NTS LogoSkeptical News for 28 September 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

SuperCharging DVD by Quantum-Touch improves your Alternative Medicine Practitice

http://www.theopenpress.com/index.php?a=press&id=4260

Published on: September 28th, 2005 12:03am by: qtarticles

San Luis Obispo, CA (OPENPRESS) September 28, 2005 -- The long-awaited Quantum-Touch SuperCharging DVD, which will allow energy healing and alternative medicine practitioners to realize new levels of success in their healing practice, has now been released amidst rave reviews.

"We are thrilled to make this new DVD available to the public," exclaims Richard Gordon, Founder of Quantum-Touch and author of "Quantum-Touch, The Power to Heal," and "Your Healing Hands: The Polarity Experience." "The Supercharging technique will help people to be much more powerful in their healing work; the techniques will allow people to do more, sooner, faster, and with better results; it also helps them to move energy through their own system more effectively."

Quantum-Touch, a unique form of alternative healing, is easily learned by lay people; it has also been employed as a support in spiritual healing. Quantum-Touch's effectiveness has drawn enthusiastic endorsements from a wide range of health care professionals including physicians, chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists. It has been hailed as "a significant breakthrough," by Alternative Medicine magazine.

The addition of the Supercharging DVD video will enable Quantum-Touch to capitalize on the success of its previous video workshop, which is now available in 25-30 countries and provides instruction for as many as 10,000 people. Now with the addition of the Supercharging DVD, people will be able to access far greater results with their healing work in a fraction of the time.

The Supercharging DVD workshop, a compilation of material from live workshops conducted by Alain Herriott, contains both class material as well as "hands-on healing" practice sessions. Having been involved in the healing arts and massage for over 30 years, Alain skillfully combines his gift of seeing energy and its movements in the human body with a passionate teaching style that can effectively guide others' awareness of this energy movement in their own body, thus initiating rapid advances in learning.

The Supercharging workshop has achieved high praise from practitioners and students all over the world. "Incredibly powerful and valuable," "truly transformational on all levels of the being," "extremely easy, tender and knowledgeable," "takes Quantum-Touch to new levels and dimensions of effectiveness," and "caring, respectful, with lots of good, powerful information" are just a few of the comments people have made about the Supercharging workshops.

The Supercharging DVD Set contains 5 DVDs with a running time of nearly 8 hours. Students will greatly improve the quality of their work virtually as much as if they attended an actual workshop.

With the release of the DVD supercharging workshop, Quantum-Touch takes a bold step in realizing its dream of empowering more and more people worldwide to be powerful healers. "As wonderful as Quantum-Touch has been, I've always believed we could be extraordinarily more powerful and far more effective in our sessions," comments Richard Gordon. "I've always believed that everyone could learn to be effective when treating any kind of condition, but I didn't know how to do it or how to teach it. I've expected and waited decades for a significant breakthrough. And now it's here…"

Professional Free Press Release News Wire

CSICOP Online: Inquiring Minds, Special Article & Skeptical Briefs

The Fall issue of the Inquiring Minds newsletter is now available online:

http://www.inquiringminds.org/newsletter/0503/

This season's offerings include articles by Bob Carroll, Diane Swanson, Brant Abrahamson, Sharon Hill, Tim Burke, and others! We hope you enjoy it and share with those around you - and we welcome any feedback you may have. E-mail Amanda Chesworth at a.human@mindspring.com .

Special Articles

Online Exclusives on Topics of Interest to Skeptics.

Psychic Sleuthing: The Myth-making Process
Joe Nickell
A July 2005 Pittsburgh news magazine cover story, “The Psychic Force” (Newhouse 2005), presented a rather confusing picture of the effectiveness of so-called psychic detectivesâ€"those who purport to assist police in solving crimes through clairvoyance.

On the one hand, the reporter quoted me as branding the practice “mumbo-jumbo” and challenging psychics to find the latest high-profile missing persons: “Where are these psychics when they are really needed? Where are their successes? There aren’t any.”

However, the article also presented a 1988 case supposedly resolved by a psychic named Nancy Meyer. Citing an “impressed” Monroeville, Pennsylvania, police detective, Will Greenaway, the reporter told how the seeress drew maps and “pinpointed” the site where the body of a missing elderly man, Sylvester Tonet, would be found. “One month after Tonet disappeared, she and Greenaway attempted to reach the body, but cold weather conditions prevented the two from reaching the site. The next day, [1] Greenaway returned to the location with search crews and they found Tonet’s body in the place where Meyer had described” (Newhouse 2005).

To read more of this article visit:

http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/psychic-sleuthing.html

Reporters invoke privilege

http://ydr.com/story/doverbiology/87193

News correspondents honor subpoenas but refuse to be deposed

By RICK LEE Daily Record/Sunday News

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

HARRISBURG — Two newspaper correspondents subpoenaed for depositions for the Dover Area School District's intelligent design trial refused to answer any questions Tuesday, opening themselves to potential contempt of court sanctions by U.S. Middle District Court Judge John E. Jones III.

Joseph Maldonado, 37, a freelancer for the York Daily Record/Sunday News, and Heidi Bernhard-Bubb, 28, a freelancer for The York Dispatch, both invoked their reporter's privilege against being called to testify at the depositions. Their decision to rely on their First Amendment right of freedom of the press in a First Amendment trial over the separation of church and state could result in Jones fining or jailing them.

Neither would say if they planned to honor their trial subpoenas and testify in court today. Their attorney, Niles Benn, said he was advised Tuesday afternoon that the plaintiffs, who subpoenaed the reporters for trial, still intend to call them today.

"I can tell you that it's their choice (to testify or not)," Benn said. "A deposition is one thing. A trial is totally different. They understand the risks involved."

The reporters' appearances with Benn on Tuesday in a conference room at the Hilton in Harrisburg, a block from the federal courthouse, came after a series of motions to quash the subpoenas and limit the type of questions that could be asked of them.

The newspapers, standing on the accuracy of their reporters' stories, had sought a stipulation between the parties with an offer of sworn affidavits to be entered as evidence at trial instead of the reporters' testimony.

Jones ruled the reporters could be called as "fact witnesses" to testify to what they heard and saw at meetings where intelligent design was discussed by school board members.

Maldonado and Bernhard-Bubb were subpoenaed for trial by the 11 Dover area parents who brought the suit. The parents want to substantiate that board members sought to bring religion into biology classes. Both reporters wrote similar stories recapping board discussions at board meetings.

Tuesday, responding to defense subpoenas, they were to be questioned by defense attorneys as part of the pre-trial evidentiary discovery process.

The school board's lead attorney, Richard Thompson, said he would wait until the reporters are called to testify in court today before deciding whether to seek contempt sanctions against them.

Testimony about board members discussing creationism already has been presented to the judge at trial.

During opening statements Monday, Jones viewed a Fox-43 News clip of board member Bill Buckingham arguing for creationism in the classroom to balance Darwinism.

On Tuesday, plaintiffs Barrie Callahan and Bryan Rehm recalled statements made by board members at public meetings that later appeared in articles under Maldonado's and Bernhard-Bubb's bylines. In depositions, board members have denied making the statements or said they do not recall them.

On Monday, the defense acknowledged that board members had discussed creationism outside board meetings. But the lawyers say those discussions did not result in a policy decision to include a mention of intelligent design in its biology curriculum.

Benn said Tuesday the corroboration of the reporters' stories and the defense concessions that creationism was discussed likely would not change the judge's mind at this point.

"I don't believe it would make any difference," Benn said. "I've raised those issues before."

Maldonado said he decided Monday night that he would not testify at the deposition.

"I've taken this very seriously," he said. "I've listened to advice from counsel, I've talked to my family. Last night was the first decent night's sleep I've had in two weeks."

Maldonado said he was "at peace" with his decision.

"I feel good," he said after leaving the deposition room. "I feel I did the right thing."

Before her deposition, four hours after Maldonado's, Bernhard-Bubb said she was "still mulling it over." Ten minutes later, she exited the deposition room with Benn, who said she "chose not to testify."

Over the past weeks, Benn had argued that any information the reporters could provide could be verified through other sources, specifically others who attended the same meetings.

In a prepared statement, James McClure, editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, said, "Calling reporters to testify is not in the public interest. We're simply not going to fold when lazy lawyers issue subpoenas on our reporters instead of doing their homework to build their cases through alternative witnesses."

Discussing Dover's past

http://ydr.com/story/doverbiology/87194/

Witnesses testified that board members had a history of talking about creationism.

By LAURI LEBO Daily Record/Sunday News

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

HARRISBURG — The Dover Area School Board first discussed creationism publicly in June 2004.

But board members had raised the issue privately long before, according to testimony in Harrisburg federal court Tuesday in the battle over intelligent design. And while Bill Buckingham might have been the board member best known for his public remarks on evolution, behind the scenes, the chief architect of the biology curriculum revision appears to have been Alan Bonsell.

At a school board retreat in March 2003, Bonsell told fellow board members that he thought if evolution was taught in science class, it should be balanced "fifty-fifty" with creationism, one former board member testified.

Barrie Callahan, a board member at the time, told the court she was at the retreat, and Bonsell's remarks spurred her to go to the high school principal.

"I was expressing my amazement that someone would want creationism in a science curriculum," she said.

Callahan recently found her notes from the meeting in a pile of old school board documents in her home. She left the school board in November 2003. Callahan also found in the stack of material a report from an earlier retreat in January 2002. Prepared by Supt. Richard Nilsen, the report, which was shown to the court, listed board members' primary issues.

Next to Bonsell's name was the word "creationism," followed by "prayer."

Dover attorney Patrick Gillen, during cross-examination, asked Callahan if the retreat's purpose was to vote on or deliberate district policy. Callahan said it was not.

Callahan is one of 11 parents suing the district over the board's decision to include intelligent design — the idea that life is too complex to have evolved through natural selection and must have been created by an intelligent designer — in its ninth-grade biology class.

'Concern with monkeys to man'

One of the lawsuit's other plaintiffs, Bryan Rehm, also testified Tuesday in U.S. Middle District Court that he had heard Bonsell talk about creationism before June 2004.

A former physics teacher at Dover high school, Rehm often ate lunch with other teachers in the classroom of Bertha Spahr, head of Dover's science department. At times, Asst. Supt. Michael Baksa would join them to discuss concerns Bonsell had with the biology curriculum. Rehm also testified Bonsell wanted to see discussions of evolution balanced "fifty-fifty" with creationism.

In a meeting with the teachers, Bonsell, then-chairman of the board's curriculum committee, told the teachers he didn't believe in evolution — the cornerstone of modern biology. Rather, Rehm said, Bonsell expressed belief in fundamentals of young-earth creationism, such as the idea that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old.

"He expressed concern with monkeys to man," Rehm said.

Rehm said teachers tried to educate Bonsell on evolution. Bonsell responded by asking them to watch "Icons of Evolution," a video by the Seattle-based pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute that is critical of evolutionary theory.

Rehm, who worked as a science teacher in the district for two years, said he left the district amid pressure to teach what he viewed as religion.

Creationism as balance?

Both Callahan and Rehm said they attended school board meetings in June 2004 and remember board members talking about searching for a biology textbook that balances evolution with "creationism."

At one meeting, Buckingham said, "Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can't someone take a stand for him?"

Rehm, looking at a newspaper article in which the statement was recounted to jog his memory, said he remembered Buckingham making the remark.

Board members, in January court depositions, have denied making such remarks or said they don't remember making them.

Spahr, reached Tuesday night, would not comment on Rehm's testimony. But in a deposition this spring, she said that, when she requested a new biology textbook, she was told a board member wanted half the evolution unit devoted to "creationism."

Bonsell said Tuesday there is no link between remarks he made previously about creationism and the mention of intelligent design that the board ultimately approved, a fact, he said, that will become apparent once Dover's lawyers begin to make their case.

Board President Sheila Harkins also disagreed with the parents' testimony. "A lot of that did not happen," she said. "I'm not saying they lied. Their perception is different."

As for discussions of creationism at retreats, Harkins said, "It didn't happen in a school board meeting. I'm not saying it didn't happen outside."

Between June 2004 and the Oct. 18 meeting in which board members voted 6-3 to change the biology curriculum, Rehm and Callahan said, discussions of creationism evolved into talk of intelligent design.

"But it still had the lingering echoes of creationism from June," Rehm said.

AT A GLANCE

What: Eleven people whose children attend or plan to attend Dover Area schools sued the school board and district, claiming the board's decision to make intelligent design part of the science curriculum violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

The district says it wanted to give fair time to an alternative to evolution theory. Evolution is widely accepted as the unifying concept of biology. Intelligent design says that evolution can't explain the complexity of life and that an unnamed designer must have been at work.

When: Trial dates are today through Sept. 30; Oct. 5, 6, 12, 14, 17 through 21, 24, 27; Nov. 2 through 4

The judge: Judge John E. Jones III will issue his decision at a time of his choosing after the trial.

Why it matters: The Dover case is the most significant court challenge to evolution since 1987, and it's the first time a court has been asked to rule whether intelligent design can be taught in public schools. Experts say the case's outcome could influence how science is defined and taught in schools across the country. The lead defense lawyer said he wants to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

To Debate or Not to Debate Intelligent Design?

http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2005/09/28/graff

By Gerald Graff

When I heard that advocates of "Intelligent Design" were urging schools to "teach the controversy" between their view and Darwinian evolution, I was dismayed.

About 20 years ago, I coined the phrase "teach the controversy" when I argued that schools and colleges should respond to the then-emerging culture wars over education by bringing their disputes into academic courses themselves. Instead of assuming that we have to resolve debates over, say, whether Huckleberry Finn is a racist text or a stirring critique of racism, teachers should present students with the conflicting arguments and use the debate itself to arouse their interest in the life of the mind. I elaborated the argument in numerous essays and in a 1992 book, Beyond the Culture Wars, which is subtitled, How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education.

So I felt as if my pocket had been picked when the Intelligent Design crowd appropriated my slogan, and even moreso when President Bush endorsed its proposal, saying that "both sides ought to be properly taught" so "people can understand what the debate is about." As a secular left-liberal, I felt that my ideas were being hijacked by the Christian Right as a thinly-veiled pretext for imposing their religious dogma on the schools.

And yet, setting intellectual property questions aside, the more I ponder the matter and read the commentators on both sides, the more I tend to think that a case can be made for teaching the controversy between ID and Darwin.

Not that the sides in this debate are equal, as Bush's comment suggests. If we judge the issues strictly on their scientific merits, the Intelligent Designers don't seem to have much of a case. In a lengthy and detailed article in The New Republic (August 22 & 29), the evolutionary scientist Jerry Coyne persuasively shows that the supposed "flaws" in the theory of natural selection that IDers claim to point out simply don't exist. H. Allen Orr had made a similarly persuasive refutation of ID in The New Yorker (May 30), and these arguments have been further reinforced in articles by Daniel C. Dennett in The New York Times (August 28) and by Coyne again and Richard Dawkins in The Guardian (September 1).

Taken together, these writers make an overwhelming case that Darwinian evolution, if not a total certainty, is as certain as any scientific hypothesis can be. As Coyne puts it, "it makes as little sense to doubt the factuality of evolution as to doubt the factuality of gravity." From a strictly scientific standpoint, there seems to be no real "controversy" here that's worth teaching, just a bogus one that the IDers have fabricated to paper over the absence of evidence in their critique of evolutionary science.

And this would indeed be the end of the story if the truth or validity of an idea were the sole thing to consider in deciding whether it is worth presenting to students. But when we measure the pedagogical merits of an idea, its usefulness in clarifying an issue or provoking students — and teachers — to think can be as important as its truth or validity. In some cases even false or dubious notions can have heuristic value.

This point has been grasped by several commentators unconnected with the Christian Right who defend the teaching of the controversy. In a column of June 2000, before ID had become prominent in the news, Richard Rothstein, then The New York Times education columnist, proposed that students be exposed to the debate between creationism and evolution. And in a piece on the controversy earlier this year in Slate, Christopher Hitchens, asks, "Why not make schoolchildren study the history of the argument? It would show them how to weigh and balance evidence, and it would remind them of the scarcely believable idiocy of the ancestors of 'intelligent design.'"

Hitchens' argument has been challenged by the editors of The New Republic, who caustically retort that getting kids to weigh and balance evidence is not exactly "what Bush — or IDers — want at all." What they want "instead is to teach ID as a substantive scientific argument. If anything, what Bush is calling for is anti-historical, the exact opposite of what Hitchens praises." This is true, but so what? Hitchens doesn't claim that his argument is one the IDers themselves would make, but only that students would learn something important about how to think from the kind of debate the IDers propose.

Secular liberals will object that Hitchens is overly confident that the good guys would win if the debate were aired in schools. In his scenario, the students would see the "idiocy" of ID's ancestors and also presumably of its current advocates. What secular liberals fear, however, is that in many classrooms the scientific truth would be overwhelmed by dogma and prejudice.

Behind such fear — and behind the liberal secularist objections to teaching the debate — one senses the shellshock and impotence of the Blue-state Left in the wake of the 2004 election, and the worry that the Left will only lose again if it allows itself to be suckered into debating "values" with the religious Right on its own terms. This worry is deepened by the feeling that American public debate is not a level playing field, but an arena in which conservative money and Fox News control the agenda.

Though I share these fears, there seems to me a certain failure of nerve here on the part of the Left. After all, if evolution and intelligent design were debated in academic courses, the religious Right would have the same risk of losing as the liberal secularists — maybe greater risk, if Hitchens is correct. In any case, it's not clear that one wins a battle of beliefs by hunkering down, circling the wagons, and refusing to engage the other side. And if the Right has more money and media clout with which to shape such a debate, that may be all the more reason to enter the debate: if you don't have money and media clout, arguments are your best bet.

Seen this way, the anti-evolution assaults of the Intelligent Designers and the creationist Right could be viewed less as a threat than an opportunity. This moral is suggested by a recent news story in The New York Times that reports that museum staffs that are being challenged by religious patrons to explain why they should believe in evolution "are brushing up on their Darwin and thinking on their feet" (September 20, 2005). One museum has developed training sessions for staff members "on ways to deal with visitors who reject settled precepts of science on religious grounds."

What is most interesting in the article, and most germane to the recent debate, is the suggestion, reflected in quoted statements by museum people, that though this religious rejection of science may be misguided, it needs to be listened to and answered rather than ignored or dismissed, and that being forced to defend evolution can actually be a good thing. The implication is that it's not unreasonable for patrons to press museum people to explain the grounds on which evolutionary science is more credible than ID or creationism. As one director of a paleontological research institution puts it, "Just telling" such patrons "they are wrong is not going to be effective." As another museum staffer advises docents, "it's your job not to slam the door in the face of a believer," and another says, "your job is ... to explain your point of view, but respect theirs."

Arguably, this is precisely the job of teachers as well, though admittedly museums serve different functions than educational institutions. If the goal of education is to get students to think, then just telling students their doubts about Darwin are wrong is not going to be effective. And teachers being forced to engage their religious critics and explain why they believe in evolution might be a healthy thing for those teachers just as it seems to be for museum workers. In fact, I would like to ask Coyne, Dennett, Orr, and others who have written so cogently in defense of evolution if they don't feel just a tiny bit grateful to the IDers for pushing them to think harder about — and explain to a wider audience — how they know what they know about evolution.

Scientists like Coyne and Dawkins concede that debate should indeed be central to science instruction, but they hold that such debate should be between accredited hypotheses within science, not between scientists and creationist poseurs. That's hard to dispute, but, like Rothstein and Hitchens, I can at least imagine a classroom debate between creationism and evolution that might be just the thing to wake up the many students who now snooze through science courses. Such students might come away from such a debate with a sharper understanding of the grounds on which established science rests, something that even science majors and advanced graduate students now don't often get from conventional science instruction.

How might such a debate be taught? Ideally in a way that would not become fixated on the clash of faith and science, which might quickly produce an unedifying stalemate, but would open out into broader matters such as the history of conflicts between science and religion and the question of how we determine when something qualifies as "science." At the broadest level, the discussion could address whether the ID-evolution debate is a smoke screen for the larger political and cultural conflict between Red and Blue states. Representing such a many-sided debate would demand the collaboration of the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, a collaboration that could make a now disconnected curriculum more coherent. Such a collaboration would also answer the scientists' objection that there just isn't time to debate these issues, given everything else they have to cover. Then, too, explaining how we know what we know against skeptical questioning is not an add-on, but an intrinsic part of teaching any subject.

In any case, science instructors may soon have no choice but to address the controversy posed by ID and creationism. If many American students now bring faith-based skepticism about evolution with them into classrooms, as it seems they do, then there's a sense in which the controversy has already penetrated the classroom, just as it has penetrated museums, whether ID or creationism is formally represented in the syllabus or not. Schools and colleges may not be teaching the controversy between faith and science, but it's there in the classroom anyway insofar as it's on some students' minds. Teachers can act as if their students' doubts about evolution don't exist, but pretending that your students share your beliefs when you know they don't is a notorious prescription for bad teaching.

Gerald Graff is a professor of English and education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education (W. W. Norton, 1992) and Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind (Yale University Press, 2003).

UFO landing strip gets mayor's support

http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/americas/09/28/ufo.strip.ap/index.html

LAJAS, Puerto Rico (AP) -- People in this sleepy hamlet are so sure they have been receiving other-worldly visitors, they want to build a UFO landing strip to welcome them.

A bright green sign along a lonely country road in southwestern Puerto Rico proudly displays a silhouette of a flying saucer and two words: "Extraterrestrial Route."

Most Puerto Ricans laughed when a horse farmer installed the sign on his property at the request of Reynaldo Rios, a local elementary school teacher who says he's been communicating with alien visitors to this U.S. territory since he was a child.

Rios, a 39-year-old with a goatee and a shock of dark hair, won't be ignored. With the blessing of a local government desperate for tourist dollars, he's dedicated himself to building the UFO landing strip.

"I can't say exactly when they will come, but I know it will happen," Rios said. "I want to keep believing in my dreams."

Lajas Mayor Marcos Irizarry's support for the idea has provoked outrage among islanders who complained it would be a waste of money at a time when the government is encouraging thousands of employees to shorten their work week to cope with a staggering fiscal deficit.

"What nonsense," said Luis Arocho, 47, sipping coffee with friends in a cafe in historic Old San Juan. "This country is in crisis, and since politicians are incapable of creating jobs, they create fantasies."

Irizarry quickly clarified that his municipal government would not invest in the project. Instead, he has promised to help Rios get the proper building permits.

UFO beliefs widely held The mayor insists his goal is to attract tourists to his small town.

But he is also among Lajans who believe they have seen UFOs in the area.

"It's a very mysterious place," said Irizarry, who says he once saw red lights zigzagging above the hills. "A lot of people have seen things."

Francisco Negron, the farmer who put up the sign and allows UFO watchers to gather at his ranch, volunteered his property for the landing strip. He and Rios estimate the project could cost up to $100,000 and are looking for money from private companies.

Negron, a soft-spoken grandfather, has applied for a permit to build a road to Indian Hill, the chosen site for the strip. Negron and others say a UFO crashed on the hill in 1997. They claim they heard a boom and saw the hill go up in flames.

Rios, who leads a group called "UFO International" that holds nighttime vigils to search for signs of alien life, lets Negron worry about details like investment costs and permits while he envisions the design. The landing strip would be 80-feet (24-meters) long and have pyramids as control towers because aliens are attracted to the shape.

The mayor hopes that UFO enthusiasts will flock to Lajas as they have to Roswell, New Mexico, the site of a supposed UFO crash in the 1940s. Hundreds of visitors have come to check out the Extraterrestrial Route since the sign went up, Irizarry said.

Puerto Rico is known for its Arecibo Observatory and its 1,000-foot (304-meter) parabolic receiver that astronomers really do use to search for extraterrestrial life. The huge dish, in northern Puerto Rico, made a cameo appearance in the 1997 film "Contact," starring Jodi Foster as an astronomer who picks up a signal from extratraterrestrials.

What's blimp looking for? But it's a little-known aerostat off the Extraterrestrial Route that inspires UFO lore in Lajas. The U.S. military uses the aerostat, a tethered blimp with a radar system, to detect low-flying drug smuggling planes.

But many Lajans don't believe that. Even Irizarry has suggested that the aerostat's true purpose is to detect UFOs.

A paved road leading to the blimp curves out of sight between two hills. Two signs warn against trespassing. Rios claims he was once briefly detained while trying to see the aerostat.

The school teacher says he first encountered aliens at 13. He says white lights burst into his bedroom, entered his body and cured him of a back injury he had received during a basketball game.

In Lajas, people who have grown up hearing reports of UFO sightings seem more open to his scheme.

"If we have the technology to reach the moon, there could be others who have the technology to come here," said Ronaldo Barea, 26, a sandwich shop owner.

Professor Testifies in Evolution Debate By MARTHA RAFFAELE, Associated Press Writer

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050928/ap_on_sc/evolution_debate

Wed Sep 28, 6:21 PM ET

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The concept of "intelligent design" is a form of creationism and is not based on scientific method, a professor testified Wednesday in a trial over whether the idea should be taught in public schools.

Robert T. Pennock, a professor of science and philosophy at Michigan State University, testified on behalf of families who sued the Dover Area School District. He said supporters of intelligent design don't offer evidence to support their idea.

"As scientists go about their business, they follow a method," Pennock said. "Intelligent design wants to reject that and so it doesn't really fall within the purview of science."

Pennock said intelligent design does not belong in a science class, but added that it could possibly be addressed in other types of courses.

In October 2004, the Dover school board voted 6-3 to require teachers to read a brief statement about intelligent design to students before classes on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to an intelligent-design textbook for more information.

Proponents of intelligent design argue that life on Earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force, and that natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms.

Eight families are trying to have intelligent design removed from the curriculum, arguing that it violates the constitutional separation of church and state. They say it promotes the Bible's view of creation.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for two newspaper reporters said Wednesday the presiding judge has agreed to limit questioning of the reporters, averting a legal showdown over having them testify in the case.

Both reporters wrote stories that said board members mentioned creationism as they discussed the intelligent design issue. Board members have denied that.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III agreed that the reporters would only have to verify the content of their stories — and not answer questions about unpublished material, possible bias or the use of any confidential sources.

"They're testifying only as to what they wrote," said Niles Benn, attorney for The York Dispatch and the York Daily Record/Sunday News, the papers that employed the two freelancers.

The reporters were subpoenaed but declined to give depositions Tuesday, citing their First Amendment rights. A lawyer for the school board had said he planned to seek contempt citations against the two.

The judge's order clears the way for the reporters to provide depositions and testify Oct. 6.

Intimidation Alleged on 'Intelligent Design'

http://www.civilrights.org/issues/education/details.cfm?id=36179

September 28, 2005

Michael Powell The Washington Post

Parents in federal court Tuesday described an atmosphere of intimidation and anger when school board members in Dover, Pa., last year decided to require high school biology teachers to read a statement that casts doubt on the theory of evolution.

Bryan Rehm, a parent who also taught physics at Dover High School, testified of continual pressure from board members not to "teach monkeys-to-man evolution." He said that the board required teachers to watch a film critical of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and that board members talked openly of teaching creationism alongside evolution.

The atmosphere became so heated that neighbors began to call him an "atheist with . . . a lot of words added on to it," Rehm said. He said that "it was turning into a real zoo" and that students were quarreling about evolution.

Testimony: Creationism was pressed

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/12759707.htm

Posted on Wed, Sep. 28, 2005

By Amy Worden

Inquirer Staff Writer

HARRISBURG - A former member of the Dover, Pa., school board testified yesterday in federal court that two fellow board members had pushed for the inclusion of Bible-based creationism in the high school science curriculum since 2003.

Aralene Callahan, who served between 1993 and 2003, told the court that Alan Bonsell said at a board retreat in March 2003 that he did not believe in evolution and that creationism had to be shared in the curriculum "50-50."

Callahan, a Lower Merion native, is one of 11 parents in eight families who filed suit last year against the York County district after its board approved a requirement that high school biology teachers must read a statement in class pointing out "intelligent design" as an alternative to Darwin's theory of the origin of the species.

Callahan, and two other plaintiffs who took the stand yesterday in U.S. District Court, recalled two board members' repeated references to Christ and the Bible in public meetings and in private discussions in the months and years leading up to the policy change last October.

Two civil-liberties groups, representing the parents, contend that the teaching of intelligent design - the concept that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an undefined intelligent being - is modern-day creationism and, therefore, violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Lawyers for the school board have defended the classroom statement as a "modest" curriculum change. The document offers intelligent design as an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution. It says "gaps in [Darwin's] theory exist for which there is no evidence" and refers students who want more information on intelligent design to the textbook Of Pandas and People.

Bryan Rehm, a parent and former Dover science teacher who was among the faculty members who publicly opposed the policy, testified that board member William Buckingham said at a school board meeting that "the separation of church and state was a myth."

Rehm also told the court that Buckingham, who was chairman of the curriculum committee, said in a board meeting: "Two thousand years ago somebody died on the cross, can't somebody stand up for him?"

Callahan also said on the stand that while the science curriculum debate was raging in 2004, her daughter and other students had no biology textbooks to take home because the board had failed to order them.

"My daughter didn't have a biology textbook... [the board] was looking for a textbook that included creationism," she said.

Recalling why the board did not order the books, Callahan told the court that Buckingham said at a June 2004 board meeting that the textbook in question was "laced with Darwinism."

Richard Thompson, an attorney with the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center and the lead attorney for the school board, told reporters outside the courtroom, that in the end, compromises on the policy were made on both sides. The center lobbies for what it sees as the religious freedom of Christians.

"What was the actual policy? That only evolution would be taught and only evolution would be tested and only a biology textbook would be used," he said.

The second day of the closely watched trial began with a defense attorney seeking to show inconsistencies in the remarks and writings of the plaintiffs' key witness, Kenneth R. Miller, a Brown University biology professor and textbook author.

During cross-examination, attorney Robert Muise asked Miller whether evolution was "random and undirected" to which Miller replied, "No."

Muise pointed out that the statement evolution is random and undirected appeared in bold type in his widely used textbook, Biology.

Miller replied that the statement was written by coauthor Joseph Levine for an edition published in 1998 and was removed in subsequent editions.

"It was a good day for the school board," Thompson said outside the courthouse. "Miller admitted it was a religious or philosophical statement and that book is still being sold in the United States and he is receiving royalties from it."

Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com.

Teacher Says Board Effort on Evolution Was Resisted

September 28, 2005

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 27 - Science teachers at the high school in Dover repeatedly resisted the school board's efforts to force them to teach creationism on equal footing with evolution in biology class, according to a former teacher who is among those challenging the board in a landmark trial.

The conflict in Dover grew so heated that in public meetings board members called opponents "atheists," threatened to fire the science teachers and invoked Jesus' crucifixion as a reason to change the curriculum, two witnesses testified on Tuesday.

"We would repeatedly tell them, 'We're not going to balance evolution with creationism. It's an inappropriate request,' " said Bryan Rehm, who once taught physics in Dover and is one of 11 plaintiffs in the suit.

The trial here is the first in the nation to test whether public schools can teach intelligent design - the notion that living organisms are so complex they must have been designed by a higher intelligence - or whether the theory is simply a fig leaf for creationism.

Outside the courtroom on Tuesday afternoon, Alan Bonsell, a board member who the plaintiffs said was leading the charge against evolution in the science curriculum, said the board wanted students to learn about competing theories only because it was "good education."

The board ultimately abandoned the equal time idea, stopped using the term "creationism," and instead required that ninth graders listen to a brief statement encouraging them to learn about intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.

"We are not teaching intelligent design," Mr. Bonsell said. "I've said that a million times and the news media just doesn't get it. I challenge everybody to read the statement and show me what was religious in the statement."

But Aralene Callahan, a former board member, testified that Mr. Bonsell, the chairman of the curriculum committee, said at a school board retreat in 2003 that he did not believe in evolution and wanted "50-50" treatment in biology class for creationism and evolution.

The board wanted the science teachers to use a textbook that promotes intelligent design, "Of Pandas and People," but the teachers balked at that too, Mr. Rehm said.

For about a year, Mrs. Callahan said, the school board refused to order new biology textbooks. Mrs. Callahan said that when she protested the delay at a meeting, another board member, Bill Buckingham, responded that the biology textbook was "laced with Darwinism."

The textbook he was referring to was "Biology." One of the book's authors, Kenneth Miller, a cell biologist at Brown University, was in court here on Monday and Tuesday as the first witness against intelligent design.

At a board meeting in June 2004, the plaintiffs say that Mr. Buckingham declared from the podium: "Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can't someone take a stand for him?"

Two newspapers in York reported the remark. But the defendants say Mr. Buckingham was misquoted.

The head of the school board, Sheila Harkins, said on Tuesday that Mr. Buckingham did say it, but at a meeting nine months earlier while the board considered a resolution to support the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The plaintiffs believe the reference to the crucifixion is so crucial to establishing the board's religious motivation that they have subpoenaed the two York newspaper reporters, who have refused to testify.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/28/national/28evolution.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1127962133-01uiMoEm8n3Rn3AU16EaBg


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pennsylvania School Policy Mandating Instruction on 'Intelligent Design' Is Unconstitutional, Duke Expert Says

http://newswire.ascribe.org/cgi-bin/behold.pl?ascribeid=20050926.125700&time=13%2045%20PDT&year=2005&public=0

Mon Sep 26 13:45:06 2005 Pacific Time

DURHAM, N.C., Sept. 26 (AScribe Newswire) -- The Dover, Pa., school board policy mandating that high school biology classes cover "alternatives" to evolution, including the idea of "intelligent design," violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a Duke University constitutional law expert says.

"Almost 20 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a state law that required 'balanced treatment,' that creationism be taught alongside evolution," said Erwin Chemerinsky, the Alston & Bird Professor of Law at Duke's School of Law.

"The Supreme Court invalidated this statute and explained that evolution is a scientific theory accounting for the origin of human life, while creationism is religion's answer. The Court said that there is no secular purpose in having creationism taught in the schools."

Eleven parents sued the school board and the district over the policy. The case was scheduled to begin Monday in federal district court in Harrisburg, Pa. The New York Times noted the case is the first direct challenge to a district's mandating instruction on intelligent design.

"'Intelligent design' is the new label for the religious account of the origins of human life," Chemerinsky said. "The Dover policy requiring it to be taught violates the Establishment Clause because again there is no secular purpose. It is the schools inculcating religious views and religious values. This, above all, the Supreme Court has held, violates the First Amendment."

CONTACTS: Erwin Chemerinsky, 919-613-7173, chemerinsky@law.duke.edu

Frances Presma, Duke University Office of News & Communications, 919-613-7248, presma@law.duke.edu

NOTE TO BROADCAST EDITORS: Duke provides an on-campus satellite uplink facility for live or pre-recorded television interviews. We are also equipped with ISDN connectivity for radio interviews. Broadcast reporters should contact the Office of Radio-TV Services at 919-681-8067 to arrange an interview.

Media Contact: Frances Presma, 919-613-7248, presma@law.duke.edu

Stuck at court, with no circus in sight

http://ydr.com/story/mike/87041/

MIKE ARGENTO Tuesday, September 27, 2005

HARRISBURG — Shortly after 8 a.m. Monday, Dover Area schools Supt. Richard Nilsen arrived at the federal courthouse for what will heretofore be known as the Dover Panda Trial, bearing the expression of a man on his way to a prostate examination.

He walked briskly through the phalanx of reporters and photographers camped out on the courthouse steps. He was soon surrounded by cameras, and WGAL's Ed Weinstock broke the ice, asking Nilsen whether he had anything to say in this, the cusp of history being played out on the ninth floor of the federal building. Nilsen remained mum.

And so it began, the trial previously known as the Dover Monkey Trial, homage to the Scopes Monkey Trial.

But this trial has nothing to do with monkeys — neither did the Scopes affair in Dayton, Tenn. It's going to be all about pandas. Early on, it became clear that one of the sacred texts of "intelligent design," "Of Pandas and People," will be on trial as much as the school district of Dover.

What the pandas did to deserve this notoriety is not known. All they did is come to this country and take up residence in the National Zoo, where zookeepers have become way too preoccupied with their mating habits. And now this, their picture plastered on the cover of a book that's a central weapon in the culture war.

And that's what's playing out in the federal courthouse — the culture war. The battlefield is the airless, windowless Courtroom No. 2, the preserve of Judge John E. Jones III of the U.S. Middle District Court. The soldiers all wear blue or gray suits, mixed and matched, so there's no replay of the blue vs. the gray. That was a different kind of war, one in which Americans were divided by seemingly irreconcilable differences ... oh, never mind.

Outside, the media awaited the beginning of the circus. But the circus wasn't cooperating. The reporters and photographers and videographers and TV producers kept a careful watch for an outbreak of circus-like behavior. Among the crowd was a reporter for People magazine, just in case, I suppose, Angelina Jolie stopped by to offer her views on the subject of evolution.

At one point, a woman from Washington Township was praying on the sidewalk on Third Street, around the corner from the courthouse entrance. Her monologue with the Almighty was interrupted when word circulated among the media herd that something remotely circus-like was happening nearby, and they descended to inquire about it.

The woman, a 53-year-old preacher's wife named Cindy Mummert, told the reporters she was praying. She had her Bible and everything. The reporters asked her a bunch of questions. To her credit, Mummert answered all of them. When it became clear that she wasn't circus-like enough, the reporters drifted away, and Mummert resumed praying, perhaps asking God to keep the press the heck away from her.

Inside, earlier, those wishing to attend the proceedings — a wish some would later regret because of the stifling boredom that would descend upon the room — waited in the seventh-floor grand jury room. There, some guy from the Discovery Institute, the organization pushing "intelligent design" as a means of getting around that pesky separation of church and state business, spoke with a reporter, saying that Darwin was somehow responsible for the Holocaust.

Not to overanalyze, but what?

That's akin to saying that Bill Gates is responsible for Internet pedophiles.

The "intelligent design" theory is that something had to create us and all of the critters we share the Earth with because we are so complex that we cannot possibly be the result of an accident. Personally, I don't know. I've never asked my parents, and it's one of those things you really don't want to know.

Inside the courtroom, with its oak paneling and bright lights, the trial of this century, so far, opened with the lawyers addressing the court. The lawyer for the plaintiffs, parents who don't want the school district dabbling in religious instruction, argued that school board members sought to teach creationism and found the answer to their prayers in "intelligent design," which is intended to make creationism sound like it has some basis in science.

The defendant's lawyer argued, no, it's not and downplayed the role the board's religious beliefs played in the decision to expose kids in Dover to faith-based science.

The lawyer also said that the board didn't really listen to former board member Bill Buckingham, who was pushing creationism and talked about Jesus a lot, and had consulted with science teachers before imposing what the defense kept calling a "minor" change to the biology curriculum — both of which, considering the record to date, would be a surprise to Buckingham and the science teachers.

The lawyer repeatedly referred to the intelligent design instruction as "minor."

Not to make a federal case out of it or anything.

Outside, things were quiet. At lunchtime, the Rev. Jim Grove — he of the controversy over his abortion protests during the York Halloween Parade — emerged from the courthouse and was swamped by reporters and photographers. He held court on the corner of Third and Walnut, pontificating for the cameras, making some wonder, just what does this have to do with the Halloween parade?

A short time later, Dave Vollero and his daughter, Rachel, were walking by, and because Rachel had the appearance of a high school student, which she is, the press encircled her, asking her all sorts of questions about intelligent design and school and all of that.

One of the reporters asked her, "What grade are you in at Dover?"

"I don't go to Dover," said Rachel, who attends Red Land High School in Fairview Township.

Her father, who works in waste management, said they were going to the rally at the Capitol to protest the legislative pay raise and had merely stopped by the courthouse because they saw all of the TV cameras and were wondering what was going on.

Asked if he thought he'd become a spectacle merely by stopping, he said, "Not really."

Sometimes, that's all it takes.

After lunch, Nilsen returned to the courthouse and was, once again, surrounded by cameras.

"This must be how Julia Roberts feels," he quipped.

I kind of doubt it. Mike Argento, whose column appears Mondays and Thursdays in Living and Sundays in Viewpoints, can be reached at 771-2046 or at mike@ydr.com. Read more Argento columns at ydr.com/mike.

CHECK OUT MIKE'S BLOG

Mike Argento is now a blogger as well as a columnist. Check out his new Web log, Argento's Front Stoop, at http://www.yorkblog.com. The site will include links to his columns, allowing readers to comment quickly and easily, as well as shorter observations on life in general.

Creationist Museum Takes Shape in N.Ky.

http://www.rednova.com/news/oddities/252336/creationist_museum_takes_shape_in_nky/

Posted on: Tuesday, 27 September 2005, 06:00 CDT

PETERSBURG, Ky. -- The guide, a soft-spoken fellow with a scholarly aspect, walks through the halls of this handsome, half- finished museum and points to the sculpture of a young velociraptor.

"We're placing this one in the hall that explains the post-Flood world," explains the guide. "When dinosaurs lived with man."

A reporter has a question or two about this dinosaur-man business, but Mark Looy -- the guide and a vice president at the museum -- already has walked over to the lifelike head of a T. rex, with its three-inch teeth and carnivore's grin.

"We call him our 'missionary lizard,'" Looy says. "When people realize the T. rex lived in Eden, it will lead us to a discussion of the gospel. The T. rex once was a vegetarian, too."

The nation's largest museum devoted to the alternative reality that is biblical creation science is rising in Boone County, not far from Big Bone Lick park. Set amid a park and three-acre artificial lake, the 50,000-square-foot museum features animatronic dinosaurs, state-of-the-art models and graphics, and a half-dozen staff scientists. It holds that the world and the universe are but 6,000 years old and that baby dinosaurs rode in Noah's ark.

The $25 million Creation Museum stands much of modern science on its head and might cause a paleontologist or three to rend their garments. But officials expect to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors when the museum opens in early 2007.

"Evolutionary Darwinists need to understand we are taking the dinosaurs back," says Kenneth Ham, president of Answers in Genesis- USA, which is building the museum. "This is a battle cry to recognize the science in the revealed truth of God."

"Intelligent design," the theory that the machinery of life is so complex as to require the hand -- subtle or not -- of an intelligent creator, has stolen the media thunder of late. This week a trial will begin in federal court in Pennsylvania, in which 11 parents accuse the Dover school board of violating the separation of church and state by requiring high school biology teachers to read a statement in class that intelligent design is an alternative explanation of life's origins.

Most scientists dismiss intelligent design as flawed science, and they fear cultural conservatives intend it as a religious wedge. The small band of scientists who promote intelligent design retort that theirs is a scientific inquiry, albeit with theistic implications.

By any measure, though, Young Earth Creationism -- which holds that the Bible is the literal word of God and that He created the universe in seven days -- has a more powerful hold on the beliefs of Americans than evolutionary theory or intelligent design. That grip grows stronger by the year.

Polls taken last year showed that 45 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago (or less) and that man shares no common ancestor with the ape. Only 26 percent believe in the central tenet of evolution, that all life descended from a single ancestor. Another poll showed that 65 percent of Americans want creationism taught alongside evolution.

In the early 20th century, many creationist thinkers viewed Genesis as metaphorical, accepting that Earth formed over hundreds of thousands, even millions of years. But as society became more secular, and science offered an implicit challenge to fundamentalist beliefs, creationist leaders took a more literal line.

"The creationists have been very successful in persuading conservative Christians to abandon any nonliteral interpretation of the Bible," said Ronald Numbers, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and author of "The Creationists.""There is a very large constituency of Americans who are quite comfortable with Young Earth Creationism."

To drive past the stegosaurus silhouettes at the gate to the parking lot at the Creation Museum here is to enter a creationist world in great ferment. Answers in Genesis is one of about a half- dozen creationist organizations and museums, each with its own headquarters, radio studios and Web sites.

Source: Cincinnati Post/By Michael Powell

Defense: It isn't about religion

http://ydr.com/story/doverbiology/86977/

Attorneys said the board did not consider intelligent design religious.

By MICHELLE STARR
Daily Record/Sunday News
Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Defense attorneys, during the first day of the federal trial over the Dover Area School District's introduction of intelligent design in class, seemed to distance their case from former board member Bill Buckingham and his or other board members' comments about creationism.

Patrick Gillen, an attorney for the district, said during opening arguments that then-board President Alan Bonsell wanted the support of the faculty, which had questioned the idea of offering an alternative to evolution in ninth-grade biology class.

"The board listened to the science faculty more than it listened to Bill Buckingham," Gillen said.

Buckingham was head of the board's curriculum committee during the summer of 2004 when the district began looking for a new biology book.

The board discussed the book "Biology," the biology curriculum and the possibility of adding materials that give an alternative view to evolution.

Buckingham was quoted in newspapers and on television talking about his desire to balance evolution with creationism.

On Monday, the defense said that despite previous references to creationism, the board approved a statement about intelligent design, a concept it didn't consider religious. Though the concept did not mention God, the board members did not want faculty to teach intelligent design because it could provoke discussions in the classroom that the board didn't want teachers and students to have.

When Buckingham proposed to incorporate "Of Pandas and People," a textbook about intelligent design, into the classroom, Bonsell voted against buying it.

About 60 copies of the books were donated and are housed in the high school's library.

After court, Dover attorney Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan, denied that the defense was trying to distance itself from Buckingham. He said that what one board member says does not bind the rest of the board to that statement, and Buckingham was engaged in a public debate.

The board made its statement when it voted to accept the statement about intelligent design, not creationism, Thompson said.

Thompson questioned the completeness of a clip from a television interview of Buckingham, shown by the plaintiffs during opening arguments, in which Buckingham said he supported teaching creationism to balance the idea of evolution.

Thompson suggested there was more to Buckingham's comments.

He also said that even though there is evidence that in 2003 Alan Bonsell talked about teaching creationism during a retreat where board members were present, comments from Bonsell and Buckingham about creationism don't translate into the board's decision.

The board voted on a policy concerning intelligent design, which he said was different than creationism. However, some critics argue the concept cloaks teaching creation.

Certain school board members talked about and asked questions about the legality of teaching creationism, similar to any other client seeking legal advice, Thompson said.

The idea changed.

"Here it was not what Bill Buckingham said or what Alan Bonsell said, it was when the whole board took a vote."

Reach Michelle Starr at 771-2045 or mstarr@ydr.com

Science trumps theory

http://www.dailytexanonline.com/media/paper410/news/2005/09/27/Opinion/092705.The.Firing.Line-999335.shtml

09-27-05 The Firing Line

Thanks are due to Jason Obermeyer for touting the ignorance-based strategy inherent in the promotion of Intelligent Design (Firing Line, Sept. 26). When Intelligent Design was touted as "Creationism," this strategy was known for appealing to a "God of the gaps." Basically, you look at a scientific field, identify what's not known, and insert the deity or alien of your choice. In the past, this resulted in useful canards such as "If man was meant to fly, God would have given him wings," which as we all know stands to this day as a testament to the predictions inherent in Intelligent Design.

I find Jason's characterization of origins research as existing outside the realm of evolutionary biology as a particularly good example of the ignorance-based strategy. My lab works daily on using Darwinian molecular evolution to generate functional molecules similar to those that would have occurred at or near origins. In addition, we use the exact same techniques to generate anti-HIV and anti-cancer drugs. Indeed, a molecule that was derived from random information using Darwinian molecular evolution is now clinically available for the treatment of wet macular degeneration.

While it is clear that Jason would prefer to let the "blind lead the blind," I'm afraid I can't wholly get behind this ignorance-based strategy. Like millions of practicing scientists (as opposed to roughly 100 Intelligent Design 'theorists'), I prefer to see the light, and to use science rather than ignorance as a means of advancing social goals.

Andy Ellington
Chemistry and biochemistry professor

Creationism, Christianity, and Common Sense

http://www.theconservativevoice.com/articles/article.html?id=8576

By Alan Burkhart September 27, 2005 12:00 AM EST

Here we go again. According to a Washington Post article from 09/25/05, a group called "Answers in Genesis – USA" is building a museum in Cincinnati dedicated to the proposition that the universe was created exactly as stated in the Bible.

In other words, God created the universe in six days, and He did it only about six thousand years ago. The group's president, Kenneth Ham, is quoted in the Post as saying, "This is a battle cry to recognize the science in the revealed truth of God."

Science and religion remain at odds because each side is hamstrung by its own peculiar brand of extremists. Too many scientists utterly reject the notion that a supreme being had a hand in the creation of the universe. And, too many Christians (and followers of other faiths) believe that God created all this cool stuff in a blink of the cosmic eye. Each side refuses to consider the merits of the beliefs of the other. That's too bad, because they both hold pieces to the puzzle.

Let's take a brief look at each side…

The Bible was written by primitive man, and his primitive perceptions doubtlessly influenced the finished product. Sure, it was divinely inspired, but it was still written by ancient man. Man of ancient times had no concept of the size, scope and age of the universe.

God, in His wisdom, didn't give early man more knowledge than he could handle. He left us to explore and learn at our own speed. Centuries would pass before people like Newton and Galileo would begin unlocking the secrets of our existence and the primal forces around us.

Like a child who finally realizes that her baby brother wasn't really brought by the stork, mankind is slowly realizing that the universe wasn't created in 6 calendar days, and that we do indeed share ancestry with other creatures. With the abundance of transitional fossils at hand there is no escaping the fact that the creation of man in the book of Genesis was also a "stork story."

A 5 year-old child can't be expected to understand all of the biological and emotional issues involved in bringing a new life into the world. The stories of the stork dropping the child down a chimney or the doctor bringing the baby in his little black bag are harmless falsehoods that give the child something to cling to until she learns that mommy and daddy weren't really "wrestling" in the bedroom.

By the same token, the Genesis account of the creation gave primitive man a starting point from which to pursue the truth. Could man of that period have understood quarks, dark matter, photons, black holes, planetary orbits, nebulae, and so on and so forth? Of course not.

The Bible correctly states that God created the Heavens and the Earth. What the Bible doesn't do is tell us how He did it. The Bible isn't the end of wisdom and knowledge. It's the beginning. Humans have a natural inquisitiveness that causes us to seek not only new answers to old questions but also new questions to be answered.

Why is it so difficult to entertain the idea that God planted the seeds of life, and that Evolution is the result of those seeds taking root?

Why is it so difficult to wrap our minds around the notion that the Big Bang theory is just fine and dandy as long as we don't lose sight of the fact that if it happened, it was simply the method God used to get it all done? Science seems determined to explain away the simple fact that the very first speck of matter had to have had an origin. If it was created, as some claim, by a collision of opposing energies, then those energies also had to have had an origin. God is the origin. Only He could create something where before there was nothing with an act of sheer will.

It's a good and noble thing to seek understanding via science. It is, however, pure foolishness to exclude Devine Truth from such a pursuit. Our universe is far too complex to have arisen by accident. Complexity of this magnitude can only be created by an intelligence superior to the complexity it creates. It is therefore a given that only God could have created the universe, because only a being with the powers that we attribute to God could have accomplished such a thing.

Science limits itself by refusing to acknowledge the inescapability of God's existence. Many Christians wreck their credibility by maintaining that the Bible is to be taken literally, word for word.

C'mon folks… do you really believe that Jonah took that little ride in the belly of a fish? How long did Jonah have to hold his breath? How did he deal with those nasty digestive juices? Be brave… do you REALLY believe the story of Jonah? By the way, it was a fish, not a whale. The King James Version of the Bible had an error in translation.

Either way, the story is obviously meant to be allegorical, just as is the story of the plant that gave Jonah shade after his trip to Nineveh. One must learn to understand the lesson of the story without believing that such an event could actually occur. The story of "The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf" is pure fiction, but it teaches a valuable lesson.

An unbiased and logical thinking process can only conclude that God exists. Science has blinded itself with prejudice against the notion of God's existence, probably because of the fact that religion has through the years attacked science (sometimes violently) for supposedly blaspheming against God's word. Do some reading on all the trouble Galileo had with the Catholic Church and you'll see what I mean.

Believers must brave up to the fact that science does indeed hold many answers to the mysteries of the universe. Scientists likewise, must put aside their high-handed ways and realize that there is a greater intelligence than man. Only when both sides can sit at the same table will we see an end to the raging debates surrounding school curriculum and other areas where science and religion clash.

And what a wonderful day that would be.

Related Reading:
Washington Post Article (free registration required):

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2005/09/24/AR2005092401262.html

Transitional Fossils: http://www.gcssepm.org/special/cuffey_04.htm

Answers In Genesis Website: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2001/dinos_on_ark.asp

Alan Burkhart is a freelance political writer, cross-country trucker, and proud citizen of the reddest of the Red States - Mississippi. You can reach him via e-mail at: alan@alanburkhart.com or by visiting his website: www.alanburkhart.com.

Our View — If it walks and talks like creationism ...

http://www.mankatofreepress.com/cnhi/mankatofreepress/editorials/local_story_269234816.html?keyword=topstory

Published: September 26, 2005 11:48 pm

The Free Press

The Scopes Monkey Trial — in reverse — is taking place in Pennsylvania.

The Monkey Trial, 80 years ago, led to Supreme Court decisions that said school districts can't ban teachers from teaching evolution in the classroom.

The current case will hopefully lead to the courts reminding school districts that they also can't teach religion-based theories in public schools.

The federal case involves Dover Area School District, which is the first in the nation to require ninth-grade students to hear about "intelligent design" before biology lessons on evolution.

Intelligent design is a thinly veiled attempt to bring creationism into the schools. It says that life on Earth is too complex to be fully explained by evolution and implies that some higher intelligence force is responsible.

But simply not saying "God" by name, and trying to dress up religion in scientific terminology, does not make intelligent design science. That's why every mainstream scientific organization has lined up to oppose the contention that it is science.

That's also why eight families in the Dover district sued the school, arguing the district is violating the constitutional separation of church and state.

The fact that no serious scientific organization recognizes intelligent design as science, should make it self evident it isn't. But the issue is not one of scientific debate, it is one of political, social and religious debate.

Even President Bush has weighed in, saying schools should present intelligent design. Which is no surprise considering the Bush administration is roundly criticized for disdaining scientific recommendations that contradict certain policy and social beliefs promoted by the White House.

Parents, church leaders and other groups have every opportunity and right to teach kids about creationism or any other religious doctrine they wish. They just can't do it in public schools.

Intelligent design, no matter how it's dressed up, is religion, not science.

© 1996-2005, The Free Press


Monday, September 26, 2005

In Evolution Debate, Creationists Are Breaking New Ground

Museum Dedicated to Biblical Interpretation Of the World Is Being Built Near Cincinnati

By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, September 25, 2005; A03

PETERSBURG, Ky. -- The guide, a soft-spoken fellow with a scholarly aspect, walks through the halls of this handsome, half-finished museum and points to the sculpture of a young velociraptor.

"We're placing this one in the hall that explains the post-Flood world," explains the guide. "When dinosaurs lived with man."

A reporter has a question or two about this dinosaur-man business, but Mark Looy -- the guide and a vice president at the museum -- already has walked over to the lifelike head of a T. rex, with its three-inch teeth and carnivore's grin.

"We call him our 'missionary lizard,' " Looy says. "When people realize the T. rex lived in Eden, it will lead us to a discussion of the gospel. The T. rex once was a vegetarian, too."

The nation's largest museum devoted to the alternative reality that is biblical creation science is rising just outside Cincinnati. Set amid a park and three-acre artificial lake, the 50,000-square-foot museum features animatronic dinosaurs, state-of-the-art models and graphics, and a half-dozen staff scientists. It holds that the world and the universe are but 6,000 years old and that baby dinosaurs rode in Noah's ark.

The $25 million Creation Museum stands much of modern science on its head and might cause a paleontologist or three to rend their garments. But officials expect to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors when the museum opens in early 2007.

"Evolutionary Darwinists need to understand we are taking the dinosaurs back," says Kenneth Ham, president of Answers in Genesis-USA, which is building the museum. "This is a battle cry to recognize the science in the revealed truth of God."

"Intelligent design," the theory that the machinery of life is so complex as to require the hand -- subtle or not -- of an intelligent creator, has stolen the media thunder of late. This week a trial will begin in federal court in Pennsylvania, in which 11 parents accuse the Dover school board of violating the separation of church and state by requiring high school biology teachers to read a statement in class that intelligent design is an alternative explanation of life's origins.

Most scientists dismiss intelligent design as flawed science, and they fear cultural conservatives intend it as a religious wedge. The small band of scientists who promote intelligent design retort that theirs is a scientific inquiry, albeit with theistic implications.

But by any measure, Young Earth Creationism -- which holds that the Bible is the literal word of God and that He created the universe in seven days-- has a more powerful hold on the beliefs of Americans than evolutionary theory or intelligent design. That grip grows stronger by the year.

Polls taken last year showed that 45 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago (or less) and that man shares no common ancestor with the ape. Only 26 percent believe in the central tenet of evolution, that all life descended from a single ancestor.

Another poll showed that 65 percent of Americans want creationism taught alongside evolution.

In the early 20th century, many creationist thinkers viewed Genesis as metaphorical, accepting that Earth formed over hundreds of thousands, even millions of years. But as society became more secular, and science offered an implicit challenge to fundamentalist beliefs, creationist leaders took a more literal line.

"The creationists have been very successful in persuading conservative Christians to abandon any nonliteral interpretation of the Bible," said Ronald L. Numbers, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and author of "The Creationists." "There is a very large constituency of Americans who are quite comfortable with Young Earth Creationism."

To drive past the stegosaurus silhouettes at the gate to the parking lot at the Creation Museum here is to enter a creationist world in great ferment. Answers in Genesis is one of about a half-dozen creationist organizations and museums, each with its own headquarters, radio studios and Web sites, and scholarly and popular magazines. (A family-oriented column even ferrets out covert evolutionary messages in "Finding Nemo" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding.")

Another creationist museum launches expeditions to the Papua New Guinea highlands in search of living pterodactyls.

All of this -- creationist zoology, paleontology, archaeology -- is framed in a distinctive academic language.

So one reads of post-Babel studies, and floodology and post-diluvium studies, these being the study of the world after Noah and the Great Flood, which is regarded as purest fact. The sanctified imagination, which is to say inspired by God, helps the scientists and artists at Creation Museum re-create the world of Adam and Eve, from sauropods playing with children to the "humongous" mature trees that God created in a single day.

"Our artists anticipated some challenging . . . work," the Answers of Genesis Web site notes.

Young Earth Creationists emphasize the rigor of their science. Looy rattles off the names of experts with doctorates, many of whom obtained degrees from mainstream universities. A creationist scientist, Kurt Wise, worked as a graduate student at Harvard with prominent biologist Stephen Jay Gould. John Baumgardner of the Los Alamos National Laboratory became a well-regarded designer of computer models for planetary catastrophes.

They herald successes. Recent discoveries by geologists tend to support creationists' beliefs that great floods -- albeit not necessarily ordered up by God -- played a role in gouging out some canyon lands.

But often, scientists say, the creationist bottom line is a through-the-looking-glass version of science. The scientific method of theory, experiment and assumptions upended does not apply. Ask Ham if he could accept evidence that conflicts with his reading of Genesis -- proof, say, that a fossil is more than 6,000 years old -- and he shakes his head.

Creationists believe man became mortal when God cast Adam and Eve out of Eden 6,000 years ago. Death did not exist before that.

"We admit we have an axiom: We have a book and it's the Bible and it's revealed history," says Ham. "Where the Bible teaches on science, we can trust it as the word of God."

Scientists place the age of Earth at 4.5 billion years. Many tend to act resigned at the mention of creationists, seeing a worldview so different as to defy debate.

"There are people who are prepared to accept that the universe is a pretty untidy place," said Ian Tattersall, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History. "And there are people, like the creationists, whose minds rebel at this notion."

Ham, whose voice carries broad hints of his native Australia, is a charismatic speaker and skilled debater, and he has built Answers in Genesis into the world's leading creationist organization in less than a decade. He raised nearly $20 million to build the museum, and the average donation was about $70, officials say.

Answers in Genesis hews to no particular evangelical line. Ham's politics lean strongly to the right, seeing America as under siege by homosexuality and abortion. In a recent column for the Rev. Jerry Falwell's newspaper, Ham described his mission as "fighting the 'Philistines' of our day."

"By and large, much of the church has compromised God's Word in Genesis by allowing millions of years and evolutionary ideas to be embraced by God's people," Ham wrote. "We need to take back the maligned Grand Canyon, the majestic mountain ranges, the massive coal beds . . . and the dinosaur fossils."

Ham is ambivalent on the question of intelligent design. He admires the movement's founders and applauds their battles. But he is skeptical of creationists who see intelligent design as a battering ram that might smash down the constitutional doors and allow the Bible back into schools.

"They are not a Christian movement, they are not about the Bible," he says in his spacious corner office at the museum. "It's not even against evolution, not really, because they don't tell you what that intelligence is. It could open a door for Muslim belief, for Hindus, for New Age.

"We are telling you unashamedly that the word of the Bible is the way."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/24/AR2005092401262.html

New Analyses Bolster Central Tenets of Evolution Theory

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/25/AR2005092501177.html

Pa. Trial Will Ask Whether 'Alternatives' Can Pass as Science

By Rick Weiss and David Brown Washington Post Staff Writers Monday,

September 26, 2005; A08

When scientists announced last month they had determined the exact order of all 3 billion bits of genetic code that go into making a chimpanzee, it was no surprise that the sequence was more than 96 percent identical to the human genome. Charles Darwin had deduced more than a century ago that chimps were among humans' closest cousins.

But decoding chimpanzees' DNA allowed scientists to do more than just refine their estimates of how similar humans and chimps are. It let them put the very theory of evolution to some tough new tests.

If Darwin was right, for example, then scientists should be able to perform a neat trick. Using a mathematical formula that emerges from evolutionary theory, they should be able to predict the number of harmful mutations in chimpanzee DNA by knowing the number of mutations in a different species' DNA and the two animals' population sizes.

"That's a very specific prediction," said Eric Lander, a geneticist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., and a leader in the chimp project.

Sure enough, when Lander and his colleagues tallied the harmful mutations in the chimp genome, the number fit perfectly into the range that evolutionary theory had predicted.

Their analysis was just the latest of many in such disparate fields as genetics, biochemistry, geology and paleontology that in recent years have added new credence to the central tenet of evolutionary theory: That a smidgeon of cells 3.5 billion years ago could -- through mechanisms no more extraordinary than random mutation and natural selection -- give rise to the astonishing tapestry of biological diversity that today thrives on Earth.

Evolution's repeated power to predict the unexpected goes a long way toward explaining why so many scientists and others are practically apoplectic over the recent decision by a Pennsylvania school board to treat evolution as an unproven hypothesis, on par with "alternative" explanations such as Intelligent Design (ID), the proposition that life as we know it could not have arisen without the helping hand of some mysterious intelligent force.

Today, in a courtroom in Harrisburg, Pa., a federal judge will begin to hear a case that asks whether ID or other alternative explanations deserve to be taught in a biology class. But the plaintiffs, who are parents opposed to teaching ID as science, will do more than merely argue that those alternatives are weaker than the theory of evolution.

They will make the case -- plain to most scientists but poorly understood by many others -- that these alternatives are not scientific theories at all.

"What makes evolution a scientific explanation is that it makes testable predictions," Lander said. "You only believe theories when they make non-obvious predictions that are confirmed by scientific evidence."

Lander's experiment tested a quirky prediction of evolutionary theory: that a harmful mutation is unlikely to persist if it is serious enough to reduce an individual's odds of leaving descendants by an amount that is greater than the number one divided by the population of that species.

The rule proved true not only for mice and chimps, Lander said. A new and still unpublished analysis of the canine genome has found that dogs, whose numbers have historically been greater than those of apes but smaller than for mice, have an intermediate number of harmful mutations -- again, just as evolution predicts.

"Evolution is a way of understanding the world that continues to hold up day after day to scientific tests," Lander said.

By contrast, said Alan Leshner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Intelligent Design offers nothing in the way of testable predictions.

"Just because they call it a theory doesn't make it a scientific theory," Leshner said. "The concept of an intelligent designer is not a scientifically testable assertion."

Asked to provide examples of non-obvious, testable predictions made by the theory of Intelligent Design, John West, an associate director of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based ID think tank, offered one: In 1998, he said, an ID theorist, reckoning that an intelligent designer would not fill animals' genomes with DNA that had no use, predicted that much of the "junk" DNA in animals' genomes -- long seen as the detritus of evolutionary processes -- will someday be found to have a function.

(In fact, some "junk" DNA has indeed been found to be functional in recent years, though more than 90 percent of human DNA still appears to be the flotsam of biological history.) In any case, West said, it is up to Darwinists to prove ID wrong.

"Chance and necessity don't seem to be good candidates for explaining the appearance of higher-order complexity, so the best explanation is an intelligent cause," West said.

Simple and Hard

The controversy that has periodically erupted around evolution can be attributed at least in part to the fact that it is both simple to understand and hard to believe.

Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, working independently in the early- to mid-1800s, each came up with the concept of "natural selection." Each sought to explain the astounding diversity of life he found in exotic places, Darwin in the Galapagos Islands and Wallace in Brazil.

Their idea was this:

By some accident of nature whose workings neither man could explain, an organism may exhibit a variation in shape, color or body function new to the species. Although most of these new traits are damaging -- probably lethal -- a small fraction actually help. They may make it easier to hide from predators (like a moth's coloration), exploit a food source (an anteater's long tongue), or make seeds more durable (the coconut's buoyant husk).

If the trait does help an organism survive, that individual will be more likely to reproduce. Its offspring will then inherit the change. They, in turn, will have an advantage over organisms that are identical except for that one beneficial change. Over time, the descendants that inherited what might be termed the "happy accident" will outnumber the descendants of its less fit, but initially far more numerous, brethren.

There are two important consequences of this mechanism.

The first is that organisms will tend to adapt to their environments. If the planet's atmosphere contains lots of oxygen but very little methane gas, living things are going to end up tolerating oxygen -- and possibly even depending on it. But do not expect to see many methane-breathers.

This appearance of "perfect fit" makes it seem as if organisms must have been the product of an intelligent force. But this appearance of perfection is deceiving. It gives no hint of the numberless evolutionary dead ends -- lineages that, according to the fossil record, survived for a while but then died out, probably because changes in the environment made their once-perfect designs not so perfect anymore.

The second result of Darwin and Wallace's mechanism is that over time it will create species diversity. As additional "happy accidents" alter an organism's descendants over millions of years, those descendants will come to look less and less like other organisms with which they share a common ancestor. Eventually, the descendants will be able to mate only with each other. They will be lions and tigers -- each a distinct species, but both descended from the same ancient cat.

What is hard to understand about this process is that it is essentially passive. The mechanism is called "natural selection" because the conditions at hand -- nature -- determine which accidents are beneficial and which are not. Organisms do not seek ends.

Giraffes do not decide to grow long necks to browse the high branches above the competition. But a four-legged mammal on the savannah once upon a time was endowed with a longer neck than its brothers and sisters. It ate better. We call its descendants giraffes.

That a mechanism driven by random events should result in perfectly adapted organisms -- and so many different types -- seems illogical.

"Even today a good many distinguished minds seem unable to accept or even to understand that from a source of noise, natural selection alone and unaided could have drawn all the music of the biosphere," Jacques Monod, a French biologist and Nobel Prize winner, wrote in 1970 in the book "Chance and Necessity."

Natural selection was really hard to accept in Darwin's day. But it has become easier with the discovery of genes, DNA and techniques that have made it possible to watch natural selection happen.

DNA is a stringlike molecule made up of paired beads called nucleotides. It carries the instructions for making proteins and RNA, the chief building materials of life. Individually, these instructions are called genes.

The random changes Darwin knew must be happening are accidents that happen to DNA and genes. Today, they can be documented and catalogued in real time, inside cells.

Cells sometimes make errors when they copy their DNA before dividing. These mutations can disable a gene -- or change its action. Occasionally cells also duplicate an entire gene by mistake, providing offspring with two copies instead of one. Both these events provide raw material for new genes with new and potentially useful functions -- and ultimately raw material for new organisms and species.

Richard E. Lenski, a biologist at Michigan State University, has been following 12 cultures of the bacterium Escherichia coli since 1988, comprising more than 25,000 generations. All 12 cultures were genetically identical at the start. For years he gave each the same daily stress: six hours of food (glucose) and 18 hours of starvation. All 12 strains adapted to this by becoming faster consumers of glucose and developing bigger cell size than their 1988 "parents."

When Lenski and his colleagues examined each strain's genes, they found that the strains had not acquired the same mutations. Instead, there was some variety in the happy accidents that had allowed each culture to survive. And when the 12 strains were then subjected to a different stress -- a new food source -- they did not fare equally well. In some, the changes from the first round of adaptation stood in the way of adaptation to the new conditions. The 12 strains had started to diverge, taking the first evolutionary steps that might eventually make them different species -- just as Darwin and Wallace predicted.

In fact, one of the more exciting developments in biology in the past 25 years has been how much DNA alone can teach about the evolutionary history of life on Earth.

For example, genome sequencing projects have shown that human beings, dogs, frogs and flies (and many, many other species) share a huge number of genes in common. These include not only genes for tissues they all share, such as muscle, which is not such a surprise, but also the genes that go into basic body-planning (specifying head and tail, front and back) and appendage-building (making things that stick out from the body, such as antennae, fins, legs and arms).

As scientists have identified the totality of DNA -- the genomes -- of many species, they have unearthed the molecular equivalent of the fossil record.

It is now clear from fossil and molecular evidence that certain patterns of growth in multicellular organisms appeared about 600 million years ago. Those patterns proved so useful that versions of the genes governing them are carried by nearly every species that has arisen since.

These several hundred "tool kit genes," in the words of University of Wisconsin biologist Sean B. Carroll, are molecular evidence of natural selection's ability to hold on to very useful functions that arise.

Research on how and when tool kit genes are turned on and off also has helped explain how evolutionary changes in DNA gave rise to Earth's vast diversity of species. Studies indicate that the determination of an organism's form during embryonic development is largely the result of a small number of genes that are turned on in varying combinations and order. Gene regulation is where the action is.

Consequently, mutations in regulatory portions of a DNA strand can have effects just as dramatic as those prompted by mutations in genes themselves. They can, for example, cancel the development of an appendage -- or add an appendage where one never existed. This discovery refuted assertions by Intelligent Design advocates that gene mutation and natural selection can, at most, explain the fine-tuning of species.

"The mechanisms that make the small differences between species are the same ones that make the big differences between kingdoms," said Carroll, author of a book, "Endless Forms Most Beautiful," that describes many of these new insights.

Although the central tenets of evolution have done nothing but grow stronger with every experimental challenge, the story is still evolving, Carroll and other scientists acknowledge. Some details are sure to be refined over time. The question to be answered in Harrisburg is whether Intelligent Design has anything scientific to add for now, or whether it belongs instead in philosophy class.

A Web of Faith, Law and Science in Evolution Suit

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/26/education/26evolution.html

September 26, 2005 By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

DOVER, Pa., Sept. 23 - Sheree Hied, a mother of five who believes that God created the earth and its creatures, was grateful when her school board here voted last year to require high school biology classes to hear about "alternatives" to evolution, including the theory known as intelligent design.

But 11 other parents in Dover were outraged enough to sue the school board and the district, contending that intelligent design - the idea that living organisms are so inexplicably complex, the best explanation is that a higher being designed them - is a Trojan horse for religion in the public schools.

With the new political empowerment of religious conservatives, challenges to evolution are popping up with greater frequency in schools, courts and legislatures. But the Dover case, which begins Monday in Federal District Court in Harrisburg, is the first direct challenge to a school district that has tried to mandate the teaching of intelligent design.

What happens here could influence communities across the country that are considering whether to teach intelligent design in the public schools, and the case, regardless of the verdict, could end up before the Supreme Court.

Dover, a rural, mostly blue-collar community of 22,000 that is 20 miles south of Harrisburg, had school board members willing to go to the mat over issue. But people here are well aware that they are only the excuse for a much larger showdown in the culture wars.

"It was just our school board making one small decision," Mrs. Hied said, "but it was just received with such an uproar."

For Mrs. Hied, a meter reader, and her husband, Michael, an office manager for a local bus and transport company, the Dover school board's argument - that teaching intelligent design is a free-speech issue - has a strong appeal.

"I think we as Americans, regardless of our beliefs, should be able to freely access information, because people fought and died for our freedoms," Mrs. Hied said over a family dinner last week at their home, where the front door is decorated with a small bell and a plaque proclaiming, "Let Freedom Ring."

But in a split-level house on the other side of Main Street, at a desk flanked by his university diplomas, Steven Stough was on the Internet late the other night, keeping track of every legal maneuver in the case. Mr. Stough, who teaches life science to seventh graders in a nearby district, is one of the 11 parents suing the Dover district. For him the notion of teaching "alternatives" to evolution is a hoax.

"You can dress up intelligent design and make it look like science, but it just doesn't pass muster," said Mr. Stough, a Republican whose idea of a fun family vacation is visiting fossil beds and natural history museums. "In science class, you don't say to the students, 'Is there gravity, or do you think we have rubber bands on our feet?' "

Evolution finds that life evolved over billions of years through the processes of mutation and natural selection, without the need for supernatural interventions. It is the foundation of biological science, with no credible challenges within the scientific community. Without it, the plaintiffs say, students could never make sense of topics as varied as AIDS and extinction.

Advocates on both sides of the issue have lined up behind the case, often calling it Scopes II, in reference to the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial that was the last century's great face-off over evolution.

On the evolutionists' side is a legal team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. These groups want to put intelligent design itself on trial and discredit it so thoroughly that no other school board would dare authorize teaching it.

Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Pennsylvania, said the plaintiffs would call six experts in history, theology, philosophy of science and science to show that no matter the perspective, "intelligent design is not science because it does not meet the ground rules of science, is not based on natural explanations, is not testable."

On the intelligent design side is the Thomas More Law Center, a nonprofit Christian law firm that says its mission is "to be the sword and shield for people of faith" in cases on abortion, school prayer and the Ten Commandments. The center was founded by Thomas Monaghan, the Domino's Pizza founder, a conservative Roman Catholic who also founded Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law; and by Richard Thompson, a former Michigan prosecutor who tried Dr. Jack Kevorkian for performing assisted suicides.

"This is an attempt by the A.C.L.U. to really intimidate this small-town school board," said Mr. Thompson, who will defend the Dover board at the trial, "because the theory of intelligent design is starting to gain some resonance among school boards across the country."

The defense plans to introduce leading design theorists like Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, and education experts who will testify that "allowing students to be aware of the controversy is good pedagogy because it develops critical thinking," Mr. Thompson said.

The case, Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District, will be decided by Judge John E. Jones III of the United States District Court, who was nominated by President Bush in 2002 and confirmed by a Senate vote of 96 to 0. The trial is expected to last six weeks and to draw news coverage from around the world.

The legal battle came to a head on Oct. 18 last year when the Dover school board voted 6 to 3 to require ninth-grade biology students to listen to a brief statement saying that there was a controversy over evolution, that intelligent design is a competing theory and that if they wanted to learn more the school library had the textbook "Of Pandas and People: the Central Question of Biological Origins." The book is published by an intelligent design advocacy group, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, based in Texas.

Angry parents like Mr. Stough, Tammy Kitzmiller, and Bryan and Christy Rehm contacted the A.C.L.U. and Americans United. The 11 plaintiffs are a diverse group, unacquainted before the case, who say that parents, and not the school, should be in charge of their children's religious education.

Mr. Rehm, a father of five and a science teacher who formerly taught in Dover, said the school board had long been pressing science teachers to alter their evolution curriculum, even requiring teachers to watch a videotape about "gaps in evolution theory" during an in-service training day in the spring of 2004.

School board members were told by their lawyer, Mr. Thompson, not to talk to the news media. "We've told them, anything they say can be used against them," Mr. Thompson said.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creation science in public schools was unconstitutional because it was based on religion. So the plaintiffs will try to prove that intelligent design is creationism in a new package. Richard Katskee, assistant legal director of Americans United, said the "Pandas" textbook only substituted references to "creationism" with "intelligent design" in more recent editions.

Mr. Thompson said his side would prove that intelligent design was not creationism because it did not mention God or the Bible and never posited the creator's identity.

"It's clear they are two different theories," Mr. Thompson said. "Creationism normally starts with the Holy Scripture, the Book of Genesis, then you develop a scientific theory that supports it, while intelligent design looks at the same kind of empirical data that any scientist looks at," and concludes that complex mechanisms in nature "appear designed because it is designed."

A twist in the case is that a leading proponent of intelligent design, the Discovery Institute, based in Seattle, removed one of its staff members from the Dover school board's witness list and opposed the board's action from the start.

"We thought it was a bad idea because we oppose any effort to require students to learn about intelligent design because we feel that it politicizes what should be a scientific debate," said John G. West, a senior fellow at the institute. However, Professor Behe, a fellow at the institute, is expected to be the board's star witness.

Parents in Dover appear to be evenly split on the issue. School board runoffs are in November, with seven candidates opposing the current policy facing seven incumbents. Among the candidates is Mr. Rehm, the former Dover science teacher and a plaintiff. He said opponents had slammed doors in his face when he campaigned and performed a "monkey dance" when he passed out literature at the recent firemen's fair.

But he agrees with parents on the other side that the fuss over evolution has obscured more pressing educational issues like school financing, low parent involvement and classes that still train students for factory jobs as local plants are closing.

"There's no way to have a winner here," Mr. Rehm said. "The community has already lost, period, by becoming so divided."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

St. Louis school system rejects Scientology's Applied Scholastics program

http://www.pressbox.co.uk/detailed/Education/St._Louis_school_system_rejects_Scientology_s_Applied_Scholastics_program_37342.html

Added: (Sun Sep 25 2005)

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported on September 22 that the district's superintendent of education has decided that teachers will no longer participate in training programs offered by Applied Scholastics International, a front group of the Church of Scientology. Teachers who had attended these programs were uncomfortable with what they saw there, and complained to their union. School Board member Bill Purdy called for an investigation of the program last week, and after visiting the center, expressed his own concerns about all the materials being labeled 'based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard.'

Mr. Purdy was right to be concerned. What Applied Scholastics promotes as secular "study technology" is actually covert instruction in the Scientology religion. The practices of "word clearing" and "clay table demos" come directly from the Technical Bulletins of Dianetics and Scientology, volumes found in every Scientology church. ASI's supposedly secular textbooks teach three versions of word clearing: methods 3, 9, and 7. What they doh't disclose is that methods 1, 2, 4, and 5 involve use of the E-meter, a crude lie detector device that Scientology insists be used only for spiritual counseling by trained Scientology ministers, called "auditors".

Education experts such as Johanna Lemlech at USC, Sidnie Myrick at UCLA, MaryEllen Vogt at Cal State Long Beach, and Victoria Purcell-Gates at Harvard (now at Michigan State) have dismissed study technology as educationally unsound and potentially harmful.

Applied Scholastics' parent organization, the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), is run by members of Scientology's paramilitary Sea Organization. Sea Org members sign billion year contracts promising to serve the church over countless reincarnations. ABLE's regional offices in cities like New York and Clearwater are in Church of Scientology buildings. Furthermore, ABLE and Applied Scholastics are listed as "Scientology-affiliated entities" in the Church of Scientology's filings with the US Internal Revenue Service.

More information about study technology and Applied Scholastics International is available at http://StudyTech.org. The St. Louis school board would do well to visit that web site if ASI presses for reconsideration of their decision. Scientology's "study technology" has no place in the public schools.

Submitted by: StudyTech.org

'Intelligent Design' Debate Underway in Pa. Court

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,170417,00.html

Monday, September 26, 2005

HARRISBURG, Pa. — "Intelligent design" (search) is a religious theory that was inserted in a school district's curriculum with no concern for whether it had scientific underpinnings, a lawyer told a federal judge Monday as a landmark trial got under way.

"They did everything you would do if you wanted to incorporate a religious point of view in science class and cared nothing about its scientific validity," said Eric Rothschild, an attorney representing eight families who are challenging the decision of the Dover Area School District.

But in his opening statement, the school district's attorney defended Dover's policy of requiring ninth-grade students to hear a brief statement about intelligent design before biology classes on evolution.

"This case is about free inquiry in education, not about a religious agenda," argued Patrick Gillen of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. "Dover's modest curriculum change embodies the essence of liberal education." The center, which lobbies for what it sees as the religious freedom of Christians, is defending the school district.

Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial (search), the opening of the trial in federal court marked the latest legal chapter in the debate over the teaching of evolution (search) in public school.

Guest Column: Darwinists oppose open inquiry - for good reason

http://www.amarillo.com/stories/092605/opi_2498013.shtml

Web-posted Monday, September 26, 2005

By Jonathan Witt Opinion

"I am very impressed by the response of the people of Amarillo to the Katrina evacuees. This City immediately pulled together to begin preparations for the multitude of needs these new residents might have. I unfortunately wasn't part of this effort but I did sign up to volunteer with the Red Cross and will send a small check. Thanks to all of you who gave your time and money to serve these victims on behalf of all of us. This is why Amarillo is a great place to live." - From Gary S [Join this discussion]

SEATTLE - President Bush has committed the unforgivable sin.

Should high school science students learn anything other than the airbrushed case for Darwin's theory of evolution?

"You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas," Bush commented to a group of reporters in Texas last month. "The answer is yes."

The horror!

Bush and his fundamentalist cronies, we're told, are trying to drag us back into the dark ages where irrational faith trumps science every time. To avoid the slide into dogmatism, we mustn't have our students thinking too critically about Darwinism, must keep science classes from considering alternative explanations like Intelligent Design.

Even the position of leading design theorists - to simply teach students both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin's theory - must be vigilantly opposed.

But with the president of the United States suggesting that Darwinism should enter the free market of ideas, the guardians of the status quo need other ways to protect Darwinism from competition. One way is to play a definitional game, arguing that Intelligent Design isn't science.

They do this by claiming that design theorists infer design only when we are ignorant about the details of how something arose naturally. Opponents of intelligent design call this an argument from ignorance, something that doesn't belong in science classrooms.

But when we examine Stonehenge, the great prehistoric temple in England, we infer design. Is this an argument from ignorance? No. It's a reasonable inference to the best explanation, based on what we know about the features of designed things.

Consider the cell, a world of intricate circuits, miniaturized motors and enough digital code to fill an encyclopedia. These are to Stonehenge what a Gothic cathedral is to a Lego house. Design theorists study the explanations for these engineering marvels and choose the one that best accounts for the data - intelligent design.

The last thing the Darwin-only crowd wants is an open conversation about the scientific evidence. Instead, they prefer sweeping assertions like "Darwinism underpins all of modern biology." This assertion, while bracing, has the unfortunate characteristic of being false.

Even A.S. Wilkins, a leading evolutionary biologist, concedes this point. "The subject of evolution occupies a special, and paradoxical, place within biology as a whole," he wrote in the journal BioEssays. "While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky's dictum that 'nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution,' most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas. Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one."

Certainly Darwinism looms large in the field of experimental biology, but it's not a cornerstone; it's window dressing. Darwinism comes in after laboratory breakthroughs and gerrymanders Darwinism to fit the results. That's very different from fruitful scientific models that lead to us doing things like putting space shuttles into orbit or inventing microprocessors.

Pundits reassure us that Darwinism has matured, that its critics are behind the times, that modern evolutionary theory is constantly being modified and expanded as new evidence emerges. When a robust theory does this, it generally preserves its elegance. But Darwinism has taken on so many explanatory patches that it can now explain virtually anything that comes down the pike.

That is the behavior of a scientific paradigm in crisis. Think of the many epicycles added to the geocentric model of the universe: the "expanded and modified" model explained a great deal, but it was still wrong.

A final tactic to shut down the open inquiry President Bush supports is to claim that there is no controversy worth mentioning. This isn't surprising. As science historians have shown, vulnerable paradigms sidestep discussion of the evidence by claiming overwhelming consensus and by trying to marginalize the opposition. The no-controversy tactic neatly sidesteps the mounting evidence against Darwinism, but it only works if people ignore the growing list of more than 400 Ph.D. scientists openly skeptical of Darwin's theory, as well as a recent poll by the Louis Finkelstein Institute which found that only 40 percent of doctors accept Darwinism - specifically, the idea that humans evolved through natural processes alone.

Thus we arrive at a model which explains more and more of the behavior we find among the Darwin-only crowd, and explains it in a most elegant fashion: Their paradigm is in crisis. It's an enormous vessel, so it will sink slowly. Her many captains, of course, will go down with the ship.

Jonathan Witt is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and co-author of "A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Science Reveal the Genius of Nature." He is a former resident of Amarillo.

Court test is near for 'intelligent design'

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/living/religion/12732377.htm

Posted on Sun, Sep. 25, 2005

By Paul Nussbaum

Inquirer Staff Writer

America's culture war moves tomorrow to a federal courtroom in Harrisburg, where religion, science and law will collide in a closely watched trial over the teaching of evolution in public schools.

Both sides in this latter-day version of the Scopes "monkey trial" will be playing to national audiences, with the outcome likely to influence how biology is taught far beyond the Dover, Pa., school district that spawned the case.

"We're very, very concerned about it," said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society. "There are national implications, of course. This is part of an ongoing movement to bring religion into the science classroom."

Richard Thompson, chief counsel for the Christian law firm from Michigan that is defending the Dover school board, said of his opponents, "If they lose in Dover, they're worried they will start to see these kind of [efforts] all over the place. And I think they're right."

The trial will spotlight "intelligent design," the latest wrinkle in a debate that has been raging ever since Charles Darwin published his On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Eleven Dover parents filed the federal lawsuit last December to stop the local school board from requiring biology teachers to present "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution. Intelligent design holds that natural selection cannot explain all of the complex developments observed in nature and that an unspecified designer must be involved.

The teaching of evolution has been under increasing attack throughout the country, but Dover is the first district to require that students be told about intelligent design, and that has made the 3,600-student York County district the crucible for this constitutional confrontation.

The non-jury trial, expected to last five or six weeks, will be heard in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

The case goes to court in a contentious national atmosphere, as Americans are deeply divided over the proper role of religion in government and the schools.

The nation's leading science organizations and the vast majority of scientists accept the theory of evolution as the explanation of all living things, and they say the question of a creator is a religious one, unanswerable by science. Intelligent design's critics denounce the concept as simply a more sophisticated form of "creation science," which the Supreme Court has ruled is religiously motivated and cannot be taught in public schools.

But Americans in general, and conservative Christians in particular, are much less convinced.

In a recent survey, 42 percent of those polled - and 70 percent of white, evangelical Protestants - said they believed humans and other living things have existed only in their present form. The survey was conducted in July for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

And a sizeable majority - 64 percent - supported the teaching of creationism along with evolution.

With its combustible combination of religion and science, the Dover trial is inevitably drawing comparisons to the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial" in Dayton, Tenn., that challenged, unsuccessfully, a state law against the teaching of human evolution.

But the leading advocate of intelligent design, the Discovery Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Seattle, is trying to distance itself from the Dover policy, which it fears could lose in court and set back its campaign to "teach the controversy" about evolution.

"If you look at what's going on in this funny little school district... it's a very poorly thought-out policy," said Mark Ryland, vice president of the Discovery Institute and director of its Washington office. "I think they were extremely unwise, both in what they did and in how they did it."

The Discovery Institute does not think adequate teaching materials are available for intelligent design to be taught yet, Ryland said.

Nonetheless, he said, the school board's policy "should be constitutionally sustainable."

The school board, and its lawyers from the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., argue the school district simply wants to make students aware of weaknesses with Darwin's theory of evolution, not inject religion into the science classroom.

"This is not religion versus science, this is science versus science," said Thompson, the chief counsel for the law center, which describes itself as "dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life."

Thompson said: "Is it unconstitutional to mention that Darwin's theory is not a fact? Is it unconstitutional to be critical of Darwin's theory? Is it unconstitutional to make students aware of an alternative theory - intelligent design?"

Barry Lynn, a lawyer and an ordained minister who is the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the Dover policy "was purposely designed to advocate a particular religious viewpoint," which makes it unconstitutional.

Lynn also said that for students to be told that "evolution is true and your silly Bible stories are false would also be unconstitutional." Religion, in either a positive or negative manner, has no place in a science classroom, he said.

The science establishment challenges the argument that there is a scientific controversy about evolution at all, and says the scientific use of the word "theory" has a much different meaning than the conventional use of the word.

"Theory" means "educated guess" to the general public, Leshner said - but, in science, "theory" means a logical, tested, well-supported explanation for a great variety of facts. Other widely accepted scientific theories include atomic theory and the theory of gravity.

"Evolution is not a controversial theory in the scientific community," Leshner said.

Churches and religious groups are divided on the question, with conservative groups more likely to support the school board.

The American Scientific Affiliation, an organization of scientists who are Christians, does not support or oppose intelligent design, said executive director Randall Isaac. He said a false choice had been created in the debate over evolution, making it seem that one cannot believe both in evolution and in God.

"You don't have to pick between one or the other," Isaac said. "Evolution is very important to be taught in the schools. But we really need to ensure that a public school doesn't denigrate anyone's religion."

Lynn, of Americans for Separation of Church and State, predicted the Dover case "will prove to be the death knell for intelligent design. This will be the last case, and it will put an end to intelligent design in public schools."

Ryland, of the Discovery Institute, said "there is no doubt that Darwin's theory is creaking and tottering and will implode soon." But he acknowledged that, in the Dover case, the "issues are being raised in ways we wish they hadn't been."

If the court rules against the school board, he said, "it will be a negative precedent... and other legislative bodies will recognize they have to be careful about how they go about this."

'Keep An Open Mind'

Text of the statement on intelligent design that Dover Area High School administrators are reading to students at the start of biology lessons on evolution:

"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

"Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

"Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

"With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments."

ONLINE EXTRA

To read documents in the case, go to the U.S. District Court Web site through http://go.philly.com/evolution

Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.


Current News  News Back Issues


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