NTS LogoSkeptical News for 22 October 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Saturday, October 22, 2005

500 Years Ago, Geocentrism & Astrology Would have Fit NAS definition of "Theory"!

http://www.evolutionnews.org/index.php?title=500_years_ago_geocentrism_aamp_astrology&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

Posted By: Casey LUSKIN @ 17:05:11, Categories: CSC News & Views

I'll make one unnecessarily obvious point: Michael Behe, I, and everybody else at Discovery believe that geocentrism and astrology are 100% wrong.

Michael Behe today concluded his testimony at the Dover Trial. Behe did a great job of making his views excruciatingly clear to the Court and fending off attacks during cross-examination .

Unfortunately, one article misleads readers by wrongly insinuating that Behe somehow endorsed astrology as a scientific theory. Since these false allegations are in print, we will respond to them here. (I'll make one unnecessarily obvious point: Michael Behe, I, and everybody else at Discovery believe that geocentrism and astrology are 100% wrong.)

The tilted article is titled "Astrology is scientific theory, courtroom told" and it alleges the following

"Astrology would be considered a scientific theory if judged by the same criteria used by a well-known advocate of Intelligent Design to justify his claim that ID is science, a landmark US trial heard on Tuesday. Under cross examination, ID proponent Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, admitted his definition of "theory" was so broad it would also include astrology.

This unqualified statement does no justice to Behe's views (which include Behe's complete rejection of astrological explanations). Let's now return to reality.

The line of questions came when Eric Rothschild, counsel for the plaintiffs, asked Behe about the definition of the term "theory." Behe explained that the National Academy of Science's (NAS) definition of a theory is not one typically used by scientists. The NAS defines "theory" as:

"In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, and tested hypotheses. The contention that evolution should be taught as "theory, not as fact" confuses the common use of these words through the accumulation of evidence. Rather, theories are the end points of science. They are understandings that develop from extensive observation, experimentation, and creative reflection. They incorporate a large body of scientific facts, laws, tested hypotheses, and logical inferences."

(Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, 2nd Ed. (1999), pg. 2)

This definition does not actually represent how scientists usually use the word in their technical writing. To witness this fact, perform a PubMed search for the phrase "new theory" (go to pub med and type " "new theory" " [leave in the double quotes]) and you'll find hundreds of hits showing scientists using the word "theory" to describe a "new" idea which can explain a lot of things, but may not yet be "well-substantiated" and may not yet enjoy evidentiary support from many scientific studies.

Many scientists who have used the phrase "new theory" use the term based upon the new findings of a single study. The phrase "new theory" is antithetical to the idea of "extensive observation, experimentation, and creative reflection" and the phrase should not exist in scientific literature if the NAS is correct in its definition.

Nonetheless, let's explore the implications of the NAS's definition.

About 500 years ago, most "scientists" believed (albeit incorrectly) that the Earth was the center of the solar system. Had you asked an early astronomer in the year 1500 if the geocentric model of the solar system was "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, and tested hypotheses ... that develop[ed] from extensive observation, experimentation, and creative reflection ... [and] incorporate[s] a large body of scientific facts, laws, tested hypotheses, and logical inferences" she would have probably told you YES!

Put the NAS on the witness stand, and they would admit that 500 years ago, some people would have said that geocentrism qualified under their definition of "theory." In fact, 500 years ago, many of these same people would have put "astrology" under the NAS definition (note: we find this incredible today, but in his time, it was not scandalous that Newton was an astrologer ). Today we know both astrology and geocentrism are totally wrong, and so nobody wants them taught as science in school.

But how does Behe define a scientific theory? Behe's testimony referenced his definition from a paper he authored in Philosophy and Biology:

"Without getting into the difficult problem of trying to define science, I will just say that I think any explanation which rests wholly on empirical evidence and basic logic deserves the appellation 'scientific'.8"

[Footnote] "8 On the other hand, if an explanation depends critically on specific tenets of a particular faith, such as the Trinity or Incarnation, or on sacred texts, then that of course is not a scientific explanation."

(Behe M.J., "Reply to my critics: A response to reviews of Darwin's Black Box: The biochemical challenge to evolution," Biology and Philosophy, 16 (5): 685-709, Nov, 2001)

Plaintiffs' attorney tried to twist Behe's statements into making it appear that Behe believed that astrology was a scientific theory. Behe did say that 500 years or so ago, when people knew much much less about the world and were trying to explain things, they had an idea that things on earth might have been influenced by things on stars. This was a historical fact. But Behe made it clear that today, astrology is known to be incorrect. This is just like phlogiston theory of burning--people once thought it was true, and once thought it was an empirically-based scientific theory, but today it would not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

The problem with astrology is not that it could have fit the NAS or Behe's definition of science 500 years ago. The problem is that it is not supported by the evidence. That is why, unlike ID, no serious scientists are advocating astrology as a good theory which could be presented to students in science classrooms. Nor do serious academics reference the peer-reviewed scientific literature in support of astrology, as serious scientists do for ID.

Nonetheless, under the NAS's defintion, a "theory" is in the eye of the beholder. And there are many scientists, like Behe, who believe that intelligent design is a "well-substantiated explanation." Perhaps the NAS might want to try finding a new definition of "theory" which better excludes ID.

First European Conference on Intelligent Design Will Feature Scientists Presenting Evidence for Design From Biology, Paleontology and Astrophysics

http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/10-19-2005/0004173331&EDATE=

SEATTLE, Oct. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- The theory of intelligent design will have its first major European showing at a international, scientific conference in Prague, Czech Republic next Saturday, October 21. Promoters of the conference -- Darwin and Design: A Challenge for 21st Century Science (http://www.darwinanddesign.org) -- say that attendance at the Congress Centrum in Prague could reach 1,000 attendees, including scientists from Europe and the United States, teachers, students and the general public.

"The conference will clearly demonstrate that the theory of intelligent design is based upon scientific evidence and discoveries in fields such as biochemistry, molecular biology, paleontology and astrophysics," said speaker Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, himself an Oxford educated philosopher of science. "Many in Europe know intelligent design and the case against Darwin's theory of evolution only through inaccurate accounts they have received from the media, and this conference will help educate them on what intelligent design is really about." Discovery Institute is home to many of the leading scientists and scholars researching the theory of intelligent design. Intelligent design holds that an intelligent cause rather than an unguided process such as natural selection can best explain certain features of the universe and living things. Design scientists do not base their theory on religious authority, but instead on scientific evidences and well-established principles of scientific reasoning. They do not support the creationist view that the Earth is only 6,000 or so years old.

Charles Thaxton, a biochemist who has taught at Charles University in Prague, and a fellow of the Discovery Institute, is the chief organizer of the conference. Thaxton wrote a seminal book on the theory of intelligent design titled, "The Mystery of Life's Origins" in 1984. In addition to Meyer, Thaxton has arranged for notable European scientist Cees Dekker, a biophysics professor at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands, and John Lennox, an Oxford mathematician, to speak, along with Discovery Institute senior fellows David Berlinski (author of Infinite Ascent, Tour of the Calculus and Advent of the Algorithm), biochemist Michael Behe and biologist Jonathan Wells.

Representatives of Christoph Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna, Austria will attend the conference. Cardinal Schonborn, former lead editor of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, has recently challenged claims of Darwinists that the Catholic Church accepts the broad anti-design implications drawn by proponents of Darwin's theory.

For more information please visit the conference website at http://www.darwinanddesign.org.

SOURCE Discovery Institute
Web Site: http://www.discovery.org

Issuers of news releases and not PR Newswire are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.
Terms and conditions, including restrictions on redistribution, apply.
Copyright © 1996-2005 PR Newswire Association LLC.
A United Business Media company.

Thousands of Scientists Sign Petition Opposing the Teaching of Intelligent Design as Science

http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/10-20-2005/0004173856&EDATE=

No Debate Among Scientists - Regardless of Faith, Intelligent Design Is Not Science

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Archaeologist R. Joe Brandon has organized a massive, four-day online campaign in the scientific community in response to the Discovery Institute's ongoing efforts to include Intelligent Design content in public school science classes. The petition, at http://www.ShovelBums.org, was circulated between September 28th and October 1st to scientists trained in evolutionary theory and gave them an opportunity to publicly state that Intelligent Design should not be taught in public schools within the science curriculum. The results were overwhelming -- 7,733 signatories, more than half of whom are scientists with Ph.Ds. "I organized this project as a response to the Discovery Institute's four-year petition initiative which gathered only 400 scientist signatures opposing evolution and promoting Intelligent Design as a scientific theory," said Brandon. "During my short, four-day experiment, I received about 20 times as many signatures at a rate that was 697,000 percent higher than what Discovery Institute can claim." Scientists who signed the petition, including 21 National Academy of Science members, nine MacArthur "genius" awardees, and a Nobel laureate, object to efforts to place Intelligent Design on par with scientific theory, Brandon said. Signatory Dr. Steve Brill of Rutgers University agrees. "To be called a scientific theory, Intelligent Design must be at the very least, disprovable. Since there is no way for Intelligent Design to be disproved, it fails the simplest test of scientific theory."

Michael Behe, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and a professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University, is often at the center of the controversy pushing for ID's acceptance. Yet, twenty of his peers at Lehigh University remarked collectively that "As Michael J. Behe's faculty colleagues ... we lend our voices to the chorus of nearly all scientists who conclude that 'Intelligent Design' is not a scientific theory, but rather a loosely veiled attempt to explain natural phenomena by invoking the concept of a supernatural entity. Intelligent Design is not a scientific alternative to Darwinian evolution and has no place in the biology classroom."

The Discovery Institute introduced a "Friend of the Court" brief in the ongoing Kitzmiller v. Dover case on October 3rd in an attempt to divert attention from the fact that scientists agree that there is no scientific theory in Intelligent Design. The brief, signed by a comparatively scant 85 scientists, asserts that "the nature of science is not a question to be decided by the courts." Signatory and biologist Mark Siddall of the American Museum of Natural History replied, "This is not a fight about what the nature of science is. Scientists have already determined that. It's a fight about what our daughters and sons will be taught is the nature of science."

Siddall, who helped Brandon analyze the massive response to the petition, added, "R. Joe's efforts elicited an overwhelming response from the scientific community -- one that cut across lines of faith as deeply as it did across fields of scientific study."

Shovel Bums LLC, http://www.shovelbums.org, is a free service for all levels of archaeology and Cultural Resources Management (CRM) employment. This 8,500 professional member community was founded in 1999 by R. Joe Brandon and has grown by word of mouth to be the largest archaeology organization in the world.

SOURCE Shovel Bums LLC
Web Site: http://www.shovelbums.org

Issuers of news releases and not PR Newswire are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content. Terms and conditions, including restrictions on redistribution, apply.
Copyright © 1996-2005 PR Newswire Association LLC.
A United Business Media company.

'Design' proponents look beyond Dover

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/states/pennsylvania/12951350.htm

Posted on Thu, Oct. 20, 2005

Fearing a loss by the school board could hurt their cause, the movement's key backers ask judge for a narrow ruling.

By Paul Nussbaum

Inquirer Staff Writer

Can the intelligent-design movement survive if the Dover, Pa., school board loses its court battle to offer the concept as an alternative to evolution?

Fearing that the Dover board is on thin ice legally, the leading backers of intelligent design have been trying to distance themselves from the case, while maintaining that their idea is sound. And this week, the Discovery Institute, the Seattle think tank that promotes intelligent design, asked the federal judge in the case to save it even if he rules against Dover.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, the Discovery Institute argued the concept could pass constitutional muster even if the school board's action doesn't.

"We're afraid a judge could say, 'Well, this policy is unconstitutional,' and the conclusion people would draw is that it's unconstitutional to teach anything about intelligent design," said David DeWolf, a law professor who filed the Discovery Institute brief on Monday.

Just so, said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"Discovery Institute invented this snake oil called intelligent design, and now they've found that Dover is really a bad salesman," Lynn said. He predicted that a ruling against Dover "will be viewed, when history looks back at it, as the death knell of intelligent design."

The Dover school board last year required that a statement be read to high school biology students, telling them there are weaknesses with evolutionary theory and introducing them to intelligent design as an alternative. Eleven parents sued, contending that amounted to teaching creationism, which the Supreme Court has ruled is an unconstitutional intrusion of religion into public education.

Some of the school board members who supported the curriculum change allegedly made statements endorsing Christianity during their debate. Attorneys for the parents have argued the board was promoting a particular religious viewpoint - Christianity - with its action.

In its court filing, the Discovery Institute said that "whatever the merits and history of [the school board] policy, [Discovery] urges the court to reject plaintiffs' claim that teaching students about the theory of intelligent design necessarily violates the Establishment Clause.

"If the court strikes down [school board] policy, [Discovery] urges the court to fashion relief that does not impugn the constitutionality of teaching about intelligent design, since policies permitting such instruction might reflect valid secular purposes and could enhance religious neutrality."

Lawyers for the parents asked the court Tuesday not to accept the Discovery Institute filing. It was an improper attempt to get the institute's views into the case without subjecting their officials to cross-examination, the parents' lawyers said.

The Discovery Institute has been leery of the Dover policy since the beginning. It urged the Dover board not to adopt the policy, and it prompted several prominent intelligent-design advocates to withdraw as defense witnesses in the case.

"We told them early on ... that there are things about this policy that are going to make you vulnerable on this," DeWolf said yesterday.

The institute urged the court not to equate intelligent design with religion, but said it took no position on whether the Dover board adopted its policy for religious reasons.

"We're trying to separate those two questions," DeWolf said. "We're not really privy to what happened in Dover."

The case, in federal district court in Harrisburg, is in its fourth week, with the school board lawyers beginning to present their case.

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

We see dead people?

http://www.salon.com/books/int/2005/10/21/roach/print.html

In a follow-up to her bestselling "Stiff," Mary Roach searches for proof of the afterlife -- and finds some startling (and scary) evidence.
By Priya Jain

Oct. 21, 2005 | To be polite about it, Mary Roach has a rather eccentric sense of curiosity. When she was a columnist for Salon, the advent of Thanksgiving led her to investigate how much a human stomach could hold before it burst. That column, as well as one on a human crash-test dummy, inspired her first book, which looked at the odd ways science puts your donated remains to use (like seeing how much food it takes to burst a stomach). While "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" was climbing the bestseller lists (and even made a cameo on "Six Feet Under"), Roach started to wonder about what happened after death to that other part of us: the intangible, undonatable part -- the consciousness, or the soul.

"Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife" is Roach's answer to that question, or rather it's her exhibit of the various conclusions reached by scientists trying to determine whether part of us lives after our bodies give out. There are no Ouija boards here (well, maybe a couple). Instead, Roach relies on a string of men in lab coats -- the lucky ones armed with high-tech scales and sensors and sound equipment, the not-so-fortunate at least possessing a relentless set of questions and an unshakable conviction that the scientific method can suss out the truth on anything, even that which normally belongs to the realm of religion and mysticism.

Take, for example, Duncan Macdougall, a respected surgeon in turn-of- the-century Massachusetts. In 1901, he weighed consumptives on a giant scale, hoping to prove that they'd become lighter at the moment of death and that, therefore, the soul existed and had weight (that's right: he concluded it to be 21 grams). Today, Dr. Kirti S. Rawat travels around India investigating cases of reincarnation, while Gary Schwartz, a psychology professor at the University of Arizona, performs lab experiments with mediums.

As with "Stiff," Roach brings to "Spook" a lightness and a sense of humor that, happily, smooth the morbid edges of the proceedings she describes: Before zooming in on Schwartz, she takes us on a hilarious romp through the history of mediumship and ectoplasm -- the white stuff that emanated from a medium during a séance, often from her vagina, and that, disgustingly enough, was almost certainly rolled-up cheesecloth or bits of sheep lung. It also helps that Roach's curiosity is boundless (evident in the abundant tangential footnotes) and she's willing to declare, even to the experts she's talking to, that she knows absolutely nothing about either this afterlife business or that science stuff. "My ignorance is not merely deep, it is broad; it is a vast ocean that takes in chemistry, physics, information theory, thermodynamics, all the many things a modern soul theorist must know," she writes. This ignorance proves to be a wonderful asset when she sits down with a thermodynamics expert and wills him to can the wonky jargon and to simply explain, in lay terms, what his field has to say about the soul.

But the most refreshing thing about "Spook" is that Roach herself is a skeptic, guiding a skeptic's tour. "This is a book for people who would like very much to believe in a soul and in an afterlife to hang around in, but who have trouble accepting these things on faith," she writes. What evidence she does come across, therefore, becomes all the more compelling. In Gary Schwartz's laboratory, she talks to Allison DuBois, the medium on whose life the television series "Medium" is based. DuBois, supposedly communing with Roach's dead mother, says a lot of vague and unlikely things, until she mentions an hourglass in connection with Roach's brother -- who, unbeknownst to DuBois, collects hourglasses. How can science explain that? I talked with Roach, 46, who lives in Oakland, Calif., by phone about wanting to believe in the soul, the difficulty of finding scientific proof, and the weird sexuality of séances. We even swapped a few ghost stories.

How did you choose the researchers and scientists you did for this book?

It was easy. Because the theme was people trying to prove that there's evidence for an afterlife or a soul, I wasn't just interested in investigations of near-death experience or religious theories of the afterlife, so it had to be somebody who was actively engaged in trying to get evidence. There are very few people engaged in this pursuit these days, so it was a scramble to even fill the book.

You start with an investigation on reincarnation. It's the only non- Western research in the book, and the only belief integral to a religion. Did you look at other parts of the world?

I did. I so wanted to find someone doing research into, for example, a Muslim type of afterlife. I would have loved it if I could have found anyone out there in the world. In my opinion, a chapter based on a foreign country is always more interesting. So I wasn't limiting it by choice: These were the only people I could find doing any research at all. Scotland has a couple; there's someone in the Netherlands. I didn't find anyone else in the Asian subcontinent; I didn't find anyone in South America or Russia.

Do you know why that might be?

I think it has to do with the difficulty of getting funding. It's hard enough in the United States for something perceived as fringy and nonessential. Dr. Rawat was self-funded. I actually covered his expenses when we traveled, which in India is not a terrific burden. Also, I think a lot of cultures don't see this as something that's in question. Western culture has such a thriving scientific community, and we turn to science for the answers to everything, even things that belong possibly in the realm of theology and religion. So possibly it seems preposterous to spend time and money in other cultures to see if there is an afterlife when most people kind of accept it.

And from your book I gather that even here it's not exactly easy to get funding. You have a great quote from Gerry Nahum [a professor at Duke University School of Medicine who wants to try weighing the soul] saying, "People either think they already know the answer and don't want any external validation, or they think it's impossible to know the answer." I would think that some theologians would consider this line of inquiry dangerous.

Gerry Nahum went to the Catholic Church at one point to try to get funding. And not only did they not give him any money, they discouraged him, saying he might "open a window that might not be closed after opening," that he might cross into this dark schism. They really seemed to think he was mucking around where he shouldn't be and that it was a dangerous endeavor.

You don't seem like a very superstitious person, but there must have been times when you were tempted to give in to belief, or that all this thinking and reading about the paranormal got to you when, say, the floorboards creaked at 3 in the morning.

I have had times like that even before I started doing this work. There was this story in "Spook" -- we took it out because it was not that gripping -- but I used to live in a house that was supposedly haunted. And one time I came into the kitchen and there was in the middle of the table, in the morning, this little Valentine's Day [candy] heart. You know, the ones that are printed. It said "No use" -- which is kind of a downer for a Valentine's Day message. And I thought that was weird because the bowl of hearts was in the other room. I asked my boyfriend at the time, and he didn't know anything about it. I decided it was the lady who died in the house and who, according to the upstairs neighbors, would sometimes make the doors open and shut.

Later when I was working on "Spook," I was going to include this story and I thought, "Duh, David put the heart on the table. Why did this not occur to me?" because we broke up a few months later. At the time I couldn't entertain the thought that he put the heart on the table. And I loved thinking we had a ghost. The postscript is that I e-mailed David years later, when I was working on "Spook," and he said he did not put the heart on the table. So it remains a mystery.

I bet you're getting a lot of people challenging you with their own ghost stories.

Not challenging, just coming up to me and telling me about them. It's begun to seem like everyone has either a ghost story, an out-of-body experience or some amazing session with a medium.

I have one for you: When I was 15 or 16, I spent a summer at a university in Gainesville, Georgia, and the girl's dormitory was thought to be haunted by a ghost named Agnes, a former student who had died in one of the rooms. My roommate and I were bickering one night about who was going to get out of bed to turn off the overhead light, and suddenly the light went out. I got up to check, and the switch had actually been flipped.

Get out! Hmm. These stories all lead me to think, wow, is the afterlife hanging around and occasionally moving things, for eternity? I don't know how much I'm looking forward to this!

One of my favorite arguments in the book comes from Norman Ford, author of "When Did I Begin?" who says that ensoulment -- the moment the soul enters the body -- has to happen at least 14 days after conception, because before then identical twinning is possible, and if the zygote were ensouled before it split, each twin would end up with only half a soul. You wisely skirt the political issues at stake, but I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if the moment of ensoulment were to be discovered.

Well yeah, if it turned out to be two weeks, would we then have justification for guilt-free abortions? Would the religious right leave us alone for two weeks at least? His book was the best that I'd found, but I also liked that he was a Catholic priest, since that means no one can come down on me for dashing Catholic beliefs. But yes, originally I went a little into the abortion debate, but I eventually decided that it was A) off topic and B) not worth reading through the e-mails I was going to get.

Probably a good idea. I also wanted to ask you about the ectoplasm chapter. Did you ever discover why mediums tended to be women?

No, and actually there are quite a few male mediums. There were the Schneider brothers, there was [Daniel Dunglas] Home, there's the guy who's featured at the Met now in the exhibit on occult photography. Where they stored their ectoplasm I'm not sure. Rudi Schneider would ejaculate during his séances, but I don't think he tried to pass it off as ectoplasm, the semen that is. But why were there so many women? Some of the scientists who got really involved in it, there was sort of a weird thing between them and the mediums. There was some weird sexual thing going on. Plus all of the vaginal inspections. There was some Victorian repressed sexuality coming into play.

Some of the trickiest, most successful mediums were men. Home -- I don't think they ever figured out some of the things he did. He really stumped the experts. Supposedly he went out a window and came in the window below. He was either an amazing magician or some kind of legitimate ghost, I don't know what the heck. He was a bizarre case. But he didn't mess with ectoplasm so I didn't cover him.

The ectoplasm emanating from the vaginal canal is such an odd sexual streak in this story, because talk of spirituality and the afterlife tends to be so sexless.

And humorless. Séances started in the Victorian era. Some of the descriptions of these mediums when they would go into trances, it was this kind of ecstatic, orgasmic -- they would be moaning and twitching around in their chairs -- it was incredibly sexual stuff. And you see photographs of these men in a séance circle intently staring at these women who are writhing and moaning.

But then you have a University of Arizona researcher questioning spirits through mediums and finding a general agreement that there's no sex in the afterlife.

Yeah, it didn't seem to me like a nonstop party.

Also, as you note in the book, the dead tend to tell these mediums very dull, mundane things -- if mediums were faking, why wouldn't they be more creative?

That's a good question. Lots of the reports that come through mediums, if you have a medium who does not have a gift and is just plying the trade, are vague. "I see a woman with gray hair," "I see a cat in the window," "I see a ring on someone's finger." They're never answering the question, "Hey, what are you doing up there? What's it like?" They're never getting at that. And I think it's a huge failing in the world of mediumship. [Laughs.] That thing Allison DuBois said about my brother was very specific and kind of amazing. But it led me to think, OK so this is my mother coming through to me. Why are we talking about my brother's hourglass collection? Why would this be what she chooses to communicate? It was so frustrating. If this were some message from my dead mother, it sure is a trivial and non- sequiturial thing to throw at me!

That was such a moving scene in the book. You had been so skeptical, and then there was this very personal moment you couldn't explain away. I wonder how you feel about it now, since a little more time has passed.

I say in the book that I was startled and impressed. But there were so many other things she said that were vague or didn't fit my mother at all. So I was trying to reconcile the two and the best I could come up with is that if mediums are tuned some ways that others aren't, it's almost sort of like a radio receiver, and most of the time you're just getting static, but every now and then something would come through. If that were the case, it would be frustrating to convince someone, because so much of what you're getting is wrong, but every now and then you'd hit a home run. So some people focus on the home run and some people focus on the things that were wrong. I could almost imagine that scenario being real.

Later in the book you posit that, "if paranormal insights occur rarely, and largely outside of voluntary control, then perhaps it makes sense to focus on isolated moments" and research that's qualitative as opposed to quantitative. If psychic ability is such a rare thing and outside of voluntary control, can science really say anything about it at all?

Exactly. It's very frustrating to research it. There is a study at Duke University of the out-of-body experience guy [Stuart Harary], and he was supposed to travel outside his body and go into this other room, and there were people in there who were supposed to sense his presence. Already it's a maddeningly bizarre experimental setup. But what happened is the official sensors didn't get it right any more than chance, but other people who were just hanging around, they were dead on accurate [about sensing Harary's presence when he claimed to have left his body]. They kept getting it right, but they weren't the ones whose data mattered. So I can just imagine the experimenter going, "Oh shit, why didn't we have those two in there? What do I do now?"

What I take to be the conclusion of your book is that there really is no way to prove or disprove this, and what it ultimately comes down to is belief. For all the scientific explanations available on a phenomenon, as you write, "For those who believe in an afterlife, the most straightforward explanation for hearing your dead dad is that you're hearing your dead dad's spirit."

Right, that seems like a simple explanation. But if you don't buy that a spirit can communicate with a memory, with a brain, then it seems to you incredibly far-fetched how this blob of energy transmits thoughts into your head, or even has thoughts.

And again, I'm thinking in terms of contemporary politics, in this case the debate over evolution. It seems like that's an example of a fundamental difference between faith-based and science-based people that cannot be bridged.

I think that people come down on one side or the other of the debate, and it doesn't really matter what you throw at them. If that University of Virginia study [in which a researcher set a laptop near the ceiling so that if patients claimed to have an out-of-body experience, he could ask them what image was on the screen], if somebody did see an image on that computer on the ceiling, I don't think you would change the mind of any skeptic out there. I think they would come up with a reason why the study is flawed. People are devoted to their convictions. And the only thing that changes a person's mind is personal experience, or your best friend's personal experience. I just don't think any of these studies are going to change people's minds.

I'm on your side in the need for proof to believe, and you had some statistics in your book that there's something around 5 percent of us in this country; everyone else is on one side or the other.

I know, which doesn't bode well for my book sales. Having alienated everyone on either side, Mary Roach tries to sell her book to the five people out there! I think everyone who tries to write about this thinks they're an unbiased, neutral observer. I tend to think of myself as the only person standing here in the middle, but Gary Schwartz thinks of himself that way, and everyone I spoke to thinks of themselves that way. But if someone has a Ph.D. and a background in quantum mechanics, I'll listen to them. I take them more seriously than someone who doesn't have a degree. So that's a bias of sorts.

Something else that struck a chord with me: When you're at Arthur Findlay College doing a three-day course in mediumship, you write, "There are moments, listening to the conversations going on around me, when I feel I am going to lose my mind. Earlier today, I heard someone say the words, 'I felt at one with the divine source of creation.'" I have the same problem with spiritual talk. Do you think it would be easier to believe if the language of belief were more sophisticated?

Yes! I am so put off by the way people write first-person experiential pieces about trips to the afterlife, or angels. The way that they write about it makes them sound so naive. Sometimes when I'm talking about this book I'll have to use a term like "energy field," and I feel really embarrassed. I'm much more comfortable with the language of quantum mechanics. Negentropy, I don't even understand what that is, but I'm comfortable saying "negentropy" and I'm not comfortable saying "energy fields." It's very much tied up with language.

Which is one of the reasons why I found Gerry Nahum's research so fascinating, because he was talking about proving the existence of the soul using the first law of thermodynamics.

Yeah, and if energy is neither created nor destroyed, what he's saying makes perfect sense, that this energy should persist. But whether or not it should persist as a being that can fly around the room and communicate with you, that's something else entirely. What would it be like to be that energy? That's the question nobody can really answer. But it just seemed sort of evident when he talked about it that the energy of your consciousness is going to persist. It has to. I wish I had a background in quantum mechanics, because I think that if one day we do have an answer that's where it will come from.

And yet, oddly, the linchpin of your investigation is an insight into belief. At the beginning of the book, you're in India and watching a father hold a boy who he believes is the reincarnation of his dead son, and you write, "If believing it eases the grief he feels, then this is what matters."

I think probably most people have at the same time a healthy skepticism for reincarnation, or mediumship, but would really love for it to be true and are comfortable buying into some of it because it serves them in some way or another -- either it's entertaining or it's nice to know that your mom or dad is still around. I think it's possible to believe and disbelieve at the same time. I definitely think it's possible to apply critical thinking and be skeptical and at the same time ignore critical thinking and believe in a ghost in your house. No one can study love in the laboratory, or even human memory -- OK, we understand the parts of the brain connected with memory, but to me the fact that you can even call up an image from 10 years ago, and, boom, there it is in front of your eyes, in your head, that'll never be fully explained to me. Or dreams -- even though we have an explanation, it seems like a bizarre mystery.

This story has been corrected since it was originally published.

-- By Priya Jain

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Dover policy 'difficult' to defend

http://www.pennlive.com/news/patriotnews/index.ssf?/base/news/1129972824306410.xml&coll=1

School district lawyer cited perceived religious basis
Saturday, October 22, 2005 BY BILL SULON
Of The Patriot-News

Dover Area School District's lawyer warned Superintendent Richard Nilsen last year that it would be difficult to successfully defend a policy on intelligent design because of the perception "it was initiated for religious reasons."

District Solicitor Stephen Russell sent the warning by e-mail to Nilsen on Aug. 27, 2004, after a controversy-ridden summer in which some school board members lobbied to have intelligent design mentioned as an alternative to evolution in ninth-grade science class.

Two months later, the board adopted a policy requiring that a statement on intelligent design be read to the students. The district is in federal court, trying to defend itself in a First Amendment trial over the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

Proponents of intelligent design maintain that aspects of the universe are too complex to be explained by evolution alone and that they might be the work of an intelligent designer. Critics, including experts in biology, paleontology, philosophy and theology who have testified in the Dover trial, call intelligent design inherently religious and a special form of creationism.

Russell's e-mail to Nilsen, disclosed yesterday in U.S. Middle District Court, adds to mounting testimony presented over the past three weeks that the board was aware of the religious implications of the policy at the time it was adopted.

Russell wrote of the challenges facing the board if it were to adopt the policy in light of references made to religion and creationism. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that creation science could not be taught in public schools.

The district policy requires that a statement on intelligent design be read to students at the start of a unit on evolution. The four-paragraph statement describes evolution as a theory with "gaps," calls intelligent design an alternative theory and refers students to the pro-intelligent design book "Of Pandas and People." Students can leave the class while the statement is read.

That ability to opt out does not make the district's case easier, according to Russell's e-mail to Nilsen.

"It may be very difficult to win the case," Russell wrote. "I say this because one of the common themes in some of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, especially dealing with silent meditation, is that even though something is voluntary, it still causes a problem because the practice, whatever it may be, was initiated for religious reasons."

Russell added, "My concern for Dover is that in the last several years, there has been a lot of discussion, news print, etc., for putting religion back in the schools. In my mind, this would add weight to a lawsuit seeking to enjoin whatever the practice might be."

At school board meetings in June 2004, school board member William Buckingham defended the need for changing the science curriculum to allow for intelligent design by saying, "Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross" and "can't someone take a stand for him," according to witnesses.

Another school board member, Alan Bonsell, had spoken of the need for creationism to be taught "50-50" with evolution and for prayer to be brought into school, witnesses testified. And Nilsen said he wrote that Bonsell mentioned his interest in "creationism" at two district retreats, in 2002 and 2003, but testified he could not remember what Bonsell said about creationism.

Russell wrote that he came to his conclusion about legal liability, in part, after talking with Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, a nonprofit Christian firm that the district would later retain to defend itself in the lawsuit.

In his e-mail, Russell said the Thomas More representatives "refer to the creationism issue as 'intelligent design.'"

Nilsen acknowledged that the district adopted the policy on intelligent design despite misgivings by Russell and teachers in the science department, who also expressed concern over the legal liability of mentioning intelligent design. The science teachers have refused to read the statement to the students, in part because they do not view intelligent design as science.

Nilsen testified he believes intelligent design is science but that a reference in "Pandas," in which intelligent design is defined as life beginning abruptly "through an intelligent agency," is an example of creationism.

BILL SULON: 255-8144 or bsulon@patriot-news.com

'Intelligent design' plaintiffs are over-reacting

http://www.mcall.com/news/opinion/all-columnoct22,0,949780.column?coll=all-newsopinion-hed

In pondering the federal trial involving 11 parents, the ACLU, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State vs. the Dover Area School Board, I have to wonder where the plaintiffs were when I was studying introductory biology at my state-sponsored community college just over a decade ago. Chapter I of our general biology textbook introduced us to the concept of ''intelligent design'' and a few other possible theories even as we embarked on the study of Darwin's theory of evolution.

There were no protests, no lawsuits, and no federal trials, though ours was a community college supported by state and federal tax dollars and funds from sponsoring Lehigh Valley school districts. To tell the truth, among all the controversy and hype over the developing battle between evolutionists and the encroaching intelligent design miscreants, the course itself was a bit anticlimactic. Studying Darwin's theory of evolution back then, preceded by the advice of the text's authors and our professor on the theory of intelligent design, was uncontroversial, which makes Dover's present controversy seem like ''much ado about nothing.''

Personally, I'm firmly in the intelligent design camp, and was so before attending that freshman biology class. Thus, it fascinated me to confirm, through scientific study, that there was no dilemma whatsoever balancing my reasoned consideration of intelligent design and studying traditional evolution theory. I could see quite plainly that there are Grand Canyon-sized gaps in the theory of evolution that require leaps of faith to accept its inferences.

Despite all the advances in scientific understanding and technology in a century and a half since ''Origin of the Species,'' Darwin's theory remains plausible, yet short of being proved. Rather than discourage my leanings toward intelligent design, studying the theory of evolution and the scientific complexities evident in the natural world did nothing but crystallize the inferences I observed, supporting the prospect of intelligent design evident in nature.

When some in the scientific community object to even mouthing the words ''intelligent design'' anywhere near a science classroom, I've got to shrug my shoulders and ask, ''Where's the beef?'' According to press reports, Eugenie Scott, executive director of the Center for Science Education, a supporter of the Dover lawsuit, states the goal of the plaintiffs is to show that the schools' decision to include an intelligent design statement in the science curriculum is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. To me, that goal is an unreachable stretch.

Dover's statement does several things in its effort to acknowledge the prospect of intelligent design. First, it states that in reference to Darwinian evolution, ''Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence.'' It also states, ''Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view.'' Both of these elements match my experiences in BIO 110 at my local community college. Then, Dover's statement refers students to ''Of Pandas and People,'' a supplementary text ''available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.''

I have not never read ''Of Pandas and People,'' so I have no basis to comment on either its scientific validity or proselytizing potential. However, it seems that if Dover's intelligent design statement violates the U.S. Constitution through inferences to the existence of an intelligent designer, then official acknowledgments of our nation's Declaration of Independence, preambled by references to the ''Laws of Nature and of Nature's God'' and to people being ''endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,'' should be a constitutional outrage by comparison.

In my view, the plaintiffs in the Dover case look a whole lot like the prosecutors in the ''monkey'' trial of Tennessee v. Scopes back in 1925. Dover's plaintiffs, like the Scopes prosecutors, represent a traditionalistic community gripped with irrational fears in realizing the unquestioned reign of their valued beliefs is threatened by an invasion of questioning intellect. In both cases, traditionalistic educators, both then and now, show an obsession with teaching their students what to think, while spurning a duty to teach them how to think. In either case, it's a disservice.

Donald Hoffman is a freelance columnist living in Fountain Hill. His e-mail address is bruno50287@enter.net

Scientology: Fact or fiction?

http://www.startribune.com/stories/614/5682460.html

Herón Márquez, Star Tribune
October 22, 2005

When driving, Cathy Brown says she can make red lights turn green. At home, she can make someone visit or call simply by thinking about them.

But the Minnetonka woman's remarkable powers to control "matter, energy, space and time" don't end there, she said.

"I can also go out of my body at will," said Brown, a private school administrator. "Although I'm not very good yet at seeing things while I'm outside."

Brown attributes her abilities to the late L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology, which the science fiction writer founded in Los Angeles in 1954 after publishing a bestselling self-help book, "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health."

Dianetics was an alternative to psychiatry. Hubbard called it "a milestone for man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and arch."

It became the basis for his new religion, which has been controversial from its genesis.

The spotlight on the church has intensified recently thanks to the couch-jumping theatrics of actor Tom Cruise, a Scientologist since 1986.

Critics have labeled Scientology as everything from a dangerous cult run by amateur psychologists to a scam exploiting money from its members.

"We don't expect mainstream religions to lie, to exploit people, to engage in illegal activity," said David Touretzky, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "Scientology is not a true religion, because it does all of these things."

But church members say Scientology, which focuses on rehabilitating the human mind and spirit, is the world's best hope for ending war, crime and various psychological maladies.

"Every religion on the planet has come under attack at its beginning," said Audrey Steinbergs, 46.

Scientology on Cruise control

Scientology has always been famous for its close identification with celebrities, who Hubbard saw as publicity machines for his church.

So the church maintains celebrity centers worldwide to pamper the likes of actor John Travolta, actress Juliette Lewis and singer Lisa Marie Presley.

"A lot of people, when they find out I'm a Scientologist, say, 'Oh, yes, Tom Cruise or John Travolta,'" said real estate agent Lotte Seidler, 77, a member of the Church of Scientology of Minnesota since it opened in 1965 in Minneapolis.

Cruise has been especially vocal of late about his religious beliefs. He set up a Scientology massage tent on the set of his movie "War of the Worlds." He chastised actress Brooke Shields for using prescription drugs to deal with depression. On the "Today" show, he railed against psychiatry.

"We're getting a lot more people coming in, especially in the last few months," said the Rev. Brian Fesler, director of special affairs for the Church of Scientology of Minnesota. "People are just curious what all the talk is about."

But, as has been true throughout the church's short but colorful history, not all of the talk has been good.

$cientology?

In the 1940s, a near-penniless Hubbard reportedly told friends and other writers that the best way to make $1 million was to "start your own religion."

The church disputes the story. True or not, it illustrates a chief criticism of Scientology: its hunger for money.

A 1991 Time story labeled the church a "thriving cult of greed and power." Critics often refer to it in writing as $cientology or the Co$.

Unlike other religions, which freely give away their knowledge and copies of their sacred writings, Scientologists sell theirs through study courses.

All members, from the lowliest acolyte to people such as Brown who reach the highest levels, must take the courses. As they move up the chain, or across the bridge as it is called, the courses get more esoteric and expensive. Conservative estimates place the costs of completing the eight levels at tens of thousands of dollars. Higher-end estimates place the lifetime cost at $350,000 or more.

Brown, who is at the highest level, won't say how much she has paid but says it's been worth it: "This is how our religion gets its income. Everything I have tried has worked. How much is happiness worth? How much is confidence worth? A lot."

Mainstreaming

When Brown joined Scientology in the 1980s she found people ignorant of the religion or hostile toward it.

One woman, Brown said, "asked me if it was true that we ate our young. I started laughing. But she was serious."

Scientologists say attitudes are changing, especially as the church has tried to go mainstream after winning tax-exempt status and federal recognition as a religion in 1993.

"More and more lately, people are hearing about Scientology, and it hasn't been all negative," said Natalie Hagemo of Excelsior, a member since the mid-1980s.

As a result, Scientologists are encountering more tolerance. "Three hundred years ago I would have been burned at the stake," Brown laughs.

Instead, today she finds herself at the pinnacle of an organization claiming to be the world's fastest-growing religion. The Minnesota church has about 500 members, and Scientology worldwide claims about 9 million, at more than 4,200 churches.

Critics say the church has maybe 500,000 members worldwide. Some researchers even estimate membership might be as low as 50,000.

Like many longstanding denominations, Scientology also has community outreach efforts such as drug counseling and study programs, which Brown uses in running Flagship Academy in St. Louis Park.

In Minneapolis, the church started a women's auxiliary in 2002 to help battered women's shelters, collect school supplies, create Easter basket projects and conduct blood drives.

"We don't go out and disseminate Scientology, that's not what this is about," said Hagemo, 34, who heads the women's auxiliary. "Whatever people need, that's what we want to provide."

But critics aren't buying into the notion that this is a kinder, gentler Scientology.

"I call this 'cult lite,' " said Chuck Beatty, a former Scientologist from Carnegie, Pa. "Scientology is Hinduism crossed with science fiction."

Fraud or savior?

No matter what face is put on Scientology, its alpha and omega will always be Hubbard, whose words and writings are law.

Even now his 5,000 writings, dozens of books and 3,000 tape-recorded lectures are considered sacred and infallible, not open to debate or interpretation.

Hubbard grew to such mythic proportions within Scientology that he once found it necessary to issue a memo telling members that he was not God.

And yet, Hubbard's estranged son accused him of being a drug addict and a devil worshiper. A former wife claimed in a divorce filing that Hubbard was a paranoid schizophrenic.

At one point, before founding the church, Hubbard was hospitalized for a mental illness, which some say explains Scientology's antagonism to psychiatry. The church says Hubbard went undercover to expose bad psychiatric practices.

Hubbard believed that humans are immortal spiritual beings composed of body, mind and spirit. He said the mind controlled the body and could, if trained, also control matter, energy, space and time.

Hubbard pointed to himself as what could be achieved. He said he could leave his body at will and that he had been to Venus, the Van Allen Radiation Belt and heaven -- twice.

Exteriorization, as Hubbard called going out of body, was but one of the many things he promised Scientologists. He also talked of helping Scientologists achieve immortality, recall past lives, use telekinesis and master clairvoyance.

"He generally did believe his own delusions," Beatty said. "He saw himself as this intergalactic savior of Earth."

Star wars

When Cruise criticized actress Shields for using antidepressants to deal with post-partum depression, she shot back that she wouldn't take advice from anyone who believed in space aliens.

That was a reference to one of Scientology's most closely held secrets: Hubbard's assertion that intergalactic warfare and space invaders are behind the world's problems.

Hubbard claimed that 4 quadrillion years ago (300,000 times longer than scientists believe the universe has existed) the first incident traumatized immortal spirits called thetans.

Then, 75 million years ago an evil galactic ruler named Xenu killed billions of his people by sending them to Earth in space planes, stacking them around volcanoes, then blowing them up by dropping hydrogen bombs into the craters.

Critics have focused on these incidents, and Hubbard's belief in what he called space opera, to discredit Scientology.

"This is almost like Flash Gordon," said Beatty, who like many other true believers signed a "billion-year contract" to serve the Church of Scientology. "Members are hyped up into thinking that we're going to be intergalactic warriors who are going to carry on Scientology for a billion years ... coming back lifetime after lifetime."

But church members say focusing on these beliefs is nothing more than critics trying to marginalize Scientology.

"People are smart," said Hagemo. "They can evaluate information and look at the source. It took Christianity hundreds of years to become mainstream."

Herón Márquez • 651-298-1554

Copyright 2005 Star Tribune.

Four things to know about Scientology

http://www.startribune.com/stories/389/5682459.html

Last update: October 22, 2005 at 10:50 AM Supreme being? Considers belief in a higher power as personal and therefore offers no specific dogma.

Good works. Runs and supports many organizations for social betterment, particularly in the areas of drug abuse, crime, psychiatric abuse, human rights, religious freedom, education and morality.

Healing. Strongly favors the use of its methodology for spiritual/mental healing over the use of conventional treatment.

Immortality. Considers all humans to be immortal spiritual beings capable of realizing a nearly godlike state through Scientology practices.

Source: Beliefnet.co

Scientists Bridle at Lecture Plan for Dalai Lama

October 19, 2005

By BENEDICT CAREY

The Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet who is revered as a spiritual teacher, is at the center of a scientific controversy.

He has been an enthusiastic collaborator in research on whether the intense meditation practiced by Buddhist monks can train the brain to generate compassion and positive thoughts. Next month in Washington, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak about the research at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

But 544 brain researchers have signed a petition urging the society to cancel the lecture, because, according to the petition, "it will highlight a subject with largely unsubstantiated claims and compromised scientific rigor and objectivity."

Defenders of the Dalai Lama's appearance say that the motivation of many protesters is political, because many are Chinese or of Chinese descent. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese crushed a Tibetan bid for independence.

But many scientists who signed the petition say they did so because they believe that the field of neuroscience risks losing credibility if it ventures too recklessly into spiritual matters.

"As the public face of neuroscience, we have a responsibility to at least see that research is replicated before it is promoted and highlighted," said Dr. Nancy Hayes, a neurobiologist at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey who objects to the Dalai Lama's speaking. "If we don't do that, we may as well be the Flat Earth Society."

In the past decade, scientists and journalists have increasingly taken interest in meditation and "mindfulness," a related state of focused inner awareness, topics once left to weekend mystics and religious retreats. The Dalai Lama has been working with a small number of researchers to study how the practice of Buddhist contemplation affects moods and promotes a sense of peace and compassion.

In one widely reported 2003 study, Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison led a team of researchers that found that 25 employees of a biotechnology company showed increased levels of neural activity in the left anterior temporal region of their brains after taking a course in meditation. The region is active during sensations of happiness and positive emotion, the researchers reported.

In a 2004 experiment supported by the Mind and Life Institute, a nonprofit organization that the Dalai Lama helped establish, and also involving Dr. Davidson, investigators tracked brain waves in eight Tibetan monks as they meditated in a state of "unconditional loving-kindness and compassion."

Using an electronic scanner, the researchers found that the monks were producing a very strong pattern of gamma waves, a synchronized oscillation of brain cells that is associated with concentration and emotional control. A group of 10 college students who were learning to meditate produced a much weaker gamma signal.

Taken together, the studies suggest that "human qualities like compassion and altruism may in some sense be regarded as skills which can be improved through mental training," said Dr. Davidson, who is director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin.

Yet the neuroscientists who have signed the petition say that there are several problems with this research. First, they say, Dr. Davidson and some of his colleagues meditate themselves, and they have collaborated with the Dalai Lama for years. Dr. Davidson said he had helped persuade the spiritual leader to accept the society's invitation to speak, and was with him when he received the request.

The critics also point out that there are flaws in the 2004 experiment that the researchers have acknowledged: The monks being studied were 12 to 45 years older than the students, and age could have accounted for some of the differences. The students, as beginners, may have been anxious or simply not skilled enough to find a meditative state in the time allotted, which would alter their brain wave patterns. And there was no way to know if the monks were adept at generating high gamma wave activity before they ever started meditating.

"This paper has not tested the idea whether meditation promotes compassion or any kind of positive emotion," Dr. Yi Rao, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University who helped draft the petition and was one of the sharpest critics, said in an e-mail message.

"Nonetheless, advocates of Buddhism and meditation have confused the public with the claim that this idea has received scientific proof," Dr. Rao said. "If one reads the published scientific literature, it is not difficult to see that this claim is far from being proven. It will not hurt if the public also realizes that some researchers are declared believers playing dual roles as advocates and researchers."

In a telephone interview, Dr. Davidson said that the critics' assertions were overblown, given that the field of study was in its infancy and the studies so far had been exploratory.

"I wouldn't consider myself a Buddhist or a card-carrying zealot at all," Dr. Davidson said. "My first commitment is as a scientist to uncover the truth about all this."

He said it was "ridiculous" to suggest that neuroscientists should shy away from topics just because they were difficult to study.

Many of his colleagues agree.

"This research is a first pass on a new topic, and you just can't do perfect science the first time through," said Dr. Robert Wyman, a neurobiologist at Yale. "You get curious about something and you mess around. That's what science is in the beginning, you mess around."

Fair enough, say some scientists who have signed the petition, but neuroscientists must be extra careful with such subjects. The field is already trying to manage a deeply mystifying presence: the brain, which in some ways is still as dark as deepest space.

The scientists point out that scans showing areas of the brain that light up during emotions like jealousy or guilt are fascinating but that their significance is still unclear. And in their laboratories, some investigators who plan to attend the neuroscience meetings are trying to find the neural traces of consciousness itself, a notoriously disorienting quest that has led more than one enterprising scientist into a philosophical fog.

"Neuroscience more than other disciplines is the science at the interface between modern philosophy and science," wrote one neuroscientist on the petition, Dr. Zvani Rossetti of the University of Cagliari in Italy. He added, "No opportunity should be given to anybody to use neuroscience for supporting transcendent views of the world."

One thing certain about the Dalai Lama's scheduled talk is that he will not lack for an audience. Neuroscientists around the world have been intensely debating the event, and Dr. Carol Barnes, president of the neuroscience society, says she will not cancel the talk or change the schedule.

"The practice of meditation is a human behavior, and the Dalai Lama is extraordinarily skilled at it and at promoting qualities of peace and compassion that I thought could bring us together," said Dr. Barnes, a professor of psychology and neurology at the University of Arizona who invited the Dalai Lama to speak last February. "That's not the way it's gone so far."

http://select.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html?emc=tnt&tntget=2005/10/19/national/19meditate.html&tntemail1=y

Tension Mounts on Intelligent Design

http://www.sci-tech-today.com/story.xhtml?story_id=11100002KC6C

October 21, 2005 9:40AM

Intelligent design theory proposes that the "irreducible" complexity of fundamental natural mechanisms cannot have emerged through accidental evolution. Like creationism, it argues for a supernatural origin of life and the universe. Unlike creationism, the teaching of which is banned as unconstitutional in the secular U.S. public school system, intelligent design claims a basis in science, not religion.

Michael Behe is a respected professor of biochemistry noted for his research into the structure of nucleic acid. He is also the author of "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," a book, published in 1996, that put him squarely on the map in favor of an anti-evolution concept known as intelligent design, causing deep tensions between Behe and his fellow faculty members at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Two months ago Lehigh's Department of Biological Sciences, where the 53-year-old Behe has taught for 20 years, publicly repudiated his views in a notice on its Web site, saying that they had "no basis in science." Lehigh is a highly regarded private university with 6,500 students, and a tradition of excellence in engineering going back to 1865.

"Our concern was that we maintain our reputation as scientists, as well as the department's and university's reputation in the sciences," said Neal Simon, chairman of the department, in a recent interview.

Dating in its latest form from the late 1980s, the debate over intelligent design has heated up recently. President George W. Bush, at a news conference in Texas on Aug. 3, supported the teaching of intelligent design in public schools alongside Darwinian evolution.

A lawsuit now being tried in a federal court in Pennsylvania pits local parents against a school board that has mandated such teaching in high-school biology courses. At the trial Behe has been a witness on behalf of the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board.

Intelligent design theory proposes that the "irreducible" complexity of fundamental natural mechanisms cannot have emerged through accidental evolution. Like creationism, it argues for a supernatural origin of life and the universe. Unlike creationism, the teaching of which is banned as unconstitutional in the secular U.S. public school system, intelligent design claims a basis in science, not religion.

Arguments over the scientific basis for intelligent design have roiled at least one other mainstream campus beside Lehigh.

At Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, 124 faculty members endorsed a petition in August decrying "efforts to portray intelligent design as science." Unnamed in the petition, but the obvious target, was Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of astronomy.

Gonzalez has never taught intelligent design in his courses, according to the university. But in a book, "The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery," co-written with a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a conservative research group in Seattle, and funded by the John Templeton Foundation, which describes itself as pursuing "research at the boundary between science and religion," Gonzalez proclaims that the universe is "so skillfully crafted for life and discovery that it seems to whisper of an extraterrestrial intelligence."

Among the hundreds of thousands of scientists at accredited U.S. colleges and universities, intelligent-design proponents are rare, and mostly concentrated at a few dozen Bible colleges, according to experts on American higher education.

No scientist has published an article in a peer-reviewed journal propounding the idea, according to Alan Leshner, head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, based in Washington.

In an essay on the association's Web site, Leshner discounts the proponents as "mostly fringe players." That sheds an interesting light on the movement to promote intelligent design in high school science courses. But it does nothing to calm the debate on campus.

In the recent publicity surrounding intelligent design, biologists at Lehigh received e-mails questioning where the department stood on intelligent design. "We felt that, given the number of people who were writing to us, that we were endorsing, even if by passive action, Professor Behe's views, and we felt a public statement was appropriate," said Simon.

All 21 of the department's faculty members approved the statement placed on the Web. Behe said even he signed on, because of his colleagues' "right not to be associated with an idea they do not agree with." Still, he added, the whole affair was "a little bit uncomfortable."

In a forum organized last month by Lehigh's chaplain, Lloyd Steffen, five other members of the university's faculty, including two more biologists, faced off against Behe as he defended his position. "It was me against the world," he said.

Despite the hostility, Behe touches on intelligent design in his biochemistry class and delves into it more deeply in a seminar and a course on science writing.

That course is under review, Simon said, and may be disallowed within the department if it is deemed to dwell excessively on nonscientific content.

If Lehigh's faculty is up in arms, the students seem relatively unconcerned.

"For someone who is so outspoken about intelligent design, I thought he would be more forceful in pushing it as the way to go, but he was very objective," said Frank Fabris, a Lehigh senior who took the writing course from Behe and is now enrolled in his biochemistry course. A behavioral-neuroscience major, Fabris said his own thinking about intelligent design was in limbo: "I feel like I don't know enough to make a judgment about it."

John Bright, a postgraduate humanities fellow at Lehigh, said he welcomed Behe's having made the university an "epicenter" of the nation's intelligent-design debate. "Frankly, just from a humanities point of view, it's considered good to challenge the conventional wisdom. It's inherently respectable," said Bright, who graduated from Lehigh last year with a double major in anthropology and religious studies.

Among the 40 to 45 members of the Muslim Student Association, intelligent-design "hasn't been a topic of great debate," said Youssef Chouhoud, the group's president and a political science student. As a Muslim, "I'm glad to have somebody standing against evolution," Chouhoud said. "That, I'm proud of."

© 2005 International Herald Tribune.
© 2005 Sci-Tech Today.

Democrats want ban on 'intelligent design' lessons

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200510/s1488318.htm

Last Update: Saturday, October 22, 2005. 1:48pm (AEST)

The Democrats are calling on the South Australian Government to guarantee that so-called "intelligent design" will not be taught to South Australian students.

The concept of intelligent design is that life on earth is too complex to have evolved without the design of a higher being or God.

The theory has sparked widespread debate in the United States.

Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson has said he would have no problems with it being taught in Australian schools.

But the Democrats education spokeswoman Kate Reynolds says intelligent design has no place in public schools.

She is calling on Premier Mike Rann to follow the lead of New South Wales, and rule out the teaching of intelligent design.

"Given that at the moment Premier Rann seems to be taking on a whole lot of the proposals from the federal Liberal Government, we are saying we want a categorical ruling out of this intelligent design concept," she said.

She says intelligent design has no place in public schools.

"We believe that intelligent design is about a belief about God, it is not about science," she said.

"And regardless of anybody's private beliefs, we believe that God is something that should not be taught in state schools."

Historians and Scholars Produce New Picture of Witches and Witch Hunts, but Questions Remain

October 22, 2005 By PETER STEINFELS

It is the season of witches - cute little costumed ones crying "trick or treat" and full-grown adult ones laying claim to Halloween and recounting tales of medieval and early modern persecution.

In a search for historical roots and moral legitimacy, some feminists and many adherents of neopagan or goddess-centered religious movements like Wicca have elaborated a founding mythology in which witches and witch hunts have a central role. Witches, they claim, were folk healers, spiritual guides and the underground survivors of a pre-Christian matriarchal cult. By the hundreds of thousands, even the millions, they were the victims of a ruthless campaign that church authorities waged throughout the Middle Ages and early modern centuries to stamp out this rival, pagan religion.

Robin Briggs, an Oxford historian, is only one of many contemporary scholars rejecting this account. What unites most "common assumptions" about witches, witchcraft and witch hunts, Mr. Briggs writes in "Witches & Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft" (Viking Penguin, 1996), is "one very marked feature," namely "that they are hopelessly wrong."

Over the last two decades or so, he and other historians, along with scholars in anthropology and psychology, have produced quite a different picture, although one leaving many questions unanswered.

Were the Middle Ages the prime period of burning witches, and church authorities the prime persecutors? That is an impression inherited from 19th-century Romantic and nationalist writers like the German folklorist Jacob Grimm and the French historian Jules Michelet.

Filtering dubious sources, including in Michelet's case some that had actually been forged, through their political agendas, they portrayed witches as personifications of popular resistance to political and religious authorities.

In fact, medieval Christianity was divided about witchcraft. Belief in magical or supernatural powers that could be manipulated for either good or evil was ubiquitous then, as it has been throughout human history and still is in many cultures. But medieval Europe was torn between that belief and theological arguments that such powers were illusory.

Thus witches were persecuted in the Middle Ages, as they were in other periods, including pre-Christian antiquity; and they were sometimes executed. Persecution, however, was relatively spotty, and penalties were often lenient. Only toward the end of the Middle Ages and especially in the century after the Reformation (1550-1650) did Europe experience eruptions of systematic witch hunting.

Yet even to speak of "Europe" is misleading. Ireland, for example, saw scarcely any executions. Nor did Portugal, and neither - apart from local outbreaks in the Basque region - did Spain. Paradoxically, one reason for the restraint in the latter two countries was the Inquisition. In the course of its preoccupation with other scapegoats like Jews and Muslims, it had developed rules of evidence that meant most accusations and even confessions of witchcraft were dismissed as delusions.

The multitude of German-speaking states and territories took the most victims, both in absolute numbers and percentages of population. Also high ranking were Switzerland, the Low Countries under Spanish rule (by secular authorities rather than the Inquisition), Bohemia, Poland, Scotland and Scandinavia.

As this list shows, persecution was the work of both Catholics and Protestants. In fact, panics about witchcraft often broke out in areas of high tension between them.

Were witch hunts the work of secular and religious authorities repressing grass-roots religious dissent? In some instances, yes. But the more common pattern was the opposite. Witch crazes were grass-roots phenomena that broke out more readily where the authorities were weak.

About 80 percent of the victims of these witch hunts were women, especially the poor, the aged and the widowed. Women, it should be noted, were also prominent among the accusers and the witnesses; sometimes trials revealed deadly competition: one midwife or woman convinced of her spiritual powers trying to do in a rival practitioner.

But clearly, patriarchy and misogyny were major factors. Yet patriarchy and misogyny were no less present in areas where witch crazes never occurred; and in areas like Scandinavia, the Balkans, the Baltic countries and Russia, high percentages of the accused were men.

"Accused witches were young, old, male, female, child, adult, poor, rich," writes Diarmaid MacCulloch in "The Reformation," a comprehensive history published by Penguin last year. One can assume, of course, that the rich, the male and the female with a husband surely had much better chances of defending themselves.

And, finally, how many victims were there? "For witchcraft and sorcery between 1400 and 1800, all in all, we estimate something like 50,000 legal death penalties," writes Wolfgang Behringer in "Witches and Witch-Hunts" (Polity, 2004). He estimates that perhaps twice as many received other penalties, "like banishment, fines or church penance."

Other recent estimates range from 40,000 to 100,000 executions over those early modern centuries. These remain appalling numbers, even when put in the context of the far greater numbers killed in religious wars and the fact that resort to capital punishment was at one of its high points in European history.

No one should underestimate the cruelty these numbers represent. "Witchfinders," Malcolm Gaskill's full-blooded account, just published by Harvard University Press, of the most notorious witch hunt in English history, makes that clear in engrossing detail.

But contemporary historians bridle at the huge numbers that have become part of the witch hunt mythology-and the implicit or explicit comparisons to the Nazi campaign of genocide. Professor Behringer traced the estimate of nine million victims back to wild projections made by an 18th-century anticlerical from 20 files of witch trials. The figure worked its way into 19th-century texts, was taken up by Protestant polemicists during the anti-Catholic Kulturkampf in Germany, then adopted by the early 20th-century German neopagan movement and, eventually, by anti-Christian Nazi propagandists.

In the United States, the nine million figure appeared in the 1978 book "Gyn/Ecology" by the influential feminist theoretician Mary Daly, who picked it up from a 19th-century American feminist, Matilda Gage.

Do such unfounded myths do anyone any good? Certainly many feminists, including some identifying themselves as neopagans, agree with contemporary historians about the answer: No.

http://select.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html?emc=tnt&tntget=2005/10/22/national/22beliefs.html

What's New Friday October 21, 2005

INTELLIGENT ASTROLOGY: TRIAL FOCUSES ON DEFINITION OF SCIENCE. http://www.bobpark.org/

In early August, expecting it might come up in the Dover School Board case, WN copped a definition of science from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. It mentions the natural world http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN05/wn080505.html, but not the supernatural. On Tuesday, Michael Behe, the defense's irreducible-complexity guru, testified in favor of a broader definition. According to a NY Times story, Behe acknowledged that "scientific theory" by his definition would fit astrology as well as intelligent design.

Bigfoot no joke to hundreds attending Texas conference

http://www.statesman.com/metrostate/content/gen/ap/Bigfoot_Conference.html

By ANGELA K. BROWN Associated Press Writer

JEFFERSON, Texas — Next to a lifelike replica of a giant ape head, the believers milled around tables Saturday covered with casts of large footprints, books about nature's mysteries and T-shirts proclaiming "Bigfoot: Often Imitated, Never Invalidated."

While they can have a sense of humor about it, the search for the legendary Sasquatch is no joke for many of the nearly 400 people who came here to discuss the latest sightings and tracking techniques at the Texas Bigfoot Conference.

"It's not a matter of believing, like faith, when you believe in something you can't see," said Daryl G. Colyer, a Lorena businessman who has investigated hundreds of reported Bigfoot sightings in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

"It's a flesh-and-blood animal that just has not been discovered yet. And I think we're getting closer and closer and closer," Colyer said.

Outlandish theories about the origin of Bigfoot abound, including that it might be an extraterrestrial. Many believe that a towering, ape-like creature descended from a prehistoric 9- to 10-foot-tall gorilla called a Gigantopithecus, and that it now inhabits North American forests.

Hoaxes have been a large part of the making of the Bigfoot legend. California construction company owner Ray L. Wallace donned 16-inch wooden feet to create tracks in mud in 1958, and it led to a front-page story in a local paper that coined the term "Bigfoot."

But there have been more than 2,550 seemingly credible Bigfoot sightings reported in North America the past century, according to Christopher L. Murphy's 2004 book "Meet the Sasquatch."

Murphy believes thousands more witnesses are too afraid of ridicule to come forward.

"You see one of these things and it changes your whole perception of reality," said Craig Woolheater, the office manager of a Dallas company who co-founded the Texas Bigfoot Research Center in 1999, five years after he said he saw a hairy creature walking along a remote Louisiana road.

Colyer and others estimate that about 2,000 are in North America today, reclusive nocturnal animals living in thickly wooded areas with waterways, eating meat and plants and making nests out of trees and brush.

Pictures and film footage are often disputed, such as the 1967 footage of a creature walking near a California creek. Most evidence centers on hundreds of casts of footprints collected since the 1950s.

Jimmy Chilcutt, a retired fingerprint analysis expert for the Conroe Police Department, said many of the hundreds of prints he examined belonged to a primate, but not a human, ape, gorilla or chimpanzee.

Like Chilcutt, other well-respected professionals have come forward to say such evidence should not be dismissed.

"To me it's still an open question, but here's some evidence that warrants some serious consideration, so give it a chance," said Jeff Meldrum, associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University who has studied more than 150 casts of footprints. "This is not a paranormal question; it's a biological question."

On the Net:

Texas Bigfoot Research Center: http://www.texasbigfoot.com

October 15, 2005 - 2:59 p.m. MST

Copyright 2005, The Associated Press

Texas Bigfoot redux

http://www.offthekuff.com/mt/archives/006250.html#006250

October 17, 2005

You may recall from my previous post on the Texas Bigfoot Research Center that they have an annual conference in the fall to discuss the state of Bigfoot research. Well, that conference was this past weekend. One can only imagine what their Powerpoint presentations look like, but let's consider these statements from a couple of scientists:

Jimmy Chilcutt, a retired fingerprint analysis expert for the Conroe Police Department, said many of the hundreds of prints he examined belonged to a primate, but not a human, ape, gorilla or chimpanzee.

Like Chilcutt, other well-respected professionals have come forward to say such evidence should not be dismissed.

"To me it's still an open question, but here's some evidence that warrants some serious consideration, so give it a chance," said Jeff Meldrum, associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University who has studied more than 150 casts of footprints. "This is not a paranormal question; it's a biological question."

My mind is perfectly open, fellas. All I require in order to believe is some recent anatomical remains that can be conclusively shown not to belong to any known primate. If there's 2000 Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) skulking around North America, sooner or later a body's got to turn up. Find me one and then we'll talk.

For more genuine information, read the entry from the James Randi Educational Foundation Encyclopedia, plus this recent tale of Bigfoot evidence put to the DNA test.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 17, 2005 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack

Comments

INTERNET BAD JOKE WARNING!

OK Folks, this is to alert you that the next joke I make will be really bad. It is bad enough to invoke the Internet Bad Joke alert. Please do not blame the management for the poor quality of this joke.

Am I the only one that read this and thinks of the Fats Waller song "Your Feets Too Big"? :-)

Posted by: William Hughes on October 17, 2005 11:40 AM ECISD takes step closer to Bible curriculum http://www.mywesttexas.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=15411786&BRD=2288&PAG=461&dept_id=475626&rfi=6

Ruth Campbell Midland Reporter-Telegram 10/19/2005

ODESSA -- By next fall, Ector County Independent School District students should be able to take Bible courses.

A 12-member committee was approved by ECISD trustees at their meeting Tuesday night to review and critique prospective curriculum, bringing the district a step closer to offering the elective.

Meanwhile, Midland ISD has put Bible curriculum on the back burner for now.

Communications Director Melissa Hendrix-Beach said Bible Literacy Project approached the district about a year ago. The curriculum was reviewed and sent back for revisions, but the district hasn't heard anything back yet.

"At this point, we're not actively seeking any other projects," Hendrix-Beach said.

The Odessa committee will have an organizational meeting - closed to the public - Oct. 31. The committee will set its first public meeting at that gathering, said Robert Hand, interim assistant superintendent for curriculum/instruction and accountability.

Superintendent Wendell Solis tapped Hand, ECISD interim assistant superintendent for curriculum/instruction and accountability, as committee chairman.

The committee includes David Singleton, English language arts curriculum coordinator; Ian Roark, social studies curriculum coordinator; Permian High School principal Steve Brown and Odessa High School principal Ron Leach.

Also, OHS English department head Toni Baxter; OHS English teacher Terri Cowan; Permian English department head Michelle Toehr; PHS English teacher Cindy McKeehan; OHS social studies department head Linda Wilson; OHS social studies teacher Sheila Carson; PHS social studies chair Jo Shedwin and PHS social studies teacher James Lewallen.

Board member Floy Hinson said the committee is going to have a tough task.

"I'm glad it's going to be a widespread group. I'm glad the public is going to have an opportunity for input into the final result," Hinson said.

But Hinson said the committee has to be careful to keep the district out of lawsuits. He added he would "hate to see us" spend money on litigation that could go for teacher raises.

Hand said the next step is to make sure the committee has a chance to review the curriculum and provide input. The panel will rank its choices and submit them to the board for approval at its December meeting, he said.

Hand said the district has received four curriculums, two of which are viable. It will be a senior-level course. He said ECISD had Bible curriculum in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

One hopeful, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, drew criticism earlier this fall. Adkins said that curriculum has undergone "substantial revisions" since it was first presented, Public Information Officer Mike Adkins said.

Hand said the number of instructors teaching the course would depend on demand. The instructor -- or instructors - chosen would have to follow the curriculum strictly.

©MyWestTexas.com 2005

Witness Defends Broad Definition of Science

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/19/national/19evolution.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1129993747-lp68xXj+sOueYiIaXZI98g

Bradley C. Bower/Associated Press

Prof. Michael J. Behe of Lehigh University took questions after his second day in court in Harrisburg, Pa., explaining intelligent design.

Forum: Human Origins

Prof. Michael J. Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University, is the first expert witness for the school board of Dover, Pa., which is requiring students to hear a statement about intelligent design in biology class.

Under sharp cross-examination by a lawyer for parents who have sued the school district, he said he was untroubled by the broadness of his definition of science and likened intelligent design to the Big Bang theory of the origins of the universe because both initially faced rejection from scientists who objected for religious and philosophical reasons.

"Intelligent design is certainly not the dominant view of the scientific community," Professor Behe testified in Federal District Court, "but I am very pleased with the progress we are making."

Intelligent design is the belief that living organisms are so complex that the best explanation is that they were created by an intelligent force of some kind. At issue in the lawsuit is whether the concept's introduction into biology class is an abridgment of the separation between church and state.

The board voted last year to require that students in ninth-grade biology listen to a four-paragraph statement saying that there are gaps and problems with the theory of evolution and that intelligent design is among the alternatives worth considering. The statement said that among the resources available in the school library for further study is an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People."

In two days on the stand, Professor Behe has insisted that intelligent design is not the same as creationism, which supports the biblical view that God created the earth and its creatures fully formed. The Supreme Court has ruled that creationism is a religious belief and cannot be taught in public school.

The cross-examination of Professor Behe on Tuesday made it clear that intelligent-design proponents do not necessarily share the same definition of their own theory. Eric Rothschild, a lawyer representing the parents suing the school board, projected an excerpt from the "Pandas" textbook that said:

"Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact, fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, etc."

In that definition, Mr. Rothschild asked, couldn't the words "intelligent design" be replaced by "creationism" and still make sense? Professor Behe responded that that excerpt from the textbook was "somewhat problematic," and that it was not consistent with his definition of intelligent design.

Mr. Rothschild asked Professor Behe why then he had not objected to the passage since he was among the scientists who was listed as a reviewer of the book. Professor Behe said that although he had reviewed the textbook, he had reviewed only the section he himself had written, on blood clotting. Pressed further, he agreed that it was "not typical" for critical reviewers of scientific textbooks to review their own work.

Intelligent design, according to Professor Behe's definition, is a scientific theory that is able to accept some aspects of evolution, like change in organisms over time, but rejects the Darwinian theory of random natural selection. He said intelligent design "focuses exclusively on the proposed mechanism of how complex biological structures arose."

Scientific critics of intelligent design - and there are many - have said for years that its proponents never propose any positive arguments or proofs of their theory, but rest entirely on finding flaws in evolution.

In an attempt to pin Professor Behe down, Mr. Rothschild asked, "What is the mechanism that intelligent design is proposing?"

Mr. Behe said: "It does not propose a mechanism in the sense of a step-by-step description of how these structures arose." He added that "the word 'mechanism' can be used broadly" and said the mechanism was "intelligent activity."

Mr. Rothschild concluded, "Sounds pretty tautological, Professor Behe."

"No, I don't think so," he responded. He likened the process to seeing the sphinx in Egypt, or the stone heads on Easter Island, and concluding that someone must have designed them.

Listening from the front row of the courtroom, a school board members said he found Professor Behe's testimony reaffirming. "Doesn't it sound like he knows what he's talking about?" said the Rev. Ed Rowand, a board member and church pastor.

Mr. Rowand said the "core of the issue" is, "Do we have the academic freedom to tell our children there are other points of view besides Darwin's?"

Biochemist says intelligent design isn't just a version of creationism

http://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/news/nation/12936061.htm

Posted on Tue, Oct. 18, 2005

BY LISA ANDERSON Chicago Tribune

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Although he denied the concept of intelligent design advances any religious belief, a leading proponent of the movement has said the idea is less plausible for those who question or deny the existence of God, according to presentations made in federal court here Tuesday.

Michael Behe, a tenured biochemist at Lehigh University, took the stand for a second day as the first expert witness called by the defense in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Entering its fourth week, the suit was brought against the district and school board by 11 parents of Dover students over a requirement that ninth grade biology students be informed of intelligent design as a scientific alternative to evolution and referred to an intelligent design textbook, "Of Pandas and People."

The parents contend that the requirement is religiously motivated, thus violating the constitutional separation of church and state, and breaches the Supreme Court's ban on teaching creationism in public schools.

The parents are represented, at no charge, by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for the Separation of Church and State and the Philadelphia law firm of Pepper Hamilton.

Intelligent design is critical of Darwin's theory that all life - including humans - shares common ancestry and developed through random mutation and natural selection.

The plaintiffs argue that intelligent design - which posits that some aspects of life, yet unexplained by evolution, are best attributed to an unnamed and unseen intelligent designer - really is a disguised version of creationism, the adherence to the biblical account of creation.

Not so, said Behe, during often heated exchanges with counsel for the plaintiffs during cross-examination. "Creationism is "180 degrees different from intelligent design," he said. "Creationism is a theological concept. Intelligent design is a scientific theory that relies on physical, empirical, observable evidence in nature plus logical inferences."

Under direct examination, Behe underscored that intelligent design takes no position on key elements of creationism, such as an Earth age of less than 10,000 years believed by many creationists, and makes no reference to the Bible or a divine creator.

Behe, who identifies himself as a Roman Catholic, said that although intelligent design cannot scientifically identify the designer and does not rule out a natural cause, he believes it is God. Behe is the author of 1996's "Darwin's Black Box," a touchstone of the intelligent design movement.

Intelligent design can infer there is a designer from the "purposeful arrangement of parts" in complex biochemical processes such as blood clotting, that evolution cannot explain, he said. It doesn't matter that the designer is not named, he said.

He compared this to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence program, which searches for an electromagnetic signal that bespeaks some kind of intelligence in the universe. Should such a signal come, he said, even if the researchers had no clue as to the nature of the sender, "We could still be confident that an intelligent agent had designed the message."

The biggest problem with Darwinian theory and its reliance on natural selection and random mutation, is there is "no evidence that such processes can give rise to new, complex systems," he said.

However, nearly every major scientific association in the country has issued a statement supporting evolution and rejecting intelligent design, said Eric Rothschild, an attorney for the plaintiffs. Behe scoffed at such statements, dismissing them as "political."

But, said Rothschild, "Your own university has taken a position against intelligent design." He referred to a statement by Lehigh's biology department that it is "unequivocal in its support of evolution" and "Intelligent design has no basis in science."

Among the onlookers was Frank Jackson, 72, a retired Harrisburg gastroenterologist. "I think it's a microcosm of a huge issue that the whole country is looking at because of the strength of the fundamentalist movement. They're looking for their first wedge to get into the scientific curriculum," he said.

But, Mennonite pastor Edward Zook, 55, who is a creationist, said he didn't see what the big deal is. "My overall impression is that what the school board has done is so innocent. They're just reading a statement that evolutionary theory is just a theory," he said.

That is one of the key positions taken by attorneys for the defense, who say the case really is about freedom of speech. The school board is represented, at no charge, by the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., which describes its mission "to defend and protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square."

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which funds research into intelligent design and of which Behe is a founding fellow, filed a Friend of the Court brief late Monday urging the judge to consider the teaching of intelligent design constitutional, although the institute opposes the mandatory teaching of it.

Intelligence or absurdity?

http://thedaily.washington.edu/news.lasso?-database=DailyWebSQL&-table=Articles&-response=newspage.lasso&-keyField=__Record_ID__&-keyValue=14050&-search

INTELLIGENT DESIGN: While some defend the hypothesis, UW professors worry about the future of science education

By Melissa Santos October 19, 2005

Immediately after hearing about President George W. Bush comments that schools should teach alternatives to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, UW biology professor Eliot Brenowitz sat down at his computer and began to write.

The president had told a group of Texas reporters "people should be exposed to different schools of thought" when it came to science education, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.

In particular, Bush supported the teaching of intelligent design, the theory that life is too complex to have arisen without the aid of a creator.

"Both sides should be taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about," Knight Ridder reported Bush said.

Bush's logic was enough to alarm Brenowitz, who described evolution as "the most fundamental principle of science."

"It made me run over to my computer and start writing a letter to The New York Times saying, 'No, no, no!'" Brenowitz said. "There's no debate on this. We who study evolution all agree on the basic core principles of evolutionary biology.'"

That was August. Since then, more and more UW scientists have grown uncomfortable with intelligent design's increased popularity among citizens and school boards, said biology professor Richard Olmstead.

Scientists don't fear the theory might be right, Olmstead said. They are worried that it poses a threat to science education.

"Our education related to science is falling far behind the scientific frontiers on a daily basis," Olmstead said. "It only compounds it if we are asked to teach things that are not science in science classes."

One organization promoting the "teach the controversy" approach to evolution is the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think-tank that's Center for Science and Culture funds intelligent design research.

"Both evidence for evolution and evidence which challenges evolution should be taught," said Casey Luskin, a program officer for the center. "In other words, we want students to learn more about evolution, not less.

The main difference between intelligent design and Creationism is that intelligent design stops short of identifying the designer as the God of Christianity, Olmstead said. The theory of intelligent design leaves the designer unnamed, avoiding blatantly religious language.

Intelligent design has no more scientific weight than any culturally based creation story, said Billie Swalla, an associate professor of biology who specializes in animal cell development.

"There's lots of creation myths out there," Swalla said. "My favorite is when Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, gets angry and the islands are formed. That's as good of an explanation as intelligent design."

Discovery Institute's proximity to the UW has sharpened some professors' desire to publicly denounce its ideas, said Peter Ward, a professor of biology and earth and space sciences.

"We haven't done a good job of explaining to the public why it's pernicious that they're teaching intelligent design," Ward said. "If they get their way, we will gradually fall further behind scientifically, and our standard of living will fall behind."

If the theory is incorporated into science curricula in American schools, it could hinder U.S. students' abilities to compete with students from other countries, said physics professor R. Jeffrey Wilkes in an e-mail.

"There is not enough time in the elementary and secondary school years to prepare kids now, much less if we waste half their time making rationality optional," Wilkes wrote. "If we in the U.S. are dumb enough to deny our kids reality-based education, we must accept the idea that our kids will be able to work only as housecleaners and chauffeurs for kids from countries with smarter citizens."

The school board in Dover, Penn. already requires students to hear a statement outlining possible holes in evolutionary theory before they begin studying the subject, Time magazine reported.

It is scientists' job to prevent other school districts from following these examples, Brenowitz said.

"I think a lot of us have realized that we need to pull our heads out of our microscopes and our notebooks and get out there and say why evolution is accepted among scientists," Brenowitz said. "This debate is about religious doctrine, not science."

Satirical Website's 'Risky Business' Has Tom Cruise 'Losin it'

http://www.postchronicle.com/news/entertainment/article_212906.shtml

by Jack Ryan Oct 18, 2005

A website attempting to take the charge out of Tom Cruise's religion of choice, Scientology, is currently facing shut-down after officials reportedly threatened legal action.

ScienTOMogy.info has reportedly received hundreds of complaints from members of the scientology religion after broadcasts of spoof videos of the film star from their site.

The site ridicules the Cruise's devotion to the religion and recent engagement to Katie Holmes with unflattering archive television footage, spoof videos and cartoons.

One of the video's, called; 'Tom Cruise Kills Oprah' satirizes Cruise's appearance on Oprah's chat show showing him electrocuting daytime reigning queen of talk with his eyes.

MSN's Scoop has published a letter from the church to ScienTOMogy that reads:

"You are hereby on notice that the registration and use of this domain name in this fashion has caused your name to be falsely associated with our client's registered mark, SCIENTOLOGY. The fact that you have changed one letter ("m" instead of "l") does not protect you from trademark infringement."

ScienTOMogy responded with a disclaimer on the site saying: "The site is purely satirical and is for entertainment. It contains no fact nor claims to do so and is completely non-commercial.

"The site clearly states in its header, 'This site has absolutely no connection whatsoever with the Church of Scientology, its affiliated organizations or, needless-to-say, Tom Cruise'.

Hazelwood schools reject firm with ties to Scientology founder

http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/education/story/1BE52CDBD3D0ED8A8625709F00143B5E?OpenDocument

By Carolyn Bower ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 10/18/2005

The Hazelwood School District has rebuffed a private tutoring provider with ties to the founder of Scientology, but parents will have the final say in whether they use the company.

The tutoring company, Applied Scholastics International, has made numerous overtures to the school district, Hazelwood superintendent Chris Wright said.

"We are not interested in your services, not willing to participate in your training programs, do not want your materials, and will not enter into any association with Applied Scholastics," Wright wrote earlier this month. Her comments were in a letter to Bennetta Slaughter, chief executive officer of Applied Scholastics.

Applied Scholastics is one of 68 tutors on a state list of approved supplemental educational service providers in Missouri. Mary Adams, senior vice president for external affairs for Applied Scholastics, said the company was not faith-based but was based on methods developed by the late L. Ron Hubbard, the developer of the religious philosophy of Scientology.Advertisement

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Law, any high-poverty school that fails to meet standards three years in a row must offer free tutoring. More than 100 schools have been on Missouri's list of those needing improvement, but not all of those have to offer tutoring.

Most of the approved tutoring providers are private companies. Nationwide, hundreds of new businesses have jumped into the lucrative market of tutoring low-performing students. The influx has concerned some parents and teachers who worry about a lack of state and federal guidelines for evaluating the providers at a time when public schools face strict performance requirements.

Applied Scholastics opened in north St. Louis County in July 2003. On the Missouri education department Web site, Applied Scholastics goes by the name Spanish Lake Academy Tutoring Center/Applied Scholastics International and lists an intention to serve all schools in Missouri.

The Applied Scholastics center also offers teacher training. Two St. Louis public schools - Fanning and Long middle schools - sent teachers to the center this fall to learn about teaching. Some teachers and parents raised concerns about that with union Local 420, said Byron Clemens, the union's first vice president.

St. Louis Superintendent Creg Williams later said the district would not use the center for training. No one from the St. Louis schools uses Applied Scholastics for tutoring, but parents have the option to choose anyone on the state's list, said Johnny Little, a district spokesman.

Wright said Hazelwood offered its own tutors and did not use Applied Scholastics or any outside providers. Although many Hazelwood students have tutors for various reasons, only 11 of 334 eligible students get it under the supplemental provider program. Those 11 use district tutors.

Dee Beck, director of federal programs for Missouri's education department, confirmed that picking a tutor is up to a parent, working with a district from the state list of approved providers.

In a letter sent Oct. 4 to Missouri's education commissioner, D. Kent King, Wright said Applied Scholastics had "approached the district many, many times to try to get us to send teachers to their training, to get us to use their 'instructional materials' or to otherwise connect themselves to our children and families.

"We investigated them thoroughly at the time and found that they were closely connected to the Church of Scientology," Wright wrote. "We made the decision that this connection was not in the interests of our children ...."

Wright asked that the state tighten its screening of tutoring companies. "I hope that you will evaluate those programs that have already been approved and establish some criteria for their approval," she wrote.

Adams said she preferred not to comment on Wright's letters, to avoid continuing what she considers "a miscommunication," and would like to be neighborly to the Hazelwood district.

Beck said the state reviewed providers once a year, in spring. When a tutoring company applies to be on the list, three people look at the application. The application requires information about fees, when and where tutoring will take place and general qualifications of tutors. She said the state planned to revise applications to ask for more information. State officials also want to begin visiting tutoring sites.

"We are all learning how to do this better," Beck said.

Dover trial, horns (or lack thereof) and all

http://ydr.com/story/doverbiology/88648/

MIKE ARGENTO Thursday, October 6, 2005

HARRISBURG — Along about the 658th hour of Dr. Barbara Forrest's stay on the witness stand, during Day Six of the Dover Panda Trial, I started looking for her horns.

Never did see them.

It was right about the time that defense lawyer Richard Thompson was repeatedly asking about her various memberships in such seditious, treasonous and just plain evil organizations as the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association and the ACLU that it occurred to me to look for her horns.

They weren't there.

Now, it could be that she was hiding her tail under her trim black pantsuit, but frankly, I didn't really look.

The defense tried very hard to keep Forrest, a philosophy professor from Southeastern Louisiana University, from testifying by portraying her as being in league with the devil. The defense had a pretty good stake in keeping her off the stand. She is probably the foremost expert on the genesis, such as it is, of the movement to introduce unsuspecting kids to the idea of intelligent design creationism and, through that, to overturn our very idea of what science is and what it does.

But before asking her about that, Thompson wanted to probe her membership in the American Civil Liberties Union.

"When did you become a card-carrying member of the ACLU?" Thompson asked in a tone that suggested that such membership put her in league with Satan and the forces of evil.

Not just a member. "A card-carrying member."

Forrest answered that she joined the organization in 1979 because she believes in the Constitution and the ACLU defends that vital document.

Thompson then asked whether she supports everything the ACLU does.

Forrest said she believes in defending the Constitution.

And then Thompson asked whether she knew whether the ACLU has defended child porn as protected speech under the First Amendment.

Before Forrest could answer, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Eric Rothschild, rose and objected on the grounds of relevance. In other words, his objection was, essentially, what does this have to do with anything?

The judge cut Thompson off.

Which was too bad because the way it was going, I figured Thompson's next question would be something on the order of, don't you and your friends get together to watch snuff films while snacking on aborted fetuses?

It didn't get that far.

It did get into a discussion about logical fallacies, which was interesting because while accusing Forrest of committing logical fallacies, Thompson committed some himself.

So in addition to providing lessons in critical thinking and philosophy, the participants — Thompson, mostly — provided a literary lesson, giving the audience an ample dose of irony.

See, while he was accusing of Forrest of employing an ad hominem argument — an argument in which you don't address the merits of the issue under debate and attack the messenger instead — he was employing an ad hominem argument.

What great fallacy did Forrest commit?

Near as I can tell, she used the words of the people who came up with the idea of intelligent design to show that it's a religious idea — one based on a narrow view of Christianity — and not a scientific one.

She used their own words against them.

Evil, evil woman.

Using one's own words against him is not, in and of itself, an ad hominem argument. The words can be used that way, but if they speak for themselves, it's not ad hominem.

Now, if I were to call Thompson a doody head, that would be an ad hominem argument.

Forrest described the intelligent design movement's "wedge strategy," described in a document that the intelligent design people wrote, cleverly titled "The Wedge."

At one point, an attorney for the defense asked her whether she knew that that document was intended to raise money, that it was part of a fundraising plea. Forrest didn't know.

But by asking, was the defense saying that the intelligent design people had portrayed their theory as a religious idea just to get money out of people? Were they saying that they intended to prey upon people's faith to get them to open their checkbooks? Were they saying that it's OK to say anything when you're trying to wrest dollars from an unsuspecting public?

At the end of her direct testimony, it was clear how the so-called theory of intelligent design came about. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism in public schools was unconstitutional. The people who wanted to teach creationism in public schools — people who believe teaching science in general and evolution in particular is responsible for all of society's ills — had to come up with something else.

So they thought about it and rubbed a few brain cells together and came up with intelligent design.

Now, they admit, they have no theory and they don't really have anything in the way of science on their side.

Essentially, what they did was take their creationist literature and replace the word "creationism" with the phrase "intelligent design."

Really.

So in addition to committing sloppy scholarship, Forrest's testimony suggested they were lazy, too.

At one point, Forrest pointed out a document in which one of the authors of the intelligent design nontheory posited that belief in evolution leads to belief in, among other things, Scientology.

So that's what's wrong with Tom Cruise?

And now, for today's Moonie reference.

One of the founding fathers of intelligent design, Jonathan Wells, went to school to study biology and dedicate his life to bringing down Darwin after being urged to do so by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Couldn't he have just sold flowers at the airport like the rest of them? It would have saved us all a lot of trouble. 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. Evolution education update: "Is it science yet?"; KS state science standards reviewed; Kitzmiller coverage continues Referring to "intelligent design," a major law review article asks, "Is it science yet?" and concludes not. The external reviewer of Kansas's state science standards notes that the latest draft, as revised by the antievolutionist majority on the state board of education, is not only deviant compared with model standards but also internally inconsistent. And a reminder about sources of information -- and misinformation -- about the trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover, which continues to attract journalistic attention across the country and around the word.

"IS IT SCIENCE YET?"

Just as the first challenge to the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public school science classroom is underway in the trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover, Matthew J. Brauer, Barbara Forrest, and Steven G. Gey offer a definitive assessment of the legal issues involved in their new law review article "Is it science yet? Intelligent design creationism and the Constitution," published in Washington University Law Quarterly (2005; vol. 83, no. 1). With almost 150 pages of closely reasoned argument and almost 600 footnotes of meticulous documentation, "Is it science yet?" is sure to become the leading treatment of the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" for the foreseeable future. The abstract of the article reads:

On several occasions during the last eighty years, states have attempted to either prohibit the teaching of evolution in public school science classes or counter the teaching of evolution with mandatory references to the religious doctrine of creationism. The Supreme Court struck down examples of the first two generations of these statutes, holding that they violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. A third generation of creationist legislation is now being proposed. Under this new generation of creationism legislation, science teachers would present so-called "intelligent design" theory as an alternative to evolution. Intelligent design theory asserts that a supernatural intelligence intervened in the natural world to dictate the nature and ordering of all biological species, which do not evolve from lower- to higher-order beings. This article considers whether these intelligent design creationism proposals can survive constitutional scrutiny. The authors analyze the religious, philosophical, and scientific details of intelligent design theory, and assess these details in light of the constitutional doctrine developed by the Court in its previous creationism decisions. The Article discusses several factors that pose problems for intelligent design theory, including the absence of objective scientific support for intelligent design, evidence of strong links between intelligent design and religious doctrine, the use of intelligent design to limit the dissemination of scientific theories that are perceived as contradicting religious teachings, and the fact that the irreducible core of intelligent design theory is what the Court has called the "manifestly religious" concept of a God or Supreme Being. Based on these details, the authors conclude that intelligent design theory cannot survive scrutiny under the constitutional framework used by the Court to invalidate earlier creationism mandates.

Matthew J. Brauer is a scientist on the research staff of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University; with Daniel R. Brumbaugh he wrote "Biology remystified: The scientific claims of the new creationists" for Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock (MIT Press, 2001). Barbara Forrest is Professor of Philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a member of NCSE's board of directors; with Paul R. Gross she wrote Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2004). Steven G. Gey is the David and Deborah Fonvielle and Donald and Janet Hinkle Professor of Law at Florida State University, and is considered to be one of the country's leading scholars on religious liberties and free speech.

To read "Is it science yet?" (1M PDF), visit:
http://law.wustl.edu/WULQ/83-1/p%201%20Brauer%20Forrest%20Gey%20book%20pages.pdf

KANSAS STATE SCIENCE STANDARDS REVIEWED

The external review of the latest draft of the Kansas science standards is complete, and there's no comfort in it for the antievolutionist majority on the state board of education. The external reviewer, Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), restricted its comments to the educational usefulness of the standards and did not evaluate their scientific accuracy. Even so, the antievolution material inserted by the board at the behest of local "intelligent design" enthusiasts came under fire.

The Associated Press (October 14, 2005) reported that McREL "cited only 7 percent of the material in the standards as questionable. Much of that material reflected intelligent design advocates' criticism of evolutionary theory that natural chemical processes can create the building blocks of life, that all life has a common origin and that man and apes share a common ancestor." And the Kansas City Star (October 14, 2005) reported that McREL observed that "most of the changes meant to criticize evolution could not be found in other educational sources. It also concluded that changes meant to question the validity of evolution contradicted other guidelines that stressed the importance of the theory."

What's next? The state board of education might order its staff or request the original writing committee to revise the draft in light of McREL's comments. But Steve Case, the co-chair of the writing committee, told the Kansas City Star that the committee -- which decried the board's changes to the standards -- would not participate further, saying, "They've taken over the writing ... So they'll make the changes." Board chair Steve Abrams told the Star that, barring any delays, the board was likely to vote on the standards at its next meeting, November 8 and 9, 2005.

The Associated Press's story mentioned a possible source of delay: "if the national and international science groups balk at allowing their materials to be part of the Kansas standards. In 1999, those organizations refused to grant copyright permission for changes in the Kansas standards that eliminated most references to evolution." John Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network was quoted as saying that such a denial of permission would be "another example of science interfering with education."

To read the Associated Press's story, visit:
http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/oct/14/report_criticizes_science_standards/?evolution

To read the Kansas City Star's story, visit:
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/12897395.htm

KITZMILLER COVERAGE CONTINUES

The trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the first legal challenge to the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools, began in a federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on September 26, 2005. The media is out in force, so much so that a summary of the extensive coverage is practically impossible. Instead, please browse through the following resources, all of which are replete with links, summaries, and information -- or misinformation: caveat lector.

For official information about the trial from the court itself, visit:
http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller.htm

For information about the case from NCSE, including audio reports from NCSE staff and trial transcripts, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/kitzmiller

For information about the case from the ACLU and Americans United, visit:
http://www.aclu.org/evolution
http://www.au.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issues_evolution

For coverage in the local press, visit:
http://www.ydr.com/news/doverbiology/
http://www.yorkdispatch.com/

For extensive blog coverage of the trial, visit The Panda's Thumb, the York Daily Record's Mike Argento, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and (with its own distinctive perspective) "Evolution News & Views," hosted by the Discovery Institute:
http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/09/waterloo_in_dov.html
http://www.yorkblog.com/archives/argentos_front_stoop/index.html
http://aclupa.blogspot.com/
http://www.evolutionnews.org/

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

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

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

Behe's 15th-century science

http://ydr.com/story/mike/90330/

MIKE ARGENTO Wednesday, October 19, 2005

HARRISBURG — Dr. Michael Behe, leading intellectual light of the intelligent design movement, faced a dilemma.

In order to call intelligent design a "scientific theory," he had to change the definition of the term. It seemed the definition offered by the National Academy of Science, the largest and most prestigious organization of scientists in the Western world, was inadequate to contain the scope and splendor and just plain gee-willigerness of intelligent design.

So he devised his own definition of theory, expanding upon the definition of those stuck-in-the-21st-century scientists, those scientists who ridicule him and call his "theory" creationism in a cheap suit.

He'd show them. He'd come up with his own definition.

Details aside, his definition was broader and more inclusive of ideas that are "outside the box."

So, as we learned Tuesday, during Day 11 of the Dover Panda Trial, under his definition of a scientific theory, astrology would be a scientific theory.

Astrology?

Who knew that Jacqueline Bigar, syndicated astrology columnist, was on par with Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe?

Eric Rothschild, attorney for the plaintiffs, asked Behe about whether astrology was science. And Behe, after hemming and hawing and launching into an abbreviated history of astrology and science, said, under his definition, it is. He said he wasn't a science historian, but the definition of astrology in the dictionary referred to its 15th-century roots, when it was equated with astronomy, which, according to the National Academy of Science, is a science.

So, taking a short logical leap, something Behe would certainly endorse since he does it a lot himself, you could say that intelligent design is on par with 15th-century science.

Sounds about right.

Actually, that's not quite fair. It shortchanges astrology. For example, my personal horoscope for Tuesday, formulated by the aforementioned famous scientist Bigar, said, "Confusion could be your middle name, but many other people feel confused too."

Nailed it.

Most of the confusion — and it just wasn't me — was brought on by Behe's second day on the witness stand. He talked about blood clotting — it's pretty complicated — and some guy named Dr. Doolittle and some other stuff dealing with Cytochrome c and gene duplication and exon transfer.

I don't think he was referring to the Dr. Doolittle who spoke to the animals. Or maybe he was. It's not exactly clear. As he referred to one of Dr. Doolittle's claims — and I'm pretty positive it had nothing to do with the Push-Me-Pull-You — he said, "If you think about it for a minute, it's easy to see what's going on here."

And then, in case you had no idea what he was talking about, he explained in terms that made it even more impenetrable.

After a while, he set into a pattern.

He'd say critics of his idea always misunderstand him, take things out of context and misrepresent what he means.

And then, to respond to them, he misunderstood what they said, took their words out of context and misrepresented what they said.

He would point to studies that seemed to support the evolutionary view of how things developed — articles written by scientists who accept the theory of evolution and who, consequently, don't think much of Behe — and say they support his views.

He'd expound at great length and then, as he would wind down, he'd say, "Now, here's the point ..."

And whatever his point was would be wrapped in so much verbiage you needed a backhoe to get to it.

By the time you kind of grasped what he was saying — I think, essentially, that Dr. Doolittle didn't know anything about talking to animals — he was off talking about what a wingnut Francis Crick turned out to be. Crick was one of two scientists who discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, winning a Nobel Prize. Later, Crick came up with a notion about how life started on this planet called "Directed Panspermia." His idea was that aliens reduced life to its smallest components, or something like that, and shot them to Earth via rocket ship.

I guess the point is being a scientist and a wingnut are not mutually exclusive.

As the cross-examination continued, another pattern developed. Rothschild would show Behe, on a big screen in the courtroom, a quote from "Of Pandas and People" and ask him a simple question about it.

The quote said, "Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact — fish with fins and scales, birds with feather, beaks and wings, etc."

Rothschild asked him whether he believed that statement said intelligent design meant life began abruptly on this planet.

It apparently was a trick question because Behe had a hard time answering it.

"I disagree," the scientist said.

And then, he explained what he thought the quotation meant, which wasn't what it said.

This went on for a while. Every time Rothschild would ask Behe about a statement, some he wrote himself, he'd say he'd have to disagree that it said what it said.

I expected Rothschild to ask Behe whether he was able to read and understand the English language.

At one point during Rothschild's cross-examination, the lawyer asked the scientist whether he was co-authoring a book, a follow-up to "Of Pandas and People," with several other intelligent esign moolahs. He said he wasn't.

The lawyer showed him depositions and reports to the court, quoting two of the other authors as saying he was a co-author.

Behe said that he wasn't a co-author of the book but that the statements by those guys weren't false. He said one of the authors was "seeing into the future."

Rothschild asked, "Is seeing into the future one of the powers of the intelligent-design movement?"

Behe didn't answer.

He didn't have to.

Seeing into the future is the province of that other science — you know, astrology.

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.

ACLU Backs Teachers Who Won't Teach Intelligent Design

http://www.thenewmexicochannel.com/news/5136054/detail.html

POSTED: 4:20 pm MDT October 20, 2005 UPDATED: 6:57 pm MDT October 20, 2005

RIO RANCHO, N.M. -- Intelligent Design is sparking controversy across the country and right here in New Mexico.

Sometimes confused with Creationism, Intelligent Design is the controversial assertion that something or someone -- God or otherwise -- created the universe, not an unguided process such as natural selection.

The Rio Rancho School Board has a policy that allows the teaching of alternative evolutionary theories like Intelligent Design. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union said it will support any Rio Rancho teacher who does not want to teach it in their classrooms.

The ACLU said any teacher who is disciplined for refusing to teach or discuss Intelligent Design should contact them.

Copyright 2005 by TheNewMexicoChannel.com

Cornell president condemns intelligent design

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/newyork/ny-bc-ny--cornell-intellige1021oct21,0,7433315.story?coll=ny-region-apnewyork

By WILLIAM KATES Associated Press Writer

October 21, 2005, 12:03 PM EDT

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Cornell University Interim President Hunter Rawlings III on Friday condemned the teaching of intelligent design as science, calling it "a religious belief masquerading as a secular idea."

"Intelligent design is not valid science," Rawlings told nearly 700 trustees, faculty and other school officials attending Cornell's annual board meeting.

"It has no ability to develop new knowledge through hypothesis testing, modification of the original theory based on experimental results and renewed testing through more refined experiments that yield still more refinements and insights," Rawlings said.

Rawlings, Cornell's president from 1995 to 2003, is now serving as interim president in the wake of this summer's sudden departure of former Cornell president Jeffrey Lehman.

Intelligent design is a theory that says life is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying a higher power must have had a hand. It has been harshly criticized by The National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which have called it repackaged creationism and improper to include in scientific education.

There are brewing disputes involving evolution and intelligent design in at least 20 states and numerous school districts nationwide, including California, New Mexico, Kansas and Pennsylvania. President Bush elevated the controversy in August when he said that schools should teach intelligent design along with evolution.

Many Americans, including some supporters of evolution, believe intelligent design should be taught with evolution. Rawlings said a large minority of Americans _ nearly 40 percent _ want creationism taught in public schools instead of evolution.

For those reasons, Rawlings said he felt it "imperative" to use his state-of-the-university address _ usually a recitation of the school's progress over the last year _ to speak out against intelligent design, which he said has "put rational thought under attack."

Rawlings noted that this is not the first time evolution has been challenged. Similar groundswells rose against it in the 1860s, shortly after Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," and in the 1920s, culminating in the famous "monkey trial" involving Tennessee high school biology teacher John Scopes. Evolution also was the focus again in 1987 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Louisiana's "Creationism Act" was invalid.

Rawlings' comments aren't the first time in which Cornell has stepped up to defend science.

Cornell's first president, Andrew Dickson White, wrote a two-volume work, "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom," in which he sought to provide his readers with a clear distinction between theology and science.

However, Rawlings also said Cornell has a history of supporting religious freedom. The campus is home to 26 different religious groups and has even designed its dining options to encourage religious observance, he said.

Rawlings said intelligent design needs to be discussed, but in its proper context.

"We should not suspend, or rather annul, the rules of science in order to allow any idea into American education. Intelligent design is a subjective concept. It is, at its core, a religious belief," he said.

On the Net:

Intelligent Design Network: www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org

National Center for Science Education: www.ncseweb.org

Cornell University: www.cornell.edu

Superintendent: Board sought legal advice on 'intelligent design'

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=15426389&BRD=2212&PAG=461&dept_id=465812&rfi=6

By MARTHA RAFFAELE, Associated Press Writer, The Associated Press October 20, 2005

The superintendent of a school district that is defending its decision to include "intelligent design" in its biology curriculum testified Thursday that the school board sought legal advice beforehand and never discussed creationism when it adopted the policy. Before the Dover Area School Board approved the curriculum change a year ago, its attorney researched whether the change was legal and said in a report to the board that he "found no case law either way," Superintendent Richard Nilsen said.

"I have reason to believe that the board did not think they were involved in illegal activity," Nilsen said.

Nilsen testified as a witness for the defense during the fourth week of a landmark federal trial that could determine whether intelligent design can be discussed in a public school biology class.

Intelligent design supporters 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.

Dover's policy requires students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact," has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to a textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information about the concept.

Eight families who are suing to have intelligent design removed from the curriculum argue that the policy essentially promotes the Bible's view of creation, and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Under questioning by Patrick Gillen, an attorney defending the school board in the lawsuit, Nilsen said board members had not discussed creationism with him before June 2004, when school board member Bill Buckingham complained that a biology book recommended by the administration was "laced with Darwinism."

Nilsen said he didn't understand Buckingham's complaint.

"All biology books are going to be full of Darwin's theory. I didn't understand his point," Nilsen said.

The trial began Sept. 26 and could last through early November. Nilsen was expected to resume his testimony Friday afternoon; Dick M. Carpenter II, an education professor at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, was scheduled to testify as an expert witness for the defense in the morning.

The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The school district is being represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a public-interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians.

On the Net:

Dover Area School District: http://www.dover.k12.pa.us

National Center for Science Education: http://www.ncseweb.org

Thomas More Law Center: http://www.thomasmore.org

Fossil record belies creationism theory

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/letters/sfl-brmail711oct21,0,1455939.story?coll=sfla-news-letters

Pompano beach Posted October 21 2005

Recently, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel published a number of articles concerning attempts by creationists to have creationism introduced into the science, specifically biology, curriculum of our nation's (public) primary and secondary schools to be taught along with the theory of evolution as an alternative theory. To make creationism more credible and acceptable, they have cloaked, i.e., disguised, it in wording like scientific creationism and creationism by intelligent design.

Creationism, however, is not a theory, no matter how disguised! It is entirely based on the belief held by creationists that biblical Scripture literally is the word of God and, therefore, inerrant and not subject to questioning, scrutiny and -- God forbid -- modification, let alone falsification. Scientific theories, on the other hand, are subject to constant questioning and scrutiny, i.e., testing and verification, and when necessary, modification and even falsification.

Creation by intelligent design makes no sense, given the fossil record of animal and plant extinctions and the appearance of new species over geologic time, the existence of disused, rudimentary, so-called vestigial organs in many organisms, and our own physical, anatomical and genetic imperfections.

All of us, for example, are predisposed genetically to certain illnesses and medical disorders like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol. The concept of creation by intelligent design derives from the argument for the need for a watchmaker when confronted by a watch, a merely human concept, which fails to recognize and account for the awesome powers of nature, be they cosmological, geological or meteorological. Indeed, creation by intelligent design implies the need for an intelligent designer, a Creator, i.e., God! It, therefore, is a religious and not a scientific concept.

Last, but not least, imagine the question we must pose if we were to extend the argument made by creationists for the need of an intelligent designer to its logical conclusion.

Erik H. Schot


Friday, October 21, 2005

Dover school chief says he doesn't recall creationism talk

http://www.yorkdispatch.com/local/ci_3139184

Article Last Updated: 10/21/2005 11:04:58 AM

Nilsen's notes show topic was discussed
CHRISTINA KAUFFMAN The York Dispatch

HARRISBURG -- Richard Nilsen was one of the people closest to the debate over intelligent design in Dover Area School District, both in capacity and proximity.

As the district's superintendent, Nilsen sits with board members -- at the left of the board president -- at the board's biweekly meetings.

And it is his job to work with and take direction from the board.

Nilsen was the second witness called by attorneys for his employer in the federal intelligent design trial, and he testified yesterday that he doesn't remember hearing board members talk about teaching creationism.

Attorneys for parents who sued the district called on several witnesses who were members of the audience at the meetings. Those witnesses testified that board members made religious comments, including reference to the crucifixion of Christ.

Notes: Nilsen started with the district as an assistant superintendent during the 1998-1999 school year, but was promoted to superintendent before the board began discussing a policy mentioning intelligent design in biology classes.

When the parents' attorneys were still making their case, they presented copies of notes Nilsen took at board and administrative retreats.

Nilsen wrote that board member Alan Bonsell had mentioned, among other issues, creationism and school prayer.

While Nilsen remembered other subjects brought up by other board members, he testified he didn't recall Bonsell talking about the subjects he had attributed to him.

School board attorney Patrick Gillen asked Nilsen how that could be.

Nilsen said he was most likely to remember issues brought up by board members that had to be dealt with for the coming school year; Bonsell's comments did not fit into that category. Nilson testified he was "more interested" in a building project of which Bonsell was in charge.

Contradicted teacher: Nilsen's testimony contradicted that of the high school's top science teacher, Bertha Spahr.

Spahr testified for the parents, saying assistant superintendent Michael Baksa told her one of the board members (which she later discovered was Bonsell) wanted to share equal time between creation and evolution in science classes.

Nilsen said he asked Baksa about the conversation, and Baksa said he never said that to the science teacher.

As the district prepared to purchase new biology textbooks, Nilsen testified that he delegated the responsibility of researching the issue to Baksa.

Nilsen said board member William Buckingham, who others testified made religious comments, gave him two intelligent design DVDs, "Icons of Evolution" and "Unlocking the Mystery of Life."

The Discovery Institute, the largest organization supporting and promoting intelligent design research, gives the videos for free to people who sign up for a membership.

Instead of watching the DVDs, Nilsen gave them to Baksa, he said.

Buckingham: Parents' witnesses testified that Buckingham wanted the school to teach creationism.

But Buckingham never explained why he gave Nilsen the DVDs or mentioned anything about his alleged concerns with teaching evolution without balancing it with creation, Nilsen said.

At a June 7, 2004, board meeting, Barrie Callahan, former board member and a plaintiff in the case, asked the board why it had not approved the biology textbook.

Buckingham told her the book was "laced with Darwinism," Nilsen said.

"All biology books are going to have Darwin in them," Nilsen testified. He didn't understand what Buckingham meant by the comment, he testified.

Other witnesses and former board members who testified for the parents said Buckingham made several religious comments at meetings that month. Two York newspapers reported the comments, including that Buckingham thought the separation of church and state is a myth and that board members should stand up for "someone" who "died on a cross" 2,000 years ago.

Nilsen said he didn't remember Buckingham or any board member making any religious comments.

At a June 14 board meeting, Nilsen was confused why Buckingham's wife, Charlotte Buckingham, used a public comment period of the meeting to spend several minutes reading from the book of Genesis, he testified.

"I never got what her point was," he said.

"Was it kind of embarrassing?" Gillen asked.

"Yes," Nilsen said.

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5434 or ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.

Superintendent: 'Intelligent design' not same as creationism

http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/103-10212005-558438.html

October 21, 2005 6:31 PM

By MARTHA RAFFAELE The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The superintendent of a school district that is defending its decision to mention "intelligent design" in biology classes testified Friday that he did not equate the concept with creationism.

"I did not see intelligent design as creationism. I saw them totally separate," Dover Area Superintendent Richard Nilsen said. "Creationism references Genesis. ... Intelligent design does not reference a biblical context at all."

The Dover Area School Board approved the curriculum change a year ago, requiring students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact," has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to a textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information.

Nilsen testified as a witness for the defense during the fourth week of a landmark federal trial that could determine whether intelligent design can be brought up in public school biology classes.

Eight families are suing to have intelligent design removed from the curriculum, because they believe the policy essentially promotes the Bible's view of creation, and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Intelligent design supporters 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.

Nilsen said Friday he didn't think the district's approach to intelligent design would get as involved as it did. He originally envisioned teachers making only passing references to the concept in biology class.

"No one had ever said we would ignore or modify the state standards on evolution," he said.

But when teachers started asking how to implement it, the district developed the statement to be read in class.

Under cross-examination, plaintiffs' attorney Eric Rothschild asked Nilsen about a reference "Of Pandas and People" made to a "master intellect" as the origin of life on Earth. He said that, in a pretrial deposition, Nilsen had said he thought that "could only mean God or aliens."

"Is that your idea of good pedagogy?" Rothschild asked.

Nilsen replied, "Good pedagogy is to give them (students) the understanding that people believe that is true and to give them other options."

Assistant superintendent Michael Baksa, who oversees the district's curriculum, testified Friday that creationism was never discussed when school board member Bill Buckingham met with Baksa in June 2004 to air his concerns about the biology textbook's treatment of evolution.

"I understood his concerns would be that the theory is treated like a fact, a reality," Baksa said. "It's mentioned so many times in the book that it biases students to accept it as a fact."

Dick M. Carpenter II, an education professor at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, also had been scheduled to testify Friday as an expert witness for the defense, but wasn't called because his testimony wasn't needed, said Patrick Gillen, an attorney representing the school board.

The trial began Sept. 26 and could last through early November. It was scheduled to resume Monday with additional testimony from Baksa and another defense expert witness, sociology professor Steven Fuller of the University of Warwick, England.

The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The school district is being represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a public-interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians.

On the Net:

Dover Area School District: http://www.dover.k12.pa.us

National Center for Science Education: http://www.ncseweb.org

Thomas More Law Center: http://www.thomasmore.org


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Not enough snake oil to go around

http://www.yorkdispatch.com/viewpoints/editorial/ci_3131330

Article Last Updated: 10/20/2005 09:54:31 AM

Creationism, intelligent design, the truth of the "revealed word" -- whatever one wishes to call it -- obviously has more reincarnations than the Hindu pantheon of gods and proves there's always a crowd clamoring for more snake oil.

In their zeal, lemming-like creationists and their ilk manage -- through the wonders of a media-centered civilization -- to continue to wedge their purely religious agenda into scientific discussion and education.

It's their unabashed contribution to the rest of the world's perceived dumbing of America. In a sense they may be succeeding -- they are managing to get their names in the newspapers -- and for them, that's what really counts.

Seen in the light of the eons of man's development into a rational, thinking being, creationism's claims are inexplicable and resemble a continuing demand for adult attention from an eternal adolescent.

For the last 200 years -- and yes, even before Charles Darwin suggested the common-sense and scientific march of evolution -- creationists, mired in a quicksand of obvious fact and railing at the light of knowledge, have found myth a more suitable refuge than reality.

And like adolescents, intellectual or otherwise, they tend to become more vocal as less and less attention is paid them. Such was the case in the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey trial in Dayton, Tenn.

Despite the court's finding a high school biology teacher guilty of teaching evolution -- and sentenced to pay $100 in fines -- the trial was a resounding defeat for fundamentalist creationists. Out of 15 states considering anti-evolution laws that year, only two, Arkansas and Mississippi, enacted such statutes.

Now there is a new court venue, this time in federal Middle District Court in Harrisburg, through which the creationists -- who claim intelligent design has a "scientific" basis -- again jostle for the media spotlight.

And again the public relations campaigns of their supporters scramble eagerly for a mention in print or moment before the camera.

It's a penalty a technologically driven society -- at its base bound to scientific method and yes, human evolution -- must pay from time to time.

It can be sad, even disheartening in the extreme, to see some members of that society disown the glories of the achievements of science and rationality for creationist gobbledygook.

But as history shows us every day, there's never enough snake oil to go around.

Creationism Bullies Advance

http://www.alternet.org/wiretap/27075/

By Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed. Posted October 19, 2005.

The battles over the teaching of evolution are moving from high schools to universities. Tools In the battles over the teaching of evolution, it's usually the critics of evolution who are accused of crossing church/state lines.

But last week, some of those critics filed suit in federal court against the University of California at Berkeley, charging that its views on evolution are leading it to violate the separation of church and state. Berkeley was sued for maintaining a Web site, Understanding Evolution, to help schoolteachers. The site contains a links section that notes the many religious organizations that have stated that faith is not incompatible with evolution, and these links violate the First Amendment, according to the suit.

While much of the debate over evolution is taking place in public schools, not colleges, the lawsuit is the latest example of how these discussions can spill into higher education -- even when there is a wide and strongly held consensus among scientists backing evolution. In fact, this is the second lawsuit this year in which anti-evolution groups have gone after the University of California. The university system was sued in August over its refusal to certify high school courses on creationism and "intelligent design" as meeting the entry requirements for admission.

"These suits are attempts to bully academic institutions into compromising the science education that they provide, and I hope universities continue to stand up and not take it," said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He said that efforts to oppose evolution have already moved from elementary and secondary schools to theme parks and science museums "so it's not surprising to see this directed at institutions of higher education."

One irony of the Berkeley lawsuit is that science organizations have been calling on universities to sponsor projects that reach out to public schools to explain evolution. "Berkeley is doing exactly what it ought to be doing," Leshner said.

The lawsuit charges otherwise. It was brought by Jeanne Caldwell, a California parent whose husband, Larry, is a lawyer, an anti-evolution activist, and the founder of a group called Quality Science Education for All. In an interview, Larry Caldwell, said he was not affiliated with the Discovery Institute, which is leading much of the campaign against evolution, but within an hour of Caldwell talking to Inside Higher Ed, the Discovery Institute sent -- unsolicited -- material denouncing the Berkeley Web site.

Caldwell said that by linking to religious groups' statements in favor of religion, Berkeley was "taking a position on evolution and attempting to persuade minor students to accept that position." He said it was the "height of hypocrisy for this to be coming from people who claim that they are trying to keep religious instruction out of science class." The suit was also filed against the National Science Foundation, which is providing some financial support for the Web site.

Asked if the links did not represent straightforward facts (that various religious groups do back evolution), Caldwell said that links should have been included to religious groups offering non-evolution views. He also objected to suggestions to teachers about how they can talk with students about views they have heard opposing evolution, and how teachers may need to respect religious sensibilities in some parts of the country and watch what they say.

Caldwell declined to discuss his views on the origins of life, but said, "I don't think evolution provides a scientific explanation for the origin of life." He said that he wasn't trying to impose religious views. "I'm talking about fossil record," he said. "I just don't think the scientific evidence for evolution is very strong at all."

The professors who run the Web site have been asked by Berkeley officials not to discuss the legal issues related to the suit. But Roy L. Caldwell, one of those professors, did agree to offer his thoughts on why the Web site and the legal battle over it are important. Caldwell, who is not related to Larry Caldwell, is a professor of integrative biology and director of the Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley.

"I am a scientist, and I understand what science is. It is fact-based. It involves hypothesis testing. It is not faith-based," he said. The Web site was designed to help teachers -- especially those who may feel pressure because of the current attacks on evolution -- better explain the science. The information about religious views was included on the Web site not out of a desire to change anyone's religious beliefs, Roy Caldwell said, but because many teachers ask for advice on how to deal with this issue, since their students ask them about it.

The information about religious groups is strictly factual, he said. "The fact is that there are many people who recognize that religious faith and science are not necessarily incompatible," he said.

While the focus of the lawsuit is about evolution, Roy Caldwell said that critics of evolution have a larger agenda. "I think this is a much broader attack on scientific principles in general," he said.

Michael R. Smith, assistant chancellor for legal affairs at Berkeley, said that the university would defend the lawsuit "with vigor and enthusiasm."

He said that the argument that Berkeley was violating the First Amendment with regard to church/state separation was "highly questionable," and that "it's the university's job to share scientific and other information with the public."

In addition, he said that the lawsuit was seeking to attack Berkeley's exercise of another part of the First Amendment by trying to censor a Web site. "The university has rights of free speech," Smith said.

The evolution of creationism

http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/1020/p08s02-comv.html

from the October 20, 2005 edition

The Monitor's View

In 1987, the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that forbade teaching evolution in public schools unless creationism were also taught. The court found creationism to be a religious belief. But evolution's challengers have since adapted their cause to the new legal climate, just like Darwin's famed finches that formed special beaks to survive on the Galapagos Islands.

Their alternative to Darwin's theory is called "intelligent design," which holds that the universe is so complex it had to be designed by an intelligent (unnamed) agent. Last month, a federal court began hearing a case against the school board in Dover, Pa., which decided last year that 9th-grade biology students should be read a brief statement that evolution is "not a fact" and has "gaps." The statement also alerts students to a book about intelligent design. Some parents sued the school board, arguing that intelligent design is just a 21st-century version of creationism.

The case has the potential to reach the nation's high court - perhaps allowing the justices again to move the delicate line between church and state, at a time of rising interest in spirituality as well as rising clout for conservative Christians.

Advocates of intelligent design say it differs sufficiently from creationism by challenging evolution on the basis of science, not biblical creed. It rejects creationism's literal reading of the Bible which would put the age of the universe at less than 10,000 years. And it does accept a limited view of adaptation over time. But proponents don't accept that evolution alone explains biological life.

That doubt is common to many Americans, 80 percent of whom believe in God and 42 percent of whom, according to a July Pew poll, believe in the creationist idea that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

But the Dover school board's argument that intelligent design is science, not religion, is found wanting. The statement for students seems to fault evolution for being a "theory." Yet a theory involves considerable evidence toward an accepted principle. As an explanation for biological life, evolution is gathering ever more evidence. Intelligent design is still a hypothesis, and vulnerable by its lack of evidence.

And one has to wonder how far removed creationism is from the Dover case. The recommended book on intelligent design had references to creationism replaced before publication. Initially, the board discussed teaching creationism. And while intelligent design itself doesn't credit God as the designer, a key defense witness did.

Let's remind ourselves why such a whiff of religion, even an unnamed cosmic designer, is best left out of public schools. A school board with power to teach one person's religion also has power to deny it, and teach someone else's.

If this case encourages a deeper pondering of God, that's welcome. One could even argue that intelligent design, as a widely accepted concept, should go much further, seeking to scientifically explore mankind's spiritualnature rather than the origins of matter. But such exploration is a personal one, not appropriate for a public classroom.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Giving intelligent design the slip

http://thedaily.washington.edu/opinion.lasso?-database=DailyWebSQL&-table=Articles&-response=opinionpage.lasso&-keyField=__Record_ID__&-keyValue=14042&-search

By The Daily Editorial Board
October 19, 2005

Several UW researchers recently expressed their disapproval of teaching intelligent design in academic studies. Spurred by recent funding from the Discovery Institute (a Seattle thinktank) toward investigating intelligent design, these researchers balk at the idea of intelligent design being mentioned alongside evolution; they feel it undermines the progress of scientific research and attempts to slip religion into educational programs

Criticized as being a watered-down version of Creationism, implicating an "intelligent designer," namely a higher God-like figure in the molding and creation of life, is problematic in many ways. Primarily, it inserts religion into science, and attempts to put religion into public education.

The Daily fully supports UW academics, and we wholeheartedly support the researchers who choose to speak out against intelligent design. It has no place in public education, higher or lower. It pointedly goes against published research on evolution, posing complex issues that are not relevant to courses and confusing the issue. It challenges the closest thing we have to making sense of how we came to be.

If schools want to mention the concept of intelligent design when introducing evolution, so be it. But teaching it as a full subject of study is simply misleading the concept of what science and research should be.

Creationism in Schools and the Flying Spaghetti Monster

http://www.smithsophian.com/media/paper587/news/2005/10/06/Opinion/Creationism.In.Schools.And.The.Flying.Spaghetti.Monster-1013053.shtml

The Sophian - Opinion Issue: 10/6/05

By Mara Meaney-Ervin

In the midst of a pending legal battle and extensive debate, the conflict between evolution and creationism rages stronger than ever before. However, contrary to popular belief, intelligent design (ID) is not the only existing and well-substantiated form of creationism. Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (FSM) amasses a continually growing cult following whose members believe the Flying Spaghetti Monster is responsible for the creation of the world and guides all things with His Noodly Appendage.

On behalf of Pastafarians (as the followers of FSM call themselves), Bobby Henderson recently wrote a letter to the Kansas School Board demanding that FSM enjoy equal attention in school curricula alongside the theories of evolution and intelligent design. Furthermore, Henderson threatened to take legal action if his requests, along with those of the hundreds of Pastafarians who have subsequently contacted the Board, were ignored.

In this same letter, Henderson further explains the feasibility and implications of FSM, expounding upon the event of creation in an attempt to prove that FSM, similar to intelligent design, is based on science and not faith.

Upon further investigation FSM begins to seem less ridiculous, particularly in conjunction with intelligent design (ID). Primarily citing their belief that "Life is so intricate that only a supreme being could have designed it," ID's many inexhaustible enthusiasts insist that its roots are scientific. This statement, however, is the extent of substantial evidence proposed. While FSM seeks only a hearty laugh, ID poses religious conjecture as science.

While sharing many characteristics with the satirical FSM, intelligent design is not a joke; the proponents of ID consider it a serious proposal. According to the New York Times, two-thirds of Americans believe creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools. This statistic is frightening. Shouldn't school focus on comprehensive critical thinking skills rather than rhetoric and speculation? If, as the American populace seems to desire, creationism deserves a place in schools, I, for one, cast my vote for FSM. As Pastafarians everywhere say, "R-Amen.

MIRACULOUS ALTERNATIVE or MYSTICAL NONSENSE?

http://umanitoba.ca/manitoban/2005-2006/1019/915.miraculous.alternative.or.mystical.nonsense.php

B.C. pre-med student heals beyond the borders of western medicine
Claire Crighton, The McGill Daily

Your capacity to become conscious of the energy flowing through your body is what — bear with me here — a 19-year-old pre-med student thinks can change the face of healing in the western world.

His name is Adam

Adam, who has chosen not to publicly disclose his surname, was a regular middle-class kid growing up in the suburbs of Vancouver. Adam had an ordinary childhood — joining sports teams and doing well in school. But he gradually began to realize that he was different from his playmates.

"As a kid, hide 'n' seek was not a game that I enjoyed . . .. I just couldn't figure out the point of the game. Someone might be hiding behind an object such as a tree, but they would still be visible to me. Their aura would show beyond the tree's outline. It was as ludicrous as a large man trying to hide behind a broomstick," writes Adam in his first book, Dreamhealer, which he published at 16.

In high school, Adam discovered that he had the ability to heal others' ailments through visualization. By picturing himself inside the body of another person, Adam claims he can remove the energy blockages that prevent the individual's body from functioning properly.

For example, when Adam is trying to heal someone with a heart problem, he projects himself inside this person's heart, amid the blood, veins and arteries. Once inside the patient, Adam takes a visual tour of the ailing organ. By manipulating what he sees, Adam leads the person's body on the path back to health.

As Adam experimented with his healing ability, he found that he could heal from a distance. By simply looking at someone's photograph, he is capable of connecting with what he refers to as the person's "energy system" as easily as if the person were sitting in front of him.

While it may all sound pretty implausible, I couldn't help but begin to suspend my disbelief as Adam matter-of-factly explained his method of healing to me over the phone.

"I look at someone's picture. Exactly what happens, I really don't know — I think it's just something I was born with. All of a sudden, I totally disconnect from everything around me in the room, and I see these images of the person in front of me. And then, from there, I can see what's wrong with the person. When I change around these images in front of me, it influences the person's health," he explained.

Though Adam's straightforward tone made his healing method sound simple, he insisted that his work has a complex scientific basis. Invoking principles of quantum physics, Adam explained that he heals by perceiving and controlling the field of quantum information, in which all of the universe's particles are connected to one another.

In Dreamhealer, Adam writes that "during a treatment, I project holographic images, or holograms, in front of me . . . . Every physical object emits its own quantum hologram, which contains all information about it. From this field of quantum information, I can focus or zoom in using specific information or views, which I project as a hologram.

"Once this hologram appears, I can manipulate the energy so that the person can find their way back to a healthy state," he said.

Now in the second year of a pre-med program, Adam told me that what he has learned while studying molecular biology and biochemistry also helps to account for his ability to heal.

"Every time a chemical bond forms, light gets trapped, and every time a chemical bond breaks, light gets emitted. That's been known for a long time. When you consider all the chemical reactions that are happening throughout your body, there's light constantly being absorbed and emitted. And this light that gets absorbed and emitted plays a role in catalyzing or inhibiting various reactions throughout your body.

"When you think a thought, neurons are going off, and when neurons are going off, they're emitting vast amounts of light. So every time you're thinking a thought, you're emitting this light that's permeating throughout your entire body, and it's influencing your health. By you thinking thoughts about helping someone else, you're actually releasing this light by biophoton emissions, and it's influencing that other person's health, too," he explained.

But, Adam's scientific reasoning may not be as sound as it appears. Professor Paul Wiseman, of McGill's physics and chemistry departments, disputes the accuracy of Adam's suppositions.

"It is a fact that certain organisms, usually found in the oceans, can give off their own light through various chemical mechanisms . . .. However, there is absolutely no evidence of humans giving off light or 'bio emission,'" argued Wiseman.

Exciting alternative ...

Whether you buy into Adam's science or not, scores of people claim that this unassuming teenager has helped to improve their health, either by reducing the physical suffering brought on by medical ailments or by curing them altogether. Adam has treated a variety of conditions, ranging from chronic asthma to syringomyelia, a degenerative spinal condition. His books and website are filled with glowing testimonials from individuals who had previously given up hope of ever feeling healthy again.

Adam and his abilities gained widespread media attention in 2002, when he allegedly cured the terminal pancreatic cancer of rock legend Ronnie Hawkins — without ever having met him.

Reading in his local paper that Hawkins had been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer and had been given three to six months to live, Adam asked Hawkins' manager for a photograph of the musician. He conducted a series of treatments on Hawkins, working to reduce the size of his tumour by accessing his hologram. As Adam continued to treat Hawkins, the musician gradually began to look and feel healthier.

In April 2003, eight months after Hawkins' cancer had been diagnosed as terminal, doctors ran an MRI. Hawkins was cancer-free, with no evidence of any tumour remaining.

"Adam got in touch with me and helped me to believe in myself again. Pretty soon after his treatments started, he told me the cancer was gone. For whatever it is that Adam does, whatever he did for me, I don't understand it, and I don't criticize what I don't understand. I know Adam can't help everyone on the planet, but I hope people will believe that there is more to our world than we can see and understand," wrote Hawkins in a testimonial published in Dreamhealer.

Of course, for every person Adam has allegedly healed, dozens of skeptics exist whoquickly dismiss Adam's healing abilities as mystical nonsense.

In Dreamhealer, Adam explains that his father was once one of those people.

"Initially, [my parents] disbelieved it. Understandably, it was hard for them to accept. It was especially difficult for my father, who would always look for a scientific explanation for everything," Adam writes, adding that his dad was eventually convinced by the miraculous way in which Adam was able to reduce the pain caused by his mother's multiple sclerosis.

Adam said he doesn't waste his energy attempting to sway disbelievers; those who benefit from his treatments and attend his workshops are convinced of the verity of his claims. To Adam, that's all that matters.

"You know how you get in an argument with someone, and you know you're right, and you just go in circles? I know what I'm experiencing is real. At the workshops, I do aura readings in front of 500 people there, and anyone who comes to the workshop will see that it's pretty authentic, what I'm doing," he said.

But Professor Wiseman thinks that Adam's method of healing is a questionable money-making scheme that capitalizes on the gullibility of individuals desperately seeking medical help.

"To me, this Adam appears to be one of those charlatans who is trying to make money out of ignorance. Like many in this area, he couches his writing in complex scientific terms that appear to lend credibility to what he is saying. In my opinion, he is trying to make money in a very disingenuous way," Wiseman maintained.

Though Adam does profit from the books he sells and the workshops he has recently begun to conduct, his healing isn't exactly a cash-grab. Adam often refrains from charging for treatment, especially if his work proves unsuccessful — which it sometimes does if the patient's illness is too far developed for him to help.

When the late author and broadcaster Bill Cameron was battling esophageal cancer, he contacted Adam as a last resort.

"Adam scanned my body twice, from thousands of miles away, wrestled with my cancer and failed to evict it, but did not charge me a dime for the effort . . . . That, in alternative medicine, may be the most rigorous test of faith available," said Cameron in an interview with the Toronto Star.

... or "New Age hooey?"

It's evident that most members of western society have an automatic aversion to anything that resembles an alternative approach to healing. Invested in a traditional medical system, many immediately reject any idea that includes words like 'hologram' and 'aura.'

This closed-mindedness about unconventional approaches to science was blatantly demonstrated following the release of the 2004 film What the #$*! Do We Know!?. Combining a documentary style with a narrative story line, What the #$*! explores the physical universe and human life through theories of quantum physics, among other approaches.

While many reviewers championed the film, the scathing, negative reviews showed an unhealthy level of scepticism that often resorted to outright name-calling. Lou Lumenick of the New York Post gave the film zero out of four stars and dismissed it as "two hours of New Age hooey," while the Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan wrote that "it feels like a cross between a PBS special hosted by a series of low-rent Deepak Chopras and an infomercial for self-help audio tapes."

Adam maintains that this hysterical intolerance is typical of a society that fears the unknown; western culture often clings steadfastly to the status quo while refusing to even entertain the idea that alternative approaches could provide valuable insight into common problems.

"Some people just can't go there," he said with a sardonic chuckle.

"It seems every other culture is completely open to this stuff. I don't exactly know why that is — I think that we just became too focused on things that we can see and touch and feel — material things. I think we've just sort of made our minds drift away from what we're naturally connected to anyway."

But Wiseman insisted that, though the Western scientific method may seem overly cautious, the system is necessary to ensure that the results produced are valid.

"In science, we have to advance based on skepticism. That is the only way we have been successful in the past few hundred years. We demand proof under experimentally-controlled conditions — not anecdotal evidence," Wiseman said.

It's important to note, however, that Adam doesn't feel that his healing methods can or should supplant western medicine. His website parades the disclaimer that "Adam's techniques are not meant to replace the advice from your health care professional. Your health care is ultimately your decision."

Moreover, Adam believes that the established system is excellent at achieving certain things, though in his pre-med classes he's noticed areas that could use vast improvement.

"I think [western medicine] focuses too strongly just on drugs. There are so many different chemical pathways happening throughout the body; it's impossible to isolate specific ones all the time for certain illnesses. You influence one thing — you're not going to do it without influencing everything else, too.

"But that's just how it is right now," he added, sighing.

Healing by intention

Over the years, Adam's work has increasingly emphasized the healing potential of intention. His second book, Dreamhealer 2: Guide to Self-Empowerment, is a manual that urges its readers to tap into their own healing abilities by using Adam's techniques, such as visualizations.

"What I'm promoting is self-empowerment, the ability of everyone to heal themselves. I think that the power of visualization — the power of intention — is something that's really overlooked by the medical community. And it's not the only tool you should use for healing yourself, it's just one of many tools you can use to influence your own health . . .. There are countless studies out there proving that intentions are influencing health, and this phenomenon is real," Adam said.

Adam insists that his abilities to heal are not unique; rather, with enough confidence and self-awareness, every human being is able to effect positive changes in their own and others' health.

Guide to Self-Empowerment contains step-by-step directions on how you can influence your own health. After outlining the role that lifestyle, attitudes and emotions play in self-healing, Adam suggests techniques that can help you become aware of auras and the universal energy field. He then recommends different types of visualizations that may be used to target specific diseases or parts of the body.

Adam said that it's often difficult to demonstrate the healing power of intention to people his own age, as few university students are faced with debilitating illnesses. Nevertheless, he recognizes that students often suffer from an inordinate amount of stress-related worry and suggests that self-empowered thinking — like that promoted by some psychiatric and Buddhist traditions — is the best way to reduce this anxiety.

"I think meditation does help for stress — just clearing your mind and relaxing helps a lot for midterms or finals or whatever," he said.

In the end, Adam is just a regular university student trying to balance his extracurricular pursuits with his heavy course load.

Science reporter lectures on intelligent design

http://www.ramcigar.com/media/paper366/news/2005/10/19/News/Science.Reporter.Lectures.On.Intelligent.Design-1025564.shtml

By Sara Day
Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2005

10/19/05 - Charles Petit, a freelance science reporter and contributing editor for U.S. News and World Report, spoke to about 30 people Tuesday morning at the University of Rhode Island Narragansett Bay Campus about his 34-year career covering the science beat.

"I like to write these kinds of stories, they are interesting to kids who might take a few more courses in science after reading a particular article," Petit said. "Those who know it least are anointed to tell the world what happened."

Petit said he started school taking courses in astronomy and other sciences. He joked at one point, and said, "Science requires a certain attention span, which I lack."

Petit said he was not sure he made the right choice in pursuing a career in science, and told the story of why he got involved in science reporting instead.

There was an instance when a colleague of his had a story about his work published and the reporter got a lot of information wrong. Petit said the colleague said, "What this world needs is some good science reporters."

Petit said that was the point he thought about getting into journalism. He was a student at the University of California at Berkeley and decided to take a news-writing course.

"Writers tend to overwrite prose with verbal pyrotechnics," Petit said, referring to what a professor once told him about non-journalists. "As a journalist, you are required to pick up facts quickly and digest them."

"You will never know as much as the Ph.D.s that you work with," Petit added.

Petit said that journalists operate on a different level of abstraction and do not need to know as much as scientists to be able to write about science effectively.

Petit said jobs in scientific journalism are drying up now.

"There is a deterioration of science writing in the mainstream, a distortion 'weirding' of science," Petit said about the push for teaching of intelligent design in the classroom.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Design theory not only unsupported, but ridiculous

http://www.temple-news.com/media/paper143/news/2005/10/18/Opinion/Design.Theory.Not.Only.Unsupported.But.Ridiculous-1024575.shtml

By Venuri Siriwardane
Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Article Tools: Page 1 of 1

The force of attraction between bodies containing mass is undoubtedly the intelligent handiwork of a supreme celestial being.

Four centuries ago, before the mathematical endeavors of Isaac Newton, this statement describing the phenomenon known as gravity was a widely accepted 'truth.'

Today, this supernaturalization of gravity would be ridiculed to the point of disdain and tossed to the wayside where all preposterous, scientifically unsound notions belong.

Why then, in this modern society that was built on the foundation of evidence, is the scientifically accurate theory of evolution being challenged by an unsupported pretense such as intelligent design?

Intelligent design declares that Darwin's theory of natural selection cannot fully explain the emergence of highly complex life forms on Earth. Instead, it states that the origin of life is the product of an unidentified intelligent force.

The Dover Area School District is the nation's first to require that students be exposed to this concept. Their policy directs biology teachers to read a statement to students claiming that Darwin's theory of evolution is "not a fact" and contains unaccountable "gaps." Students are then referred to an intelligent design textbook for more information.

The school district is currently facing a lawsuit filed by eight families in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union. The families claim that the district's attempt to promote the Bible's view of creation is a direct violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

What is unfathomable is that this outrageous notion of intelligent design has been defended to the point of being addressed in court. If it fails to meet the criteria to fill a space in public school curriculums, then it should not be taught. Richard Weisenberg, a Temple professor of biology who teaches an evolution course, dismisses intelligent design as utter absurdity.

"Intelligent design is viewed as total nonsense by all proper scientists," Weisenberg said. "The issue is science. Science is the mechanism for understanding the natural world."

Furthermore, intelligent design has not and never can be subject to the scientific method because it is impossible to do so. It cannot be observed within a space-time continuum.

"Give me a prediction that I can test in the field or in the laboratory," Weisenberg said. "If you can't give me such a prediction, get the hell out of my lab."

Advocates of intelligent design argue that there are inexplicable "holes" within the evidential infrastructure for Darwin's theory that all life on Earth evolved from common ancestry over billions of years. While some missing links do exist, they are constantly being addressed and resolved in labs, research facilities and by other proper scientific means.

Proponents of intelligent design also assert that it transcends creationism since it does not endorse any religious views and because the indication of a purposeful designer counts as a competing scientific theory, they say.

But this is simply a guise behind which creationists are hiding.

"They wanted fundamental Christian creationism in the schools and they got crushed time and time again," Weisenberg said. "Then they came up with this intelligent design thing. It's just a trick on a part of the creationists to get creationism into the science classroom."

Mainstreaming intelligent design into our public schools is like informing students that there is a possibility that Earth is not round but indeed flat due to inconsistencies in satellite photos. Implanting an unproven ideology into impressionable minds too immature to challenge it is not only reckless but also dangerous.

Our educational system has a sacred obligation to behave responsibly for the benefit of future generations and the betterment of society. If intelligent design is allowed to penetrate public school curriculums, it will pave the way for other ridiculous beliefs. What's next, gravity being dubbed "calculated descent?"

Venuri Siriwardane can be reached at venuri.siriwardane@temple.edu.

Museum tours spark controversy

http://www.thecherrycreeknews.com/content/view/176/2/

Written by Devon Barclay
Tuesday, 18 October 2005

While the courts debate the constitutionality of teaching intelligent design and creationism in public schools, some private schools are taking another tack. Through guided field trips to venues like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Zoo, tour guides hired by churches, private schools, and religious organizations are taking students on a hands-on "debunking" of evolutionary science— counter to the message those same exhibits carry. And while using public resources to teach creationism has been ruled unconstitutional, these tours operate without museum sanction or resources, and tour the exhibits as any other guest might.

The tours are led by companies like BC (Biblically Correct) Tours, but are nothing new. BC, for example, has been providing the tours for over 15 years, and has taken around 30,000 people to major historic sites and landmarks throughout the state. With the growth in private, religious schools, however, demand for the tours seems to be picking up.

Maranatha Christian Academy in Arvada has used the touring company for its own field trips. The school's founder, Pastor Don Miller, "evolved into a creationist" from an upbringing as an atheist and after a career in pharmaceutical science. He started the school as part of his ministry. "I became a believer through the theory of intelligent design," says Miller. "The scientific facts just didn't support evolution. I saw the lies of evolution in the public schools, and as a scientist realized that it didn't qualify as a theory."

Now, says Miller, "we have scientists that teach creationism in our high school. We look at evolution, and we blow it away." As for the touring companies, Miller says, "they're doing it based on looking at the fossil record, and it's the right perspective."

Others in the conservative religious community also speak highly of the tours, especially as a stimulus for debate on the evolution issue. Often lost in the intelligent design debate are the sheer number of variations of the idea within the intelligent design community. "I've been a 'day-age' creationist," says Pastor Roger Funk of Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, describing the view that the days described in Genesis could have been spaced over millennia. "But over the years, I've become more of a twenty-four hour day creationist. Within the Christian community, there's divergent views. Obviously we all believe God played a role in whatever beginnings of life took place, because that's being a Christian as we understand it." But between evolution, intelligent design, and strict creationism, Funk says, "children need to know all three. For maybe 40% of Americans, evolution's a strong belief. Children need to understand the theory, and that there are giant holes."

Richard Stucky was raised as a creationist, but says, "my parents gave me National Geographic as a child because they wanted me to be a free thinker." He's now the Denver Museum of Nature and Science's Vice-President for Research and Collections. He believes that "it is anybody's right to provide their own interpretation of the material in the museum, but the tours provide a great deal of false information, more or less attack straw men, and don't use a scientific method for understanding the origins of life." Still, he says, "the exposure of real scientific information to all people is a very positive thing."

"In science," he says, "you use many of the same standards as you would in a courtroom. "You can't just use testimony from a single source to draw conclusions."

With or without real holes in the theory of evolution, it seems pretty clear that the tours "debunking" the theory will continue. "The tours are taking place but they're not sponsored by the museum – we want to be very clear about that," says Julia Taylor, a museum spokesperson. "There are some free speech issues involved."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State confirms that. Says Jeremy Leaming, a spokesperson for the organization's D.C. office, "as a private group they have a free speech right to do this, as long as they're not taking public school kids or receiving state support. I don't see a first amendment (church-state separation) issue."

Professor: Design not creationism

http://www.yorkdispatch.com/local/ci_3127930 Article Last Updated: 10/18/2005 11:18:04 AM

Attacks earlier biologist's work in Dover trial
CHRISTINA KAUFFMAN The York Dispatch

The Harrisburg courtroom was packed yesterday with reporters and members of the public who came to see the second half of Dover's intelligent design trial.

The defense began presenting its case by calling its star witness -- Lehigh University professor, biochemist and top intelligent design scientist Michael Behe.

Thomas More Law Center attorney Robert Muise started the questioning in a simple format, asking, for example, if Behe had an opinion about whether intelligent design is creationism. Then he asked Behe to explain why.

Behe said intelligent design is not creationism, but a scientific theory that makes scientific claims that can be tested for accuracy.

Behe testified that intelligent design doesn't require a supernatural creator, but an intelligent designer: it does not name the designer.

He said evolution is not a fact and there are gaps in the theory that can be explained by intelligent design.

There is evidence that some living things were purposefully arranged by a designer, Behe claimed in his testimony.

Gave examples: One example is the bacterial flagellum, the tail of a bacteria that quickly rotates like an outboard motor, he said.

The bacterial flagellum could not have slowly evolved piece by piece as Charles Darwin posited because if even one part of the bacteria is removed, it no longer serves its original function, Behe said.

Biologist and Brown University professor Kenneth Miller testified for the parents about two weeks ago. He showed the courtroom diagrams on a large screen, detailing how the bacterial flagellum could be reduced and still work.

Also showing diagrams, Behe said Miller was mistaken and used much of his testimony in an attempt to debunk Miller's testimony.

Miller was wrong when he said that intelligent design proponents don't have evidence to support intelligent design so they degrade the theory of evolution, Behe said.

But Behe also said evolution fails to answer questions about the transcription on DNA, the "structure and function of ribosomes," new protein interactions and the human immune system, among others.

By late in the afternoon, Behe was supporting his arguments with complex, detailed charts, at one point citing a scientific article titled "The Evolved Galactosidase System as a Model for Studying Acquisitive Evolution in the Laboratory."

Most of the pens in the jury box -- where the media is stationed in the absence of a jury -- stopped moving. Some members of the public had quizzical expressions on their faces.

One of the parents' attorneys made mention of the in-depth subject matter, causing Muise to draw reference to Miller's earlier testimony.

He said the courtroom went from "Biology 101" to "Advanced Biology."

"This is what you get," Muise said.

Board responds: Randy Tomasacci, a school board member with a Luzerne County school district, said he was impressed with Behe's testimony.

Tomasacci represents Northwest Area School District in Shickshinny, a board that is watching the Dover trial and is contemplating adopting an intelligent design policy.

"We're going to see what happens in this case," he said.

Some of his fellow board members are afraid of getting sued, Tomasacci said.

Tomasacci's friend, Lynn Appleman, said he supports Dover's school board.

He said he thought Behe was "doing a good job" during testimony, but "it can get over my head pretty quick."

Former professor Gene Chavez, a Harrisburg resident, said he came to watch part of the proceedings because the case is "monumental."

He said he had doubts about the effectiveness of Behe's testimony.

"I think he's going to have a hard time supporting what he has concluded," Chavez said. "I think he is using his science background to make a religious leap because it's what he believes."

Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5434 or ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.

New alternative medicines research centers created

http://www.researchresearch.com/news.cfm?pagename=newsStory&type=default&elementID=55735

The National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has announced funding for three Centers of Excellence and two International Centers to study complementary and alternative medicines. Three of the five new centers will study traditional Chinese medicine–acupuncture and herbs–while the other two will study millimeter wave therapy and traditional African herbal remedies.

"We are excited by the addition of these centers to our research program and the unique collaborations and approaches they bring to studies of CAM practices," said Stephen Straus, NCCAM director. "All five centers will strengthen our research portfolio for major health problems–HIV/AIDS, arthritis, asthma, and pain. Plus, the new international centers will conduct basic and clinical studies of promising CAM interventions drawn from traditional medicine indigenous to the locations of international partners."

The effects of traditional Chinese medicines on arthritis, asthma and irritable bowel syndrome will be studied at the University of Maryland, Mount Sinai Medical School and at the University of Illinois, in collaboration with universities in China and Australia. Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia will study the mechanisms of action of millimeter wave therapy, the use of low-intensity electromagnetic radiation, on chronic pain and itching. A collaboration between the University of Missouri and two South African universities will study the safety and efficacy of traditional African plant-based remedies in widespread use for the treatment of HIV/AIDS.


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