Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
[ Friday, November 04, 2005 10:27:57 pmAP ]
VATICAN CITY: A Vatican cardinal has said the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, warning that religion risks turning into "fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason.
Cardinal Paul Poupard, who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture, made the comments at a news conference on a Vatican project to help end the "mutual prejudice" between religion and science that has long bedeviled the Roman Catholic Church and is part of the evolution debate in the United States.
The Vatican project was inspired by Pope John Paul II's 1992 declaration that the church's 17th century denunciation of Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension." Galileo was condemned for supporting Nicolaus Copernicus' discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun; church teaching at the time placed Earth at the centre of the universe. "The permanent lesson that the Galileo case represents pushes us to keep alive the dialogue between the various disciplines, and in particular between theology and the natural sciences, if we want to prevent similar episodes from repeating themselves in the future," Poupard said.
But he said science, too, should listen to religion. "We know where scientific reason can end up by itself: The atomic bomb and the possibility of cloning human beings are fruit of a reason that wants to free itself from every ethical or religious link," he said.
"But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism," he said. "The faithful have the obligation to listen to that which secular modern science has to offer, just as we ask that knowledge of the faith be taken in consideration as an expert voice in humanity."
Poupard and others at the news conference were asked about the religion-science debate raging in the US over evolution and "intelligent design." Intelligent design's supporters argue that natural selection, an element of evolutionary theory, cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms.
Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, reaffirmed John Paul's 1996 statement that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis."
By Joseph Geck Posted: Nov. 4, 2005
There's a storm of controversy headed for Wisconsin, and it involves the Bible.
The Bible has always been controversial. That is why there are so many distinct sects of Judaism and Christianity. Even in Genesis, there are two distinct stories of creation told with different chronologies and different emphasis. It's as if the author or authors were struggling with differing opinions.
Around the 1920s, a fundamentalist movement gained momentum in the United States, teaching that Genesis is to be taken literally.
Having been raised Catholic and still practicing, I know that literal interpretation of the Bible had throughout history been a problem because of differences in stories and chronology. One of the greatest embarrassments for the Catholic Church was the pressure on Galileo for publishing that the Earth was not the center of the solar system. Some say that the Bible doesn't claim the Earth is the center. However, an Earth-centric universe is Biblical.
As science progressed, discoveries made it more difficult for educated people to believe literal interpretations of Genesis. In the 19th century, developments in geology, archeology and astronomy challenged literalism before Darwin.
After Darwin, biology and all its sub-branches would never be the same. Discoveries in science since Darwin further verified the principles he set forth. Scientists, being a contentious lot, would tear apart any idea that was not backed up by evidence, so any finding to contradict another scientist would be seized upon. So Darwin's propositions stood the test of time.
Over the years, there has been a crazy debate over creationism. Reputable scientists have now backed away from debating because no amount of evidence will change the mind of the creationists. Having been proselytized by fundamentalists, I have read the creationist literature and found it full of inaccuracy to the point that I question the authors' motives.
For years, creationists have been saying there are serious scientific questions on the validity of evolution. There are none. For years, they have tried to get creationism into biology textbooks. Most school boards have seen the fallacy in this. This is putting religion into science curriculum.
Now there is a new movement and a well-funded foundation to support the introduction of intelligent design into biology curriculum. Intelligent design is "creationism lite." It doesn't say that evolution is bunk or that the Bible is literally true, but "questions" around evolution are debated. Soon school boards around the country, including Wisconsin, will be subject to the intelligent design marketing campaign.
I have no problem with people who want to believe in the literal interpretation of Genesis, even though I wonder which version they think is the true one. Freedom of religion guarantees their rights of belief. I have no problem with private schools teaching intelligent design as part of a religion class or even of comparative religion taught in the public schools.
I have a huge problem with passing intelligent design off as science.
It is bad enough that the United States is ranked behind other countries in science education. It is bad enough that the science literacy of the general public is such that we fund programs without measuring results, that astrology is believed and that gambling is so popular. It is bad enough that science is taught as merely a body of facts or mathematical models without enough emphasis on the scientific method. Now into this mix throw a little religion into science class.
President Bush has endorsed intelligent design. Of course, his administration has thought nothing of altering the results of scientific studies that don't fit his worldview. Isn't there something about truth in the Bible?
Good science doesn't have a worldview. It is an impartial look at reality that is constantly debated using specific methodology and logic.
I don't want creationist religion taught to my grandchildren, especially passed off as science. Scientists are not all pure. Many have altered results to fit their interest in money or other enticements. But beware the true believer.
Joseph Geck of Waukesha is a self-employed international consultant. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Nov. 5, 2005, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
On Sept. 20 I attended a seminar in our medical school on the subject of spiritual healing of cancer cells. I think it was sponsored by the cancer center and another department. It was given by Garret Yount of California Pacific Medical Center: http://cc.ucsf.edu/people/yount_garret.html
The first part of the talk presented data available in a free on-line publication:
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2004 Mar 15;4:5.
In vitro test of external Qigong.
Yount G, Solfvin J, Moore D, Schlitz M, Reading M, Aldape K, Qian Y.
Research Institute, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco
94115, USA. email@example.com
BACKGROUND: Practitioners of the alternative medical practice 'external Qigong' generally claim the ability to emit or direct "healing energy" to treat patients. We investigated the ability of experienced Qigong practitioners to enhance the healthy growth of cultured human cells in a series of studies, each following a rigorously designed protocol with randomization, blinding and controls for variability. METHODS: Qigong practitioners directed healing intentionality toward normal brain cell cultures in a basic science laboratory. Qigong treatments were delivered for 20 minutes from a minimum distance of 10 centimeters. Cell proliferation was measured by a standard colony-forming efficiency (CFE) assay and a CFE ratio (CFE for treated samples/CFE for sham samples) was the dependent measure for each experiment. RESULTS: During a pilot study (8 experiments), a trend of increased cell proliferation in Qigong-treated samples (CFE Qigong/sham ratios > 1.0) was observed (P = 0.162). In a formal study (28 experiments), a similar trend was observed, with Qigong-treated samples showing on average more colony formation than sham samples (P = 0.036). In a replication study (60 experiments), no significant difference between Qigong-treated samples and sham samples was observed (P = 0.465). CONCLUSION: We observed an apparent increase in the proliferation of cultured cells following external Qigong treatment by practitioners under strictly controlled conditions, but we did not observe this effect in a replication study. These results suggest the need for more controlled and thorough investigation of external Qigong before scientific validation is claimed.
full text at:
As you can see from this extract, the results were negative. There were lots of controls, and Yount said that positive results in the Chinese literature didn't have such tight controls. Also, he feels that they did selective reporting. A look at his points in Fig. 1 of the paper shows that even when two controls were compared to each other, differences of between 10- and 100-fold could show up in the assay, showing the possibility for errors.
He then went on to describe another series of experiments. This time
cells were followed by video cameras that took images every five
minutes. Cell growth and death was monitored for individual cells. Instead
of qigong, johrei, a Japanese technique, was used. Again, there were no
significant effects of the healers. This study is also available
Next he talked about experiments where people try to "perceive the
presence of cultured human cells without visual clues." The abstract is
Again, the results were negative.
He noted that a study performed by other researchers also found no
Br J Cancer. 2005 Sep 5;93(5):538-43.
The effect of spiritual healing on in vitro tumour cell proliferation
and viability--an experimental study.
Zachariae R, Hojgaard L, Zachariae C, Vaeth M, Bang B, Skov L.
Throughout the talk he gave the impression of someone who really felt that the healers had some kind of power, and wanted to see positive effects, but he designed his experiments so carefully that nothing significant ever came out. Almost as if to give the audience some hope to cling to, he then presented a published study that did have positive results:
Brain Res. 2004 May 1;1006(2):198-206 (Erratum in: Brain Res. 2004 May 22;1008 (2)299-300.) Involvement of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and insulin-like growth factor-I in YXLST-mediated neuroprotection. Yan X, Shen H, Zaharia M, Wang J, Wolf D, Li F, Lee GD, Cao W. American New Medicine Institute, New York, NY 10107, USA.
In the present study, we examine the neuroprotective role of the external Qi of YXLST in cultured retinal neurons. Primary retinal neuronal cultures were grown from retinas of 0-2-day-old Sprague-Dawley rats. Cultures were treated directly with external Qi of YXLST 30 min prior to H(2)O(2) exposure in most experiments. Cell viability was measured by 3,(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)2,5-diphenyl-tetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay. Apoptotic cell death was evaluated by the TdT-mediated digoxigenin-dUTP nick-end labeling TUNEL assay, and by DNA laddering analysis. Northern blot analysis was performed to examine the level of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) gene expression. Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) assay was performed to study the PI3K activity. The results showed that treatment of external Qi of YXLST significantly attenuated neuronal death that was induced by 24-h exposure to hydrogen peroxide, and greatly inhibited hydrogen peroxide-induced apoptosis. External Qi of YXLST also upregulated IGF-I gene expression and increased PI3K activity. These observations indicate that external Qi-mediated IGF-I expression and PI3K signaling could be one of the mechanisms in neuroprotection by YXLST.
Although this paper is published in a regular medical journal, it has
some strange aspects. First, it uses in the title and the abstract,
with no explanation, an unconventional acronym, "YXLST." Not until the
Introduction does the reader find out that this stands for Yan Xin Life
Sciences and Technology, and Yan Xin is the first author of the paper
(Yan is his family name, so he is listed as "Xin Yan" as author, but in
the text he is called "Dr. Yan Xin"). Here is his web site, with
testimonials such as "Dr. Yan Xin is a sage of our times" from President Bush
Second, and more important, the paper reports incredible results from a paranormal treatment: "The treatment of external Qi of YXLST involved in the emitting external Qi from Dr. Yan Xin toward the neuronal culture for 10 min in each session." In Fig. 1, external qi is shown to reduce cell killing by hydrogen peroxide. The treatment killed about 80% of the cells, but when hydrogen peroxide and external qi were combined, nearly 100% viability was maintained! In Fig. 2, apoptosis (programmed cell death) is measured. Control cells look like they have about 3%; hydrogen peroxide increases this to 44%; hydrogen peroxide plus qi give about 4%. In Fig. 3, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), an enzyme involved in regulation of cell metabolism and protection from apoptosis, is measured at various times after treatment of control cells by external qi. The activity increases about 4-fold after 0.5 h and 6-fold after 1 h. Fig. 4 looks at cells pretreated or not with qi, then given H2O2 or not for 24 h. H2O2 slightly reduced PI3K activity, qi increased it 2-fold; and H2O2 plus qi resulted in a 1.7-fold increase. Fig. 5 looks at expression of the gene for insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I); qi treatment causes about a 2-fold effect on gene expression 1 h later. Fig. 6 is like Fig. 4, only this time with IGF-I expression rather than PI3K activity; again, there is a slight negative effect of H2O2 which is overcome by qi.
The discussion notes the many wondrous properties of Yan Xin's qi: "The effects or existence of external Qi of YXLST can be physically confirmed using modern methodologies/instruments...It has been reported that external Qi of YXLST produces significant structural changes in water and aqueous solutions, alters the phase behavior of dipalmitoyl phosphatidyl choline liposome, and enables the growth of Fab protein crystals, and improves large-scale industrial productions of antibiotics. It has been demonstrated that external Qi of YXLST can modulate PI3K enzyme activity. It has also been reported that XY99-5038, a product of external Qi of YXLST, can prolong the survival of neurons and inhibit H2O2-induced apoptosis, and induce IGF-I gene expression detected by cDNA microarray analysis." In the introduction, it is also noted that it "can alter the rate of decay of radioactive isotopes, the polarization plane of a linearly polarized laser beam, the laser Raman spectrum and UV absorption of water...and the requisite conditions for gas phase chemical synthesis." (numbers of literature citations deleted from quotes)
With abilities like this, one wonders why Yan Xin doesn't demonstrate his powers for James Randi's $1 million prize.
The article concludes with acknowledgement of grant support - which included the Yan Xin Foundation, a grant from "Research to Prevent Blindness," and two grants from the National Institutes of Health! (Yount's research on qigong was also supported by NIH, through the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine).
Back to the seminar: after discussing the Yan Xin work, Yount concluded with some case report concerning Johrei. Then, remarkably for a seminar with an outside speaker, there was not a single question from the audience - perhaps because no data had been presented supporting the existence of spiritual healing of cancer cells.
Thomas J. Wheeler, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
Associate Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
University of Louisville School of Medicine
Alternative medicine reading and handouts:
By Lindsey Seigle & Brian Kramer,
Guest Columnists Special Feature:
Many Americans are rejecting pills and seeking alternative forms of therapy. Acupuncture, an ancient medical procedure thought to have originated in China more than 2,000 years ago, is now offered by many mainstream medical practices in the nation. A study from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey found that an estimated 8.2 million adults in the United States reported that they had ever used acupuncture, with 2.1 million adults receiving treatment in the previous year.
Promoting overall health and well-being is the objective of acupuncturists. We use techniques that alleviate physical and emotional stress – leaving the patient feeling healthier without the assistance of medication. Our patients say that they feel little or no discomfort during treatments. Instead, they describe feeling a warming sensation.
How It Works
The procedure stimulates the body's nervous system, releasing chemicals in the brain and spinal cord through the insertion of very fine needles at 12 primary meridians. These meridians, or channels, are targeted because of the energy flow through the body. The needles are strategically placed along these channels to enrich the balance of energy flow throughout the body. The needles may either be manipulated directly by the hands or they can be stimulated by electricity.
The treatment is based on the concept that Qi (pronounced Chee), a Chinese term used to describe the vital life force, is used to regulate a person's mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. The meridians transfer this energy, or life force, through the accessed acupuncture points.
Specific studies on hypertension illustrate how acupuncture relieves stress. Scientists have recently found that when an acupuncture needle is inserted at specific sites on the wrist, inside the forearm or leg, opioid chemicals are released in the brain, which reduces excitatory responses in the cardiovascular system. This decreases the heart's activity and its need for oxygen, which in turn can lower blood pressure and promotes healing for a number of cardiac ailments, such as myocardial ischemia (insufficient blood flow to the heart) and hypertension.
Other theories involve the possibility of the treatment altering brain chemistry by affecting the transmission of neurotransmitters and neurohormones, which influences parts of the central nervous system directly related to sensation and involuntary bodily functions. There is also speculation that acupuncture directly affects the nervous system by aiding the activity of pain-killing biochemicals such as endorphins and immune system cells throughout the body.
With the 12 main meridians and eight secondary meridians, there are more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body – affecting nerve fibers beneficial to overall wellness. After treatment, the body's improved biochemical balance and energy transfer stimulate the natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional health.
All licensed acupuncturists in the U.S. use disposable needles. Following the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of acupuncture in 1996, the needles are required to be sterile, non-toxic instruments that are used for single-use applications. On their first visit, patients are invited to a session to assess their individual lifestyle, behaviors and health conditions before the treatment is administered. The acupuncture experts need to be aware of medications and other treatments patients are concurrently undergoing.
The Benefits to Overall Well-being
Acupuncture is often used to treat headache, low-back pain, addictions, stroke rehabilitation, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma. The World Health Organization acknowledges the treatment as a useful method to treat a variety of conditions such as respiratory disorders, digestive disorders, neurological and muscular disorders. Acupuncture is also often used to remedy muscular, reproductive and menstrual problems. Other patients report that they seek acupuncture sessions to resolve physical discomfort related to muscular tension, stress and emotional distress. A recent study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) showed that acupuncture is an effective treatment for people with osteoarthritis of the knee, and serves as a valuable complement to standard care for a variety of medical conditions.
The Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture held at the National Institutes of Health in 1997 reported that the procedure has grown in popularity over the past two decades, and stated that thousands of practitioners employ acupuncture techniques in their daily practices. Dentists, physicians and acupuncturists use the techniques for relief or prevention of pain and various other health conditions.
Finding An Expert
Today, approximately 40 states have training standards for certification to ensure that the professionals are qualified to offer quality service. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine administers examinations to acupuncture school graduates upon completion of their master's degree. Upon passage of these exams, state licensing boards then scrutinize each applicant before awarding the acupuncture license. National acupuncture organizations also serve as excellent sources for referrals to accredited practitioners. These organizations may be found through libraries or Web sites. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine recommends that patients also consult with a licensed medical provider to seek treatments for medical services.
The U.S. Department of Education recognizes the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) as the national accrediting agency to certify Master's-level programs in the acupuncture and Oriental medicine profession, signifying acknowledgement of the industry in higher education.
When patients begin the process, they can expect each licensed acupuncturist to inform them of the cost of specific services before administration as well as the number of treatments required to remedy the condition. Treatments may take place over a few days or over the course of several weeks. Acupuncture may be covered under some health insurance policies. The treatments are a growing area of coverage for many companies, but providers must assess the case before receiving treatments. Individual insurance providers may provide information about specific cases of coverage, however acupuncture is a growing area of coverage for many companies. Providers must assess the condition being treated, and to what extent, before the treatment is administered for coverage to be considered.
A Change in Lifestyle
With the emergence of acupuncture to treat common medical problems, people may find themselves checking into the alternative therapy of acupuncture rather than rushing to their doctor for a diagnosis. This non-abrasive technique is ideal for those interested in mind and body wellness, without having to refill prescriptions.
Many of my acupuncture patients find this treatment relieves their discomfort and is an effective alternative to conventional methods of treating medical ailments. The warm sensation, not pain, caused by acupuncture is a remedy to a variety of conditions, as well as relieving stress and improving overall well-being.
Have a question to ask our experts? Lindsey and Brian welcome your emails.
About our Experts:
Lindsey Seigle and Brian Kramer, M.S., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., CPT are Licensed Acupuncturists at Iatria Health Center (www.iatriahealthcenter.com). Lindsey performs a number of procedures including facial rejuvenation and acupuncture facelifts. Brian practices holistic medicine utilizing acupuncture, herbal medicine rehabilitation medical massage, nutrition counseling, and health and fitness education. They can be reached at (919) 861-8944 or at Lindsey@iatria.com or Brian@iatria.com. For more background information and past articles for CarolinaNewswire.com, check out Lindsey's and Brian's Archives as well as all our other guest expert columns.
CarolinaNewswire.com provides the thoughts and analysis of this columnist as a free benefit to our readers but without any representations or warranties as to the accuracy or efficacy of such thoughts or analysis. The opionions, analysis, and thoughts expressed here are those of the author only and should not be deemed as medical, legal, financial, or tax advice from this publication. Readers with specific medical, legal, financial, or tax questions should consult a professional.
by PAUL LLOYD 05nov05
WHEN 70,000 scientists unite, it's heavy artillery.
Organisations representing that number of Australia's science researchers, academics and teachers last week took united aim at "intelligent design".
The 70,000 include the state's Science Teachers Association president Peter Turnbull, who said the group had "grave concerns" the theory was being presented as a valid alternative to evolution.
It's not science, the group argues.
It's more like spoon bending and astrology.
This is a new phase of a war between so-called creationists and evolutionists.
What's different is that proponents of intelligent design - ID, as it is known - are pushing their case with unprecedented money and media-savvy. They are, in short, demanding creationism be accepted as a science.
Creationists have a classical argument for the existence of God. It says the universe is so complex that it could not possibly have come about by evolution. Evolutionists say random mutations equip some organisms to flourish better than others.
Andrew Dutney, associate professor of theology at Flinders University, likens it to "a computer virus".
Ian Plimer, University of Melbourne geology professor, goes further: "Incompetent design, as I call it, is an anti-intellectual post-modernist mechanism for snaring the ill-educated into Protestant fundamentalism."
But proponents want their views put alongside evolution in science classes. They are finding support from federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson, some church leaders and the Anglican King's School near Sydney.
At least one NSW fundamentalist Christian school has ID in the curriculum. The Campus Crusade for Christ is distributing thousands of copies of a video called Unlocking the Mystery of Life.
In front bars they're talking about archbishops and politicians "running scared" and not condemning this "Christian Wahabbism" the same way that moderate Muslim leaders don't condemn Islamic terrorists.
And all this from a simple, time-honoured creation story?
The new push for this story can be traced to the Discovery Institute. This is a conservative Christian think-tank founded in 1990 in Seattle in the U.S. It has a $5.5 million budget.
The centre opposes euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, animal rights and high taxation. Its number-one project is what it calls the Wedge.
This finances publications and DVDs (including Unlocking the Mystery of Life), research, buying academics, political lobbying and stacking school boards. The aim is to get ID taught as a science subject. By the Wedge principle, evolution can then be subverted, portrayed as a "theory in crisis", and scientists made to seem closed-minded. The kingdom of the Intelligent Designer will be nigh.
One scientist concerned is Jack da Silva, a lecturer in genetics at the University of Adelaide. He says ID is "not a scientific view. It's arguing that things happen by magic. It's also a rather silly idea to try explaining complexity by positing that there exists something even more complex."
According to Associate Professor Dutney: "As a comment about where we're up to as a Western capitalist nation, ID belongs with a host of issues being contested at the moment, including whether we are a society or an economy; the limits of the rights of the individual; the questioning of cultural diversity; and relations with other cultures, especially Islamic cultures.
"The religious right is making evolution some kind of test case for its complaints about modernity in general. It is politically tainted."
He accepts it may have some place in school curriculums, perhaps in critical thinking courses, but he says it "ought to be handled with great care".
"You don't want to import it like a computer virus that is likely to, and is probably intended to, destabilise the rest of the curriculum," he said.
This is not a question of religious faith, which such great scientists as Newton and Einstein have comfortably accepted.
And the scientists don't see it as a question of science. The IDers push it as a question of education, whether it's viral marketing or simply trying to open minds to possibilities other than evolution.
That's the Wedge.
Legislature shouldn't design curriculum
It's only November, but a couple of bad legislative proposals are already knocking around the Statehouse.
Take, for instance, an idea floating among Republican members of the House to require the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution in public schools.
Now, Hoosiers could no doubt argue the merits and demerits of both ID and evolution for hours, if not days, on end. It's a passionate subject that has as much to do with philosophy, faith and worldviews as it does science.
But let's not get distracted by that debate for the moment. A broader question, one raised by Gov. Mitch Daniels on Thursday, has to be answered first: Should the state legislature dictate specific topics to be discussed in schools across Indiana? Or is that authority better left to professional educators and school boards?
We would vote to leave the decision-making in the hands of local boards and administrators as often as possible. Edicts from the General Assembly concerning what to teach in classrooms -- whether they have to do with intelligent design or algebra -- should be rare.
It's also worth noting that the Discovery Institute, a leading proponent of intelligent design, does not advocate the required teaching of ID in schools. The institute's leaders, in contrast, argue that evolution should be taught as "a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny.'' It should be OK, in other words, for students and teachers to ask questions about whether evolutionary theory can explain everything concerning the origin and development of life on Earth.
That's a reasonable approach, but it's not one the General Assembly needs to spend time debating.
Copyright 2005 IndyStar.com. All rights reserved
November 5, 2005
An unassuming biochemist who became the lead witness for intelligent design is unfazed by criticism but glad he has tenure.
By Josh Getlin, Times Staff Writer
HARRISBURG, Pa. — As he took the witness stand in a packed courtroom, ready to dissect Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, biochemist Michael J. Behe looked confident and relaxed. Then he learned what it felt like to be under a microscope.
Isn't it true, an attorney asked, that Behe's critique of Darwin and support for intelligent design, a rival belief about the origins of life, have little scientific support?
Yes, Behe conceded.
Isn't it also true, the attorney pressed, that faculty members in Behe's department at Lehigh University have rejected his writings as unscientific?
Behe, a slight, balding man with a graying beard, grudgingly answered yes.
"Intelligent design is not the dominant view of the scientific community," he said. "But I'm pleased with the progress we are making."
After two grueling days on the stand, Behe looked drained. He was also unbowed. In a nationally watched trial that could determine whether intelligent design can be taught in a public school, the soft-spoken professor had bucked decades of established scientific thought.
Behe (pronounced BEE-hee), one of the nation's leading advocates of intelligent design, challenged Darwin's theory that life evolved through natural selection and a process of random variation. He argued that living organisms are so highly complex that an unseen, intelligent designer must have created them. That designer, he said, is God.
His testimony was crucial for those who believe Darwinism is not the final word in how life evolved. Even some of Behe's strongest critics believe he may have scored important points in his mid-October court appearance. His detailed presentation might have given intelligent design the appearance of credibility it had been struggling to achieve, they said.
"Behe does not convince me in the slightest," said Michael Ruse, a Florida State University philosophy professor who wrote "The Evolution-Creation Struggle" and is in the Darwinian camp. "But he's a genial, personable guy, and he comes across as a very serious man. I don't think you can dismiss him as a crank. He is a real scientist."
Although most scientists dismiss Behe, they make a big mistake if they try to demonize him, Ruse added: "We tend to think these people favoring intelligent design are all evil people, and they're not. That's the trouble on my side. Our opponents come in different shapes and sizes, and Michael is proof of that."
Behe, 53, was the lead witness for intelligent design in the federal trial in Harrisburg. His testimony marked a high point in the career of a once-obscure scientist who never dreamed he'd become a celebrity in the fledgling movement.
The notoriety also underscored the professional price he has paid.
"I'm not a member of the inner club when it comes to mainstream science," Behe said days after his testimony, looking back on the path he has traveled. "I probably never will be."
The trial is the result of a decision last year by school board officials that teachers must mention intelligent design to high school biology students in Dover, Pa., a small agricultural town 100 miles west of Philadelphia.
Eleven parents filed a lawsuit to block the policy. They contend the concept is a thinly disguised version of creationism, an interpretation of the origins of life that was banned from public schools by a landmark 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Creationism is a belief that a supreme being created the universe; although there are different schools of thought, many adherents believe in a literal interpretation of the biblical Book of Genesis as to how and when life began.
Intelligent design holds that organisms are so complex and highly perfected, a designer must have created them. The designer is not identified, although some supporters like Behe voice opinions. The concept does not mention religion or God.
Evolutionary theory, which gained prominence in the 19th century, is based on scientific evidence that life on Earth has evolved through a process of natural selection and random mutations, with no supernatural plan or purpose.
Although disputes over intelligent design have flared in school districts nationally, the Dover case marks the first time the issue has come to trial.
Plaintiffs hope to prove that adding intelligent design to the curriculum violates the Supreme Court ban on teaching religion in public schools; they also want to show that board members included it for religious reasons. Board members have said they included intelligent design only to broaden the curriculum.
After his testimony ended, Behe pulled on a plaid woolen cap and headed for his car, eager to get back to his family in Bethlehem, Pa. He had been taken aback by the harshness and intensity of some questions.
"I'm the kind of guy who would rather be at home cutting the grass and drinking a beer," he said. "Or grading papers at the university. Anything but this."
On a blustery fall morning, the hallways in the Lehigh University biological sciences department are hushed, with a few students drifting in and out. Behe sits in his second-floor office, gazing out the window at a vast green field below.
He wears a faded flannel shirt, blue jeans and work boots; he laughs easily at himself and disparages the notion that he has achieved any genuine celebrity.
Mostly, he's relieved that the intense experience of being on the witness stand is over.
In August, Behe's colleagues placed a departmental statement on the Lehigh website, opposing his views: "It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific."
If he hadn't had tenure, Behe said, it would have been "extremely unlikely" that he could have taken such a contrarian stand and survived in the academic world.
"Students and aspiring teachers who are intrigued by my work often ask me for advice, how they can help me out," he said. "And I tell them: 'Until you have tenure, until you're protected, keep your mouth shut and your head down.' "
Behe has written one of the few books on intelligent design to reach a mass audience, "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," and is finishing a sequel. The 1996 book has sold more than 200,000 copies. His colleagues at Lehigh and many other scientists are not impressed.
"When I run into people at the water cooler, it's always been very polite," he said with a wry smile. "The talk is basically, 'How about those Phillies?' "
Colleagues stress that Behe is a generous and friendly man. But some voice chagrin that his views have brought unwanted controversy to Lehigh.
"We all thought he'd have his 15 minutes of fame when his book was published, and then it would go away," said Lynne Cassimeris, a Lehigh biology professor who recently wrote an op-ed piece in a local newspaper criticizing Behe's work. "That hasn't happened."
No one, Behe least of all, could have predicted such a turn of events.
Born in Altoona, Pa., he grew up with seven siblings. His father worked for Household Finance Corp., and his mother stayed home to raise the children.
Behe went to Catholic schools and grew interested in science, mainly chemistry. He liked to fool around with experiments and wanted to find out how things worked.
"I did a series of science projects in school like everybody else, but they were all very dumb," he said, laughing. "I certainly won't tell you what any of them were."
Like many Roman Catholics, he had believed in God and Darwinism. "I didn't think the two were exclusive," Behe said. He remembers learning about Darwin's theory of evolution.
"In the seventh, eighth grades, I recall nuns teaching that God can make life any way he wants," Behe said. "If he wants to create life by the outplaying of natural laws, well, who were we to tell him otherwise? Here was Darwin's theory, and it looks like God set up the world to begin producing life. I remember thinking, 'That's cool.' "
Behe went on to study chemistry at Drexel University in Philadelphia and biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and did research in biochemistry at the National Institutes of Health. He later got a job as an assistant professor of chemistry at Queens College in New York, where he met his wife, Celeste, an English literature major.
When the couple decided to start a family, they looked for a less hectic environment. In 1985, he took a job teaching biology at Lehigh University in Bethlehem. In the years to come, Behe would be consumed by the demands of five sons and four daughters.
A turning point came in 1988: Behe was granted tenure. He also learned of a book, "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis," by geneticist Michael Denton.
"It was an epiphany; he presented a lot of scientific arguments where he said Darwinian ideas were really overblown, incomplete, contradicted by data and so on," Behe said. "I had never heard of a scientist who criticized Darwin. It was intriguing."
Denton argued there was little physical proof of Darwin's evolutionary theories, despite widespread support for his conclusions. Behe began to wonder.
"I checked research papers, and I was shocked to find that none of these things had been explained," Behe said. "I came to realize that a pillar of my thinking was supported not by evidence but by sociological factors, what other people think."
Behe's doubts grew several years later when he read a review in Science magazine of "Darwin on Trial" by Phillip E. Johnson, a UC Berkeley law professor.
Johnson raised similar questions about Darwin's theories. The review "was very dismissive…. They didn't address his arguments, and simply said here's this crazy guy spreading confusion, so keep your students away from him," Behe said.
He dashed off a letter of protest, which was published. Johnson was one of the early leaders in what would become the intelligent design movement.
The Berkeley professor introduced Behe to a circle of like-minded thinkers, who became members of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a think tank for intelligent design. He also helped Behe get an agent to publish his book.
By then, Behe's thoughts about evolution were changing. He agreed with a portion of Darwin's theories, including arguments that the Earth is several billions years old and that all organisms are descended from a common ancestor.
He also raised provocative challenges as a biochemist.
Behe argued that organisms are too complex to have evolved through natural selection and random mutation. He coined the phrase "irreducible complexity" to suggest that organisms are arranged with a purpose in mind.
This complexity, he said, suggests the external designer.
Although "Darwin's Black Box" got several good reviews, the majority of Behe's colleagues dismissed his arguments. In a scathing review, Kenneth R. Miller, a biologist from Brown University, said Behe offered no scientific proof for the existence of a designer and had simply tried to poke holes in Darwinism. He also noted that there is ample proof documenting the truth of evolution.
Readers "may be entertained by Behe's energy and his enthusiasm," Miller wrote, but the book "ends up teetering on little more than rhetoric and personal skepticism."
Since the publication of his book, Behe said, he has tried and failed to get research grants. Scientific journals have rejected his articles.
Colleagues "think I went bad," he said. "But they've had a chance to show what a dope I am, and in my completely unbiased view, they've failed."
Behe notes that he gets a "strong vote of support" from his children, who have been taught intelligent design along with evolution.
The kids are home-schooled by Celeste, who joins with him to present the information when each child reaches the ninth grade. It is, Michael Behe says, the same kind of instruction they would receive in a "balanced" biology curriculum.
Behe appears frequently at religious institutions, universities, private retreats and other forums whose audiences are eager to hear his views. He has also found a receptive audience among students. The professor teaches a course on differing theories and concepts about the origins of life and is scrupulously neutral.
"I don't agree with him on Darwin," said Colin Chambers, a former student who is now an environmental scientist. "But he never told us what to think. He challenged us to think. He said a scientist questions everything and is always ready for surprises."
Behe got a dose of that after he finished his testimony in Harrisburg. As he walked down the courthouse steps, journalists and documentary filmmakers surrounded him. One in particular peppered him with tough questions.
"Why do you demonize Darwin?" he asked. "Why can't you leave Darwin alone?"
Behe tried, and failed, to convince the journalist that he was only challenging a scientific theory. He was astonished to learn later that the questioner, writer and filmmaker Matthew Chapman, was Charles Darwin's great-grandson.
"That was amazing!" Behe said later, eyes wide with wonder. "To think that I came all this way, to this court, and encountered him, of all people. How cool is that?"
Friday, November 4, 2005; Posted: 7:49 a.m. EST (12:49 GMT)
According to the Web site of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), such fireballs have been reported elsewhere in the world and may also be due to the fact that the Earth is now orbiting through a swarm of space debris.
Many people in Germany have noticed the fireballs, said Werner Walter, an amateur astronomer in Mannheim who runs a Web site on unexplained astronomical phenomena and a hotline for reports on unidentified flying objects (UFO).
"The last reported sighting was yesterday at 7:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) in a corridor near the border of the Netherlands," he told Reuters in a telephone interview. "This week we have had at least 15 emails and phone calls from people reporting these fireballs," he said. "Some people said it looks like something out of a science fiction horror film."
In addition to a possible meteor streak, Walter said amateur and professional astronomers were considering the possibility that the blitz was the result of a "falling satellite or UFOs." "It is possible that they are UFOs, which are after all things which we cannot explain," he said.
NASA's science Web site (http://science.nasa.gov) mentions reports of recent fireball sightings in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, North Ireland and Japan. It includes images of the fireballs, which one man likened to a spotlight.
Walter described them as "super-large, colored fireballs that shoot with the speed of lightning through the sky".
However, the NASA Web site quotes meteor expert David Asher from the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland as saying that people "are probably seeing the Taurid meteor shower".
Taurids are meteors that shoot out of the constellation Taurus, which peaks at the end of October and early November.
Copyright 2005 Reuters.
SALZBERG ON EVOLUTION AND THE FLU
Steven Salzberg's op-ed "Bird flu, Bush, evolution -- and us" appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer (November 2, 2005). Alluding to President Bush's recent call for the nation to prepare for a possible influenza pandemic, Salzberg (who co-led the team that recently sequenced the genomes of over 200 strains of the influenza virus) noted, "To keep ahead of these diseases, we need to continue our scientific research, and we need to educate our citizens about what they can do both to protect themselves and to help control the spread of disease. The current assault on the teaching of evolution greatly undermines our efforts to do this, now and in the future. If we stop educating our children about science, our society runs the risk of losing many of the wonderful advances that make our lives better." He added, "Let's drop the artificial debate about evolution and intelligent design and teach our children what science really is. Let's teach them that science requires a skeptical mind and that scientific theories must be supported by objective facts. If we want to teach children about scientific debates, let's pick a real debate -- there are plenty of them -- rather than an artificial one. And let's equip the next generation of scientists to bring us new cures and new technology, rather than burying our heads in the sand." Salzberg is professor and director at the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of Maryland, and is Steve #24 of NCSE's Project Steve (now with 650 Steves).
To read Salzberg's op-ed, visit:
INNOVATION IN EVOLUTION EDUCATION
Three innovative resources and strategies for improving evolution education -- from the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, Steven D. Verhey of Central Washington University, and David Sloan Wilson of Binghamton University -- deserve a look.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study recently announced the availability of two new resources for evolution educators. First, the book Evolutionary Science and Society: Educating a New Generation, edited by Joel Cracraft and Rodger Bybee, which presents the proceedings of a two-day symposium organized by the AIBS and the BSCS at the 2004 meeting of the National Association of Biology Teachers. Topics include Introduction to Evolutionary Thinking, The Tree of Life, How Evolution Works, Evolutionary Science: Advancing Public Health, and Evolutionary Science: Advancing Societal Well-Being. Second, the video (available on VHS or DVD) Evolution -- Why Bother?, produced by AIBS, BSCS, and Why Bother Films. Described by AIBS as "an excellent, non-technical exploration of evolution and natural selection in our daily lives" and endorsed for classroom use by the NABT, Evolution -- Why Bother? is a 27-minute broadcast-quality program containing eight self-contained chapters optimized for both individual viewing and classroom use. Familiar names and faces appear in both resources, including those of Brian Alters, Lynn Helena Caporale, Joel Cracraft, Barbara Forrest, Douglas Futuyma, Kenneth R. Miller, David P. Mindell, Betsy Ott, Robert T. Pennock, Judy Scotchmoor, Mark Terry, and Jerry Waldvogel. Both publications are available directly from the AIBS's on-line bookstore (with a discount for AIBS members) and the BSCS's on-line bookstore.
Steven D. Verhey's article "The effect of engaging prior learning on student attitudes toward creationism and evolution" appeared in the November 2005 issue (55 : 2-9) of BioScience, published by the American Institute of Biological Sciences. In his article, Verhey reports on a pedagogical experiment in which students in introductory college biology classes were exposed either to literature attacking and defending evolution or (as a control) to literature on the evolution of sex. According to a November 1, 2005, press release from AIBS, "Sixty-one percent of students in the intervention streams reported some change in their beliefs; most of these students were initially sympathetic to creationist explanations and moved toward increased acceptance of evolution." The noted evolution educator Craig E. Nelson commented in his editorial in the same issue that emulating Verhey's approach "may be difficult in high-school classes in many communities, especially since college science classes have prepared so few of the teachers to do it well, and so few of the parents and politicians to understand and support it. Hence, it would be quite inappropriate to require such comparisons in high school. But it is time for college and university classes to more effectively help future teachers and other leaders understand why there is no contest scientifically between creationism and evolution." Verhey teaches in the Department of Biological Sciences at Central Washington University, and is Steve #289 of NCSE's Project Steve (now with 650 Steves).
And David Sloan Wilson's project "Evolution for everyone" was highlighted in a press release issued October 31, 2005, by Binghamton University, where Wilson is a professor in the Departments of Biology and Anthropology. "Evolution for everyone" is the title of a popular course that serves as the introduction to Binghamton's evolutionary studies program called EvoS, which now involves over fifty faculty members from virtually all of the university's deparments. "The program enables all students on campus to develop their evolutionary interests throughout their college career," Wilson explained. Additionally, according to the press release, "EvoS includes a campus-wide seminar series that illustrates how many subjects are being approached from an evolutionary perspective." Commenting on his approach, Wilson said, "Evolution education will remain ineffective until the implications of the theory are examined along with its factual content ... When evolution is presented as unthreatening, explanatory, and useful, it can be easily grasped and appreciated by most people in the space of a single semester, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, science background, or prior knowledge of evolution." The press release adds that interest in replicating the project is growing, with SUNY New Paltz to initiate a version of EvoS in 2006. Meanwhile, Wilson will be reporting on his project in a forthcoming issue of Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology and in his new book How To Be a Good Evolutionist, scheduled for publication from Bantam Books in 2006.
To order the AIBS/BSCS publications, visit:
For information about Verhey's article, visit:
For information about "Evolution for everyone" and EvoS, visit:
KITZMILLER COVERAGE CONTINUES
The trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the first legal challenge to the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools, began in a federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on September 26, 2005, and is expected to conclude today, November 4, 2005. The media is out in force, so much so that a summary of the extensive coverage is practically impossible. Instead, please browse through the following resources, all of which are replete with links, summaries, and information -- or misinformation: caveat lector.
For official information about the trial from the court itself, visit:
For information about the case from NCSE, including audio reports from
staff and trial transcripts, visit:
For information about the case from the ACLU and Americans United,
For coverage in the local press, visit:
For extensive blog coverage of the trial, visit The Panda's Thumb, the
Daily Record's Mike Argento, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and (with its
distinctive perspective) "Evolution News & Views," hosted by the
If you wish to subscribe, please send:
subscribe ncse-news email@example.com
again in the body of an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc
Fri 11/04/2005 -
76 year old Betty Harlan lived with multiple health problems including a leaky heart valve and diabetes that led to a leg ulcer. In January, one of Harlan's doctors said the ulcer was so bad, the leg may have to be amputated. Harlan wanted a second opinion, but instead of seeking a traitional medical opinion, her daughter Laura brought her here to the Wellhouse Center in Windsor.
"They said if you make some changes you will probably see improvements, and within a week she was making continual progress." Says daughter Laura Lee.
Over the next several months, Harlan signed on for multiple services... including detoxifying foot baths for 65 dollars each, multiple sessions in the hyberbaric oxygen chamber - at 35 dollars each, saliva analysis - 50 dollars... a retreat, including colon cleansing, 600 dollars, and Harlan spent hundreds on wellhouse brand herbs, oils, and moisturizers. In less than four months, she had spent more than 8 thousand dollars out of pocket. Daughter Laura says - it was worth it.
"My husband and I told her, Mom if this is what you want to do, we support you. you're seeing progress, you're feeling better." Lee says. She documented her mother's progress and says her mother's leg ulcer was healing, and her spirits were improving.
But not all of Betty Harlan's family members were so enthusiastic. Laura's sister Linda Harlan Post says her mother stopped taking all of her doctor prescribed medications and believed her leaky heart valve was healed - and her diabetes - was gone.
"We tried to encourage her to see someone else just for peace of mind for the family and she basically told us this was working and really to stay out of it." Post says. She believed her mother's health problems were getting worse.
On May 9th, Betty Harlan died.
"The day she passed away, she had come home from treatment in a wheelchair. She wasn't able to stand on her own." Post says.
Since there was no autopsy, there is no way to know exactly what caused Harlan's death, but her vascular surgeon, who last saw her a month before she died, says she didn't look good. Dr. Bill Evans of Wisconsin Heart says Harlan looked bloated and the ulcer appeared infected. He, in part, blamed the lack of medication.
"I expressed to her at length that that her leg did not appear to be making much progress, that she appeared to be much more swollen all over, she didn;t appear to have control over her fluid balance, and I shared with her that some of her previous medications that no longer taking those how they could be adversely affecting her." Dr. Evans says.
He says Harlan told him, on the advice of a new "quote" doctor... she was taking herbs instead.
Renee Welhouse tells 27 news she would never tell a patient to go against their Doctor's advice, and stop taking medications, even though she believes many medications contain toxins that taken in the long term, can be detrimental to your health.
"I do not diagnose, treat or cure anybody.that is strictly for the medical community. I am a classic, traditional naturopath." Says Welhouse. She is the Wellhouse center founder, and herself a cancer survivor.
At the Center, Welhouse told us of several cases of female clients who she claims showed significant improvement from breast cancer, by following her advice, and changing their lifestyle.
Still, Welhouse says she does not cure.
"If people made lifestyle changes and they get better - i just consider it a gift from God." Welhouse says. She admits, much of her schooling is by correspondence course, but according to the state, naturopathic doctors don't need any training at all.
"Naturopaths are not licensed by the state." Says Eric Callisto of the Department of Regulation and Licensing. He says they have investigated the Wellhouse Center 11 times in 13 years for allegations of fraud and practicing medicine without a license, but no action was taken.
"For the most part, the practitioners in this area are fairly well-versed in the law and recognize where that line is and where they can cross it and more importantly when they can't cross it." Callisto said.
He declined to say whether the Wellhouse Center is currently being investigated, but said for a Naturopath to tell a client to stop taking prescribed medications would probably be crossing the line into practicing medicine.
For more information on the original 27 News report, and follow-up stories, click on ''Read the news archives '' or the ''27 News Vault ''.
This is the final week of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board trial in a Harrisburg, PA federal court. Back in August, before the trial was underway, President Bush came down on the side of intelligent design, much to the delight of the religious- right http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN05/wn080505.html . On Tuesday, however, he announced that he would ask Congress for $7.1 billion to prepare the nation for a worldwide outbreak of flu. It's a hedge against evolution. Although a virulent strain of bird flu has killed at least 62 people in Asia, there have been no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission. The fear is that the H5N1 virus will mutate (evolve) making that possible. Does this mean that Mr. Bush has changed his mind on evolution?
SUPREME QUESTION: WHAT ARE THE NOMINEE'S VIEWS ON SCIENCE?
According to the news, Samuel Alito, the President's new choice for the Court, told Senators in both parties that the Court may have gone too far in separating church and state. How can they be too separate? That's particularly scary now when it seems possible that the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board will be appealed to the Supreme Court, no matter how it turns out. We'll go back to questions submitted by readers next week, but in light of Alito's nomination, WN will exercise its editorial prerogative, posing its own question this week:
"Does the intelligent designer who designs people, also design viruses? If so, is this conflict-of-interest?"
FUNDAMENTALISM: THE POSITION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH EVOLVES.
In the summer heat, a powerful Cardinal, writing in the NY Times, flatly rejected Darwinian evolution, outraging most scientists. However, WN wrote that, "the Church's position is evolving," http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN05/wn070805.html, and so it has. In an Associated Press story today, Cardinal Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said, "we know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism. The faithful have the obligation to listen to that which secular modern science has to offer." Amen.
1 hour, 29 minutes ago
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - One attorney accused a witness of lying on Friday during closing arguments in the trial over whether U.S. public schools should teach the theory of intelligent design.
U.S. District Judge John Jones said he wants to decide by year's end the case that addresses whether a Pennsylvania school district violated the U.S. Constitution when it introduced intelligent design -- a theory that competes with evolution -- into science classes.
The first legal challenge to the teaching of intelligent design is being watched in at least 30 states where Christian conservatives are planning similar initiatives.
Attorney Eric Rothschild, arguing for 11 parents who sued the Dover, Pennsylvania, Area School District and oppose the theory's inclusion in the curriculum, told the court that intelligent design was creationism in disguise.
He said it was introduced by Christians on the school board whose agenda was clearly religious.
He accused former school board member William Buckingham of lying when Buckingham testified he had mistakenly spoken in favor of creationism in a television interview because he had never been interviewed before and felt "like a deer in the headlights."
"That was no deer in the headlights," Rothschild said. "That deer was wearing shades and was totally at ease."
Intelligent design holds that some aspects of nature are so complex they must have been the work of an unnamed intelligent creator instead of the result of natural selection, as argued by Charles Darwin in his 1859 theory of evolution.
Intelligent design foes say it is a thinly disguised form of creationism -- the belief that God created the world as described in the Bible -- whose teaching in public schools has been outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court as a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
The nonjury courtroom drama over man's origins is reminiscent of the famous Scopes Monkey trial, when lawyers squared off in a courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925.
'SCIENCE TAUGHT AS DOGMA'
Patrick Gillen, an attorney for the school district, called intelligent design "the next great paradigm shift in science" and "a legitimate educational objective."
He defended school board member Alan Bonsell, a leading advocate of the policy, conceding Bonsell was a creationist but saying he was not trying to impose his views on students.
The school board member's concern was to counteract "science taught as dogma," Gillen said.
The Dover school district agreed to mention the theory in October 2004. Under the policy, ninth-grade biology students must read a four-paragraph statement saying there are gaps in Darwin's theory and that there are other explanations of the origins of life including intelligent design.
The statement also advises them of a textbook available in the school library that delves into intelligent design.
The debate is so much in the spotlight that U.S. President George W. Bush has said he thinks intelligent design should be taught in schools alongside evolution.
Opponents of intelligent design fear anti-evolution policies will be adopted by school boards in many states if the Dover policy stands.
Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Council for Science Education, which promotes teaching evolution, predicted outside the court that there would be a flood of similar policies across the country if the school district prevails.
Both sides are expected to appeal if they lose.
Thursday, November 3, 2005
Pharmaceutical companies are in control of the doctors who have simply become messengers, delivering a dose of comfort in an Rx bottle.
By: Kim Nolan
Issue date: 11/3/05 Section: Opinion/Editorial
Warning: side effects of Vioxx can include, but are not limited to, abdominal pain, fatigue, dizziness, influenza-like disease, lower extremity edema (swelling), upper respiratory infection, hypertension, diarrhea, dyspepsia (acid indigestion), heartburn, nausea, sinusitis, headache, urinary tract infection, stroke or heart attack.
A long list of adverse effects is a common ending to prescription drug commercials. Most side effects of new drugs are discovered via testing on unknowing human subjects. Because of this, alternative medicine remains our safest option for longevity, especially while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in charge.
After being available to the public for five years, Vioxx, an arthritis pain reliever, was pulled from the market September 2004. In a Jan. 14, 2005 CNN article, a veteran FDA drug safety scientist said Americans are defenseless under the current drug-approval system. After Merck & Co., the maker of Vioxx, was investigated by the Senate, CNN published an article citing Merck's Vioxx as possibly causing 88,000 to 139,000 stokes or heart attacks before any action was taken.
In a February 2005 hearing, the FDA announced a new safety board whose purpose would be to monitor drugs for unexpected side effects that show up after the drugs have been released to the public. There we have it, a board affirming we are guinea pigs for pharmaceutical companies.
In the 1990s AIDS activists and pharmaceutical companies complained that the FDA was taking too long to approve newly developed medications. The FDA responded to complaints by devising a "fast track" for vital medications to treat life-threatening diseases. These drugs were not required to go through the same safety trials, but were supposed to be monitored by the manufacturers for unexpected side effects after public release.
In 1997 the FDA changed the rules on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medications. Advertisements for new, unknown, promising drugs saturated American media. Happy couples advertised drugs like Valtrex for genital herpes and proud men attributed their success to Viagra. Drugs like Celebrex and Vioxx were being prescribed for arthritis while Zoloft became a standard prescription for anxiety and depression. These pharmaceutical jackpots became household names like Ritalin. Based on the misplaced trust in the FDA, people assumed that if these drugs were FDA approved, the risks were minimal.
The FDA was not the only one to blame when the case against ABLE Laboratories was filed. In May 2004 the FDA sent a warning letter to ABLE citing 27 reports of adverse effects of its drugs, saying ABLE did not report them. As CNN explained, this is different than the Vioxx case. Here we have a company manufacturing a finished product that was known to be damaging. They were consciously packaging a harmful product, and they raked in $100 million in 2004 from sales of generic versions of household drugs like Tylenol.
Side effects of drugs like Vioxx are always supposed to be immediately reported to our pharmaceutical representatives, also known as our doctors. It's ironic that we are expected to trust the people who prescribed a medication that resulted in adverse side effects.
Pharmaceutical companies are in control of the doctors who have simply become messengers, delivering a dose of comfort in an Rx bottle. Americans seem to put complete trust in someone who wears a white lab coat.
Drug companies fund 70 percent of drug research and drug development costs. The medical and general communities are concerned about the connection between drug promotion and doctors' exposure to drug companies. The common fear is that doctors' clinical judgments and prescribing choices will be negatively influenced by the drug promotion tactics. The only way to avoid being a living laboratory for pharmaceutical companies is to seek out alternative therapies.
Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese medical practice, involves the gentle insertion of hair-like needles into meridians or energy-channels throughout the body. By balancing the meridians, an acupuncturist can treat anything from insomnia to infertility, depression or tendonitis. This is considered one of the oldest medical practices in the world, dating back to 2,000 years ago.
Yoga is another ancient therapy originating in India around 2500 BC. Yoga is a physical practice based on the connection between mind, body and spirit. Studies have shown that people who practice yoga have reduced anxiety, are more resistant to stress, have lower blood pressure, more efficient heart function, better respiratory function and improved physical fitness.
For those of you that don't want a future determined by medications treating the side effects of other medications, evaluate how to protect and promote the health that you already have. Through meditation, nutrition and a healthy emotional mind we can increase our chances of staying well, staying away from the doctors' offices and staying out of the grips of the pharmaceutical giants.
Kim Nolan, a senior journalism major, is a staff reporter for The Journal.
Research is all about error. Either learn how to interpret data yourself, or trust those who can do it for you
Wednesday November 2, 2005
Whatever you have been told, science is not about certainty. And this creates problems for those health professionals who are charged with interpreting and relating data to the general public. We are expected to refute wholesale misunderstandings, in a popular forum, to people who may well be intelligent but who know nothing of evidence-based medicine, in soundbite format.
Health scares are like toothpaste: they're easy to squeeze out, but very difficult to get back in the tube. On Monday, for example, Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail wrote yet another attack on the MMR vaccine. She suggested that the journalists who trusted the new Cochrane review, which shows that MMR is probably safe and not linked to autism, were lazy stooges who took the press release at face value.
The problem is that Phillips seems to misunderstand basic epidemiology. She cites "research data" of highly dubious status and misrepresents what data there is. Her response is a microcosm of the problems that can arise when journalists engage with science.
The Cochrane Collaboration is an independent, international non-profit organisation that produces systematic reviews of the literature, written by and for scientists who understand critical appraisal. It would be a happier world if journalists who write about health issues were also au fait with the intricacies of evidence-based medicine, and were trained to read academic papers. But because the majority of them can't, the report is converted into a more easily digested press release for journalists.
This creates its own problems. Science is all about the error bar, a graphic representation of the uncertainties in the data. I look forward to the day when every politician's speech has an error bar next to it, fluctuating in response to the margin of certainty around their claims.
This is how science works: you do a piece of research, you get some results and you write them up, in full, so that everyone can see what you've done, replicate it and critique it. You say: here are our results, they are this statistically accurate (error bar), and on the basis of this finding, and many other findings from other labs (which are clearly referenced) we come to the following verdict on a particular hypothesis.
The process is transparent, but relies on people being able to critically appraise a paper, pull apart its methodology, understand the statistics, in order to come to their own verdict. It follows that all scientific papers are flawed, to a greater or lesser extent, and each in its own unique way, because of the different ways of working around the practical problems of doing research: imperfect follow-up, imperfect measurements and so on. Scientists all know that.
A Cochrane review is a systematic review of the literature, which critiques each paper it encounters in exactly this manner. So the press release for this particular Cochrane review said, overall, that this overview of the evidence suggests that MMR is pretty safe.
But Phillips has read the full report, and is outraged by what she thinks she's found: "It said that no fewer than nine of the most celebrated studies that have been used against [Andrew Wakefield, who first claimed in 1998 that there was a link between the vaccine and autism] were unreliable in the way they were constructed". Of course it did. Cochrane reviews are intended to criticise papers.
She seems surprised that the report doesn't walk the reader through the reasons why Wakefield's speculative 12-subject case-series report is less worrying when considered alongside the many large epidemiological surveys of up to half a million people that the Cochrane review focuses on. But the reasons are clear to anyone who understands biomedical research.
So Phillips presents material as experimental scientific research when it has never been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal and is not indexed in PubMed, the standard search tool for finding medical academic papers.
The research she refers to has been published only in the in-house magazine of a rightwing US pressure group well known for polemics on homosexuality, abortion and vaccines. She says "autistic enterocolitis" is a "disease" and a "new syndrome" that has been "replicated in studies around the world". As a rough guide, the phrase "autistic enterocolitis" appears in only five PubMed-indexed academic papers, one by Wakefield and four others mostly doubting its status.
What's more, she seems to misunderstand basic epidemiology. Large population surveys have greater power to detect a small increase in a given condition. Apparently not for Phillips: "Only a very small proportion are said to have been badly affected ... " she says."But population-wide studies are considered too large and insensitive to pick up small numbers such as this."
It is self-evident to anybody who understands biomedical research, and if you don't get it then you have only two choices: you can either learn to interpret data yourself and come to your own informed conclusions; or you decide who to trust. Choose wisely.
· Ben Goldacre is a doctor and writes the Bad Science column in the Guardian email@example.com
November 3, 2005
Republicans are creating legislation to have theory taught with evolution
What is theory of intelligent design?
It maintains that an intelligent cause, rather than the random process of natural selection and mutation, best explains life on Earth.
• Evolution: Maintains humans and all other organisms have a common ancestry going back almost 4 billion years. Mutations and the process of natural selection, in which desirable traits are passed on to future generations, resulted in differences over time.
• Creationism: Maintains that God created the universe. Some, though not all, adherents believe life on Earth is only a few thousand years old and take literally the Genesis account in the Bible.
Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science; Discovery Institute; Wikipedia
States debating the issue
No state has so far required that intelligent design be taught in public school classrooms. States that have debated the issue:
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures
Recently, 36 of the 52 Republican state representatives, including House Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis, sent questionnaires to constituents asking, among other issues, whether intelligent design should be given equal time in science classes.
Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, said he would file legislation mandating the teaching of intelligent design if no other lawmaker did.
"It's a passionate issue for me, personally," Borders said.
The proposal comes a little more than a month after Bosma and a handful of other House members met privately with Carl Baugh, host of the Trinity Broadcasting Network show "Creationism in the 21st Century," to discuss bringing intelligent design to public schools.
Baugh was in town as the guest of Zion Unity Missionary Baptist Church, a small Indianapolis church whose pastor, the Rev. Fredrick W. Boyd Jr., is an acquaintance of Baugh's. Baugh is founder and director of the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas.
Boyd said Bosma and the lawmakers already were pursuing the idea, but they wanted to hear Baugh's thoughts on how to create the legislation.
Similar initiatives are being discussed in legislatures nationwide. The National Conference of State Legislatures said 11 legislatures have debated intelligent design this year. None has enacted a law, and in most cases bills died in committee.
In Pennsylvania, the issue is being played out in federal court, where the parents of 11 students are suing a school district for requiring that intelligent design be taught as an alternative to evolution.
Bosma could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Tony Samuel, press secretary for House Republicans, said making this issue part of the caucus agenda has not been discussed.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed also could not be reached. Jane Jankowski, press secretary for Gov. Mitch Daniels, said he was not available for a comment.
While Republicans are leading the effort to implement intelligent design, some Democrats support it as well.
"Evolution was designed by God," said Rep. Jerry Denbo, D-French Lick. "I really think that should be taught -- that there is a master. We didn't just come about by accident."
Rep. Tim Harris, R-Marion, also believes evolution and intelligent design should be taught.
"It takes just as much faith to believe in the evolution hypothesis as it does what we are now calling intelligent design," he said.
Next year's session must end, by law, on March 14. No starting date has been established in the House, but lawmakers are expected to return in early January.
Rep. Ed Mahern, D-Indianapolis, said a short session leaves little time to debate intelligent design when so many other education issues need attention.
"It's one more instance where we are not concentrating on what we need to be concerned about -- higher test scores, keeping kids in school longer and promoting early childhood education," Mahern said.
Besides, he said, "Indianapolis doesn't need to be deciding things that should be decided at the local level."
But Rep. Cindy Noe, R-Indianapolis, said this issue needs to be decided at the state level.
"There's absolutely nothing wrong with having the broader discussion," she said.
Frank Bush, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association, said the legislature should defer to the State Board of Education on this issue.
"The legislature has been willing to dictate concepts, but they generally don't get quite as deep as what should be taught in math class, or English class," he said.
Besides, he said, if intelligent design were added to the curriculum, something else would have to go.
So far, this debate seems limited to the House, not the Senate, also controlled by Republicans.
Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Garton, R-Columbus, is lukewarm to the idea. He said he needed more information before he makes up his mind, especially since this involves dictating what is taught in school.
Indianapolis school officials said they haven't heard from parents who want intelligent design added to the curriculum.
"There has been no interest or discussion by our parents with the administration regarding the intelligent design concept," said Willie Giles, Indianapolis Public Schools associate superintendent.
High schools now must offer biology lessons linked to evolution under the state's academic standard.
New science and health textbooks were adopted by the state's 293 school district's last year and won't be reviewed again until 2010.
"If there's a curriculum change midstream in that cycle, there's cost implications," said Tom Langdoc, Wayne Township Schools director of school and community relations.
Lawmakers who back the issue said teaching intelligent design would not violate the constitutional separation of church and state.
But Fran Quigley, executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, said it likely would oppose this bill on those grounds.
The Rev. Kevin Armstrong, senior pastor at North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, said it would concern him if intelligent design were all that is taught. And he doesn't find evolution to be incompatible with the Bible's creation story.
"I believe the creation story is a faith story, that it represents the truth of a creator and not necessarily the truth of precisely how creation took place," Armstrong said.
Call Star reporter Mary Beth Schneider at (317) 444-2772.
Star reporters Michele McNeil and Kim Hooper contributed to this story.
Copyright 2005 IndyStar.com
Dover school officials were asked about a creationism seminar, board discussions.
By MICHELLE STARR
Daily Record/Sunday News
Thursday, November 3, 2005
HARRISBURG — Not long into his cross-examination Wednesday, Dover schools Asst. Supt. Michael Baksa talked about a seminar he had attended about creationism in public schools.
The typically calm and confident administrator started his testimony with shaky hands and a weak voice as he explained to plaintiffs' attorney Eric Rothschild that Supt. Richard Nilsen sent him to the Messiah College seminar on March 26, 2003.
Baksa had returned to the stand in a federal civil suit over Dover Area School District's decision to include a mention of intelligent design in ninth-grade biology class. It was Baksa's third appearance on the stand after being bumped by out-of-town witnesses for the defense.
Knowledge of the seminar wasn't new. But the plaintiffs' attorneys used it and other testimony from Baksa and school board President Sheila Harkins, who also testified Wednesday, to try to tie together events leading up to the science curriculum change and show that religion played a role in the board's decision.
A policy that had a religious purpose would violate the First Amendment's establishment clause.
Baksa testified that hours after attending the conference, he went to a Dover board retreat. According to previous testimony, board member Alan Bonsell said at the retreat that creationism should balance the teaching of evolution. Earlier in the trial, board members, former board members and Nilsen testified about notes made during board retreats in 2002 and 2003 at which Bonsell mentioned creationism and prayer in school.
After the retreat, Baksa said, he told Bertha Spahr, head of the science department, that Bonsell wanted to give another theory equal time to evolution in science class.
Baksa received a memo dated April 1, 2003, from then-Principal Trudy Peterman that said a board member wanted to give creationism equal time with evolution.
"My first reaction is, 'She got it wrong,'" Baksa said, referring to Peterman's use of the term creationism. But he didn't approach either Spahr or Peterman to correct the information, he said.
A little more than a year after Peterman's memo, controversy erupted during June 2004 board meetings when board members, and one board member's wife, made religious comments while talking about buying new biology books.
During Wednesday's questioning, Baksa corroborated some news coverage by saying he heard former board member Bill Buckingham talk about creationism, saying that "liberals in black robes" were taking away Christians' rights and that the ninth-grade biology book was "laced with Darwinism."
Baksa said Buckingham said something about a man dying on the cross 2,000 years ago but didn't remember if the comment was made in 2003 during talks about "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or in 2004 during discussion on the curriculum change.
He also said Buckingham made a comment about the country not being founded on Muslim beliefs but said he didn't know when that was said.
Earlier Wednesday, Harkins testified she didn't remember Bonsell talking about creationism or prayer during retreats. She said she heard Buckingham mention liberal judges but didn't know whether his mention of a man dying 2,000 years ago on the cross came at a 2004 board meeting or in earlier discussions about the pledge.
She also said people in the audience were talking about creationism at the June meetings, while then-board member Jeff Brown talked about intelligent design.
"My recollection is it seems to me I was thinking Jeff was the first one to bring up mentioning intelligent design in the conversation," she said. "I was thinking Alan, Noel (Wenrich) and Bill got in on the conversation."
Baksa and Harkins both testified that, at those June meetings, they didn't know what intelligent design meant.
In August 2004, before the October vote on the intelligent design statement, Baksa and others received e-mail from Stock and Leader lawyer Steve Russell. The district had asked him for advice about the pro-intelligent design textbook "Of Pandas and People."
"Today I talked to Richard Thompson. . . . they refer to the creationism issue as 'intelligent design,'" Russell wrote, referring to Dover's lawyer from the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan.
After court, Thompson maintained that creationism and intelligent design were separate.
Russell's concern, according to the e-mail, was about various talk for putting religion back into the schools.
Baksa said in court Wednesday that he considered Russell's words as advising caution in using "Pandas."
In the summer of 2004, the board decided not to spend taxpayer money on "Pandas" as a companion text. Baksa testified that Nilsen asked him to research how much 50 copies of "Pandas" would cost so the board could then give the information to donors.
Later that year, Alan Bonsell's father, Donald, and members of former board member Buckingham's church anonymously gave 60 copies of the book to the district.
Outside court, Thompson said the events simply coincided.
"I don't think they're connected," he said. "I think it's just happenstance. At that point, I don't think they were connected. The only reason that's brought up is because of the case that exists today."
The plaintiffs' attorneys declined to comment Wednesday.
Reach Michelle Starr at 771-2045 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A man who testified in support of creation science in the 1981 case of McLean vs. Arkansas capitalized on the Dover trial Wednesday to promote his new book touting the biblical account of life's origins.
Robert V. Gentry, speaking at a news conference at the Capitol Rotunda, repeatedly plugged "Creation's Tiny Mystery."
Gentry, a Tennessee resident, says both sides in the Dover case are wrong.
In the McLean case, an Arkansas federal district court rejected Arkansas Board of Education's balanced treatment act for the teaching of creation science along with evolutionary theory.
By BRENT BATTEN, email@example.com
November 3, 2005
Why does it have to be us or Him?
The ongoing national debate over evolution vs. creation, now reaching into Florida as educators review teaching standards, seems to be cast as an either-or proposition.
Those seeking to keep the concept of creation, now going under the alias "intelligent design," out of science class insist it is purely a matter of faith that should not be taught in schools.
But does science demand that there can be no God?
Do physical processes that we can observe and theorize over require the absence of any higher power not understood by scientists?
And conversely, would the presence of a creator render moot hundreds of years of scientific observation, experimentation and proof?
A protracted public discussion over the teaching of intelligent design threatens to drain time and resources from the education system.
A wise geology professor, no doubt weary of endless semesters of futile argument, began the first day of instruction with words along these lines: "All geological evidence tells us the Earth has been here for billions of years. It is difficult to believe God would create an inquisitive being such as man, then lay down so many false trails of evidence to lead him astray.
"If we can assume the Earth is old, what is wrong with the concept of an eternal, timeless God, who creates worlds and shapes life through slow change?
"So in that spirit, please take the information I'm about to present to you as evidence of a creator, if that is your desire, or evidence of the lack of a creator, if you so choose.
"In either case, it represents the best understanding our scientists have as to how things work and why they appear as they do."
It seems like a version of intelligent design could be taught in science classrooms, in a total of about five minutes, with a similar disclaimer on the first day of class.
"Scientific inquisition over hundreds of years has led us to understand certain processes and to theorize about others. Whether these process have occurred simply by accident or through the design of some intelligent being, we simply do not know.
"Some take it as a matter of faith that God is behind all creation and others do not. To learn more about these concepts, consult your local library or sign up for a class on religion.
"In the meantime, let's begin the study of what we do know. . ."
The Young Earth creationists who believe the Earth was created in the space of six, 24-hour days some 10,000 years ago with man arriving on the scene a couple of days after the dinosaurs are bound to be disappointed by the instruction that would follow.
But just about everyone else, it would seem, would have to recognize that a science class that teaches what is known, theorizes what is probable and acknowledges what is not known, imparts learning without declaring anyone's religious beliefs invalid.
It is not the place of the public schools to promote religion. But neither is it the place of schools to require belief in a higher power be left at the door.
Especially when science, for all its advancement and wonder, still can't answer fundamental questions about the beginnings of the universe.
Can science and God co-exist? As far as we know, yes. And there's nothing wrong with public schools saying so, then getting on with the business of education.
E-mail Brent Batten at firstname.lastname@example.org. To order "Batten 100," a compilation of some of Brent Batten's best humor columns, visit http://web.naplesnews.com/batten/. The book is also available at area bookstores.
Microbiologist Dr. Scott Minnich is scheduled to testify on Thursday in behalf of the Dover School Board as an expert witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover intelligent design trial.
It is fitting that Minnich follows Michael Behe as an expert witness in the Dover trial, since much of his work over the past decade has built on Behe's, just as his testimony is likely to do. Often, Darwinists will try to claim that Behe's theory of irreducible complexity has been falsified because of the TTSS secretory system. Minnich's work has shown this not to be the case. In fact, in 2004 he presented this paper rebutting many of Behe's critics at The Second International Conference on Design & Nature sponsored by the Wessex Institute of Technology.
Just today, Dr. Chris Macosko explains in an excellent op-ed how Minnich's lab research has directly supported Behe's predictions, and has shown that the challenge of the TTSS has not been proven.
At the third biannual Bacterial Locomotion and Signal Transduction (BLAST) meeting in January 1995, University of Idaho microbiologist and intelligent design theorist Scott Minnich presented a radical idea. "Is the TTSS lethal injector apparatus an example of inverse evolution — the transformation of one information-rich system to another not-quite-as-information-rich system?"
Minnich's idea was picked up by several of the conference attendees. For example, Rasika Harshey and Adam Toguchi wrote in their 1996 Trends in Microbiology review, "some nonmotile pathogens [without flagella], such as Shigella and Yersinia pestis (S. Minnich, personal communication), appear to contain flagellar genes. Could these be a vestige of formerly motile species? Is it likely that pathogens have exploited the flagellar secretory mechanism to transfer proteins directly into a target host cell?" This radical idea, fleshed out by Minnich's publications over the past decade, has ended up being correct.
So who is Scott Minnich? While he is not yet as widely known as Michael Behe, it is certain that he will be one of the leading design scientists for years to come.
Minnich holds a Ph.D. from Iowa State University and is currently associate professor of microbiology at the University of Idaho and is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. He is also a fellow of the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design.
Previously, Dr. Minnich was an assistant professor at Tulane University. In addition, he did postdoctoral research with Austin Newton at Princeton University and with Arthur Aronson at Purdue University. Dr. Minnich's research interests are temperature regulation of Y. enterocolitca gene expression and coordinate reciprocal expression of flagellar and virulence genes.
Biochemist Michael Behe used the flagella to illustrate the concept of irreducible complexity and Minnich takes the argument to the next level crediting the design paradigm to leading to new insights in his lab research at the University of Idaho.
In 2004 Minnich served as part of the United State's Iraq Survey Group (ISG) tasked with reviewing captured mobile weapons laboratories, and determining what role if any they played in microbial weapons production.
Minnich is widely published in technical journals including Journal of Bacteriology, Molecular Microbiology, Journal of Molecular Biology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Microbiological Method, Food Technology, and the Journal of Food Protection.
Posted by Robert Crowther on November 2, 2005 02:00 PM
lauren smulski/the ithacan
Susan Swensen, associate professor of biology, teaches her evolution class Monday. Some think the concept of intelligent design should also be taught in the nation's classrooms.By William Earl / staff Writer
November 03, 2005
Junior Nelson Fernandez, a biology minor and the vice president of Students for Christ, said he believes man was created as explained in the Bible. But he said this belief doesn't interfere with the way he studies science.
However, some Americans who find it difficult to balance science and religion are advocating for a new theory that integrates the two. Intelligent design is the idea that organic structures are too complex to be left to evolution. It was developed in the late 1980s and has moved into the limelight since President Bush suggested to a group of reporters from five Texas newspapers in August that it should be taught along with evolution in the nation's classrooms.
Fernandez said he doesn't agree with all aspects of intelligent design but does see some value in the theory.
"Intelligent design is supposed to leave space open for other worldviews," Fernandez said. "It stems from how different people interpret scientific evidence. I side with a direct interpretation of the Bible first, but I agree with intelligent design more than I do with the naturalist Darwinian worldview, which I find to be inconclusive at best."
At an Oct. 21 Cornell board meeting, Cornell University Interim President Hunter Rawlings III said, "Intelligent design is not valid science."
For the same reason, biology professors at Ithaca College said they will continue to teach only evolution as science. Andrew Smith, an associate professor of biology, said the best way to address students who disagree with evolution is to keep the conversation focused on proven science.
"I think in a class, you have to remember to stick to analysis based on evidence," he said. "If someone feels strongly that the origin of man was through creationism or intelligent design, you have to say, 'That's certainly your belief, and that's fine.'"
Fernandez said his biblical creationist views have not caused any problems for him in class.
"I've spoken on the side with some teachers about my beliefs, and they are supportive of my feelings," Fernandez said. "I've never felt singled out in class just because I didn't agree with everything being taught."
Ithaca College Catholic Chaplain Michael Mahler said intelligent design is flawed because science and religion live in two separate spheres of thought and cannot be seamlessly blended.
"My understanding is that intelligent design is an attempt to bring God into the scientific method, and I don't think you can do that," Mahler said. "Science is limited, and I don't think you can empirically identify the existence of God."
Mahler said the current systems of evolution and creationism should be adequate explanations for the origin of man because, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, both theories can coexist.
"If evolution is the way that life has unfolded on earth, then the church is perfectly comfortable with that," Mahler said. "The church only gets uncomfortable when people use science to try and disprove the existence of God."
Susan Swensen, associate professor of biology, who teaches a class on evolution, said while her students all agree with evolution, she has known students in the past who believe in creationist principles and intelligent design. She often invites them into her classroom for the purpose of spirited debate.
"The conversations that come as a result of bringing other viewpoints into the classroom can be very interesting," Swensen said. "It is always great to represent another angle, and these students were eager to give their side of their beliefs. It challenged my students to understand those with different viewpoints."
Robert Klee, associate professor of philosophy and religion, is teaching Ideological Conflict In Science this semester, and the class will soon investigate intelligent design. Klee, who personally believes that intelligent design is an attempt to "distort science," said he would welcome all opinions in his classroom.
"In my class, we examine the beliefs of all students on an equal page," Klee said. "If a student believes in intelligent design, we wouldn't treat them any differently, as long as they are prepared for rational assessment and rational criticism."
The debate over intelligent design in the classroom gained further attention this year when eight families in a Harrisburg, Pa., school district brought a lawsuit against the school for teaching intelligent design in biology classes, citing the need for separation of church and state.
Swensen said she spent two class periods at the beginning of the semester debating these current political issues, though she emphasized no light has been shed on the origin of man through study of intelligent design.
"Intelligent design is simply a re-packaging of creationism — a clever way to pass off creationism as science," Swensen said. "It holds no weight in today's scientific world."
Ultimately though, Marc Servetnick, associate professor and chair of the biology department, said religion and science can coexist. He said many scientists believe in God and he doesn't think this is hypocritical.
"Followers of intelligent design believe that life must have been designed because it is too complex," Servetnick said. "I think that we have only been doing detailed molecular biology for only 20 years, and we haven't put all of the picture together just yet."
By Roger Meissen
Science students are encountering a test in the classroom more challenging than memorizing the structures of cells and the intricacies of evolution.
School and government boards around the country are introducing the concept of intelligent design in the classroom, and some are responding with lawsuits.
Stephen Angel, associate professor of chemistry at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., said the changes will effectively alter the teaching of science in all Kansas classrooms.
"Their brand of evolution and how they would cast it would be different," Angel said. "In this sense, it was, 'Let's talk about origins,' and, 'Let's talk about intelligent design.' I think what the state board has done is instead of delineating reference to the theory of evolution, they want to confuse the issue so much that effectively the same thing happens, that teachers not knowing exactly what to teach will omit the teaching of it altogether."
Angel was one of 25 members on the writing committee to rewrite the standards.
The job of the committee, composed of teachers and scientists, was to offer recommendations to the state board of education for alterations to the science standards.
"I think basically that what we're getting is a very substandard document," Angel said. "I think all members of the board of education would agree with that, and quite frankly, I don't think they care."
His opinion was included in the majority report with 17 of 25 committee members. This report did not support revisions prepared by the board of education.
George Griffith, science consultant for the Kansas board of education, said primary changes in Kansas include newly introduced criticisms to evolution that were voiced in board hearings in May 2005. The new proposed standards do not explicitly mention intelligent design but question the validity of evolution, according to www.kansasscience2005.com.
These standards undergo mandatory review every three years, and the Kansas board of education will vote to approve them Nov. 8, Griffith said. The science standards apply to science education in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Yet, legal hurdles will delay the final approval of standards that likely will not be finalized until early December because of modifications needed to adhere to copyright laws, said Valerie Jennings, communication consultant for the Kansas Department of Education.
A similar issue is taking place on the judicial level in Dover, Pa., according to the National Science Center for Education Web site. Last year, a school district there mandated the reading of a disclaimer before pupils are taught about evolution mentioning the alternative of intelligent design.
Eleven parents challenged this requirement in the Harrisburg federal district court in December 2004, according to the Web site. The American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and two lobby groups have backed the parents.The plaintiffs in the case purport that the Dover school district is promoting religion in the form of intelligent design in the classroom and are suing to eliminate the disclaimer. Promoting religion in school would violate First Amendment rights advocating separation of church and state.
The trial began Sept. 26 and the last scheduled court date is Nov. 4, according to the court docket. A ruling on this issue only will apply to the Dover district but might set a precedent on intelligent design in the classroom.
Missouri might soon face similar clashes. State legislators have proposed bills that directly affect Missouri classrooms regarding intelligent design. In 2004, Rep. Robert Wayne Cooper, R-Camdenton, sponsored House bills 1722 and 911. These bills would require the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design. This law would help distinguish the differences between scientific law, theory and hypotheses and mandates equal classroom time for intelligent design and other origin-focused teaching, according to the introduction to his bill. These bills were referred to the Education and the Special Committee on General Laws but never reached the house body. Cooper could not be reached for comment.
Co-sponsor of the bill, Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, proposed an additional bill in 2005 regarding science textbooks. Her bill, House Bill 35, proposes to define a difference between testable theories and philosophical claims in a chapter containing critical analysis of origins, Davis said. This will allow children access to the most up-to-date scientific information and the ability to make their own decisions. Davis said she is reintroducing an original bill in the upcoming session that starts in January.
"You have to let the kids learn," Davis said. "If you give them the skills to distinguish between what is philosophy and what is empirical, we'll be miles ahead."
HARRISBURG - On the witness stand during Monday's session of the Dover Panda Trial, Dover Area School Board member Alan Bonsell accused the press of just making things up. Keeping that in mind, here's a description of what happened Monday afternoon.
Wearing a nice gray suit, Bonsell answered every question to the best of his ability and was positively forthcoming and when the lawyers pointed out certain inconsistencies in his testimony, he thanked them profusely and offered expansive explanations for why he may have been misunderstood and cleared up any misunderstandings that may have arisen.
OK, all of that was made up.
Except for the part about Bonsell wearing a gray suit.
Actually, at the conclusion of his testimony, he was in serious danger of ruining that suit.
That was when the judge started asking him to try to explain - um, how should I phrase this? - certain gaps and problems with his testimony.
It was remarkable. Judge John E. Jones III asked for a copy of Bonsell's deposition and started asking him questions about why he felt the need to cover up where the money came from to buy the 60 copies of "Of Pandas and People" that wound up in the Dover high school library.
Bonsell didn't explain very well.
At one point, he replied to the judge's query with, "I misspoke."
"I misspoke" wasn't working. So he tried to layer on some verbiage - at one point, seemingly, speaking random words that had nothing to do with what the judge was asking - to give the impression that he was merely trying to answer the question.
When, in fact, he was merely trying to avoid answering the question.
The more he talked, the worse it got.
By the conclusion, it was clear to everyone in the courtroom that the judge was pointing out that Bonsell might have lied under oath.
That's a problem.
Ask Scooter Libby.
Or Bill Clinton.
Bonsell wasn't being asked about who outed a CIA agent or whether he had had sex with that woman. He wasn't even being asked about a crime - the judge was asking about who bought the copies of "Of Pandas and People" that were donated to the school.
And Bonsell really didn't want to say.
In fairness, Bonsell wasn't very believable even before the judge started laying into him. He said, "I have never brought anything forward to put creationism in the school district in any shape or form" - despite notes from board retreats and other testimony describing him bringing up creationism.
I was expecting him to say, "I did not have sex with that panda."
And so the Dover Panda Trial took an interesting turn. Certainly, the big issues - mostly notably, separation of church and state - remain. But now, members of the Dover Area School Board may have to worry about those aforementioned gaps and problems in their testimony.
Of course, the defendants are going to turn this around and blame those darned liberal activist judges. It doesn't work. For one thing, Jones was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush, not known for appointing liberals. And, you know, insisting that witnesses tell the truth in court isn't exclusively a liberal proposition.
On the one hand, school board members can use this to defend against the charge that they were motivated by religious belief in introducing intelligent design or creationism into the biology curriculum. If they were motivated by religion, how come none of them ever heard of the Ninth Commandment - you know, the one about bearing false witness?
On the other hand, it's really a sad day for America when public officials can no longer lie convincingly enough to get it past a federal judge.
I blame the public schools. I mean, just look at some of the bozos in charge of them.
By The Associated Press
posted: 03 November 2005 01:16 pm ET
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) -- A school board member testified Wednesday she voted to include "intelligent design'' in a high school biology curriculum despite not knowing much about the concept because she thought students should be aware of alternatives to evolutionary theory.
"I thought, this is another way to make them think,'' Dover Area School Board President Sheila Harkins said during a landmark U.S. trial over whether intelligent design can be introduced in public school science classes.
Harkins acknowledged that her familiarity with the concept was limited to some Internet research and a brief reading of "Of Pandas and People,'' an intelligent-design textbook.
The board is defending its October 2004 decision 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,'' has inexplicable "gaps,'' and refers students to the textbook for more information.
Michael Baksa, the district's assistant superintendent, testified that he obtained information about intelligent design only through reading "Of Pandas and People.''
"I don't feel qualified ... to make a determination on intelligent design and whether it's a scientific theory. I would rather leave that to the scientific community,'' Baksa said.
Eight families are suing to have intelligent design removed from the biology curriculum because they believe the policy essentially promotes the Bible's view of creation, and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Intelligent design supporters argue that natural selection, an element of evolutionary theory, cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms.
The trial began Sept. 26 and is expected to conclude on Friday.
2:38 PM November 3, 2005
By Michele McNeil
Gov. Mitch Daniels said he's not sure he would support legislation that would require schools to teach intelligent design in schools.
In general, Daniels said today, the state should remove mandates from schools and leave those decisions up to local school boards and principals.
"I would have to think hard about a bill that would require any particular curriculum or assignment," he said.
He said if he were in charge of a school, however, he would want students to be able to think critically, and be exposed to conflicting points of view.
"That's different from whether the state or the legislature ought to force that," he said.
His statements today during a press briefing with the news media come as Republicans are trying to gauge public opinion for the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution in schools. At least one Republican said he will sponsor a bill in the upcoming 2006 session if no other lawmaker steps forward.
Intelligent design is the concept that a supernatural hand, and not just the random process of natural selection, guided the development of life on Earth.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
One Montgomery County candidate said she would like to see Darwin kicked out of schools.
By Tonia Moxley 381-1663 New River Current
The national debate over whether to teach intelligent design, a theory that disputes the veracity of evolution, in public schools may play a small role in this year's Montgomery County School Board election.
The issue came up in response tAdvertisement
To a question at a recent League of Women Voters candidates forum, with District F candidate David Dannenberg and District C write-in candidate Gary Santolla saying they supported intelligent design.
But the strongest supporter of intelligent design among local school board candidates wasn't at the forum. Christiansburg native Jamie Bond, who is challenging two-term school board member Mary Hayne North for the District D seat, said after the debate that "coming from Christian background and teaching Sunday school, I think if we teach evolution, we should definitely teach creation ... I'm all for kicking Darwin out."
North said she would not support teaching intelligent design in science classes because "it's not science." But she wouldn't object to the alternate theory being discussed in debate clubs.
Intelligent design posits that the universe is too complex to be explained by Darwinian evolution and natural selection, the theory taught in most public school biology classes. Some proponents of intelligent design, which resembles the older theory of divine creation, would like to see the theory taught alongside evolution in schools.
Dannenberg, who backed intelligent design at the forum, said later that he thinks children should be exposed to both theories and allowed to make up their own minds.
"But that's a personal belief, not a platform," he said.
If elected, Dannenberg said he would not push to have intelligent design made part of the curriculum.
His opponent, Susan Morikawa, who was appointed to the District F seat in June after school board member Doug Echols resigned, said she opposed teaching intelligent design. But like North, said she wouldn't object to the subject being discussed in philosophy classes "at a higher level."
Santolla and David Dunkenberger, both write-in candidates running for the District C seat, each said they would leave curriculum decisions to administrators and teachers.
Amy Lythgoe, who is running unopposed for the District A school board seat, said she didn't agree with teaching intelligent design.
"If we want to be scientifically competitive, we need to stick to science in our schools," she said.
By Jerry Schanke
Whether Intelligent Design—a faith-based alternative to classic Darwinism—should be included in the high school science curriculum was the question. The discussion between 27 James Madison High School students and three panelists, however, was not designed to settle on an answer. The objective was essentially about tolerance for different points of view.
The event was "CI in a Fishbowl," held Friday at the Oakton Family Restaurant. The "CI" is "Combating Intolerance," a luncheon speaker series started four years ago by Madison teacher Gideon Sanders. The "fishbowl" was the restaurant itself, with a u-shaped table for the students and panelists at center stage.
Sanders said the fishbowl idea was two-fold: to give the students "an opportunity to debate an issue in a public forum" and "to give the community an opportunity to see how mature our students are."
It appeared to be working as a number of persons in the luncheon crowd turned their attention from their meals to the debate.
The panelists, who each took 10 to 15 minutes to frame the discussion, were: Rabbi Ben Biber, Machar Secular Humanistic Congregation of Washington, D.C.; Jack Greene, science curriculum coordinator for Fairfax County Public Schools; and Kevin Brault, a volunteer with the Youth Ministry at McLean Bible Church.
Greene, a teacher and administrator with a background in the sciences, was unequivocal in stating his opposition to teaching Intelligent Design.
"Theory in science is not enough," Greene said, "it requires facts, it must be testable. It's an idea or belief—but is not supported by evidence."
Brault, an engineer by training, took the opposite view. He said that the evolution of species did not preclude Intelligent Design and cited support by some scientists for the theory.
"Some scientists who believe in ID don't believe in the Bible," he added.
Biber, with degrees in natural and social sciences, offered a compromise position, saying, "CI and ID intersect over tolerance." He suggested that Intelligent Design should be taught "not in the classroom as a science," but rather in social studies classes as part of "the philosophy of science."
A girl asked, "Would they teach it (ID) like a fact—or just put it out there?"
A boy asked, "Wouldn't every fundamental evolutionist be an atheist?"
Greene answered that one, saying, "I don't have any trouble believing in God" but reiterated his opposition to teaching Intelligent Design in the county high schools.
©Times Community Newspapers 2005
by Mike Baron Nov 2, 2005
In 1999, the state of Kansas included Creationism, a precursor of Intelligent Design, into their school curriculum. One year later the school board overturned that directive. The board now reportedly contains enough conservative members to vote for inclusion of Intelligent Design. Christian political activists like Reverend Jerry Johnston of First Family Church in Overland Park Kansas are reportedly supporting the effort to shape Kansas science standards according to fundamental religious beliefs. Johnston said, according to published reports, "Getting intelligent design into school curricula is the worthiest cause of our time and the key to reversing the country's moral decline."
Believers in "The Flying Spaghetti Monster" [FSMism] are lobbying the Kansas School Board, in an apparent attempt to make the inclusion of Intelligent Design into the curriculum appear foolish, to give equal time to teaching the concept of creation by The Flying Spaghetti Monster next to evolution and Intelligent Design.
It is being reported that several members of the Kansas Board of Education have already indicated that they might vote in favor of such an initiative. Board member Carol Rupe reportedly wrote, "The new version [of science standards] changes the very definition of science from 'seeking natural explanations' to 'seeking logical explanations.' That is why I think FSMism is able to be included. It is as 'logical' as any other theory."
Bobby Henderson of Corvallis, Ore., created the tongue-in-cheek deity and an accompanying mythology on the origin of mankind to reportedly satirize the Kansas Board of Education's ongoing flap over evolutionary theory, according to the Wichita Eagle.
According to the paper, since June, when the spaghetti monster made its Internet debut, the parody religion has grown into a full-fledged Internet phenomenon.
Henderson said his Web site -- www.venganza.org -- has received 19 million visits, including 4 million in two days last week.
A search for "Flying Spaghetti Monster" on the Google search engine turns up 96,000 hits. Yahoo offers 171,000 Web pages on the topic.
"It's amazing how big FSM has gotten," Henderson said, according to the Eagle.
-- Compiled from wire reports
By MARTHA RAFFAELE The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A school board member who was questioned by a federal judge about discrepancies in his testimony on the purchase of "intelligent design" textbooks was expected to return to the witness stand Wednesday.
Dover Area School Board member Alan Bonsell was to undergo redirect questioning by an attorney representing the board in a landmark trial over whether intelligent design can be introduced in high school science classes.
Bonsell testified Monday that he had received an $850 check from fellow board member William Buckingham. The check was made out to Bonsell's father, who volunteered to donate copies of "Of Pandas and People" to the district.
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III asked Bonsell why he never shared that information in a January deposition when he was repeatedly asked under oath about who was involved in making the donation. Bonsell, who served as the board's president in 2004, said he misspoke.
Buckingham testified Thursday he collected $850 in donations to help purchase the books during a Sunday service at his church.
The board is defending its October 2004 decision 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," has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to the textbook for more information.
Eight families are suing to have intelligent design removed from the biology curriculum because they believe the policy essentially promotes the Bible's view of creation, and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Intelligent design supporters argue that natural selection, an element of evolutionary theory, cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms.
The trial began Sept. 26 and is expected to conclude on Friday.
November 2, 2005 4:30 AM
Posted on Wed, Nov. 02, 2005
BY PAUL NUSSBAUM
Knight Ridder Newspapers
PHILADELPHIA - When intelligent design is taught in science class, critics say, it's a violation of the First Amendment: unconstitutional promotion of religion.
When intelligent design is banned from science class, supporters say, it's a violation of the First Amendment: unconstitutional limit on free speech.
The front lines in the battle between evolution and intelligent design are shifting. No longer is it just a debate over whether intelligent design qualifies as science. Now intelligent-design advocates argue that evolutionists are trying to stifle the free flow of information.
"We have finally found an idea too dangerous for the ACLU to defend," said John West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture, an arm of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that is the leading proponent of intelligent design. "It's not Nazis. It's not communists. It's intelligent design."
Academic supporters of intelligent design are few, but they argue that they are a persecuted minority, vilified by a scientific and academic establishment that suppresses unorthodox views - especially those with religious implications.
Opponents of intelligent design, including national science organizations and university faculty groups, say that's a bogus argument. Intelligent-design lessons are welcome in nonscience classes, they say, but have no more place in the science classroom than lectures on astrology or alchemy.
"Your academic freedom is not a license to teach anything you'd like to," said Jonathan Knight, director of academic freedom for the American Association of University Professors. "The faculty members themselves conclude there is a body of knowledge that they think best to teach, based on decades of study, testing and experimentation."
The free-speech argument has been in the spotlight as a federal lawsuit over the teaching of intelligent design enters its sixth week in Harrisburg. Eleven parents sued the Dover, Pa., school board after it required that high school biology students be read a statement introducing intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.
Intelligent design holds that natural selection cannot explain all the complex developments observed in nature and that an unspecified intelligent designer must be involved.
For many Americans, the notion of teaching both evolution and intelligent design seems a simple matter of fairness, a viewpoint contrary to that held by most scientists. A recent poll for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found 64 percent of Americans favored teaching "creationism along with evolution in public schools."
Richard Stengel, president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, said he saw the issue as "two sets of values colliding. ... You have freedom of religion and freedom of speech colliding."
Stengel said the debate meant the "tables are turned," with normally liberal advocates of free speech opposing the teaching of intelligent design and normally conservative critics of evolution advocating free speech.
Stengel invoked Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who argued in 1929 for protecting "the principle of free thought - not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate."
Kermit Roosevelt, a constitutional-law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said public employees - such as public-school teachers - had limited free-speech rights.
"The employer hires you and is entitled to tell you what to talk about," Roosevelt said.
Roosevelt said that constitutional prohibitions against religious indoctrination in public school meant that authorities could not insert religious concepts into the curriculum just by calling them scientific.
"You have to have some constraints. If they said intelligent design was French, you wouldn't let them do that."
One intelligent-design proponent is biology professor Scott Minnich of the University of Idaho, where the college president last month sent a letter to faculty, staff and students reminding them that evolution "is the only curriculum that is appropriate to be taught in our bio-physical sciences."
"Teaching of views that differ from evolution may occur in faculty-approved curricula in religion, sociology, philosophy, political science or similar courses," president Timothy P. White, a biologist, wrote. "However, teaching of such views is inappropriate in our life, earth, and physical science courses or curricula." White told faculty members he wanted to make clear that Minnich's views were not the university's.
White's letter was promptly attacked by the Discovery Institute's West as "a barefaced violation of the Constitution's guarantee of free speech." And Gonzaga University law professor David DeWolf, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, said "anyone who cares about the freedom to dissent, whether or not they agree with these particular dissenters, should condemn what has happened at the University of Idaho."
Judith Parrish, dean of the College of Science at Idaho, said academic freedom did not give professors license to teach outside the curriculum approved by the faculty.
"No professor can just walk into a classroom and teach whatever they feel like teaching," Parrish said. "At most universities, the departments determine what needs to be covered, and in science, the curriculum is structured to build on fundamentals."
Saying academic freedom also imposed obligations on teachers, she cited a passage from the faculty handbook: "Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subjects, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter that is unrelated to their subjects."
"Intelligent design is not science," Parrish said. If a student in a science class asked about intelligent design, she said, a teacher could address the subject during class if time permitted, or after class.
Last month, a California lawsuit over evolution turned the First Amendment tables again. A parent in Roseville, Calif., sued officials of the National Science Foundation and the University of California, Berkeley, for violating the First Amendment by promoting religious views in support of evolution. She said Berkeley used $500,000 in federal money to maintain an evolution-education Web site that cites statements from religious leaders whose beliefs are compatible with evolution.
Berkeley's defense? The First Amendment's protection of free speech.
Paranormal research has become a popular pursuit
Carrie Kirby, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, October 31, 2005
Before there were Ghostbusters there was Thomas Alva Edison.
The father of sound recording technology wanted to make a device that could record the voices of the dead, according to his diary.
Since then, just about every recording and measuring technology invented has eventually fallen into the hands of ghost hunters, who stake out haunted houses, graveyards and other spooky locales to try to capture empirical evidence of restless spirits. To this end, they utilize the latest in sound, video and still-image recording, as well as sensors that detect changes in temperature, electromagnetic fields and radiation.
"We're looking for a ghost or spirit's influence on the environment," said Vince Wilson, author of "Ghost Tech, the Essential Guide to Paranormal Investigation Equipment."
No one really knows what kind of influence a ghost might have on the environment, so ghost hunters try anything and everything.
"If we're doing a full-scale investigation, it goes from the simple electromagnetic-field meters" -- handheld devices that have been ubiquitous on ghost expeditions since the early 1990s -- "all the way to digital video recorder systems with between eight and 12 cameras, depending on the size of the place," said Gloria Young, founder of the Santa Clara group Ghost Trackers. Young also uses a Geiger counter, which measures radiation; motion detectors; barometric pressure monitors; and thermometers.
But one of the most exciting of her apparent interactions with the beyond came to her via a simple handheld audio recorder.
She was doing a radio show at the Winchester Mystery House, the San Jose mansion believed by many to be haunted, or at least seriously creepy. She was making her own tape so she could listen to the interview later.
When she played it back at home, there was a voice she didn't recognize on the tape. It said, "Get out!"
"I still jump up and down when I hear it," said Young, who says she is not afraid of ghosts. However, she conceded that her emotions on hearing the recording were at least slightly mixed: "You're real happy that you got it ... but then you're going, 'There was somebody that close to my face.' "
Young imagines the voice might have been that of the mansion's late owner, rifle heiress Sarah Winchester. But she has no way of knowing for sure.
As Lisa Butler, who runs the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena with her husband, Tom, put it, "It's like getting a phone call without caller ID."
The existence of groups like Young's, spread throughout the country, is evidence of one thing: Ghost hunting has grown in the past two decades from a little-known hobby to a much more popular pursuit. Ghost hunters say that, judging from the number of ghost-hunting organizations with Web sites, there are hundreds of groups with thousands of members in the United States.
And technology is a major force behind the trend, said Loyd Auerbach, director and founder of the Office of Paranormal Investigations in the East Bay.
"It was the late 1980s when things began to expand, and part of it was the availability of certain types of technology that we started using in the field," like electromagnetic-field detectors, which start at around $100, Auerbach said. "Part of it was seeing people like me on TV."
Auerbach, who spoke to The Chronicle from a Wyoming hotel room while on a Halloween lecture tour, has participated in television broadcasts from many purportedly haunted locations, including Alcatraz and the aircraft carrier Hornet, docked at Alameda. Several ghost hunters cited the Hornet as a haunted spot, which may be disquieting news to participants in the World War II naval ship's youth overnight program. Children in that program are allowed to sleep in restored berths on board -- if they can.
Another major stimulus of today's tech-heavy ghost-hunting trend happened in 1984: The film "Ghostbusters" was released.
" 'Ghostbusters' inspired more people to start using ghost-hunting technology," said author Wilson. "Before that, really all you had was people walking around saying, 'Ooh I feel ghosts here,' or trying to photograph ghosts," he said.
Not that real-life ghost hunters walk around with anything like the technology packed by Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in the movie.
In fact, for fun, Wilson in his book analyzed some of the technology shown in the movie.
If a real ghost hunter were to wear a "proton pack," which in the movie contained a particle accelerator, "I came to the conclusion you would develop several forms of cancer. And it would be the size of a tractor-trailer," Wilson said.
Also spurring the ghost-hunting trend is the proliferation of cable television shows on the subject. There's "Ghost Hunters" on the Sci Fi Channel. The Travel Channel has "Most Haunted," and "Dead Tenants" is on TLC.
The technology now used for ghost hunting -- virtually all of which is manufactured for other purposes -- seems to make the pursuit more fun. Does it also make it more scientific? Mary Roach, author of "Spook," a book about the search for evidence of the afterlife, says that ghost hunters hope so.
"If you take the human factor out and just have this instrument, it (seems to) confer some legitimacy -- which these folks desperately want," said Roach, who is married to Chronicle page designer Ed Rachles.
But ghost hunters tend to disagree on how to properly use the equipment and what it is good for.
"What ends up happening is nobody reads the instructions," said Auerbach, who holds a graduate degree in parapsychology from Pleasant Hill's John F. Kennedy University, a program that was terminated in the 1980s. "I'm seeing people use (electromagnetic-field meters) all over the place, and they get all excited when they get a high reading. It turns out they're next to a microwave oven."
Microwaves aren't the only natural source of electromagnetic fields -- they come from all kinds of sources, including power lines, poorly insulated wiring, and computer and television screens.
"I've found more bad wiring in homes than I've found ghosts with these devices," Auerbach said.
If this is what true believers have to say about ghost-hunting technology, you can imagine the field day that skeptics have. One especially beleaguered section of supernatural studies is electronic voice phenomena -- hearing the voice of a dead person on a tape recorder or other electronic device. That's the kind of experience Santa Clara's Young reported at the Winchester Mystery House.
James Alcock, a psychology professor at Toronto's York University, suggests several explanations for the so-called voices from the dead. One theory is that the recording devices are picking up snatches of radio broadcasts. Another is called "apophenia," which means that people tend to perceive patterns even when there are none.
"If we play the same piece of tape over and over ... we maximize the opportunity for the perceptual apparatus in our brain to 'construct' voices that do not exist," Alcock wrote in a presentation posted on the Web site of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, an organization dedicated to debunking such claims.
Ghost hunters hope that the technology they use will help them collect more and better data, so that eventually non-believers will have to take their findings more seriously. But Young, of Santa Clara, isn't holding her breath.
"I don't know that they'll ever take this really seriously," she said. "They think it's all part of Halloween. I take my job very seriously."
The ghost hunter's tool belt
-- Electromagnetic-field meter
-- Digital sound recorder and audio software
-- Camera or video camera
-- Infrared camera
-- Night-vision goggles
-- Thermal-vision camera
-- Geiger counter
E-mail Carrie Kirby at email@example.com.
Darwin's natural selection is the process by which nature rewards those individuals better adapted to their environments with survival and reproductive success. It works at the level of genes, sections of DNA that encode for proteins serve as the software of life.
In one of the most detailed human DNA studies ever conducted, researchers analyzed nearly 12,000 genes from 39 people and a chimpanzee, our closest living relative.
The findings suggest that about 9 percent of the human genes examined are undergoing rapid evolution.
"Our study suggests that natural selection has played an important role in patterning the human genome," said Carlos Bustamante, a biologist at Cornell University.
A separate study announced last month indicated the human brain is still evolving, too.
Compared to chimps ...
Bustamante's team found that the genes most affected were those involved in immunity, sperm and egg production and sensory perception. A comparison between human and chimpanzee genomes found that these genes have undergone more changes in humans than in chimps, despite the fact that the two species shared a common ancestor some 5 million years ago.
The genes for a group of proteins important for switching other genes on and off, known as "transcription factors," were found to vary significantly in humans and chimps. One reason for this could be that turning a gene on or off is easier than changing the gene itself.
"We believe that if you want to evolve a system, it's usually easier to tweak when the protein gets turns on or the total amount of a protein as opposed to the amino acid itself," Bustamante said.
The validity of Darwin's natural selection has been attacked lately by a small but vocal group who argue that it cannot explain all the complexity seen in nature. They advocate a concept called "intelligent design," in which a higher being is responsible for the variety of life. Scientists dismiss intelligent design as cloaked creationism and say that there are no significant problems with the widely accepted theory of evolution.
While mainstream scientists do not need further evidence that natural selection occurs, Bustamante's work provides examples of its pace and extent and offers the promise of medical advances down the road.
Another 13 percent of the genes examined in the study showed evidence for negative selection, whereby harmful mutations are weeded out of the population. These included some genes implicated in hereditary diseases, such as muscular dystrophy and Usher syndrome. The latter is the most common cause of congenital blindness and deafness in developed countries.
Medical geneticists are interested in finding genes sensitive to negative selection because they might one day be useful for predicting an individual's likelihood of developing a disease if the types of mutation to a gene and the environmental conditions are known.
Being able to determine which classes of genes are particularly vulnerable to negative selections is a first step, Bustamante said.
The findings were detailed in the Oct. 20 issue of the journal Nature.