NTS LogoSkeptical News for 19 January 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Attorney: AU Intimidated El Tejon Schools Into Dropping Intelligent Design


He Says District Let Itself Be Pressured Into Cutting Constitutionally Valid Class

By Jim Brown January 18, 2006

(AgapePress) - As part of a court settlement, a rural school district in California has agreed to stop teaching the theory of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.

A group of parents represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the El Tejon School District last week, saying a class taught by a minister's wife violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution -- the so-called "wall of separation between church and state." The plaintiffs' argued that the class represented an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

As a result of the settlement, Americans United has announced that Frazier Mountain High School will be dropping a philosophy class that discusses the highly debated origins theory known as intelligent design, or ID. That same organization was also involved in a case that resulted in Pennsylvania schools being barred from teaching the idea that evolutionary theory cannot explain life's complexity.

Brian Fahling with the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy says the court settlement filed yesterday indicates the "tyrannical nature" of people like Barry Lynn, who heads Americans United. Members of that group talk a lot and also talk "a good game about free thought and pluralism in our culture," the attorney notes, but he feels their actions do not suggest genuine commitment to these ideals.

"The idea that they would go in and strong-arm an agreement from a school district, essentially, to not teach, for instance, intelligent design in the future, is beyond the pale," Fahling says. Moreover, he contends, it is questionable "whether or not the school district actually has the authority to agree not to provide a course that is otherwise well within constitutional bounds."

The AFA Law Center spokesman says the school district overreacted to pressure from Americans United and its leader. The zealous church-state separationist Lynn, the pro-family lawyer remarks, "can sniff out a religious purpose in a grape."

However, Fahling feels the school district should not have caved in to the liberal activist group's pressure. He notes, "It was another colossal mistake by the school district to allow Americans United to portray the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in a philosophy course as being the equivalent of teaching it in a science course when, in fact, it is not."

Intelligent design can be taught constitutionally in classrooms as science, Fahling asserts. And, he adds, the AFA Law Center is willing to defend any school that chooses to do so.

Jim Brown, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online.
© 2006 AgapePress

Universities discuss whether to incorporate intelligent design in biology curriculum


January 19, 2006

By Jamie VanGeest

Some say apes, humans and bacteria, with a pinch of Charles Darwin, create the perfect college biology course. Others say intelligent design is a key ingredient missing from the batch.

Federal judge John Jones ruled Dec. 20 that it is unconstitutional for public high school teachers in Dober, Pa., to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.

The case is different with biology curriculums in Twin Cities' higher education institutions. The University teaches evolution, but there are universities that teach evolution and intelligent design.

University biology professor Randy Moore said intelligent design is a way for people to get their religion into the classroom.

"Intelligent design is based on ignorance," he said.

Moore said there is no way to prove we were designed. If humans were designed this way, they would not have so many useless body parts. This uselessness has caused much inefficiency and suffering in nature, he said.

"It's Darwin's world and we just live in it," he said.

Evolution is the only idea that enables one to make sense of things without having to evoke miracles or somebody's god, Moore said.

Moore said intelligent design is appropriate for a philosophy or comparative religion class, but not for a college-level biology class.

Moore said he knows many biologists who accept Darwinism and a religious faith.

"They just don't look to the Bible, or whatever their religious text is, as a science book," he said.

One school that does incorporate intelligent design into its curriculum is Bethel University in St. Paul.

That university has a full biology program with more than 100 students. The program teaches intelligent design as well as evolution.

Tim Shaw has been a Bethel biology professor for 25 years. He teaches a course called Christian Perspectives in Creation and Evolution.

"We don't leave our faith out of the classroom," Shaw said.

In his classroom, Shaw teaches everything taught in a secular biology class, but intelligent design is included in the mix.

"We don't want to shun science or shun the faith," he said. "One should be able to talk about ideas freely in education."

Shaw said it would be inappropriate to discuss only one method in the classroom and that it would defeat the purpose of academic freedom.

First-year University student Maggie Davis said it's important to teach all ideas — including intelligent design — in the classroom.

However, kinesiology sophomore Allie Klumpp had a different opinion.

"I don't mind (intelligent design) being taught; it's just not true," she said.

In 'Design' vs. Darwinism, Darwin Wins Point in Rome


Published: January 19, 2006

ROME, Jan. 18 - The official Vatican newspaper published an article this week labeling as "correct" the recent decision by a judge in Pennsylvania that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution.

"If the model proposed by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another," Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, wrote in the Jan. 16-17 edition of the paper, L'Osservatore Romano.

"But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science," he wrote, calling intelligent design unscientific. "It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious."

The article was not presented as an official church position. But in the subtle and purposely ambiguous world of the Vatican, the comments seemed notable, given their strength on a delicate question much debated under the new pope, Benedict XVI.

Advocates for teaching evolution hailed the article. "He is emphasizing that there is no need to see a contradiction between Catholic teachings and evolution," said Dr. Francisco J. Ayala, professor of biology at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Dominican priest. "Good for him."

But Robert L. Crowther, spokesman for the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle organization where researchers study and advocate intelligent design, dismissed the article and other recent statements from leading Catholics defending evolution. Drawing attention to them was little more than trying "to put words in the Vatican's mouth," he said.

L'Osservatore is the official newspaper of the Vatican and basically represents the Vatican's views. Not all its articles represent official church policy. At the same time, it would not be expected to present an article that dissented deeply from that policy.

In July, Christoph Schönborn, an Austrian cardinal close to Benedict, seemed to call into question what has been official church teaching for years: that Catholicism and evolution are not necessarily at odds.

In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times, he played down a 1996 letter in which Pope John Paul II called evolution "more than a hypothesis." He wrote, "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not."

There is no credible scientific challenge to the idea that evolution explains the diversity of life on earth, but advocates for intelligent design posit that biological life is so complex that it must have been designed by an intelligent source.

At least twice, Pope Benedict has signaled concern about the issue, prompting questions about his views. In April, when he was formally installed as pope, he said human beings "are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution." In November, he called the creation of the universe an "intelligent project," wording welcomed by supporters of intelligent design.

Many Roman Catholic scientists have criticized intelligent design, among them the Rev. George Coyne, a Jesuit who is director of the Vatican Observatory. "Intelligent design isn't science, even though it pretends to be," he said in November, as quoted by the Italian news service ANSA. "Intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."

In October, Cardinal Schönborn sought to clarify his own remarks, saying he meant to question not the science of evolution but what he called evolutionism, an attempt to use the theory to refute the hand of God in creation.

"I see no difficulty in joining belief in the Creator with the theory of evolution, but under the prerequisite that the borders of scientific theory are maintained," he said in a speech.

To Dr. Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor at Brown University and a Catholic, "That is my own view as well."

"As long as science does not pretend it can answer spiritual questions, it's O.K.," he said.

Dr. Miller, who testified for the plaintiffs in the recent suit in Dover, Pa., challenging the teaching of intelligent design, said Dr. Facchini, Father Coyne and Cardinal Schönborn (in his later statements) were confirming "traditional Catholic thinking." On Dec. 20, a federal district judge ruled that public schools could not present intelligent design as an alternative to evolutionary theory.

In the Osservatore article, Dr. Facchini wrote that scientists could not rule out a divine "superior design" to creation and the history of mankind. But he said Catholic thought did not preclude a design fashioned through an evolutionary process.

"God's project of creation can be carried out through secondary causes in the natural course of events, without having to think of miraculous interventions that point in this or that direction," he wrote.

Neither Dr. Facchini nor the editors of L'Osservatore could be reached for comment.

Lawrence M. Krauss, a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University, said Dr. Facchini's article was important because it made the case that people did not have to abandon religious faith in order to accept the theory of evolution.

"Science does not make that requirement," he said.

Ian Fisher reported from Rome for this article, and Cornelia Dean from New York.

Monkey Trial, Take Two


Evolution vs. creationism made Hollywood courtroom drama in Inherit the Wind: what might the Intelligent Design sequel look like?

by Andrew Varnon - January 19, 2006

Word is, Hollywood is thinking about doing a movie about the recently concluded Intelligent Design trial in Pennsylvania. Why not? Courtroom dramas are popular and this case was a hum-dinger. Plus, it'd be like that movie they did in 1960 about the Great Monkey Trial, only this time it'd be Inherit the Wind 2. Wasn't Spencer Tracy great back in that old movie?

On December 20, Judge John Jones III handed down his decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board , ending a closely watched trial that saw 21 days of testimony in front of a courtroom packed with reporters. The case was brought by a number of parents of students in the Dover schools who objected to a pro-Intelligent Design policy enacted by the school board. Although the lawyers for the school board argued that Intelligent Design was a legitimate scientific theory and was not tied to any specific religion, Judge Jones held for the plaintiffs. In his ruling, Jones said the defense failed to prove there was significant scientific evidence for Intelligent Design and that despite their protestations, Intelligent Design was merely a cover for a creationist dissent against Darwinism and that it failed the Constitutional test for the separation of church and state.

Going in, the Kitzmiller case had been billed as the next coming of the 1925 Scopes Trial, known as the "trial of the century" and the "Great Monkey Trial." Hollywood took note. In fact, Paramount Pictures had an observer taking notes in the courtroom. They smelled zeitgeist.

Thing is, what with the court deciding against Intelligent Design, the film would be more of a George Clooney / Good Night, and Good Luck -type project than a Mel Gibson / Passion of the Christ one. But Inherit the Wind still pisses off the fundamentalists, so maybe the film could score some free publicity å la Passion of the Christ . Think of the marketing possibilities: a campaign with catch phrases like "watch the controversy" could subtly piggyback on the pro-Intelligent Design Discovery Institute's "teach the controversy" language to put butts in the seats.

On the other hand, relying on Hollywood for your history is a bad idea. Not because reducing a complicated historical event to its mythic essentials doesn't provide some service: it does. Films can illuminate a topic and generate interest. But they can also do your thinking for you, if you let them. With that in mind, let's play the game and imagine what cinematic potential this trial of the young new century may have.

T he trial, held in Pennsylvania's capital of Harrisburg, has many of the hallmarks of a great courtroom drama. Some scenes just call out for cinematic treatment. Want one of those classic cross-examination scenes? There's Prof. Michael Behe on the stand, as expert witness for Intelligent Design, being cross-examined by plaintiff's attorney Eric Rothschild. Behe, who is a biochemist at Lehigh University, is a prominent advocate of Intelligent Design, arguing for it in his writings, most notably in his book, Darwin´s Black Box .

Behe and Rothschild go back and forth over Intelligent Design and Behe's definition of what constitutes a scientific theory, different from the one proposed by major scientific organizations. This exchange ensues:

Rothschild: "But you are clear [that], under your definition, the definition that sweeps in Intelligent Design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?"

Behe: "Yes, that's correct. And let me explain under my definition of the word "theory,' it is--a sense of the word "theory' does not include the theory being true, it means a proposition based on physical evidence to explain some facts by logical inferences. There have been many theories throughout the history of science which looked good at the time which further progress has shown to be incorrect. Nonetheless, we can't go back and say that because they were incorrect they were not theories. So many, many things that we now realize to be incorrect--incorrect theories--are nonetheless theories."

Rothschild: "Has there ever been a time when astrology has been accepted as a correct or valid scientific theory, Professor Behe?"

Behe: "Well, I am not a historian of science. And certainly nobody--well, not nobody, but certainly the educated community, has not accepted astrology as a science for a long, long time. But if you go back, you know, Middle Ages and before that, when people were struggling to describe the natural world, some people might indeed think that É motions in the earth could affect things on the earth, or motions in the sky could affect things on the earth."

P erhaps in a flashback sequence, we can go back to a school board meeting recounted in testimony at the trial. At that meeting, it had become clear that the purchasing of new biology textbooks--necessary because there weren't enough books for the students to take them home--was being held up because board members had reservations about the prevalence of Darwinism in the textbooks proposed by the biology faculty. At that point, a former school board member (Barrie Callahan, but she might be unnamed in the movie) stands up and asks why. Bill Buckingham, the board member in charge of curriculum, says, "That book is laced with Darwinism."

That prompts a college student and recent graduate of Dover Area High School, Max Pell, to stand up and share what he has learned at Penn State about evolutionary science and how it was overwhelmingly accepted among scientists. Buckingham replies that creationism should be taught alongside evolution. The young man persists, talking about the scientific method. Then Buckingham blurts out, "Well, you're a perfect example of what happens to students when they go to college. They get brainwashed."

A key to doing the movie right might be the casting of Tammy Kitzmiller, the woman whose name has become synonymous with the trial, like the biology teacher John Scopes's name did with the 1925 test of the Tennessee anti-evolution law. Kitzmiller is an office manager of a landscaping company, a woman without a college education who tells the court she gets involved in the case because her defiant daughter "opted out" of the Intelligent Design statement that the school board had required to be read in front of the biology class. Her daughter's reason? Well, the science teachers had refused to participate, so the statement was read by an administrator. Kitzmiller's daughter figured if her teacher didn't have to be there, why should she? Kitzmiller's role in the trial is short on dialogue, but important in setting the tone. Despite all the implied clash of Red State/Blue State cultures in the trial, Kitzmiller was a rather ordinary woman struggling with being a mother of a teenager in the public school system.

If it's true that the winners write the history, then the storyline of the trial is as the anti-Intelligent Design plaintiffs presented it. And that was that school board members were itching to supplant Darwinian evolution with something more nakedly Christian in its worldview'creationism. But when they learned that creationism would cause legal problems, they were convinced to try a slicker-sounding alternative, Intelligent Design. The problem was, the only thing they knew about Intelligent Design was that it was more God-friendly than Darwinian evolution. This came out in the trial, as the board members, who originally tried to hide their fundamentalist motivations, were later shown to have lied on the stand about key events leading up to the approval of the controversial statement on Intelligent Design.

Also, the trial has plot twists galore. In testimony there was the revelation of the Discovery Institute's Wedge Document, which laid out a strategy for the Intelligent Design movement. The Discovery Institute is a pro-ID think tank based in Seattle. As spelled out in the document, the movement's goal is to "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

There is also what we might call the Of Pandas and People snafu. Using donations from a local evangelical church, the pro-ID school board members bought the textbook Of Pandas and People for the school library. The textbooks were not for the classrooms, but in the statement read to the biology class, students with questions about Intelligent Design were referred to them. In the trial, the plaintiff's lawyers showed that the Pandas textbook predated the 1987 Supreme Court decision precluding the teaching of creation science in schools, and that early drafts still referred to creationism. In fact, certain passages in that early draft that describe what creation science was are verbatim duplications of passages describing Intelligent Design in the present version. Only the name of the theory has changed (to protect the innocent, we presume).

The Thomas More Law Center, a conservative advocacy law firm which volunteered to represent the school board pro bono, calls to the stand as one of its expert witnesses a professor at the University of Warwick in England named Steve Fuller. Fuller's specialty is to look at science from a sociological perspective, and he's kind of a tweedy eccentric with big ideas, who talks fast enough that the judge keeps asking him to slow down. He talks about how science views itself and how scientific ideas are propagated and critiques science's own view of itself. In Fuller's view, the scientific consensus behind neo-Darwinism is self-policing and potentially stifling to the development of new scientific theories. Moreover, he thinks methodological naturalism--the idea that science should concern itself only with natural, rather than supernatural, phenomena--is essentially a metaphysical, and non-scientific, gatekeeper that is keeping Intelligent Design out of the scientific conversation.

As a free-thinking philosopher, a Fuller character could be an interesting (perhaps even humorous) counterpoint to the more down-to-earth Doverites he is testifying on behalf of.

Eric Rothschild's closing remarks contain flourishes of rhetoric that will have Oscar written all over them. In summing up the quality of science put forward by leading Intelligent Design advocates, he says, "Their model of science is, we've brought an idea, sit back, do no research, and challenge evolutionists to shoot it down. That's not how science works."

He mentions one of the witnesses whose 7-year-old son was fascinated by science, then turns to the school board's determination to truncate the science curriculum. "How dare they stifle these children's education?" Rothschild says. "How dare they restrict their opportunities? How dare they place a ceiling on their aspirations and on their dreams?"

In concluding, Rothschild points to William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania (perhaps an earlier scene could show a bronze statue of Penn to foreshadow this). Pennsylvania, he said, was "the only place under British rule where Catholics could legally worship in public" for much of the 18th century. Rothschild then quotes from Penn's declaration of rights on the freedom of individuals to believe and think as their conscience dictates, free from the control of the government. "No human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience," Rothschild quotes from Penn. "And no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishment or modes of worship." That is the line that Rothschild says the school board in Dover was crossing.

Judge John Jones III, a Bush appointee and a protegé of Pennsylvania's Tom Ridge, is an odd hero for the liberal cause, but there he is. His ruling is universally praised by those who oppose the teaching of Intelligent Design as science in the classroom. Jones not only declared that ID is not science, but gave the Dover School Board (at least its pre-election incarnation) a solid smack on the wrists for bad form. Even Rush Limbaugh is calling him an activist judge, as if he should occupy a space on the wall of infamy right next to our own Massachusetts gay marriage justice herself, Margaret Marshall.

Jones, in his decision, saw a different lineage for Intelligent Design than the fast-talking Fuller. Instead of a potential scientific revolution å la Isaac Newton and his theory of gravity, Jones saw a political history for Intelligent Design. Jones posited that the Intelligent Design movement, despite its scientist friends, is actually the latest iteration of a steady evolution of legal gambits in opposition to Darwinism.

The process began with Tennessee's Butler Law--the law that spawned the 1925 Scopes Trial--and similar laws in other states. Although Scopes attracted a lot of attention, those anti-evolution laws didn't actually fall until the 1960s, when they were finally struck down by the Supreme Court. Interestingly, it wasn't so much the ACLU that put evolution in textbooks as it was America's anxiety over Sputnik. Fearing that the U.S. would fall behind the Soviets in science, the government fostered a movement to get serious scientists to write textbooks with high standards, eschewing political concerns. That led to the eventual Supreme Court cases.

As Jones documented, citing the relevant court cases, when the anti-evolution laws were struck down, the fundamentalists came back with the idea of equal time for the Biblical creation story. The courts found against that, too. Then came creation science. Each time the courts found against them, a new generation of anti-Darwinism would come forward. When creation science failed, conveniently, there was Intelligent Design to take its place.

Jones' character could have a very interesting part in a film. It would be hard not to do some speculating into the behind-the-scenes aspects of the trial: why is it that a Bush appointee is so willing to strike against the party line of the religious Right on this issue? Perhaps some thoughtful moments in chambers, or maybe just some of his wit on the stand could illustrate this.

If Hollywood were to head for quick release of a film based on the Kitzmiller trial, it would be markedly different from its treatment of Scopes. Inherit the Wind , the play, was written 30 years after the Scopes Trial and the movie didn't hit the silver screen until 1960.

The Scopes Trial took place at the height of Modernism. Ezra Pound published the first volume of his Cantos in 1925, Prohibition was the law of the land, and a year later, the Savoy Ballroom would open in Harlem. The Scopes Trial stood on a cultural divide. On one side, you had Clarence Darrow, the pre-eminent labor and criminal defense lawyer of the day; H.L. Mencken, a representative of the Eastern media elite; and the ACLU. On the other side, you had William Jennings Bryan, the "prairie populist" and one of the last of the old-school Democrats. Bryan stood for old-time religion, but he also stood for rural America.

Rural America today is not what it was in Bryan's day. Eighty years after the Scopes Trial, America is not divided into industrial cities and bucolic farm country anymore. Instead, there is a spreading suburban post-industrial sameness. People in Dover can do Google searches on the Internet and shop at Wal-Mart. They just happen to do it in the hills of central Pennsylvania.

What's different between the trials of 1925 and 2005? A lot. In 1925, the question was whether the state of Tennessee could outlaw the teaching of evolution. In Scopes, in fact, the court held that the state could do that. In 2005, the battle lines were in very different positions: the creationists here were fighting a counterattack to try to gain a foothold in the classroom. They didn't want to stop the teaching of evolution, just to suggest that evolution is controversial, opening the door to the amorphous (but God-friendly) idea of Intelligent Design.

In some ways the two cases are mirror images, recognizably similar but also opposite. In Scopes, the trial judge didn't allow Darrow to bring scientists to testify about the merits of Darwin's theory, causing him to go to Plan B, which was to call Bryan to the stand and quiz him on the literal interpretation of the Bible. But as correspondent Margaret Talbot wrote in the New Yorker , the Kitzmiller trial took days of scientific testimony and "turned out to be rather like the biology class you wish you could have taken."

In Scopes, the defendant was a biology teacher, John Scopes, who had broken Tennessee law by teaching evolution to his students. But Scopes was not a daring iconoclast so much as a willing pawn in a court case that the ACLU was interested in trying. In Kitzmiller, the defendant was the school board of Dover, Penn. The board had been taken over by anti-evolution members who crafted a statement to be read to students; the statement cast doubt on evolution and opened a door for Intelligent Design. The board members themselves knew little about Intelligent Design, an idea sponsored by a think tank in Seattle called the Discovery Institute. But the ringleaders of the board, Alan Bonsell and Bill Buckingham, were instead out-and-out creationists, who considered Darwinism to be an affront to their religion. Intelligent Design seemed like the most legally acceptable idea out there, so they signed on.

The problem of making a movie out of the Dover trial is to predict its lasting relevance. Although Intelligent Design has not been very successful as a scientific proposition (peer-reviewed papers to date: zero) and Kitzmiller certainly dealt a setback to the teaching of it in public schools as a legal proposition, Intelligent Design has always had its greatest success as a political proposition.

The real reason for Hollywood to stay away from a film version of the Dover trial is that it may not turn out to be the big one. Although certainly hyped as a battle royal, the signals in the political landscape are that the Dover case was not as decisive as the pro-evolution side would like to believe. Since the school board won't appeal, Judge Jones' decision, as clear and convincing as it is, won't be legally binding as precedent outside his circuit.

Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, one of Intelligent Design's biggest proponents on Capitol Hill, has been conducting damage control to his image. In a National Public Radio interview in August, he said he was "not comfortable with Intelligent Design being taught in the science classroom." After the trial, he criticized the Thomas More Law Center (even though he sits on the group's advisory board), telling the Philadelphia Inquirer the center "made a huge mistake" in pushing the Dover case, which was a weak case.

Santorum's waffling aside, the decision doesn't seem to scare conservatives outside of Pennsylvania. After the decision, Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has said he supports teaching Intelligent Design in the classroom. Kansas already has ID in its state education standards and Ohio is considering it. Why? Because Darwinism is down in the polls against creationism. In a Gallup Poll taken in 2004, 45 percent of respondents believed God created humans in their present form. Only 35 percent believed that Darwinism was supported by the scientific evidence.

What does that mean? In Inherit the Wind , the moral of the story is that reason must stand on guard against religious demagoguery and the mob. But the sentiment in Inherit is owing partly to the post-McCarthy era when the play was written and the subsequent movie was made. That post-McCarthy mood colored the film's interpretation of Scopes. At the end of Inherit the Wind , Spencer Tracy takes a Bible in one hand and a book on Darwin's theory in the other, and puts both side by side in his briefcase as he walks out of the courtroom. But 80 years after Scopes, with the battle still raging, such a happy ending seems to ring hollow. That doesn't mean Hollywood won't try it.

Let's face it, the problem with making this movie is the problem of judging the worthiness of Intelligent Design for the classroom. It's the problem of confronting recalcitrant board members who deny that their true motives are religious in nature. As Rothschild said in his closing arguments, "What I am about to say is not easy to say, and there's no way to say it subtly." What did Rothschild say? In essence, that the defendants lied. Similarly, one must separate out Intelligent Design as an interesting philosophical debate from the brute force momentum that is propelling it into the classroom. The Intelligent Design movement is a politically --not scientifically--motivated proposition. In fact, Intelligent Design is specifically aimed to undermine the core foundations of science and make room for the appeal to an ultimate authority. And if we peer into the facts of the case, it's not just science that is under threat here, it's another pillar of the enlightenment project: democracy.

In the trial it was revealed that the Dover school board wasn't just interested in making room for God in the science classroom, but in the whole school. After Of Pandas and People , the next textbook to be introduced was The Myth of Separation by David Barton, a neat little civics primer that arm-twists the Constitution until it reads that America is an explicitly Christian nation. At this point, we go from a courtroom drama to a horror flick. Barton's idea of America as an explicitly Christian nation could re-introduce the pre-Enlightenment idea of the divine right of kings. Does power derive from the consent of the governed? Not in a theocracy. It derives from God.

After the citizens of Dover voted out the pro-ID school board members and replaced them with members who said they would abide by the court's decision, Pat Robertson threatened Dover with God's vengeance. If you believe Robertson, this God is not a passive "Intelligent Designer." This God is one who cares how you vote in the local school board election, and who wreaks havoc on you if you vote the wrong way.

Then again, film fans, perhaps an Inherit the Wind sequel would merely be a bridge film to the final chapter of a trilogy. The end could be deliberately uncertain, å la Empire Strikes Back , with a small victory packaged inside a potentially menacing landscape. Unanswered questions would beg for another film. Will Santorum fall to a Democrat in the 2006 elections? Will conservative Republican Judge Jones become a target of the next Christian right-sponsored Justice Sunday? And will the Discovery Institute find a better, slicker test case for its Creationism 3.0?

The Skeptics and their 'Churchian' Allies


Why is evolution so popular today? What is the attraction of people wanting to believe that things made themselves, so that we are basically self-rearranged pond-scum? Why does the overwhelming evidence for design not convince people?

by Jonathan Sarfati

First published in:
Prayer News (Australia) pp. 1–2
November 1998

The Bible is clear that people are willingly ignorant of the reality of God, because they prefer to go their own way (Romans 1:18–20). But according to the atheist Richard Dawkins, it was impossible to be an 'intellectually fulfilled atheist' until they had an alternative to creation to explain the wonders of life—an alternative which Darwin supposedly provided. As most historians agree, Darwin's main aim was to explain the world without God.1

Skeptics and humanists

Humanism is a religious faith that excludes God. The first two tenets of the Humanist Manifesto II, signed by many prominent evolutionists, are:

Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.

Humanism believes that Man is a part of nature and has emerged as a result of a continuous process.

(See The Religion of Humanism.)

One leading humanist philosopher, Paul Kurtz, founded the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), also known as the Skeptics. There are now many Skeptics organizations around the world, sharing both the American spelling and the aims. Naturally, both humanists and skeptics are stridently opposed to creationist organizations, because demolishing evolution undermines the pseudo-intellectual basis for their world view.

It should surprise no one that the Skeptics' membership lists read like a 'Who's Who' of atheists and humanists. The original US organisation even jointly owns its headquarters, the Center for Inquiry, at Amherst, NY, with the Council for Secular Humanism.

However, the leaders of the Australian Skeptics realize that rank atheism would be repugnant to most Australians, so profess that the organisation is 'religiously neutral' and not anti-God or anti-Christian, and even boast about 'Christians' in their membership list.2

Nevertheless, the Australian Skeptics have been at the forefront of promoting atheistic books and speakers, and publishing anti-Christian articles in their journal. The bottom line is, they are sceptical of paranormal claims, and if creation by God and the Resurrection of Christ are not paranormal, I don't know what to call them!3

It's vital to realise that when Skeptics claim they are not anti-Christian, what they really mean is, as long as Christians don't claim their belief has something to do with the real world. Faith is not a problem, as long as the faithful don't claim it's supported by any hard evidence. See How Religiously Neutral are the Anti-Creationist Organisations?

The Skeptics' allies—theistic evolutionists

One would think that the atheistic bias behind evolutionary thinking would alert Christians of the need to oppose it. But, sadly, large sections of the Church have tried to reconcile Christianity and evolution.

Let's ask: what usually happens when the plain meaning of the Bible, the written Word of the all-knowing and truthful God who was there, disagrees with the theories of some fallible scientists who weren't there (cf. Job 38:4) and who are usually strongly anti-Christian?4 It is always Scripture that is 're-interpreted' to fit in with man's wisdom. But God's word never changes, while it is hard to find a five-year-old science textbook that is not outdated!

Any reinterpretation of Genesis that departs from the plain meaning has dire consequences for the Gospel. The apostle Paul points out that the reason Christ came to die was the sin of the first man, Adam, which brought death into the world. 1 Cor. 15:21–22 contrasts the historical Christ, who was physically resurrected from the dead, with the historical Adam, who brought physical (as well as spiritual) death. The whole meaning of redemption presupposes a historical Fall of a historical Adam!

All (mis-)interpretations of Genesis which deny its plain meaning, e.g. day-age, gap theory, theistic evolution, must assert that death, 'the last enemy' (1 Cor. 15:26) was a part of the 'very good' creation (Gen. 1:31).5

Doubting Genesis has, in many cases, led to doubt of the rest of the Scripture. Alternatively, one's Christian faith is put in a box labelled 'Christianity—subjective, personal, existential: open only during church service'; the rest of the week one opens the box labelled 'Evolution—scientific, objective: close before entering church'.

It is no accident that churches which start rejecting Genesis generally move on to rejecting other vital doctrines. No wonder that many churches that started by rejecting biblical authority in 'science' areas now have ministers who actually reject the Resurrection and Virginal Conception of Christ, and even have floats in the Gay Mardi Gras! It is a sad fact that many formerly evangelical theological seminaries have become totally liberal. And the slide has nearly always commenced by those in charge doubting the plain teachings of the first book of the Bible.

(See also Some questions for theistic evolutionists (and 'progressive creationists').)


A vocal theistic evolutionary organisation in Australia is ISCAST (Institute for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology). They spend much time attacking biblical creationism and creationists. In fact, one gets the feeling that they have more in common with Skeptics than with Christians who disagree with them. Amazingly, they claimed that the Skeptics are an 'organisation neutral on religion',6 which as shown above is either incredibly naïve or simply dishonest.

A few years ago, Ian Plimer, a Skeptic and Australian Humanist of the Year (1995) wrote a book called Telling Lies for God. This made some serious, unsubstantiated and later disproven charges (see The Ian Plimer Files) against Bible-believing Christians, including Answers in Genesis (then the Creation Science Foundation Ltd.). It also lampooned the Bible. However, ISCAST's review of this book actually appeared to endorse this atheist's comments as follows: 'He presents a strong case for scientific fraud and that creationists use methods that are dishonest and manipulative' and 'needs to be read' and 'an understandable response from the scientific community'.7

ISCAST is thus supporting vicious attacks against the integrity of a Bible-believing organisation. These attacks had previously, to ISCAST's own knowledge, been shown (by an independent committee of enquiry with impeccable Christian credentials led by Clarrie Briese) to be false. This was reported in the May 1995 issue of our Prayer News. See also the AiG response to Plimer's charges against them.

In the same review, ISCAST claimed that Plimer 'does not take an anti-Christian stand'. But Plimer's book attacks biblical inerrancy and belief in life after death, which would seem to be blatantly anti-Christian. Also, as documented on our website, Plimer makes some crass blunders in science (see Plimer's Bloopers). Yet ISCAST (and the Skeptics), despite a professed high regard for science, overlooked them.

ISCAST's personnel includes one Dr Ken Smith, who is a Fellow and Committee member of ISCAST. Smith also has the dubious honour of being joint Skeptic of the Year in 1986 for a book he co-edited that attacked biblical creation. It even had a chapter denigrating biblical inerrancy and was full of mocking cartoons attacking biblical Christians. Smith in his public writings has personally endorsed the ardent atheists Dawkins and Plimer.

I suggest that a true Christian should not be 'unequally yoked' with an anti-Christian organisation like the Skeptics in any way, let alone as joint Skeptic of the Year. It seems reasonable to be sceptical of ISCAST's claim to hold a 'high view of Scripture' if they have a leading Skeptic in such a high position.

Denial of biblical inerrancy

One of the most vocal ISCAST spokesmen is Prof. Allan Day. He claims that the Bible's authors were limited by the primitive science of their day, so they believed wrong ideas like a primitive flat earth cosmology.8 Day also claims that the spherical world was a big problem for the church fathers.8 This charge is completely false as shown by the historian J.B. Russell. He documented that nearly all Christian scholars who have ever discussed the earth's shape have assented to its roundness.9 And the Bible teaches that the earth is round, not flat.10

Day's comments, regrettably, are a blatant denial of biblical inerrancy—a strange way of holding 'a high view of biblical authority', as he claims ISCAST does. Biblical inerrancy was taught by Christ (John 10:35) and His apostle Paul (2 Tim. 3:15–17). Denying inerrancy in areas which are testable gives us no reason or confidence to trust Scripture in untestable areas, e.g. life after death. It also leaves us vulnerable to claims by the 'gay Christian' lobby that the Bible's authors taught a primitive homophobic view of sexuality, which modern science has supposedly shown to be false. Already, there are even bishops who think adultery is 'in the genes', programmed by evolution.

Also, the keynote speaker at the ISCAST-sponsored COSAC 1997 (Conference on Science and Christianity) was Robert Russell, who endorses the heretical doctrine of panentheism.11 This doctrine says that the universe is a part of God, who evolves as the universe evolves.

ISCAST leader thinks Christ was wrong

When confronted with the fact that Christ accepted the plain meaning of Genesis, Day claimed that Christ was limited by His time, and that we now know better thanks to 'science'. It's amazing that an organisation whose spokesman opposes what Christ taught has been able to gain the confidence of reputable evangelical organizations (see box).

Where does it end? After all, Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:12): 'I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?' If Jesus was wrong about earthly things (like a recent creation12 and a global flood13), was He also wrong about a heavenly thing like John 3:16, only four verses later? If not, why not? Scripture becomes a restaurant menu, where we choose only the parts that suit us, while we slide down to total unbelief. Many atheists testify that their rejection of the Bible and Christianity started with compromises on Genesis.

Effect on Christians

The major purpose of ISCAST seems to be to promote the teaching of 'theistic evolution'. We have had many letters from people who were confused by such teaching. But they were grateful to Answers in Genesis for helping them restore their foundations and confidence in Scripture, and helping them see that Christianity is a faith which fits the facts.


In making this stand, Answers in Genesis is not claiming that theistic evolutionists cannot be Christians, nor denying their right to be heard. However, we think it is our sombre responsibility to make fellow Christians aware of the full extent and implications of some of the beliefs held by leading ISCASTians.

The more that real belief in Genesis (the book containing the doctrinal foundations of creation, sin, death and redemption) is undermined, the worse for Christianity overall.

ISCAST's penetration of Australian evangelicalism

Moore College (an evangelical Anglican college in Sydney): this was the venue for last year's ISCAST-sponsored conference called COSAC. Although it was not a Moore College conference, Dr Peter Jensen, the Principal of Moore and a theistic evolutionist, was one of the speakers.

Ridley College (Anglican theological college at Parkville, Victoria): has had many lectures by ISCASTians. It was the venue of an ISCAST conference in Oct. 1998 held in conjunction with the Victorian Association of Religious Education, the Council for Christian Education in Schools, the Teachers Christian Fellowship, and Scripture Union.14

Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students: their magazine Salt (Spring 1998) published an article by leading ISCASTian Dr Jonathan Clarke denying the historicity of Genesis. Clarke has also favourably reviewed the anti-Christian book Contact by the late fanatical atheist Carl Sagan, amazingly claiming that Sagan was 'surely not far from the Kingdom of God'.15

Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship, Australia: a whole issue of their Luke's Journal (Vol. 2, No. 3, Sept. 1997), was devoted to pushing the ISCAST theistic evolutionary line, including an editorial by leading ISCASTian Dr Alan Gijsbers.

See C. Wieland, 'Darwin's real message: have you missed it? ' Creation 14(4):16–19, September–November 1992. For scientific refutations of Dawkins' works, see:
G.H. Duggan, 'Review of The Blind Watchmaker', Apologia, 6(1):121–122, 1997.
R.G. Bohlin, 'Up the River Without a Paddle—Review of River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life' , Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, 10(3):322–327, 1996.
J.D. Sarfati, 'Review of Climbing Mt Improbable' , Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, 12(1):29–34, 1998.
W. Gitt, Weasel Words , Creation Ex Nihilo 20(4):20–21, September–November 1998 refutes Dawkins' computer 'proof' of information arising by mutation and selection. Dr Gitt shows that the information was pre-programmed, something Dawkins admitted but glossed over.
Barry Williams, Executive Officer of Australian Skeptics, letter in New Life 60(38):12, 19 March 1998.
All this was pointed out in AiG's refutation of Williams' letter, New Life 60(41):4–5, 9 April 1998.
Don Batten , 'A Who's Who of evolutionists', Creation 20(1):32, December 1997–February 1998 (see online version)
Because they all accept the 'millions of years' scenario—this puts the fossil record, with all its evidence of death, suffering and disease, before Adam's sin.
ISCAST Bulletin 23, March 1998.Return to text
VISCAST News, May 1997, p. 4 (VISCAST is just the Victorian branch of ISCAST).Return to text
A.J. Day, in the ISCAST-sponsored COSAC workshop papers, p. 4.
Jeffrey Burton Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus & Modern Historians (Praeger, 1991). Prof. Russell can find only five obscure writers in the first 1500 years of the Christian era who denied that the earth was a globe. But he documents a large number of writers, including Thomas Aquinas, who affirmed the earth's sphericity. See also Creation 14(4):21, 16(2):48–9 (see online version ).
Isaiah 40:22 refers to 'the circle of the earth', or in the Italian translation globo. The Hebrew is khug = sphericity or roundness. Even if the translation 'circle' is adhered to, think about Neil Armstrong in space—to him, the spherical earth would have appeared circular regardless of which direction he viewed it from. Also Jesus Christ's prophecy about His second coming in Luke 17:34–36 implies that He knew about a round earth. He stated that different people on earth would experience night, morning and midday at the same time. This is possible because the spheroidal earth is rotating on its axis, which allows the sun to shine on different areas at different times. But it would be an inconceivable prophecy if Christ believed in a flat earth.
ISCAST Bulletin 22:4, 1997.
Jesus, when teaching about marriage and divorce, said: 'But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female' (Mark 10:6 ). This makes sense if Adam and Eve were created on Day 6 of Creation Week, about 4000 years before He spoke. But it is diametrically opposed to the evolutionary/long age belief that mankind appeared after 4.5 billion years of earth history, almost as an afterthought.
In Luke 17:26–27 , Jesus treats the Flood and Ark as historical events.
New Life 61(14):7, 10 Sept. 1998.
ISCAST Bulletin 23:6, 1998.
ISCAST responds; reply by AiG

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Typical Objections to Intelligent Design


by Bob Murphy

In the past few weeks I've found my attention drawn time and again to the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. As always, I must give my disclaimer that I am not an expert in biology, chemistry, geology, etc. However, I do think I'm pretty good at analyzing arguments, and – as I've said before on this site – the more I look into this stuff, folks, the more I think that the ID people are on to something, while the proponents of Darwinian evolution are missing the point. In the present article, I want to quickly discuss several typical objections to ID.


Time and again, neo-Darwinists (the somewhat poor term I shall use to describe the defenders of the orthodox view) have accused Michael Behe and other IDers as completely ignorant and/or deceptive. Obviously I can't speak for the entire movement – there are liars associated with every group of people – but from my limited investigations I don't get the sense that Behe is either. Here is Behe himself responding to the charge of ignorance , leveled by posters at the talkorigins website:

In this group of posts I am repeatedly said to be "ignorant." That may be true, but I think there is reason to give me the benefit of the doubt. I have a Ph. D. in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania (received an award from Sigma Xi for "Best Thesis), postdoc'd for four years at the National Institutes of Health (as a Jane Coffin Childs Fund postdoctoral fellow), have been an academic biochemist for 14 years, have gained tenure at a reasonably rigorous university, have published a fair amount in the biochemical literature, and have continuously had my research funded by national agencies (including a five-year Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health) and currently have research funds.

Well, perhaps I am a real biochemist, but am simply "ignorant" of work on the evolution of irreducibly complex biochemical systems? Perhaps. But I am not unaware that evolution is a controversial subject, and certainly tried to cover all bases when researching and writing my book. I have no death wish. I do, after all, have to live with my departmental colleagues, a number of whom are Darwinists. So I searched the literature as thoroughly as I could for relevant information and tried to be as rigorous as possible. Perhaps there are step-by-step, Darwinian explanations in the literature for the complex systems I describe in my book, but if there are I haven't seen them, nor has anyone brought them to my attention.

My book has now been reviewed quite widely, including reviews by academic biochemists. Several of them were quite hostile to my idea of design, but all agreed that the systems I described are enormously complex and currently unexplained.

Now does the above sound like someone who is ignorant? Granted, I don't have the background to verify the particular claims of ignorance; as an outsider, I can only evaluate things such as the character exhibited by the people in question. For what it's worth, I think Behe's response is probably how I would respond if a bunch of punks on an Internet site said I didn't know the first thing about (say) international trade. (Ha ha, please don't email me and say that that just proves I'm as ignorant as Behe. I can see that joke a mile away.)

Of course, there is another possibility. Maybe Behe isn't an honest buffoon; maybe he knows exactly what he's doing, and consciously preys on the naïveté of gullible Christians like me. Well, again, I don't think so. For example, if you followed the news coverage of the Dover trial, you probably heard something to the effect of this: "Michael Behe, star witness for the defense, was forced to admit on the stand that Intelligent Design had the same scientific validity as astrology."

If you heard that at the time, weren't you surprised? I know I was. Funny thing is, if you go to the actual transcript (use your Find feature to look for "astrology" and then back up a few sentences to get the context), you'll see that the typical description is very misleading indeed. (When I debated ID on a blog , I was informed: "Now we have ID people who want to teach something they themselves admit is on the same scientific level as astrology.") Behe was explaining why he thought ID was a scientific theory (and hence, why it could be taught in a public school while not violating the separation of church and state). To put it very loosely, Behe said that a scientific theory explains numerous observations about the natural world by reference to some unifying principle, and that this indeed is what ID does in biology. Naturally Behe did not add the caveat, "To qualify as 'scientific,' a conjecture must first command the assent of at least 95% of the relevant scientists."

Of course the lawyer pounced and asked Behe if astrology would count as a scientific theory under this definition, to which Behe replied "yes." Now, Behe isn't an idiot, at least when it comes to publicity, right? He knew full well why that question was being asked, and he knew his admission would be splashed all over the newspapers. So if he were truly intellectually dishonest, why wouldn't he dodge the question? Why wouldn't he act, say, as Bush or Kerry did during their debates?


Another typical objection is that the IDers have no peer-reviewed research. The IDers come back and say that they do, and then the critics say that stuff doesn't count, etc. etc. I think this argument is silly for two main reasons. First, it basically reduces to: "The mainstream scientists overwhelmingly reject ID." Everybody already knows this, including the ID people. So it's not really a separate argument to add, "And no journals publish your stuff, either."

Second, ID is in its infancy as far as scientific theories go. Let's suppose for the sake of argument that these people were right, and biology has been barking up the wrong evolutionary tree for 150 years. Isn't this exactly what you'd expect to see, then? No journals publishing the work of Behe, Dembski, et al., so that these guys have to write up their views in books?

Anyway, I make the following, falsifiable prediction: Within ten years, there will be a journal dedicated to Intelligent Design, publishing articles in not only biochemistry but geology, mathematics, and physics. Outsiders may scoff at the pseudoscience hoodwinking the nation's faithful, but it will be a journal with referees. At that point, the tremendous significance attached to "ID has no peer-reviewed research" will fade away, to be replaced with, "ID articles are only published in an incestuous network of 33 PhDs who all happen to be churchgoers."


Beyond being merely wrong, ID allegedly fails to qualify even as a scientific theory at all. Science invokes only natural causes to explain things in the natural world, and hence (the objection runs) ID is unscientific when it invokes an unseen "designer" to explain, say, the irreducible complexity of the human nervous system.

William Dembski has dealt this objection a decisive blow when he explains the potential for ID in bioterrorism forensics. At some point in the not too distant future, we will probably see outbreaks of genetically engineered viruses or bacteria. After a given outbreak, people will need to be able to determine whether the deaths were due to natural causes, or were instead homicides. Now whom should we ask to perform this task for us? Priests? Philosophers? Or scientists? And if you agree that it should be the scientists who figure it out, how should they proceed? Wouldn't they, oh I don't know, take samples of the viruses and see if they could've been produced by Darwinian processes, and then (if not) report to the government that we've got some terrorists out there designing killer microbes?

I think that even the atheist who carries this thought experiment out will have to concede that the counterterrorism analysts will end up doing things that Behe and Dembski talk about right now. Note that I'm not saying the government will hire Behe and Dembski to do it; maybe they're not very good scientists after all. But their work is not in principle unscientific, unless we admit that scientists would have nothing to say in the autopsies of entire towns wiped out by a mysterious virus.


Admittedly, at times it seems as if the ID people are merely saying, "I can't imagine how a cocker spaniel could've evolved from a prokaryote, so it must be impossible." To this (straw man) objection, neo-Darwinists have glib retorts such as, "Your ignorance isn't a strike against my theory."

But let's change the discussion to any field other than biology, and see how puny this defense now sounds. Mathematician A offers a conjecture, and Mathematician B says, "I don't see how you can get that result." Mathematician A responds, "Your lack of imagination isn't a strike against my theorem."

What's ironic is that the neo-Darwinists themselves use just this argument all the time, albeit to attack creationism. They will point to some odd quirk of biology and then demand, "Why in the world would an intelligent God design it that way??"

Before leaving this section, I want to reiterate a point I've made elsewhere: If you think that creationism (which isn't the same as ID, by the way) can be ruled out on theological grounds, then (if you believe in the standard theory of evolution) you have to be a virtual atheist. For if no benevolent God would ever (say) specially create millions of different species such that the vast majority would go extinct, then no benevolent God would set up the initial conditions of the universe such that random mutation and natural selection would lead to the evolution and extinction of 99% of all species. In other words, if you think that the history of life rules out the Genesis account, be prepared for it to rule out any account involving a God who is powerful, benevolent, and wise.


A very popular (and ad hominem) attack is that ID proponents don't really just believe in ID; they're actually Bible-thumping Christians who pretend they don't know anything about the designer in order to keep the classroom textbooks legal. I agree that the vast majority of ID proponents probably fit this description. However, one notable exception is philosopher Antony Flew. When Flew renounced his atheism because of the evidence of design, I recall prominent atheists reassuring their followers that Flew wasn't a Christian, and that all he meant was that life didn't arise purely by accident. So apparently (as even the atheists in this case point out with relief) one can be convinced by the empirical evidence that life exhibits design, without endorsing the God of the Bible.


Certainly the above doesn't deal with the specific facts of biochemistry and so forth. All I'm attempting to do is showcase the weakness in many of the typical objections to the Intelligent Design movement. I hope this article and others like it will encourage proponents of neo-Darwinism to refine their critique, and just maybe consider the possibility that people like Behe aren't nuts.

January 17, 2006

Bob Murphy [send him mail ] has a PhD in economics from New York University, and is the author of Minerva . See his personal website at BobMurphy.net .

Copyright © 2006 LewRockwell.com

Intelligent design has a place in the intelligent classroom


Posted: Monday, Jan 16, 2006 - 04:21:33 pm PST

After reading recent articles about the debate over intelligent design (ID) versus evolution, I am convinced that people have a phobia of anything that hints at religion and God.

I think this is because issues dealing with religion and God can't be proven and people don't like the thought of agreeing with something they can't rationalize in their mind.

Referring to the Dec. 20 ruling by U.S. District judge John E Jones III that the concept of ID being taught in a public school in Dover, PA, as an alternative to evolution is religious and unscientific, I make my first point.

The judge's reasoning seems to rule out the teaching of ID because it has religious connotations, concluding that what is not based on science has no place in the classroom.

People always cite the First Amendment as justification for not having ID and other religious doctrine taught in public schools, but I think they use it abusively, screaming separation of church and state.

The first part of the amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

It does not say teachers cannot teach about certain religious doctrine in public schools or that doing so is an infringement of a person's rights. Besides, teaching about ID is in no way making a law requiring students to believe in that school of thought.

Rather, the statement in the beginning of the First Amendment is setting boundaries so that it prohibits the government at all levels from officially adopting a specific denomination or religion.

Therefore, using the separation of church and state argument and interpreting it to mean that issues pertaining to religion cannot be taught in public school classrooms is ludicrous.

This leads me to point two.

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dated Jan. 4, Judge Jones is said to have commented that the real purpose of the Dover School Board was to "promote religion in the public school classroom."

If one considers providing students with two sides of an issue, in this case evolution as opposed to ID, and discussing it in a classroom setting as promoting an agenda, you're missing the point of what education is supposed to be about.

Students should be able to exercise their minds in a way that questions the status quo, their own current beliefs and the beliefs of others around them.

But they can't do that if they're prohibited from looking at both sides of an issue.

Besides, ID is not just a religious issue but one of logic.

The idea of a creator God who brought the universe into existence, creating nature and all complex biological structures is evident.

For instance, consider the rotation of the earth and sun, aligned in such a way so that there is day and night and changes of season. The detailed design of a spider's web which provides it with a method of catching food or the skin of a lizard as it changes color to protect it. Both are illustrations of living things whose methods of existence hardly seem a product of gradual change without a God behind their creation.

Under evolution, there could have been lizards that in the middle of evolving had feathers but couldn't yet fly. Clearly, the species would die as it could not survive in that state.

In the public school system, our students should be allowed to engage themselves and their fellow classmates in these types of debates in order to find out where they stand on these issues. If they are prohibited from doing this in the classroom, our public education system is failing.

Aimee Hornberger is the Columbia Basin Herald's health and education reporter.

Author says his report on intelligent design misused



COLUMBUS - The author of a report, used to bolster Ohio's inclusion of intelligent design into the state science curriculum, now says he may have been misled.

Paul R. Gross, a former science professor at the University of Virginia, called into question Monday how his evaluation of Ohio science standards was used.

Last month, a federal judge ruled a Dover, Pa., school board violated the U.S. Constitution when it ordered intelligent design to be taught to students. Intelligent design advocates contend that life is so complex, an unnamed intelligent being had to have played a role.

Discussion of the Dover case prompted a 9-8 vote at a meeting of the Ohio Board of Education last week to uphold the guidelines. Michael Cochran of Blacklick used a recent Thomas B. Fordham Institute grade of "B," which came from Gross, to imply the institute approved the inclusion of intelligent design in the science curriculum.

"The benefit of doubt we gave the benchmark may have been a mistake," Gross said. "Creationism-inspired 'critical analysis' of evolutionary biology is neither serious criticism nor serious analysis. Any suggestion that our 'B' grade for Ohio's standard endorses sham critiques of evolution, as offered by creationists, is false."

Cochran could not be reached for comment.

"Ohio's curricula are solid lessons that teachers may use in their teaching," said J.C. Benton, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education. "The strength of the model curricula is that they require students to think critically and analyze scientific theory using the scientific method."

Board President Sue Westendorf of Bowling Green, who cast the deciding vote last week, said she had not seen Gross' comments. But, she said, they don't change anything.

She said the disputed benchmark is just one of many the board established and the board doesn't mandate what curricula schools use, what they teach or test, though intelligent design is allowed to be taught.

Westendorf said last week's discussion accelerated a review of the standards. She said advisory and writing teams, similar to those that established the policy, will review the standards. She did not have a timetable for doing so, saying the board is under budget constraints and "we have a lot on our plate."

The process was suggested by board member Jim Craig of Canton.

Craig said he is "amenable to looking at the lesson plan" even though he voted last week to keep it. He thought a more deliberative process should have happened first.

"I want it to go through our process and not have the board take action on its own," he said. "The writing team and advisory team should have input."

"This issue is never going to be dead," Craig said. "The two sides want to annihilate each other. I wish we could come up with the perfect solution, but we won't."

Craig, who said he doesn't favor teaching intelligent design as a science, said he was disturbed "by the friction on the board. I worry what it might do longer term to the board and education in Ohio."

Robin C. Hovis, a board member from Holmes County, said it's no use revisiting the issue because the policy hasn't been around long enough to review. That could change, he said, if new litigation or other factors crop up.

"For most mainstream Christians, evolution is not inconsistent with their beliefs," said Hovis, who voted to change the standard. "The paper trail of the lesson plan clearly leads to intelligent design. Just because ID is not in there, doesn't mean its content isn't."

Reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail paul.kostyu@cantonrep.com

Gov. Fletcher's support for teaching intelligent design


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

'Moronic statement'

Isn't it bad enough that Gov. Ernie Fletcher has embarrassed the state of Kentucky with the illegal cronyism displayed in the hiring practices of his administration? Now he makes a moronic statement about teaching intelligent design in our schools and implies that KERA allows for such a thing.

Hey, maybe we can achieve the same recognition that Kansas and Pennsylvania have received. Sadly enough, many in this state probably think that is a good thing.

If this doesn't help reinforce the need to improve the education of our population, then what will?


Fisherville, Ky. 40023

GOP 'should think twice'

Gov. Ernie Fletcher's recent statement promoting the teaching of intelligent design can only lead to two outcomes: harm to the science education of children in Kentucky's public schools, and harm to the Republican Party.

Scientists have exposed intelligent design as a fraud, and its proponents have been exposed as liars by conservative, Republican, Bush-appointed judges.

But Fletcher and other Republicans should note that at least 10 percent of the Republican Party consists of libertarian Republicans, and these voters will choose Democrats over Republicans who want to use government and taxes to promote a religion. Dover, Pa., is a Republican haven, yet voters ousted all eight Republican school board members who promoted intelligent design and replaced them with Democrats.

Republicans should think twice before pursuing this disastrous course.


Louisville 40241

Let scientists teach science

I see the mudslingers on both sides are busy with intelligent design again. It seems to me that any discussion of the ultimate origins or meaning of the universe is not science, but metaphysics or theology. Leave that out of science classes entirely, but then let the scientists teach science, and not something else.


Louisville 40203

'A pretty intelligent theory'

I wasn't surprised when Gov. Ernie Fletcher encouraged schools to teach intelligent design at his State of the Commonwealth address. However, I was surprised at Brent McKim (president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association) who said Fletcher is trying to create a divisive issue when there isn't one.

Is he really serious? Does he not know what's going on in Kansas and Pennsylvania? Has he not been reading the editorial page of The Courier-Journal? How can he say that it isn't a divisive issue?

I was also surprised by Sen. David Williams' comments. He said, "If it doesn't bother anyone where they aren't teaching it, I don't think we ought to interfere with that." Is he saying that only when people make a big enough fuss, then it should be taught? He forgets that intelligent design is a pretty intelligent theory. Sure, Darwin can stay in the classroom. But why only him?

I find it ironic that the ACLU -- the standard-bearers of diversity, tolerance (gay rights, all-access pornography) and choice (abortion) -- has some pretty totalitarian ideas when it comes to free thinking in the classroom.


Louisville 40245

The public truth

Does our Governor read? Just last month, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III (a Republican churchgoer) ruled in Kitzmiller v. Dover that intelligent design is religion. To teach it in public schools as science violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Yet Gov. Ernie Fletcher wants to encourage the teaching of intelligent design as science in Kentucky schools. Like all fundamentalists, Fletcher confuses his own private truth with the public truth. While our constitution protects his right to believe whatever he likes privately, it does not protect his attempts to impose his religion on the citizens of Kentucky.

Public truth is the truth that protects all people, the truth on which democracy depends. Public truth is based on rational inquiry, objectivity and observable evidence. In other words, when it comes to public policy, public welfare and public education, people in power don't get to just make things up and say they are true. Governors don't get to say, "Well, I believe God designed humans so that's what we'll teach in our schools."

If the Governor is fervently committed to subjecting our government and our schools to his " self-evident truth," I suggest a trip to Iran. They do theocracy very well there.


Louisville 40207

Intelligent design not science, says Vatican newspaper article


DESIGN-LOSSERVATORE Jan-17-2006 (510 words) xxxi

By John Thavis Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Intelligent design is not science and should not be taught as a scientific theory in schools alongside Darwinian evolution, an article in the Vatican newspaper said.

The article said that in pushing intelligent design some groups were improperly seeking miraculous explanations in a way that creates confusion between religious and scientific fields.

At the same time, scientists should recognize that evolutionary theory does not exclude an overall purpose in creation -- a "superior design" that may be realized through secondary causes like natural selection, it said.

The article, published in the Jan. 17 edition of L'Osservatore Romano, was written by Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna in Italy.

The article noted that the debate over intelligent design -- the idea that certain features of life and the universe are best explained by an intelligent designer rather than adaptive evolution -- has spread from the United States to Europe.

The problem with intelligent design is that it turns to a "superior cause" -- understood though not necessarily named as God -- to explain supposed shortcomings of evolutionary science. But that's not how science should work, the article said.

"If the model proposed by Darwin is held to be inadequate, one should look for another model. But it is not correct methodology to stray from the field of science pretending to do science," it said.

The article said a Pennsylvania judge had acted properly when he ruled in December that intelligent design could not be taught as science in schools.

"Intelligent design does not belong to science and there is no justification for the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside the Darwinian explanation," it said.

From the church's point of view, Catholic teaching says God created all things from nothing, but doesn't say how, the article said. That leaves open the possibilities of evolutionary mechanisms like random mutation and natural selection.

"God's project of creation can be carried out through secondary causes in the natural course of events, without having to think of miraculous interventions that point in this or that direction," it said.

What the church does insist upon is that the emergence of the human supposes a willful act of God, and that man cannot be seen as only the product of evolutionary processes, it said. The spiritual element of man is not something that could have developed from natural selection but required an "ontological leap," it said.

The article said that, unfortunately, what has helped fuel the intelligent design debate is a tendency among some Darwinian scientists to view evolution in absolute and ideological terms, as if everything -- including first causes -- can be attributed to chance.

"Science as such, with its methods, can neither demonstrate nor exclude that a superior design has been carried out," it said.

From a religious viewpoint, it said, there is no doubt that the human story "has a sense and a direction that is marked by a superior design."


Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/USCCB

Our intelligent design flap would astonish Franklin


Surely, our first scientist would want us to use brains

Jan. 16, 2006, 7:10PM


TODAY marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Ben Franklin, one of America's most famous founding fathers and the first American scientist.

Franklin's ideals and his wisdom are as fresh today as they were during the troubled years of our nation's founding. I cannot help but wonder how Franklin, a disciplined scientist and religious man, would react to the idea of teaching "intelligent design" as an alternative to the science of evolution in our schools.

Would he be surprised that the current president of the United States, a self-proclaimed "education president," and the majority leader of the Senate, a cardiovascular surgeon, have advocated such a change in what our schools teach as science?

For his part, Franklin never had a problem reconciling his devotion both to God and to the pursuit of scientific truth. While he was unquestionably religious — calling for regular morning prayers at the Constitutional Convention — he was insatiably curious, always questioning, and he rejected all forms of intolerance. He believed that science and mankind's understanding of nature, far from questioning the existence of God, were ways to gain a deeper appreciation of the nature, indeed the wonder, of God and His works.

How far we have come in 300 years. Scientists have built upon Franklin's basic understanding of the nature of electricity to create sophisticated electronics, cell phones, lasers, medical imaging devices capable of resolving single molecules inside a living cell, miniaturized computers and the global Internet, satellites and even robotic explorers of distant planets.

In contrast to the many amazing advances made in science and technology, we seem to have lost ground when it comes to religion. How far apart we seem to be at least in time and understanding, if not in geographical distance (only 62 miles) between Franklin's Philadelphia and today's Dover, Pa., where a deeply divided community recently awaited a court judgment concerning intelligent design.

Even before the judge ruled that it would be unconstitutional to teach intelligent design as science, the majority of Dover's citizens had already made their will known by tossing out the members of the school board who favored intelligent design. But to be going through this at all in a new millennium is truly remarkable.

Were Franklin alive today, he would undoubtedly attest that evolution is a fact in the same way that gravitation and electromagnetism are facts. The same scientific method was used to understand all three aspects of nature. Early hypotheses become theories. Theories are subjected to rigorous experimental testing, and factual descriptions emerge. For centuries, that's how people, including Franklin, have advanced their understanding of how nature works.

Notice that I do not say why nature works or what, ultimately, might be behind the workings of nature; instead, science is our best description of how nature works.

I know many scientists who are religious, and none of them considers their faith in God to be in conflict with their faith in science or the scientific method of discovery.

The belief that God created the universe, hence all of nature, is fully consistent, in their minds, with the belief that science is how we learn about nature.Why is this so difficult for some to accept?

I think the majority of the people who feel that children should be exposed to alternative ideas to evolution are not expressing irreconcilable religious beliefs but their own lack of understanding of biological science.

The dismal quality of science education we provide in this country is largely responsible for this lack of understanding. And all of us are at fault for continuing to give such a low priority to educating today's youth and tomorrow's leaders, even as our children's test scores lag behind much of the rest of the world's.

As for Benjamin Franklin, we don't know, of course, what he might make of all this. But given what we know about his views and philosophies and his penchant for plain talk, I believe Franklin might express the opinion that God created the heavens and Earth, the laws of nature, as well as humans with brains, and that God might want us to use them.

Lane, a physicist, is a senior fellow in science and technology at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Malcolm Gillis University Professor at Rice. He is a former director of the National Science Foundation and served as assistant to the president for Science and Technology during the Clinton administration.

Bigfoot where are you?


Singaporeans going to Johor jungles. Their mission: To find mythical creature

By Teh Jen Lee

January 10, 2006

THIS is Bigfoot sighting season.

With the help of this instrument that measures magnetic fields, Mr Toh Seong Fai - a member of SPI - plans to hunt for Johor's Bigfoot. The latest was reported just across the Causeway last month.

And in November last year, three fish farm workers apparently saw two hairy beasts about 3m tall and a smaller, younger one, near Kota Tinggi.

These unconfirmed sightings have excited a group of Singaporeans.

In two weeks, 20 of them, members of the Singapore Paranormal Investigators (SPI), will head to the jungles of Johor.

Their two-day recce trip will determine how best to plan future expeditions.

SPI is a non-profit club that researches paranormal phenomena.

Bigfoot in a Hollywood movie. It has 50 paying members and over 10,000 members registered on its online forum.

The team members will be hand- picked for their physical fitness as they will be staying overnight in the forests.

Mr Hashim Yusof, director of Johor National Parks Corp, said that SPI sent an e-mail request on 21 Dec to interview those who have reportedly seen Bigfoot.

He said: 'We thanked them for their interest and are in the midst of getting official clearance from the authorities.

'People can come unofficially as tourists, but any findings must be verified through the proper channels.'

Mr Hashim said the first Bigfoot sighting in Johor was reported 26 years ago, but the latest sightings have generated the most interest.


Mr Toh Seong Fai aims to find that out.

The 32-year-old, who works in logistics, is one of SPI's Elite Members. He will be heading the recce trip.

For the past few years, he has been going on his own to Kota Tinggi once every few months on the Bigfoot trail.

He has spoken to locals about the most likely spots where Bigfoot may appear.

He has not gathered any evidence yet, but he is not giving up.

He said: 'I believe people are born curious about things they don't know. But many take the easy way out, they just accept information from sources without verifying it for themselves.

'I prefer to be active. I want to know if this mythical creature is real or whether it's a case of mistaken identity.'

Indeed, his interest is more enduring than what may be described as the recent King Kong craze.

Mr Toh said he specialises in cryptozoology - the study of animals 'whose existence has been made aware of, but whose actual identities are not verified'.

He said: 'I've been into cryptozoology since I was in primary school. I read about the Loch Ness monster and got interested.'


With more people joining the search, he hopes they will be able to gather tangible evidence like fur or even teeth marks on half-eaten food.

Yet he is aware the trip could be just another wild goose chase.

'We will be scientific and logical. If we don't have sufficient info, we will not make any conclusions,' he said.

Similarly, SPI president Kenny Fong, 36, who is based in Macau, told The New Paper: 'As professional investigators, our aim is to verify and search for clues just as they are.'

Added the assistant professor: 'This means we do not come with any biased wishful thinking. We want to be as neutral as possible when examining any traces of artifacts collected.'

Another SPI Elite Member, Mr Douglas Lim, 29, an IT administrator, described some of the special equipment that may be used for the trip:

Sound enhancer which can pick up ultrasound that is undetectable to human ears

Infra-red or night-vision binoculars

Metal detector to measure magnetic fields for abnormal readings

These gadgets cost over $800 in total.

But when it comes to footprints, Mr Lim wants to see it with his own eyes.

SPI secretary Lee Qing Yu, 24, a lab technician, said they will make moulds of any footprints so that these can be examined by experts.

Dr Fong said it's possible to find out the behavioural pattern of a creature based on its footprints.

'For example, are they multiple, social or solitary? With luck, we may observe a trail of footprints.

'It doesn't make sense if there is only a pair of them out of nowhere and going nowhere. We may be able to trace a trail all the way to their cave. That would be like hitting the jackpot!' he said, barely able to contain his enthusiasm.

He used to have an unusual hobby of observing footprints on sandy beaches.

'It was like a guessing game. You can see if the footprints are by a loving couple or a family, someone wandering around or in a hurry.

'When it comes to Bigfoot, the footprint can give clues to the weight, bone shape and size of the animal.'

After piecing together any evidence-based clues they find, SPI hopes to draw a conclusion or remark whether Bigfoot exists or not.

Said Mr Toh: 'If there were only one or two sightings, then maybe there's nothing. But there have been sightings again and again over the years, not just in Johor but elsewhere.

'What's more, the sightings are by native people who are very capable of differentiating between ordinary jungle animals and something extraordinary.'

What do their families and friends say about all this?

Said Dr Fong: 'Those who do not know me very well, their jaws will drop. It's the same reaction when I tell them how I rode a donkey for six hours in rocky mountains 2,300m above sea-level.'

This happened last Christmas when he was looking for a Biblical location in Jordan.

'I could have been dead many times during the climb if I had fallen over the cliff in the gorges. But this is me. Shopping in London or sightseeing at the Eiffel Tower makes me yawn.'

Parks boss invites media to seek out truth

THE reports of Bigfoot sightings in Johor mostly came from the forests of Tanjung Piai, Mersing, Kahang, Endau Rompin National Park and Kota Tinggi.

In the November sighting by three fish farm workers, footprints of various sizes were found in the area.

The biggest one, which looked like a triangular depression, was 45cm long. Its pictures were published in the Malaysian press.

About a week ago, Johor National Parks director Hashim Yusof took a group of 50 park rangers and journalists to the Sungai Madek forest reserve. They went around asking locals about the reported sightings.

Mr Hashim told Reuters that he was keeping an open mind and wanted to enlist scientists to prove whether the beast was fact or fantasy.

'We are collecting a database on the sightings. We want to uncover the truth about this creature and also quash any rumour that may scare away visitors to the national park.'

Bigfoot sightings have been reported in the wilderness all over the world. In the US, every state except Delaware and Hawaii has had a sighting.

It has many names including Sasquatch, Bokbokwolli, Yeti and the Abominable Snowman.

Many pranksters in the past have admitted to faking Bigfoot evidence.

Tracks are the most popular form of evidence collected, but the problem is that there is no consistency in the tracks.

Hair samples have turned out to be from other animals.


Ohio may lose science grade


'B' will be 'F' if lesson plan does not drop intelligent design

By Scott Elliott

Dayton Daily News

The authors of a recent study that gave Ohio a "B" for science standards said they will change the grade to "F" if an intelligent design lesson plan is not dropped.

And one of the leaders of a group opposing Ohio's foray into teaching intelligent design said the state could be the next front in a national battle over evolution.

"Our preference is that the state board take responsibility for an honest science curriculum, but I know that plaintiffs are volunteering," said Richard Hoppe, head of a company that uses evolution-based modeling for stock market analysis.

He also is affiliated with Kenyon College and a group pushing Ohio to move away from intelligent design.

Paul Gross, the lead writer of a report by the Fordham Institute, which rated the science standards for all 50 states, said it turned out to be a mistake for his group to expect Ohio's intelligent design lesson plan would be more scientific.

"Creationism-inspired 'critical analysis' of evolutionary biology — as has been shown over and over again in the scientific literature, and recently in a Pennsylvania federal court — is neither serious criticism nor serious analysis," he said.

Intelligent design supporters argue that the complexity of the universe suggests an "intelligent designer."

Courts have long held that teaching the religious theory of creation — that God made the universe — was improper in science class.

Hoppe said Ohio's lesson plan is largely based on intelligent design texts such as Of Pandas and People that re-label arguments for creationism as intelligent design.

In December, a federal judge ruled that the teaching of intelligent design in Dover, Pa., was unconstitutional and was especially critical of texts such as Of Pandas and People, which he said

re-used language from creationism texts.

The Ohio Board of Education, by a 9-8 vote, declined to reconsider its intelligent design lesson plan last week.

J.C. Benton, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said the model lessons were created following more than two years of consultation with educators, parents and other stakeholders.

"The strength of the model curricula is that they require students to think critically and analyze scientific theory using the scientific method," he said.

Contact Scott Elliott at 225-2485.

Creationism Falls From Kern County School Curriculum


5:00 PM PST, January 17, 2006 latimes.com

By Ann M. Simmons, Times Staff Writer

FRESNO -- A creationism class was canceled this morning by a public school district in the town of Lebec that promised never again to schedule such a course in its classrooms.

The El Tejon Unified School District agreed to discontinue the class, which used creationist materials that insist that the biblical Book of Genesis is literally true and is scientific.

Opponents challenged the four-week course as an "infomercial for creationism" that violated the constitutionally-ordered separation of church and state.

The school district, in a statement, said it could not afford to fight the lawsuit.

"It was very difficult for the school board to make this decision. Neither the school board or its employees have promoted any religious belief in any academic setting. The idea was to have an open discussion of the different points of views on the origin of life, a philosophical exercise in critical thinking," according to the statement.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the teaching of creationism in public schools in 1987, and a federal judge in Pennsylvania last month found an intelligent design course to be banned by the decision.

The Kern County district was sued last week by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, legally challenging the course taught at Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec by special education teacher and soccer coach.

In a formal legal document circulated by the plaintiff, the district agreed to "terminate and discontinue" the course and promised not to schedule "any other course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science, or intelligent design."

A clerk for U.S. District Judge Oliver M. Wanger in Fresno said this morning that the lawsuit had been settled.

"Public schools have no business promoting religion," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "I hope that other public schools learn from this incident and reject efforts to bring religious doctrines into classrooms."

Americans United represented local parents who opposed the course for its promotion of religious concepts.

"This course was far from intelligently designed," said Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan. "It was an infomercial for creationism and its offshoot, intelligent design."

Last month, Americans United and the Pennsylvania ACLU won a decisive victory over "intelligent design" advocates in a case from Dover, Pa. In that legal action, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science and ordered it removed from the Dover schools.

The El Tejon case, AU maintained, was even more problematic because it relied heavily on "young-earth" creationist materials that insist that the biblical Book of Genesis is literally true and scientific — a view held by many fundamentalists but rejected by other Christians.

By permitting the course, the El Tejon district was elevating the fundamentalist Christian viewpoint over others and misrepresenting religious concepts as scientific, Americans United asserted in legal documents.

A group of parents sued El Tejon Unified School District for violating the constitutional separation of church and state because the course advanced the theory that life is so complex it must have been created by God.

"The course was designed to advance religious theories on the origins of life, including creationism and its offshoot, 'intelligent design,'" said the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court.

The high school in the Tehachapi Mountains about 75 miles north of Los Angeles draws 500 students from a dozen small communities.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Cancer study patients 'made up'


Aspirin was among the drugs studied

A cancer expert invented patients for a study which concluded taking common painkillers could protect against oral cancer, it is alleged.

Dr Jon Sudbo reportedly made up patients and case histories for the study published in highly-respected Lancet medical journal last October.

Dr Sudbo has not commented publicly on the claims.

But a spokeswoman for Oslo's Norwegian Radium Hospital, where he works, said he had admitted falsifying data.

This is the worst thing that could happen in a research institution like ours

Trine Lind

The revelation comes just days after work published in the journal Science by South Korean cloning expert Hwang Woo-suk was revealed as fabricated.

Hospital spokeswoman, Trine Lind said: "We are shocked. This is the worst thing that could happen in a research institution like ours."

Stein Vaaler, director of external relations at the hospital, added: "He published an article in The Lancet in October last year whose data is totally false, actually totally fabricated.

"His database had been completely fabricated on his computer."

Norwegian daily newsaper Dagbladet reported that of the 908 people in Sudbo's study, 250 shared the same birthday.

Commission set up

The hospital has set up a commission to investigate why Dr Sudbo falsified data and how his material passed a review by other experts.

Just as in society you cannot always prevent crime, in science you cannot always prevent fabrication

Dr Richard Horton

The panel will also examine previous articles by Dr Sudbo, including two in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Radium Hospital has halted Dr Sudbo's research at the department of Medical Oncology and Radiotherapy.

Hospital chiefs are now discussing whether he can continue treating patients.

The Lancet study was entitled "non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the risk of oral cancer."

It concluded that long-term use of the drugs could help reduce chances of oral cancer, including in smokers, but could also bring higher risks of death from heart disease.

Dr Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, said he would be speaking to the co-authors of the study to seek their permission to retract the paper.

He described the fabrication of data as a "terrible personal tragedy" for Dr Sudbo.

However, he denied that there was anything fundamentally wrong with the process of peer-reviewing contributions to scientific journals.

"The peer-review process is good at picking up poorly designed studies, but it is not designed to pick up fabricated research," he said.

"Just as in society you cannot always prevent crime, in science you cannot always prevent fabrication."

What is "The Truth" about Scientology?


Posted in Miscellaneous, Scientology at 9:47 am by Rick Ross

It looks like Scientology put pressure on an Internet site after a fundamentalist Christian preacher linked its founder, practices and programs with the works of "Satan."

Pastor J. Grant Swank Jr. stated at the Post Chronicle Web site: "Satan takes all praise and glory from Redeemer Christ for all honor and esteem granted [Scientology founder L. Ron] Hubbard and his wild spheres of inner ascendancy."

And that Scientology celebrity Tom "Cruise, like many other famous individuals, particularly actors, furthers the cult of

Scientology as Satan uses this means by which to direct eternal souls away from Christ to Hubbard."

Pretty harsh words that some might observe are bold too, considering Scientology's penchant for suing people.

But what a difference a week or so can make when it comes to "The Truth ."

Now the same Web site that featured the article denouncing Cruise and Scientology is featuring another one by a Scientology minister offering up "The Truth."

Could it be that this unlikely cooperation affording Scientology space for a theology lesson at the Web site is actually part of some sort of a deal to keep the Post Chronicle out of a lawsuit with the litigious church often called a "cult"?

California course "Philosophy of Design" more complicated than thought


by Greg Piper

When I first heard a group of parents was suing a California school board for offering an elective philosophy course that discussed intelligent design theory, I was flabbergasted. As a former employee of the academic home of intelligent design, Seattle's Discovery Institute, I was pretty knowledgeable on judicial precedent involving science curricula, and figured this was just a scare tactic by church/state activitists who knew they'd lose in court. After all, this wasn't a science course and it wasn't required for graduation - two major differences between this and the Dover case, where the winners expressly said ID could be discussed in courses other than science.

But I've read up on the details more closely and talked to an old coworker at Discovery, and now have some different thoughts about the matter. Turns out my former employer is none too keen about the course itself for its labeling and content, which threatens to do the work of church/state advocates for them - namely, conflating ID with creationism.

That's pretty much the conclusion I'm drawing from reading this article that quotes the course teacher's movitation: "I believe this is the class that the Lord wanted me to teach." Ugh. Nothing better for your opponents than to confirm their stereotypes about you. I have a feeling my former colleagues will be pretty busy the next few months trying to convince the media not to link ID -- a theory with no scripture, no doctrine, and nearly agnostic, properly understood -- to people whose curricular motivations are primarily religious and scriptural.

A New Twist in Intelligent Design in Public Schools


By Darla Sitton CBN News Producer

CBN.com – (CBN News)- Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the group that legally blocked the teaching of intelligent design in public school in Dover, Pennsylvania, is now suing a California town for teaching ID in a philosophy class.

Last month, in a court battle that drew national attention, a Pennsylvania judge ruled that intelligent design could not be taught as science.

"What you cannot do is promote religious theories as co-equal or superior to the Theory of Evolution," said Ayesha N. Kahn of Americans United.

Intelligent design, or ID, challenges the theory of evolution by saying that life is so complex, it must have been created by a higher power, rather than evolving through natural selection.

And in Frazier Park, California, a town of 1300, the debate has once again moved from the classroom to the courtroom.

The public school decided to teach id as an alternative to evolution, in philosophy class. The course covers topics such as:

Is evolution a science or philosophy?

The historical roots of Darwinism

Thermodynamics and fossil dating.

"We are learning about both evolution and intelligent design," said Lena Hardesty, a 9th grader at the school. "We are not learning about anything that has been indoctrinated by religion."

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State sued the school district on behalf of 11 parents, because they believe that ID advances religious beliefs, and has no place in school. One parent, a scientist, complains that the curriculum basically re-packages the biblical view of creationism.

But intelligent design proponents believe that evolution has inexplicable gaps, and students should be allowed to consider other intelligent theories.

Christian Law Association's Daniel Gibbs stated, "Schools are the place for students to come and learn and find out about various viewpoints, to allow them to make good decisions."

On Tuesday, a federal judge will decide whether to stop the intelligent design class halfway through the term.

Think Again: Charlie Darwin's angels


Jonathan Rosenblum, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 12, 2006

A federal district court judge in Pennsylvania ruled last month that a few brief paragraphs read to schoolchildren informing them that there are holes in the Darwinian theory of evolution and that an alternative theory of Intelligent Design exists violated the US Constitution's establishment clause. Judge John Jones did not consider, however, whether Darwinism might itself be a form of religion, or anti-religion, based largely on a priori assumptions.

In the apt phrase of Berkeley law professor Philip Johnson, Darwinism is the "creation story of scientific naturalism" - the doctrine that everything can be explained by natural, material forces.

For tactical reasons, Darwin's scientific supporters often prefer to minimize the clash between traditional religion and the Darwinian vision of all life developing via trillions of random micro-mutations sifted by natural selection. Many, however, candidly admit that Darwin leaves no room in human affairs for God.

Darwinian evolution, writes Oxford University's Richard Dawkins, makes it possible "to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

For George Gaylord Simpson, Darwin shows that "man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind."

Darwin's mechanistic universe establishes further, according to Cornell's William Provine, that there are "no moral or ethical laws..."

Yet, as the brochure for the British Museum of Natural History's 1981 exhibit on Darwin noted, "evolution by natural selection is not strictly speaking scientific because it is established by logical deduction rather than empirical demonstration." When the museum's chief paleontologist Colin Patterson asked the members of a graduate seminar in evolutionary morphology at the University of Chicago to tell him just one thing that they knew to be true about Darwinian evolution, based on empirical evidence, the result was a long and embarrassed silence.

Karl Popper famously defined a scientific theory as one that can be falsified. When Einstein propounded his General Theory of Relativity, for instance, he made a series of bold predictions based on the theory.

By contrast, Darwinists proceed by assuming the truth of the theory and then seeking empirical support. Studies of the fossil record that fail to buttress the theory are deemed "failures" and never published. The search for Darwinian common "ancestors," according to Gareth Nelson of the American Museum of Natural History, proceeds on the assumption that those ancestors exist and then selecting the most likely candidates.

The mechanism by which nature is alleged to have fashioned a single ancestor into both whales and man has never been observed. Indeed, its existence is based on a wild extrapolation from the commonplace observation that within a single species different traits provide a survival advantage in certain circumstances - e.g., black moths fare better vis-a-vis predators against a sooty backdrop and light moths do better in a clean environment. That's a long way from creating new species.

Nor can Darwinists explain how complex systems, such as human sight, none of whose component parts would alone provide any advantage, could have come into being by a long series of micro-mutations. The best Darwinists can offer in response are what Harvard professors Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin call "just-so" stories about how each of the postulated (but never observed) changes in each part of the system conferred some advantage.

FACED WITH these challenges, the Darwinist response is largely confined to rhetorical efforts to shut up the questioner: "You're advocating specific creation" or "What's your alternative?" The latter question, Philip Johnson notes in his invaluable Darwin on Trial, is like telling a criminal defendant he can't offer an alibi until he can produce the perpetrator. And the force of the question derives exclusively from the fact that all elements of design have been ruled out of consideration a priori, as failing to conform to scientific naturalism.

The fossil record fails to provide evidence of the millions of transitional species that Darwin's theory assumes have existed. Their absence, writes Stephen Jay Gould, is the "trade secret of paleontology." The fossil record is largely one of species and groups of species coming into existence fully formed, remaining unchanged throughout their history, and becoming extinct by virtue of some great catastrophe, not because they were replaced by better-adapted descendants. Nor, according to paleontologist Stephen Stanley, does the fossil record provide a single example of "major morphological transition."

Admits Niles Eldridge: "We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports the story of gradual adoptive change, all the while knowing that it does not."

Faced with the poor fit between the empirical facts and Darwin's theory, scientists face the unpalatable choice between maintaining the theory, despite its poor fit with the observed facts, or introducing the types of major leaps, or "saltations," that Darwin rejected as incompatible with his theory. Those leaps, whether in the form of geneticist Richard Goldschmidt's hypothesis of stable macro-mutations, or Otto Schindewolf's suggestion that the first bird hatched from a reptile egg, or Eldridge and Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium, are, as Darwin recognized, as supernatural as God's hand. Worse, as Eldridge puts it, they require the "embrace of a rather dubious set of biological propositions."

Even if Darwinian theory were in better shape than it is, the scientific naturalists' project of eliminating all elements of design from nature would still founder on the creation of life itself. Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle once compared the chances of forming the simplest one-cell bacterium from pre-biotic soup as roughly equivalent to that of a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and producing a Boeing 747. Even a one-cell organism makes a spaceship look low-tech by comparison.

Hoyle also discovered that carbon, the basis of all organic life, could have only been fashioned in the original solar furnace because of the perfect nuclear resonance between two sets of simpler elements. His conclusion: "[A] superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature."

It is time to stop teaching our children that science has answered all the questions and eliminated God from the cosmos.

Click here for more articles by Jonathan Rosenblum

Medical Heresy?


By Carmela Fonbuena Newsbreak Staff Writer

A woman comes in at the G. F. Austria Health Clinic in Cubao and tells the nurse, "Hay naku, nahihirapan na akong huminga (I have difficulty in breathing)." The holidays are just over and she is scheduled to have her regular chelation therapy—a recognized alternative treatment for metal poisoning but more popular as alternative to bypass surgery for arteriosclerotic heart disease patients. In minutes, she dozes off in the clinic's couch as ethylene diamine tetra-acetic (ETDA) is injected into her blood. The simple therapy will supposedly reverse symptoms of hardening of the arteries.

Studies and testimonials on chelation's effectiveness in coronary heart disease are not widely accepted. The American Heart Association wrote in its Web site that they have "found no scientific evidence to demonstrate any benefit from this form of therapy."

Personal accounts, some say, are proof of the treatment's effectiveness. Eduardo Sunglao, 67, was supposed to undergo bypass surgery two years ago but because of cost considerations, his relatives advised him to undergo chelation therapy instead. He now says it was a good decision because he has never felt better.

In August 2002, the US's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine coordinated with its government and launched the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy, a large-scale study to find out the effects of ETDA chelation therapy on patients with coronary heart disease. The entire medical profession—conventional and otherwise—is looking forward to its results.

Chelation is one example of how the practice of medicine is being transformed. After decades of being considered a form of quackery, alternative medicine is now a growing industry worldwide. According to a 1997 study published by the Journal of American Medical Association, Americans spend more than US$30 billion of their own money on complementary medicine and alternative therapies every year. Age-old treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and reflexology are gaining as much following as the newer modalities like pranic healing and biomagnetic healing.

In the Philippines, alternative medicine has always been widely practiced although usually in the underground. Chinese medicine and herbs have always been available in Chinatown in Binondo, Manila, and rural settlers have always gone to traditional healers or albularyos as the "first line of treatment," said Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan of the Philippine General Hospital's family and community medicine department. An alternative medicine practitioner, Tan said that sometimes it is also because they lack access to conventional medicine that people go to arbularyos.

Most of Dr. Rosario Austria's patients in the '90s, when she opened the G. F. Austria Healthcare Clinic, went to her behind their conventional doctors' back, she said. It was the medical community and not so much the society that was "skeptical" of alternative medicine. Austria's colleagues in the medical profession referred to her then as the "legal quack" because she had more training in conventional medicine than many of those who had been criticizing her practice. After receiving a medical degree from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine in 1981, Austria pursued training at the Framingham Union Hospital and at the Diabetes Hospital in the University of Alabama, both in the US. But she jumped ship when she was introduced to alternative healthcare.

Now, alternative healthcare clinics have sprouted in urban areas, catering to "a lot of people who have gone tired of taking their medicines," said Austria. Drugstores are already selling alternatives to pharmaceuticals or neutraceuticals—supplements without therapeutic claims—and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) opened a traditional and integrative clinic in 2000. Tan heads the clinic (see related story).

Alternative medicine covers a wide range of systems: Chinese, Ayurvedic, and herbs, among others. The Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997, or Republic Act 8423, defines alternative health care as "forms of non-allopathic, occasionally non-indigenous or imported healing methods, though not necessarily practiced for centuries nor handed down from one generation to another."

The same act created the Philippine Institute for Alternative Healthcare (PITAHC) under the Department of Health as the leading agency to develop the alternative medicine industry to be eventually integrated into the national healthcare delivery system. PITAHC has been doing research on the traditional healing methods in the Philippines, testing the efficacy of herbs widely used by traditional healers for certain ailments.

Big Wins

The struggle of alternative medicine practitioners to penetrate the medical industry largely monopolized by conventional medicine has reaped some rewards.

For example, in the 1970s, a group of chiropractic doctors led by Chester Wilk sued the American Medical Association (AMA) for "conspiring to destroy the chiropractic profession in the US." After an 11-year court battle, the US court found in 1987 the AMA guilty of taking "active steps, often covert, to undermine the chiropractic profession."

The medical world had been easier for chiropractic doctors since then. In November 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nation's agency for health, also released the Guidelines on Basic Training and Safety in Chiropractic, providing recommendations to governments worldwide on chiropractic and minimum standards of education. The WHO listed several benefits from chiropractic surgery.

As early as 1993, would-be education secretary Bro. Andrew Gonzalez thought of putting up a chiropractic school at the De La Salle University. There had been "high-level talks" and chiropractic experts all over the world came to the Philippines for the first chiropractic international summit, said Dr. Martin Camara, a chiropractic doctor at Intercare, a clinic offering conventional and alternative medicine. The plan didn't push through because of the lack of support from the medical industry.

The resistance to alternative medicine is still strong but more and more medical practitioners are opening up to it, said Tan. "I've never found it more accepted than now. There are a lot of doctors who are closet believers of alternative medicine."

At the UP College of Medicine, elective courses on traditional and alternative medicine are offered to the students. This was something that Dr. Ednalin Dela Paz of PGH's family and community medicine only dreamt about when she was a student in the '70s. She gained interest in alternative medicine during her community work session where she was exposed to traditional healers. Tan eventually wants it required in the curricula of medical schools in the Philippines.

The medical world is adjusting, too, albeit very slowly. To the more open medical practitioners, conventional and alternative medicine can go hand in hand to provide what is referred to as complementary, integrative, or holistic healthcare.

Tan, Austria, and Camara have been invited by conventional medicine practitioners to talk in seminars about integrative healthcare. "Doctors used to ask hostile questions. Now, their questions are inquisitive," Austria said. "There's no medicine that is 100 percent effective. Alternative medicine gives you more firearms to fight disease with."

Alternative medicine is becoming a profitable industry, too. When Intercare opened in 1993, their patients were limited to expatriates or Filipino travelers who have heard of their practice elsewhere, said Camara. The clinic has since grown through word of mouth and has expanded into three clinics all over Manila. "More and more people are consumer oriented. They decide who to buy healthcare from," he said.

As alternative healthcare becomes popular, Camara worries about the entry of alternative healers claiming to be experts even without sufficient training. There are quack alternative healers, too.

To Austria, conventional medicine should remain as the basic framework of healing. "I am not sure if all alternative medicine practitioners know the complication of a disease. Conventional doctors practicing alternative medicine] increase the margin of safety," she said.

Alternative medicine is still highly unregulated in the Philippines. The debate continues whether or not PITAHC has regulatory powers over the industry.

For now, patients of alternative medicine should practice "due diligence" in assessing its efficacy, Austria said. Second or third opinions should be taken even in alternative medicine.

Send us your feedback: letters@newsbreak.com.ph

ADHD or 'Indigo'? Parents flock to new theory



At a coffee shop in New York one morning two weeks ago, David Minh Wong, 7, was in constant motion. He played with quarters on the table. He dropped them on the floor. He leaned on his mother and walked away.

"Tell him I'm strong," he said to his mother, Yolanda Badillo, 50. She sat in a booth with a neighbor.

"I woke up at 2:16 this morning, and it wasn't raining," he said. "I'm getting bored."

At David's public school, where he is in a program for gifted and talented second-graders, a teacher told Badillo that he is arrogant for a boy his age, and teachers since preschool have described him as bright but sometimes disruptive. But Badillo, a homeopath and holistic health counselor, has her own assessment. To her, David's traits -- his intelligence, empathy and impatience -- make him an "indigo" child.

"He told me when he was 6 months old that he was going to have trouble in school because they wouldn't know where to fit him," she said, adding that he told her this through his energy, not in words. "Our consciousness is changing, it's expanding, and the indigos are here to show us the way," Badillo said. "We were much more connected with the creator before, and we're trying to get back to that connection."

If you have not been in an alternative bookstore lately, it is possible that you have missed the news about indigo children. They represent "perhaps the most exciting, albeit odd, change in basic human nature that has ever been observed and documented," Lee Carroll and Jan Tober write in "The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived" (Hay House). The book has sold 250,000 copies since 1999 and has spawned a cottage industry of books about indigo children.

Hay House said it has sold 500,000 books on indigo children. A documentary, "Indigo Evolution," is scheduled to open on about 200 screens -- at churches, yoga centers, college campuses and other places -- on Jan. 27 (locations at www.spiritualcinemanetwork.com).

Indigo children were first described in the 1970s by a San Diego parapsychologist, Nancy Ann Tappe, who noticed the emergence of children with an indigo aura, a vibrational color she had never seen before. This color, she reasoned, coincided with a new consciousness.

In "The Indigo Children," Carroll and Tober define the phenomenon. Indigos, they write, share traits like high IQ, acute intuition, self-confidence, resistance to authority and disruptive tendencies, which are often diagnosed as attention-deficit disorder, known as ADD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

advertising Offered as a guide for "the parents of unusually bright and active children," the book includes common criticisms of today's child-rearing: that children are overmedicated; that schools are not creative environments, especially for bright students; and that children need more time and attention from their parents. But the book seeks answers to mainstream parental concerns in the paranormal.

"To me, these children are the answers to the prayers we all have for peace," said Doreen Virtue, a former psychotherapist for adolescents who now writes books and lectures on indigo children. She calls the indigos a leap in human evolution. "They're vigilant about cleaning the Earth of social ills and corruption, and increasing integrity," Virtue said. "Other generations tried, but then they became apathetic. This generation won't, unless we drug them into submission with Ritalin."

To skeptics, the concept of indigo children belongs in the realm of wishful thinking and New Age credulity. "All of us would prefer not to have our kids labeled with a psychiatric disorder, but in this case, it's a sham diagnosis," said Dr. Russell Barkley, a research professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. "There's no science behind it. There are no studies."

Barkley likened the definition of indigo children to an academic exercise called "Barnum statements," after P.T. Barnum, in which a person is given a list of generic psychological characteristics and becomes convinced that they apply especially to him or her. The traits attributed to indigo children, he said, are so general that they "could describe most of the people most of the time," which means that they don't describe anything.

Parents who attribute their children's inattention or disruptive behavior to vibrational energy, he said, risk delaying proper diagnosis and treatment that might help them.

To indigos and their parents, however, such skepticism is the usual resistance to any new and revolutionary idea.

America has always had a soft spot for the supernatural. A November 2005 poll by Harris Interactive found that one American in five believes he or she has been reincarnated; 40 percent believe in ghosts; 68 percent believe in angels. It is not surprising then that indigo literature, which incorporates some of these beliefs along with common anxieties about child psychology, has found a receptive audience.

Annette Piper, a mother of two in Memphis, Tenn., said that she had planned to go to medical school until she realized she was an indigo, able to tell what was wrong with people by touching them. Like a lot of others who describe themselves as indigos, she also was sensitive to chemicals and fluorescent lights. Instead of going to medical school, she became an intuitive healer, directing the energy fields around people, and opened a New Age store called Spiritual Freedom.

Her daughter Alexandra, 10, is also an indigo, she said. They play games to cultivate their telepathic powers, but at school Alexandra struggles, Piper said. "She has trouble finishing work in school and wants to argue with the teacher if she thinks she's right," Piper said. "I don't think she's found out what her gifts are."

Problems in school are common for indigos, said Alex Perkel, who runs the ReBirth Esoteric Science Center in New York. "A lot of people don't understand the children because the children are very smart," Perkel said. Stephen Hinshaw, chairman of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, acknowledged that "there is a legitimate concern that we are overmedicalizing normal childhood, particularly with ADHD." But, he said, research shows that even gifted children with attention-deficit problems do better with more structure in the classroom.

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