Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
November 13, 2005
Lawmakers consider whether to mandate what is taught in public school science classes
By Mary Beth Schneider
Indiana House Majority Leader Bill Friend knew that just asking constituents about the teaching of "intelligent design" in public school science classes could stir controversy.
"We were trying to see if this is a hot-button issue for people," said Friend, one of 36 Republican lawmakers who included the issue on a survey.
For more on Intelligent Design
• The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design , by William A. Dembski, Charles W. Colson, InterVarsity Press, 2004, $22.00.
• Intelligent Design or Evolution? Why the Origin of Life and the Evolution of Molecular Knowledge Imply Design , by Stuart W. Pullen, Intelligent Design Books, 2005, $17.95.
• God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory , by Niall Shanks, Oxford University Press, 2004, $29.95.
• Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design , by Thomas Woodward, Baker Books, 2004, $16.99.
Compiled by The Star Library
All they had to do was look at the national headlines.
In Dover, Pa., last week, all eight Republican school board members who had voted to require the teaching of intelligent design -- the belief that a supernatural hand guided the development of life -- were voted out of office.
The same day, intelligent design advocates were cheering as the Kansas Board of Education voted 6-4 to require students to study doubts about evolution.
"Are we more like Pennsylvania or are we more like Kansas?" Friend, R-Macy, asked. "That's what we're trying to find out."
Friend majored in biology and chemistry in college. To find proof that species change over time, he said, people need look no further than the seats at Wrigley Field, a tight squeeze for today's heftier Chicago Cubs fans than for fans 10 or 20 years ago.
He's also a Baptist Sunday school teacher who is, he said, a creationist at heart. "I've always found it hard to believe a zillion years ago we crawled out of a swamp."
Friend sees intelligent design as "an excellent compromise." But he is uncomfortable with state-imposed mandates.
"Once we mandate certain curriculum be taught, where do you stop?" he said.
At least one state lawmaker, Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, has said he would file a bill requiring the teaching of intelligent design in public schools if no other lawmaker does. People in both parties have said they would support the idea.
Friend, though, said passage of any such bill is by no means certain.
"Historically, we change very slowly," he said of Hoosiers' own evolution on issues and laws.
Next year is an election year in Indiana, with all 100 representatives and half of the 50-member Senate on the ballot.
Asked whether the Pennsylvania election trouncing of the intelligent design advocates may give Indiana lawmakers pause, Friend said: "I think it does have an impact."
Bill Blomquist, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said Indiana's politicians should be concerned.
"Look at the backlash when Congress and (Florida) Governor Jeb Bush decided to get involved with the Terri Schiavo case," he said, referring to the brain-damaged Florida woman who died after the courts ordered that tubes supplying nutrition and hydration be removed.
Polls do show strong support nationwide for teaching a biblical version of the origins of life. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll taken nationwide in September showed that 53 percent of Americans believe humans were created "exactly as the Bible describes."
Robert Schmuhl, professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, called the intelligent design debate "another battle in the culture wars."
"We'll see if it takes root and becomes one of the issues that drives the (2006) campaigns."
State Rep. Ed Mahern, D-Indianapolis, thinks this is the latest in a series of "wedge" issues Republicans have used to ignite their base.
"This is their Pledge of Allegiance or Ten Commandments issue for 2006," he said.
There is no question, Blomquist said, that deeply held views can be fanned to boost voter turnout. But he pointed to the Pennsylvania vote as proof that such issues can be double-edged swords.
"That's the beauty of it," he said. "That's the danger of it."
State Rep. Luke Messer, a Shelbyville Republican who is executive director of the Indiana Republican Party, said the issue is not politically driven and doubted that in 2006 anyone would win or lose on the strength of intelligent design.
He and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, were among the 36 who quizzed constituents on this issue.
"My personal belief is there has to be a master designer who has placed life on Earth," Bosma said. "The question is, do we require that to be taught as part of the curriculum in science class? That's a tough question."
Just asking it doesn't signal agreement, he said, adding that the GOP legislative agenda next year will focus primarily on property tax relief, government reform and other education issues.
In the short session that begins Jan. 4 in the House and, by law, ends March 14, "it will be tough for the (intelligent design) debate to even occur."
Lawmakers are just beginning to get the results of their constituent surveys. Initially, they show strong support for including intelligent design in science lessons.
State Rep. Woody Burton, R-Greenwood, said that of about 180 responses he received, 63 percent favored intelligent design being taught alongside evolution. Rep. Phil Hinkle, R-Indianapolis, said an early tally showed 53 percent of his constituents who responded to his survey favor intelligent design being added to the curriculum.
Hinkle said he believes in God, Jesus and voting the will of his constituents. And he doesn't believe evolution is science.
But a bill adding intelligent design to the science curriculum might not get his vote.
"I'm not real sure we ought to be getting into this," Hinkle said. "I think government needs to get the heck out of education."
The vote in Dover was preceded by a still-ongoing federal lawsuit in which the parents of 11 students sued over the school board's decision to include intelligent design in the curriculum.
At least one Indianapolis mom said she'd do the same if Indiana's lawmakers take that route.
"I tell you, I'd be down there filing a lawsuit so fast if somebody began teaching my kid intelligent design," said Carol Reeves, a Butler University English professor whose 8-year-old daughter attends Indianapolis Public School 91.
"This," she said of intelligent design, "is not science."
Michael Bruner, a Whiteland engineer whose four children are now grown, said he believes intelligent design can be called a science, though not scientific theory.
Evolution, he said, doesn't stand up to scrutiny in all respects. He wants intelligent design presented "as another approach, a concept that may be a framework for investigation."
Gary Belovsky, a professor of biological sciences at Notre Dame, said evolution is science and is not contradictory with faith in God. This month, he said, the Vatican reaffirmed Pope John Paul II's 1996 statement that evolution is "more than a hypothesis because there is proof."
There is no scientifically tested proof, and cannot be, that a greater power controlled the development on Earth, he said, adding that the Pennsylvania vote to keep intelligent design out of science lessons "warmed my heart."
He's frustrated, he said, that a debate that should have been settled a century ago still rages.
"This shouldn't even be an issue."
But at least some Indiana lawmakers disagree.
"The good thing is we're going to have a debate," Burton said. "I think that's healthy."
Where did we come from?
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, result in differences over time. Supporters say only evolution has scientific proof.
Maintains that an intelligent cause, rather than the process of natural selection, best explains the complexity of life on Earth.
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
Call Star reporter Mary Beth Schneider at (317) 444-2772.
Copyright 2005 IndyStar.com
by Calvin Campbell
While I didn't exactly soar effortlessly through my teens and twenties, seizing the day and welcoming every sunrise and whatnot, life still unraveled mysteriously and with a charming lack of purpose. And then, at thirty, I wandered into a spiritual wilderness. Where a certain spontaneity had once been a fun if sometimes fickle guide, gray reason now usurped my ideals, and I became mired in a state of solipsistic glumness that was like teenage sorrow without the redeeming passion. With mortality now an increasingly real if distant reality, many in similar straits turn to religion, raising a family, or other similar time-honored sources of succor. That is, people grow up. But for some of us, there lingers a spark of hope that we have not been entirely abandoned by that more innocent, childish age. And so we enter into a race with that old devil Time -- a frenzied determination to find something to believe in again before the clock runs out.
In the early 1960s, in Denver Colorado, psychiatrist Jule Eisenbud was wrestling similar demons. A firm believer in the untapped potential of the human mind, Eisenbud's frequent forays into the paranormal had nevertheless produced nothing in the way of concrete results. As long as empirical evidence was lacking, he said, no amount of anecdotal evidence could ever budge the stubborn fact that parapsychology would forever remain "the stepchild of science." Shortly after reaching this gloomy conclusion, he got wind of Ted Serios, an ex-bellhop from Chicago who claimed to possess the remarkable ability to imprint his thoughts onto Polaroid film using only the powers of his mind. The doctor and the psychic met one evening in room 1320-W at Chicago's ritzy Palmer House hotel. Between double-orders of Scotch ("for my cold," said Serios), the impish psychic clutched a Polaroid Land type 100 camera, pointed the lens directly into his own face, clicked the shutter and restored the doctor's faith. Ted's thoughts seemed to bleed miraculously onto the film. Photograph after photograph slowly came to uncanny life, rendering the impossible in black and white: the Chicago Water Tower, a hotel that had burned down years before, haunting suggestions of other unknown structures. Eisenbud emerged from the meeting convinced that Serios could somehow seize a fleeting thought and materialize it for all to see.
Now it was the late 1990s, and for my old friend Dennis and I, merely contemplating the existence of a character like Serios was a salve for our shared spiritual dread. A self-described bum whose humble goals consisted of drinking, womanizing, and (without forsaking the first two goals) obtaining the occasional psychic photograph, Serios was the embodiment of hedonistic surrender. And yet, whether through some fluke of fate or a strange sense of duty, he was also man enough to take on the very laws of nature. And as far as we knew, no one in the thirty-odd years since he first made his mark had anyone successfully debunked his claims. Was Ted Serios living proof that one could stagger through life, stumble on a great discovery, and find fame, all without losing one's seat at the bar? Was Serios the guardian of a metaphysical miracle that would turn science on its head? With fingers crossed -- and possibly while inebriated -- we decided to contact Dr. Eisenbud.
"As far as your interviewing Ted, he's never cared for interviews." Jule Eisenbud's ancient voice crackled over the line. He relinquished Ted's phone number, but balked at surrendering his location. "He doesn't want to be disclosed. He has a bad police record." A new layer of intrigue arose. For a man on the lam, Ted was recklessly eager to jump back into the spotlight. In a series of lengthy, often rambling telephone conversations, he reassured us that his powers, dormant for nearly thirty years, could erupt again at any time. And he wanted us to bear witness. With an old Polaroid camera and as much film as we could afford, we hit the highway, determined to resurrect the reputation of the man whom science had so cruelly neglected.
In 1967, Eisenbud published the results of his extensive experiments with Serios in a book entitled The World of Ted Serios: 'Thoughtographic' Studies of an Extraordinary Mind. It is wonderfully written, full of humor, thoughtful analysis, and provocative ideas. It is also an unequivocal endorsement of Ted Serios's wondrous thoughtographic brain. The book attracted legions of both believers and skeptics, and the little man who likely would have languished as an intriguing barfly and sodden supernatural footnote suddenly expanded his circle of influence beyond the local tavern. Soon, the world of Ted Serios counted scores of scientists, skeptics, and other respectable folk among its inhabitants. Thirty years later, that world was little more than a ghost town. Serios's proponents had been driven underground. The skeptics had long since dismissed the phenomenon. Why?
In the beginning there was the gismo. Perhaps never before has such a fuss been made about something so crude and seemingly innocuous. Perhaps never before has humanity's understanding of the natural world been challenged by a small roll of cardboard. Ted's apartment, when we at last met him on a sizzling summer day in 1997, is littered with them. When obtaining a thoughtograph, Ted holds the gismo up to the camera lens to help him focus his psychic energy. I'd always thought of the gismo as a sort of bridge between the supernatural aether and the mundane reality of Ted's gray matter, but the skeptics were never so broad-minded. They seized upon the gismo as evidence of legerdemain -- a simple optical device that permitted any light-fingered charlatan to duplicate Ted's "psychic photographs." It was their smoking gun, the undeniable proof that Serios was nothing more than a very talented con artist who had either duped or been in cahoots with the good doctor. In their unyielding leeriness, they saw the gismo as a bridge between wild claims and harsh reality.
Ted turns out to be an amiable host. We're all a bit awkward. Pleasantries are dutifully exchanged, and the meeting starts out like a visit to the psychic grandfather I never had. And then Ted spots our Polaroid camera. His affected smile transforms into a lusty grin. His eyes flash, and he begins stroking the camera. "This thing brings back a lot of memories," he says wistfully.
Back in Ted's heyday -- when, as he says longingly, "there was no shortage of booze, women, nothin'" -- he made scores of converts by capturing thoughtographic representations of images that were tightly sealed from his sight: abstract paintings, famous buildings, historical figures. When Ted got one of these "targets," another affidavit attesting to his authenticity was as good as signed. He's happy to hear that we've brought along our own targets. "When I want to get a target, I make love to that camera," he explains, his hands still exploring the old Polaroid. "That's all there is to it. If I talk nice to the damn thing like I talk to a woman, the thing will give in, you see?" Where Eisenbud got downright esoteric in his analysis of Ted's abilities, the thoughtographer himself clearly isn't much for theorizing. Indeed, shortly into our interview, it becomes painfully obvious that peppering Ted with our carefully prepared questions -- "How do you explain the slight variations between the target and the image that appear in some of your thoughtographs? Do you feel that you have finally gained the acceptance by the scientific community that you desired?" -- isn't going to get us anywhere. He stares blankly or deflects each question, spinning it into a tale of his bawdy youthful adventures.
Fair enough, I think. I've long since come to the conclusion that Ted is something of a holy fool -- remarkably gifted and simultaneously oblivious to the profound effects that his abilities will have on our understanding of ourselves and the world. We're here as guests, not disinterested scientific observers, so it only makes sense that Ted should call the shots. After numerous attempts to capture our targets result only in blurry pictures of Ted's grunting face, frozen in various unflattering expressions of mental exertion, the weary thoughtographer announces that he'll need some beer to grease the psychic gears. "I work the best when we sorta make a party out of it," he confesses. "Everybody is having a good time. Then it seems like it comes real easy. Otherwise, it's a grind. It really is, and that's all there is to it." As I get up to head off to the liquor store, Ted jams the camera against the back of my head and takes a picture. This strikes me as a pretty crude way to photograph someone's thoughts. It's also irritating as hell. Dr. Eisenbud once told us, "I was actually fond of Ted, but at other times, believe me, I could have taken a swing at him or broken his neck. He was just a pain in the ass." I understand.
With a beer in each hand and a fair amount flowing through his veins, Ted's flagging determination is soon renewed. "I'm gonna get that damn target if it kills me," he says, lighting up his tenth cigarette in as many minutes. He tries to read my mind, confidently announces that he's picked up its contents, and draws a quick sketch. With a knowing chuckle, he shows me the scrap of paper on which are scribbled two stick figures and a box. It could represent anything, including my target picture, a photograph showing my friend and his wife walking down the aisle at their wedding. I'm impressed, but then Ted adds a third stick figure. He looks up from his work. "If I don't get the target, the whole thing's kaput. It's a do or die thing," he says dramatically. I feel uneasy. While I want to give Ted the benefit of the doubt here -- he's always professed to be a Catholic, and that third figure could be God, I think -- I'm under the distinct impression that he's been trying to read my facial expressions, not my thoughts. But Ted is no parlor room swindler. I think at the time that his abilities have been well-documented. He's been subjected to batteries of tests, all of which have ruled out the possibility of fraud. Some of the brightest lights in academia have testified to his authenticity. And I myself am no sucker, I remind myself, though not without wincing.
At some point during the proceedings, a young woman of indeterminate age (though decades younger than our thoughtographer) wades through the sea of empty cans and seats herself next to Ted. He introduces "this broad" as Arlene, his girlfriend and "America's next great country and western singer." According to Ted, speaking now in a slurred though solemn voice, Arlene is also a Christian in good standing with the Lord. He slaps her butt and asks her to pray for him. Apparently heedless of any moral conflict in asking for God's help in such an unholy enterprise, Arlene bows her head. Ted mumbles an oath to his earthier Lord and silently communes with two more beers. The deity intervenes, and soon Ted is churning out thoughtographs at a truly awe-inspiring rate. He produces more of them in the next hour than in the thirty years since he mysteriously lost his powers. Now that prayer -- that most unscientific of variables -- has entered the picture, I bid farewell to even the pretence of "controlled conditions." Her entreaties to the Lord completed, Arlene uses her body to throw interference while Ted fiddles with the camera. For what seems like an eternity of awkwardness, we stare at Arlene's back. Their barely audible murmuring is occasionally punctuated by Ted's cursing. The distinctive whirr of the camera is never far behind, and Arlene dutifully hands us yet another thoughtograph.
With the help of beer, God, Arlene, and two increasingly inattentive witnesses, Ted's thoughtographs are beginning to take on a definite form. "I think it's Christ," I say listlessly. Stifling a yawn, Dennis concurs. Our combined will to believe can no longer withstand such blatant chicanery. But the show must go on. The curtain won't drop until the last beer is finished and Ted has either obtained our "goddamned targets" or forgotten that he'd promised to do so. As he lurches to his feet and launches into a tipsy version of "You Oughta Be In Pictures," I open one of the few remaining beers and watch as Ted unwittingly lampoons my dark night of the soul. Before he descends into abject drunkenness, I ask him to reveal the secret of his remarkable gift. "You got to have an imagination," he says. "And that is the gospel truth. If you don't have an imagination, then you ain't gonna see nothing!"
As we prepare to leave, Ted approaches us sheepishly, eyes downcast. He'd brushed off earlier attempts to discuss a particular dream that had plagued him for years -- the dream of the giant camera -- but now seems eager to get it off his chest. "It seemed like the damn thing was walking to me. I don't know how to describe it. It waddled towards me like a human walking. It was one of those old-fashioned cameras. I'll tell you one thing: it was as big as a house when it came at me. There's times when I get scared of the damn thing. If that happened to you, wouldn't you be scared a little bit?" It certainly seems like a confession -- a heavy heart caused perhaps by a certain lightness of the fingers -- but I'm in no position to grant absolution. I feel too much a party to the game.
For a couple of years after our meeting with Ted Serios, Dennis and I avoided talking about the incident. And if the subject did arise, we did our best to avoid eye contact. But now we can laugh about how two credulous friends believed they had discovered a psychic Messiah who might turn the natural world topsy-turvy, but who instead spent a day with a strange little man who, if he couldn't exactly save our souls, could at least save us from the clockwork tedium of a world that never changed its routine.
Postscript: On March 10, 1999, Dr. Jule Eisenbud died at his home in Denver. Whatever secrets he held -- or thought he held -- passed away with him. During our last phone conversation with Eisenbud, in 1998, he told us, "Ted will outlive anything. He may last to the year 2500." While speaking to Ted on the phone not long ago, he informed us that he had recently been struck by a car, but had made a complete recovery that baffled the doctors who had treated him. Ted Serios may yet defy the laws of nature.
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Nov. 13, 2005, 8:52PM
By LEONARD PITTS JR. Knight Ridder Newspapers
'And the Lord did look with discontent upon the town of Dover in the province of Pennsylvania. For Dover was a wicked and prideful place and had turned its back on God. Its people had voted out school board members who tried to introduce intelligent design into schools as an alternative to the theory of evolution.
"And the Lord was wrathful and said, I will smite them with burning coals from the sky. Their fields I will make barren, their rivers I will cause to rise in flood, their football teams will lose, their sewers will back up, no one who lives there shall hit the Powerball. And I will help them not."
OK, so that's not in my Bible, either. But apparently it's in the Rev. Pat Robertson's. Incensed at Dover voters for insisting that science classes teach science, he issued a dire warning to the town last week on his TV show The 700 Club.
"If there is a disaster in your area," he said, "don't turn to God — you just rejected him from your city. And don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. ... Don't ask for his help, because he might not be there."
Ah, Pat. Pat, Pat, Pat. Thank you, Pat. Whenever there's a slow news day, we can always count on you to liven things up with your special wisdom.
I mean, wasn't it just a few months ago that Rev. Ridiculous put out a hit on Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez? Two years ago that he asked viewers to pray for God to remove three justices from the Supreme Court? Four years ago that he linked the Sept. 11 attacks to the fact that organized prayer is not allowed in schools? Seven years ago that he warned Orlando, Fla., of "terrorist bombs ... earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor" for allowing a gay pride event?
He also said that Mouse Town could get hit by a hurricane, which was a really gutsy prediction, if you ask me. I mean, a hurricane, hitting Florida? What are the odds?
So this latest nonsense is right in line with what we've come to expect from our friend Pat. The only thing you can do is laugh — and try not to think about how many people lump you in with this fellow when you profess to be a Christian.
Point being, I believe there was a Designer. I also believe that's a matter for the pulpit, the class in comparative religion or the class in philosophy. It doesn't belong in science class because it's not science. It's faith.
And please spare me the thousand word-for-word e-mails arguing with eerie, "Stepford wife" uniformity, that "the theory of evolution is just that, a theory."
Your humble correspondent was only a "C" science student, but even I get the fact that scientific theory involves a bit more rigorous reasoning than my personal theory that I can make my team win by wearing my lucky shirt and yelling at the television. Scientific theory requires conclusions based on observable, replicable and predictable phenomena.
To put it another way: gravity is "just" a theory, but I don't hear anyone arguing with Isaac Newton. Or suggesting students be taught the "alternative" theory that we are held to earth by invisible strips of Velcro.
Not that I want to give Kansas any ideas. At the same time voters in Dover were standing up for common sense, Kansas' state board of education was voting to adopt standards undermining the teaching of Darwin's theory. This is the latest step in the state's long, hard-fought campaign to turn out stupid kids.
See, the Pennsylvanians get what the Kansans do not: Teaching religion masked as science devalues both and ensures that children will be that much less prepared for college and the world beyond. I can't believe God requires ignorance, that he gave us brains he doesn't want us to use, or that intelligence and faith are mutually exclusive.
Of course, I'm forced to reconsider that position every time Rev. Ridiculous opens his mouth.
By David J. Lee Odessa American
Public input Thursday night at the Bible Curriculum Committee's forum resoundingly favored the Bible Literacy Project as the program for Ector County schools.
The forum drew little public input. Nine people spoke about five minutes each Thursday night at the committee's first public comment forum.
Six of those, including two representatives of the Bible Literacy Project, endorsed the "The Bible and Its Influence" textbook.
"I've reviewed both of the books upstairs," Roy Jones, an Odessa Police Department chaplain, said about the Bible Literacy Project and the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools curriculums. "The Bible Literacy Project, as a teacher, would be easier to teach. The students will enjoy it more."
Lisa Roth, an English teacher at Nimitz who's also a member of the Jewish community in Odessa, said she also favored the Bible Literacy Project's book.
"I read through the curriculums — for a while," she said. "In the National Council's book, I felt like my identity was used as a stepping stone. That is not a course I would want my daughter to take. In the other one, I was amazed. I wanted to keep reading."
Jeff Thomason, an Odessalawyer, was the only person at the meeting to endorse the National Council's program.
"This course has been taught in public schools for more than 40 years," he said. "It's in 52 schools in Texas. It's proven not only effective, but extremely low risk. It's never been challenged in court. As a lawyer, I know that anyone with 50 bucks and a bee in their bonnet can file a lawsuit."
However, UTPB assistant professor of education Steve Jenkins said he highly recommended the Bible Literacy Project, while expressing concerns about the National Council's work. Jenkins said he believes the National Council's teaching program could easily lead into proselytizing and breach of First Amendment issues.
"I'm concerned we're walking into dangerous waters if we adopt the National Council's curriculum," he said.
David Newman, an English professor at Odessa College, told the committee he also had carefully reviewed both curricula.
"The Bible Literacy Project encourages students to step back, think about differences, compare and see how those differences affect the classroom. It asks lots of open-ended questions," Newman said. "Consider that the Bible Literacy Project gives students more of an opportunity to think critically about the Bible, to ask questions and not to be led what to think."
Lou Anderson and the Rev. Jimmy Braswell both said they prefer the Bible as the primary textbook for a Bible class as opposed to an accompanying textbook.
The discussion Tuesday night came after an Oct. 18 school board decision that unanimously approved the slate of committee members who will help select Bible instructional materials and prepare course outlines for the school district.
Most members of the committee are ECISD teachers, Public Information Officer Mike Adkins said.
"They will take the curriculum that our curriculum department has been able to collect so far, and they'll review it and critique it," Adkins said. "They'll also be glad to take input from the community."
By Jim Brown November 9, 2005
(AgapePress) - A Christian author alleges a new curriculum put out by the Bible Literacy Project spreads communist ideals. The curriculum makes use of a textbook designed for use in public schools, entitled The Bible and Its Influence.
But one Christian author, Berit Kjos, warns that several board members of the Bible Literacy Project have ties to the Communitarian movement, which she describes as an attempt to blend all religious beliefs and create a different society where the individual is de-emphasized in favor of the community or state. "That agenda," she contends, "is being implemented through this curriculum."
Kjos says the purpose of the Bible Literacy Project's new course is "not to teach people about the Bible or to make students biblically literate. Rather, she asserts, is objective is to train people "to set aside what the first head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Brock Chisholm, called 'poisonous certainties' -- the 'certainties' that keep them from embracing all other religions as being equal."
The concerned author contends that The Bible and Its Influence encourages students to reinterpret the Bible using their own personal notions about what the scriptures are saying and about who God is. She notes, "One question is, 'Do you think Adam and Eve received a fair deal as described in Genesis? Eve did not know good from evil. How could God blame them for disobeying?' So, immediately, you set up a conflict."
Also, Kjos feels the classes put a conscious emphasis on religious pluralism and diversity. "You will have Christians, you will have Buddhists, and Muslims -- different religions -- represented in the classroom and probably in each small group," she points out, "because the key is to bring diversity into the small groups."
The textbook also undermines biblical prophecy, Kjos asserts, by referring to images from the Book of Daniel as being "associated with the 'so-called' end times." Based on her observations, she recommends that Christian parents seek out an alternative to the Bible Literacy Project's materials, such as the curriculum offered by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.
Jim Brown, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online.
© 2005 AgapePress
PUBLISHED: Friday, November 11, 2005
By ERIC BAERREN
I received an e-mail last week from some nut over the weekend, telling me that DDT was banned because of politics, and not because of science (it wasn't a local nut, but some nut associated with a Lyndon LaRouche publication).
It's true, but don't fret. All policy is based on politics. Science, like that used to convince politicians that the nerve gas derivative used as a pesticide had unintended negative consequences, is just a tool by which politics work. At the time, politicians concluded that the risks outweighed the benefits, and banned it in the United States. Today, in the Third World, DDT's use continues as a multi-pronged approach to controlling mosquitoes carrying malaria.
At least, that's the way a sensible government operates. This week, the Kansas board of education turned that relationship on its head, and imposed itself in the question of what constitutes science.
Well, it's more accurate to say they moved the goalposts, which is really sort of odd, since none of the Kansas board of education members are scientists (one is a veterinarian). To most of us, it would see that they're keenly unqualified to make sweeping changes to the definition of science. But they did it, for purely political reasons - science in Kansas is now subject to political whim.
But, more than half of them voted to do it anyway (the vote was 6-4), as part of the general effort to cast doubt on evolution.
Kansas' approach is a little more nuanced than simply putting Intelligent Design - creationism with a Madison Avenue sheen - in science curriculum. And, at the same time that the new Kansas standards were coming out, the trial over Intelligent Design was just ending.
It wasn't pretty.
From press accounts, the theory was exposed as the fraud that it is, ground into a fine powder and spread over the gallery as giggle dust. In the end, the rats of the Discovery Institute fled the ship, leaving a fumbling biochemist named Michael Behe and the Dover school board to absorb the nation's mockery.
And, there were repercussions. Earlier this week, the school board was gutted by voters and replaced with a new slate of board members who have all taken the position against Intelligent Design, and unless the judge who heard the case is a complete crackpot, there will be ample legal reason - as well as merely scientific - to keep Intelligent Design out of science curriculum.
The approach taken in Kansas is the new darling of the Creationist movement. There is no mention of Intelligent Design, whose image was badly tarnished in a Pennsylvania courtroom. Instead, they chose a different tack. Mention the holes in evolution, allude to supernatural answers. It's a more subtle way to insinuate Christian philosophy into public school classrooms, a form of political judo by using what most people would assume is science's chief weakness - incompleteness - against it.
But, there's a bigger picture. The Discovery Institute, the root and source of Intelligent Design and the modern anti-evolution movement, have a long-held goal to bring science into alignment with fundamentalist Christian philosophy. Attacking evolution, the hot button cornerstone of modern biology, is part of a strategy outlined in a fund-raising letter sent out by the Discovery Institute's hilariously named Center for Renewal of Science and Culture.
The letter, called the Wedge Document, is available on the Center's Web site, and you can read it after first wading through five pages of disclaimers that the letter doesn't actually mean what it says. The idea is that the Center would act as a wedge, splitting the tree of modern science at its weakest point - evolution - and bring everything into alignment with Judeo-Christian values.
To some Christians, that might sound like a fine proposition. The problem is that modern science is based on rigorous interpretation of facts, and isn't an exercise in democracy. The facts are what they are, religious beliefs notwithstanding, and trying to coerce science to align itself to fundamentalist religious values (in contrast to reality, the issue has never cut religion-atheist, and cuts between those who literally interpret religious texts written thousands of years ago, and the rest of us) is to commit large-scale scientific fraud.
It's also what's made the campaign against evolution all about politics, and not about science, and spurred elected officials to redefine science to the detriment of Kansas school children.
Eric Baerren is the Sun news editor. His columns appear Fridays.
posted November 9, 2005 (November 28, 2005 issue)
One evening in late September, roughly 150 people filed into the fire hall in Dover, Pennsylvania, to attend a presentation on evolution. The event's organizer was Jim Grove, a minister from nearby Loganville who views the Bible as the revealed word of God and, like many people in this part of Pennsylvania, believes the answer to the question of life's origins begins and ends with the Book of Genesis.
"I'm not opposed to teaching evolution in public schools," Grove, a greyhound-thin man dressed in a neatly pressed suit and leather boots, explained as spectators settled in around the tables in the room. "But I don't think you want it taught with a bunch of lies." To that end, Grove played a video, Why Evolution Is Stupid, narrated by Kent Hovind, a former high school science teacher who several years ago opened a creationist theme park in Pensacola, Florida, called Dinosaur Adventure Land. In the video Hovind performs a sort of creationist comedy routine, standing onstage before a live audience and jokingly contrasting the absurdity of evolution with the plainly more sensible view in Scripture. "Who's ever seen a Big Bang create order?" he asks. "The Bible said God made the stars, plain and simple."
Public release date: 11-Nov-2005
Contact: Alex Brew email@example.com 207-679-9726 University College London
Can the hold that Intelligent Design theorists have in America be broken by the evolutionists? Professor Michael Ruse, a leading American evolutionist, makes the case for Darwin in The Annual Robert Grant Lecture, "Darwin or Design? Reporting from the front lines of America's struggle over evolution", at the Grant Museum for Zoology at UCL (University College London) on 16th November.
In his public lecture, Professor Ruse, Florida State University, will argue that Intelligent Design and creationism are closely allied belief systems and that their theories have no basis in science. And yet, the state of Kansas has decreed that Intelligent Design theory can be taught in their science classes and the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution has been banned from many schools across America.
Professor Ruse said: "I think creationism is a part of a bigger movement to a conservative evangelical Christianity world view -- I don't think we evolutionists have been as responsive as we should have been."
But, Professor Ruse is sure that the evolutionists are right - because the scientific evidence is "overwhelming". Professor Ruse said: "Creationism is not science; it is protestant Christianity of an American variety being tarted up to look like science."
He added: "There is massive evidence of natural selection leading to evolution. Today if you have an infection you need massive amounts of penicillin compared to that needed in the 1940s. The simple reason is that the bugs you are fighting have evolved."
Commenting on whether this turn towards the Intelligent Design world view could hit the UK too, Professor Ruse (whose book The Evolution-Creation Struggle was published in June by Harvard University Press) said: "Well it could do, but generally in Britain people do not care about religion in the way that Americans do -- that is what makes Tony Blair such an anomaly -- one generally does not get public figures who wear their religion on their sleeves like he does."
The lecture series, organised by the Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL, has a tradition of addressing topical scientific issues. The museum was renamed nine years ago in honour of its founder Robert Grant, a Darwinist, who opened it in 1828. On the day of the relaunch, the first "Annual Robert Grant Lecture" was given by the palaeontologist, Steven J Gould.
This year's lecture promises to be just as topical as the first. Dr Helen Chatterjee, Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL, said: "This lecture is particularly pertinent at a time when 11 parents from Pennsylvania will take their local school board to trial over the introduction of Intelligent Design into the school's curriculum. The outcome of that will surely go down in the history books."
INTELLIGENT DESIGN: YOU KNOW WHO'S RUNNING FOR SCHOOL BOARD?
In Tuesday's election, voters soundly defeated eight members of the Dover Area School Board. The ninth member was not up for reelection. For now, Dover children will learn biology untainted by religious fable, but events in Kansas should be a warning. Six years ago, the Kansas School Board simply eliminated any mention of biological evolution, or the big bang, from the curriculum http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN99/wn081399.html. Kansans woke up to laughter and voted them out. Unfortunately, school board elections don't get much notice until there's a problem. As soon as the voters relaxed, religious zealots were back on the ballot. The religious right again controls the Kansas School Board.
EVOLUTION: THE KANSAS SCHOOL BOARD REDEFINES "INTELLIGENT."
As expected, the Kansas Board of Education adopted new teaching standards on Tuesday that go beyond merely letting in intelligent design. The board went straight to the heart of the matter and redefined "science." WN noted earlier that by the Oxford English Dictionary definition, "intelligent design" isn't "science" http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN05/wn080505.html. No problem. If ID doesn't fit the definition, change the definition. In Kansas schools, "science" is now a search for "more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." Who needs physics? Divine intervention can explain everything without all that math.
OK, TEACH THE CONTROVERSY: RELIGION HAS All THE DISAGREEMENTS.
Last week, WN quoted Cardinal Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture: "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." To which WN said "amen." We were still trying to find out if atheists could now become Catholics, when the Pope made it clear that he is the guy in charge. The Pope described the natural world as an "intelligent project," to the delight of the Discovery Institute. Meanwhile, televangelist Pat Robertson warned the people of Dover that if disaster strikes them "don't turn to God, you just ejected him from your city."
PATENT NONSENSE: ANOTHER PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE IS PATENTED.
It happens every few years. U.S. pat. 6,960,975, was issued on November 1, 2005 to Boris Volfson for a "Space vehicle propelled by the pressure of inflationary vacuum." It uses a Podkletnov rotating superconducting gravity shield to "change the curvature of space-time." Of course, he does not mention the forbidden words "perpetual motion." The patent office rejects patent applications that use those words under the 1985 ruling in Newman v Quigg. These days you have to call it "zero-point energy." Ironically, the patent was issued shortly after arbitration required the Patent Office to reinstate Tom Valone, who lost his job in the fallout from the 1999 Conference on Free Energy http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN02/wn080202.html.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.
Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the University of Maryland, but they should be.
Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.bobpark.org
Article Last Updated: 11/11/2005 11:00:57 PM
By Faye Flam Knight Ridder Newspapers
Darwin's evolution still stands out as the thorniest point of contention between science and religion, but other more recent scientific advances also raise new questions for believers.
How, for example, does the 20th century's biological revolution influence the Christian concept of virgin birth? Where did Jesus get his DNA? His Y chromosome?
A number of scientifically minded Christians have come forward during the Dover "intelligent design" trial to say they accept that ordinary humans arose through purely natural processes, no intelligent design needed. But it's another thing to accept that the Lord and Savior was conceived through an act of sex.
For centuries it was understood that sex preceded pregnancy, but what exactly happened to create the baby was shrouded in mystery. Not until the 1600s, with the advent of the microscope, did scientists learn about the role of sperm in triggering development.
Sperm aren't always necessary. Some female lizards, fish and other creatures can procreate through parthenogenesis (Greek for virgin birth). Cloning allows something similar in mammals.
But there's a problem with arguing Jesus came about through cloning or parthenogenesis - he would have been born a girl. In the past few decades, science revealed that to be male you need a Y chromosome, and the only place you can get one is from a man.
''There's a big split over the Y chromosome issue,'' says Boston University theology professor Wesley Wildman. One thing Catholics and Protestants seem to agree on is that Jesus was fully human and male, so he must have carried the usual male quotient of DNA. It's not the Y chromosome he needed per se but a gene called SRY normally carried on the Y.
Occasionally this male-making gene gets moved off the Y, giving rise to an infertile XY woman. In a few cases men are found to have two X chromosomes, but such XX males turn out to have this critical fragment of the Y stuck on one of the other 22 chromosomes. That fragment of the Y has to come from a father.
Biology professor David Wilcox of Eastern University, a Christian college, said some aspects of reality may lie beyond the reach of science. ''Of course Jesus had DNA and a Y chromosome - and the source for half of that DNA [and the Y chromosome] would presumably be pure and simple miracle,'' he says.
Theology professor and ordained minister Ronald Cole-Turner said standard Christian thought attributes the virgin birth to God's intervention in the natural order, not a biological anomaly. ''It's not God's sperm . . . but God created something like a sperm and caused it to fertilize Mary's egg,'' he says.
Wildman says it's not as big a problem for Protestants like him to accept a non-virgin Mary as it is for Catholics who revere her. The Bible is ambiguous on the point, he says, since in the original Hebrew Mary is referred to as ''almah,'' a word that can mean virgin or young girl.
But a natural conception was problematic to early Christian thinkers, Wildman said, because St. Augustine and others believed original sin was passed on ''through the male via the loss of control associated with the male orgasm.''
That's why Catholic thinkers introduced the concept of immaculate conception, a term often misunderstood as the conception of Jesus, but which really refers to the conception of Mary herself. Her mother need not have been a virgin, but somehow God blocks the passage of original sin.
But for Jesus, a miraculous manufacture of genetic material would imply there's a sequence of genetic code designed by God himself - God's own approved DNA. That would have big implications for those who believe in the premise of The Da Vinci Code - that Jesus had children and his lineage continues to the present day.
''The bottom line for me: I think the virgin birth is a mistaken belief,'' Wildman says. ''I also think that this need have no impact whatsoever on Mary's and Jesus' moral and spiritual importance.''
A nonvirgin birth would, however, seem to raise the spiritual capital of sex.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Herbal remedies, massage therapy and other treatments can have positive effects.
By Christy L. Breithaupt / Special to The Detroit News
With so many studies proclaiming the benefits of holistic therapies such as massage and acupuncture for humans, many pet owners are turning to veterinarians who practice alternative medicine.
"I think primarily people haven't found much satisfaction in drug medicine," says Dr. John Simon, a holistic veterinarian at the Woodside Animal Hospital and Bird Clinic in Royal Oak. "They may have had problems with their animal either not responding or the drug having a negative effect. Also, their philosophy may be that they believe that the pet's body is capable of healing itself if it is provided the proper nutrients.
"We want to try to keep up the animal's health and support them ahead of time -- be proactive. Holistic medicine focuses on health -- our goal is to try to avoid disease."
Holistic medicine is an ancient form of treatment. Even horse massage, one of the newest holistic approaches, has been around since the 1800s.
"Massage therapy is practiced widely around the world on horses," says Lisa Machala, an equine massage therapist at Michigan Equine Therapy in Farmington Hills. "It's only being recognized here recently."
Deciphering the world of holistic veterinary practices can be a bit daunting. There are dozens of treatments now available for pets. Here's a brief breakdown of some of the most popular holistic treatments your pet may undergo, according to Simon and MachalA:
• Nutritional therapy: Owners are taught how to feed their animals so that they can provide the important nutrients the animal needs to maintain good health. When illness occurs, the animal is given nutrients with antioxidants and herbs that will help support its immune system.
• Acupuncture: This ancient Eastern healing art uses needles positioned in certain spots of the body to aid the body's energy. It is most commonly known for its ability to control pain, but it can be used in other ways, such as treating disease, organ failure and digestive problems.
• Chiropractic care: This treatment involves realigning the body structure to support the muscles and the organs. It is commonly used to treat muscle pain in the back but can also be used to treat internal issues.
• Herbal therapy: This offers fewer side effects than traditional drug therapy. Some herbs used include milk thistle, which provides liver support; Echinacea, which aids the immune system; and licorice or ginger, which help the intestinal tract.
• Bach flower remedy: Flower essences are used to treat emotional problems. Animals can be treated for emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, aggression and fear.
• Massage: This treatment can relieve stress, warm the muscles to prevent injury, free the body of toxins, aid in range of motion and help circulation. Animals seem to enjoy massage, so it helps improve their temperament.
Christy L. Breithaupt is a Metro Detroit free-lance writer.
By Joseph Kay 12 November 2005
The Kansas Board of Education voted on November 8 to adopt science standards that seek to undermine the teaching of biological evolution in public schools. The move is the latest in a series of attempts to promote religious conceptions in the public classroom, a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
The board voted 6-4 for the new standards, which were written in coordination with advocates for "intelligent design," a conception that seeks to cloak creationism and Christian fundamentalism in pseudo-scientific rhetoric. In August, President Bush called for the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution in public schools.
This is the second time in six years that the Kansas school board has attempted to revise the state's science standards to attack evolution. In 1999, the board eliminated all reference to evolution in the standards; however, the original standards were reinstated after a new board was elected in 2001.
In 2004, religious conservatives regained control of the school board. This time, in line with the strategy of intelligent design advocates, the Kansas board did not explicitly endorse the teaching of any specific alternative to evolution, nor did it remove all references to evolution. Instead, it said students should be told about the "controversial" aspects of the modern theory of evolution, its supposed inconsistencies and inadequacies. Intelligent design advocates intend the "teach the controversy" campaign to be a wedge that will open the way for more-explicit religious conceptions.
Four other states (New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Minnesota) have adopted standards that reflect the views of the intelligent design movement; however, the Kansas standards go beyond these states by explicitly outlining supposed limitations in the evolutionary framework.
Modifying the proposals of a separate committee established to write the standards, the education board inserted statements such as "in many cases the fossil record is not consistent with gradual, unbroken sequences postulated by biological evolution"; the fossil record "shows sudden bursts of increased complexity"; and "whether microevolution (change within a species) can be extrapolated to explain macroevolutionary changes (such as new complex organs or body plans and new biochemical systems which appear irreducibly complex) is controversial."
All of these statements are spurious and without any scientific foundation. There is, in fact, no scientific controversy over the validity of evolutionary theory, a unifying framework whose explanatory power is perhaps unequaled in any other field of science.
The plain purpose of these statements, which come directly from the writings of intelligent design advocates, is to open the way for the teaching of religion. Because there are some systems that appear "irreducibly complex," because there appear to be "sudden bursts" in the fossil record—neither of which pose serious problems for evolutionary theory—there must be a designer responsible for this complexity and these sudden bursts; there must be some supernatural explanation for them.
In addition to inserting these supposed problems with evolutionary theory, the board also modified the document's definition of science, removing a statement that limited science to the search for natural explanations of phenomenon. If science is not limited to natural explanations, it presumably may include religious explanations, and in particular the view that the origin of species is the handiwork of God. Once this is accepted, the foundation of any scientific and rational investigation of phenomenon is undermined.
Phillip Johnson, one of the founders of the intelligent design movement, explained the logic of the movement as follows: "The first thing you understand is that the Darwinian theory isn't true," he said at a 1999 conference entitled "Reclaiming American for Christ." "It's falsified by all of the evidence and the logic is terrible. When you realize that, the next question that occurs to you is, well, where might you get the truth?... I start with John 1:1. In the beginning was the word. In the beginning was intelligence, purpose, and wisdom. The Bible had that right. And the materialist scientists are deluding themselves."
This so-called "wedge" strategy to introduce biblical teachings into public schools is designed to circumvent Supreme Court rulings that have explicitly asserted that the teaching creationism in public schools is unconstitutional.
The agenda of Christian fundamentalism exerts a degree of control over the political establishment that far exceeds the level of support that it has within the population as a whole. The general popular hostility to these forces was evident last week in Dover, Pennsylvania, where voters elected to oust all eight members of the Dover School Board, who were responsible for that district's pro-intelligent design science standards.
The Dover elections came just days after testimony concluded in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover, in which several parents in the district are challenging the constitutionality of the school board's decision to require biology teachers to read before their classrooms a statement challenging evolution and supporting intelligent design as an alternative theory. The judge in the case is set to issue his ruling by January.
The thinking dominant within the fascistic Christian fundamentalist movement was expressed by Pat Robertson, the multimillionaire host of "The 700 Club" television program and founder of the Christian Coalition. Responding to the vote, Robertson declared on his show that citizens of Dover should beware the wrath of God: "If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God; you just rejected him from your city," he declared.
Later, he expanded on his remarks: "I was simply stating that our spiritual actions have consequences and it's high time we started recognizing it. God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever. If they have problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them." This can only be construed as a divinely conceived threat to exterminate the population of Dover.
These statements cannot be dismissed as the outpouring of a lunatic, for Robertson speaks for a significant and powerful section within the political establishment. Nor will the threat to science posed by the Christian fundamentalist movement be disposed of simply through the election of new school boards.
The intelligent design movement has a multimillion-dollar budget for promoting its activities, which reflects the support it has within a significant section of the American ruling class. The movement's principal organization, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, has received much of its funding from individuals such as Howard Ahmanson, a multimillionaire heir to a fortune made in the savings and loan industry. According to an article published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Ahmanson is a supporter of Christian Reconstructionism, a religious movement that advocates a theocratic state in the United States.
The Discovery Institute and individuals such as Ahmanson advocate an attack not simply on Darwinism, but also on the "cultural legacy" of materialism, in which they include welfare programs, the minimum wage and similar measures.
The proposed standards of the Kansas school board highlight the fundamental attack on decades of scientific progress and indeed on the very nature of scientific investigation itself. It is not accidental that this attack is bound up with a right-wing economic agenda. There is a conscious attempt within sections of the American ruling class, most closely aligned with the Bush administration, to promote and cultivate religious fundamentalism as a means of generating a social basis for far-reaching attacks on democratic rights and all constraints on the accumulation of profit.
The attack on science also aims to undermine any rational analysis of society and social inequality. From the point of view of the American ruling elite, science and rational thought in the hands of the population as a whole can be very dangerous. Indeed, in the promotional material of the Discovery Institute, Marx is linked with Darwin as one of the great proponents of scientific materialism.
As the crisis of American capitalism intensifies and the American ruling class turns increasingly to authoritarian means to implement its unpopular policies, the influence of these layers within the political establishment will grow. The defense of science is inseparable from the development of a political movement that attacks the social roots of the anti-scientific crusade.
By Matt Franck
POST-DISPATCH JEFFERSON CITY BUREAU
Intelligent design debate is still evolving in Missouri and Illinois
Kansas lighted a flame this past week under the generations-old battle over Darwinism, God and the impressionable minds of schoolchildren.
But while a fiery debate rages over the Kansas School Board's approval of science standards challenging evolution, the issue has thus far generated only sparks in states such as Missouri and Illinois.
Judging from the Missouri Legislature, they're sparks that - at least for now - many are content to smother.
That's essentially what happened in a basement hearing room of the Missouri Capitol in the final days of the session last May.
Few noticed that day when a small group of lawmakers heard testimony on a bill requiring all science textbooks to address alternatives to evolution. Everyone in the room knew the bill was going nowhere.
But the failure of anti-evolution legislation hasn't defeated critics of Darwinism in Missouri and Illinois. On the contrary, many say they are emboldened by the recent events in Kansas, which have helped to amplify a national conversation on the merits of evolution.
Rep. Cynthia Davis, who sponsored the Missouri science textbook bill, sees herself as participating in a movement that's gaining steam. Davis, R-O'Fallon, said the session marked the first time in recent memory that lawmakers even heard testimony on a bill critical of evolution. In the past, those bills have been filed but ignored by leadership.
Opponents of evolution can point to other small victories, as well.
Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has said he would be open to legislation that allows for the teaching of alternatives to evolution. The state is also home to a growing grass-roots movement led by an anti-evolution group in St. Charles.
The political climate in Illinois is far less friendly to the issue.
David E. Smith, senior policy analyst for the Illinois Family Institute, says the organization isn't planning to push the issue. Doing so, he said, would be like "blowing against the wind," given the state's Democratic majority.
But even amid that resistance, evolution critics in Illinois prevailed in keeping the word "evolution" out of science standards developed by the state in 1997.
More recently, an Illinois gubernatorial candidate has spoken out in favor of teaching alternatives to evolution. Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, R-Elgin, recently said that he thinks "exposing students to credible, varied theories and teaching them critical thinking is a good thing."
But what's truly energizing evolution critics is a belief that they can recast the political debate on evolution.
Their tool in that effort is the concept of intelligent design. In a nutshell, intelligent design asserts that the Earth and its organisms are so complex that they could not have developed without external intervention.
Supporters of the idea aren't asking that the account of Genesis be studied in school alongside Darwin's "The Origin of Species." Rather, they call for what they view as a more honest discussion of evolution and its flaws and weaknesses.
"People are getting more informed," Davis said. "If you take a look at the facts, there is evidence mounting every day that is poking holes in what we once thought."
The new Kansas school science standards fit squarely within the intelligent design movement, redefining the definition of science to include non-natural explanations of the origin of man.
Opponents of intelligent design attack it as a repackaged version of creationism that threatens legitimate science instruction.
Charles Granger, a biology professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, said he wanted public school students to be exposed to a complete debate over evolution. But he said intelligent design was not a testable theory in the scientific sense and so had no place in the science class.
"Certainly intelligent design is something worth discussing; it just has nothing to do with science," he said.
An official difference
Those who track the evolution debate - here and nationally - say it's difficult to say whether the events of the past week help or hurt advocates of intelligent design.
Canceling out the intelligent design victory in Kansas is the defeat last week of eight school board members in Dover, Pa. Each had voted in favor of a new science curriculum favoring intelligent design. Many view the election as an affirmation of public support for teaching evolution in science classes.
Others question whether the events in Kansas will have much impact in Missouri and Illinois, because the two states differ from Kansas in terms of how schools are governed. Unlike Kansas, Missouri and Illinois have school boards appointed by the governor, rather than elected by voters.
Bert Schulte, assistant commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the appointed state board had "an independence as a governing body that gives a less political flavor."
Others say intelligent design won't gain support among state school boards in Missouri and Illinois simply because the two states view school curriculum standards differently than does Kansas.
Missouri and Illinois have opted for a set of standards that offer only general guidelines for what ought to be taught. The word "evolution" doesn't appear in either state's science standards, though it does appear in the states' more detailed curriculum frameworks for teachers.
In Illinois, the omission of the word "evolution" from state standards is seen by many as a victory for critics of evolution, who lobbied successfully for the standards in 1997.
Education officials say that the standards in Missouri and Illinois are designed to give local school districts wide latitude in exactly what should be taught.
That philosophy of local control extends to the Missouri Legislature, which has been averse to passing bills that would restrict a local district's curriculum.
Otto Fajen, a lobbyist with the Missouri chapter of the National Education Association, said it would be difficult for lawmakers to break with the tradition of local control by passing an intelligent design bill.
"That's not going to be an easy sell," he said. "What they would have to do is pass a law that pushes school districts around."
Jessica Robinson, a spokeswoman for Blunt, said that although the governor was open to legislation on intelligent design, he considered the issue to be one largely for local school districts.
That same sentiment is shared by Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, who said he didn't expect intelligent design to emerge as an issue next session.
Meanwhile, in Illinois, a search of the state's online archives found no bill with the words "intelligent design" or "evolution."
Some speculate that if intelligent design emerges in Missouri or Illinois, it will be at the local school board level.
So far, no Missouri district has brought up the issue, according to the Missouri School Boards Association.
"I think we would be aware of it because it's such a hot issue," said Brent Ghan, a spokesman for the organization.
Meanwhile, Davis said she was ready for a long campaign to promote intelligent design. She said she had already retooled her textbook bill to file next month. Meanwhile, an alternative bill, promoted by Missourians for Excellence in Science Education in St. Charles, demands that all science teachers draw distinctions between "empirical data, theory, hypothesis" and "conjecture."
Davis said she believed that 50 years from now, society as a whole would look back at the debate over intelligent design and wonder why anyone ever resisted the concept.
Garland Allen, a historian of science from Washington University, questions whether that will truly happen, given the fact that critics of evolution have failed to prevail at several junctures in recent history.
"In each instance there has been a big public brouhaha, but ultimately it has not led to the establishment of creationist theory as equivalent to evolutionary theory," Allen said. "The historical record is not on their side, but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen in the future."
Still, he cautioned, scientists can't afford to ignore the movement and hope it will go away.
"You never win by ignoring something," he said.
Alexa Aguilar and Tina Hesman, both of the Post-Dispatch, contributed to this report.
SCIENCE has always fascinated me. As a child in Tibet, I was keenly curious about how things worked. When I got a toy I would play with it a bit, then take it apart to see how it was put together. As I became older, I applied the same scrutiny to a movie projector and an antique automobile.
At one point I became particularly intrigued by an old telescope, with which I would study the heavens. One night while looking at the moon I realized that there were shadows on its surface. I corralled my two main tutors to show them, because this was contrary to the ancient version of cosmology I had been taught, which held that the moon was a heavenly body that emitted its own light.
But through my telescope the moon was clearly just a barren rock, pocked with craters. If the author of that fourth-century treatise were writing today, I'm sure he would write the chapter on cosmology differently.
If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.
For many years now, on my own and through the Mind and Life Institute, which I helped found, I have had the opportunity to meet with scientists to discuss their work. World-class scientists have generously coached me in subatomic physics, cosmology, psychology, biology.
It is our discussions of neuroscience, however, that have proved particularly important. From these exchanges a vigorous research initiative has emerged, a collaboration between monks and neuroscientists, to explore how meditation might alter brain function.
The goal here is not to prove Buddhism right or wrong - or even to bring people to Buddhism - but rather to take these methods out of the traditional context, study their potential benefits, and share the findings with anyone who might find them helpful.
After all, if practices from my own tradition can be brought together with scientific methods, then we may be able to take another small step toward alleviating human suffering.
Already this collaboration has borne fruit. Dr. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, has published results from brain imaging studies of lamas meditating. He found that during meditation the regions of the brain thought to be related to happiness increase in activity. He also found that the longer a person has been a meditator, the greater the activity increase will be.
Other studies are under way. At Princeton University, Dr. Jonathan Cohen, a neuroscientist, is studying the effects of meditation on attention. At the University of California Medical School at San Francisco, Dr. Margaret Kemeny has been studying how meditation helps develop empathy in school teachers.
Whatever the results of this work, I am encouraged that it is taking place. You see, many people still consider science and religion to be in opposition. While I agree that certain religious concepts conflict with scientific facts and principles, I also feel that people from both worlds can have an intelligent discussion, one that has the power ultimately to generate a deeper understanding of challenges we face together in our interconnected world.
One of my first teachers of science was the German physicist Carl von Weizsäcker, who had been an apprentice to the quantum theorist Werner Heisenberg. Dr. Weizsäcker was kind enough to give me some formal tutorials on scientific topics. (I confess that while listening to him I would feel I could grasp the intricacies of the full argument, but when the sessions were over there was often not a great deal of his explanation left behind.)
What impressed me most deeply was how Dr. Weizsäcker worried about both the philosophical implications of quantum physics and the ethical consequences of science generally. He felt that science could benefit from exploring issues usually left to the humanities.
I believe that we must find a way to bring ethical considerations to bear upon the direction of scientific development, especially in the life sciences. By invoking fundamental ethical principles, I am not advocating a fusion of religious ethics and scientific inquiry.
Rather, I am speaking of what I call "secular ethics," which embrace the principles we share as human beings: compassion, tolerance, consideration of others, the responsible use of knowledge and power. These principles transcend the barriers between religious believers and non-believers; they belong not to one faith, but to all faiths.
Today, our knowledge of the human brain and body at the cellular and genetic level has reached a new level of sophistication. Advances in genetic manipulation, for example, mean scientists can create new genetic entities - like hybrid animal and plant species - whose long-term consequences are unknown.
Sometimes when scientists concentrate on their own narrow fields, their keen focus obscures the larger effect their work might have. In my conversations with scientists I try to remind them of the larger goal behind what they do in their daily work.
This is more important than ever. It is all too evident that our moral thinking simply has not been able to keep pace with the speed of scientific advancement. Yet the ramifications of this progress are such that it is no longer adequate to say that the choice of what to do with this knowledge should be left in the hands of individuals.
This is a point I intend to make when I speak at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience today in Washington. I will suggest that how science relates to wider humanity is no longer of academic interest alone. This question must assume a sense of urgency for all those who are concerned about the fate of human existence.
A deeper dialogue between neuroscience and society - indeed between all scientific fields and society - could help deepen our understanding of what it means to be human and our responsibilities for the natural world we share with other sentient beings.
Just as the world of business has been paying renewed attention to ethics, the world of science would benefit from more deeply considering the implications of its own work. Scientists should be more than merely technically adept; they should be mindful of their own motivation and the larger goal of what they do: the betterment of humanity.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the author of "The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality."
Fri Nov 11,12:35 AM ET
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - A mythical monster, believed by some to have lived for hundreds of years in the murky depths of a Swedish lake, is now fair game for hunters — if they can find it. Authorities have agreed to lift its endangered species protection.
Hundreds of people claim to have spotted a large serpent-like creature in Lake Storsjon in the northwestern province of Jamtland, and in 1986 the regional council put it on a list of endangered animals.
But a government watchdog challenged the decision, saying such protection was hardly necessary for a creature whose existence has not been proven.
The regional council agreed to remove the listing this month, but declined to rule out that a monster lives in the 300-foot deep lake.
"It exists, inasmuch as it lives in the minds of people," the council's chief legal adviser Peter Lif said about the purported beast. "But I guess we'll have to agree that it cannot be proved scientifically, and then it should not be listed as an endangered species."
The so-called Storsjo monster was first mentioned in print in 1635. Hundreds of sightings have been reported since then. Some people describe the creature as a snakelike animal with a dog's head and fins on its neck. But no clear image of it has been captured on camera.
Storsjo monster aficionados said lifting the endangered species protection was a mistake, and appeared insulted by the decision.
"We are not fanatics," said Christer Berko, of the Storsjo monster association. "We see this as very interesting phenomenon that we unfortunately have not been able to document."
Published November 11, 2005
Your opinions on evolution versus intelligent design
Here's my bible - I am the alpha and the omega. That's it. The rest is stuff written down by men with personal agendas.
History is always written by the winners. We scream stupidity when we say we fathom omniscience and then repeat a parable where an omniscient creator can't find Adam because he's hiding behind a tree.
The Creator is everything. Everything. Dark, light, "good," "bad," straight, gay, joy, pain, physical, non-physical all the elements; everything. We made up the concepts of "time" and "dualism." One day we'll evolve to use more than 10 percent of our brains.
Until then, we'll continue to drag our knuckles and grunt superstitious dogma at one another. Sacrilege? You bet. The creator doesn't need a religion. Lonely humans do.
Alpha and the omega, people. God is. And nothing else is. Here's the truth: An intelligent designer created life that evolves.
Posted: 11/11/05 By Bill Sulon
Religion News Service
WASHINGTON (RNS)--The Discovery Institute, a leading proponent of intelligent design, warned a Pennsylvania school district now in court that it shouldn't institute a policy on the controversial concept because it could be found unconstitutional.
Mark Ryland, director of the Discovery Institute's Washing-ton, D.C., office, said he met with Dover Area School District representatives before the district implemented a curriculum change on intelligent design. He "advised them not to institute the policy," but they "didn't listen to me," according to a transcript of a forum he recently attended in Washington.
Ryland's appearance at the American Enterprise Institute event occurred the same day Dover Superintendent Richard Nilsen testified in Harrisburg, Pa., at a landmark federal trial on the district's policy.
It requires that a four-paragraph statement on intelligent design be read to ninth-grade students at the start of a science unit on evolution.
With Nilsen on the stand, lawyers representing parents opposed to the policy unveiled an e-mail the superintendent received last August from the district's lawyer, Stephen Russell. The district would have a difficult time winning a case because of the appearance that the policy "was initiated for religious reasons," Russell said.
So far, the plaintiffs' legal fees exceed $1 million, said Witold Walczak, a lawyer for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is helping to present the case against the district.
At the forum, called "Science Wars," Ryland said he met with the Dover officials and with Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian firm the district hired to defend it in the federal trial on the policy.
"From the start, we just disagreed that this was a good place, a good time and place to have this battle, which is risky, in the sense that there's a potential for rulings that this is somehow unconstitutional," Ryland said.
In his e-mail to Nilsen, Russell voiced similar reservations: "My concern for Dover is that in the last several years, there has been a lot of discussion, newsprint, etc., for putting religion back in the schools. In my mind, this would add weight to a lawsuit seeking to enjoin whatever the practice might be."
The Dover trial in U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg is the first federal case concerning intelligent design in a public school science curriculum.
Last Update: 11/11/2005 9:30:02 PM
A new theory regarding the origination of the human race is causing a debate in the education world.
The theory, known as the Intelligent Design Theory, centers around the idea that life on earth was designed by an intelligent agent – not referred to as God.
Should this new theory be taught in schools?
This debate, which has only begun for the Florida PTA, has already been raging in certain parts of the nation, and has provoked varied responses.
Some parents say the new theory should be kept out of the classroom. But others, like local parent Lisa Kuritz and her daughter Tracey, say it would be OK if the theory were taught in schools.
"I think [the students] should be exposed to it," says Kuritz, a self described Christian. "It could help explain the building of the world."
Either way, Florida PTA members say they will take action when the time is right.
"At this point our delegates haven't brought it to us," says Nancy Cox with the Florida PTA. "We won't have a stance until they do."
©2005 Clear Channel Television-Jacksonville.
by Noam Chomsky November 10, 2005
President George W. Bush favours teaching both evolution and "Intelligent Design" in schools, "so people can know what the debate is about." To proponents, Intelligent Design is the notion that the universe is too complex to have developed without a nudge from a higher power than evolution or natural selection.
To detractors, Intelligent Design is creationism — the literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis — in a thin guise, or simply vacuous, about as interesting as "I don't understand," as has always been true in the sciences before understanding is reached. Accordingly, there cannot be a "debate."
The teaching of evolution has long been difficult in the United States. Now a national movement has emerged to promote the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools.
The issue has famously surfaced in a courtroom in Dover, Pa., where a school board is requiring students to hear a statement about Intelligent Design in a biology class — and parents mindful of the Constitution's church/state separation have sued the board.
In the interest of fairness, perhaps the president's speechwriters should take him seriously when they have him say that schools should be open-minded and teach all points of view. So far, however, the curriculum has not encompassed one obvious point of view: Malignant Design.
Unlike Intelligent Design, for which the evidence is zero, malignant design has tons of empirical evidence, much more than Darwinian evolution, by some criteria: the world's cruelty. Be that as it may, the background of the current evolution/intelligent design controversy is the widespread rejection of science, a phenomenon with deep roots in American history that has been cynically exploited for narrow political gain during the last quarter-century. Intelligent Design raises the question whether it is intelligent to disregard scientific evidence about matters of supreme importance to the nation and world — like global warming.
An old-fashioned conservative would believe in the value of Enlightenment ideals — rationality, critical analysis, freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry — and would try to adapt them to a modern society. The Founding Fathers, children of the Enlightenment, championed those ideals and took pains to create a Constitution that espoused religious freedom yet separated church and state. The United States, despite the occasional messianism of its leaders, isn't a theocracy.
In our time, the Bush administration's hostility to scientific inquiry puts the world at risk. Environmental catastrophe, whether you think the world has been developing only since Genesis or for eons, is far too serious to ignore. In preparation for the G8 summit this past summer, the scientific academies of all G8 nations (including the US National Academy of Sciences), joined by those of China, India and Brazil, called on the leaders of the rich countries to take urgent action to head off global warming.
"The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify prompt action," their statement said. "It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions."
In its lead editorial, The Financial Times endorsed this "clarion call," while observing: "There is, however, one holdout, and unfortunately it is to be found in the White House where George W. Bush insists we still do not know enough about this literally world-changing phenomenon."
Dismissal of scientific evidence on matters of survival, in keeping with Bush's scientific judgment, is routine. A few months earlier, at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, leading US climate researchers released "the most compelling evidence yet" that human activities are responsible for global warming, according to The Financial Times. They predicted major climatic effects, including severe reductions in water supplies in regions that rely on rivers fed by melting snow and glaciers.
Other prominent researchers at the same session reported evidence that the melting of Arctic and Greenland ice sheets is causing changes in the sea's salinity balance that threaten "to shut down the Ocean Conveyor Belt, which transfers heat from the tropics toward the polar regions through currents such as the Gulf Stream." Such changes might bring significant temperature reduction to northern Europe.
Like the statement of the National Academies for the G8 summit, the release of "the most compelling evidence yet" received scant notice in the United States, despite the attention given in the same days to the implementation of the Kyoto protocols, with the most important government refusing to take part.
It is important to stress "government." The standard report that the United States stands almost alone in rejecting the Kyoto protocols is correct only if the phrase "United States" excludes its population, which strongly favours the Kyoto pact (73 per cent, according to a July poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes).
Perhaps only the word "malignant" could describe a failure to acknowledge, much less address, the all-too-scientific issue of climate change. Thus the "moral clarity" of the Bush administration extends to its cavalier attitude toward the fate of our grandchildren.
November 10, 2005 4:12PM
The board decided in 2004 that ninth-graders should hear a statement about intelligent design before learning about Charles Darwin's evolution theory in biology class. The statement says Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps." A spokesman for the newly elected board members, however, said they wouldn't act hastily on changing the curriculum.
A judge is expected to rule soon on whether a Pennsylvania high school can introduce "intelligent design" in biology classes, but advocates of the theory have already suffered an electoral setback.
Voters in rural Dover, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday ousted eight school board members who favor mentioning the concept as an alternative to evolution. The newly elected board members are opponents of the concept, which critics say promotes the Bible's view of creation and violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
The election came days after closing arguments in a landmark trial brought by eight families who sued the school board for introducing "intelligent design" in biology classes.
A lawyer defending the school board says he understands his services may no longer be needed after the new members are sworn in on Dec. 5 -- especially if U.S. District Judge John E. Jones sides with the plaintiffs in a ruling expected by January.
"Whenever you're dealing with a group of individuals who are making decisions based on political or ideological motives, they can always change their minds," said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, the stated mission of which is to defend the religious freedom of Christians.
"The people in Dover have spoken ... even though I don't think it's a mandate," Thompson said.
The board decided in 2004 that ninth-graders should hear a statement about intelligent design before learning about Charles Darwin's evolution theory in biology class. The statement says Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps."
A spokesman for the newly elected board members, however, said they wouldn't act hastily on changing the curriculum and would consider the outcome of the court case.
Witold Walczak, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer and a member of the legal team representing the eight families, said it would be appropriate for the board to include intelligent design in a social-studies class -- such as world cultures or comparative religions.
Meanwhile, a similar controversy has erupted in Kansas, where education authorities on Tuesday approved science standards for public schools that cast doubt on the theory of evolution. The decision was a victory for intelligent-design advocates.
© 2005 Associated Press. © 2005 Top Tech News.
November 11th, 2005 Jonathan Pillow, News Assistant
Faculty downplay the significance of the intelligent design controversy while the Montgomery County School Board does not even consider it for its K-12 programs
Although the national controversy over the theory of intelligent design continues, the consensus among Virginia Tech faculty and the Montgomery County School Board is it will not be an issue in this area.
Biological Sciences department head Robert Jones said intelligent design is a matter of faith, not science.
"It's perfectly logical for people to have faith in a deity but when you do, it's a matter outside of the philosophy of science," he said.
Jones said that it is perfectly conceivable that everything that exists on earth does so because of natural laws and physics of the universe as it exists, without any divine intervention.
"When you talk about the process of evolution, that's where we're very close to absolute and complete proof. So much evidence has built up that it is widely accepted among scientists that evolution is a process that exists, it's undeniable. There have been thousands of tests and the evidence is all in alignment with that from reputable scientists who support evolutionary theory," he said.
Jones said that it is inconceivable for almost any scientist to deny the process of evolution.
Wat Hopkins, a communication professor at Virginia Tech and member of the Montgomery County School Board, said that despite the recent hype surrounding the election of Jamie Bond, (a proponent of intelligent design) to the school board, he does not expect any change in the county's school curriculum regarding I.D.
"If the supervisor of sciences brought us a new curriculum we would consider it, but that's not science so I don't see how it would be accepted," he said.
He said that the issue has not come up and he doubts that it will come up at all.
Richard Neves, a professor of fisheries and wildlife at Virginia Tech, said that although he does not necessarily subscribe to the theology of I.D., he thinks that it does provide a viable alternative explanation to the things that evolution does not explain.
"The thing that bothers me about evolutionary theory is when it is not in sync with provable findings by other scientists in biology and other natural systems. If you can't show how life came from non-life then how can you know that it happened by natural evolutionary processes?" he said.
An example of an unexplainable contradiction is biological systems that compile energy as they increase in complexity, which refutes the rule in thermodynamics that energy moves from a state of concentration to dispersal.
Although Neves said that he did not think I.D. should be taught in the science classroom as a scientific theory he doesn't think that a large portion of evolution should either.
"Evolution and intelligent design are more in line with philosophy than they are with science," he said.
But just because he doesn't consider these concentrations to be true science, Neves said he does not think that they should be excluded from consideration.
"A lot of science scholars have built up this wall with evolution, they treat it like fact, but its not. This is a university that is supposed to be about open discussion and intelligent design is one alternative that needs to be openly discussed and considered as well as evolutionary theory," he said.
Mike Ellerbrock, a professor of the science and religion course at Virginia Tech, said that intelligent design is comprised partly of science and part faith.
"It looks at scientific phenomenon but suggests the origin is an intelligent designer or greater being. That is a leap of faith, not a scientific decision," he said.
Ellerbrock said that if I.D. were taught in schools it would have to be in a very minimal way.
"There is nothing wrong with a teacher pointing out faults with Darwinian Theory and suggesting alternatives, but when you start talking about faith you have crossed the line," he said.
One aspect of evolutionary theory that opponents often cite is the concept of irreducible complexity which says that there are some structures that are too complex to explain with evolution, such as the human eyeball and the function of vision.
William Fitzpatrick, an associate professor of philosophy, said he is surprised the debate has continued this long because it is clear that it should not be taught in sciences classes since it is not a science.
"It's just another example of 'The God of the Gaps', you know, bring God in to try to explain this current thing that we don't understand in science," he said.
Fitzpatrick said the goal of science is to develop models and research that will explain naturalistically whatever the phenomenon are.
"If science had stopped with physics or any concentration and tried to look to God, then science would not have progressed to where it is today."
Fitzpatrick said that even though I.D. cannot be proven, it can't be disproven either. Either way it is a theological hypothesis that doesn't belong in the science classroom.
"If an (evolution) theory doesn't do a very good job of explaining certain complex structures you should be honest about that and then use it as a motivation for seeking out better models and that's exactly what scientists do, but for people to come in and say 'well you don't understand this right now so God must be behind it,' that's not science."
Ellerbrock said that people who ask whether a person believes in creation or evolution are presenting a false dichotomy because it is possible to believe in both.
"When science or religion disagree, ultimately one or both must be wrong because they must ultimately meet at one grand truth."
Posted on Thu, Nov. 10, 2005
BY DAVID MENDELL
CHICAGO - The hottest topic of hallway conversation among science teachers gathering for their annual Midwestern conference in Chicago on Thursday could not be found on the agenda of any seminar or panel: how the theory of evolution and the theory of intelligent design should be handled in a science class.
Most teachers interviewed Thursday followed the majority of the scientific community in saying that biology curriculum standards should follow evolutionary study, which the National Science Teachers Association calls "a major unifying concept in science."
But that concept is being challenged in at least one state, Kansas, which this week adopted new guidelines that criticize evolutionary principles and redefine science to allow what many believe are supernatural or divine causes for life.
Science teachers said they were chagrined at the Kansas development and defended evolution as the crux of biology. Still, a few others said that evolution and the theory of intelligent design or creationism should coexist in the classroom - perhaps not as coequals, but that they should both exist.
"The thing we need to do is stick together as members of the scientific community and make sure that actual science is propagated in the classroom rather than a theory that conflicts with evolutionary evidence," said James Keefer, a high school teacher outside Rochester, N.Y.
But others said that while Charles Darwin's theory might be a guiding principle of biology, it should not be the only principle available to students.
"You need to look at this from every aspect and judge for yourself - and I think the kids should be given the facts of each set and let them proceed and judge for themselves," said Jeff Kinsey, a sixth-grade science teacher who says he hails from "the Bible Belt," Tecumseh, Okla.
The change in Kansas policy, effective in 2007, directly criticizes evolution, saying that some aspects contradict the fossil record. The criticism potentially opens the science classrooms of Kansas to other explanations for the creation and development of life.
Though they are not specifically cited in the Kansas standards, an alternate explanation could be biblical in nature or it could be so-called "intelligent design," which has been presented as a scientific theory maintaining that some aspects of life unexplained by evolution are best attributed to an unnamed and unseen intelligent designer.
Keefer, the teacher from Brockport High School near Rochester, said scientists have tended to disregard such movements because "it is obviously based on religion and not science or fact."
"I think it is essentially something that we have tended to ignore on the thinking that it will ultimately collapse under its own weight," Keffer said. "I think that this is probably a temporary threat to science and that it will soon fade."
Other science teachers said much the same.
Peggy Deichstetter, who teaches at St. Edward High School in Elgin, Ill., said she has never been pressured to counter the teaching of evolutionary biology with a creation-based theory or intelligent design. But she said she has run across other teachers who maintain that both should be given equal due.
"I know there are biology teachers out there who, because of their religious upbringing, never mention the word evolution," Deichstetter said. "But to me, you have to teach evolution as a scientific principle because every time you turn a corner, there it is. It is in DNA and classification study. The more closely an animal's DNA is to another, the more likely they are related and that naturally leads to how they evolved."
Several teachers said they have broached the subjects of creationism and intelligent design in their classrooms because students have brought up the debate or, more likely, they feel the matter should be given at least some discussion.
But they said that discussion might take up one class. The rest of the year, they are teaching science based on evolutionary principles.
"Just because something is a theory doesn't make it a sound scientific theory - and if it doesn't meet standard scientific guidelines, how can you put it in a science class and say you are educating your students on science?" Deichstetter asked. "If they go down this road in Kansas, they are severely shortchanging their children."
That is the prevailing school of thought in the community of science educators. After the Kansas Board of Education action, the science teachers association and the National Academy of Sciences both revoked permission for Kansas to use any of their copyrighted material in the new state standards.
Kinsey, the teacher from Oklahoma, said state and local standards do not permit him from teaching anything beyond evolutionary science in his classrooms - and he believes that is bad public policy.
"I'm sure that there will be heated debates about this down there," Kinsey said. He added that when creation scientists or others have tried to raise the issue in his school district, they were "squished and swept under the rug."
"I tend to believe facts, but I also believe in what the Bible says," Kinsey said. "I don't think anyone has the right answer. I think there is only one individual who has the answer to all of this and I look to my Bible for that guidance."
Yet Keefer said talk of creationism in science class worries him.
As global competition grows, both economically and educationally, now is not the time to be rewriting science standards to address concerns coming from outside the science community, he said.
"Science is already difficult enough to teach to children without a nonscientific entity being introduced," Keefer said.
Scripps Howard News Service Friday, November 11th, 2005 11:31 AM (PST)
(SH) - Voters tend to ignore their local school boards until the board does something outrageous, which the Dover, Pa., board did last year by requiring that all ninth-graders hear a prepared statement on intelligent design before starting their biology course.
The statement begins by saying that the state requires that students study Darwin's theory of evolution and then disingenuously adds, "Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is being discovered," as if the theory itself was not settled science.
The statement then goes on to make a pitch for intelligent design, "an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, 'Of Pandas and People,' is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves."
The board members' Web site goes further and suggests that there is scientific support for intelligent design, which overwhelmingly there is not.
A group of parents sued the board - the judge's decision is still pending - but on Tuesday all eight members of the board up for re-election were voted out by a slate of candidates pledged, along with many other worthy plans, to scrap the statement.
It didn't take long for the Rev. Pat Robertson to weigh in on the election results. "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," he said on his "700 Club" show.
Later, in trying to explain away his remarks, Robertson reinforced them: "If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."
Meanwhile, the Kansas board of education, while denying it was doing so, rewrote its standards for teaching science in a way that allows for the teaching of intelligent design.
But Robertson's remarks support the theory that intelligent design is creationism dressed up in a lab coat and, in the minds of its supporters, a means of getting the biblical explanation of mankind's origins into the public-school curriculum.
© Copyright 2005 Tacoma News, Inc.
Press Release Source: The Bravewell Collaborative
Friday November 11, 10:19 am ET
Physicians James Gordon, Erminia Guarneri, Kathi Kemper and Dean Ornish Also Honored for Courage and Dedication
NEW YORK, Nov. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Brian Berman, one of the leading physicians in America to champion the growth of integrative medicine, was named by the Bravewell Collaborative as recipient of the 2005 Bravewell Leadership Award. Dr. Berman is founder and director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, which was the first clinic of its kind in the nation. He has dedicated his career to the expansion of evidence-based integrative care and is acclaimed for both his groundbreaking research studies, as well as his patient-centered treatment that focuses on the whole person -- mind, body and spirit.
Dr. Berman was presented with the $100,000 biannual award at a benefit at Chelsea Piers in New York City on November 10 hosted by Sarah, The Duchess of York. In saluting the five finalists for the Bravewell Leadership Award, The Duchess of York said, "Integrative medicine is helping to establish a new standard of healthcare. The future success of this rapidly growing discipline depends on the leadership and commitment of people in this room."
Dr. Berman is particularly noted for his landmark research study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in December 2004, which proved acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy in the treatment of arthritis. The study, one of the largest clinical trials of acupuncture ever done, is considered a model for how scientific testing can evaluate alternative therapies. In October 2005, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) announced a $10 million grant to Dr. Berman to conduct additional evidence-based investigation to advance the understanding of the potential benefits and underlying mechanism of ancient Chinese medicine including acupuncture and herbal treatments.
In addition to his seminal research, Dr. Berman treats a wide range of patients in a clinical practice that is predicated on the importance of the healing partnership between patient and healthcare professional. "Like many doctors, I sensed that the emphasis on high-tech was missing something important. With all the focus on drugs and surgery, the whole soul of medicine was being lost," said Dr. Berman. "Integrative medicine takes into account things like communication between healthcare professional and patient -- listening, attention, intention, compassion and caring."
The Bravewell Collaborative is comprised of 29 philanthropists who work together strategically to support the growth of integrative medicine and accelerate change. Establishing the Bravewell Leadership Award was one of the group's first initiatives to advance the field. The Collaborative has also nurtured the growth of model clinical centers for integrative medicine, worked with the Consortium for Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine to develop and publish a medical school curriculum for integrative medicine and begun an innovative fellows program to broaden the training of physicians to incorporate an integrative approach in their practice of medicine. "The Bravewell Collaborative is very proud of the accomplishments we have made toward integrative medicine and the finalists here tonight who have led the way," said Christy Mack, a member of the Collaborative and chair of the event along with her husband John Mack.
Dr. Ralph Snyderman, James B. Duke Professor of Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine, who was the inaugural recipient of the 2003 Bravewell Leadership Award, joined Christy and John Mack to honor the spirit, courage and vision of Dr. Berman and the four other physicians who were finalists:
The Bravewell Collaborative acknowledges the generous corporate support from Morgan Stanley and WebMD Health Foundation.
Source: The Bravewell Collaborative
Copyright © 2005 Yahoo! Inc.
Copyright © 2005 PR Newswire
By LAWRENCE M. KRAUSS
Published: November 8, 2005
Most of the current controversies associated with science revolve around the vastly different reactions people both within the scientific community and outside it have, not to the strange features of the universe that we can observe for ourselves, but rather to those features we cannot observe.
In my own field of physics, theorists hotly debate the possible existence of an underlying mathematical beauty associated with a host of new dimensions that may or may not exist in nature.
School boards, legislatures and evangelists hotly debate the possible existence of an underlying purpose to nature that similarly may or may not exist.
It seems that humans are hard-wired to yearn for new realms well beyond the reach of our senses into which we can escape, if only with our minds. It is possible that we need to rely on such possibilities or the world of our experience would become intolerable.
Certainly science has, in the past century, validated the notion that what we see is far from all there is. We cannot directly see electrons but we now know that material objects we can hold in our hand are actually, at an atomic level, largely empty space, and that it is the electric fields associated with the electrons that keep them from falling through our hands.
And when we peer into the darkness of the night sky, within the size of the spot covered up by a dime held at arm's length, we now know that over 100,000 galaxies more or less like our own are hiding. And we know most contain over 100 billion stars, many housing solar systems, and around some of them may exist intelligent life forms whose existence may, too, remain forever hidden from us.
One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein began to unveil the hidden nature of space and time, and after working for another full decade he discovered that space itself is dynamic. It can curve and bend in response to matter and energy, and ultimately even the calm peace of the night sky, suggesting an eternal universe, is itself an illusion. Distant galaxies are being carried away by an expanding space, just as a swimmer at rest in the water can nevertheless get carried away from shore by a strong current.
Thus, it is perhaps not too surprising that when one approaches the limits of our knowledge, theologians and scientists alike tend to appeal to new hidden universes for, respectively, either redemption or understanding.
The apparent complexity of our universe has compelled some evangelists, and some school boards, to argue that the natural laws we have unraveled over the past four centuries cannot be enough on their own to explain the diversity of the phenomena we observe around us, including the remarkable diversity of life on earth.
For very different reasons, but still without a shred of empirical evidence, a generation of theoretical physicists has speculated that the four dimensions of our experience may themselves be just a grand illusion - the tip of a cosmic iceberg.
String theory, yet to have any real successes in explaining or predicting anything measurable, has nevertheless become a fixture in the public lexicon, and the elaborate and surprising mathematical framework that has resulted from over three decades of theoretical study has been enough for some to argue that even a thus-far empirically impotent idea must describe reality.
Further, it has now been proposed that the extra dimensions of string theory may not even be microscopically small, which has been the long accepted mathematical trick used by advocates to explain why we may not yet detect them.
Instead, they could be large enough to house entire other universes with potentially different laws of physics, and perhaps even objects that, like the eight-dimensional beings in a Buckaroo Banzai story, might leak into our own dimensions.
I wouldn't bet on their existence, but the fact that such potentially infinite spaces could exist and still be effectively hidden in our world is nevertheless remarkable.
Whatever one thinks about all of these ruminations about hidden realities, there is an important difference - at least I hope there is - between the scientists who currently speculate about extra dimensions and those whose beliefs cause them to insist that life can only be understood by going beyond the confines of the natural world.
Scientists know that without experimental vindication their proposals are likely to wither. Moreover, a single definitive "null experiment," like the Michelson-Morley experiment in 1887 that dispensed with the long-sought-after ether, could sweep away the whole idea.
Religious belief that the universe is the handiwork of an all-powerful being is not subject to refutation. This sort of reliance on faith may itself have an evolutionary basis. There has been talk of a "god gene": the idea of an early advantage in the struggle for survival for those endowed with a belief in a hidden patrimony that gives order, purpose and meaning to the universe we experience.
Does the same evolutionary predilection lead physicists and mathematicians to see beauty in the unobserved, or unobservable? Does the longstanding human love affair with extra dimensions reflect something fundamental about the way we think, rather than about the world in which we live?
The mathematician Hermann Weyl was quoted as having said not long before he died, "My work always tried to unite the true with the beautiful, but when I had to choose one or the other, I usually chose the beautiful."
Mathematicians, artists and writers may choose beauty over truth. Scientists can only hope that we do not have to make the choice.
Lawrence M. Krauss is a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University. His latest book is "Hiding in the Mirror."
Thursday, November 10, 2005 By Ker Than
A Kansas Board of Education decision essentially brings supernatural explanations into biology classes. Meanwhile, residents of a town in Pennsylvania ousted school board members who tried to do the same.
Mainstream scientists see no controversy. Evolution is well supported by many examples of changes in various species leading to the diversity of life seen today. But others would invoke a higher being as a designer to explain the complex world of living things, especially such specimens as humans.
Even the Vatican has weighed in. Last week a cardinal told the faithful to pay attention to scientific reason or risk returning to fundamentalism.
So just what is evolution, and how does it work?
In the first edition of "The Origin of Species" in 1859, Charles Darwin speculated about how natural selection could cause a land mammal to turn into a whale.
As a hypothetical example, Darwin used North American black bears, which were known to catch insects by swimming in the water with their mouths open.
"I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale," he speculated.
The idea didn't go over very well with the public. Darwin was so embarrassed by the ridicule he received that the swimming-bear passage was removed from later editions of the book.
Scientists now know that Darwin had the right idea but the wrong animal: Instead of looking at bears, he should have instead been looking at cows and hippopotamuses.
The story of the origin of whales is one of evolution's most fascinating tales and one of the best examples scientists have of natural selection.
Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is one of the best substantiated theories in the history of science, supported by evidence from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including paleontology, geology, genetics and developmental biology.
To understand the origin of whales, it's necessary to have a basic understanding of how natural selection works.
It is the process by which organisms change over time as a result of changes in inheritable physical or behavioral traits. Changes that allow an organism to better adapt to its environment will help it survive and have more offspring.
Natural selection can change a species in small ways, causing a population to change color or size over the course of several generations. This is called "microevolution."
But natural selection is also capable of much more. Given enough time and enough accumulated changes, natural selection can create entirely new species. It can turn dinosaurs into birds, apes into humans and amphibious mammals into whales.
The physical and behavioral changes that make natural selection possible happen at the level of DNA and genes. Such changes are called "mutations."
Mutations can be caused by chemical or radiation damage or errors in DNA replication. Mutations can even be deliberately induced in order to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.
Most times, mutations are either harmful or neutral, but in rare instances, a mutation might prove beneficial to the organism. If so, it will become more prevalent in the next generation and spread throughout the population. In this way, natural selection guides the evolutionary process, preserving and adding up the beneficial mutations and rejecting the bad ones.
How whales took to water
Using evolution as their guide and knowing how natural selection works, biologists knew that the transition of early whales from land to water occurred in a series of predictable steps. The evolution of the blowhole, for example, might have happened in the following way.
Random mutations resulted in at least one whale having its nostrils placed farther back on its head. Those animals with this adaptation would have been better suited to a marine lifestyle, since they would not have had to completely surface to breathe. Such animals would have been more successful and had more offspring. In later generations, more mutations occurred, moving the nose farther back on the head.
Other body parts of early whales also changed. Front legs became flippers. Back legs disappeared. Their bodies became more streamlined and they developed tail flukes to better propel themselves through water.
Even though scientists could predict what early whales should look like, they lacked the fossil evidence to back up their claim.
Creationists took this absence as proof that evolution didn't occur. They mocked the idea that there could have ever been such a thing as a walking whale.
But since the early 1990s, that's exactly what scientists have been finding.
The smoking gun came in 1994, when paleontologists found the fossilized remains of Ambulocetus natans, an animal whose name literally means "swimming-walking whale." Its forelimbs had fingers and small hooves, but its hind feet were enormous given its size.
It was clearly adapted for swimming, but it was also capable of moving clumsily on land, much like a seal. When it swam, it moved like an otter, pushing back with its hind feet and undulating its spine and tail.
Modern whales propel themselves through the water with powerful beats of their horizontal tail flukes, but Ambulocetus still had a whip-like tail and had to use its legs to provide most of the propulsive force needed to move through water.
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