifying and exaggerating uncertainty, and it's a tried-and-true tactic that's been used especially on the industry side.

BuzzFlash: Bush and his administration, however, do claim "science is on their side" when it is used to buttress their ideological agenda -- for instance, in abstinence-only education. He and his administration will claim science shows that abstinence reduces sexually transmitted diseases and so forth, when there are studies that say quite the opposite. So he just sort of asserts that some half-baked studies are accepted science, while repudiating accepted science when it conflicts with a partisan agenda.

They claim scientific evidence, whether it's right or wrong, when they feel it can advance their cause. And they use that uncertainty loophole that you just described whenever they're opposed to something.

Chris Mooney: Yes. You know the greatest example here is that Scientific American pointed this out in an editorial -- it's not an original observation to me. But they talked about how Bush wants to talk about uncertainty on global warming, where the scientific community is pretty clear that humans are driving the problem. But he wants to ignore uncertainty when it comes to the question of whether a missile defense system will work. And the uncertainty in terms of whether this thing is going to work or how we can make it work is massive. And yet that doesn't seem to be a problem for him.

BuzzFlash: Yes, and no tests thus far have indicated it has any promise of working. He doesn't say, well, let's wait and see the science before we deploy it. He's deploying it -- and billions and billions and billions of our taxpayer dollars are being spent on it -- when initial tests have shown it doesn't work. There's nothing scientifically to say it will work at this point.

Chris Mooney: Right. And here uncertainty is being ignored, where in other cases uncertainty is being magnified. When you get right down to it; it's a political tactic that essentially amounts to "spin" applied to science.

BuzzFlash: Why don't we take one of what is certainly one of the most politically hot-potato issues that we at BuzzFlash think Bush is on the wrong side of politically -- and polls would support us -- which is the stem-cell issue, although the pundits say he's doing this to keep his fundamentalist base fed with raw meat.

Bush took what people thought was sort of a mealy-mouthed, middle-ground issue that sort of kept him on the side of the fundamentalists, with only the most fringe of the fringe fanatics being critical of him in public. But generally the fundamentalists gave him a pass on his allowance of this use of existing lines, which turned out to be far fewer than he held out to be. But the public, on this one, is overwhelmingly for stem-cell research, largely because everyone knows someone who could conceivably benefit from it. And no doubt, that's why Frist changed his position -- because you had 80% of the polls indicating people in support of it. But here's an example of Bush trying to appease the religious camps, one of his two camps in the war on science, but in this case, on an issue that is of importance to voters. What's going on with this one?

Chris Mooney: He's hurting himself if he wants to be a mainstream president who doesn't thwart the mainstream political perspective. But I'm not sure Bush really realized how this issue would come around and bite him when he made that decision that he made in August of 2001. I'm not so sure that he knew that he was taking a stance that would essentially bind him, with a lot of Republicans aligned against him; Nancy Reagan, for instance. I'm not sure that he viewed the issue as cutting that way.

I think that he made a decision based on very dubious information. He may have actually thought that he was giving scientists enough cell lines to work with. Unfortunately, if he thought that, that means that he was relying on information that wasn't at all reliable, and that he really should have vetted much more carefully. You know, I think that it's essentially outrageous that the President went and told the country that there would be more than sixty stem-cell lines, when, in fact, this is all based on a big confusion. Someone didn't understand the distinction between a stem cell derivation, which won't necessarily develop into a line, and an actual line that can be used in research.

I think the big picture is that the war on science that I've described is often a holding action, where it's going to lose eventually, as tobacco lost eventually, for example -- you know, denying the health risks of smoking. The facts were going to come out. And with global warming, you know, the real world impacts are going to be so significant that eventually reality will prevail. And -- but what distorting scientific information does -- or suppressing it -- what it does is it creates a massive amount of delay. And it also often means that the problem is actually going to be a lot worse when we actually get around to dealing with it finally.

BuzzFlash: There actually are several political issues where Bush has got what you would call a secular motivation for appeasing his big-business contributors and a religious motivation for appeasing his true-believer base. And those two run hand in hand. They ran hand in hand in the Iraq War, and they run hand in hand in the war on science. But fundamentally they're not necessarily compatible. And I just want to explore this potential conflict a little bit with the stem-cell research.

One of the ironies here in the byproducts of his basically anti-stem cell research position is that other countries, including Canada and England right now, are going to make high-tech advances in stem-cell research, and the U.S. is going to lose some of its cutting edge in the medical and research area.

Chris Mooney: We already have.

BuzzFlash: And so even though Bush's pro-business side is basically the Texas oil, natural resource side, he's undercutting America's competitiveness in the high-tech medical arena.

Chris Mooney: Absolutely. No doubt about it.

BuzzFlash: So the appeasement to the religious side is kind of undercutting the American business entrepreneurial side.

Chris Mooney: Right. And the thing that's difficult to parse here a little bit is, you know, how much is biotech a Republican constituency? As opposed to we know that the major extractive industries that you talked about are aligned with Republicans. The people wanting to do stem cell research are not quite as easy to pin down politically, because they're constantly dealing with opposition from religious conservatives. So I guess that maybe that the industry allegiance isn't quite as strong here.

BuzzFlash: Let me move on to another issue, this whole issue of what is pro-life is fascinating. You have this tremendous quote-unquote pro-life constituency that's associated with the case of Terry Schiavo or anti-choice in the abortion issue. From my contacts with people who are Republicans and support Bush in general, but also support stem research, I've learned that many Republicans who are not holy rollers see stem cell research as a pro-life issue. And so what is defined as pro-life is self-defined by the far Christian right. But it isn't always in reality pro-life because if my uncle has Parkinson's, or my daughter has some neuro-muscular disorder, or I know someone with diabetes, I consider stem-cell research pro-life.

Chris Mooney: Absolutely.

BuzzFlash: And so the pro-lifers, who are self-proclaimed to oppose stem cell research are considered anti-life by those who consider stem-cell research pro-life.

Chris Mooney: Right. But we shouldn't yield the rhetorical phrase "pro-life" to them, is essentially what it comes down to.

BuzzFlash: Here's a question for you -- and again it's on the religious side of the two basic groups that are the supporters of the Republican war on science. We've browsed through a book that was released a couple of years ago that we felt, in a very dense academic way, successfully refuted the whole notion of intelligent design as just a kind of euphemistic way to disguise creationism. And that intelligent design was incompatible with science -- that Bush PR people are trying to have him promote that as a way of saying, well, you can believe in both science and creationism. But you can't.

You can believe there's a divine force and still believe in science. But you can't believe in creationism, and deny evolution and scientific theory, and say there's intelligent design which embraces science. So if we look at the religious side, I mean, science is sort of an unwelcome visitor to the creationists.

Chris Mooney: Right. Well, it's really interesting here, because the creationists are in a huge battle against the scientific establishment. And yet over the history of creationism in America, they've at the same time, somewhat incredibly, claimed to be engaged in scientific activity. It's extraordinary when you think about it -- that they quote "evolved" creation science to ease their way into the courtrooms. And creation science is essentially claiming that you could find scientific justification for, you know, the Flood having created geological structures and stuff like that. That didn't fly.

And now they've, you know, morphed this into intelligent design. And intelligent design is also purportedly scientific. Of course you know that really the people pushing it are on the Christian right. And you know that the scientific community doesn't accept it and doesn't even think that it could possibly fall within the realm of science because it's inherently supernatural, and science cannot study or test supernatural occurrences because they don't obey natural laws. And that basically leaves science unable to say anything about them. And yet, they again -- they claim that they've got a scientific theory. I think that science is so powerful in the American life that they feel like they have to at least kowtow to it, and not deny science outright, but rather to abuse it.

BuzzFlash: Bush agencies and departments have been accused of two primary techniques in regards to abusing science -- one, withholding scientific evidence that might be counter to Bush Administration decisions. Or two, doing as they did with the Iraq War, prior to it, which is doctoring up data to support their decisions and claiming it's science. Are those the two basic sort of tools the Bush administration employs?

Chris Mooney: Yes. I mean, those are certainly two important techniques. But I think that in the book, I actually in some detail describe a number of different -- not necessarily mutually exclusive -- ways of attacking science. And, it really runs the gamut, from philosophical arguments saying that, you know, you can include supernatural causes within scientific explanations -- undermining science on a philosophical level -- to suppressing documents, doctoring reports, launching nasty personal attacks on individual scientists if you don't like what they're doing -- that's another one that pops up fairly frequently.

BuzzFlash: And the ad hominem approach is very consistent with what they do to any critics of the Administration in general.

Chris Mooney: Yes. There are a lot of scientists that basically get smeared. That happens very frequently. It's very troubling. You know, and then you have basic errors, misrepresentation of fact -- basically spinning information. And you also have sort of things like even when they're trying to pass laws sometimes that are going to rig the process for how science gets used inside the government.

You have things like the Data Quality Act -- you know, that Orwellian name -- Data Quality Act. You have the Endangered Species Data Quality Act. And these are ways of changing the process so that it's much more easy to abuse science to slow down government action. So there actually are some others -- some other tactics as well. It's hard to limit it to just one tactic. It's an opportunistic use of basically anything that will work.

BuzzFlash: So as -- and this is my analogy, or BuzzFlash's -- as with the War in Iraq -- prior to the war, the propaganda war is multi-faceted.

Chris Mooney: Absolutely.

BuzzFlash: And so this war on science is multi-faceted. It takes many forms. Now with Iraq -- and again, I'm drawing the analogy.

Chris Mooney: Good analogy.

BuzzFlash: A BuzzFlashian analogy. And there was that infamous quotation in the New York Times article from a non-Administration source that said we're not into reality, we're into changing reality.

Chris Mooney: I quote that one in the book.

BuzzFlash: And I guess my question is, well, as with the Iraq war, and science, it seems in both cases they start with certain conclusions and then go backwards and say find me the data to support the conclusions.

Chris Mooney: Possibly.

BuzzFlash: Whereas science looks at data and comes to conclusions.

Chris Mooney: That's how the scientific process is supposed to work. You know, in the book, actually at the opening -- if I could just read this to you.

BuzzFlash: Sure.

Chris Mooney: It's a quotation from Stephen Pinker that he gave me in an interview, and I used it as a kind of opening quote. And he said that "The success of science depends on an apparatus of democratic adjudication: anonymous peer review, open debate -- the fact that a graduate student can criticize a tenured professor. These mechanisms are more or less explicitly designed to counter human self-deception. People always think they're right, and powerful people will tend to use their authority to bolster their prestige and suppress inconvenient opposition. You try to set up the game of science so that truth will out despite this ugly side of human nature." And I think that that's a really great quote. And what's going on here is that people are starting with the answers and essentially they're letting their preconceptions blind them. And not only that, but they're doctoring scientific information to try to justify those preconceptions, instead of approaching it openly and rigorously, and checking results, and engaging in true inquiry.

BuzzFlash: Now we're the country of Doctor Salk, who came up with the polio vaccine.

Chris Mooney: We have a distinguished history.

BuzzFlash: We have a distinguished history. Whether one likes it or not, we came up with scientific breakthroughs. And we were natural leaders in science. We basically have an administration and a fringe Republican party that, at this point, sees science as a threat to their world view, which is kind of rerouting the history of the United States in terms of its achievements in the science arena, which impact its achievements in the marketplace.

Chris Mooney: Sure. You know, certainly, the history of the United States in the 20th Century is one in which the government supported scientific research for the benefit -- both for military purposes, but also for the benefit of the larger society. And it really started with Roosevelt drawing upon the scientific community for these weapons to create the atomic bomb ultimately during the war.

But then, after the war, eventually the tradition continued of science being funded by government. And there was this great marriage between political leaders and the scientific community. And the scientists were going to serve the nation with their innovations. And of course, when the Soviets launched Sputnik, this became even more significant. And Eisenhower, a Republican president but a moderate, brought the scientific community into the White House and created the President's Science Advisory Committee, created his own science advisor, and said, we're falling behind -- what can you guys do to help, you know? That was the ethos of the time, and it's really unfortunate that we've lost that.

BuzzFlash: So, I mean, in essence -- what one could argue -- that the Bush Administration, in its emphasis on the religious fringe which represents that the United States is part of a divine order, and God is the king of the United States, that this is the Ashcroft-Ralph Reed-Falwell-Robinson perspective -- and perhaps George Bush perspective -- you know, that God is the king of America. And so therefore, we live in a divinely protected nation, and everything comes from the divine -- comes from the Bible -- is an argument, in essence, for the status quo - for not being the dynamic force the United States has been in moving forward based on scientific knowledge that has led to industrial gains. The whole space program, as you've said beginning with Eisenhower, led to incalculable advancements in the economic and industrial arena in the United States.

Chris Mooney: And it was really Eisenhower and Kennedy, right? I mean, there was a consensus of both parties. That was what was so cool. Eisenhower was the President when we had to deal with Sputnik, of course, but the Apollo space program was launched under Kennedy. So it was a seamless continuity.

BuzzFlash: I guess my question to you is this cannot be helpful to the economy, I guess. Is that right?

Chris Mooney: Well, to be fair, it's really hard to quantify what the damage is going to be. It's clear that we're falling behind in a very cutting-edge field of bio-technology --which is, you know, stem cell research and also the therapeutic cloning field. It's clear that other countries are ahead of us, at least in that area. That can't be good. What are the economic impacts of spreading massive misinformation and failing to educate kids about the foundational bedrock of biology, the theory of evolution? I'm not so sure what the impacts are there. I'm sure that they're quite damaging over the long term. It's not a pretty picture.

BuzzFlash: Well, let's move over to the second part of the constituency that Bush is appeasing in the Republican war on science, and that is the Southern natural resource oligarchy, meaning oil, gas, lumber, coal and so forth, which Michael Lind, the author, says basically is a descendant of the Confederacy, that whereas New England was involved in the mid-1800s with the emergence of the industrial era, the South was using slave labor and living off of basically a stagnant economy that relied on cotton and natural resources -- oil in Texas later in the century and so forth. Basically the Cheney wing and their emphasis on economic gain as we've said in the energy bill is not science and research advancement, and moving forward to try to deal with when our natural resources are depleted, but it's toward increased license to plunder our natural resources, which may be where there may be divinely-inspired people, because the thinking there, perhaps, as some have said, is, well, God gave us this -- these natural resources. It's our right to use them.

Chris Mooney: Right.

BuzzFlash: But what does that do to our economy? Because it seems the energy bill is basically a bill that increases the ability of the natural resource oligarchy of companies to plunder our natural resources until they're exhausted, without looking beyond that station.

Chris Mooney: Right. Well, you know, with the energy bill, it's not necessarily misusing science. Instead, it's unfortunately making very short-sighted decisions.

BuzzFlash: Well, it's not taking advantage of what science can do to come up with alternative energy resources.

Chris Mooney: Right.

BuzzFlash: -- and investing in science. I mean, it avoids any -- I mean, with the exception of some minor funds, when you look at the multi-billion-dollar energy bill, it doesn't really give science a shot in the arm to look at alternative energy resources.

Chris Mooney: Right. And from an economic standpoint, it all kind of baffles me because, something like global warming is also going to have huge economic costs? And we don't even have that on the table. I mean, I don't think that we're thinking really in a sound way about it at all.

BuzzFlash: But let's just say hypothetically we take Bush at his word that he is a religious person, and he believes in the divine order, and God chose him to be leader and so forth, and all that holy roller stuff, which let's just hypothetically say he believes it. We have our doubts, but let's say he does. Then to him, the issue of science is sort of irrelevant because God is the provider and science really doesn't matter because God takes care of us.

Chris Mooney: You know, sometimes it's hard to tell when cynicism ends and true faith begins. But the net impact is the same, which is that science, which is key to our future, is being undermined and a political wedge is between driven between the scientific community and the Republican Party, which is certainly not going to be good for the country, science or the Republican Party in the long run.

BuzzFlash: Well, as you mentioned, they use kind of Orwellian euphemisms -- and they do this in every area, not just science -- like they call plunder the forest act save the forest act, you know, and things like this. I mean, how aware is the public of the Republican war on science? Short of your book, really there's not a lot of coverage on it. There are the occasional articles where people protest the EPA has misrepresented a scientific report, or they fix numbers. But you don't see really a lot of coverage of this issue in a contextual sense, or like your book does, as a war -- as an overall assault on science.

Chris Mooney: Well, I'm hoping that will change. You know, I don't know how much impact my one book can have. I think that it's an uphill battle to make the public understand it. And let me put it this way -- I think that there's a full-fledged crisis right now over the role of scientific information in shaping public policy decisions in this country. And I think that that's a terrible state to be in. I think that we need science to inform our decisions. I don't think the public at large really knows this, and I think that's because the crisis of the war on science is often -- it's often hidden and obscured by the complexity of the government regulatory process. People don't know what's going on at these advisory committees.

Scientific debate is also extremely complex and hard to penetrate for many people. So what you have to do is first, you try to give the big picture, but you also have to explain why it threatens all of us. And there, obviously it threatens our public health and the environment. And even more, it threatens the way we treat knowledge itself in American society. It threatens our competitiveness. So we need to articulate how the sort of complex attacks on science, which are sometimes hard to follow and hard to understand, actually translate into harms to the public.

BuzzFlash: And it just seems that the Bush Administration's approach is so contrary to America's tradition of innovation that you'd think there'd be an uprising. But somehow this is almost like carbon monoxide. The public can't seem to smell it.

Chris Mooney: Kerry made science an issue in his campaign. It wasn't his number-one issue, but it was there. He talked about it. He said I want to be a President who believes in science. And that was a clear reference to the perception that the Bush Administration has been attacking science. It's really gotten worse since the election. But, when Kerry made that argument, his campaign did focus on the role of scientific advancement in economic growth, competitively. And that was an argument -- it's an obvious argument, you know? And they made that point. And I think we have to keep making that point.

BuzzFlash: Now you mentioned, before we close, that you had some other thoughts about the war that you wanted to mention that are in your book.

Chris Mooney: You and I went over what we agree are the key constituencies that are driving what's happened. What I would add is just that I don't think those constituencies necessarily provide the full explanation of why it's gotten so bad. I think that we need to cite some other things that have also happened. So I think one of the key enabling factors behind the current war on science is that the right -- both the industry and the religious right constituencies -- have worked really hard to generate their own friendly sources of science -- the expertise that they can use to contrast the mainstream. And then politicians get to cite the favorite right wing experts. So they get to hand-pick their scientific arguments and make it easier to ignore what's actually the consensus. So the right has created its own sort of shadow scientific community.

And how it's done -- one of the central developments is the push to create industry-friendly or religious-friendly -- or both -- think tanks that essentially provide the right with its own expertise. So then they can argue back against the scientific community. And this has been a very conscious effort on the right to do this. It can be traced back at least to the seventies when people like Irving Kristol explicitly advised corporations to fund their own think tanks and other outlets that would essentially reconfirm a pro-business economic philosophy. So -- and it's not just on the corporate side, because the war on evolution right now is being waged by the Discovery Institute, which is a think tank in Seattle which is a religious conservative think tank and also kind of has a free-market orientation. So I think that the right wouldn't be able to get as far if it didn't generate its own experts. So they're politicizing the concept of expertise, and they're drawing upon that. And they've created their army of think tanks. And I think that that's a crucial factor.

BuzzFlash: I think they're anti-free market because they're suppressing the free market because they're suppressing science. And you can only have a free market if you have unfettered access to scientific advancements and research. And so, in a way, they are for a limited market that's really reactionary in the true sense of the word. It's a market of the past and not of the future, because science is what creates the future in terms of the marketplace.

Therefore, a controlled market of industries are industries that eventually will exhaust themselves, which is what happened with the European colonial empires. You know, at one time, England pretty much had a monopoly on tea. But that only gets you so far.

And one final thing. I recall that in the beginning of the Bush Administration, Tom DeLay had a kind of power over Congress. But there's a Washington Post profile of DeLay from about four years ago that was in two or three parts. And it was an extremely revealing profile. It was not flattering, I guess one could say. But among the many disclosures -- and there were many personal disclosures that were kind of a bit shocking -- but this reporter was with DeLay when he went to some restaurant in his home town of Sugarland.

DeLay was standing in line in a restaurant. And I guess the guy behind him recognized him and sort of engaged him about toxic chemicals and science and so forth. And the man brought up to DeLay that he differed with DeLay because of things he read. DeLay said basically there's nothing wrong with dioxin and it's basically good for you. And I just kind of wonder what your thoughts are about that kind of thinking. I mean, what is going on in Tom DeLay's head? I mean, this is such a complete dismissal of science and evidence. That all chemicals are good and anyone who says otherwise is just some sort of radical kook?

Chris Mooney: No, I don't know what's going on in Tom DeLay's head, but Tom DeLay does epitomize the war on science. I mean, I've got him in the book on issues -- I've got him denying evolution in the book. But I've also got him denying depletion of the ozone layer. So it was during the Gingrich years -- the early Gingrich years -- he was behind the bill to -- I forget exactly what it was, but it was essentially going to roll back the phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons, I think, because they were doubting that they really depleted the ozone layer. And this is in the same year that the scientist who discovered that won the Nobel Prize. So DeLay is just out of it. Again, he's blending the industry side with the religious right side.

BuzzFlash: He claims to be a true-blue, born again believer, a fundamentalist to the core. And there you have that merger of the depletable resource, oligarchy that supports Bush with the divine fringe right wing. He sort of epitomizes where they come together.

Chris Mooney: I agree.


Get your copy of "The Republican War on Science " from BuzzFlash.com

© BuzzFlash.

Scientology course potentially dangerous, says Oklahoma report


Added: (Mon Sep 05 2005)
Calgary Herald, Canada
By Bob Beaty
March 29, 1994

A "drug treatment program" backed by a controversial church is trying to sell Alberta natives addiction-cure services that medical experts have warned are unsafe and ineffective.

As many as 10 Alberta reserves have been approached by Narcorion, a U.S.-based program associated with the Church of Scientology.

The program - which costs about $18,000 US and prescribes daily saunas and megavitamin doses - has been rejected by a U.S. state board of health because it "may endanger the physical or mental well-being of (its) clients."

Brendan Moore, a former Scientologist and director of the Calgary-based Cult Information service Inc., said Narconon recruits members for Scientology.

While none of Alberta's 45 native reserves have signed up for the program, Moore fears it is only a matter of time. "It makes me shudder thinking of taxpayer's dollars going into this," he said.

But Los Angeles-based Scientology spokeswoman Gaetane Asselin said just because Narconon used Scientology principles, it didn't mean every Narconon client became a Scientologist.

"It's such an old (criticism), it is boring. It's terrible," Asselin said.

"People for many years have just tried to stop us from helping others to be drug free."

In most of the United States, drug treatment programs must be certified by state authorities or sanctioned by nationwide industry associations.

In Canada, nothing would prevent a reserve from funding its own Narconon program, said Garth Corrigal of Edmonton, regional director of Health Canada's medical services branch.

But if the reserve asked Ottawa to fund such a program, the chances of approval were slim because cash was scarce, Corrigal said. In addition, the program would have to be recognized by medical or therapeutic associations in Alberta.

Of the 34 alcohol and drug rehabilitation centres Narconon claims to have in 12 countries, the best known in North America is a 75-bed facility on the Chilocco Indian reserve in Oklahoma.

Narconon applied to the state's board of mental health for certification. In a report, the board found Narconon requires its patients to sweat up to five hours per day for 30 days and take high doses of vitamins and minerals.

"The doses were so high the board concluded it could be potentially dangerous to the patients."

The board noted that most drugs were removed from the body through the liver, kidneys and lungs. "Although minute quantities of some drugs may be found in sweat, the amount represents a small fraction of drug elimination," the board ruled.

The board warned sauna therapy could pose "significant health risks to intravenous heroin addicts."

It also stated that by restricting patients to seeing their doctors, family, lawyers, clergy and other such contacts only at limited, specified times, Narconon was endangering their physical and mental well-being.

But the board decision didn't stop Narconon. Bob Lobsinger, publisher of an Oklahoma weekly paper, said Narconon was given approval to set up a facility through a nationwide industry association.

Gary Smith, Narconon's Los Angeles-based acting chief executive officer, said the Oklahoma board refused to hear testimony from a clutch of experts supporting Narconon's program and as a result its findings were flawed.

Smith claimed the Chilocco facility had treated as many as 400 drug addicts and more than 70 per cent remained drug-free since it opened in the early 1980s.

Scientologist and Narconon volunteer Steve Koochin of Edmonton said he had always disclosed - in dealings with tribal leaders - that Scientology supported Narconon. He added no Alberta tribe had subscribed to the program.

Chris Shade, administrator of the Blood Tribe's department of health, said a tribe member convinced him to send a medical student to Narconon's Chilocco facility to check the program out.

The student found out about the Narconon-Scientology connection. "That is when I started to backpedal fast," Shade said.

Marvin Fox, director of the Tsuu T'ina Nation Spirit Healing Lodge near Calgary, wrote the Herald that Narconon's program "is worth while looking into." After being told about the Oklahoma findings, though, he said his or any other reserve would have to carefully examine it.

Scientology was founded by American science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard to create a new civilization that is "without insanity, without criminals and without war."

Despite that goal, 11 top U.S. Scientologists - including. Hubbard's wife - were sent to prisons in the early 1980's after, being convicted of burglarizing and wire-tapping more than 100 private and government agencies.

Submitted by: News Real

©1999-2005 Pressbox.co.uk

High school teachers given freedom to discuss any theories on origin


By Virginia Vickery Staff Writer virginiav@nwanews

Posted on Tuesday, September 6, 2005

SILOAM SPRINGS — Siloam Springs High School science teachers have the freedom to discuss with students any theories concerning the origin of the universe. Those theories could include evolution, the Big Bang theory or Intelligent Design, said Dennis Brown, head of the science department at Siloam Springs High School.

The Intelligent Design Theory (also referred to as ID) suggests that the complex creation and design of the universe can be explained by the existence of a powerful intelligent force or being, and is said to fill in the gaps in the theory of evolution, according to the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center at www.ideacenter.org.

A national debate was sparked over Intelligent Design by an interview at the White House on Aug. 2. A reporter asked President George W. Bush what he thought of the issue of evolution versus Intelligent Design. Bush answered that both theories should be taught in schools equally. "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought, and if you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes," Bush said.

Though Siloam Springs teachers have no set curriculum for what they must or must not teach concerning the origin of the universe, some of the school's textbooks contain the evolutionary and Big Bang theories. "The text books contain the Big Bang theory but do not mention Intelligent Design. I have never told students what I believe in class," said Jerrie Price, who has taught science at Siloam Springs High School For 10 years and has also taught physics for the last two years. "It's not out of fear that I don't tell students what I believe. But I am the authority in the classroom, and I don't want to force kids to believe what I believe. I want to provoke kids to figure out for themselves what they believe and why. I challenge them to be able to prove what they believe to prepare them for the hard discussions someday," Price said. "Each teacher can choose what they want to share in their classes right now. It has never been an issue," said Steve Matchell, who has been a science teacher at Siloam Springs High School for 25 years. "I teach AP Biology, and I do not teach the evolutionary theory. There are some problems and holes with the theory if you hold strictly to Darwinism. Some of those holes are explained in the ID theory as being from a creator or God, or some other intelligent being. But I do think that it is important for kids, even if they don't believe in a greater being, to understand what it is that they do not believe in," Matchell said. "I cannot teach all of the evolutionary theory as absolute fact and as proven. The way science is supposed to approach is with an open mind, and stuff that hasn't been proven is taught as absolute fact," Brown said. "Some things in the evolutionary theory need to be taught because some things in the theory are proven. Changes do occur within species. My concern, though, is that all of it is taught as fact, and some evidence may not be proven yet, and some don't acknowledge that," Brown said. "I don't teach belief. I tell kids that I believe in God so they are not mistaken and think that evolution can have nothing to do with a God," said Susan Schaal, a physical science teacher. "Intelligent Design gets too specific and goes too far in trying to push ideas. I want to stress that we do believe in God. Most all scientists do; they can't help it, but it is not the same thing as Intelligent Design," she said.

Copyright © 2001-2005 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Intelligent Design is unintelligent science


Tuesday September 6, 2005


President Bush and Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist have recently stated that the theory of "intelligent design" (ID) ought to be taught alongside the standard theory of evolution in public schools.

ID is the successor to "scientific creationism" of the 1980s - the claim that divine creation is a viable alternative to Darwinian evolution. Creationists, supported by Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr., wanted this doctrine included in public-school biology courses. In 1987, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that such a requirement was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.

The creationist lobby did not give up after this verdict. Instead, they rallied behind the more secular thesis of Intelligent Design. ID claims that the origin of life and of species cannot be understood apart from the intervention of some intelligent being or other. Their motto is that schools should "teach the controversy." They argue that fairness and honesty require that students learn that there is a plausible scientific alternative to Darwinian evolution.

However, there is no such alternative. ID is not a scientific theory. Instead, it is a recent example of a centuries-old philosophical argument of which the most famous version is found in William Paley's Natural Theology (1802). Paley argued that, just as anyone would infer that a watch lying in a field must have had an intelligent maker or designer, so organisms (which are immensely more complicated) must have had a divine Designer.

Paley's argument is open to serious objections. For instance, why would a benevolent Designer create the horrors of the food chain? Why would such a Being choose to have animals crushed, gored, suffocated, digested alive, poisoned, or otherwise destroyed by predators? If ID proponents want public schools to "teach the controversy," they should urge these schools to have philosophy courses in which the arguments for and against intelligent design would be fairly considered. This is not a task for biology teachers.

It's an irony of intellectual history that Paley's book was required reading when Darwin studied at Cambridge. Darwin wrote in his autobiography that Paley and the ancient geometer Euclid were the only ones "of the least use to me in the education of my mind." Paley's descriptions of the marvelous adaptations of organisms to their environments were part of the inspiration for Darwin's theory of natural selection.

Darwinian natural selection is a mechanism - a system of components that interact to produce a certain result. The components of natural selection include reproducing organisms with heritable traits that are subject to random mutations, and environments that are also subject to change and in which different traits are more or less advantageous. The operation of this mechanism results in new species composed of organisms better able to survive because their traits are more suited to the environment.

What Darwin's theory did, and ID cannot do, is to help us understand how the present distribution of species came about, as well as the chronology of origins and extinctions of species suggested by the fossil record. The lack of a mechanism for heredity was a large gap in Darwin's theory. But, unknown to Darwin, J. G. Mendel had read his work and was developing a theory of genes that would plug the gap. Darwin's theory continues to spawn successful research today.

We could preface every scientific description of a process with the clause "God brought it about that ..." Doing so wouldn't make it any easier to understand how the specific process came about, and it would not give any direction to further scientific research. The God clause simply doesn't belong in a scientific analysis of how nature works.

On the other hand, it does not follow that if evolutionary theory is true, then God does not exist, or that God did not create the universe. Evolutionary theory is not "atheistic materialism." The latter is a philosophical claim, just like ID. Neither belongs in a biology curriculum.

Those Christians who want to believe a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis are correct in thinking that the generally accepted theory of evolution contradicts their beliefs. But we cannot allow an interpretation of the Bible to dictate the contents of a science course. I hope Republican leaders back off from their support of ID before they damage the integrity of science education.

Brian Cooney is a professor of philosophy at Centre College.

Copyright The Advocate-Messenger 2005

Remedies sought beyond realm of conventional medicine


Some turn to alternative treatments informed by Eastern practices.


Cynthia Rutledge was taking nine prescriptions to treat everything from chronic pain to depression, but her health continued to deteriorate to the point that she had to use a walking cane because her body ached so badly. "I was all hunched over and felt like I was 90 years old," says Rutledge, 56, of Springfield. "I felt like my doctors were treating my symptoms, but they had not uncovered the problem."

Rutledge sought out alternative medical treatments in late 2003 in hopes of finding out what was at the root of her malaise and whether it could be healed without prescription medication.

"I came to the conclusion on my own that my medications were not working," she said. "I did not want to have to rely on artificial chemicals to get through the day."

Rutledge was open to the possibility that her thinking habits could be affecting her health. She began investigating energy medicine. It is based on the belief that a subtle form of energy surrounds and flows through specific centers in the body — also referred to as "chakras."

Practitioners of energy medicine believe negative thoughts, worry, fear and anger disturb the chakras and can cause them to become unbalanced, thus causing physical problems. The idea behind chakras arises from Hinduism, some spiritual forms of yoga and other Eastern medical traditions.

"You can discover there are layers of issues that may be bothering you," Rutledge said. "They are the things that you haven't dealt with in your life that build up and make you sick."


Rutledge is among a growing number of Americans looking for answers outside the realm of conventional Western medicine.

The trend has led to what is known as "complementary and alternative medicine," or "CAM." In CAM, alternative medicine complements conventional medicine or alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine.

Thirty-six percent of American adults use some form of complementary and alternative medicine to treat illness, according to a federally funded survey released in May 2004.

Congress has even established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine as part of the National Institutes of Health. It is charged with researching and disseminating information to health professionals and to the public.

While some scientific evidence exists regarding some alternative therapies, there are questions about whether other therapies are safe and whether they work for the diseases or medical conditions for which they are used, officials said.

As a result, a number of hospitals and medical institutions have adopted programs to help bridge the gap between Western medicine and alternative treatments.

Shana Tauai serves as a resource for CoxHealth patients who want to investigate alternative practices. Most people who seek her out have chronic pain or terminal illness and want to try something other than surgery or prescription drugs, she said.

"It's the root cause that patients want to fix, it's not just the symptoms," said Tauai, who is the coordinator of the health system's complementary/alternative medicine program.

Complementary and alternative medicine is about personal responsibility for one's health, Tauai said. The emphasis is on prevention.

While patients have the right to seek alternative medical treatment, Tauai strongly suggested that they keep their primary care doctor informed about what they are doing. It is particularly important when a patient is using herbs and vitamins because some can have an adverse reaction when taken with prescription medications, she said.


Prescription medication failed to bring Rutledge relief from fibromyalgia, a condition that is characterized by widespread muscle pain and stiffness. She sought the help of Brenda McCoy-Lappin, a reiki master in Springfield.

Reiki is a Japanese form of energy medicine in which practitioners help channel energy through the seven major chakras — energy points — to unblock them, helping patients heal, McCoy-Lappin said. Meditation, massage, touch therapy and freeing your mind of fear-based thoughts are among other methods used to clear the chakras.

The seven chakras act as a network that constantly receives the energy that is created from our emotions and mental attitudes, she said.

Practitioners say each chakra is associated with different organs and systems within the body and can be affected by emotions and thoughts. Each also is associated with a color.

The energy passes through the chakras and is distributed throughout the entire body. It is thought to affect our cells, tissues and organs. It also affects our intuitive abilities, which allow us to connect to higher consciousness or a higher power.

We keep our bodies charged through positive thinking and extending love to ourselves and others, McCoy-Lappin said. Energy can flow smoothly through the chakras, and when it does we are happy and filled with vitality.

"Think of them like the big power stations that you see in neighborhoods," she said. "The power station manages the energy so that it doesn't allow a surge to go into the house and blow it up."

These energy centers can become unbalanced when worries and negative feelings develop over anything from finances and relationships to weight and past hurts.

When the energy of a chakra becomes blocked, the corresponding body part will begin to ache or experience illness, McCoy-Lappin said. For example, worry over financial issues or the ability to support yourself can result in lower back pain. A sore throat might occur when you have difficulty communicating truthfully how you feel about something.


Each of the seven chakras is a key to understanding the core emotional issues that create illness, she said.

First is the root chakra, located at the base of your spine. It is believed to relate to issues of physical security and self-preservation. It is red.

Second is the navel chakra, located between the navel and base of the spine. It is believed to be tied to the kidneys and spleen, and to emotions and sexual energy. It is orange.

Third is the solar plexus chakra, located behind the navel. The parts of the body associated with this chakra include the pancreas, stomach, liver, gallbladder and other organs and glands in the region of the solar plexus. Parts of consciousness associated with this chakra include power, control, freedom and the ease with which one is able to be themselves. It is yellow.

Fourth is the heart chakra, located in the center of the chest. It is associated with the heart, arms, hands and lungs. It is also associated with joy, happiness, honesty, respect, compassion and generosity and with loving oneself. It is green.

Fifth is the throat chakra, located in the throat. This chakra is believed to control the throat and the neck. It is associated with self-expression and speaking one's mind. It is sky blue.

Sixth is the brow chakra, located in the center of the forehead, between the eyebrow. It's also known as the "third eye." This chakra is associated with the forehead and temples. Some practitioners also associate it with vision. It's believed to be tied to extra sensory perception, insight, imagination and peace of mind. It is dark blue.

Seventh is the crown chakra, located at the top of the head. It is associated with the top of the head and the brain. It is believed to be tied to the soul and to empathy and unity. It is violet. Reiki can help bring the chakras into balance by allowing the body's innate intelligence to heal itself, said McCoy-Lappin, who operates the Center for Intuitive Development & Reiki Healing out of her Springfield home.

A reiki master uses specific hand positions directly on the body or just above the blocked chakra to help in the transference of energy, McCoy-Lappin said.

"In essence, the practitioner becomes like 'cosmic jumper cables,' providing a boost of needed energy to those requesting it," she said.

McCoy-Lappin said she is merely the "facilitator of the life-force energy," which allows the subject's mind and body to relax to the deepest level so that the person's innate healing ability can take over.

"I am not the healer, and you should be skeptical of anyone who tells you that they are," she said.


There is a vast body of anecdotal literature, as well as two trials, that suggest reiki may relieve pain and improve the psychological well-being of those with fibromyalgia, according to National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

"Reiki appears to have no adverse effects and can eventually be self-administered, making it a low-risk, low-cost, potentially patient-empowering intervention," the center's Web site said.

Cox does not have a reiki master on staff, although a number of hospitalized patients have had visits from their personal practitioner, Tauai said.

Rutledge said her twice-monthly sessions with McCoy-Lappin have helped her to cope with the pain and get off prescription medications.

"One of the things that I appreciate most is that I'm not putting chemicals in my body," she said. "I am not 100 percent pain-free, but I would say that I am 90 percent pain-free."

McCoy-Lappin charges $40 for a private 60-minute session. She and her husband, Dave, also teach reiki.

"I think energy medicine is the way of the future," McCoy-Lappin said.

Rae Aguero, another Springfieldian, was seeking a more spiritual life when she became interested in energy medicine. She began studying chakras and their role in living a harmonious life while working at a holistic center in California.

"The body is more than physical. It's also energy," Aguero said. "When we keep the energy clean, we feel at our best."

Direct questions or comments for freelance writer Connie Farrow to mrose@News-Leader.com.

Chakras have counterparts in other cultures

Western medicine generally does not acknowledge chakras, since there is so far no scientifically acceptable evidence of their existence. Supporters of chakras say technology is not capable of measuring life energy.

There is, however, a similarity between the positions and roles described for chakras and the positions and roles of the glands in the endocrine system, opening the possibility that Western and Eastern traditions have come to different conclusions about the same phenomenon.

The chakras come from ancient tradition, dating back more than 5,000 years.

A universal energy, or "prana," is included in ancient Indian spiritual tradition. Yogis practiced manipulating the energy through breathing techniques, meditations and exercise.

The Chinese also talked about a vital energy, or "chi." They believe chi consists of two polar forces — the yin and the yang. Good health results when the two forces are balanced.

Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical theosophy, refers to an energy, or "astral light."

The Old Testament includes references to Jesus and other spiritual figures being surrounded by light.


Brenda McCoy-Lappin, who along with husband, Dave, operates the Center for Intuitive Development and Healing in Springfield, can be contacted at 869-8551 or by e-mail at brendamccoy@intuition2.com. On the Web: www.intuition2.com

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: http://nccam.nih.gov

— Sources: "Hands of Light, A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field ," by Barbara Ann Brennan; Wikipedia.com

Monday, September 05, 2005

Evolution education update

The expected adoption of antievolution science standards in Kansas is hurting the state's reputation, while no fewer than four authors denounce the idea of teaching "intelligent design" and the related slogan "teach the controversy" in recent op-eds. And a special back-to-school offer for the teachers among you.


The reputation of the University of Kansas and of the state in general is in jeopardy due to the expected adoption of a set of deeply flawed science standards, according to the provost of the University of Kansas. David Shulenberger told the Lawrence Journal-World (August 30, 2005) that the debate over the place of evolution in the state's science standards was damaging the university's national reputation and its ability to attract the top faculty and students. " For the state to be portrayed repeatedly in the national press as being anti-science does damage to this university," he said. "The frustration is you fight this reputation problem every step of the way." James Orr, professor and chairman of the division of biological sciences, and Ann Brill, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, both told the Journal-World that the debate was a concern for a number of prospective hires, and Erik Lundquist -- a biologist who joined the University of Kansas faculty just before the 1999 adoption of a similarly flawed set of science standards -- commented, "I think we're missing a whole pool of people here who don't even apply" because of the state's reputation for hostility to evolution education.

For the story in the Lawrence Journal-World, visit:


A quartet of op-eds -- from Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne in the Guardian, Daniel C. Dennett in The New York Times, John Derbyshire in National Review On-Line, and Craig E. Nelson in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Journal Gazette -- all argue in their various ways against the idea of teaching "intelligent design" and the related slogan "teach the controversy" -- in the public schools.

In "One Side Can be Wrong" (published in the September 1, 2005, issue of The Guardian), Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne take on the "teach both sides" slogan. "As teachers, both of us have found that asking our students to analyse controversies is of enormous value to their education," they comment. "Why, then, would two lifelong educators and passionate advocates of the 'both sides' style of teaching join with essentially all biologists in making an exception of the alleged controversy between creation and evolution? What is wrong with the apparently sweet reasonableness of 'it is only fair to teach both sides'?" Because, they reply, the controversy over "intelligent design" (which they identify as "creationism camouflaged with a new name to slip [with some success, thanks to loads of tax-free money and slick public-relations professionals] under the radar of the US Constitution's mandate for separation between church and state") is not a scientific controversy at all. "If ID really were a scientific theory, positive evidence for it, gathered through research, would fill peer-reviewed scientific journals. This doesn't happen. It isn't that editors refuse to publish ID research. There simply isn't any ID research to publish. Its advocates bypass normal scientific due process by appealing directly to the non-scientific public and -- with great shrewdness -- to the government officials they elect." They conclude by informatively listing a few of the "genuinely important and interesting controversies that enliven evolutionary discourse" as opposed to the manufactured "controversy" proclaimed by creationists. Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University; his latest book is The Ancestor's Tale. Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago; his lengthy essay on "intelligent design" -- "The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name" -- recently appeared in The New Republic.

Writing in the August 28, 2005, issue of The New York Times, presumably as part of the newspaper's recent extensive coverage of the evolution/creationism controversy, Daniel C. Dennett challenges creationists to "Show Me the Science." Dennett asks, "Is 'intelligent design' a legitimate school of scientific thought? Is there something to it, or have these people been taken in by one of the most ingenious hoaxes in the history of science?" The motivation behind "intelligent design" is clear: "The fundamental scientific idea of evolution by natural selection is not just mind-boggling; natural selection, by executing God's traditional task of designing and creating all creatures great and small, also seems to deny one of the best reasons we have for believing in God. So there is plenty of motivation for resisting the assurances of the biologists." But its proponents have failed to provide the promised scientific revolution. "Instead," Dennett observes, "the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist's work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a 'controversy' to teach," adding, "And here is the delicious part: you can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details." Quoting the Discovery Institute's George Gilder's recent admission that "Intelligent design itself does not have any content," Dennett concludes: "Since there is no content, there is no "controversy" to teach about in biology class. But here is a good topic for a high school course on current events and politics: Is intelligent design a hoax? And if so, how was it perpetrated?" Dennett is University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, and the author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea.

In the August 30, 2005, edition of National Review On-Line -- a forum that in the past has hosted articles and op-eds sympathetic to "intelligent design" -- John Derbyshire wrote on "Teaching Science." Taking his cue from President Bush's remarks seeming to endorse the teaching of "intelligent design," Derbyshire lamented, "This is Bush at his muddle-headed worst, conferring all the authority of the presidency on the teaching of pseudoscience in science classes." Offering a list of various pseudosciences (taken from Martin Gardner's classic Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science), he asked, "Does the president have any idea, does he have any idea, how many varieties of pseudoscientific flapdoodle there are in the world? If you are going to teach one, why not teach the rest?" Instead, Derbyshire recommended, "We should teach [students] consensus science, and we should teach it conservatively. Consensus science is the science that most scientists believe ought to be taught. 'Conservatively' means eschewing theories that are speculative, unproven, require higher math, or even just are new, in favor of what is well settled in the consensus." Evolution is, and "intelligent design" is not, part of consensus science. (As part of his evidence, he cited NCSE's Project Steve [then with 577 signatories, now with 594] and commented, "When the I.D. support roster has 57,000 names on it, drop me a line.") Presumably alluding to the "teach the controversy" slogan favored by creationists, Derbyshire added, "And Darwinism ought to be taught conservatively, without skepticism or equivocation, which will only confuse young minds. Darwinism is the essential foundation for all of modern biology and genomics, and offers a convincing explanation for all the phenomena we can observe in the life sciences." Derbyshire is a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to National Review; his latest book is Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics.

Last but by no means least is Craig E. Nelson's op-ed "Design Isn't Science," which appeared in the August 28, 2005, issue of the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Journal Gazette. Nelson reviews four excellent reasos for not teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools -- its lack of scientific standing its dubious constitutionality, the expense and bother of dealing with likely lawsuits, and the economic costs of a biologically miseducated workforce. But then he adds a fifth: the impact on the teachers. After quoting a passage from Michael Behe claiming that the identity of the "designer" is scientifically unascertainable, Nelson asks, "How is a science teacher supposed to help students deal with the claim that any unexplained design-like features of the cell might be the result of an incompetent, inconsistent and evil alien or a fallen angel? How can a teacher maintain enough control of such a discussion to assure that the students' various religious views are adequately respected? How can a high school biology class be improved by such a discussion?" "If ID is to be examined in biology classes," he explains, "the teacher will have to directly confront its claims that some features of organisms cannot have evolved, as part of the argument for some kind of a designer. Since these claims fail, the teachers will be faced with the largely insoluble problem of examining the claims in such a way that students feel that their faith is not being challenged by the teacher or other students. Nothing will be gained either scientifically or religiously from such a direct confrontation." He adds, "Fairness would require that any side that is presented must also be critiqued. But a direct critique of ID is going to be much more confrontational to students' beliefs than most high-school teachers feel is appropriate. I agree with these teachers." Nelson is a professor emeritus in the Department of Biology at Indiana University in Bloomington. A specialist in science education as well, he is co-director of ENSI, the Evolution and Nature of Science Institutes.

To read Dawkins and Coyne's "One Side Can be Wrong," visit:

To read Dennett's "Show Me the Science," visit:

To read Derbyshire's "Teaching Science," visit:

And to read Nelson's "Design Isn't Science," visit:


In April 2005, science journalist David Quammen and National Geographic's editor-in-chief William L. Allen jointly won a prestigious award for the November 2004 National Geographic article that asked and answered (in the negative) the question "Was Darwin Wrong?" To celebrate, we offered a free copy of the issue to the first ten teachers who requested a copy for use in their classrooms.

Now, as teachers are heading back to their classrooms, we're making the offer again! E-mail Glenn Branch at branch@ncseweb.org with your request for a free copy of the November 2004 issue of National Geographic. (But if you already received a copy from NCSE, please let one of your colleagues have a chance instead.)

In addition, one lucky teacher, selected randomly, will also receive a copy of Niles Eldredge's The Triumph of Evolution (W. H. Freeman 2000), of which Stephen Jay Gould wrote, "I can't imagine a better book by a finer scientist and writer on a more vital and contemporary subject." (If you don't need a copy of the book, please say so in your e-mail.)

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

again in the body of an e-mail to majordomo@ncseweb2.org.

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


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

New Exorcism Film Highlights Deadly Rituals


Benjamin Radford

A new film about exorcism is set to be released on September 9. The Exorcism of Emily Rose, starring Laura Linney and Campbell Scott, is about a priest accused of negligence resulting in the death of a nineteen-year-old woman during an exorcism. While demons, devils, and exorcisms are obviously great grist for horror films, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is interesting because it shows (however fictionally) the potentially dangerous consequences of exorcisms.

As the film opens across the country, a Romanian priest stands accused of just such a crime in real-life. An exorcism at a convent in the small Romanian town of Tanacu resulted in the death of Maricica Irina Cornici, a twenty-three-year-old nun who said she heard the devil telling her she was sinful. With assistance from four nuns, priest Daniel Corogeanu bound Cornici to a cross, gagged her mouth with a towel, and left her for three days without food or water. The ritual, the priest explained, was an effort to drive devils out of the woman. Cornici was found dead on June 15; an autopsy found she had died of suffocation and dehydration. Cornici, who had a history of schizophrenia, reportedly had recently visited the convent and soon after joined the order. The Orthodox Church admitted that Corogeanu had been ordained as a priest without completing his theological studies, and condemned Cornici's death.

While many Americans likely think of exorcisms as relics of the Dark Ages, exorcisms continue to be performed, often on people who are emotionally and mentally disturbed. Whether those undergoing the exorcism are truly possessed by spirits or demons is another matter entirely. Most often, exorcisms are done on people of strong religious faith. To the extent that exorcisms "work," it is primarily due to the power of suggestion and the placebo effect. If you believe you are possessed, and that a given ritual will cleanse you, then it just might. (For more on exorcisms, see Joe Nickell's Investigative Files column in the January/February 2001 issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine.)

A 2001 book on the topic, Michael Cuneo's American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty found no reason to think that anything supernatural occurs during exorcisms. After attending fifty exorcisms, Cuneo is unequivocal about the fact that he saw nothing supernatural—and certainly nothing remotely resembling the events depicted in the 1974 blockbuster film The Exorcist. No spinning heads, levitation, or poltergeists were seen, though many involved some cursing, spitting, or vomiting. As far as science is concerned, possession is a mental health issue.

Maricica Cornici is not the first innocent victim of an exorcism. On August 22, 2003, an autistic eight-year-old boy in Milwaukee was bound in sheets and held down by church members during a prayer service held to exorcise the evil spirits they blamed for his condition. An autopsy found extensive bruising on the back of the child's neck and concluded that he died of asphyxiation. In the past ten years, there have been at least four other exorcism-related deaths in the United States alone, two of the victims children. Then there are several tragic cases like that of Texas mother Andrea Yates, who drowned three of her children in an effort to exorcise the devil from herself in 2001. More recently, a South African couple was arrested for keeping their fifteen-month-old daughter caged, unfed, and tied up because they believed the child was possessed.

Exorcisms in film and fiction can be entertaining, while exorcisms in real life can be fatal. The tragic irony is that in many cases the evil is committed not by the Devil, but by those who believe in him.

Dinosaurs are new stars of creationism


Believers use popularity of lizard giants to reach families, win converts
By Ashley Powers
Los Angeles Times
Originally published September 3, 2005

CABAZON, Calif. - Dinny the roadside dinosaur has found religion. The 45-foot-high concrete apatosaurus has towered over Interstate 10 near Palm Springs for nearly three decades as a kitschy prehistoric pit stop for tourists.

Now he is the star of a renovated attraction that disputes whether dinosaurs died off millions of years before humans first walked the planet.

Dinny's new owners, pointing to the Book of Genesis, contend that most dinosaurs arrived on Earth the same day as Adam and Eve, about 6,000 years ago, and later marched two by two onto Noah's Ark.

The gift shop at the attraction, called the Cabazon Dinosaurs, sells toy dinosaurs whose labels warn, "Don't swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution."

The Cabazon Dinosaurs join at least a half-dozen other roadside attractions nationwide that use the giant reptiles' popularity in seeking converts to creationism. More are on the way.

"We're putting evolutionists on notice: We're taking the dinosaurs back," said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, a Christian group building a $25 million creationist museum in Petersburg, Ky., that already is overrun with model sauropods and velociraptors.

"They're used to teach people that there's no God, and they're used to brainwash people," he said. "Evolutionists get very upset when we use dinosaurs. That's their star."

The nation's top paleontologists find the creation theory preposterous and say kids are being misled by dinosaur exhibits that take the Jurassic out of Jurassic Park.

"Dinosaurs lived in the Garden of Eden, and Noah's Ark? Give me a break," said Kevin Padian, curator at the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley and president of the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland group that supports teaching evolution.

Tyrannosaurus rex and his gigantic brethren find themselves on both sides of the nation's renewed debate over Earth's origins and whether Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species or Genesis better explains the development of life.

Science holds that dinosaurs were Earth's royalty for about 160 million years. Their reign ended abruptly, possibly after a meteorite smacked into the planet, but they're considered the ancestors to birds.

Unearthing dinosaur bones that are millions of years old "doesn't prove evolution, but it shows the Genesis account doesn't work," said Nick Matzke, a spokesman for the National Center for Science Education.

Drivers who pull off Interstate 10 in Pensacola, Fla., are told a far different story at Dinosaur Adventure Land: "Where Dinosaurs and the Bible meet!"

The nearly 7-acre museum, low-tech theme park and science center embodies its founder's belief that God created the world in six days.

The dinosaurs, even super-carnivores such as T. rex, dined as vegetarians in the Garden of Eden until Adam and Eve sinned - and only then did they feast on other creatures, according to the Christian-based young-Earth theory.

About 4,500 years after Adam and Eve arrived, the theory goes, pairs of baby dinosaurs huddled in Noah's Ark, and a colossal flood drowned the rest and scattered their fossils. The Ark-borne animals repopulated the planet - meaning that folk tales about fire-breathing beasts are accounts of humans battling dinosaurs, which still roamed the planet.

Kids romping through the $1.5-million Florida theme park can bounce on a "Long Neck Liftasaurus" swing seat, launch water balloons at a T. rex and a stegosaurus, and smooth their own sandbox-size Grand Canyons, whose formation is credited to the flood.

A "fossilized" pickle purports to show that dinosaur bones could have hardened quickly.

"Go to Disneyland; they teach evolution. It's subtle; signs that say, 'Millions of years ago,'" said evangelist Kent Hovind, the park's founder. "This is a golden opportunity to get our point across."

Carl Baugh opened his Creation Evidence Museum in the 1980s near Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas, where some people said fossilized dinosaur tracks and human footprints crisscrossed contemporaneously.

The Texas museum sponsors a continuing hunt for living pterodactyls in Papua New Guinea. Baugh said five colleagues have spotted the flying dinosaurs, "but all the sightings were made after dark, and we were not able to capture the creatures."

Advocates of the intelligent design theory, who assert that certain features of life are best explained by a creative intelligence, bristle at being lumped in with young-Earth creationists. There's little question that the Earth is billions of years old, said John West, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a public policy think tank in Seattle that is critical of Darwinian theory.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Intelligent design, evolution or ...


Sunday, September 4, 2005

STARK MATTERS Bob Russ Repository suburban editor

Eighty years after the Scopes monkey trial, the debate still rages: Intelligent design or evolution? Which is the true story of how life came to be on this planet?

My thought is: Are those the only two choices?

Certainly a case can be made for either side.

There can be no doubt to any objective person that evolution exists in one form or another. How else does bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, if it doesn't adapt — evolve — to do so?

And if one compares men and women from a couple of centuries ago to those who live today, it's evident that people have changed physically. The most obvious example is height — people are taller today than they used to be. If there is no evolution, how does one account for that?

But while there is plenty of scientific data to support the theory of evolution, there still are holes in that theory — holes through which creationists drive on a regular basis.

Their version of humanity's origin, however, is just as flawed. There is hard data that contradicts the concept of all life being created at the same time.

Isn't it possible that if all life is the result of a grand creator, the method used may have involved evolution?

And if God's intervention is what brought us here in the first place, is it so far-fetched to believe that he might intervene again, to change his creation in some way, as part of his divine plan?

Consider the things that man creates; for example, the automobile.

There is little resemblance between Henry Ford's Model T and a Lexus LS 430, yet the latter surely would not exist without the former.

Today's cars evolved from those before them, just as those vehicles were improvements upon the cars that preceded them.

Is it so hard to imagine that God might want to modify his creations at some point? Either directly or by creating the natural process of evolution?

The two do not have to conflict with each other.

Yet, when was the last time you heard an orderly debate between proponents of evolution and intelligent design? Both sides repeat the same hole-filled arguments, close their ears to the other and convince no one that they are right. They're preaching to the choir.

It seems as though that's becoming the American way.

Have we become so closed-minded that we have to shout down with hatred anyone who believes differently than we?

Science is supposed to be based solely on facts, and for the most part, it is. But there are plenty of examples throughout history of when the political climate of the time shaped scientific views. Copernicus, who challenged the notion that all heavenly bodies orbited the earth and suggested instead that planets orbited the sun, was ridiculed and shunned. When Galileo Galilei announced that his observations through a telescope supported Copernicus' ideas, he was put on trial at the Inquisition.

Still, though science isn't perfect, for the most part, it tries to reconcile its conclusions with the facts before it. But even if you accept prevailing scientific theory, it doesn't explain everything.

Take the Big Bang, for example, which most scientists accept as explanation for how the universe began.

Even if you believe completely in the Big Bang theory, what does it really explain? After all, if there was a Big Bang, it had to take place somewhere. So where was that place, and where did it come from?

That brings us back to the big argument, creationism or evolution? Again I ask: Are those really the only two choices?

You can reach Suburban Editor Bob Russ at (330) 580-8490 or e-mail:


'Intelligent Design' poses problems for biology teachers




The title of a recent New Yorker article is "Why Intelligent Design Isn't." For those who want answers to the claims of those who wish to insert religion into our school biology curricula, that article provides a good and quite brief start. (It is posted on the Web at: www.newyorker.com/fact/content articles 050530fa_fact.)

It is not my intent to debate further the specific issues so well addressed in that New Yorker piece; rather, I speak to the school board members of this region. You need to serve as a front line of defense for your besieged biology teachers.

Here is the problem.

My observation suggests that virtually all school board members are citizens who seek to enhance the quality of their community through their generous and altruistic contributions of time and energy. However, a few community activists, some of them also board members, seek to insert religion into our school biology curriculum.

Over the years these folks have fought the teaching of evolution in the schools. They first called their movement creation science, but when they found that approach stopped by the courts, they turned to what is now called intelligent design (ID).

They tell us that evolution cannot explain the differences among the species that inhabit the Earth nor the complexity seen in living things. Thus there must be, as William Paley suggests, "a divine watchmaker," an intelligence that they clearly (although not explicitly in order to avoid further court setbacks) associate with their God.

Proponents of ID tell us that evolution is only a theory, just as theirs is, and thus ID should be offered in contrast to evolution.

Evolution, like gravity, is a sound and well-tested scientific theory or explanation. ID, on the other hand, hasn't been shown to teach us anything about the natural world: "God wills it" or "the Bible tells us" or "the Koran insists" doesn't explain anything from a scientific standpoint. The idea that whenever one sees what appears to be irreducible complexity, one sees the hand of God is a matter of faith and not of science.

That doesn't make those who believe in a higher power somehow bad. What is bad, however, is their confronting science with their faith. Many of us who accept evolution also believe in a higher power that shepherds us, but we reject this confrontation.

Science takes new information and places it in a coherent context intelligible to humans. That is, in fact, what evolution has done and continues to do. It takes a wide range of observations from geology, paleontology, chemistry, physiology, biology and every other scientific field and tests them against the larger theory. Millions of those observations fit perfectly, but when a few don't do so precisely, the theory itself is modified. In the process scientists argue.

ID proponents focus on those arguments but, despite important new contributions from Mendelian, molecular and population genetics and many paleontological discoveries, basic evolutionary concepts remain recognizable from what I studied in school in 1944 or even what Charles Darwin wrote in "The Origin of Species" in 1859.

At the University at Buffalo and every other state college, evolution is taught matter-of-factly and without controversy. It is accepted there as unexceptional as the organizing principle of biology and geology. So too is it taught at private schools like Canisius College.

If we don't teach our students solid biology, including its fundamental idea evolution, we cannot expect our biotech industry, to say nothing of agriculture and medicine, to progress and to retain for us our position of world leadership in those fields. And if school districts want their students to go on to good colleges and to do well in science, their teachers must teach modern biology, which includes evolution.

I urge school board members not to contribute to your biology teachers' problems. Don't desert these teachers and let them be browbeaten in their classrooms and in their community by those who seek to force on them and their students ideas that run counter to the science they are assigned to teach. Find ways to shield these important school staff members from the current barrage of unwarranted attacks.

email: insrisg@buffalo.edu

George Bush PROOF of Intelligent Design


Sunday 4th September 2005 (16h36) :

4 comment(s).

"...also, the seas will lose their salt and become oceans of lemonade." conjecture from poster at Redstate.org concerning ID definition Intelligent design or ID is in the news recently after President Bush gave proof that he thought that ID deserved debate. Intelligent design is an argument looking for an argument and the proof of ID influence is in the Presidents desire to introduce the ID debate into schools. Support for ID can be found on red state web pages, people convinced that UFO'S are proof of ID, and the media intelligence and arms empire of Sun Myung Moon.

Moon has attended the courts of Presidents Bush 1 and 11, and they have attended the court of Moon. According to a Congressional investigation report on Moon done in the seventies, he was trying to infiltrate the political and scientific community. By 1981 Moon was imprisoned but his fortunes improved when he was courted by Council for National Policy (CNP) members. CNP was an incubator for such groups as the Heritage foundation.

Moon began by funding the Washington Times in 1982 and recently purchased United Press International ( UPI ) Helen Thomas former UPI White house correspondent may have written something about the latter. From CNP soldier Oliver North and his legal fees for Iran Contra to assistance for Paula Jones to prosecute Clinton, Moon is accommodating the CNP. In the last election the media publishing the Swift Boat attack on Presidential hopeful John Kerry was funded by Moon. This background may help to explain Bush's motive for support of Moon's ID funded movement.

An article about Robert Kennedy, a leading advocate for the environment, raises an alarm concerning Moon and funding of the anti environmental movement. Weather scientists that forecasted Global Warming are tagged radical weathermen and this opinion is reflected in Bush's Policies past and present. Moon is infiltrating the sciences and the ID debate is the latest fruit of his funds.

The roman Catholic pope recently stated that there was no conflict between evolution and God. Most religions would agree that there is no debate, that the invisible hand of God is at work. An MD posted the following in an article on Cleveland Jewish community online, title ' Intelligent design attacks clear thinking'

"When intelligent design claims that life is too complex to be explained, it joins all the countless ideologies in human history that tried to stop humanity from solving problems of this world, to stop us from thinking and observing."

Scientists are left in the awkward position of defending the very methodology of science, just by getting involved with the debate, they are pulled into the vortex of the absurd. The internet chatter by the science and teaching community concerning ID is best summed as follows; You show us the tree and we'll get the rope! The scientific and teaching communities ought to focus on the motive for the debate rather than the debate itself, if my observation is accurate.

The ID debate deserves discussion by lay people, not the proofs of science but the proofs of insightful observations, without becoming a Trojan horse for science. Let me begin.

Proof of Intelligent Design, is when Karl Rove spends the morning after Huricane Katrina patting the Anti Sheehan protesters on the back, unknowing of the political disaster an unknowing administration would confront, for not knowing.

The observant reader can add to the list of proofs and send them to the President to demonstrate their vigilance in what the President requests, an ID debate.

by : Michael Callis Sunday 4th September 2005

Intelligent design sparks more debates


PRESIDENT Bush was asked at a recent news conference if he would reveal his personal views on the theory of intelligent design. Proponents of intelligent design argue that their view is an alternative to evolutionary theory.

Bush reminded the reporters from Texas newspapers that when he was governor of Texas, he suggested that local school districts should decide if they teach evolution or creationism. Then he added, I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.

Ron Hutcheson of Knight-Ridder newspapers responded, Both sides ought to be taught?

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

Hutcheson followed up: So you accept the validity of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution?

I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. ... Youre asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes, Bush replied.

Hutcheson began to try one more time. So weve got to give these groups, at which point the president cut him off, Very interesting question, Hutch. That provoked laughter.

Bush has brought back to the public realm a debate that we have not seen since President Reagan advocated the teaching of creationism in the early 1980s.

There are, nevertheless, a number of important questions to be raised about this new incarnation.

First, note that Bush never answered Hutchesons question. Does the president think that intelligent design should be accepted as an alternative to evolution? Why did he not explicitly respond to this question? The question he did answer is very different from the one he refused to answer.

Second, the theory of intelligent design — that an organisms complexity is evidence for the existence of a cosmic designer — has existed in the history of philosophy since the late 18th century.

William Paley, an English philosopher, suggested that the universe is like a watch. In the same way a watch implies a watchmaker, the orderliness of the universe, he argued, implied a universe maker. This argument in philosophical circles came to be called the teleological argument, or the argument from design.

Third, the teleological argument was convincingly done in by Immanuel Kant and David Hume with devastating arguments against the theory in the late 18th century. Indeed, since the time of Kant and Hume, the argument from design has been accepted by few Anglo-American philosophers as a valid one.

Fourth, creationism and intelligent design are not the same theory. It is unlikely, for example, that the advocates of intelligent design believe that the universe is only 6,000 years old, as the many proponents of biblical creationism believed. Creationism and intelligent design may be compatible theories but they need to be explored more fully to determine that.

A final observation involves the amount of sheer, physical, scientific evidence that Charles Darwin was right. A corresponding amount of evidence could not possibly exist for intelligent design, for scientific theories are not proved, they can only be falsified. To show that gravity is a competent scientific theory, we would have to show one example where it did not work or devise a plan by which we could show it is not true.

With intelligent design, we do not have a scientific theory because there is no way of showing how it could be false.

Stephen Vicchio wrote this for The Baltimore Sun. He teaches philosophy at the College of Notre Dame.

Ross Douthat: The politics of intelligent design


Conservatives had better think twice before supporting this theory or liberals will end up looking like the intelligent ones

05:33 AM CDT on Sunday, September 4, 2005

The appeal of "intelligent design" to the American right is obvious. For religious conservatives, the theory promises to uncover God's fingerprints on the building blocks of life. For conservative intellectuals in general, it offers hope that Darwinism will yet join Marxism and Freudianism in the dustbin of pseudoscience. And for politicians like George W. Bush, there's little to be lost in expressing a skepticism about evolution that's shared by millions.

And intelligent design will run out of steam – a victim of its own grand ambitions. What began as a critique of Darwinian theory, pointing out aspects of biological life that modification-through- natural-selection has difficulty explaining, is now foolishly proposed as an alternative to Darwinism.

On this front, intelligent design fails conspicuously – as even defenders like Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania are beginning to realize – because it can't offer a consistent, coherent and testable story of how life developed. The "design inference" is a philosophical point, not a scientific theory: Even if the existence of a designer is a reasonable inference to draw from the complexity of, say, a bacterial flagellum, one would still need to explain how the flagellum moved from design to actuality.

And unless George W. Bush imposes intelligent design on American schools by fiat and orders the scientific establishment to recant its support for Darwin, intelligent design will eventually collapse – like other assaults on evolution that failed to offer an alternative – under the weight of its own overreaching.

If liberals play their cards right, this collapse could provide them with a powerful rhetorical bludgeon. Take the stem cell debate, where the great questions are moral, not scientific – whether embryonic human life should be created and destroyed to prolong adult human life. Liberals might win that argument on the merits, but it's by no means a sure thing.

The conservative embrace of intelligent design, however, reshapes the ideological battlefield. It helps liberals cast the debate as an argument about science, rather than morality, and paint their enemies as a collection of book-burning, Galileo-silencing fanatics.

This would be the liberal line of argument anyway, even without the controversy surrounding intelligent design. "The president is trapped between religion and science over stem cells," declared a Newsweek cover story last year; "Leadership in 'therapeutic cloning' has shifted abroad," The New York Times warned, because American scientists have been "hamstrung" by "religious opposition" – and so on and so forth. But liberalism's science-vs.-religion rhetoric is only likely to grow more effective if conservatives continue to play into the stereotype by lining up to take potshots at Darwin.

Columnist Maureen Dowd, in her inimitable way, summed up the liberal argument earlier this year:

"Exploiting God for political ends has set off powerful, scary forces in America: a retreat on teaching evolution, most recently in Kansas; fights over sex education ... a demonizing of gays; and a fear of stem cell research, which could lead to more of a 'culture of life' than keeping one vegetative woman hooked up to a feeding tube."

Terri Schiavo, sex education, stem cell research – on any issue that remotely touches on science, a GOP that's obsessed with downing Darwin will be easily tagged as medieval, reactionary, theocratic. And this formula can be applied to every new bioethical dilemma that comes down the pike.

Earlier this year, for instance, the National Academy of Sciences issued ethical guidelines for research cloning, which blessed the creation of human-animal "chimeras" – animals seeded with human cells. New York Times reporter Nicholas Wade, writing on the guidelines, declared that popular repugnance at the idea of such creatures is based on "the pre-Darwinian notion that species are fixed and penalties [for cross-breeding] are severe."

In other words, if you're opposed to creating pig-men – carefully, of course, with safeguards in place – you're probably stuck back in the pre-Darwinian ooze with Bishop Wilberforce and William Jennings Bryan.

There's an odd reversal of roles at work here. In the past, it was often the right that tried to draw societal implications from Darwinism and the left that stood against them. And for understandable reasons: When people draw political conclusions from Darwin's theory, they're nearly always inegalitarian conclusions. Hence social Darwinism, hence scientific racism, hence eugenics.

Which is why, however useful intelligent design may be as a rhetorical ploy, liberals eager to claim the mantle of science in the bioethics battle should beware. The left often thinks of modern science as a child of liberalism, but, if anything, the reverse is true. And what scientific thought helped forge – the belief that all human beings are equal – scientific thought can undermine as well. Conservatives may be wrong about evolution, but they aren't necessarily wrong about the dangers of using Darwin, or the National Academy of Sciences, as a guide to political and moral order.

Ross Douthat is author of "Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class" (Hyperion, 2005) and a contributor to The New Republic (www.tnr.com), where a longer version of this essay first appeared.

Jacob Weisberg: Intelligent design vs. Darwin


05:25 AM CDT on Sunday, September 4, 2005

President Bush used to be content to revel in his own ignorance. Now he wants to share it with America's schoolchildren.

I refer to his recent comments in favor of teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution. "Both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about," Mr. Bush told a group of Texas newspaper reporters who interviewed him last month. "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought."

The president seems to view the conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design as something like the debate over Social Security reform. But this is not a disagreement with two reasonable points of view, let alone two equally valid ones.

Intelligent design, which asserts that gaps in evolutionary science prove God must have had a role in creation, may be creationism in camouflage. Or it may be a step in the creationist cave-in to evolution. But whatever it represents, intelligent design is a faith-based theory with no scientific validity or credibility.

If Mr. Bush had said schools should give equal time to the view that the sun revolves around the earth or that smoking doesn't cause lung cancer, he'd have been laughed out of his office. The difference with evolution is that a large majority of Americans rejects what scientists regard as equally well-supported: that we're here because of random mutation and natural selection.

According to the most recent Gallup poll on the subject (2004), 45 percent of Americans believe God created human beings in their present form 10,000 years ago, while 38 percent believe that God directed the process of evolution. Only 13 percent accept the prevailing scientific view of evolution as an unguided, random process.

Being right and yet so unpopular presents an interesting problem for evolutionists. Their theory has won over the world scientific community but very few citizens of red-state America who decide what gets taught in their public schools. How can followers of Darwin prevent the propagation of ignorance in places like Kansas, whose board of education just voted to rewrite its biology curriculum to do what Mr. Bush suggests?

Many biologists believe the answer is to present evolution as less menacing to religious belief than it really is.

In much the same way that intelligent-design advocates try to assert that a creator must be compatible with evolution in order to shoehorn God into science classrooms, evolutionists claim Darwin is compatible with religion in order to keep God out. Don't worry, they insist, there's no conflict between evolution and religion – they simply belong to different realms. Evolution should be taught in the secular classroom, along with other hypotheses that can be verified or falsified. Intelligent design belongs in Sunday schools with stuff that can't.

This was the soothing contention of the famed paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, who argued that science and religion were separate "magisteria," or domains of teaching. The theme appears frequently in statements by major scientific organizations and wherever fundamentalists try to force creationism or its descendants on school boards.

Here, for instance, is the official position of Kansas Citizens for Science, the group opposing the inclusion of intelligent design in the state's science curricula: "Science is neither anti-Christian nor anti-God. Science denies neither God nor creation. Science merely looks for natural evidence of how the universe got to its current state. If viewed theistically, science is not commenting on whether there was a creation, but could be viewed as trying to find out how it happened."

In a state like Kansas, where public opinion remains overwhelmingly hostile to evolution, one sees the political logic of this kind of tap dance. But let's be serious: Evolutionary theory may not be incompatible with all forms of religious belief, but it surely does undercut the basic teachings and doctrines of the world's great religions (and most of its not-so-great ones as well). It destroyed the faith of Darwin himself, who moved from Christianity to agnosticism as a result of his discoveries and was immediately recognized as a huge threat by his reverent contemporaries.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the current archbishop of Vienna, was saying nothing very different when he argued in a New York Times op-ed piece that random evolution can't be harmonized with Catholic doctrine. To be sure, there are plenty of scientists who believe in God, and even Darwinists who call themselves Christians.

But the acceptance of evolution diminishes religious belief in aggregate for a simple reason: It provides a better answer to the question of how we got here than religion does. Not a different answer, a better answer: more plausible, more logical and supported by an enormous body of evidence. Post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, which can explain the emergence of the first bacteria, doesn't even leave much room for a deist God whose minimal role might have been to flick the first switch.

So, what should evolutionists and their supporters say to parents who don't want their children to become atheists and who may even hold firm to the virgin birth and parting of the Red Sea? That it's time for them to finally let go of their quaint superstitions? That Darwinists aren't trying to push people away from religion but recognize that teaching their views does tend to have that effect? Darwin himself avoided exploring the issue of the ultimate origins of life in part to avoid upsetting his wife Emma's religious beliefs.

One possible avenue is to focus more strongly on the practical consequences of resisting scientific reality. In a world where Koreans are cloning dogs, can the U.S. afford – ethically or economically – to raise our children on fraudulent biology? But whatever tack they take, evolutionists should quit pretending their views are no threat to believers. This insults our intelligence, and the president is doing that already.

Jacob Weisberg is editor of Slate (slate.com), where a longer version of this essay first appeared.

Taking a shot at alternative medicine


Day-long holistic health fair looks at range of options
Special to the Journal Sentinel
Last Updated: Sep. 3, 2005

People can learn the difference between tai chi and yoga, explore traditional Chinese medicine and more during the second annual Day of Health sponsored by Holistic Health Professionals of Racine and Kenosha.

I believe God gives us all the gifts we have. We need to nurture our spiritual lives, minds and fitness. It ties together to make us a more complete person. When I take care of all those facets, I feel better.

- June Scott Nettles, retired minister, partner in fitness center

More than a dozen workshops will be offered from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Siena Center, 5635 Erie St., Racine.

Topics include Feldenkrais, experiential psychotherapy, guided imagery, relationship skills, movement and the mind-body-spirit connection.

Holistic Health Professionals of Racine and Kenosha is a group of area practitioners who aim to educate the public about health options.

The health fair is designed to attract people who are interested in trying holistic and complementary health approaches for the first time, along with those already familiar with such therapies.

Holistic health practices approach an individual "as a whole person, not just a set of symptoms," organizer Karen Carnabucci said.

Carnabucci, a therapist with Companions in Healing, will present programs on guided imagery and "Creating Your Own Soul Cards."

She uses experiential therapy to help clients work through problems by role-playing in a "safe, structured way," she said.

"We're creating experiences people can integrate in their lives, and help them make changes in real life," she said.

A way to reduce stress

The soul cards are collages that people create to help identify and solve their problems. Expressing themselves creatively helps people reduce stress and reorganize their thoughts and feelings, Carnabucci said.

"Creativity has been vastly underrated in therapy," Carnabucci said. "There's an enormous healing power in creating something and sharing it with someone else."

June Scott Nettles, a retired Methodist minister, credits holistic medicine along with her faith for helping her recover from a serious respiratory illness 10 years ago.

She is now an instructor in Nia, a type of movement that combines aspects of dance, the martial arts and yoga. She is a partner in Synchronicity fitness center in Racine.

"I went from not being able to get out of a chair and being dependent on oxygen to being a fitness instructor today," she said.

During her illness, Nettles said, she came to believe that "the amount I could improve was up to me."

"I believe God gives us all the gifts we have," she said. "We need to nurture our spiritual lives, minds and fitness. It ties together to make us a more complete person. When I take care of all those facets, I feel better."

Tai chi and yoga instructor Joe Mayer said he considers himself a lifelong student in those disciplines, even after many years of experience.

He has lived in India and China, where he studied yoga and tai chi.

Mayer teaches a form of tai chi called tai chi chuan, or short form, along with a longer type of tai chi.

Tai chi chuan was developed as a martial art for self-defense.

Classes teach a sequence of 24 gentle movements and postures designed to improve balance, concentration, meditation and well-being.

People of almost any physical ability should be able to complete the exercises.

Those who are older or new to fitness might need to go more slowly or take breaks, Mayer said.

Chanting included

Mayer also teaches Kundalini yoga. It combines mantra chanting with dynamic exercises and powerful breathing.

"There is a very physical aspect to yoga," he said. "The higher meaning is to get the mind trained to let go of all kinds of fear, anger and suffering."

It was Mayer's idea to offer the Day of Health last year.

He and the other members of the Holistic Health Professionals already collaborate at monthly meetings and refer clients to one another.

"We try as a group reaching out to people, to let people know we have more than one approach to health," Mayer said. "If someone comes to my class and it's not the right one (for them), I refer them to other people from the group."

Last year's program drew about 100 people; organizers are hoping to attract at least 150 this year.

New this year is a concert of Indian and Chinese style meditative music and chanting at 7 p.m. Friday at the Siena Center. Cost is $8, separate from the $40 admission fee.

Admission to the Day of Health is $40. Chicken or vegetarian box lunches will available for $10, or people may bring a lunch. For information, call (262) 859-2151 or visit www.companionsinhealing.com


What's Your "Southern" Sign? Some of us (especially Southerners) are pretty skeptical of horoscopes, and it has become obvious that what we need are "Southern" symbols:

OKRA (Dec 22 - Jan 20) Although you appear crude, you are actually very slick on the inside. Okras have tremendous influence. An older Okra can look back over his life and see the seeds of his influence everywhere. Stay away from Moon Pies.

CHITLIN (Jan 21 - Feb 19) Chitlins come from humble backgrounds. A chitlin, however, can make something of himself if he's motivated and has lots of seasoning. In dealing with Chitlins, be careful. They can erupt like Vesuvius. Chitlins are best with Catfish and Okra.

BOLL WEEVIL (Feb 20 - Mar 20) You have an overwhelming curiosity. You're unsatisfied with the surface of things, and you feel the need to bore deep into the interior of everything. Needless to say, you are very intense and driven as if you had some inner hunger. Nobody in their right mind is going to marry you, so don't worry about it.

MOON PIE (Mar 21 - Apr 20) You're the type that spends a lot of time on the front porch. It's a cinch to recognize the physical appearance of Moon Pies. Big and round are the key words here. This might be the year to think about aerobics. Or - maybe not.

POSSUM (Apr 21 - May 21) When confronted with life's difficulties, possums have a marked tendency to withdraw and develop a don't-bother-me-about-it attitude. Sometimes you become so withdrawn, people actually think you're dead. This strategy is probably not really healthy, but seems to work for you. One day, however, it won't work and you may find your problems actually running you over.

CRAWFISH (May 22 - June 21) Crawfish is a water sign. If you work in an office, you're always hanging around the water cooler. Crawfish prefer the beach to the mountains, the pool to the golf course, the bathtub to the living room. You tend to be not particularly attractive physically, but you have a very, very good head.

COLLARDS (June 22 - July 23) Collards have a genius for communication. They love to get in the "melting pot" of life and share their essence with the essence of those around them.. Collards make good social workers, psychologists, and baseball managers. As far as your personal life goes, if you are Collards, stay away from Moon Pies. It just won't work. Save yourself a lot of heartache.

CATFISH (July 24 - Aug 23) Catfish are traditionalists in matters of the heart, although one's whiskers may cause problems for loved ones. You catfish are never easy people to understand. You prefer the muddy bottoms to the clear surface of life. Above all else, Catfish should stay away from Moon Pies.

GRITS (Aug 24 - Sept 23) Your highest aim is to be with others like yourself. You like to huddle together with a big crowd of other Grits. You love to travel though, so maybe you should think about joining a club. Where do you like to go? Anywhere they have cheese or gravy or bacon or butter or eggs. If you can go somewhere where they have all these things, that serves you well.

BOILED PEANUTS (Sept 24 - Oct 23) You have a passionate desire to help your fellow man. Unfortunately, those who know you best - your friends and loved ones - may find that your personality is much too salty, and their criticism will probably affect you deeply because you are really much softer than you appear. You should go right ahead and marry anybody you want to because in a certain way, yours is a charmed life. On the road of life, you can be sure that people will always pull over and stop for you.

BUTTER BEAN (Oct 24 - Nov 22) Always invite a Butter Bean because Butter Beans get along well with everybody. You, as a Butter Bean, should be proud. You've grown on the vine of life and you feel at home no matter what the setting. You can sit next to anybody. However, you, too, shouldn't have anything to do with Moon Pies.

ARMADILLO (Nov 23 - Dec 21) You have a tendency to develop a tough exterior, but you are actually quite gentle. A good evening for you? Old friends, a fire, some roots, fruit, worms and insects. You are a throwback. You're not concerned with today's fashions and trends. You're not concerned with anything about today. You're really almost prehistoric in your interests and behavior patterns. You probably want to marry another Armadillo, but Possum is another possibility.

Current News  News Back Issues

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