NTS LogoSkeptical News for 9 December 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, December 09, 2005

Evolution education update: the state of state science standards 2005; "intelligent design" to meet its maker?; Scott and Branch: "Design on trial"; why SETI isn't like "intelligent design"; AMA op-ed urges doctors to defend evolution; NCSE returns to the Grand Canyon

A busy week, with a report on the state of state science standards from the Fordham Institute at the top of the news. Also: The New York Times considers whether "Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker"; NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch discuss Kitzmiller v. Dover in the pages of The Scientist; Seth Shostak explains why the search for extraterrestrial intelligence isn't like "intelligent design"; and Paul Costello urges doctors to defend evolution. And a few seats remain on NCSE's excursion to the Grand Canyon in June 2006!


The Thomas B. Fordham Institute's report The State of State Science Standards -- the first comprehensive review of state science standards since 2000 -- was released on December 7, 2005. The report's executive summary notes, among the serious problems that plague state science standards, "[a] disturbing and dangerous trend over the past five years, in response to religious and political pressures, is the effort to water down the treatment of evolution." It explains that "[t]he promoters of intelligent design creationism have ... retreated to arguments that invoke the popular and conveniently vague educationist formula, 'critical thinking.' ... The hidden agenda is to introduce doubt -- any possible doubt -- about evolution at the critical early stage of introduction to the relevant science."

The study's authors therefore added a grade "specifically for the handling of evolution in the life sciences and the other historical sciences." They note that there are different ways in which creationists might try to compromise the place of evolution in the standards, including requiring disclaimers that evolution is "just a theory" or using "weasel words that don't mean the same thing, such as 'change over time'" instead of the e-word. Accordingly, "[a] standards document that gives evolutionary science appropriate weight, at least within biology, that introduces the main lines of evidence, including findings in the fossil record, genetics, molecular biology, and development, and that connects all this with Earth history, merits a '3.' The above, but with some big gaps, gets a '2.' '1' is a marginally acceptable treatment. If the treatment is useless, disguised, or absent, the grade is '0.'"

Receiving a grade of 3: CA, DE, GA, IL, IN, KS, MD, MA, MI, MO, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT, VA, WA
Receiving a grade of 2: AZ, DC, LA, MN, NV, OR, UT
Receiving a grade of 1: CO, HI, NE, NC, ND, SD, TX, WV, WY
Receiving a grade of 0: AL, AK, AR, CT, FL, ID, ME, MS, MT, NH, OK, WI
(Note that Iowa has no state science standards.)

In some cases, the science standards that were examined for the study are not the ones now in effect. In particular, the Kansas standards, which would have received a grade of 3, were revised by the antievolutionist majority on the board of education, under the tutelage of a local "intelligent design" organization, in such a way as to impugn and misrepresent the scientific status of evolution. Accordingly, a note added in proof reads, "Kansas has adopted standards whose treatment of evolutionary material has been radically compromised. The effect transcends evolution, however. It now makes a mockery of the very definition of science. The [overall] grade for Kansas is accordingly reduced [from C] to 'F.'" For evolution, the standards received a grade below 0 -- "Not even failed."

The summary emphasizes that the treatment of evolution education in state science standards is not noticeably worse than was discovered in a previous Fordham study, Lawrence S. Lerner's Good Science, Bad Science: "Still, even under relentless attack, defenders of the teaching of evolution are holding their ground. In fact, comparing this year's scores of how states are handling evolution with the scores assigned in 2000, when Dr. Lawrence Lerner did a similar survey for Fordham ..., we find that the teaching of evolution hasn't changed much. Twenty states earned a 'sound' grade this year for their treatment of evolution, down slightly from 24 in 2000. The number of states earning 'passing' grades held steady at 7, while those earning 'marginal' grades rose from 6 to 10. Failing grades (or worse, as in Kansas) held steady at 13."

The State of State Science Standards was written by Paul R. Gross with Ursula Goodenough, Susan Haack, Lawrence S. Lerner, Martha Schwartz, and Richard Schwartz. NCSE congratulates them on their impressive accomplishment and salutes the Thomas B. Fordham Institute for commissioning such a comprehensive and rigorous study of state science standards.

To read Fordham's press release about the report, visit:

To read the executive summary of the report (PDF), visit:

To read the report itself, visit:

For a story about the report in The New York Times, visit:

For a story from the Associated Press about Kansas reaction to the report, visit:


In a provocatively titled column in the December 4, 2005, issue of The New York Times, Laurie Goodstein considers whether "Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker." Although "intelligent design" might seem to be making headway in the headlines, she writes, "intelligent design as a field of inquiry is failing to gain the traction its supporters had hoped for." The scientific productivity of the "intelligent design" movement is meager, she notes, and "[o]n college campuses, the movement's theorists are academic pariahs, publicly denounced by their own colleagues." (A case in point, not mentioned in the article, is Lehigh University's Department of Biological Sciences, which in a statement firmly rejects Michael Behe's views while properly acknowledging his right to hold them.)

Moreover, what might have been thought to be a natural source of funding for "intelligent design" is now disillusioned with the movement. The Templeton Foundation's Charles L. Harper Jr. told the Times that although the foundation solicited "proposals for actual research" from proponents of "intelligent design," none was forthcoming. He added, "From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don't come out very well in our world of scientific review." (After a story in the Wall Street Journal [November 12, 2004] suggested that it was a major sponsor of "intelligent design," Templeton posted a response, stating that in "nearly every case, Templeton Foundation money has supported critics rather than proponents of the anti-evolution ID position.")

"While intelligent design has hit obstacles among scientists, it has also failed to find a warm embrace at many evangelical Christian colleges," the article continues. "Even at conservative schools, scholars and theologians who were initially excited about intelligent design say they have come to find its arguments unconvincing." Goodstein mentions Vanguard University, Wheaton College, and Baylor University in particular. (She errs, however, in claiming that "The only university where intelligent design has gained a major institutional foothold is a seminary," namely Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; there is also Biola University in La Mirada, California, which sponsors conferences on "intelligent design" and emphasizes it in its Master of Arts in Science and Religion program.)

The comments of Derek Davis, director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor, were particularly interesting, since over the last few years Baylor has experienced its share of controversies over "intelligent design," including a stymied effort to establish a center for its promotion. Davis was quoted as saying, "I teach at the largest Baptist university in the world. I'm a religious person. And my basic perspective is intelligent design doesn't belong in science class." As for the protestations of the proponents of "intelligent design" not to be talking about God and religion, Davis was dismissive: "But they are, and everybody knows they are ... I just think we ought to quit playing games. It's a religious worldview that's being advanced."

Goodstein cites the awaited decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover -- the first legal challenge to the teaching of "intelligent design" in the public schools -- as the most likely setback to the "intelligent design" movement, writing, "If the judge in the Dover case rules against intelligent design, the decision would be likely to dissuade other school boards from incorporating it into their curriculums." Before the lawsuit was filed, the Discovery Institute anxiously urged the Dover Area School Board to rescind the policy at issue. Yet a spokesperson told Goodstein, "The future of intelligent design, as far as I'm concerned, has very little to do with the outcome of the Dover case," adding, "The future of intelligent design is tied up with academic endeavors. It rises or falls on the science."

To read Goodstein's column in The New York Times, visit:

For the statement from Lehigh's Department of Biological Sciences, visit:

For the Templeton Foundation's response to the Wall Street Journal, visit:

For NCSE's story on the "intelligent design" center at Baylor, visit:

And for NCSE's collection of information on Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit:


The trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover -- the first legal challenge to the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools -- was one of the five biggest stories in bioscience for 2005, in the view of The Scientist (December 5, 2005). NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch provided a brief assessment for the journal, writing, "Kitzmiller v. Dover represents the most important American creationism/evolution trial in 23 years." Comparing the trial with 1982's trial in McLean v. Arkansas, Scott and Branch note that "With the recent electoral rout of the Dover school board, the defendants are unlikely to appeal if the plaintiffs prevail. Because higher courts will thus remain mute on the constitutionality of teaching ID, additional Dovers may be anticipated, until the issue finally reaches the Supreme Court." Meanwhile, they add, "savvier antievolutionists are likely to emulate the Kansas state board of education by promoting policies impugning evolution without directly requiring creationism" -- a strategy that will be jeopardized if the decision in Selman v. Cobb County (holding that evolution disclaimers are unconstitutional) is upheld on appeal.

To read Scott and Branch's comments, visit:

For NCSE's collection of information on Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit:


Writing on the space.com website (December 1, 2005), Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute debunks a common claim of the "intelligent design" movement: that "intelligent design" uses the same methodology, and thus is as scientifically credible, as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Summarizing, Shostak writes, "the champions of Intelligent Design make two mistakes when they claim that the SETI enterprise is logically similar to their own: First, they assume that we are looking for messages, and judging our discovery on the basis of message content, whether understood or not. In fact, we're on the lookout for very simple signals. That's mostly a technical misunderstanding. But their second assumption, derived from the first, that complexity would imply intelligence, is also wrong. We seek artificiality, which is an organized and optimized signal coming from an astronomical environment from which neither it nor anything like it is either expected or observed: Very modest complexity, found out of context. This is clearly nothing like looking at DNA's chemical makeup and deducing the work of a supernatural biochemist." Shostak is senior astronomer at the SETI Institute -- a private, non-profit, scientific organization that seeks to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature, and prevalence of life in the universe -- and host of SETI's weekly radio program, Are We Alone?

To read Shostak's article, visit:

For information on the SETI Institute and its weekly radio program, visit:


Writing in the December 2005 issue of Virtual Mentor, the on-line ethics journal of the American Medical Association, Paul Costello reviews the ongoing controversy over creationism in the public schools, commenting, "I'm afraid we live in loopy times. How else to account for the latest entries in America's culture wars: science museum docents donning combat gloves against rival fundamentalist tour groups and evolution on trial in a Pennsylvania federal court." Citing Cornelia Dean (a science reporter for The New York Times), Chris Mooney (the author of The Republican War on Science), and Jon D. Miller (who directs the Center for Biomedical Communications at Northwestern University), Costello concludes that the public's lack of understanding of science is real and urgent. But more than ignorance, "[i]t's anti-knowledge that is beginning to scare the scientific community," he writes. "Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, calls 2005 'a fairly busy year' when he considers the 82 evolution versus creationism 'flare-ups' that have occurred at the state, local, and individual classroom levels so far." Costello notes that such battles are not likely to vanish, and expresses concern about their possible extension to medical research and funding.

So where is the medical community? Costello asks. "The medical community as a whole has been largely absent from today's public debates on science. Neither the American Medical Association nor the American Psychiatric Association has taken a formal stand on the issue of evolution versus creationism." Miller is quoted as saying that the medical community will have to take a stand: "You have to join your friends, so when someone attacks the Big Bang, when someone attacks evolution, when someone attacks stem cell research, all of us rally to the front. You can't say it's their problem because the scientific community is not so big that we can splinter 4 or more ways and ever still succeed doing anything." Individual medical students, residents, and physicians can make a difference. Offering Burt Humburg, a resident in internal medicine at Penn State's Hershey Medical Center and a dedicated defender of evolution education in Kansas, Minnesota, and now Pennsylvania, as a role model, Costello concludes, "It is time for the medical community, through the initiative of individual physicians, to address not only how one can heal thy patient, but also how one can heal thy nation." Costello is the executive director of communications and public affairs for the Stanford University School of Medicine.

To read Costello's op-ed, visit:


A few seats are still now available for NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon -- as featured in The New York Times (October 6, 2005). From June 14 to June 21, 2006, NCSE will again explore the wonders of creation and evolution on a Grand Canyon river run conducted by NCSE's Genie Scott and Alan ("Gish") Gishlick. Because this is an NCSE trip, we offer more than just the typically grand float down the Canyon, the spectacular scenery, fascinating natural history, brilliant night skies, exciting rapids, delicious meals, and good company. It is, in fact, a unique "two-model" raft trip, on which we provide both the creationist view of Grand Canyon and the evolutionist view -- and let you make up your own mind. We are taking only one boat, so seats are limited: call as soon as possible to reserve your place!

For further information on the Grand Canyon trip, visit:

For a summary of the article in The New York Times, visit:

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

again in the body of an e-mail to majordomo@ncseweb2.org.

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


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available:

Skeptics Circle XXIII

From Dan Noland

The Skeptics' Circle, published every two weeks, is a collection of the best writings of skeptical bloggers.

The new edition is out

The archive of past editions is here:

Theory of intelligent design making its way into Broward textbooks


By Chris Kahn Education Writer Posted December 9 2005

Broward County on Thursday narrowed its choices for high school Biology I textbooks to two finalists, both of which have been under scrutiny by Christian conservatives who want to change the way students learn about the origin of life.

Both have edited passages about evolution theory during the past few years after receiving complaints from the Discovery Institute. The think tank sponsors research on intelligent design, which argues life is so complicated, it must have been fashioned by a higher being. One of the books also has added a short section on creationism.

In the end, Broward teachers will have to decide which book works best based on their individual review of the whole textbooks, which include hundreds of pages of lessons, support materials and suggested activities.

District spokesman Keith Bromery said that regardless of the revisions, Biology: The Dynamics of Life by Glencoe and Holt Biology by Holt, Rinehart and Winston "shined through as better books."

"We have an extensive review process," he said Wednesday.

After spending months evaluating the books, a committee of science teachers on Thursday eliminated a third candidate, Prentice Hall Biology, which was chosen last week by Palm Beach County.

Broward's high school biology teachers will vote in February on their book. The winning publisher will get a contract for 20,000 books worth an estimated $1.2 million.

A South Florida Sun-Sentinel review shows how Glencoe and Holt revised their texts as educators around the country fought about inserting religious concepts into science texts.

Many of the edits came after a tense four-month battle in 2003, when Texas educators chose their new science books.

During that debate, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute arrived in Austin with a 41-page report criticizing the two books and nine others that also were under review.

"This is a perennial problem," said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the California-based National Center for Science Education, a not-for-profit group that fights to keep evolution in schools.

Though he doesn't find anything alarming in what was changed -- the books still devote numerous pages to Darwin and evolution theory -- Branch said they're classic examples of how special interests creep into public education.

"Contents will be changed to suit the concerns of people" in other states, Branch said.

For publishers, it only makes good business sense to do so, said Steve Driesler, executive director of the American Association of Publishers school division.

The $7 billion textbook industry is extremely competitive, Driesler said, and publishers have to think about how parents will react to the book.

"You've got to get sensitive to things like intelligent design," he said. "You've got to make sure the books are socially and politically acceptable to the community that's buying."

John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, said he considered the revisions a victory for his group. The revisions in Glencoe and Holt books are tantamount to an admission by "Darwinists" that evolution theory is flawed, he said. "This vindicates us."

In general, Glencoe and Holt edited their origins of life explanations after written criticisms from the Discovery Institute. Glencoe also added references to a supreme being without any prodding from the group, according to West.

Divine origins

Since at least 1995, Biology: The Dynamics of Life, has told students about the origin of life.

In its 1998 national edition, Glencoe decided to add a few sentences about "divine origins." However, authors warned students that "divine creation is a belief rather than a scientific theory, because it is accepted on faith."

By 2004, the "origin of life" section on page 388 was changed again. The new wording added "some people believe that the complex structures and processes of life could not have formed without some guiding intelligence."

It also removed the sentence that said creationism is not considered a scientific theory.

Glencoe spokesman Tom Stanton said in an e-mailed statement the publisher included references to intelligent design "because alternative ideas on the origins of life including RNA and meteorites are discussed in society….

"These references are found nowhere else in the 1,100-page text, and Glencoe offers no evidence in support of any of these opinions or beliefs."

The 2006 Florida edition has this same wording about a divine origin. However, after the Sun-Sentinel wrote about the page, Glencoe called Broward and offered to cut the page out of the book.

Superintendent Frank Till said Thursday if teachers pick the book in February, he'd agree to cut the page and get rid of the controversy.

"I don't think we should focus the adoption on one page."

More changes

Some of the changes in Holt Biology began with the Discovery Institute critique, according to meeting notes on the Texas Education Agency's Web site.

In Texas, Holt agreed to change a "student activity" and asked students to study "alternatives" to hypotheses about the origin of life using the Internet or library.

That revision was challenged by the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal watchdog group that said it would open the door to a discussion about intelligent design. Holt eventually changed the wording to "scientific hypotheses," a phrase it still uses for the same activity on page 270 of the Florida text.

Texas records also show that Holt agreed to alter its explanation of the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment, which scientists have used to describe how life may have formed billions of years ago in the Earth's early oceans. The experiment is a favorite target of creationists, who claim that flaws in the experiment make it useless.

After criticism from the Discovery Institute, Holt revised page 254 to say "scientists incorrectly hypothesized" the atmospheric conditions that existed on early Earth. That phrase was kept for the Florida edition.

On page 9, the Discovery Institute said, it also got Holt to tone down a phrase that credited Darwin's theory for being "the essence of biology." It was changed to say that it "provides a consistent explanation for life's diversity."

Holt spokesman Rick Blake said the publisher is always improving the text. When the Discovery Institute criticized the book in Texas, Holt's editors took the complaints seriously.

"It doesn't matter who made the comment," Blake said, "if it's legitimate."

J.P. Keener, Broward's science curriculum specialist, agreed. "It would bother me if changes were being made that weren't supposed to be there. But all the changes here are scientific. It's fine."

The Discovery Institute didn't pursue textbook changes in Florida this year as it did two years ago in Texas because it didn't have enough money and local religious groups didn't publicly oppose the books, West said.

In the future, West said, his group would lobby for changes in other states.

Students "should study Darwin theory not as dogma, but look at it as a theory," he said. "And they should also understand criticisms against it."

Chris Kahn can be reached at 954-356-4550 or cmkahn@sun-sentinel.com

Intelligent design debate defined by 10 errors


December 9, 2005

Pennsylvania has been the center in the political and judicial battle over the teaching of evolution in public schools. One problem is that many people draw incorrect conclusions from evolution. To illustrate these points, I've identified 10 incorrect ideas that are often heard:

1. There is debate within the scientific community about the truth of evolution.

Lehigh Valley personalities notwithstanding, there is no real debate. Federal agencies do not have programs that focus on alternatives to evolution. One can identify scientific gadflies who support a hypothesis that HIV does not cause AIDS. Such exceptions do not constitute a genuine challenge to the scientific consensus.

2. If something about evolution can be shown to be wrong, the entire law of evolution collapses.

Science does not work this way. We do not reject gravity because a helium balloon appears to defy it.

3. Evolution is tentative since many Americans do not accept it.

Science is not a democratic venture. The vast majority of Europeans once believed that the sun revolved around the earth. The minority Copernican position was correct; the majority position incorrect.

4. Evolution explains the creation of life on earth.

When biologists talk about evolution, we are referring to mechanisms of genetic change over time to explain biological diversity. Prior to the first living thing existing, there can be no evolution since there can be no genetics without life. Evolution cannot be introduced to explain beginnings, only what happened after that.

5. There is nothing harmful about examining ''alternative ideas'' about evolution.

We ignore our understanding of the natural world at our own peril. President Bush embraced intelligent design this year, but weeks later implicitly embraced evolution when he marshaled scientific resources to fight the possibility of a new influenza virus causing a pandemic. Why didn't he ask the intelligent design folks for help?

6. Evolution demonstrates that God does not exist.

It is unfortunate that atheists and materialists have used evolution as evidence that counts against the existence of God. This is not a logically defensible position. Simply because a natural process requires no supernatural intervention does not mean that no supernatural being exists. Evolution is no threat to God any more than gravity or electricity.

7. Evolution cannot be proved since we cannot go back in time and test.

If this were true, astrophysics would collapse as well. Those who make this argument confuse history and science. History concerns itself with what actually happened. Science concerns itself with identifying the fundamental natural rules that govern what happened and what will happen.

8. Intelligent design provides an alternative to evolution.

Intelligent design provides NO alternative to evolution. The proponents of intelligent design do not provide a mechanism for biological change. Their method is to offer evidence that they argue counts against evolution to try to demonstrate that evolution is in doubt and that the existence of a creator is the alternative. But, there is no ''how'' offered, only a wink about ''who.''

9. Intelligent design reveals ''holes'' in the law of evolution.

Proponents of intelligent design favor the tactic of using examples that evolution ''cannot explain,'' like the creation of complex structures and biochemical pathways. Scientists have long recognized the special problems of gene complexity, anatomical complexity, and biochemical complexity. These observations have led to specific predictions for evolution that have been upheld by decades of research.

10. Evolution and intelligent design demonstrate an inevitable conflict between science and religion.

This is wrong on at least two counts. First, it conflates the diversity of religious thought into a single position and defines it as ''religion.'' In fact, most mainline American Protestants sects and the Roman Catholic Church have accepted evolution. Pope John Paul II wrote in favor of evolution, as did Pope Pius XII. Second, thoughtful academics, such as John Polkinghorne and Ian Barbour, have shown how biology and theology can inform and enrich each other. There need be no contradiction.

I am an optimist and I hope to see the intelligent design era end in a good place. It is my hope that the ''great center of American politics'' (whatever that is) will see this as an opportunity to reject both the false science of intelligent design and the logical sloppiness of materialist conclusions from evolution.

Bruce Wightman, Ph.D., is associate professor of biology at Muhlenberg College.

Tilghman criticizes intelligent design


Matt Davis Princetonian Staff Writer

In a lecture at Oxford University last week, President Tilghman pointed out potential clashes among science, politics and religion and defended Darwinian evolution against the challenges presented by proponents of intelligent design.

Her remarks at the prestigious annual Romanes Lecture mark the second time in the past month that Tilghman has publicly criticized intelligent design. In an interview Wednesday, she explained why she passionately and frequently defends the scientifically accepted theory of evolution.

"It's one of the two monumental pillars on which modern biology rests," Tilghman said. "When you have a group of people challenging one of the central tenets of biology, it's very serious."

Tilghman said opposition to Darwinian evolution began with "a small group of evangelical Christians" who, after creationist theory failed to gain popularity, "went back to the drawing board" and started pushing intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinism.

Proponents of intelligent design assert that Darwinian evolution is only a theory and that their theory is an alternative and equally valid explanation of the same observed phenomena.

Tilghman, however, said the approach lacks the substance of a scientific theory.

"Evolution is a theory that has arisen in the scientific field and has been tested and challenged for 150 years," she said. "Intelligent design is a philosophical position that can be taught in social science classes or philosophy classes, but it's not science."

She also noted that advocates do not follow standard scientific procedures.

"The proponents of intelligent design are not working in the mainstream of modern biology," Tilghman said. "They don't publish papers. They don't do experiments."

According to Tilghman, the methods of intelligent design supporters are comparable to an attack on Einstein's famous E = mc^2 equation from an opponent who suggested a new relationship among mass, energy and the speed of light without any experimental evidence.

When asked what she thinks of those who support teaching evolution and intelligent design in the same classroom, Tilghman responded, "I think they're undermining scientific education."

She argued that an academic comparison of evolution and intelligent design would "require you to compare apples and oranges."

Tilghman noted that intelligent design supporters have played politics effectively. Because voter turnout for school board elections is typically very low, for instance, a small minority can have a significant influence.

But she praised the recent election in Dover, Pa., in which school board members who supported teaching intelligent design were voted out of office.

"I think it is a very positive sign that the voters of Dover, Pennsylvania, showed up in force ... and voted for the teaching of evolution," she said.

In Oxford last week, Tilghman pointed out that discrepancies between scientific and religious thought are not a recent phenomenon.

"From the very beginning, science and politics, especially religiously inspired politics, had the potential to become 'strange bedfellows,' by which I mean working at cross purposes with one another rather than in harmony," she said. But she added that the "potential for conflict seems greater now than at any time in my career."

This is especially disturbing, she said, because of the extreme importance of Darwinian evolution in biology.

"It is virtually impossible on the problem at hand," Tilghman said. "Time and again in the course of my career, I have encountered a mysterious finding that was explained by viewing it through the lens of evolutionary biology."

In addition to addressing intelligent design as a potential source of academic conflict, Tilghman's speech also touched on political influence in American space exploration.

The Bush administration, she said, has ignored the analysis of scientists and the progress made by unmanned space vehicles, such as the Voyager missions and the Hubble telescope, pursuing instead the "tangible — even romantic" goal of manned space exploration.

Reporter sues NASA, alleges UFO cover-up


Associated Press Dec. 9, 2005 08:45 AM

PITTSBURGH - Leslie Kean wants NASA to come clean about what happened in the woods of Pennsylvania 40 years ago today.

Kean is an investigative reporter who's suing NASA with the backing of the Sci Fi Channel.

Witnesses claim a UFO landed 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Kean charges NASA is trying to cover-up what happened and wants the space agency to release documents about the incident.

NASA officials say there are no documents to release and what the witnesses saw was debris from a falling Soviet satellite.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Age of Autism: 'A pretty big secret'


By DAN OLMSTED UPI Senior Editor

CHICAGO, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- It's a far piece from the horse-and-buggies of Lancaster County, Pa., to the cars and freeways of Cook County, Ill.

But thousands of children cared for by Homefirst Health Services in metropolitan Chicago have at least two things in common with thousands of Amish children in rural Lancaster: They have never been vaccinated. And they don't have autism.

"We have a fairly large practice. We have about 30,000 or 35,000 children that we've taken care of over the years, and I don't think we have a single case of autism in children delivered by us who never received vaccines," said Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, Homefirst's medical director who founded the practice in 1973. Homefirst doctors have delivered more than 15,000 babies at home, and thousands of them have never been vaccinated.

The few autistic children Homefirst sees were vaccinated before their families became patients, Eisenstein said. "I can think of two or three autistic children who we've delivered their mother's next baby, and we aren't really totally taking care of that child -- they have special care needs. But they bring the younger children to us. I don't have a single case that I can think of that wasn't vaccinated."

The autism rate in Illinois public schools is 38 per 10,000, according to state Education Department data; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the national rate of autism spectrum disorders at 1 in 166 -- 60 per 10,000.

"We do have enough of a sample," Eisenstein said. "The numbers are too large to not see it. We would absolutely know. We're all family doctors. If I have a child with autism come in, there's no communication. It's frightening. You can't touch them. It's not something that anyone would miss."

No one knows what causes autism, but federal health authorities say it isn't childhood immunizations. Some parents and a small minority of doctors and scientists, however, assert vaccines are responsible.

This column has been looking for autism in never-vaccinated U.S. children in an effort to shed light on the issue. We went to Chicago to meet with Eisenstein at the suggestion of a reader, and we also visited Homefirst's office in northwest suburban Rolling Meadows. Homefirst has four other offices in the Chicago area and a total of six doctors.

Eisenstein stresses his observations are not scientific. "The trouble is this is just anecdotal in a sense, because what if every autistic child goes somewhere else and (their family) never calls us or they moved out of state?"

In practice, that's unlikely to account for the pronounced absence of autism, says Eisenstein, who also has a bachelor's degree in statistics, a master's degree in public health and a law degree.

Homefirst follows state immunization mandates, but Illinois allows religious exemptions if parents object based either on tenets of their faith or specific personal religious views. Homefirst does not exclude or discourage such families. Eisenstein, in fact, is author of the book "Don't Vaccinate Before You Educate!" and is critical of the CDC's vaccination policy in the 1990s, when several new immunizations were added to the schedule, including Hepatitis B as early as the day of birth. Several of the vaccines -- HepB included -- contained a mercury-based preservative that has since been phased out of most childhood vaccines in the United States.

Medical practices with Homefirst's approach to immunizations are rare. "Because of that, we tend to attract families that have questions about that issue," said Dr. Paul Schattauer, who has been with Homefirst for 20 years and treats "at least" 100 children a week.

Schattauer seconded Eisenstein's observations. "All I know is in my practice I don't see autism. There is no striking 1-in-166," he said.

Earlier this year we reported the same phenomenon in the mostly unvaccinated Amish. CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding told us the Amish "have genetic connectivity that would make them different from populations that are in other sectors of the United States." Gerberding said, however, studies "could and should be done" in more representative unvaccinated groups -- if they could be found and their autism rate documented.

Chicago is America's prototypical "City of Big Shoulders," to quote Carl Sandburg, and Homefirst's mostly middle-class families seem fairly representative. A substantial number are conservative Christians who home-school their children. They are mostly white, but the Homefirst practice also includes black and Hispanic families and non-home-schooling Jews, Catholics and Muslims.

They tend to be better educated, follow healthier diets and breast-feed their children much longer than the norm -- half of Homefirst's mothers are still breast-feeding at two years. Also, because Homefirst relies less on prescription drugs including antibiotics as a first line of treatment, these children have less exposure to other medicines, not just vaccines.

Schattauer, interviewed at the Rolling Meadows office, said his caseload is too limited to draw conclusions about a possible link between vaccines and autism. "With these numbers you'd have a hard time proving or disproving anything," he said. "You can only get a feeling about it.

"In no way would I be an advocate to stand up and say we need to look at vaccines, because I don't have the science to say that," Schattauer said. "But I don't think the science is there to say that it's not."

Schattauer said Homefirst's patients also have significantly less childhood asthma and juvenile diabetes compared to national rates. An office manager who has been with Homefirst for 17 years said she is aware of only one case of severe asthma in an unvaccinated child.

"Sometimes you feel frustrated because you feel like you've got a pretty big secret," Schattauer said. He argues for more research on all those disorders, independent of political or business pressures.

The asthma rate among Homefirst patients is so low it was noticed by the Blue Cross group with which Homefirst is affiliated, according to Eisenstein.

"In the alternative-medicine network which Homefirst is part of, there are virtually no cases of childhood asthma, in contrast to the overall Blue Cross rate of childhood asthma which is approximately 10 percent," he said. "At first I thought it was because they (Homefirst's children) were breast-fed, but even among the breast-fed we've had asthma. We have virtually no asthma if you're breast-fed and not vaccinated."

Because the diagnosis of asthma is based on emergency-room visits and hospital admissions, Eisenstein said, Homefirst's low rate is hard to dispute. "It's quantifiable -- the definition is not reliant on the doctor's perception of asthma."

Several studies have found a risk of asthma from vaccination; others have not. Studies that include never-vaccinated children generally find little or no asthma in that group.

Earlier this year Florida pediatrician Dr. Jeff Bradstreet said there is virtually no autism in home-schooling families who decline to vaccinate for religious reasons -- lending credence to Eisenstein's observations.

"It's largely non-existent," said Bradstreet, who treats children with autism from around the country. "It's an extremely rare event."

Bradstreet has a son whose autism he attributes to a vaccine reaction at 15 months. His daughter has been home-schooled, he describes himself as a "Christian family physician," and he knows many of the leaders in the home-school movement.

"There was this whole subculture of folks who went into home-schooling so they would never have to vaccinate their kids," he said. "There's this whole cadre who were never vaccinated for religious reasons."

In that subset, he said, "unless they were massively exposed to mercury through lots of amalgams (mercury dental fillings in the mother) and/or big-time fish eating, I've not had a single case."

Federal health authorities and mainstream medical groups emphatically dismiss any link between autism and vaccines, including the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. Last year a panel of the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies, said there is no evidence of such a link, and funding should henceforth go to "promising" research.

Thimerosal, which is 49.6 percent ethyl mercury by weight, was phased out of most U.S. childhood immunizations beginning in 1999, but the CDC recommends flu shots for pregnant women and last year began recommending them for children 6 to 23 months old. Most of those shots contain thimerosal.

Thimerosal-preserved vaccines are currently being injected into millions of children in developing countries around the world. "My mandate ... is to make sure at the end of the day that 100,000,000 are immunized ... this year, next year and for many years to come ... and that will have to be with thimerosal-containing vaccines," said John Clements of the World Health Organization at a June 2000 meeting called by the CDC.

That meeting was held to review data that thimerosal might be linked with autism and other neurological problems. But in 2004 the Institute of Medicine panel said evidence against a link is so strong that health authorities, "whether in the United States or other countries, should not include autism as a potential risk" when formulating immunization policies.

But where is the simple, straightforward study of autism in never-vaccinated U.S. children? Based on our admittedly anecdotal and limited reporting among the Amish, the home-schooled and now Chicago's Homefirst, that may prove to be a significant omission.

This ongoing series on the roots and rise of autism welcomes comment. E-mail: dolmsted@upi.com

© Copyright 2005 United Press International

Kansas Ranks Last in School Science Standards



A national education group says Kansas has the nation's worst science standards for public schools.

And the Thomas B. Fordham Institute condemns the state for rewriting its definition of science and treating evolution as a flawed theory.

The assessment comes after the State Board of Education approved the new standards last month. The Washington-based institute said Kansas' treatment of evolution "makes a mockery of the very definition of science.''

Supporters contend the new standards will expose students to valid criticisms of evolutionary theory and promote openness in the classroom. Board Chairman Steve Abrams called the institute's assessment "fraudulent.''

The institute described such changes as the result of a "relentless'' promotion of intelligent design. The concept holds that some features of the universe are best explained by an unspecified intelligent cause because they're orderly and complex.

Natural History Museum Responds to Evolution Debate Organizations Around the U.S. Look to Develop Similar Programs


In reaction to the current debate on evolution and creationism, many U.S. museums and those in the scientific community are expressing a strong need for an educator's guide to evolution, and are looking into adapting such a guide created by the Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) in Ithaca, NY, affiliated with Cornell University. Next public seminar on this topic will be offered free to the public at the Museum on December 15.

Ithaca, NY (PRWEB) December 8, 2005 -- In an effort to address the challenges educators face on the current complicated evolution and creationism debate, particularly around the issue of "intelligent design", the Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) will hold its next volunteer training seminar on December 15, Evolution and Creationism, An Educator's Guide to Evolution, and organizations around the U.S. are quickly following suit.

Created and presented by PRI Director, Dr. Warren Allmon, the seminar was produced in response to a growing concern among museum docents and volunteers about how to answer questions regarding evolution and creationism. In addition to the seminar, the third one offered since August at the Museum of the Earth, the PRI also offers an educator's guide to evolution on their Web site --www.priweb.org or www.museumoftheearth.org.

The guide, which PRI plans to produce as a book, has received more than 100 web hits to date and the institution has received more than 70 calls and emails from museums and organizations around the U.S. inquiring about adapting the guide for their own volunteers and docents.

One such organization looking to adapt the guide is The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to better suit the needs of its zoo docents. Karen Tingley, Curator of Education at the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn, New York, and a member of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), is concerned about the current direction of science education and will be attending the next seminar in Ithaca.

"Zoos and aquariums, as well as their counterparts at other informal science institutions, have the unique opportunity to educate people about the science behind the theory of evolution and how that theory plays out right before their eyes in the variety of species in our parks. " Tingley said.

"The WCS education department wants to educate its instructors and volunteers on how to effectively convey these scientific messages without juxtaposing them against the religious ideas in creationism or intelligent design. This class along with adapting Dr. Allmon's Guide for Docents will hopefully be useful tools that will aid is mission to educate the public."

The upcoming seminar at PRI and the Museum also comes on the heels of a recent State of the University speech given by Hunter Rawlings III, Interim President of Cornell University, with which the PRI is affiliated. The focus of his speech was on the integrity of the science taught in American schools and universities and the importance of separating science from philosophy and religion.

"I am convinced that the political movement seeking to inject religion into state policy and our schools is serious enough to require our collective time and attention." Rawlings said.

The seminar will be held on December 15th at 5pm in the Museum of the Earth classroom and is open to the public. For more information or directions, please visit www.museumoftheearth.org or to RSVP, please call 607.273.6623 ext. 13 or email e-mail protected from spam bots.

The Paleontological Research Institution exists to increase the understanding of the history of the Earth and its life. The Institution conducts and facilitates paleontological research and communicates knowledge resulting from this research. It houses, curates, and offers specimen collections and a research library, publishes scholarly and popular paleontological books and journals, and it promotes education about Earth's history and paleontology by providing exhibits to the general public and educational materials and programs to schools and students of all ages and levels. The PRI opened the Museum of the Earth in 2003 to give the public access to this learning through exhibits and programs.

Media Contact:

Amy Naim 607-273-6623 ext. 26

Alternative medicine needs rules: acupuncturist


Last updated Dec 8 2005 12:36 PM EST CBC News

Practitioners of Chinese medicine said they welcome Ontario legislation to regulate the profession, despite warnings by some doctors that the proposed law is flawed.

"It's going to make it much safer because there will be a governing body, a college of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine that will regulate the practice," said Elyse Tera, an acupuncturist with Riverside Acupuncture and Wellness Centre in Ottawa.

Tera said she studied for three years to learn about the hundreds of acupuncture points on the human body. But she's heard of people who declared themselves acupuncturists after a three-month course.

On Wednesday, Health Minister George Smitherman tabled a bill in the legislature to regulate Chinese medicine.

If passed, the legislation would create a self-governing regulatory college that would set minimum professional standards. It also ensures that practitioners are kept abreast of the latest techniques, and develop a complaints and discipline process.

Traditional Chinese medicine is a holistic system of health care. Therapies include acupuncture, herbal therapy, and therapeutic exercise.

"It's widely used now already. The thing is it's not regulated, in the sense that somebody can go on a weekend seminar and say, 'Well I'm an acupuncturist,' " said Ottawa Centre MPP Richard Patton, who helped prepare the legislation.

"You have to be careful about sterilizing needles. You are going into the skin below the epidermis and there are safety concerns," he said.

But Toronto acupuncturist Luheng Han said the proposed law would still allow more than 20 regulated professions to set their own standards for acupuncture.

Luheng says the government should set one standard for all acupuncturists.

"They were trying to please everybody. I don't think the government has any bad intentions, but I think they forget the principle. It's public safety," said Luheng.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Senator wants policy change on intelligent design


By ALISON GLASS Anderson Independent-Mail December 6, 2005

South Carolina state Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, is pushing for a change in the state's standards for education about evolution.

Sen. Fair said he wants to make sure the policy regarding science education in the state's public schools is neutral on philosophical issues regarding the creation of life. He is not, he said, attempting to have "intelligent design" or creationism become the curriculum in high school biology classes. Creation science holds that biological life was created supernaturally by God and did not develop by natural processes, according to the Institute for Creation Research Web site, which promotes the concept. Evolutionists maintain that life developed through evolution of the Earth's microorganisms, leading to the development of today's human.

Intelligent design supporters maintain that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection," according to Intelligent Design network, a pro-intelligent-design Web site.

Sen. Fair said standard science revisions proposed this year by the South Carolina Board of Education reflect work he's done with board members and South Carolina Department of Education officials.

But Sen. Fair said he disagrees with an education department-proposed revision that indicates students in high school biology classes should be taught to "use a phylogenetic tree to identify the evolutionary relationships among different groups of organisms."Phylogeny is the lines of descent or evolutionary development of any plant or animal species.

The ideas behind the phylogenetic tree cannot be tested and send messages of "microbe-to-man evolution," Sen. Fair said. "It's philosophical, not theoretical," he said. President George W. Bush added fuel to the evolution education fire in August when he proposed teaching evolution and intelligent design.

"Both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about," he said in a Washington Post story, which cited an official transcript of the session. "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought ... You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

Several biology teachers in Anderson-area public high schools said they would have concerns about teaching intelligent design or creationism in a science class.

Jenna Baker, a biology teacher at Liberty High School in Pickens County, said DNA testing can be done to evaluate phylogenetic relationships. Fossil evidence and embryology also are used to confirm or disprove phylogenetic relationships, she said.

"Evolution isn't a belief system, it's an idea tested repeatedly through the scientific method," Ms. Baker said.

Ms. Baker and Alicia Clinger, a science teacher at Easley High School in Pickens County, said they don't tell their students what to believe about evolution or other topics.

"We present the facts, and they can use their skills of critical thinking and decide for themselves what they believe," Ms. Clinger said. A July poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Lifefound that 48 percent of the public believes humans and other creatures evolved over time, while 42 percent said living things existed in their present form since the beginning of time. A majority, 64 percent, said they are open to teaching creationism and evolution in public schools, according to the Pew report. Some 38 percent wanted to replace evolution with creationism in public school curricula, according to Pew.

Matthew Schult, a biology teacher at Pendleton High School, along with several other teachers, said instruction in science classes should be limited to things that can be tested.

"If I had children, I wouldn't want them to come to school to learn religion or religious principles," Mr. Schult said. He would want his children to learn about religion from members of the clergy, he said.

Sen. Fair is a member of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, which votes on the curriculum proposed by the state Board of Education. He plans to recommend at the next Oversight Committee meeting, which will take place Dec. 12, that the Board of Education's proposed science standards regarding evolution be sent back to the board for revisions, he said.

The senator also proposed legislation in June stating that when topics in science classes "may generate controversy, such as biological evolution, the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."

Sen. Fair said he has not decided whether he will push for the legislation's passage when lawmakers reconvene in January.

Alison Glass can be reached at (864) 260-1275 or by e-mail at glassag@IndependentMail.com.

©2005 Independent Publishing Co.

Lawmakers, don't round off facts on intelligent design


A guest column by Gordon Walter

Posted on Wed, Dec. 07, 2005

How will the Indiana Legislature handle pseudoscience this time?

According to the book "A History of Pi," by Dr. Petr Beckmann, in February 1897, the Indiana Legislature nearly adopted a notably incorrect value, 3.2, for this geometric ratio. House Bill 246 passed unanimously and had a favorable first reading in the Senate. Just before the second reading, a Purdue mathematics professor learned of the debate and educated the senators.

Some Indiana legislators now want to require that schools teach "intelligent design," an opinion claiming to be a scientific alternative to biological evolution. If so, how could it be taught?

Legitimate science reaches conclusions (often called "theories") based on precise experiments and careful observations. To be generally accepted, these conclusions must be testable for independent confirmation by other scientists.

Even then, no theory is considered final, because further discoveries may lead to modifications or extensions. Einstein's theories of relativity provided one example by modifying Newton's laws of motion, and there is still continuing effort to complete them.

Evolution's standing in the scientific world is expressed by Michael Shermer in his book "Science Friction":

"The preponderance of evidence from numerous converging lines of inquiry (geology, paleontology, zoology, botany, comparative anatomy, molecular biology, population genetics, biogeography, etc.) all independently converge to the same conclusion — evolution happened," Shermer writes.

Then there is "intelligent design," which says simply that a phenomenon that is not yet fully explained by science must have been caused by a supernatural agent. The agent is carefully nameless. There is neither evidence nor a way to test the claim. And the claim is intended to be the final answer to any question about the origin of the human race.

Whatever the feeling about "intelligent design," it is clearly not scientific. It cannot be a legitimate part of a science curriculum.

Instead, ID could be included in a course on what various cultures have thought about the origin of life. It might be covered in a philosophy course. However, these dodge the basic question.

Perhaps Indiana legislators will stop before requiring religion to be taught in public schools.

Gordon Walter is a resident of Fort Wayne.

Monkey Business


For students who doubt the validity of evolution, college science class can be daunting. What happens when beliefs and schoolwork collide?

Shih-Mu Pai, Parsons

Each year, students who are not convinced by evolution enter college classrooms. These students are often nervous about how their beliefs will affect their grades in natural science courses. Their backgrounds are varied; many who believe in creationism or intelligent design describe themselves as evangelical Christians, like Scott, but others are Muslim, agnostic, or even atheist. Some think the Biblical explanation of the beginning of life is literally accurate, that life began in the days after an omnipotent god created the Earth. Others think that life began with small organisms and that the evolutionary process that did occur with our development was guided by a deity. Still others think that evolutionary theory lacks the necessary support to make it believable.

Though there are few firm statistics, it is clear that not everyone with a university degree hanging on the wall believes in evolution. A CBS News poll released in October 2005 stated that 15 percent of all Americans believe that humans evolved without the guidance of a god; other respondents believe either that humans evolved with God's guidance or that humans were created by God in their present form. The numbers alter only slightly among Americans with at least one college degree, 24 percent of whom believe in evolution. Young Americans are more likely to believe in evolution, possibly a result of a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that forbade public schools from teaching creationism as fact. Even so, large numbers of students on college campuses remain ill at ease with their professors' assertions that the world dates back to the Big Bang, not to the Garden of Eden.

"Many students have, over the years, come to me at church to express concern that a professor is opposed to Christianity and the basis for their concern is that the professor talks about evolution," David Buchanan, a professor of animal science at Oklahoma State University, said in an e-mail. He has frequently taught seminars on the origin of life and estimates that "more than half" of his students would, if asked, "assert quite a conservative view of Genesis 1:11," the portion of the Bible that outlines the Judeo-Christian creation story. Buchanan himself is an evangelical Christian and believes that it is important to discuss origin theories that contradict evolution, because "in science, we are always looking at alternatives." He cautions, however, that the current incarnation of intelligent design theory has not reached the viability necessary to be taught in a college science class.

Most faculty members and colleges agree that intelligent design and creation theories belong in religion and philosophy classes, while evolution should reign supreme in natural science courses. Following University of Idaho President Tim White's statement that only evolution theory should be taught in his school's bio-physical science courses, the interim president of Cornell University, Hunter R. Rawlings III, used his October State of the University address to condemn intelligent design for "put[ting] rational thought under attack." He went on to deride it as "a religious belief masquerading as science."

Hannah Maxson, a junior at Cornell University majoring in chemistry and mathematics, disagrees with her school's policy. "I don't think [intelligent design] belongs in a humanities course. I think it does belong in a science course," she says. Maxson is the founder of Cornell's Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Club, a new student organization dedicated to discussing the "holes" in evolution and researching other theories of origin. The club's six members include a Muslim and an atheist.

"In my classes, there was always only one viewpoint," says Maxson, who was raised in a Christian household but says that she came to embrace intelligent design through her own readings and research. Professors, she says, "very much want us to believe in evolution and you get the impression that they'd be a lot happier with you if you did." The IDEA Club meets regularly to discuss such topics as carbon dating and the fossil record. "The aim is not so much to reach a consensus," she says, as to examine and discuss the hot topics in origin theory.

Currently there are about thirty IDEA Clubs in existence, on college and high school campuses across America, as well as in Canada, Kenya, and the Philippines. These organizations, which exist in both public and private schools, seek to correct what the IDEA Center calls the "great inequality in the science classroom." While seven new clubs were founded in the course of 2005, other chapters have become inactive as founders graduate and memberships dwindle.

With most faculty members and colleges endorsing evolution, students who believe in creationism or intelligent design often worry that their grades might suffer at the hands of evolution-teaching professors. In a much-publicized 2003 lawsuit, Micah Spradling, then a junior at Texas Tech University, filed complaints with the Justice Department and his school, charging that a biology teacher's policy of only writing letters of recommendation for students who believed in evolution theory was discriminatory. The professor changed his policy and Spradling, who had spent only two days in the professor's class, dropped the complaints.

Scott, despite his initial fears, found no such discrimination in any of West Chester's science departments. Once his professors found out that he believed in intelligent design, they strove to help him find ways to write his papers without sacrificing either scientific knowledge or his personal beliefs. "They were very impressed that I was willing to take a stand and they helped me a lot." Heartened by his own experience, Scott found other Christian geology majors through facebook and sent them supportive messages. "You might think it's going to be hard the next few years, but keep praying, keep close to God, and He'll help you through it," he encouraged them.

Even if students like Scott and Maxson reject evolutionary theory, it is still necessary to understand it, says Niall Shanks, a professor of history and philosophy of science at Wichita State University. Shanks has taken part in numerous debates about evolution and intelligent design across the country. "If a student can demonstrate that he or she understands the scientific theory, that's where my interest in the matter ends," he says. "Students find that, I think, less threatening, because I think some of them come in with the view that the science professor is going to wrestle with them for their souls. It's not the point of a science education."

Shanks warns that there are greater implications to the evolution debate than a grade in Biology 101. If America is seen as a nation that rejects commonly accepted scientific theory, the country might lose out. "Like it or lump it. If you're going to prosper in this kind of environment, you've got to be biologically literate."

Victoria Bosch is a senior at Penn State University and recently completed an internship with Slate magazine.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

The evolution of the anti-evolution movement


December 7, 2005


Last week, in MSU's Kellogg Auditorium, Eugenie C. Scott, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, gave a lecture entitled "An Evolutionary System: Creationism, Creation Science, and Intelligent Design." The center is a nonprofit organization working to keep evolution in public school science education.

Scott's thesis was simple: Beginning at the end of the 19th century, fundamentalist Christians sought to use the government via the public schools to replace the teaching of evolution in science classes with the Biblical creation story. The anti-evolution movement has evolved over the last 100 years from "Creationism" to "Creation Science" and more recently to "Intelligent Design." The arguments have become more sophisticated but their purpose is essentially the same: to use the public schools to impose a particular religious belief system.

The first movement, creationism, had its roots in the rise of fundamentalist Christianity at the end of the 19th century. It was based on Biblical literalism and sought to ban the teaching of evolution in public school science classes. The culmination of this effort came in the famous Scopes Trial, popularly known as "the monkey trial," in which the state law outlawing the teaching of evolution was upheld.

The fundamentalist position, as presented by its most famous spokesman in the trial, William Jennings Bryan, was based on three important arguments — which can still be heard today: There is no real scientific basis to evolution — it is simply a "theory"; evolution is incompatible with religion ("anti-religion"); and it is the right of citizens to decide what is taught in the public schools.

With the success of the fundamentalist movement the teaching of evolution disappeared from the school curriculum, and state laws against its teaching remained on the books until the Supreme Court decided in l968 in Epperson v. Arkansas that the Arkansas anti-evolution law (and therefore all other such laws) was unconstitutional based on the establishment clause and the protection of free speech. In the words of Justice Fortas writing for the majority, Arkansas could not "prevent its teachers from discussing the theory of evolution because it is contrary to the belief of some that the Book of Genesis must be the exclusive source of doctrine as to the origins of man."

The fundamentalist movement then turned to "scientific creationism," now calling the creation story a "science." According to this "science," God created everything at one time — everything in its present form. It was "special creationism." Creation science sought an end run around the Epperson decision by demanding that the schools offer equal time for creation science and evolution. But in l987, in a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law mandating "equal time" for creation science in the public schools because the purpose of the Louisiana legislature "was clearly to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind."

Recently, "intelligent design" has become the fundamentalist watchword to bring creationism into the public schools. According to this theory, the origins of life are so complex that it can only be explained by the existence of an "intelligent designer." The natural world cannot be completely explained by science — there is always "an irreducible complexity" that science cannot explain, and this opens science education to the role of an intelligent force, unnamed by the ID proponents.

The words have changed, but the attempt to impose a religious belief in our science programs continues. The anti-evolutionary arguments are more sophisticated and appealing, especially to those well-meaning of us who are tired of the endless battles in school boards (e.g., Dover, Pa.) and state legislatures (e.g., Kansas).

Now for creationists, the theory and tactics center on the idea of balance. Evolution, they argue, is only a "theory"; it is not the truth. Therefore, we must "balance" what we teach in science classes by teaching "creation science" or "intelligent design," along with evolution, so that students can make up their own minds. The science curriculum should give students a choice.

While giving students a free choice may seem quite open-minded, the choice is a false one. Both creation science and intelligent design lack scientific support; they are based on religious belief, not scientific evidence. They do not belong in our public school science programs.

This battle is not over. Each session laws mandating "balance" are introduced in the Michigan legislature. Thus far they have not been enacted. But the power of the religious right is growing in this country — right-wing foundations, such as the Discovery Institute and Focus on the Family, have raised large sums of money in an effort to impose their right-wing religious views on our public institutions.

(Henry Silverman is a professor emeritus of history at MSU who specializes in American civil liberties.)

Weeping or not, Mary is a magnet


Believers see tears of blood in local statue, and even skeptics see the draw.

By Deb Kollars and Ed Fletcher -- Bee Staff Writers

Published 2:15 am PST Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Story appeared on Page A1 of The Bee

Whether a statue of the Virgin Mary is crying or not, there is no denying the star power of the Madonna.

The mother of Jesus Christ made the cover of Time magazine earlier this year. Month after month, crowds journey to places around the world where the virgin mother is believed to have appeared.

Over the next few days, Catholics will celebrate two feasts in her honor - the Immaculate Conception on Thursday and Our Lady of Guadalupe on Monday.

"There is a tremendous appeal to Mary, and it is growing," said the Rev. James Murphy, rector of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in downtown Sacramento, who noted that for centuries, great painters have made her a prominent subject.

In southeast Sacramento County, an outdoor statue of Mary has become the center of attention at the humble Vietnamese Catholic Martyrs Church on Jackson Road. Since late November, believers have come to view the statue, which has a red streak running from the corner of her left eye. A priest wiped the streak away Nov. 9, but when it reappeared Nov. 20, many viewed it as tears of blood being shed.

The "weeping Mary" has drawn crowds and national media attention.

No one has actually seen tears flowing. The Diocese of Sacramento has no current plans to investigate. Others consider it a common stain or possible hoax.

And still the people come.

They bring candles and flowers, bundled-up babies, and hearts filled with prayers and petitions.

"I believe it is a miracle," said Florence Champaco, a 56-year-old woman who lives in Elk Grove and is attending school to learn medical billing. She has visited nearly every day since she first heard about the statue on television, including last Thursday in the pouring rain.

"I just come to pray," Champaco said Monday, as she stood as close as she could to the fence line, about 10 feet from the statue.

According to author Joe Nickell, who wrote "Looking for a Miracle," the red streak is a hoax, but not without possible value. Such events often can draw believers and nonbelievers to the church.

"People are anxious to see something tangible," he said. "Rather than go to church and maybe hear a sermon, you could just go be near a miracle."

For Champaco, this was not the first time she'd sought a miracle. Fifteen years ago, she traveled to St. Dominic's Church in Colfax, about 50 miles northeast of Sacramento, to view what she and many others believed was an image of Mary. The phenomenon later was determined by a physics professor to be a reflection of sunlight.

Over the years, such sightings have been reported hundreds of times throughout the world. Sometimes the locations have been predictable, such as in stained glass windows. Others have been bizarre, such as a Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich that sold for $28,000 a year ago on eBay.

Most, Murphy said, can be explained by natural causes.

"The authentic ones are rare," he said, mentioning reported appearances by Mary in Fatima, Portugal, and Lourdes, France. "The church is extremely careful."

In coming days, Catholics will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, another event considered authentic, Murphy said. The feast commemorates Mary's appearance to a Mexican peasant named Juan Diego in 1531. Her image is said to have appeared on his cloak.

From experts to plain folks, some have a believe-first mentality, while others are much harder to convince.

Thomas Haselrig, a cook at 21st Street Bar and Grill, wanted proof before he would drive miles to see a weeping statue.

"Has anybody gone up to touch the statue to see what it is?" Haselrig asked.

But Maryvic McCann, who attends St. Lawrence Catholic Church in North Highlands, was ready to believe, even before seeing for herself.

"If it's a hoax, I really feel sad, but right now, I believe it's true," she said.

Among experts, many are doubtful.

Nickell, a senior research fellow for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal in New York, called the event a "clumsy, obvious hoax."

He cited the fact that nobody has seen blood flowing, the presence of "tears" from only one eye, and the location of "tears" on the outside of the eye.

He took issue with the church for not acting quickly to test the substance.

"If a statue is a fraud or a hoax, or even just a mistake, it should be determined and that should be that," Nickell said. "If it's a fake, then it should be repudiated."

Murphy, however, said it is too early to do such tests. "For now we're simply going to wait."

Lorraine Warren, a Connecticut investigator of paranormal events for over 50 years, admitted to a believe-first approach.

"Until you can disprove it, look at it as real," Warren said. "Miraculous things do happen, but you have to be careful."

When told about the local statue, she asked careful questions. When did it start? Where was the statue? Who discovered it? How often does it cry?

She found it intriguing that the alleged appearance of tears came near the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

"I hope and pray to God that this is a miraculous thing," said Warren, who with her husband formed the New England Society for Psychic Research.

The desire for miracles runs deep within people, said the Rev. Michael Russo, professor in the Department of Communications at Saint Mary's College in Moraga.

"I think there is an enormous desire for some connection with the world around them that the Creator exists and is good to them," Russo said.

Out on Jackson Road, as night fell Monday, dozens of candles formed a warm glow around the statue of Mary. It was cold and quiet.

And tears or no tears, the people kept coming.

About the writer:
The Bee's Deb Kollars can be reached at (916) 321-1090 or dkollars@sacbee.com. The Bee's Ed Fletcher can be reached at (916) 321-1269 or efletcher@sacbee.com.

The Kecksburg UFO incident

By Mark Hofmann DAILY COURIER Tuesday, December 6, 2005

A fire in the sky, an acorn-shaped object partially buried in the ground, odd hieroglyphic markings, the military restricting access to the site, a possible government cover-up -- all in Westmoreland County and it's all a part of what's known as the UFO incident in Kecksburg.

Friday will mark the 40th anniversary of that incident, when numerous people witnessed a fireball streak across the skies in the late afternoon.

While the fireball reportedly was seen in four states, it landed in a wooded area near the village of Kecksburg, near Mt. Pleasant.

All the witnesses interviewed said that the object in question was large, metallic, acorn-shaped, with hieroglyphic markings, and partially buried in the ground.

Soon after the object fell, the military was on the scene and cordoned off the area, forbidding access to everyone.

Even after a military flat-bed trailer truck was seen rushing out of the area carrying a tarpaulin-covered object, to this day the official story from the government was that nothing was found, that what crashed was a meteorite.

Stan Gordon, of Greensburg, remembers that night and the rest of the story well.

Gordon was 16 years old at the time and was glued to both the radio and the television all night long, since he was already interested in supernatural phenomenon at an early age.

"It became more intriguing as the evening went on," Gordon said. "I stayed up as late as I could, and then I read about it in the Tribune-Review the next day on the front page."

Since then, Gordon's interest only grew. He started investigating the UFO incident over the years, making contact and interviewing numerous eye witnesses and consulting experts to post to his UFO/Bigfoot research Web site, www.stangordon.com

Gordon is the organizer of a special event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Kecksburg incident, to bring more witnesses together and even attract new witnesses who may be now willing to tell the group what they saw.

"Some still wish to remain anonymous," he said.

Gordon said it took months to put together the program, which will feature speakers from as far as New York City and Washington, D.C.

The program will include the following speakers:

= Gordon, who will hold an illustrated talk about the incident based on the information he gathered from 40 years of research.

= Robert Gatty, a reporter for the Tribune-Review in 1965. He will describe his assignment that night and how he was prevented from approaching the object by numerous Army personnel on the scene.

= Larry Landsman, the director of special projects for the Sci-Fi Channel. He will discuss the channel's UFO Advocacy Initiative that supported a recent investigation of the Kecksburg case by the Coalition for Freedom of Information. The cable channel also produced two TV documentaries on Kecksburg that aired in 2003.

= Leslie Kean, a journalist. She will speak on the forensic evidence recently discovered at the crash site and on her interviews with Air Force personnel involved in the search of the UFO.

= Lee E. Helfrich, an attorney. He will speak about the current status of the lawsuit filed against NASA in 2003 to gain access information about the Kecksburg incident.

There will also be a restored Kecksburg UFO monument on display behind the fire station, put together by the Kecksburg Volunteer Fire Department UFO and Festival Committee.

One Connellsville resident excited about the upcoming event is Jerry Betters, who was an eye witness of the incident.

It was on that Dec. 9 that Betters heard about the siting on the radio and decided to head out to the area with a few people.

The military was already on the scene, blocking the main roads, but Betters knew the community well and took the back roads, he said. He saw steam emerging from the woods like there was a fire. He also saw a lot of soldiers, what could have been top military brass, people in lab coats and something he'll never forget: an object on a flat-bed truck with hieroglyphic writings on it that was leaving the woods.

"That was no meteorite," Betters said. "It was something I'll never see again, but I'm glad I saw it."

Although what Betters saw was unique and armed military personnel yelled at them to leave the scene, he wasn't scared.

"I was very excited; it was a really good feeling," he said. "My heart was beating really fast."

Stories like Betters can be heard during the program, which will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Kecksburg VFD community hall. The program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Call 724-423-9540 for more information.

Mark Hofmann can be reached at mhofmann@tribweb.com or (724) 626-3539.


Kecksburg to mark 40th anniversary of purported UFO crash

By Sam Kusic TRIBUNE-REVIEW Tuesday, December 6, 2005

On Dec. 9, 1965, a fireball was reported streaking over four states, across the Pittsburgh area and toward Greensburg. Local sightings touched off calls to police, who assumed they should be looking for an airplane on fire or a downed aircraft.

Around dinner time, residents of Kecksburg, a village in Mt. Pleasant Township, began reporting that something had fallen into a wooded area just outside the town.

Police responded. So did the fire department. And along with them came the curious onlookers.

Some people claim to have walked into the woods and seen a metallic object half-buried in the ground. They described it as acorn-shaped, big enough for a man to stand in, with some strange markings -- like hieroglyphics -- on it.

And within a few hours of the crash, the military showed up. Soldiers cordoned off the area, and some people reported being ordered to leave at gunpoint.

Also responding were newspaper, radio and television reporters, who heard police radio transmissions and received calls from people who had seen the fireball.

But by that point the woods had been declared off-limits to all.

In the wee hours of the morning, a military flatbed tractor-trailer was supposedly seen hauling some tarp-covered object out of the woods and speeding off into the night.

State police and the government later said they found nothing in the woods, insisting that people had seen a meteor that likely burned up before impact.

Kecksburg's fire department hopes to cash in on the anniversary of perhaps the biggest story to ever to hit the small village in Mt. Pleasant Township.

In cooperation with Stan Gordon, a Greensburg UFO and Bigfoot researcher, the community is set to recognize the purported UFO crash on Dec. 9, 1965, with a daylong event Saturday, complete with witnesses, speakers and even a refurbished replica of the object, a prop that was used when the television show "Unsolved Mysteries" produced a segment about the incident.

Because the rural department played a role that night four decades ago and because it is struggling financially, officials are hoping that a crowd with an interest in reports of flying saucers and aliens shows up with some cash to burn.

Admission is free, but there will be food, T-shirts, ball caps and DVDs for sale.

"We're just an old, country-style fire department. We've got something we can hold onto, and we're going to capitalize on it," said Rich Comp, co-chairman of the department's newly formed UFO and festival committee. "One of these days we're going to need a new truck."

Gordon, who maintains that he is convinced that something crashed 40 years ago, says interest is still high and people still speculate about what really happened in the woods of Kecksburg that night.

"Publicly, there seems to be a lot of support to find out what happened in 1965," he said.

He's lined up a list of speakers, all of whom either were in Kecksburg that night or are taking part in his ongoing investigation.

Among them are Leslie Kean, a journalist and the investigations director for The Coalition for Freedom of Information. According to the organization's Web site, its purpose is "achieving scientific, congressional and media credibility for the study of unexplained aerial phenomena while working for the release of official information and physical evidence."

Kean is the plaintiff in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed against NASA that seeks records related to the incident.

The Harvard-educated attorney handling the case, Lee E. Helfrich, of the Washington, D.C., firm Lobel, Novins & Lamont, is also expected to attend. She will talk about the status of the lawsuit.

Larry Landsman, special projects director for the Sci Fi Channel, is another guest speaker. His station produced two documentaries on the Kecksburg incident and put together The Coalition for Freedom of Information.

Witnesses also will be on hand, including Robert Gatty, a former Tribune-Review reporter who covered the incident for this newspaper.

Gordon said that when all the witness accounts are taken together, each piece corroborates the other.

"Over the years, many different individuals were able to confirm what other people had already told us without them having known each other. So many pieces of the puzzle began to fit together after so many years of research," Gordon said.

He says the actions of the government that night continue to fuel theories -- and suspicions.

"What was so important that the military responded the way it did that night?"

He said he thinks there are three possibilities -- that what crashed was an advanced, manmade space probe with some re-entry capability, that it was part of a secret government or military experiment, or that it was an extraterrestrial spacecraft.

"It's an intriguing story," Gordon said.

Ron Struble, chairman of the community's UFO and festival committee, said there is no doubt in his mind that something did crash in Kecksburg. But the question of what it was is not for the community to answer.

"We're not investigators," he said.

The event is being held at the fire department's social hall. It begins at 1 p.m. Seating is limited.

Sam Kusic can be reached at skusic@tribweb.com or 724.463.8742.


Coleman talks about creationism


Angela E. Lackey, Midland Daily News 12/06/2005

Eric Hovind's motto is simple – he is against lies and for truth.

"I want to talk about evolution. Things that just don't add up," Hovind said.

Hovind, of Pensacola-based Creation Science Evangelism, talked to an estimated 150 people Monday night in Coleman High School's gym. The event was sponsored by the Coleman Wesleyan Church, not the school district.

Nick Bushell, 13, and Carlee Young, 12, were sitting in the bleachers' top row. The two siblings are students at Coleman Middle School and go to the Coleman Wesleyan Church. Both said they have studied evolution.

"I think God ... designed us all for a certain reason," Bushell said.

Fanny Buxton brought her 9-year-old son, Damian. Damian was excited, talking about learning "fun stuff" about dinosaurs.

Hovind said there are two worldviews on the creation of life. He believes the Bible tells how God created man. Evolution says life started an estimated 20 million years ago with the Big Bang.

"Two world views. You have to believe in one or the other," Hovind said.

According to Hovind, the Supreme Court ruled creationism can be taught in the schools.

"Matter of fact, you can do it right out of the Bible," Hovind said. "What you are not allowed to do is try and convert children.

"I am not trying to get evolution out of the schools," he continued. "I want to get the errors out and the truth in."

Hovind used the Grand Canyon as his first example. The creationist interpretation states the canyon was created with lots of water in little time. The evolutionist view states it was created with a little bit of water over a long period of time.

He said it is up to each person to decide which worldview to believe, and that neither can be proved. But, Hovind added, often evolution is taught as fact and creationism isn't taught at all.

Next he tackled the idea of a geologic column, which was introduced in the 1800s. The evolution theory states geologic columns have several layers, including sediment and index fossils, that are millions of years old. But, he pointed out, carbon dating wasn't used until the mid-20th century. He said the columns do not exist.

Hovind said there are layers to the earth. But, he asked, if the earth is billions of years old, why wouldn't the layers be eroded?

He talked about the trilobite, a marine creature, which had the most sophisticated eye lenses in nature. It is now extinct.

"Wouldn't that go against evolution?" Hovind asked, referring to survival of the fittest.

He ended his talk with the six meanings of evolution, of which he said only one was scientific:

1. Cosmic evolution – the origin of time, space and matter; meaning the Big Bang.

"Can we study the Big Bang?" he asked. "Of course not."

2. Chemical evolution – the origin of the higher elements.

"Can we see that happen?" Hovind asked. The answer was no.

3. Stellar and planetary evolution – the origin of stars and planets.

"Nobody has ever seen a star form," he said. "All we ever see is stars blow up."

4. Organic evolution – the origin of life from something that's not alive. He said this has been disproved.

5. Macro-evolution – the origin of major kinds of species.

"Can we ever see that one?" he asked, adding that animals do not produce new kinds.

6. Micro-evolution – Hovind said this should be considered variations within different kinds of species. He also said this was the only form of evolution that can be scientifically tested. He said this type of evolution, or changing, keeps different species alive.

"That's good designing on the Creator's part," he said.

And if the other five evolution theories are not science?

"If I believe in something, it's called a religion," he said.

The meeting drew local television coverage, which raised issues about having intelligent design in the school. However, there were no concerns raised about church and state issues during the seminar.

Dover ruling could be its own genesis


Legal observers say the judge can take one of three paths in the intelligent design case

By Lisa Anderson
Tribune national correspondent
Published December 6, 2005

NEW YORK -- In the next few weeks a federal judge in Pennsylvania will rule in the nation's first legal case involving intelligent design, a decision that could influence the way biology is taught in schools across the country.

Judge John Jones III, who presided over the six-week bench trial that ended last month in Harrisburg, Pa., may provide the first legal answer to the question at the heart of the most bitter battle in the culture wars over the teaching of evolution: Is intelligent design a religious belief or a scientific theory?

Legal observers suggest Jones could rule broadly. He could decide intelligent design, or ID, is religious belief, not scientific theory, and thus cannot be taught in public schools because it violates the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment, which mandates the separation of church and state. Or, he could rule the reverse, supporting ID's validity as science and thus opening the door to affirming the constitutionality of teaching ID.

The third option, they said, could be a narrow ruling limited to whether members of a school board in Dover, Pa., had a primarily religious, rather than secular, purpose in adopting a policy introducing ID into the biology curriculum.

`Creationism lite'

A concept critical of evolutionary biological theory, intelligent design often is disparaged as "creationism lite," referring to the biblical account of creation in Genesis.

Nearly universally dismissed by the mainstream scientific community, ID posits that some complex aspects of the natural world, yet unexplained by modern advances in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, are best attributed to an unnamed and unseen intelligent designer. Although ID refrains from characterizing the designer, many leading ID advocates, including some who testified for the defense during the trial, say they believe the designer is God.

Evolutionary theory holds that all life, including humans, shares common ancestry and developed through the mechanisms of natural mutation and random selection. In science, a theory is not a guess but an overarching explanation that pulls together rigorously tested facts and observation and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.

Displaying notable patience, frequent flashes of dry humor and no clues to his mindset, Jones, 50, presided over the landmark case Kitzmiller et al vs. Dover Area School District. Eleven parents of Dover students sued the school board claiming that it acted with improper religious purpose to unconstitutionally introduce ID into the high school biology curriculum. The parents contend that ID, while devoid of any overt mention of the Bible or the divine, is a thinly veiled version of creationism.

In the 1987 case Edwards vs. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court found creationism to be a religious belief and thus that it could not be taught in public schools because it violated the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment.

To reach his decision, Jones likely will use the "Lemon test" from a 1971 case--Lemon vs. Kurtzman--to decide whether the school board had a proper secular purpose for its action, and perhaps whether the effect of the board's action was to promote or inhibit religion.

Jones, a former trial lawyer elevated to the bench by President Bush in 2002, has many options for his decision, but three stand out as most likely, according to legal observers.

First, he could rule broadly that ID is a religious belief, not a scientific theory. If so, the introduction of ID in a public school science class would be unconstitutional.

"And that, of course, is the option we are asking the court to take," said Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. The ACLU, along with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Philadelphia firm of Pepper Hamilton, represented the plaintiffs at no cost.

Potential ripple effect

"Legally, the opinion is only binding on Dover. Practically, it's likely to have greater effect. For example, the seminal creation science case was McClean vs. Arkansas. That case never went beyond the district court and that decision was binding only on Arkansas . . . but it had tremendous effect all across the country," said Walczak.

He referred to a 1982 case in which a federal court ruled that an Arkansas statute requiring public schools to give "balanced treatment for creation-science and evolution science" violated the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment. It found legislators lacked a secular purpose and passed a law advancing a religious belief.

Second and equally broad in scope, Jones could affirm the constitutionality of teaching ID by supporting its validity as scientific theory and rejecting the argument that it is a religious belief, a decision the ACLU probably would appeal.

"If that happens, we're going to have school boards across the country trying it [introducing ID] the next day," said Charles Haynes, senior scholar and director of education programs at the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va.

In the last 12 months, more than two dozen state legislatures and school boards have considered introducing ID in science curricula, according to the National Center for Science Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending the teaching of evolution in public schools. Many are watching the Dover case, not least because, if the school board loses, the district may have to pay more than $1 million in plaintiffs' court fees.

Such a decision favoring the defense would delight Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian-oriented firm in Ann Arbor, Mich., which defended the Dover school board at no charge.

"The ideal decision would be that the court would find the . . . policy of the Dover school board does not violate the establishment clause and the theory of intelligent design is a credible scientific theory which can be mentioned in science classes," he said.

But Thompson and other ID advocates, such as the Seattle-based Discovery Institute think tank, would prefer Jones limit his decision to the purpose of the board, and not rule on the nature of ID. That would leave the constitutionality of ID in public schools unresolved and school boards still free to consider it, if at risk of Dover-like litigation and the recent ouster of ID advocates on its school board by voters.

Scope of decision

"We don't believe it would be appropriate for the judge to rule on which theory best explains human origins or the existence of complex biological systems," said Thompson, who hoped Dover might become a test case for the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of motivation and purpose. But it's unclear if the new Dover school board will appeal if the plaintiffs win.

Indeed, Jones could issue a narrow decision, limited to whether board members had a primarily religious, rather than secular, purpose in adopting the policy introducing ID.

"I don't think it's the test case most of us would have hoped for," said attorney Valerie Munson, head of the religion and law practice group at the Philadelphia firm of Eckert Seamans.

Usually, it is difficult to determine motivation or purpose, she and others noted. But in the Dover case, some members of the board made public statements about Jesus Christ and creationism, which indicated religion may have weighed more heavily in the adoption of the ID policy than their asserted purpose of encouraging critical thinking in students.

If Jones decides the case on motivation, the broader questions about ID would be left to other cases in other courts.

And there will be other cases, said Thompson, who anticipates a lawsuit against Michigan's Gull Lake school board on behalf of two teachers who are asserting their rights to teach evolution in conjunction with ID.

But such a narrow decision in Dover would be disappointing, said Wesley Wildman, director of the doctoral program in science, philosophy and religion at Boston University.

"They may be able to get to motivation and rule [Dover's ID policy] out on that basis, but that narrower kind of result will be totally useless to the greater debate," he said.


Intelligent Design -- A Scientific, Academic and Philosophical Controversy


By Paul M. Weyrich (12/06/05)

Many Americans are focused on what should be taught in the schools regarding our universe and the Earth – how life as we know it has come to be. This has become a hot-button issue, igniting controversy in Kansas over what should be taught in the public schools and in Pennsylvania, where a high profile trial is taking place over a local school board decision. NEWSWEEK featured Charles Darwin on its cover and the current SMITHSONIAN prints a story on Charles Darwin. The controversy is unlikely to fade soon, in large measure because a new school of thought is gaining increasing acceptance within scientific and academic circles.

Intelligent Design holds that nature shows more "design" than many academics in the sciences, education and philosophy are willing to acknowledge. Neo-Darwinists view changes in life forms as happenstance, dictated as much by changes in environment as serendipity. A PBS television series, Evolution, asserted that "all known scientific evidence supports [Darwinian] evolution" and that the scientific community was four-square in support of his theories. No doubt many scientists hold firm to their belief in Darwin but it cannot be asserted credibly that there is only one school of thought – evolution – accepted by the scientific profession.

Many scientists are breaking from Darwinian orthodoxy. The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank, issued "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism" several years ago featuring this statement: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." Four hundred scientists now have expressed support for this statement, including Dr. Stanley Salthe, Visiting Scientist in Biological Sciences at Binghamton University and Associate Researcher for the Center for the Philosophy of Nature and Science Studies of the University of Copenhagen. Dr. Salthe had specialized in Darwinian evolutionary theory and now criticizes its reductionism, which essentially claims that all changes derive from the effects of competition.

Salthe does not appear to be a conventional conservative thinker. He states: "My opposition to [Darwinian evolutionary theory] is fundamentally to its sole reliance on competition as an explanatory principle (in a background of chance). Aside from being a bit thin in the face of complex systems, it has the disadvantage, in the mythological context of explaining where we come from, of reducing all evolution to the effects of competition." Salthe considers this to be a "myth" that is morally destructive but "congenial to capitalism."

Salthe is not the only scientist who takes exception to the no-questions-asked treatment of Darwinism. So does quantum chemist Henry Schaefer at the University of Georgia, a Nobel Prize nominee and recipient of prestigious scientific awards. Dr. Schaefer is a fellow at the Discovery Institute. Biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University, microbiologist Scott Minnich of the University of Idaho and mathematician William Dembski of Baylor University are other prominent supporters of Intelligent Design theory.

Dr. John G. West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, commented this summer that "The fact is that a significant number of scientists are extremely skeptical that Darwinian evolution can explain the origins of life. We expect that as scientists engage in the wider debate over materialist evolutionary theories, this list will continue to grow, and grow at an even more rapid pace than we've seen this past year."

The doubters of Darwinism are not confined to the scientific community.

Dr. Antony Flew, a famous philosopher who adhered to atheism, in his later years has come to accept the likelihood of Intelligent Design. He counts himself as a supporter of Darwinism in general but he sees something more compelling behind the creation of the universe. Flew, now more of a Deist, does not acknowledge God as having created the universe, but sees intelligence behind its formation. He is quoted in the Winter 2005 issue of Philosophia Christi (a publication of Biola University, in California): "It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design."

What is Intelligent Design?

Intelligent Design holds that the universe and its living things are not simply the product of random chance; an intelligent cause is behind their existence. Intelligent Design does not conflict with Darwinism's belief in evolution – that living organisms will change over time. It does run counter to the new school of Darwinism that holds random selection drives evolution. Chance mutations occur without reason. Intelligent Design challenges this direction head-on based upon its belief that changes occur due to a reason.

One useful definition of Intelligent Design can be found in the book, Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, edited by Stephen C. Meyer and John Angus Campbell. The definition presented in this book holds that Intelligent Design is "the theory that certain features of the physical universe and/or biological systems can be best explained by reference to an intelligent cause (that is, the conscious action of an intelligent agent), rather than an undirected natural process or a material mechanism."

It is too easy for undiscerning critics to lump Intelligent Design in with creationism. Analysts such as Charles Krauthammer, undoubtedly brilliant, have made that mistake. Krauthammer asserted that Intelligent Design is "today's tarted up version of creationism." There is a significant difference. Creationists view the Bible's word to be the equivalent of scientific text. Believers in Intelligent Design come to their conclusion by the evidence they find in nature. They understand the complexity of the cell; they see the vastness of the universe. Belief in Intelligent Design stems from reason, not revelation. Christians can hold true to belief in God and Intelligent Design. The King James Bible in Romans 1:20 says: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Intelligent Design can be accepted by an Antony Flew, who is not a believer in the Christian God.

Creationism has not been taught in most, possibly all, the public schools since the 1987 Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v Aguillard. The decision held that creationism was not science and therefore had no place in the curriculums of public schools. Intelligent Design is quite different in that it is gaining increasing acceptance by scientists who view Darwinism as an insufficient explanation for how our universe was created and how life on Earth started and has developed.

The Discovery Institute takes an interesting position on what should be taught in the public schools. It advised the Dover School Board, now the focus of the court case in Pennsylvania, not to push the teaching of Intelligent Design. Discovery Institute maintains that it is more important that Intelligent Design gain acceptance within the scientific community and academia first. The Institute argues that schools need to present a full picture of Darwinism, treating it as theory – one with noted flaws -- rather than established fact. That is starting to occur and if it continues Intelligent Design should earn respectful treatment in school curricula.

It is not mixing apples and oranges to note the vituperation of the Darwinists who cannot stand having a competing theory discussed. One professor at the University of Kansas called Intelligent Design "mythology." The overheated reactions remind me of the slings and arrows faced by conservatives as we fought to have our ideas, the importance of traditional social values and a strong defense that included a space-based missile defense system, gain ascendancy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We prevailed in many cases based upon our persistence and the soundness of our ideas. Intelligent Design can stand on its merits despite the attempt by Darwin's true believers to label it as sheer creationism. Many scientists who study the universe or cellular biology are increasingly intrigued by their complex processes. It takes more than chance to create such complex systems. Remember it was Einstein who said, "God does not play dice with the universe."

Ed: Views are those of individual authors and not necessarily those of American Daily.

Mirecki hospitalized after beating


By Ron Knox, Eric Weslander (Contact)

Originally published 05:37 p.m., December 5, 2005
Updated 06:31 p.m., December 5, 2005

Douglas County sheriff's deputies are investigating the reported beating of a Kansas University professor who gained recent notoriety for his Internet tirades against Christian fundamentalists.

Kansas University religious studies professor Paul Mirecki reported he was beaten by two men about 6:40 a.m. today on a roadside in rural Douglas County. In a series of interviews late this afternoon, Mirecki said the men who beat him were making references to the controversy that has propelled him into the headlines in recent weeks.

"I didn't know them, but I'm sure they knew me," he said.

Mirecki said he was driving to breakfast when he noticed the men tailgating him in a pickup truck.

"I just pulled over hoping they would pass, and then they pulled up real close behind," he said. "They got out, and I made the mistake of getting out."

He said the men beat him about the upper body with their fists, and he said he thinks they struck him with a metal object. He was treated and released at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

"I'm mostly shaken up, and I got some bruises and sore spots," he said.

Douglas County Sheriff's Officials are classifying the case as an aggravated battery. They wouldn't say exactly where the incident happened, citing the ongoing investigation

The sheriff's department is looking for the suspects, described as two white males between ages 30 and 40, one wearing a red visor and wool gloves, and both wearing jeans. They were last seen in a large pickup truck.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 843-TIPS or the sheriff's office at 841-0007.

Mirecki recently wrote online that he planned to teach intelligent design as mythology in an upcoming course. He wrote it would be a "nice slap" in the "big fat face" of fundamentalists.

The remarks caused an uproar, Mirecki apologized, and KU announced last week the class would be canceled.

Monday, December 05, 2005

New U.S. textbook aims to teach Bible


New U.S. textbook aims to teach Bible

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Since the U.S. Supreme Court banned the promotion of religion in public schools in 1963, the Bible has virtually disappeared from most American classrooms.

But in recent years, as evangelical Christians have grown in numbers and gained political clout in the United States, Bible studies have been creeping back into schools.

Now, a new textbook for high school students aims to fill a gap by teaching the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, in a non-sectarian, nonreligious way as a central document of Western civilization with a vast influence on its literature, art, culture and politics.

"It's not about belief. It's about crucial knowledge and knowledge belongs in our schools," said Chuck Stetson, a New York investment banker who is the driving force behind and co-author of "The Bible and Its Influence" -- a glossy, 387-page book recently released and now being tested in a small number of schools mainly on the West Coast.

Stetson knows he was stepping into a potential minefield. But he said polls have shown that over two-thirds of Americans want to see the Bible taught in public schools while only around 8 percent of schools were offering it.

The process of approving the book for use in schools differs from state to state and district to district. In some places, it can be added to the curriculum as an elective by the principal; other areas require the approval of a local school board and in some places the state itself would have to approve it. Stetson is hoping to see the book used by hundreds of school districts by the next academic year.

"This is the first student textbook we've had that is both constitutional and age appropriate," said Charles Hayes of the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center, a nonpartisan foundation that monitors free speech.

"It teaches the subject in a way that will satisfy people who take the Bible as their scripture, but it will also appeal to a broad range of students interested in becoming biblically literate," he said.

"The Bible and Its Influence" is not the only game in town. A North Carolina group called the National Council on Bible Curriculum in the Public Schools has a Bible course now being used in 316 school districts in 37 states.

'Crosses the line'

The Anti Defamation League has denounced this program, which uses the King James translation of the Bible as its text, saying it "blatantly crosses the line by teaching fundamental Protestant doctrine." But the group's legal counsel Mike Johnson denied this.

"Take the resurrection of Christ. A teacher cannot tell a classroom that it's a historical fact. That would be a violation of the Constitution. But a teacher can say that the Bible says it's a historical fact," he said.

"One can't teach that the Bible is objectively true, but one shouldn't teach that it's objectively false," he added.

"The Bible and Its Influence" sets out its ground rules and philosophy on its opening pages. "You are going to study the Bible academically, not devotionally. In other words, you are learning about the Bible and its role in language and culture," it tells its readers.

"You will be given an awareness of religious content of the Bible but you will not be pressed into accepting religion. You will study about religion as presented in the Bible but you will not be engaged in the practice of religion."

With prominent theologians of different religions and denominations among its editorial board, the authors made a serious effort to make sure that the book did not elevate one religion over any other.

'Factual errors'

"We caught quite a few factual mistakes, but I also looked for places where the Christian point of view was assumed. There were some and we made some changes," said Marc Stein, general counsel of the American Jewish Committee who reviewed the text before publication.

Still, there has been criticism of the book coming from both the political left and right. Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said the book sanitized the effect of religion throughout history, by minimizing Christian support for slavery and Christian anti-Semitism.

"To teach religion objectively, you really have to teach the good, the bad and the ugly and this book only teaches the good," he said.

On the other side, Dennis Cuddy, a Christian who has worked as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Education, said the book raised doubts about God and prompted students to ask the wrong questions.

"If you are going to teach the Bible, are you going to teach it as if it were the word of God? At the least, it should be taught as truthful. It shouldn't be presented as something that is false," he said.

But Joan Spence, a high school teacher in Battleground, Washington, said she as well as students of her elective English class on the Bible appreciated it very much.

"Before I had this book, I had to do all the research myself to teach a class on the Bible as literature. This book, with its many examples of art and literature, makes it easier to keep the class academic rather than religious," she said.

Medical school adds lessons in alternative treatments


Last Updated Mon, 05 Dec 2005 14:42:28 EST

CBC News

Medical students in Manitoba are gaining some first-hand experience with alternative medicine through a program that encourages budding doctors to find ways to combine old medical philosophies with modern knowledge.

In the integrative-medicine program, second-year medical students at the University of Manitoba study yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic care and homeopathy. In the classroom, students sip ginseng tea while handling bags of dried gecko lizards and jars of toad droppings.

"Students get to touch different things and taste different things and see for themselves what these kind of treatments are like," explains Dr. Greg Chernish, who leads the program.

"They also get to talk with practitioners and see that they're reasonable people, just as they are, and so I think it demystifies everything, and I think they get excited about seeing those treatments first-hand."

Chernish says combining the benefits of ancient medicine with modern science provides the best care for patients – a concept that surprised student Heather Nowosad.

"The integration part was surprising for me, because I've always had this belief that it's sort of like people believe in one or the other," said Nowosad, who plans to become a family physician.

Program helps validate use of alternative therapies

Some sort of alternative therapy is sought by more than half of those consulting doctors, studies suggest, although many of the patients never tell their physicians this. Chernish says doctors can provide better care if they know about the alternative therapies and understand them.

The integrative-medicine sessions have also started to change student Magdelena Drewniak's attitude toward alternative practices. However, Drewniak, who also hopes to become a family physician, admits she's still struggling with the idea of integrating the old and new philosophies.

She says she has the "evidence-based thing" drilled into her head. "I don't think I would be necessarily pushing for or advocating for anything unless there were studies that proved it, or backed it up."

Still, Drewniak says the fact that her medical school is now teaching about alternative therapy helps validate its use.

ID remains theoretically little more than a roster of evolutionary theory's weakest links


By Karl Giberson (December 5, 2005)

The leaders of the intelligent design movement are once again holding court in America, defending themselves against charges that ID is not science. One of the expert witnesses is Michael Behe, author of the ID movement's seminal volume Darwin's Black Box. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, testified about the scientific character of ID in Kitzmiller v. Dover School District, the court case of eight families suing the school district and the school board in Dover, Pa., for mandating the teaching of intelligent design.

Under cross-examination, Behe made many interesting comparisons between ID and the big-bang theory — both concepts carry lots of ideological freight. When the big-bang theory was first proposed in the 1920s, many people made hostile objections to its apparent "supernatural" character. The moment of the big bang looked a lot like the Judeo-Christian creation story, and scientists from Quaker Sir Arthur Eddington to gung-ho atheist Fred Hoyle resisted accepting it.

In his testimony, Behe stated — correctly — that at the current moment, "we have no explanation for the big bang." And, ultimately it may prove to be "beyond scientific explanation," he said. The analogy is obvious: "I put intelligent design in the same category," he argued.

This comparison is quite interesting. Both ID and the big-bang theory point beyond themselves to something that may very well lie outside of the natural sciences, as they are understood today. Certainly nobody has produced a simple model for the big–bang theory that fits comfortably within the natural sciences, and there are reasons to suppose we never will.

In the same way, ID points to something that lies beyond the natural sciences — an intelligent designer capable of orchestrating the appearance of complex structures that cannot have evolved from simpler ones. "Does this claim not resemble those made by the proponents of the big bang?" Behe asked.

However, this analogy breaks down when you look at the historical period between George Lemaitre's first proposal of the big-bang theory in 1927 and the scientific community's widespread acceptance of the theory in 1965, when scientists empirically confirmed one of the big bang's predictions.

If we continue with Behe's analogy, we might expect that the decades before 1965 would have seen big-bang proponents scolding their critics for ideological blindness, of having narrow, limited and inadequate concepts of science. Popular books would have appeared announcing the big-bang theory as a new paradigm, and efforts would have been made to get it into high school astronomy textbooks.

However, none of these things happened. In the decades before the big-bang theory achieved its widespread acceptance in the scientific community its proponents were not campaigning for public acceptance of the theory. They were developing the scientific foundations of theory, and many of them were quite tentative about their endorsements of the theory, awaiting confirmation.

Physicist George Gamow worked out a remarkable empirical prediction for the theory: If the big bang is true, he calculated, the universe should be bathed in a certain type of radiation, which might possibly be detectable. Another physicist, Robert Dicke, started working on a detector at Princeton University to measure this radiation. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson ended up discovering the radiation by accident at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., in 1965, after which just about everyone accepted the big bang as the correct theory.

Unfortunately, the proponents of ID aren't operating this way. Instead of doing science, they are writing popular books and op-eds. As a result, ID remains theoretically in the same scientific place it was when Phillip Johnson wrote Darwin on Trial — little more than a roster of evolutionary theory's weakest links.

When Behe was asked to explicate the science of ID, he simply listed a number of things that were complex and not adequately explained by evolution. These structures, he said, were intelligently designed. Then, under cross-examination, he said that the explanation for these structures was "intelligent activity." He added that ID "explains" things that appear to be intelligently designed as having resulted from intelligent activity.

Behe denied that this reasoning was tautological and compared the discernment of intelligently designed structures to observing the Sphinx in Egypt and concluding that it could not have been produced by non-intelligent causes. This is a winsome analogy with a lot of intuitive resonance, but it is hardly comparable to Gamow's carefully derived prediction that the big bang would have bathed the universe in microwave radiation with a temperature signature of 3 degrees Kelvin.

After more than a decade of listening to ID proponents claim that ID is good science, don't we deserve better than this?

Karl Giberson is editor in chief at Science & Theology News.

Teaching intelligent design


Monday, December 5, 2005

'Smearing of Christianity'

Nick Anderson and The Courier-Journal editorial board continue their smearing of Christianity. Anderson's rendition of a "Christian Protest" to "teach intelligent design" was another slap in the face to Christianity. I wonder why he did not include those of the Jewish and Muslim faiths. They also hold the view of creation with an intelligent design.

I also wonder why, out of the clear blue sky, this topic showed up at this time. Could it be that WAVE-3 TV news was showing both sides of the issue, and The C-J wanted to weigh in on the topic?

Whether or not you believe in intelligent design, one day we will all know the truth. Just hope that you were on the correct side.


Louisville 40216

'Can emulate Kansas'

A Kansas Board of Education recently displayed remarkable intelligence and voted to allow the teaching of intelligent design. Kansas thus becomes the first brave state to do so, in what is hoped will be a growing trend towards acknowledging the truth about the origin of man.

Though some, like the American Civil Liberties Union, oppose intelligent design on religious freedom grounds, one wonders if the ACLU is unaware that its misguided fight for religious freedom for some (notably atheists) denies it to us.

Ever since Darwin's evolutionary theory materialized, our children have been fed as true the supposition that man starting evolving from random matter, then became monkeys and, ultimately, humans.

Those of us who acknowledge the creationist view extolling God's (or a supreme deity's) handiwork in our existence have been isolated from the classrooms and disparaged. In cases such as Edwards v. Aguillard and others, our Supreme Court has found previous attempts at teaching creationism to be "too religious."

Hopefully, Kansas has just begun a "less religious" revolution that will pass constitutional muster. This way, other states can emulate Kansas, and our kids will be exposed to the truth.

After all, what are the Darwinists/evolutionists afraid of: fair competition or the hearing of the "honest to God's truth"?


Bowling Green, Ky. 42102

Creationism, Intelligent Design Course Withdrawn Over Offensive Remarks Offensive Remarks


Monday, Dec. 5, 2005 Posted: 12:55:49PM EST

A controversial course about creationism and intelligent design at the University of Kansas was cancelled by the professor who was to teach it, following publicized e-mail messages he wrote mocking Christian fundamentalists.

Professor Paul Mirecki, chairman of religious studies, had planned to teach a spring 2006 course initially titled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and Other Religious Mythologies."

Under pressure following complaints, he removed the reference to mythology but on Thursday, he said that teaching the course had become "untenable" due to the controversy over e-mail messages he had sent through the discussion forum moderated by a student atheists and agnostics campus group for which he served as a faculty adviser.

In a statement released by the University of Kansas on Thursday, Mirecki apologized for the e-mail messages posted since 2003 on a Yahoo list-serv discussion board. In one message, he referred to Christian fundamentalists as "fundies," adding that the course would be a "nice slap in their big fat face."

"I made a mistake in not leading by example, in this student organization e-mail forum, the importance of discussing differing viewpoints in a civil and respectful manner," wrote Mirecki, in the released statement.

A response to the professor's statement was issued in the same release by University Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor David Shulenburger, who agreed to drop the course but felt it had merit and should be taught at a later date.

"While the e-mails were unquestionably offensive, I know that Professor Mirecki regrets the situation he created," stated Shulenburger, adding that Mirecki had taught biblical studies for 16 years at the university, and had an international reputation for his work. He hoped that Mirecki would continue his work.

University Chancellor Robert Hemenway also issued at statement in response to Mirecki's withdrawal of the course, describing Mirecki's e-mail comments as "repugnant and vile."

"They do not represent my views nor the views of this university," Hemenway stated. "People of all faiths are valued at KU, and campus ministries are an important part of life at the university."

Hemenway did, however, note that the "unfortunate episode does not in any way diminish our belief that the course should be taught."

"It is the role of the university to take on such topics and to provide the civil, academic environment in which they can be honestly examined and discussed," he stated.

Francis Helguero

Ancient legends give an early warning of modern disasters


The new science of geomythology is being harnessed by researchers who believe folklore can save lives

Robin McKie, science editor Sunday December 4, 2005


On the banks of Siletz Bay in Lincoln City, Oregon, officials dedicated a memorial last week to one of America's worst calamities: a huge earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands of Native Americans 300 years ago. But the memorial's main job is not to commemorate the disaster, which has only just come to light, but to warn local people that similar devastation could strike at any time.

The area sits over massive fault lines whose dangers have been highlighted by a startling new scientific discipline that combines Earth science studies and analysis of ancient legends. This is geomythology, and it is transforming our knowledge of earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, says the journal Science.

According to the discipline's proponents, violent geological upheavals may be more frequent than was previously suspected.

Apart from the 'lost' Seattle earthquake, geomythology has recently revealed that a volcano in Fiji, thought to be dormant, is active, a discovery that followed geologists' decision to follow up legends of a mountain appearing overnight.

Geologists have found that Middle Eastern flooding myths, including the story of Noah, could be traced to the sudden inundation of the Black Sea 7,600 years ago. The Oracle at Delphi has been found to lie over a geological fault through which seeped hallucinogenic gases. These could account for the trances and utterances of the oracle's mystics.

'Myths can tell us a great deal about what happened in the past and were important in establishing what happened here 300 years ago,' said Brian Atwater, of the US Geological Survey in Seattle.

Along the Oregon and Washington coast, there are Native American stories about boulders, called a'yahos, which can shake to death anyone who stares at them. In addition, Ruth Ludwin, a seismologist in Seattle, discovered tales of villages being washed away and of whales and thunderbirds locked in fights.

These stories were a key influence on Atwater, who started to study the 680-mile long Cascadia subduction zone fault along the coast. What he found provided a shock. Long stretches had suffered sudden inundation relatively recently.

The study of trees stumps in this drowned landscape indicated there had been a huge earthquake and a tsunami between 1680 and 1720. 'We didn't know whether it was one massive quake or a couple of slightly smaller ones. Nor did we know exactly when the disaster occurred,' added Atwater.

Later research on tree rings put the date at between 1699 and 1700. Then local legends helped again. Japanese colleagues studied their records and traced an orphan tsunami - a giant wave not linked to a local earthquake - that destroyed several villages on 27 January, 1700.

'That told us two things: that our earthquake must have been vast, Richter scale 9, to devastate part of Japan thousands of miles away. It also gave us a precise date for our disaster.'

Scientists now believe huge earthquakes and tsunamis devastate the Seattle area every 200 to 1,000 years. 'We may be due one soon,' added Atwater.

However, until this year, the lesson of that tsunami was remembered only as a dim legend. Other such stories have been put to better use, however.

Last year's tsunami was also triggered by a strong earthquake, and around 300,000 people died. The Moken - or sea gypsies - of Thailand, however, have a tradition which warns that when tides recede far and fast, now known as a precursor of a tsunami, then a man-eating wave will soon head their way: so they should run far and fast. Last 26 December, they did - and survived.

Another example of the power of geomythology is from Patrick Nunn, of Fiji in the South Pacific. His studies of volcanoes on the Fijian island of Kadavu indicated they had not been active for tens of thousands of years.

'Then I heard legends of recent eruptions,' he told The Observer. 'I thought them unlikely. When a road was cut there in 2002, I found there had been a volcanic eruption long after it had been occupied by humans. It made me look at myths in a new light.'

Now, Nunn is working for the French government to compile tales that might pinpoint Pacific islands where scientists should look for warnings of earthquakes, volcanoes and catastrophic landslides.

These include stories of deities who fish up islands from the water and others in which they are thrown back into the sea.

'If you had asked me 10 years ago if there was value in local myths I would have said "not a lot",' added Nunn. 'Since then I have had a Pauline conversion.'

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005



NEWS RELEASE For Release December 04, 2005

Halifax, Nova Scotia - Paranormal Phenomena Research and Investigation along with the Centre for Parasychological Studies in Canada are pleased to announce that they will be jointly co-hosting the 2006 Canadian Paranormal Conference in the Halifax Regional Municipality (exact location to be announced at a later date) Nova Scotia, Canada. The event will be preceded by a meet and greet, hosted by PPRI, on Friday October 27, 2006 at 7:00 pm in the Sobey's Community Room in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia. The two-day conference will be held on October 28 & 29, 2006 between 8 am and 4 pm both days.

Your hosts for both evenings will be PPRI co-founders Elliott Van Dusen and Spencer Collier and the CPSC's founder Darryll Walsh. The three hosts will also be participating in the lectures. The event will feature many other distinguished guests from the paranormal community, including Jon Nowinski Director of the Smoking Gun Research Agency, UFOlogist Chris Styles and 5 other guest speakers. Among the many topics featured will be Contemporary Parasychology, Ghost and Haunting Research, UFOology, Cryptozoology, all presented from both a believer and a skeptics point of view.

The conference is open to the general public who are invited to ask any questions they may have. Ticket prices are as follows:

Day 1 ONLY Pass: $45.00
Day 2 ONLY Pass: $45.00
First AND Second Day Pass: $75.00

Contact PPRI Corporate Director Elliott Van Dusen at evandusen@ppri.net for tickets, or visit www.ppri.net for further information. Tickets may also be purchased via postal mail. Please send cheque or money order (made out to Paranormal Phenomena Research and Investigation Association) to;

Paranormal Phenomena Research and Investigation Association
133 Lumsden Crescent, Lower Sackville
Nova Scotia, B4C 2H3

The recognized media is invited to attend this event free of charge. Media outlets are asked to contact PPRI Director of Communications Melanie McCully (mmccully@ppri.net) for further information or to register for the event.

For the latest information on the 2006 Canadian Paranormal Conference, please visit the official web site located at; http://www.ppri.net//?mid=114

Corporate Director Elliott Van Dusen, Ph.D.
133 Lumsden Crescent
Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia
B4C 2H3
Phone: (250) 492-2811
E-mail: evandusen@ppri.net

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