NTS LogoSkeptical News for 1 November 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Brontosaurus

Monty Python's flying creationism. By William Saletan

Posted Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005, at 8:03 AM ET

"There is an elephant in the roomful of scientists who are trying to explain the development of life," wrote Michael Behe, a professor of biochemistry, in his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box. The elephant was ubiquitous evidence of "intelligent design" in nature. Darwinian evolutionists, Behe argued, were unable to explain life's origins and its emerging complexity because they couldn't see the elephant.

Behe has the same problem, but worse. Last week in a Pennsylvania courtroom, he testified in defense of a school board's requirement that biology teachers mention ID. (For Hanna Rosin's reports from the trial, click here.) Behe offered a number of interesting criticisms of Darwinism. But it's impossible to focus on any of these criticisms, because they were so completely overshadowed by the brontosaurus in the room: ID's sophomoric emptiness.

What makes Behe's non-explanation a brontosaurus rather than an elephant is its resemblance to a famous Monty Python sketch in which a television newsman interviews a theorist.

Q: You say you have a new theory about the brontosaurus.

A: Can I just say here, Chris, for one moment, that I have a new theory about the brontosaurus.

Q: Exactly. Well, what is it? …

A: Oh, what is my theory?

Q: Yes.

A: Oh, what is my theory, that it is. Well, Chris, you may well ask me what is my theory.

Q: I am asking.

A: Good for you. My word, yes. Well, Chris, what is it that it is­this theory of mine. Well, this is what it is­my theory that I have, that is to say, which is mine, is mine.

Q: Yes, I know it's yours. What is it?

A: Where? Oh, what is my theory? This is it. My theory that belongs to me is as follows. This is how it goes. The next thing I'm going to say is my theory. Ready?

Q: Yes.

A: … This theory goes as follows and begins now. All brontosauruses are thin at one end; much, much thicker in the middle; and then thin again at the far end.

As though that explained anything. Which brings us to last week's cross-examination of Behe by Eric Rothschild, the lawyer opposing the school board in the Pennsylvania case.

Q: Please describe the mechanism that intelligent design proposes for how complex biological structures arose.

A: Well, the word "mechanism" can be used in many ways. … When I was referring to intelligent design, I meant that we can perceive that in the process by which a complex biological structure arose, we can infer that intelligence was involved. …

Q: What is the mechanism that intelligent design proposes?

A: And I wonder, could­am I permitted to know what I replied to your question the first time?

Q: I don't think I got a reply, so I'm asking you. You've made this claim here (reading): "Intelligent design theory focuses exclusively on the proposed mechanism of how complex biological structures arose." And I want to know, what is the mechanism that intelligent design proposes for how complex biological structures arose?

A: Again, it does not propose a mechanism in the sense of a step-by-step description of how those structures arose. But it can infer that in the mechanism, in the process by which these structures arose, an intelligent cause was involved.

The interrogation goes on like this for pages and pages. Like the theorist in the Monty Python sketch, Behe throws up a blizzard of babble: process, intelligent activity, important facts. What process? What activity? What facts? He never explains. He says the designer "took steps" to create complex biological systems, but ID can't specify the steps. Does ID tell us who designed life? No, he answers. Does it tell us how? No. Does it tell us when? No. How would the designer create a bacterial flagellum? It would "somehow cause the plan to, you know, go into effect," he proposes.

Can ID make testable predictions? Not really. If we posit that a given biological system was designed, Rothschild asks, what can we infer about the designer's abilities? Just "that the designer had the ability to make the design that is under consideration," says Behe. "Beyond that, we would be extrapolating beyond the evidence." Does Behe not understand that extrapolating beyond initial evidence is exactly the job of a hypothesis? Does he not grasp the meaninglessness of saying a designer designed things that were designed?

Evidently not. "That is exactly the basis for how we detect design­when we perceive the purposeful arrangement of parts," Behe declares. The essence of science­that detection means going beyond perception­escapes his comprehension. It also escapes his interest. He says his belief that the bacterial flagellum was intelligently designed could be tested, but he's never run the test. Why not? "I'm persuaded by the evidence that I cite in my book that this is a good explanation and that spending a lot of effort in trying to show how random mutation and natural selection could produce complex systems … is not real likely to be fruitful," he says. Who needs science when you've got faith?

So, this is my theory, which belongs to me, and goes as follows. All intelligently designed things are brought about by an intelligent designer through a process of intelligently conducted design. If it's good enough for Monty Python, it's good enough for biology class.

William Saletan is Slate's national correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2128755/

Sasquatch watch


Posted on Mon, Oct. 31, 2005

Whether he's legend or a legit beast, Big Foot's deep woods mystery is alive and well in East Texas


Star-Telegram Staff Writer

JEFFERSON -- It's dark deep in the Piney Woods.

In the stillness, on a moonless night, the silence is suddenly shattered by the dry snap of twigs under the weight of footfalls.

Ponderous steps.

Two feet. Big ones.

A heartbeat -- your own -- is thudding now, pounding like a tribal drum calling Kong to the gates.

To most of us, it's folklore, tall tales best told beneath the stars, amid the flickering glow and swirling firefly embers of a crackling campfire.

Last year, one supermarket tabloid proclaimed "Bigfoot Baby Found."

What distinguished the account from other Bigfoot hoaxes was the claim that the infant creature had been left, of all places, outside Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch.

But some reasonable people remain believers. Even though tabloid fiction makes them vulnerable to teasing and ridicule, they insist something is Out There.

What they have seen and reported, they say, isn't some Halloween prankster wearing a gorilla suit but a giant unclassified primate, curious and watchful, that walks upright and roams the woodlands and creek bottoms, mostly at night. Viewed for only a second or two, and rarely photographed, Bigfoot is as reclusive as Greta Garbo.

Sasquatch, or Skunk Ape, is mostly associated with the Pacific Northwest. However, the creature has been spotted in every state except Hawaii.

Most sightings in Texas occur in the backwoods of East Texas, where folks like the Carlsons live, alone, happily secluded behind "Private Property" and "Keep Out" signs.

Dressed in denim overalls, J.C. Carlson is a mountainous man, almost 7 feet tall, with a mustache and bushy white beard.

His work boots aren't as large as Bigfoot's print, but almost.

J.C., like others, has heard the raspy nocturnal howls. Carlson and his wife are certain that foxes or bobcats didn't steal the 28 chickens from their homestead on Big Cypress Bayou over three nights this summer. They found no carcasses. No trace of blood.

Taking a break from chopping timber, J.C. lit a smoke and leaned against the bed of his red pickup.

"There's somethin' out here besides us," he declared.

Katherine Carlson returned home late one night this spring, headlights splashing across the rutted one-lane dirt road that meanders through thick pine-scented woods. She stopped to open the crossing gate. Usually, her dogs jump out and play. Not this night. Sassy and Wally remained inside the cab.

In the darkness, Carlson encountered an overpowering foul odor.

"It's wasn't a skunk." She knows the smells of the woods.

"Rancid," J.C. said of the stench. "It's like gettin' behind a gut wagon, in the summer."

"Worse," his wife said.

Katherine didn't glimpse a Bigfoot, but in the eerie moonlight she sensed a lurking "presence" that left her speechless.

She figures, why not tell her story? "People already think I'm crazy," she says.

The couple live near the dark waters and moss-draped cypresses of Caddo Lake, where the "B" movie The Creature From Black Lake (1976) was filmed. This summer, an alligator living in a slough near the Carlsons' place disappeared. J.C. observed that his cows and goats stopped grazing in the woods at night. They remained huddled near the house, beneath the glow of a mercury vapor light.

"Critters will tell you when somethin' isn't right," J.C. said.

His wife did the only thing she knew to do.

She telephoned Charlie DeVore.

Sightings and skeptics

The Texas Bigfoot Research Center implies a campus, or structure.

There isn't one, at least not yet.

TBRC is a network of about 40 people from all walks of life who are dedicated to finding Sasquatch living in the Lone Star State. The group was founded six years ago by Craig Woolheater, the 45-year-old office manager of his family's plumbing company in Dallas. He claims he saw a grayish-haired Bigfoot walking along a deserted highway in Louisiana one night in 1994.

The group has a Web site ( www.texasbigfoot.com) and telephone number ( (877) 529-5550) that greets callers with a recording:

"If you have a sighting to report, please leave a message with your name, number and the best time to return your call."

About 150 Bigfoot sightings are reported each year.

"That doesn't count the jokes, like people who say, 'I got raped by Bigfoot,' or those who are way out there, and think it's an extraterrestrial," Woolheater said.

"There are so many credible people who say they have seen the thing. They have absolutely nothing to gain by making up a story. If even one person is telling the truth, there's something out there."

Several times a year, TBRC investigators venture into the forests and conduct field studies, hoping to validate recent sightings. Dressed in commando camouflage, they carry night-vision cameras, listening devices and thermal imaging units. Deer hunters use deer fragrance, and bottled deer urine and deer calls (one is the K'Mere Deer, Model KM 100) to lure the animals. Bigfoot researchers put out pheromone chips designed to entice the great ape.

Late at night, they activate a call blaster, which emits loud recordings of Bigfoot "vocalizations."

Charlie DeVore joined the group after a mysterious incident five years ago when, in Charlie's words, he "had the stink put on me."

Armed with a coon-hunting light, the 65-year-old retiree was walking through the woods near his home late one night, accompanied by five dogs. He felt safe -- unthreatened -- until the smell engulfed him.

DeVore looked down. His four-legged companions had fled.

"These are dogs that'll attack anything," Charlie said.

Two years later, he attended a meeting of Bigfoot enthusiasts in Jefferson and met several people who described similar incidents.

DeVore now feels certain the smell was that of some yet undocumented species of bipedal hominoid afflicted with a body odor problem no brand of drugstore roll-on or spray deodorant can eliminate.

After Katherine Coleman telephoned DeVore, her neighbor, Charlie and three fellow researchers camped for two nights near the site of the "smelling." They turned on the call blaster. Bigfoot didn't appear, but they heard its cry, and detected movement in the woods.

"You can hear it walk," DeVore said. Charlie tried to re-create the experience, with sound effects.

"Crunch ... (pause) ... Crunch ... It's not a deer. It's not a dog. Or a hog. It's a two-footed somethin'."

Bigfootologists estimate that at least 2,000 Bigfoot live in the United States.

That's six times the population of Bigfoot, Texas, named after William A. "Bigfoot" Wallace, the 19th-century frontiersman and legendary Texas character. Bigfoot, it was said, never told a story he couldn't later improve upon.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department requires more than anecdotal evidence before the state agency will take Sasquatch seriously.

"To conclusively prove ... Bigfoot in Texas, we would need an image that included details to show us that it was not a doctored or edited image in any way, or we would want a body itself," said Duane Schlitter, who oversees the TPWD's Nongame and Rare and Endangered Species program.

"The latter would be the extreme, but many doubters will be hard to convince. As a romantic scientist, I would like to be around when and if one is ever found anywhere."

No Bigfoot remains -- bones or bodies -- have been discovered.

Hunters have never shot and killed one.

Bigfoot, fortunately, hasn't wandered onto a road and been struck by a car, like the Sasquatch character Harry in the movie Harry and the Hendersons.

Another group, North Texas Skeptics, is, well, skeptical.

"Bigfoot is a great story, and a wonderful bit of folklore. Nothing more," said John Blanton, a Skeptics member. "It's a biological absurdity. Real creatures, unlike the fictional Bigfoot, do not exist alone. They have parents. Their parents have parents and so on. At the very minimum, there has to be a tribe ... Where is the Bigfoot tribe?"

How could supposedly thousands of these critters have eluded captivity and remained hidden from human observation for a century or more?

Doubters say the cultural phenomenon is kept alive by misidentification of known animals, wishful thinking and fabrication of evidence.

DeVore is undaunted, committed. He patrols Big Cypress Bayou alone, paddling his canoe through the shallow, murky waterways. One day, he hopes to get lucky and snap a clear photo of the enigmatic creature.

"I'm not trying to prove anything to the world," he said. "I'm proving it to myself."

Charlie's curiosity far outweighs any fears.

"If it wanted to hurt me," he said, "I'd been dead a long time ago."

Waiting for proof

The Texas Bigfoot Conference is not like a Star Trek convention. Groupies don't show up dressed in costume.

About 500 serious-minded people attended the fifth annual event this month, a two-day seminar that featured lectures by a who's-who of the Bigfoot world. Speakers included field researchers, cryptozoologists (the study of "hidden" animals), a forest archaeologist, a latent fingerprint examiner and an associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University, Jeff Meldrum, who delivered an hourlong evaluation of alleged Sasquatch footprints and their inferred functional morphology.

Chris Murphy, author of Meet the Sasquatch, analyzed the most famous, and controversial Bigfoot evidence. In 1967, the late Roger Patterson shot a 16mm film that captured images of a 7 1/2-foot-tall hairy ape/person striding along a riverbank in Bluff Creek, Calif., near the Oregon border.

It is the Zapruder film for Bigfoot enthusiasts.

Murphy showed the beast in freeze-frames. Even though the authenticity of the film is hotly contested, he concluded that the muscle definition clearly proves this Wooley Booger was the real thing.

"I'm 100 percent convinced," Charlie DeVore said.

So were others who browsed the exhibit tables.

Bigfoot plaster footprint castings. Bigfoot CDs. Bigfoot books, with titles like Out of the Shadows and In Search of Giants. Bigfoot T-shirts.

Meanwhile, deep in the woods, the Carlsons wonder and wait.

"One night we'll find somethin' standing in the road lookin' at us," J.C. Carlson predicted.

His wife said she hopes so.

"I'll say something next time."

Such as ...

"I'll ask who he is, and if I can help him," she said. "I know what it's like to be different in this world."

David Casstevens (817) 390-7436 dcasstevens@star-telegram.com

Kabbalah guru arrested for fraud


Police arrest Sunday Shaul Youdkevitch, head of Kabbalah Center in Israel, on suspicion he extracted money from cancer patient, convinced her donations will make her recover from illness Avi Cohen

A woman suffering from cancer was talked into paying tens of thousands of dollars to the Israeli Kabbalah Center, on the pretext that the donation would help improve her condition.

After her death at the age of fifty, the woman's husband filed a complaint against the head of the center, Shaul Youdkevitch, who was consequently arrested by the police Sunday.

Youdkevitch, one of the main figures in Kabbalah studies worldwide and the man behind Madonna's visit to Israel last year, was arrested on suspicion of exploiting and deceiving the woman and her husband.

The couple has previously complained several months ago that they were told by the rabbis who run the center in Tel Aviv that the woman should make 'a significant and painful donation' if she wanted to get well and overcome cancer.

A devotee of Kabbalah, the ill woman put her faith in the center and contributed USD 36,000 to the organization. When her condition deteriorated, members of the Israeli branch recommended she donate another USD 25,000. Meanwhile, rabbis recommended that she also purchase holy water to improve her condition - at an exorbitant price.

The couple, who soon after extending the donations ran out of financial resources, continued to seek help with the center. The rabbis then suggested that the husband leave his job and devote himself completely to work at the center.

The husband, a father of two young children, turned down the proposal and instead turned to the police to report the incidents.

First Sergeant Morris Tal told Ynet that according to Youdkevitch, the Kabbalah Center proposed that the woman donate the money, but did not force her to do so.

Youdkevitch will be brought before the Tel Aviv Magistrates court for extension of remand Sunday.

Osnat Youdkevitch, his wife And the CEO of the center, will be interrogated by the Police fraud unit as well.

Alternative therapy tends to appeal to frustrated patients


Posted on Mon, Oct. 31, 2005

By Ronald H. Saff, M.D.


Surely you've heard about the hottest new therapy for asthma - speliotherapy. What do you mean you haven't heard about speliotherapy? Have you been living in a cave?

Speliotherapy is actually not the hottest new therapy, but it may be the coldest, and if you lived in a cave you probably have heard about it. Speliotherapy involves spending hours a day in a cold subterranean cave over several months. During World War II some Germans hid underground from Soviet aircraft attacks. Not only did this protect the Germans from bombs, many thought their asthma was improved.

Since then underground caves have proliferated, especially in Eastern Europe. Supporters claim the salt-saturated air and protection from cosmic radiation improved lung function and prevented asthma attacks. The therapy is paid for by the government in some eastern European countries.

I find it interesting that thousands of asthma sufferers in Europe spent months in these caves and that the government picked up the tab - even though there is not a shred of evidence that this therapy has any lasting benefits.

The bottom line is that billions of people worldwide and millions of Americans are seeking care - not from physicians who went to college for eight years and have extensive training - but from alternative medicine practitioners with very limited standardized training.

If a patient comes to me with a sinus infection, I will prescribe an antibiotic, and there's a good chance he will get better. That same patient may go to an alternative-care practitioner and receive treatment with traditional Chinese herbal medication which hasn't been proven to be helpful and may even be contaminated with rat poop. So why are so many Americans anxious to get such care?

Many patients do not believe advice offered by their doctor, and I can understand why. For over 20 years we were preaching the benefits of hormone replacement to prevent cardiovascular disease. Now, in a sudden about-face we tell patients that this doesn't help and increases the risk for breast cancer and strokes.

Taking the extra time to not only answer health-related questions but ask how Junior is doing in school and give that reassuring pat on the back helps cement the patient-physician relationship and steers patients on the best pathway to health.

In my practice, I can get overloaded with emergency work for breathing problems and simply don't have the time to give that added attention. I can see how on some busy days patients can get dismayed, which can prompt some to seek attention from alternative-medicine practitioners.

There are understandable reasons why patients get disenchanted with our health-care system. But patients should realize that alternative care may be no better than a placebo pill and in some cases may be harmful. Living in a cave may be appropriate if you are Batman, but I caution against it.

Dr. Ronald Saff of the Allergy & Asthma Diagnostic Treatment Center, is board certified in allergy & immunology and is clinical assistant professor at FSU College of Medicine.

By design: Anti-evolution theory creates debate


By Lisa Anderson Chicago Tribune

Oct. 31, 2005 07:45 PM

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Fictional presidential candidate Matt Santos on NBC's "The West Wing" recently discussed it, as did real-life President George Bush in the White House, not to mention "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, more than three dozen Nobel laureates and numerous school boards across the country.

A decade ago most Americans had never heard of intelligent design, or ID. But, in the last year, the term has surfaced repeatedly in politics, media and education as the rallying point for religious conservatives in the spreading culture war over the teaching of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Although polls show about half of Americans still don't recognize the expression, the background and meaning of ID are focal points of a landmark First Amendment case unfolding here in Pennsylvania's capital. advertisement

A very old phrase that gained new currency about a decade ago, ID presents itself as an alternative scientific theory to evolution. It posits that some aspects of the natural world, yet unexplained by Darwin, suggest design by an unnamed intelligent agent.

The prime engine propelling the dissemination of ID is the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a think tank whose $4 million budget is heavily funded by conservative Christian donors. Discovery's Center for Science & Culture (formerly the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture) laid out its goals in a 1999 fundraising document called "The Wedge Strategy."

Determined to drive a "wedge" into the tree trunk of "scientific materialism," it said, "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialistic worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

John West, associate director of the Center for Science & Culture, pointed out that the wedge proposal was a plan, not a scholarly document.

"That document was about more than intelligent design. It was about the larger cultural context and the anti-religious agenda of some people in the name of science," he said.

Indeed, the document went beyond the scientific debate, extending the argument into the volatile world of politics. It equated Darwin with Karl Marx and others whom it described as viewing humans not as "spiritual beings but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry and environment."

This materialistic conception "eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art," the Wedge document said.

The Center for Science & Culture's five-year plan, much of which already has been achieved, called for funding research fellows at major universities, publishing numerous articles and books on ID, generating significant media coverage and getting 10 states to include ID in science curricula. Discovery now says it doesn't want schools to mandate the teaching of ID, but to "teach the controversy." Most scientists say there is no controversy.

Pennsylvania is the first state to see ID included in a district curriculum, but Ohio and Minnesota and at least one district in New Mexico include critical analysis of evolution in their science standards. Kansas is expected to do so this fall. More than 24 state and local authorities have considered similar changes to their science curricula over the last year, according to the National Center for Science Education, a California-based non-profit group dedicated to defending the teaching of evolution in public schools.

A week ago, intelligent design made its European debut in Prague, Czech Republic, at an international scientific conference drawing some 700 attendees from Europe, Africa and the United States, according to The Associated Press. Many of those who spoke at "Darwin and Design: A Challenge for 21st Century Science" were from the Discovery Institute, including Stephen Meyer, the Cambridge University-educated director of the Center for Science & Culture.

Of the Discovery Institute's strategy, Jerry Coyne, a professor in the ecology and evolution department at the University of Chicago, said, "They're smart people, in general, with respectable academic positions and degrees. ... It's their media savvy, combined with their money. And they've learned a lot of lessons from the old creationists, that is to be much less evangelical."

Because ID makes no mention of the Bible or the divine, some critics call it "Neo-Creo," i.e., a new version of creationism's adherence to the Genesis account of creation.

They view its secular language as a tactic to skirt the Supreme Court's 1987 decision finding creationism a religious belief and banning it from public school classrooms as a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

Proponents of ID particularly criticize the mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection, by which all life, including humans, evolved from a common ancestor over some 4 billion years, according to Darwin's theory, which most scientists laud as the cornerstone of modern biology.

Every major U.S. scientific organization and the aforementioned group of Nobelists dismiss ID and say there is no credible controversy over evolution. They consider ID just a new bottle with a high-tech label for the old wines of natural theology, creationism and scientific creationism, serial concepts based to some degree on the biblical account of creation.

ID is "creationism in a cheap tuxedo," according to Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Kansas Museum and Biodiversity Research Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

Not so, said William Dembski, a Discovery fellow and leading ID proponent, who directs the Center for Science and Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

"Creationism was consciously trying to model the science on a certain interpretation of Genesis. You don't have anything like that in intelligent design," said Dembski, who holds doctorates in mathematics from the University of Chicago and in philosophy from the University of Illinois and a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Long before evolution, creationism or ID, there was natural theology, a popular concept based on reason and observation rather than Scripture.

In his 1802 book "Natural Theology," British theologian and philosopher William Paley made his famous "watchmaker" argument. Paley said that if one stumbled across a watch, one rationally would conclude it was designed. So, too, he said, one can look at aspects of nature and infer that they had a designer and that designer is God.

But after Darwin's 1859 publication of "On the Origin of Species," Dembski said, "The sense that you needed a watchmaker disappeared. The watch could put itself together."

More than a century later, Richard Dawkins, Oxford University's Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, played on Paley's analogy to champion evolution in his 1986 book, "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design."

After Darwin's publication, in response to the popularity of so-called Darwinism, the term "creationism" arose in opposition, asserting the biblical account of creation. But creationism suffered damaging ridicule after Tennessee's Scopes "Monkey" trial in 1925.

Eventually, it morphed into "scientific creationism." Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, advanced the concept. It makes scientific claims for the six-day creation account in Genesis, an Earth age of less than 10,000 years, the simultaneous creation of all things, Noah's global flood and the non-evolutionary creation of humans.

Scientific creationism points to gaps in the fossil record, geological evidence of the effects of global flood and examples in nature that give the appearance of design, such as the human eye, seeking to refute evolution. It has many supporters: In a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 53 percent of adults surveyed said "God created humans in their present form exactly the way the Bible describes it." And polls consistently show a majority of Americans favor teaching both evolution and creationism.

But after the Supreme Court ruling in 1987, creationism couldn't be taught in public schools. And it was around that time that the current ID movement began to emerge. It uses a term attributed to British philosopher Ferdinand C.S. Schiller. In his 1903 book "Humanism," he wrote, "It will not be possible to rule out the supposition that the process of evolution may be guided by an intelligent design."

Whether ID is a scientific theory or a religious belief is at the heart of the First Amendment case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in central Pennsylvania, the apparent inspiration for "The West Wing" script in October.

Parents of Dover students sued the district and school board over a requirement that 9th-grade biology students be informed of ID as a scientific alternative to evolution. The parents, who claim that ID is creationism in disguise, contend that such a requirement is religiously motivated, thus violating the constitutional separation of church and state and the Supreme Court's ban on creationism in public schools.

Attorneys for the school district argue ID is not a religious belief but a valid scientific theory and that the school district intended only to expose students to views critical of and differing from evolution. The case, in its sixth week, may influence how biology is taught in public schools around the country.

Mancuso claims about naturopathic endocrinology

The article on the Bay Area Business Women's web site about chiropractor Lori Mancuso said that she was also a naturopath.


Where did she train as a naturopath?

How did she train as a naturopath, i.e. was it via correspondence course, or did she actually train at the University of Bridgeport?

The California Board of Naturopathy does not list her anywhere on their web site as of the end of September.


Does the California Board of Naturopathy recognize her credentials, and if they do, why is her name not on the list on their web site?

Mancuso's web site is here:

I have been unable to find the location of the National Institute of Endocrine Research.

I am also unable to locate a location for the National Board in Naturopathic Endocrinology.

If the government of California is going to regulate naturopaths, then there should be some careful overview of those who use that designation, and a review of the type of training that is used to obtain that designation.

Thank you very much.

Terry Polevoy, MD
938 King St. West
Kitchener, Ontario, N2G 1G4 Canada
519-725-2263 -- 725-4953 fax

'Intelligent design' battle goes to polls


Posted on Tue, Nov. 01, 2005


Associated Press

DOVER, Pa. - A battle over a policy requiring that ninth-graders in this rural community learn about "intelligent design" in biology class is being fought on two fronts - one political, one legal.

In a federal courtroom in Harrisburg, 20 miles away, a judge is hearing arguments in the sixth week of a landmark trial over whether the concept can be introduced in public school. The non-jury trial is expected to conclude Nov. 4; it is unclear when the judge will issue a decision.

At the polls in Dover, voters will render their decision Nov. 8 on whether to retain eight of the nine Dover Area School Board members - all Republicans - or replace them with a Democratic slate whose platform calls for removing intelligent design from the curriculum.

Republican voters outnumber Democrats in the district nearly 8-5. But party affiliation may not matter in the election: While the challengers are running on the Democratic ticket, half of them are actually registered Republicans, according to a spokesman.

Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by some kind of higher force.

The school board voted a year ago to require students to hear a statement about intelligent design before learning about evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps."

Eight families sued to have intelligent design removed, contending that it is biblical creationism in disguise and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Around town, one billboard erected by the current school board exhorts voters to "support academic freedom." The challengers - supported by a group called Dover CARES, for Dover Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies - tout themselves as "the right choice for a new school board."

A similar dispute is unfolding in Kansas, where the state Board of Education is considering adopting language - sought by advocates of intelligent design - that suggests there are weaknesses in the theory of evolution. The board is set to vote Nov. 8.

One of the Pennsylvania plaintiffs, Bryan Rehm, is also running for the school board. "A lot of people in the community are fed up with intelligent design either way. They'd like for it to go away," he said.

Vincent Farrell, a retired Agway store manager, said he is leaning heavily toward keeping the incumbents and sees nothing wrong with making students aware of intelligent design.

"I think that to sue the Dover school board over this is overkill," said Farrell, 69. "There are a lot of closed minds, from what I've seen."

Saundra Roldan, a preschool teacher at the YMCA, is planning to vote for the slate of challengers. Even if the courts side with the school board, "we as voters and taxpayers should say, `You put us into this mess and we're not happy about it and we want you out of here.'"

"It should not have come to that point," Roldan said as she took a break from reading her Bible.


Dover school board: http://www.doverfirst.net

Dover CARES: http://www.dovercares.org

Intelligent design trial boosts I.D. text


HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 31 (UPI) -- A court fight in Pennsylvania over teaching intelligent design in high school has brought new prominence to a textbook that promotes the theory.

The Dover school district adopted a requirement that biology teachers must read a statement to students on intelligent design as an alternative to evolution and refer them to "Of Pandas and People" for more information. The book has been a major exhibit in a legal challenge to the policy in Harrisburg.

Foundation for Thought and Ethics, the publisher, told the Philadelphia Inquirer sales of the book have more than doubled to about 300 a month. Previously, the book had been almost unknown except to Christian homeschoolers.

Critics say the book, and intelligent design, are an attempt to make creationism more palatable and that none of its arguments are scientific. Some creationists also object because intelligent design does admit the possibility of evolution.

The book's main thesis, according to the Inquirer, is that gaps in the fossil record show that some species did not evolve.

© Copyright 2005 United Press International, Inc

Darwin v God case nears its conclusion on creationism



IN A landmark court case that effectively pits Charles Darwin against God, a judge is set to decide whether American school pupils can be told that life on Earth may be the result of "intelligent design".

The federal trial, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which began in September and is due to conclude this week, will determine the future direction of the nation's high school biology curriculum and intensify debate over whether all life evolved from a common origin, or was created by an unspecified supreme being.

Parents of eight children at a Pennsylvania school brought the case complaining that "intelligent design" - or ID - is simply a dressed-down version of creationism - the Christian belief that God made man.

The teaching of creationism has been banned from public schools since 1987, when the Supreme Court ruled that it violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

The families complain that in pointing ninth-grade biology students towards the theory of ID, the Dover School Board in Pennsylvania is still violating the ban on promoting religious views.

"They have usurped my authority to be the one in charge of my daughter's education," complained Steven Stough, one of the parents who brought the case. It has become a cause célèbre for Christian conservatives, who are concerned that the outcome will affect plans to spread the teaching of ID to 30 other states.

But scientific proponents of ID are also worried, saying that the row over its religious implications has overshadowed the biological evidence. Some forms of life are so complex and ordered, they say, that they cannot be fully explained by natural selection and an intelligent - and unidentified - force must have had a hand in their development.

"It seems to me in many respects the cards are stacked against radical, innovative views getting a fair hearing in science these days," said British professor Steve Fuller, a sociologist at Warwick University, while testifying in support of the school board last week.

The row centres around a statement that the board insists must be read out to ninth-grade biology students before they launch into lessons on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. The four-paragraph notice states that Darwin's explanation for the origins of species "is not a fact" and that "gaps in the theory exist".

Whatever the judge's ruling, it is unlikely to settle the controversy. It is expected that the losing side will appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Blame school board for suit


Sunday, October 30, 2005

If Mr. Napierskie was "shocked" by Mrs. Heilman's unpleasant experience at the Fireman's Carnival with belligerent Dover school board supporters, then I am appalled at his naiveté. His words of misinformation are indicative of the problems this school board has injected into the Dover community. After all, it was the Dover school board members and their inept decision-making and listening abilities which created the lawsuit that has infected our community.

Anyone who attended school board meetings can attest that the community continually warned the school board against the inclusion of ID in the biology curriculum; however, they failed to listen to their constituents. Instead, they sought advice of outside special interest groups, such as The Discovery Institute, The Foundation for Thought and Ethics from California, and The Thomas More Law Center from Michigan. Did they really believe that these groups cared about the Dover community?

The school board has applied a convenient tactic: Cover your own mistakes and inappropriate actions by pointing the finger at some other group. This mentality must change, which is why I have signed on as a Dover CARES candidate.


Institute didn't favor policy, transcript says


District enacted policy despite legal warnings

Sunday, October 30, 2005

BY BILL SULON Of The Patriot-News

The Discovery Institute, one of the nation's leading organized proponents of intelligent design, said it warned the Dover Area School District not to institute a policy on the concept because of the risk it would be found "somehow unconstitutional."

Mark Ryland, the director of the Discovery Institute's Washington office, said that he met with Dover representatives whom he did not name before the district implemented a curriculum change on intelligent design. He said that he "advised them not to institute the policy" but that they "didn't listen to me," according to a transcript of an American Enterprise Institute forum he attended on Oct. 21.

Ryland's appearance at the forum in Washington, D.C., occurred the same day that Dover Superintendent Richard Nilsen testified in Harrisburg at the landmark federal trial on the district's policy, which requires that a four-paragraph statement on intelligent design be read to ninth-grade students at the start of a science unit on evolution.

With Nilsen on the stand, lawyers representing parents opposed to the policy unveiled an e-mail the superintendent received last August from the district's lawyer, Stephen Russell. Russell said the district would have a difficult time winning a case because of the appearance that the policy "was initiated for religious reasons."

So far, the plaintiffs' legal fees exceed $1 million, said Witold Walczak, a lawyer for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is helping to present the case against the district.

At the forum, called "Science Wars," Ryland said he met with the Dover officials and with Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian firm that the district hired to defend it in the federal trial on the policy.

"From the start, we just disagreed that this was a good place, a good time and place to have this battle, which is risky, in the sense that there's a potential for rulings that this is somehow unconstitutional," Ryland said.

In his e-mail to Nilsen, Russell voiced similar reservations: "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."

First case of its kind:

The Dover trial, which resumes tomorrow in U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg, is the first federal case concerning intelligent design in a public school science curriculum.

The statement read to students describes evolution as "not a fact," refers to intelligent design as an alternative, and notes that a book advocating intelligent design, "Of Pandas and People," is available in the school library.

Proponents of intelligent design say the universe and many living things are so complex that they must have been created by an intelligent designer. Opponents say it is repackaged creationism, an unscientific concept and an effort to bring religion into public schools.

The Dover school board adopted its intelligent design policy last October, two months after Nilsen received the warning from Russell. Nilsen and Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa began reading the statement to students in January after the teachers refused to read it.

Last December, Eric Rothschild of the Pepper Hamilton law firm in Philadelphia sent a letter to Nilsen informing him that the district would be sued if it implemented the policy on intelligent design.

Rothschild, the lead lawyer in the case against the district, wrote that the matter would be dropped and that no legal fees would be assessed against the district if it agreed to settle the matter by eliminating the curriculum change.

"The plaintiffs have a very strong case that the policy violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution," Rothschild wrote. "Experience suggests that the fees will be substantial."

The First Amendment bars government from establishing religion or favoring one religion over another. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that creationism can not be taught in public schools.

A week after receiving the letter from Rothschild, Nilsen testified that the district decided to place the "Pandas" books in the school library and not the science classrooms as originally planned. He said the change was not in response to the lawsuit but rather due to limited shelf space in the classrooms.

In an interview Monday, school board members Alan Bonsell and Sheila Harkins said they expect to win the case but would be able to absorb any legal fees imposed if they lose.

"We have lots of money," Harkins said, adding that the current board has built up a budget surplus.

Bonsell called the $1 million-plus estimate by the ACLU "propaganda," and said that even if the district loses, "there are groups and organizations out there that will help us" pay any legal fees.

Growing friction:

Meanwhile, the friction between the Discovery Institute and the Thomas More Law Center -- two powerhouses in the intelligent design movement -- resurfaced at last week's "Science Wars" forum.

Thomas More Law Center lawyers had hoped to have Stephen C. Meyer and William Dembski, prominent proponents of intelligent design, testify in the trial. Both are affiliated with the Discovery Institute, and their absence at the trial sparked a public dispute between the two organizations at the Washington forum.

At the forum, Ryland said that the Discovery Institute "never set out to have a school board, schools, get into this issue" of intelligent design. "There's no curriculum developed for it. Your teachers are likely to be hostile toward it. I mean there [are] just all these good reasons why you should not go down that path. If you want to do anything, you should teach the evidence for and against Darwin's theory."

In response, Thompson said Discovery Institute representatives were "encouraging the teaching of intelligent design in public schools systems."

Thompson waved a copy of a legal guidebook, written by Meyer and another Discovery Institute member, and said, "Whether they wanted the school boards to teach intelligent design or mention it, certainly when you start putting it in writing, that writing does have consequences."

The document to which Thompson referred is called "Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula: A Legal Guidebook." The introduction says that the book "makes a persuasive case for allowing students to consider both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory as well as those of its chief scientific rival, design theory."

At the forum, Thompson referred to the absence of Dembski and Meyer as expert witnesses in the Dover trial.

"So that caused us some concern about exactly where was the heart of the Discovery Institute," Thompson said. "Was it really something of a tactical decision ... where they've pushed school boards to go in with intelligent design, and as soon as there's a controversy, they back off with a compromise? ... I think what was victimized by this was the Dover school board, because we could not present the expert testimony we thought we could present."

Ryland did not return a call seeking comment. Discovery Institute member John West said that he and his colleagues made it clear since last year that they "didn't favor the Dover policy, but at the same time we think it's constitutional to teach intelligent design."

Dembski and Meyer were withdrawn as expert witnesses in the Dover trial because of a "disagreement" between the lawyers representing the men and the district, West said. He said two other Discovery Institute experts, microbiology professors Michael Behe of Lehigh University and Scott Minnich of the University of Idaho, were testifying.

But in an interview Thursday, Thompson said that the Discovery Institute didn't want Behe or Minnich to testify. He said Behe testified at the behest of the Thomas More Law Center. He said Minnich is scheduled to testify next week, also at the request of the law center.

The Discovery Institute was exhibiting "intellectual dishonesty" for "putting the Dover school district on the front lines" and then "backing off," Thompson added.

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

©2005 The Patriot-News © 2005 PennLive.com

Dover lawyer, Discovery at odds


Institute 'victimized' district, complains Richard Thompson

By LAURI LEBO Daily Record/Sunday News

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Dover Area school board's lead attorney in the federal court battle over intelligent design says his would-be ally, the Discovery Institute, victimized his clients.

Now that a fifth expert has backed out of the Dover district's court battle, a rift is widening between defense attorneys and the primary pro-intelligent-design organization in the country.

At a forum in Washington, D.C., Dover's lead attorney Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center squabbled publicly with a member of the Discovery Institute over whether the organization had endorsed the teaching of intelligent design in public school.

Outside Harrisburg's federal courthouse last week, Thompson said his ability to develop a case in this First Amendment lawsuit has been damaged by the Discovery Institute's strategy of backing off in the face of public criticism.

And, he said, Discovery fellows are wrong when they explain their position.

The disagreement at the American Enterprise Institute occurred Oct. 21 during a panel discussion of the Dover trial when Mark Ryland, a Discovery vice president, said the organization has always opposed teaching intelligent design in the classroom.

"The Discovery Institute never set out to have a school board, schools, get into this issue," Ryland said, according to transcripts of the exchange posted on the Web site for the National Center for Science Education.

"We've never encouraged people to do it, we've never promoted it. We have, unfortunately, gotten sucked into it, because we have a lot of expertise in the issue, that people are interested in."

Ryland said Discovery's position is against teaching intelligent design. Rather, he said, teach the evidence for and against evolutionary theory.

But Thompson, at the forum, read from a copy of the Discovery Institute's "Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curriculum: A Guidebook" that states, "school boards have the authority to permit, and even encourage, teaching about design theory . . ."

"Now, whether they wanted the school boards to teach intelligent design or mention it, certainly when you start putting it in writing, that writing does have consequences," Thompson said at the forum.

Thompson also criticized Discovery for the fact that three of its members — William Dembski, Stephen Meyer and John Campbell — backed out of the case in June after providing expert witness reports. Because of the timing, Dover's lawyers were unable to line up other experts, Thompson said at the forum.

Two other defense experts Warren Nord, a University of North Carolina professor, and Dick Carpenter of Focus on the Family, also backed out the same week the defense began presenting its case.

Michael Behe, a Lehigh University professor, has already testified for the defense. Scott Minnich of the University of Idaho is scheduled to take the stand Thursday or Friday.

John West, a Discovery spokesman, said last week the organization has not wavered from its policy.

"DI's consistent message to the Dover board from the start was to adopt our teach the controversy approach — teach scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory, but don't mandate that students learn about design," West wrote in an e-mail. "This is the same approach we have advocated in Ohio, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Montana, and numerous other states."

Thompson knew Discovery disagreed with Dover's policy, West wrote.

In December, members of the Discovery Institute met with Dover officials to try to persuade them to change their decision to include intelligent design in their biology curriculum. Ryland said he and Thompson were both at the meeting.

"And they didn't listen to me, that's fine, they can do what they want, I have no power and control over them," Ryland said at the forum.

Thompson said during the panel that Discovery, as part of tactics used in Ohio and other states, pushed school boards to go with intelligent design, then compromised when controversy arose.

"And I think what was victimized by this strategy was the Dover school board, because we could not present the expert testimony we thought we could present."

Ken Miller, a Brown University professor and one of the plaintiffs' experts in the trial, also participated in the panel.

When the moderator asked him to weigh in on the disagreement, Miller said, "Do we have to? I'm really enjoying this."

On the Web

A partial transcript of the American Enterprise Institute seminar about intelligent design is available at http://www.ncseweb.org. Click on the Dover Trial Page and scroll down to find the link to the story about Discovery Institute and Thomas More Law Center.

The complete sessions are available to be viewed at http://www.c-span.org. Go to "video search" and type in "intelligent design."

New History Reveals the Truth About the Fátima Incident



For Immediate Release: July 2nd, 2005

Authors say Famed Apparitions in 1917 were Close Encounters with Alien Beings

VICTORIA, BC – The Fátima incident was an important event in the history of religion. In 1917, three little Portuguese shepherds – Jacinta, Francisco, and Lúcia – suddenly encountered the Virgin Mary, illuminated in the splendor of heavenly lights, who told the children three secrets about the fate of the Earth. The contacts were followed by an unexplained aerial phenomenon, called "The Miracle of the Sun," in which the Sun was seen to dance in the sky by thousands of awestruck onlookers who flocked to Fátima.

The apparitions were presumed to be a case of divine intervention in human affairs, a sign from Heaven that the world war then raging in Europe should end. A shrine sprang up at Fátima that drew millions of believers, and a myth was invented that the secrets of Fátima would be revealed in the fullness of time – as a testament of faith in a secular age.

In Heavenly Lights (EcceNova Editions; July 2, 2005; $22.95), Portuguese historians Joaquim Fernandes and Fina d'Armada tell the true story of the apparitions of Fátima. The first history of Fátima to be written by Portuguese historians based on the original documents, Heavenly Lights is the result of a 25-year odyssey by the authors in search of the actual facts of the Fátima case. Fernandes and d'Armada began their investigation in 1978, when they were given access to secret archives held at the Sanctuary of Fátima.

The records of Sister Lúcia, kept at the archives since the incident, revealed that the children did not interact with an apparition of the Virgin Mary but with a hologram of an extraterrestrial projected on a beam of light from a spacecraft hovering high above them. The archives clearly showed that the entities encountered at Fátima were not deities from Heaven but rather alien beings visiting our planet from "elsewhere" in the vast Cosmos. This finding was supported by hundreds of other facts from the time of the apparitions. Fátima, the authors discovered, was the first major UFO case of the 20th century.

Heavenly Lights is certain to become a definitive history of the Fátima Incident of 1917. When it was first published in Portugal in 1995, entitled As Aparições de Fátima e o Fenómeno OVNI, the Jornal de Notícias, a leading Portuguese newspaper, heralded the work "a literary success without precedent in the field of Portuguese ufological studies."

Now the whole world can know the truth about the apparitions of Fátima. This new translation by American journalists Andrew D. Basiago and Eva M. Thompson offers a powerful argument for both UFO researchers and religious scholars alike to re-examine the actual evidence that at last explains the enduring mystery of the Fátima incident.

About the Authors

Joaquim Fernandes is Professor of History at the University Fernando Pessoa in Porto, Portugal. He directs the Multicultural Apparitions Research International Academic Network (Project MARIAN). His research interests include the history of science and the comparative anthropology of religion, with an emphasis on anomalistic phenomena.

Fina d'Armada holds a Master's degree in Women's Studies. She has written five books about the Fátima incident, all based on original documents held in the archives – three co-authored with Fernandes – and hundreds of articles. Her research interests include phenomenology, local history, the history of women, and the era of Portuguese discovery.

About the Book

Heavenly Lights: The Apparitions of Fátima and the UFO Phenomenon

By Joaquim Fernandes and Fina d'Armada

Translated and Edited by Andrew D. Basiago and Eva M. Thompson

Foreword by Jacques F. Vallée

EcceNova Editions

Publication Date: July 2, 2005

Price: US $22.95, CAD $30.95, £14.99 ISBN: 0-9735341-3-3

'Design' Vs. Darwin


Oct. 23, 2005

(CBS) By random mutation — or by design?

Those two different explanations for the diversity of life are in conflict in a court case now under way in Pennsylvania.

And they are in conflict outside the courtroom, too, in many places.

Rita Braver examines the controversy over "intelligent design," on CBS News Sunday Morning.

There are questions, Braver observes, we cannot stop asking: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? There have never been any easy answers, or universal agreement.

But on a 40-acre spread in northern Kentucky, a new, privately funded, $25 million project is under construction. Called "The Creation Museum," it's dedicated to one premise about how the whole world came to be.

"The real purpose is to say the Bible's true, and it's history. Genesis is true," explains Ken Ham, founder of the Answers in Genesis ministry.

It rejects years of findings by mainstream scientists that different species of creatures came into being over the course of hundreds of millions of years, through the process of evolution.

"You basically say in this museum that dinosaurs and human beings existed at the same time?" Braver asks.

"Oh, absolutely," Ham answers, "because, you know, the Bible teaches that God made land animals on day six, alongside of Adam and Eve."

Ham understands that Supreme Court decisions mandating separation between church and state mean his point of view cannot be taught in public schools.

Still, says Braver, he sees a glimmer on the horizon: a new theory called "intelligent design" is bringing hope to Christians like himself, who don't believe in evolution.

"They see it as a way of, maybe this is how we can try to get the school students to at least hear of another view," Hamm says.

The underlying premise of intelligent design, Braver points out, is that recent advances in molecular biology have enabled scientists for the first time to peer into the inner workings of a single cell, revealing mechanisms so complex that they couldn't possibly have evolved by chance, and must have been deliberately designed, especially when it comes to DNA, the building block of life.

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, cradle of the intelligent design theory, produced a video saying, "There is, in fact, no entity in the known universe that stores and processes information more efficiently than the DNA molecule. Every DNA has 3 billion individual characteristics."

"In other words," asserts Stephen Meyer, who holds a doctorate in the history of science, and is director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, "we're seeing something that, in any other realm of experience, would trigger an awareness of design. And therefore, we think the best inference is that things were actually designed."

He says that intelligent design is based entirely on observable scientific evidence, and that it's not creationist theory.

But, he acknowledges, "It's consistent with a view that many people in our culture hold, that there is some larger purpose, derived from a creator."

And would that be Christian creator, Braver wondered.

"Well," responded Meyer, "many people have different interpretations of that."

Says Miles Eldridge, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, "Nobody buys for a moment that they have in mind the creature from the black lagoon, or any other possible intelligent designer. They're clearly referring to God."Eldridge is curator of an upcoming exhibit on biologist Charles Darwin, whose studies in the Galapagos Islands led to his landmark publications on the origins of the species 1859 which inspired, as Eldridge puts it, "monumental sea changes in our thinking about who we are and how we came to be."

Darwin theorized that all living things evolved from the same simple organisms. Over countless generations, random mutations, or changes have occurred, with the strongest specimens surviving and reproducing, a process known as "natural selection." That process eventually led to the formation of new species and higher forms of life, including humans.

But in this country, Darwin's theory met resistance from the outset. Back in 1925, Tennessee high school science teacher John Scopes was put on trial, and banned from teaching evolution.

Today, of course, religion has been banished from the science class.

But now, notes Braver, there's a court case going on over teaching intelligent design, in Dover, Pa., where the school board says it should be allowed.

Just to show how complicated this issue is, the folks at the Discovery Institute, the major proponents of intelligent design, don't support the school board, because of reports, says Meyer, that, "They justify the policy using an explicit statement of religious purpose, which is not only unconstitutional, it's incongruous with what we're trying to do, which is make a scientific case for the idea of intelligent design."

In fact, although Meyer and his colleagues say that the theory of intelligent design is purely scientific, they also say it's too new to be a requirement in public school science classes.

But they're demanding something else.

"We think," says Meyer, "that students should be informed about the growing criticism of Darwinian evolution."

A small but growing number of scientists now challenge some of the fundamental tenets of Darwinism, Braver reports. They point, for example, to a tiny bacterium, with moving tails, known as flagella, and insist that its intricate workings could not be the result of a genetic accident.

"Well, maybe that's what they believe, but for biologists, we know differently," remarks biochemist Maxine Singer, who says there are clear evolutionary explanations for this and other issues raised by the intelligent design theory.

A member of the National Academy of Science, and former head of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, she says intelligent design is not science, it's a leap of faith: "The whole concept of science is, you're always asking new questions. But, intelligent design says, 'This is the end of questions, because here's the explanation: Some intelligent designer said this is the way it's gonna be.' And so, for kids in schools, it closes their minds, not opens them."

What about the argument that students should at least be taught that there's a controversy over Darwin's theory?

"There are controversies," Singer replies, "over the mechanisms of evolution, and we should be teaching those. But there is no controversy in science about whether evolution occurs or not."

Nevertheless, Braver says, evolution, the idea that we are all descended from apes, has never been popular in this country.

A new CBS News news poll found that 51 percent of Americans believe God created human beings in their present form. Three states have now adopted policies that would allow teachers to introduce scientific criticisms of the Darwinian theory of evolution.

So it's no surprise that the question of intelligent design is capturing people's attention.

President Bush made headlines when he said intelligent design should be taught and, just a week ago, on the program "West Wing," a fictional presidential candidate was asked: "Do you believe the theory of intelligent design and the theory of evolution should be taught alongside each other in public schools?"

The character in the show responded, "Absolutely not. One is based on science, the other based in faith."

That fictional character isn't the only one who thinks so.

John Haught, a research professor of theology at Georgetown University and author of several books on religion and evolution, argues that science is just not equipped to deal with spiritual, or philosophical questions.

"There's a point in our quest for understanding, it seems to me, where the question of what the ultimate explanation of things is, is quite legitimate and needs to be asked," he says. "But science does not ask ultimate questions. It asks questions about proximate, physical causes."

"So, by definition, science is just not wired to pick up any signals of some ultimate intelligence or ultimate wisdom," Haught adds.

But at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ham says the theory of intelligent design is going to reopen debate in this country about religion in the science classroom.

"At least they're starting to get people to think about the issue," Ham says. "They're battling it in public. And I believe you're gonna see a lot more. You're seeing that culture war in America, and you're gonna see that culture war heat up."

That means, concludes Braver, that the answers to age-old questions — like who we are and why we're here — may remain as elusive as ever.

©MMV, CBS Broadcasting Inc.

'Wedge document' calls for science revision


Witness wrote book criticizing group's strategy

Sunday, October 23, 2005

BY BILL SULON Of The Patriot-News

The Discovery Institute, a leading proponent of intelligent design, "seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies."

That's not criticism levied against the organization by scientists, the majority of whom hold that evolutionary science is testable and proven, and that intelligent design is neither.

Instead, the statement is part of the Discovery Institute's "wedge document," which has a five-year goal of making intelligent design "an accepted alternative in the sciences" and a 20-year objective of making "intelligent design theory ... the dominant perspective in science."

The document, leaked to the Internet in 1999, served as a basis for a book by Barbara Forrest, professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Forrest is a key witness for the plaintiffs in their lawsuit against the Dover Area School District's policy of requiring that a statement on intelligent design be read to ninth-grade science students. Eleven parents in the district sued the school board, and the district is defending its policy in federal court in Harrisburg.

As suggested by the book's title, "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design," Forrest is critical of the wedge strategy.

In testimony at the trial this month, Forrest said the strategy, written by "members of the intelligent design movement," is "a tactical document" in which "they outline their goals and their activities."

After the document surfaced, The Discovery Institute's Center for Renewal of Science and Culture issued a release calling it "an early fundraising proposal" that has become "a giant urban legend."

In a statement issued to the media after Forrest testified, the Discovery Institute said that "among true believers on the Darwinist fringe, the document came to be viewed as evidence for a secret conspiracy to fuse religion with science and impose a theocracy."

Here are excerpts from the wedge document:

The wedge strategy:

The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built.

Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art.

Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies.

The Center awards fellowships for original research, holds conferences, and briefs policymakers about the opportunities for life after materialism.

Five-year plan:

If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a wedge that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points.

The very beginning of this strategy, the thin edge of the wedge, was Phillip Johnson's critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in "Darwinism on Trial," and continued in "Reason in the Balance and Defeatng Darwinism by Opening Minds." Michael Behe's highly successful "Darwin's Black Box" followed Johnson's work.

We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist world view and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

The Wedge strategy can be divided into three distinct but interdependent phases.

We believe that, with adequate support, we can accomplish many of the objectives of Phases I and II in the next five years (1999-2003), and begin Phase III.

Phase I: Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade.

So, in Phase I we are supporting vital writing and research at sites most likely to crack the materialist edifice.

Phase II. The best and truest research can languish unread and unused unless it is properly publicized. For this reason we seek to cultivate and convince influential individuals in print and broadcast media, as well as think tank leaders, scientists and academics, congressional staff, talk show hosts, college and seminary presidents and faculty, future talent and potential academic allies."

Other activities include production of a PBS documentary on intelligent design and its implications, and popular op-ed publishing.

Alongside a focus on influential opinion-makers, we also seek to build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians.

Phase III. Once our research and writing have had time to mature, and the public prepared for the reception of design theory, we will move toward direct confrontation with the advocates of materialist science through challenge conferences in significant academic settings.

We will also pursue possible legal assistance in response to resistance to the integration of design theory into public school science curricula. The attention, publicity, and influence of design theory should draw scientific materialists into open debate with design theorists, and we will be ready."


Five-Year: To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory. To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.

20-Year: To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science. To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

©2005 The Patriot-News
© 2005 PennLive.com All Rights Reserved.

Groups Balk at Teaching Intelligent Design


Staff and agencies 29 October, 2005

By JOHN HANNA, 1 hour, 48 minutes ago

TOPEKA, Kan. - Two national groups say the state can't use their copyrighted material in proposed science standards that critics contend promote creationism.

The National Academy of Sciences and National Science Teachers Association called the proposed standards misleading and objected to language — sought by intelligent-design advocates — suggesting some evolutionary theory isn't solid.

The State Board of Education is set to vote Nov. 8 on whether to adopt the new standards, which must be updated periodically under Kansas law. Current standards treat evolution as a well-established theory that is crucial to understanding science.

The standards are used to develop student achievement tests but don't mandate how science is taught.

Phillip Johnson, a retired law professor who sometimes is called the father of the intelligent-design movement, called the groups' decision, announced Wednesday, "panicky and hysterical."

Intelligent design says some natural features are best explained as having an intelligent cause because they're well-ordered and complex. Its advocates also attack evolutionary theory that natural chemical processes could have created the building blocks of life, that all life has a common origin and that apes and man have a common ancestor.

National academy: http://www.nasonline.org

Board of Education: http://www.ksde.org/commiss/board.html


Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Phillip Johnson Hear Phillip Johnson present...
One Nation Under God

Dr. Johnson, a graduate of Harvard, served as law clerk for Chief Justice Earl Warren and taught for more than thirty years at Berkeley. He is recognized as one of the leading spokesmen for the intelligent design movement.

In this professionally produced video lecture, he raises the question, are we "One Nation Under God" or "One Nation Under Darwin?" Judging from our public school curricula one might assume the latter. Is there anything our elected representatives have done to prevent the establishment of a secular religion in the guise of science education? The answer is Yes. Dr. Johnson also discusses the importance of the influential Senate vote on the Santorum Amendment in this fascinating lecture and Q & A session.

Additionally, Dr. Patton will present the latest news regarding our dating project. The Mexican dinosaur figurines have been dated by the premier Thermoluminescent dating laboratory in the world. Come and hear the exciting new developments.

Bunky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX
Tuesday, November 1st, 7:30 PM

An ignominious distinction for Kansas


Posted on Sat, Oct. 29, 2005

Biology teachers: As low as lab rats?


The Kansas City Star

Researchers traipsing through jungles collecting orangutan urine have better jobs than a Kansas biology teacher, according to the latest edition of Popular Science.

In the magazine's third annual take on the 10 worst jobs in science, those trying to teach evolution in Kansas classrooms come in at No. 3 on the list, topped only by "human lab rat" test subjects dosed with pesticides and manure inspectors.

The methodology behind the list isn't terribly scientific. After soliciting input from working scientists, the magazine's editors then compiled their list of the most noxious pursuits in the field.

The magazine's ridicule is the latest example offered by those who fear the effect of an anti-science label that they say comes from Kansas' ongoing tussle over whether creationism — or at least an offshoot of it known as intelligent design — should be in the curriculum.

The Kansas Board of Education is controlled by a majority of members who believe public school students should be taught intelligent design alongside evolution theory. The board is set to vote at its Nov. 8 and 9 meeting on science standards that cast doubt on evolution.

Bob Corkins, Kansas' education commissioner, said misperceptions about his and the board's intent are responsible for any anti-science label being placed on the state.

The goal, Corkins said, is to teach science in a way that will stimulate student interest and lead to critical thinking. "I believe the language of the standards we have proposed will result in the best science we can teach," Corkins said. "There is no intent to inject any other theory or any other religious aspect."

In the meantime, many in the education and scientific communities are concerned about how the state currently is perceived by outsiders.

"Kansas has a huge challenge if we want to be serious about building an economy based on technology and innovation," M. Lee Allison, a science policy adviser to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said at a conference Thursday at the University of Kansas.

References to the controversy were sprinkled among PowerPoint presentations and audience remarks throughout the daylong Kansas Economic Policy Conference, which focused on the potential for high-tech development to boost the state's economy.

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway closed the conference with impassioned remarks explaining his concern with the failure of some in Kansas and many in the nation to recognize the connection between science and global economic competitiveness.

Hemenway said it is a "crowning irony" that officials in Kansas are considering challenges to teaching evolution while others in the same state passed the Kansas Economic Growth Act, a more than $500 million incentive package for the bioscience industry that is considered one of the most progressive economic development initiatives in the country.

"We have some work to do if we are going to compete," Hemenway said. "We have to invest in science, not fear it."

To reach Jason Gertzen, call (816) 234-4899 or send e-mail to jgertzen@kcstar.com.

Article Last Updated: 10/28/2005 11:16:03 AM


'Creationism' conflict
Buckingham testifies he never meant to use the word

HARRISBURG -- In the month of June 2004, at least six newspaper articles mentioning Dover Area school board member William Buckingham were published in The York Dispatch, but he never read them.

Several stories had also been published in the York Daily Record, but again Buckingham never read them -- even though he received both newspapers at his home, he testified yesterday in U.S. Middle District court.

He said he doesn't "believe a darned thing they print."

The newspaper subscriptions were left over from when Buckingham's dad was still alive and living at his home. He would read the obituaries, and maybe check out how the Philadelphia Phillies were doing, he said.

"They (the newspapers) came, but I didn't read them."

On June 8, 2004, he was featured on the front page, the first person named in a story sprawled across The York Dispatch.

On June 9, 2004, he was mentioned on the front page of the local section of The York Dispatch. The story said Buckingham's school board could face a lawsuit because he and other board members said they wanted to teach creationism alongside evolution. On that day, the obituaries were sandwiched between the beginning and the ending of that story, but he testified he never read the story.

Disputes papers' accounts: More than a year after that story was published, Buckingham was in a witness stand in front of attorney Steve Harvey with the Pepper Hamilton law firm, who represents parents who sued the district and say intelligent design is akin to creationism.

Harvey -- who looked skeptical throughout much of the testimony -- pointed out that the newspapers were "... delivered to your door every day ..." when Buckingham repeatedly said he didn't read news reports about the Dover school board.

In two depositions given by Buckingham in preparation for the case, Buckingham said people had told him there were stories about him in the newspapers, but they never told him what they were about.

But yesterday, he testified that people told him the stories mentioned creationism.

He said he never used the word "creationism," to introduce an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution.

Other school board members never said creationism either, Buckingham testified, but the newspapers used the word anyway.

"It's just another instance where we would say intelligent design and they would print creationism," he said. "It happened all the time."

Video shows statement: But then Harvey started rolling a video from an interview Buckingham gave to local television station Fox 43.

On a large screen, a newscast showed Buckingham standing in front of a building, wearing the trademark cross and American flag lapel pin he had worn to board meetings. Birds chirped in the background.

"My opinion ... it's OK to teach Darwin, but you have to balance it with something else, such as creationism," he said on the tape.

"Now, that's basically the same statement that was reported in the newspapers," Harvey said.

But Buckingham testified that his own statement wasn't accurate, either.

He recalled that he was walking to his car when television reporters made him feel "like I was ambushed."

Buckingham said he had creationism on his mind because he knew there were media reports that the board wanted to teach creationism.

He said he was "like a deer in the headlights of the car."

He wasn't used to all of the media attention, but he was "trying to be the nice guy" and gave them an interview even though he felt "pressured," he said.

But he "concentrated so hard on not saying creationism" that he accidentally said creationism, he testified.

"You didn't look like you were very pressured to me," Harvey said.

He suggested that Buckingham said "creationism" because he meant "creationism."

"Absolutely not," Buckingham said.

Discrepancies in testimony: Harvey also questioned Buckingham about other discrepancies between his depositions and later testimony.

In his depositions, Buckingham said he didn't know who was responsible for about 60 intelligent design books that were donated to the school district.

But Buckingham testified yesterday that people from his church donated $850 toward purchase of the book, called "Of Pandas and People."

The book was later added to the biology curriculum.

Harvey said Buckingham lied in the deposition because he didn't want people to know donations came from his church.

Buckingham, who lived in Dover for 28 years and has three grown children who graduated from Dover, moved to North Carolina several months after parents filed the lawsuit.

Citing health problems, he also resigned from the board.

Didn't, then did, remember: Harvey questioned Buckingham about why he didn't remember saying that the high school biology book was "laced with Darwinism," a comment he later said he remembered making.

Buckingham said the discrepancy was probably due to the fact that the comment was made about the time he "came out of treatment" for an addiction to OxyContin painkillers he was taking for his back.

"I was still going through withdrawal from that, and things were kind of foggy," he said.

Buckingham entered a treatment facility in February 2004 and returned to the board March 1, 2004. He sought treatment again in December 2004.

A few months later, Buckingham introduced the board members to the Discovery Institute, the largest organization supporting intelligent design research.

Buckingham testified that he also initiated contact with the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based law firm that says it specializes in defending the rights of Christians.

An attorney there told him about the book "Of Pandas and People."

The firm had offered to defend the school board if it was sued over intelligent design, Buckingham testified.

The Thomas More Law Center is currently defending the school district and its board for free.

Thomas More attorney Pat Gillen briefly questioned Buckingham when Harvey was finished.

Gillen tried to establish that Buckingham did not believe intelligent design was religion or creationism.

"We were doing it (adding intelligent design to the curriculum) for the students to give them an alternative scientific theory to go along with their biology class," Buckingham testified. "We thought we were doing something good for them."

Talked of monkeys: Buckingham testified that he believes in a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis, and he does remember "expressing a concern that origins of life were taught to the point that man descended from monkeys."

Common descent, or the idea that people evolved from common ancestors, contradicts the story of creation in Genesis.

He testified that he remembers telling one resident to "trace your roots to the monkey you came from."

And several witnesses have testified that they heard Buckingham make the religious comments that were reported when the board was discussing biology curriculum last June.

But Buckingham testified he couldn't remember making some of the comments. And he said other comments -- such as a reference to the crucifixion of Christ and comment about "the country" being founded on Christianity -- were made at a meeting in 2003, not when discussing the biology curriculum.

He testified that he had said the separation of church and state was a "myth," but not in the context in which reporters had written.

Buckingham testified that most of the content of stories written by The York Dispatch free-lance reporter Heidi Bernhard-Bubb and York Daily Record free-lance reporter Joseph Maldonado were not accurate.

The two covered school board meetings for the competing newspapers while the board was discussing the biology curriculum.

Bernhard-Bubb took the stand after Buckingham yesterday, testifying that the stories she wrote were accurate.

Bernhard-Bubb was scheduled to continue testifying this morning, followed by Maldonado.

Continued testimony from assistant superintendent Michael Baksa is also expected.

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

Board member recalls 'intelligent design' used at meeting


Witnesses disagree on when board discussed 'creationism'
Saturday, October 29, 2005
BY BILL SULON Of The Patriot-News

A Dover Area school board member testified yesterday that she believes the words "intelligent design" were first mentioned at a school board meeting in June 2004, and that the word "creationism" wasn't used at meetings around that time.

But two freelance reporters who wrote about the Dover school district testified yesterday that the board members made repeated references to creationism at two meetings in June 2004, though neither reporter quoted board members using the word.

School board member Heather Geesey's testimony yesterday differed from testimony she gave at a deposition in March. At that deposition, Geesey replied "no" when asked if she remembered if the words "intelligent design" were mentioned at June 2004 board meetings. But she acknowledged yesterday that she wrote a letter to a York County newspaper in June 2004 in which she said, "You can teach creationism without it being religious."

In October 2004, Geesey voted with the majority when the board approved a policy requiring that a statement on intelligent design be read to students at the start of a unit on evolution. The statement describes evolution as "not a fact' and refers to intelligent design as an alternative theory.

The issue of whether the word "creationism" was used before adoption of the policy is key to opponents who want the statement eliminated from science class. Eleven parents sued the district, alleging that the statement violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which bars government from establishing a religion or favoring one religion over another.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creation science cannot be taught in public schools. Proponents of intelligent design say that aspects of the universe are too complex to explain and that they therefore must be the work of an intelligent designer. Opponents of the Dover policy say intelligent design is a form of special creationism and inherently religious.

Asked yesterday if intelligent design was mentioned at a June meeting, Geesey said, "I believe so, yes."

In explaining the discrepancy from her March deposition, Geesey said she came to the conclusion that the words "intelligent design" were used in June 2004 after rereading a letter to the editor she wrote that was published in the York Sunday News on June 27, 2004. Geesey said she wrote the letter in response to another letter that was published in the newspaper a week earlier.

In her letter, Geesey defended fellow school board member William Buckingham, who had been quoted in a previous newspaper article as making religious references in defending the need for a curriculum change.

In an article published in the York Daily Record, Buckingham said, "The country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs [and] evolution. This country was founded on Christianity, and our students ought to be taught as such."

After a district resident wrote a letter to the editor that was critical of Buckingham's comments, Geesey wrote a letter in defense of her colleague, in which she said, "Our country was founded on Christian beliefs and principles" and "You can teach creationism without it being religious."

Geesey yesterday said that reviewing the letters jogged her memory about what was said at the June 2004 school board meetings and that it was her belief that board members used the words "intelligent design" and not "creationism."

The response prompted U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III to ask Geesey "what specifically" refreshed her memory about the letters.

"I don't see the word intelligent design," Jones, referring to the letters, said to Geesey.

Geesey said the letters reminded her of "what we were doing" as board members at the June meetings.

Reporters Heidi Bernhard-Bubb of the York Dispatch and Joseph Maldano of the York Daily Record/Sunday News testified that the articles they wrote about the Dover board were accurate. Both reporters wrote extensively about the Dover policy and the controversy leading up to its approval in October.

Other witnesses in the Dover trial have testified hearing board members use the word "creationism" and lobby for its inclusion in the science curriculum.

Also yesterday, Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa testified he once heard Buckingham use the word "creationism," and that he "was surprised" to hear it. Testimony is scheduled to continue Monday.

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

©2005 The Patriot-News © 2005 PennLive.com

KM principal says video on creationism won't be show again


October 29, 2005

DOUSMAN - There are concerns about a Creationism theory video presentation shown to Kettle Moraine Middle School students earlier this year, said school principal Charlotte Hall.

Hall said many of the scientific facts in the video presented by Jay Seegert, who is working to open the Creation Education Center in Waukesha, were misrepresented.

"I have real concerns about showing the video again," Hall said. "I would rather have another tape. ... I want to make sure everything we show is accurate, well researched and based on fact."

Seegert's video presentation was shown to students in Jan Frans' sixth-grade social studies class.

Frans said the sixth-grade curriculum touches on sociological, not scientific, perspectives of theories of Earth's origins.

"Every culture we study has some story of the origins of Earth," Frans said. "(Seegert's tape) was one of multiple viewpoints and other resources I use."

Seegert said he made no mention of the Bible in the presentation.

He said he presents students with two choices: either the world was created all by itself or it wasn't.

Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said Seegert's choice creates a false dichotomy.

But he said creation theory can be taught in a social studies class.

"It's OK to teach about creation theory in a literature or social studies class or even a history class," Ahmuty said. "You can teach about religion in public schools. You just can't teach religion."

Kettle Moraine Superintendent Sarah Jerome said several school board policies broadly define who qualifies as an appropriate speaker.

"Typically the teacher works with the principal," Jerome said.

One specific policy Jerome mentioned deals with material selection guidelines.

"The district recognizes the need for ensuring that materials are current, effective, high quality, reflect best practice and research information," according to the policy. "The principal shall be responsible for approval of supplementary, technology, library/media materials used in the school."

Hall was unaware Jans showed Seegert's video to students when initially asked about it.

She said she would have liked to give parents a choice or an option to have their children see the video.

Hall said her teachers generally have discretion within the curriculum to add activities.

"I think what (Jans) was trying to do was present cultures," Hall said. "Every culture has a creation myth."

(Lawrence Silver can be reached at lsilver@conleynet.com)

This story appeared in the Waukesha Freeman on October 28, 2005.

Intelligent design explained


Published Sunday, October 30, 2005

In speech at Washburn, theorist says goal is to question evolution

By Lindsey Geisler Special to The Capital-Journal

Intelligent design isn't meant to re-insert God into science but rather to question the mechanisms of the Darwinian theory of evolution.

That is what Phillip E. Johnson, a retired law professor who is sometimes called the "father of intelligent design," told a group of Washburn University students and members of the community Saturday night.

"I thought it went well," said Craig Freerksen, community director of Christian Challenge, the student organization that brought Johnson to campus. "We had a great turnout from the community and the student body."

Johnson participated in a question and answer session called "Asking the Right Questions About Darwinism." He responded to queries about holes in Darwin's theories and why he feels able to participate in the scientific debate as a nonscientist.

He said Darwin and other evolutionary science leaders of the time wrote for a general public they thought could not only understand the theory but would also agree with it.

"I have appointed myself to respond to the authors of these books," Johnson said.

Johnson began the discussion by explaining that he became involved in the movement after having been aware of the legal efforts to have creationism taught in schools. He said creationists took on too much by trying to challenge evolution and the geological history of the Earth by relying on the Bible's account in Genesis.

"I was looking for a different way to approach the problem, an easier way into it, to see if there could be some way to discuss the subject of biological evolution and the controversies that surround it without getting into so many different areas of science and without getting into the question of whether some reference to Biblical authority or reliance on it is improper in science," he said.

According to Johnson, Darwin admitted that the fossil evidence at the time didn't support his theory but asserted that future discoveries should fill in the gaps. Johnson said in the 1980s a debate began within the scientific community because some thought that fossil discoveries weren't supporting a key part of Darwinian evolution.

Johnson said many evolutionists have tried to force intelligent design to take the negative argument, forcing proponents to disprove evolution. He asked they provide proof that what they assert is true first.

"I insisted on saying I'm not going to assume that the theory is true," he said.

The examples from scientists claiming to have observed the process of evolution don't satisfy him either. One example is of a moth population that had been predominately light colored, became predominately dark colored during the Industrial Revolution and then reverted to the light color later. Evolutionists explain the change as a result of tree bark darkening from industrial pollution and then lightening again after environmental reforms. The change in the moth's color is explained as a means of helping it blend in with the bark to hide from birds.

Johnson said he is even willing to overlook the fact that the species of moth is nocturnal and hides in the tree canopy during the day.

"This tells us nothing of the evolution that matters," he said. "What was clear to me was that it said nothing about how you get moths and trees and birds in the first place."

Joe Foreman Jr., a senior at Washburn, said he thought the discussion went well and that Johnson presented many ideas that needed to be discussed more openly.

"We aren't really given the option to have our own thoughts," he said of his science classes.

Topeka West High School biology teacher Donnie Palmer, who describes himself as a supporter of intelligent design, said he just wanted to follow the evidence, even if it took him closer to evolution.

"The idea of being able to question the evidence and come to our own conclusions is how I like to teach science in my own classroom," he said.

Lindsey Geisler is a freelance writer in Topeka. She can be reached at lindsey.geisler@gmail.com.

Intelligent design case judge likely to use 'Lemon test'


Jones to decide whether Dover has secular or religious motivation.

By Christina Gostomski Call Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG — The federal judge presiding over the landmark trial about how public schools teach evolution could resolve the case without giving school districts an answer on whether they can mention intelligent design without violating the separation of church and state.

Judge John E. Jones of Pottsville probably will base his decision on a two-pronged legal test measuring the school board's motivation for introducing intelligent design and whether by doing so the school district promotes or prohibits religion.

If Jones rules that the school district had no secular motivation for mentioning the topic, then he may not necessarily have to rule on the second, much thornier issue of whether the district's actions advanced religion.

''The cleanest way to get rid of the case … would be if it turned out there were no secular purpose,'' said G. Randall Lee, a constitutional law professor at Widener University's Harrisburg campus. ''If you don't have a secular purpose, than there are a lot of really hard questions that you don't have to answer.''

The lawsuit against the Dover Area School Board was filed by eight families over a policy that requires willing biology students to listen to a four-paragraph statement. The statement informs the ninth-graders that there are alternate views to evolution, including intelligent design, the belief that mankind's development is too complex to have evolved without an intelligent designer.

The trial began a month ago and continues this week. Lehigh University biochemistry professor Michael Behe, a leading advocate of intelligent design, testified at the trial for three days earlier this month.

The families, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, maintained that the board purposefully introduced religion into science classes and that the statement promotes Christianity.

The school board, represented by the Thomas More Law Center, said it designed the statement for a secular purpose — to inform students of multiple viewpoints and help them think critically — and that mentioning intelligent design does not promote any particular religion.

Jones probably will base his ruling on the Lemon test, named after the 1971 suit Lemon v. Kurtzman, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not reimburse nonpublic schools for teachers' salaries, textbooks and instructional materials.

The court's decision established the Lemon test, which is used to determine when a law or policy has the effect of establishing religion.

The test consists of three prongs — two of which the plaintiffs have asked Jones to rule on, and a third that addresses whether an action creates excessive ''entanglement'' between church and state.

Jones will not use that prong because the plaintiffs have not alleged that the board's action created that entanglement.

Under the first prong, Jones probably would address whether the board's purpose in introducing the statement was religious or secular. If he finds that it was religious, he can rule in the plaintiff's favor without addressing the second prong: whether the statement promotes religion.

''The judge could deal with this case without dealing with the bigger question, 'Is it constitutional to teach intelligent design?' '' said Casey Luskin, a public policy and legal affairs officer for the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which has filed a brief in the Dover trial supporting the school board.

But legal analysts disagree on how the judge should interpret the first prong: some believe if the judge finds the board's purpose to be solely religious, he must find in favor of the plaintiffs; other say that he can only do so if the board's primary purpose is religious.

''A lot has to do with the judicial temperment of the court,'' said Perry Zirkel, an education and law professor at Lehigh University.

The second question is even more complex, legal experts say, because there are a multitude of other questions that then come to bear. Does mentioning the phrase 'intelligent design' without explaining what it is constitute teaching? Is intelligent design a form of creationism, as its critics maintain, or a scientific belief as its supporters say? Does the intelligent designer have to be God, making the intelligent design concept inherently religious, or could it be something else? At what point does science become religion and vice versa?

''It gets really messy when you start getting into that,'' Lee said.

Legal analysts say the third prong is the most complicated and less often referred to in judges' opinions. The first prong — the question of secular motivation — is the least complicated of the three.

''That would be the easiest opinion anyone would have to write,'' Lee said.

But, he added, if Jones based his opinion on the second prong, ''it would be a lot more interesting for the rest of us.''

An opinion based solely on secular motivation would leave the door open for future suits on whether teaching intelligent design in public school science courses promotes religion. But an opinion on whether Dover's statement promotes religion — either in support of or against the school board — probably would shape how public schools address evolution and intelligent design.

Moreover, if Jones does not address the second prong, and the case is appealed as legal experts expect, the appellate court could send the case back to Jones for a ruling on the second issue.

''This may be just episode one,'' Luskin said.



Saturday, October 29, 2005

School board member didn't investigate "intelligent design"


By MARTHA RAFFAELE, Associated Press Writer, The Associated Press October 28, 2005

A school board member who voted to include "intelligent design" in a high-school biology curriculum testified Friday that she never independently researched the concept and relied on the opinions of two fellow board members to make her decision.

Heather Geesey, a Dover Area School Board member, said she came to believe intelligent design was a scientific theory based on the recommendations of Alan Bonsell and William Buckingham _ both members of the board's curriculum committee.

"They said it was a scientific thing," said Geesey, who added that "it wasn't my job" to learn more about intelligent design because she didn't serve on the curriculum committee.

Geesey testified at the end of the fifth week of a landmark federal trial that could determine whether intelligent design can be mentioned in public school science classes.

The board in October 2004 voted to require 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 and has inexplicable gaps, and it refers students to a textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information.

Intelligent design supporters argue that evolution cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms, attributing those phenomena to an unidentified intelligent cause.

Eight families who are suing the school district argue that the board's policy promotes the Bible's view of creation, and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Witold Walczak, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing the families, noted in his cross-examination of Geesey that the policy was adopted over the objections of Dover High School's science teachers.

"The only people in the school district with a scientific background were opposed to intelligent design ... and you ignored them?" he asked.

"Yes," Geesey said.

Earlier Friday, two freelance newspaper reporters testified that they accurately reported on school board meetings in which creationism was discussed, even though they did not directly quote any board members using the term.

Heidi Bernhard-Bubb of The York Dispatch and Joseph Maldonado of the York Daily Record/Sunday News both said creationism was discussed at school board meetings they covered in June 2004. In pretrial depositions, school board members have denied or said they did not remember making statements about creationism during the meetings.

The trial began Sept. 26 and is expected to conclude Nov. 4.

The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the ACLU 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

Kansas Fight on Evolution Escalates


October 28, 2005


Two leading science organizations have denied the Kansas Board of Education permission to use their copyrighted materials as part of the state's proposed new science standards because of the standards' critical approach to evolution.

The rebuke from the two groups, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association, comes less than two weeks before the board's expected adoption of the controversial new standards, which will serve as a template for statewide tests and thus have great influence on what is taught.

Kansas is one of a number of states and school districts where the teaching of evolution has lately come under assault. If adopted, its change in standards will be among the most aggressive challenges in the nation to biology's bedrock theory.

The copyright denial could delay adoption as the standards are rewritten but is unlikely to derail the board's conservative majority in its mission to require that challenges to Darwin's theories be taught in the state's classrooms.

In a joint statement yesterday, Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy, and Michael J. Padilla, president of the teachers' group, said: "Kansas students will not be well prepared for the rigors of higher education or the demands of an increasingly complex and technologically driven world if their science education is based on these standards. Instead, they will put the students of Kansas at a competitive disadvantage as they take their place in the world."

In the statement and in letters to the state board, the groups opposed the standards because they would single out evolution as a controversial theory and change the definition of science itself so that it is not restricted to the study of natural phenomena. A third organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, echoed those concerns in a news release supporting the copyright denial, saying, "Students are ill served by any effort in science classrooms to blur the distinction between science and other ways of knowing, including those concerned with the supernatural."

Though the complaints of the National Academy and the teachers' group focus on just a handful of references to evolution, their copyrighted material appears on almost all 100 pages of the standards, which are an overview of science subjects taught in kindergarten through high school. In Kansas, as in most states, local school districts decide on curriculums and choose textbooks, but the state standards guide those decisions.

"In some cases it's just a phrase, but in some cases it's extensive," Steve Case, the chairman of the board's standards-writing committee, said of the differences required by the copyright denial. "You try to keep the idea but change the wording around; the writing becomes horrifically bad."

Dr. Case, a research professor at the University of Kansas who opposes the proposed standards, said removing the copyrighted material could take several months. But Steve Abrams, the board's president and leader of its 6-to-4 conservative majority, said it could approve the standards on Nov. 8 as planned, with a caveat directing a copyright lawyer to edit out direct references to the groups' materials.

"The impact is minimal - it won't change the concepts," said Dr. Abrams, a veterinarian. "They obviously don't have copyrights on concepts."

The copyright skirmish is not a surprise: the two science groups took similar steps in 1999, when the Kansas board stripped the standards of virtually any reference to evolution, a move that was reversed when conservative members were ousted from office. (Critics of evolutionary theory regained a majority last year.)

Sue Gamble, a board member who opposes the changes, acknowledged that the science groups' dissent would do little to halt the standards' adoption but said it could lead to a backlash.

"Nothing is going to stop these six members from doing what they're going to do," she said of the board's conservative majority, four of whom are up for re-election in 2006. "It won't make any difference, but I think it will make a difference next year in the election."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Is U.S. becoming hostile to science?


Friday, October 28, 2005 Posted: 1714 GMT (0114 HKT)

In the past month, the interim president of Cornell University and the dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine have both spoken on this theme, warning in dramatic terms of the long-term consequences.

"Among the most significant forces is the rising tide of anti-science sentiment that seems to have its nucleus in Washington but which extends throughout the nation," said Stanford's Philip Pizzo in a letter posted on the school Web site on October. 3.

Cornell acting President Hunter Rawlings, in his "state of the university" address last week, spoke about the challenge to science represented by "intelligent design" which holds that the theory of evolution accepted by the vast majority of scientists is fatally flawed.

Rawlings said the dispute was widening political, social, religious and philosophical rifts in U.S. society. "When ideological division replaces informed exchange, dogma is the result and education suffers," he said.

Adherents of intelligent design argue that certain forms in nature are too complex to have evolved through natural selection and must have been created by a "designer," who could but does not have to be identified as God.

At odds with Bush

In the past five years, the scientific community has often seemed at odds with the Bush administration over issues as diverse as global warming, stem cell research and environmental protection. Prominent scientists have also charged the administration with politicizing science by seeking to shape data to its own needs while ignoring other research.

Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians have built a powerful position within the Republican Party and no Republican, including Bush, can afford to ignore their views.

This was dramatically illustrated in the case of Terri Schiavo earlier this year, in which Republicans in Congress passed a law to keep a woman in a persistent vegetative state alive against her husband's wishes, and Bush himself spoke out in favor of "the culture of life."

The issue of whether intelligent design should be taught, or at least mentioned, in high school biology classes is being played out in a Pennsylvania court room and in numerous school districts across the country.

The school board of Dover, Pennsylvania, is being sued by parents backed by the American Civil Liberties Union after it ordered schools to read students a short statement in biology classes informing them that the theory of evolution is not established fact and that gaps exist in it.

The statement mentioned intelligent design as an alternative theory and recommended students to read a book that explained the theory further.

Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller believes the rhetoric of the anti-evolution movement has had the effect of driving a wedge between a large proportion of the population who follow fundamentalist Christianity and science.

"It is alienating young people from science. It basically tells them that the scientific community is not to be trusted and you would have to abandon your principles of faith to become a scientist, which is not at all true," he said.

On the other side, conservative scholar Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute, believes the only way to heal the rift between science and religion is to allow the teaching of intelligent design.

"To have antagonism between science and religion is crazy," he said at a forum on the issue last week.

Proponents of intelligent design deny they are anti-science and say they themselves follow the scientific method.

Americans at odds with evolution

Polls for many years have shown that a majority of Americans are at odds with key scientific theory. For example, as CBS poll this month found that 51 percent of respondents believed humans were created in their present form by God. A further 30 percent said their creation was guided by God. Only 15 percent thought humans evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years.

Other polls show that only around a third of American adults accept the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, even though the concept is virtually uncontested by scientists worldwide.

"When we ask people what they know about science, just under 20 percent turn out to be scientifically literate," said Jon Miller, director of the center for biomedical communication at Northwestern University.

He said science and especially mathematics were poorly taught in most U.S. schools, leading both to a shortage of good scientists and general scientific ignorance.

U.S. school students perform relatively poorly in international tests of mathematics and science. For example, in 2003 U.S. students placed 24th in an international test that measured the mathematical literacy of 15-year-olds, below many European and Asian countries.

Scientists bemoan the lack of qualified U.S. candidates for postgraduate and doctoral studies at American universities and currently fill around a third of available science and engineering slots with foreign students.

Northwestern's Miller said the insistence of a large proportion of Americans that humans were created by God as whole beings had policy implications for the future.

"The 21st century will be the century of biology and we are going to be confronted with hundreds of important public policy issues that require some understanding that all life is interconnected," he said.

Copyright 2005 Reuters

What's New Friday October 28, 2005


Last Friday, even as What's New was being written in Washington, events were taking place elsewhere that must be commented on. In New York, CBS News was releasing its most recent poll on public attitudes toward the theory of evolution. A little further North in Ithaca, Hunter Rawlings, the president of Cornell University, was delivering a courageous State-of-the-University Address, http://www.cornell.edu/president/announcement_2005_1021.cfm. The CBS poll found that just over half (51%) of Americans believe God created humans in their present form. Clearly, the scientific community has work to do. In his speech, Rawlings went straight to the point, committing Cornell to "venture outside the campus to help the American public sort through the issues [raised by intelligent design]." He described ID as a "political movement seeking to inject religion into state policy and our schools." The commitment is very much in the tradition of Cornell, whose founders, A.D. White, the first president, and Ezra Cornell saw sectarian strife as the greatest threat to the new university.


The question of "how we know" is being asked on the pages of the daily news for the first time since the 1925 Scopes trial, thanks to the Discovery Institute. With the world beset by religious wars, this is an opportunity for people to see that no wars are fought over science. Scientific disputes can be settled only by better evidence. "It's too complex to see how it could happen without magic" is not going to get you far. Meanwhile, Harvard announced plans to study the hardest question of all, the origin of life. And right at ground-zero, the University of Kansas Natural History Museum will open an evolution exhibit on Nov 1.


Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association had reviewed the latest draft of the Kansas science education standards. They objected that the draft failed to make it clear that supernatural phenomena have no place in science. As a result, Kansas will not be allowed to use copyrighted science education materials developed by the two organizations. Gerald Wheeler, a physicist and the executive director of the NSTA, pointed out that, "science is not a jukebox."


Don't relax yet, there will be. This weeks choice came from Dave Clary, who would ask:

"Does legislation aimed at protecting natural resources contravene a Higher Law that says these resources were put here for humans to consume."

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

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