NTS LogoSkeptical News for 27 January 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Friday, January 27, 2006

WHAT'S NEW

Robert L. Park Friday, 27 Jan 06 Washington, DC

ALTERNATE WORLD: A LEAP INTO HYPERDRIVE? OR MAYBE JUST HYPE?

New Horizons, which is on its way to Pluto, is the fastest spacecraft ever built. Even so, the trip will take nine years. At the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics meeting last year, an award was given for a paper about a new propulsion system that could do it in a day. So why are we doing it the old-fashioned way? Because it works. There are two worlds. There is the world that sends robots to explore Mars, finds a vaccine for cervical cancer, unravels the structure of DNA, invents Global Positioning, etc. And then there is an alternate world that discovers cold fusion, homeopathy, the Podkletnov gravity shield, hydrinos, and the Heim space drive. Inhabitants of both worlds speak similar languages, look alike, even have identical DNA. It's not just that things don't work in the alternate world, that can happen even in the real world. But in the alternate world it doesn't seem to make any difference.

EARTH IS GETTING WARMER: LAST YEAR WAS WARMEST IN A CENTURY.

NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies reports the highest annual average surface temperature since instrument recordings began. 1998 was about as warm, but for the two warmest years to be that close together is even more troubling. Warming is no longer the question. What is causing the increase? Is it simply natural solar variation, as the polluters prefer to believe, or a build up of greenhouse gases? The administration would rather not know http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN06/wn010606.html. The Deep Space Climate observatory, already built and waiting five years for launch, would provide an unambiguous answer. This clearly puts the administration in the "alternate world."

THE HYDROGEN CAR: TRANSPORTATION IN THE ALTERNATE WORLD.

Huge gaps in virtually every field of science would have to be overcome for a hydrogen car to be feasible. The goal is for hydrogen vehicles to be in showrooms by 2020, 12 years after Bush leaves office. Energy Secretary Bodman kicked off the Washington Auto Show on Tuesday with the announcement of $119M in funding and a "Research Roadmap." It's a roadmap of the alternate world.

THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.
Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the University of Maryland, but they should be.

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

Calif. lawsuit part of effort to banish God from U.S.

http://kennebecjournal.mainetoday.com/view/letters/2342708.shtml

Friday, January 27, 2006

Regarding the evolution-creationism debate, and how public schools should handle it, evolution supporters contend that intelligent design isn't "scientific," but merely repackaged religion. Yet they allow that intelligent design could be taught in other types of classes (e.g., religion or social studies).

But last week, a group of parents sued a California school district, accusing it of violating church-state separation because it offered an elective philosophy course about intelligent design titled "Philosophy of Design." Consider that. It was a philosophy course, not a science class. And it was voluntary. Are these parents saying that it's wrong to teach philosophy in philosophy class? That offering kids a choice is tyrannical?

As much fun as I'm having with the obvious absurdities, the real motive of the parents is serious: They want God, and everything to do with him, out of our schools. The spineless school-district officials caved in, halting the course and saying they would never again offer a class "that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science or intelligent design."

This violates free-speech and religion rights, and it's a violation of freedom of thought. This is part of an assault on God and on people's right to know and serve him. These parents, along with other liberals, want a God-free America. They want God out of schools, out of government, out of the workplace, out of the public square. If that's how you feel, move to China. As for America, God is here to stay.

Jason Cunningham

Windsor

Britons losing faith in evolution

http://www.scenta.co.uk/scenta/news.cfm?cit_id=525608&FAArea1=customWidgets.content_view_1

Source: scenta

Over 50 per cent of Britons do not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos MORI for the BBC's Horizon television series.

Moreover, over 40 per cent of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in science lessons in school.

Intelligent design theory claims that certain features of living things are so complex that their existence is better explained by an intelligent creation process rather than natural selection.

The 2,000 people surveyed were asked what best described their view of the origin and development of life and 22 per cent chose creationism, 17 per cent selected intelligent design, 48 per cent opted for the evolution theory and the remaining people did not know.

The latest Horizon programme, A War on Science, looked into the introduction of intelligent design into US science classes.

The editor of Horizon, Andrew Cohen, told the BBC online: "I think that this poll represents our first introduction to the British public's views on this issue.

"Most people would have expected the public to go for evolution theory, but it seems there are lots of people who appear to believe in an alternative theory for life's origins."

The survey also showed that 44 per cent thought that creationism should be taught in schools, followed by 41 per cent who thought intelligent design should be included, and 69 per cent still wanted evolution in the curriculum.

Participants over 55 were more likely to choose evolution over other groups while those under 25 mostly chose intelligent design.

Cohen added: "This really says something about the role of science education in this country and begs us to question how we are teaching evolutionary theory."

This survey follows the high profile US court case that ruled intelligent design shouldn't be taught in classrooms after parents in Pennsylvania took a school board to court for treating evolution as fact in biology classes.

Source: scenta

Date Published: January 26, 2006

Date Last Modified: January 26, 2006

Strict answers to the creation question

http://www.napavalleyregister.com/articles/2006/01/27/columnists/features/iq_3271781.txt

By Anna Abbott Friday, January 27, 2006 1:08 AM PST

Part one of a two-part series about creationism and evolution

On Sunday and Monday, Grace Church of Napa Valley hosted a conference on the heated debate over creationism and evolution. The battle over intelligent design has raged in Kansas, Pennsylvania and even Los Angeles, and Grace Church has its own stand. Mike Riddle, from Answers in Genesis, a group devoted to a literal interpretation of the Bible, came to talk about "Creation/Evolution: Why does it matter what we believe?" to a sanctuary filled with attentive listeners.

The congregation had a similar conference in April 2003 when Frank Sherwin and Henry Morris III came from the Institute for Creation Research based in El Cajon and I wanted to see how the debate has evolved.

For Riddle, creation and evolution have irreconcilable differences.

"In the Bible, the earth was created, then the stars. In evolution, the stars were formed, then the earth. In the Bible, there are birds, then reptiles. In evolution, there are reptiles, then birds. In the Bible, the earth was water. In evolution, the earth was fiery matter," he said.

While some find a literal interpretation of Genesis embarrassing, Riddle reveled in it. Again and again he made the point that if one didn't believe that God created the universe six millennia ago in six 24-hour days, one lacked fear of God and faith in Jesus. I found him a charismatic speaker and the crowd seemed to agree. People assented aloud and nodded their heads.

Riddle's frequent refrain was "Let's get back to science in the science classrooms." He treated evolution as a pseudo-science that makes unsubstantiated claims and indoctrinates young people.

"Since we're not in a public school, we can do critical thinking," he quipped. But Riddle sounded besieged -- a contrast to the confident tone of the 2003 creationism conference. In light of recent events, I wasn't surprised that an Answers in Genesis book is titled "Why don't they listen to us?"

Riddle also added his own spin to the intelligent design debate. In contrast to many evangelicals who espouse I.D., he sees it as a threat. Riddle even began his talk by reading an announcement for Rev. Michael Dowd's talk about intelligent design at the Oakville Carmelite Monastery on Saturday. He delivered it like a standup comedian, reducing his audience to uproarious laughter.

"Too many churches are buying into the intelligent design movement, opening them up to Buddha and other religions," Riddle said. He treated I.D. as an enemy, paving the way for religious relativism instead of as an ally agreeing with his view of a wise, omnipotent creator. His mention of Buddha seemed out of place since many Buddhists consider themselves non-theists.

Creationism is unique in treating the Bible as a science textbook. Answers in Genesis makes its strict interpretation -- that the cosmos was created in six solar days only six millennia ago -- the litmus test for Christian belief. It is a literal interpretation that makes little room for mysticism, mystery or other perspectives. Instead of inspiring awe, it closed the door on questions of both faith and science. To quote Riddle, "We have the answers." Though his lectures were dynamic, he was more willing to give answers in Genesis than to ask the great questions.

Anna Abbott is a freelance writer living in Napa. She can be reached at Religion_News@hotmail.com.

Intelligent Design and the Nature of God

http://www.politicalcortex.com/story/2006/1/25/1335/18616

By GeneG 01/27/2006 10:19:55 AM EST

Intelligent Design as a scientific theory is an impossibility. Science requires any theory to be subject to one rule: it must be falsifiable, in other words to be science a theory may be wrong. Intelligent Design, with its reliance on magic, miracles and supernatural intervention cannot be proven false. Reliance on God to fill the gaps in material knowledge is NOT science, it is metaphysical philosophy. If this subject must be taught in our public schools, teach it as philosophy, or teach it in the humanities along with other mythologies that ascribe creation to the divine.

The study of a physical, material universe requires tools tuned to material discovery. Spiritual tools cannot provide material answers to material questions. Likewise, tools designed to study the material cannot reveal spiritual answers. Spiritual answers require metaphysics, both religious and philosophical. The Intelligent Design controversy confuses the spiritual and the material. This confusion stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of God.

Humans are material beings living in a material world, God is pure spirit, existing in both the material and the spiritual world. The spiritual interaction of God in creation allows us to make the metaphysical assertion that our material universe emanates from the mind of God, it does not allow us to fill the gaps in our scientific knowledge with God.

God's existence can be neither proved nor disproved by science, yet. However, until we have a scientific description of how God acts in creation, God cannot be used as a solution in our search for scientific answers. This does not disprove God: it maintains the integrity of scientific knowledge. Taking the position that those scientific questions we cannot answer must be points at which miracles (divine intervention) occur is intellectually dishonest and illustrates a reliance on an anthropomorphic God who can only act in ways we can imagine. When God created us He gave us a marvelous puzzle and an inquisitive mind with which to solve it. As human history proceeds the mystery of our existence unfolds both spiritually and scientifically.

Twenty-five hundred years ago science told us there were only four elements: earth, air, fire and water. God hurled fire from heaven and created flooding rains. Has God grown smaller because we have taken fire from Him? Has He grown smaller because we understand the mechanisms which create large storms? Two Thousand years ago the heart contained the functions we associate with mind. The brain contributed nothing but weight to balance the head on the neck. Was God wasting His breath when He told us He would write His word in our hearts instead of our minds? Do these advances in scientific knowledge make God and His role in our world smaller? Is the fear of losing God to the juggernaut of science what drives such pseudo-thinking as Intelligent Design? If so, then He is already lost. Can the creation be greater than the creator? The subversion of science by Intelligent Design and other "theories" of religiously inspired junk science serve only to reveal a massive lack of faith in God by their adherents. A god who can be diminished by human endeavor is not much of a god. My heart goes out to those whose god is so small and so impotent.

God tells us His ways are not our ways. In other words, we cannot know the mind of God. God reveals only as much of Himself as we are capable of understanding. This revelation is ongoing and never-ending, not static and complete. The Bible contains His spiritual revelation, creation speaks His material revelation. Make no mistake: creation reveals God as surely as does the Bible. God tells us to study His word for instruction in all things. If we are to honor God through this study we must consider all of His revelation. The only aspect of His creation placed off limits to us is the Garden of Eden and He promises to reopen even this when the time comes.

Inside my gut live many organisms that are not part of me. I have a symbiotic relationship with some, others are potentially dangerous to me, and others are passing through. None of these organisms can apprehend me as anything other than the environment in which they live. They know nothing of the bone, sinew, muscle, and nervous tissue that make a human being. They are not even aware of the nature of the gut which provides them a home. They know all they need to know about me to survive. From time to time their environment becomes hostile and they die. This is the experience we have with God. Our range of knowing is limited to the environment in which we exist. Knowledge of our environment is confined to what we can measure. God exists outside this creation in forms we cannot begin to comprehend. God's creative power exists beyond our imagination. To explain a line of scientific enquiry with magic because it may contradict what we think we know of God and creation fails both us and God. God wants us to work as hard as we can and to use all of the tools at our disposal to learn as much as possible of Him given our infinitely small available range of knowledge. Was giving us an overwhelming desire to know a mistake? If so, then how intelligent is God's design? God gave us an infinite book and the desire to open it and read as deeply as possible. Prematurely closing the book shuts the door on God.

Find new stress relievers or a date

http://graphic.pepperdine.edu/news/2006/2006-01-26-chriscolumn.htm

CHRIS SEGAL News Editor

Forget buying stress balls or paying for massages — buy the book "Dianetics" by L. Ron Hubbard. The creator of Scientology, Hubbard, wrote the book, which has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.

The Church of Scientology tried to sell a few more copies to my suitemates and me this weekend in Laguna Beach. This all started with the offer of a stress test from church members wearing flashy yellow T-shirts.

Instead of filling out a survey or test we were given hollow metal cans to hold in each hand. The cans were hooked up to a machine that looked like it was from a 1950 science fiction movie, which looked like something from one of Hubbard's novels/books.

Jackie, my stress test administrator, calibrated the device and proceeded to tell me to simply think about stressful things going on in my life. When a little needle monitoring my thoughts went to the stress side she would get excited and ask what I was thinking about right then.

This stress test quickly seemed to turn into a date with Jackie who wanted to know my thoughts. On this date I was supposed to buy Hubbard's book instead of dinner.

Despite the claims made by church members, that this book would relieve stress, my suitemates and I did not spend the $8.50 required to learn the secrets of Scientology.

The selling pitch was that many successful people such as, John Travolta, Kristie Allie and Tom Cruise, used the book. It is still beyond me how reading a 676-page book will make all the stress in my life disappear or make me a bad actor. An interesting fact I learned when researching Scientology is that Travolta uses the church to pick what movies he should do and Hubbard also wrote a book called "Battlefield Earth."

I'm still interested in reading the book some day for my own curious purposes, not to join the likes of everyone's favorite Scientologist, Cruise.

Our generation is the whining generation. Just look at one of my favorite songs from the Broadway show "Avenue Q" called "It sucks to be me." This is a song about 20 somethings complaining how rough their lives are.

All Pepperdine students are stressed to some extent: it's called life. Instead of focusing our energy on whining to our friends, professors and parents, find what works for you and deal with it like the mature college student you should be. Everyone's busy, stressed and tired so take a run around the track and move on.

Dianetics may have the answers to solving stress for my recent date, Jackie, but I'll stick to taking a walk to clear my head before going back to editing stories for this newspaper.

Submitted 01-26-2006

What You Didn't Know About Scientology

http://www.conspiracyplanet.com/channel.cfm?channelid=98&contentid=3150

by MARK OWEN

"All men shall be my slaves.
All women shall submit to my charms.
All mankind shall grovel at my feet."
-- L. Ron Hubbard "Affirmations"

There has been a revival of interest in Scientology recently, largely driven by the ministrations of Hollywood jackanapes Tom Cruise.

An episode of South Park titled "Trapped in the Closet" aired in late 2005. The cartoon featured Scientologists Nicole Kidman and John Travolta trying to coax Cruise out of a closet, a reference to rumors concerning his sexual preference. Also featured was an L. Ron Hubbard character denigrating Cruise's acting ability. The extremely litigious Cruise immediately threatened Paramount with legal action, and it is unlikely that the episode will air again.

It is perhaps timely to revue some of the history of the "church," its membership and especially its mercurial founder Lafayette Ronald Hubbard.

Various Scientology hagiographies of Hubbard are widely divergent from known facts. This is mainly due to the phantasmagoric history that Hubbard fashioned for himself and repeated ad nauseum to his followers.

Hubbard would often boast of a distinguished pedigree, claiming descent from nobility going back to the Norman Invasion. He also claimed at various times to have been a barn-stormer in a circus, a great white hunter in Africa, an explorer of the upper Amazon and a heavily decorated naval officer, the recipient of more than 2 dozen medals and palms. He also claimed that his naval exploits were the inspiration for Henry Fonda's character in the film Mister Roberts. On the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor he stated that he was the only person to survive the sinking of the destroyer he was on near the coast of Java and that he swam ashore and lived for weeks on the jungle flora. Later he would be wounded in the back and kidneys by machine-gun fire, making urination difficult.

The truth is somewhat more prosaic. In fact, Hubbard's urinary difficulties stemmed from a bout of gonorrhea contracted after sex with a prostitute named Fern. Court documents in Hubbard's own handwriting later confirmed this.

His shirking in the Navy was commented upon several times by superior officers. In 1942 the US Naval Attache wrote, "…he [Hubbard] became the source of much trouble […], is not satisfactory for independent duty assignment. He is garrulous and tries to give the impression of his importance."

Twenty years later Hubbard would brag to credulous followers that after he left that particular assignment, it took a captain, several commanders and 15 junior officers to replace him.

Although Scientology accounts claim that Hubbard served in all five theaters in WWII, more often than not, records find him on the sick list complaining of a variety of ailments from conjunctivitis to ulcers.

These same records show that he was never engaged in enemy action and that he received only 4 awards, none for action or combat. Upon being mustered out of the navy, he immediately applied for disability benefits, often writing to the VA pleading for an increase citing long bouts of depression and recurring thoughts of suicide.

Hubbard spent his convalescence in Los Angeles. When his terminal leave from the navy commenced in December 1945, he immediately went to the home of Jack Parsons in Pasadena.

Parsons was a science fiction fan, a rocket and explosives chemist and a practitioner of black magic. He operated the California branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis out of his house.

The OTO was an advanced secret society to which high-ranking Freemasons migrate in a process of occult succession. OTO rituals were fine-tuned by British Satanist, magician and Intelligence agent Aleister Crowley.

Parsons was in communication with Crowley, regularly informing him of the progress of the California chapter. Hubbard also felt a keen bond with Crowley after reading his "Book of the Law" in the Library of Congress as a teenager. Later, in a taped 1952 lecture Hubbard would thank, "…the late Aleister Crowley, my very good friend."

Parsons and Hubbard engaged in various black magic rituals over many nights in an effort to produce a homunculus. Although reports of their association make interesting reading, the two eventually had a falling-out and Hubbard would abscond to Florida with Parsons' mistress and life savings.

At the time, Crowley wrote to Karl Germer, the OTO head in America. A keen student of human nature, Crowley observed, "Suspect Ron playing confidence trick. Jack evidently weak fool. Obvious victim of prowling swindlers."

Parsons would later self-immolate in his garage during an experiment that went awry. His mother committed suicide the following day. Police would find home movies of Parsons having sex with his mother and the family dog.

Thereafter, L. Ron Hubbard spent several years grinding out science fiction and short stories for New York pulp magazines for a penny a word.

Although his output was prodigious, he didn't see any real money until the 1950 publication of his book "Dianetics," a self-help manual tinged with the eastern mysticism that Hubbard allegedly picked up from his years of wandering the Far East as a lad, engaging Tibetan shamans and Chinese mystics in philosophical discourse.

In truth, Hubbard loathed China, having visited it as a teenager very briefly while en route to see his father who was stationed in Guam. At the time, Hubbard's main lament was for all of the "Chinks" despoiling the country. And the only use he could conceive of for the Great Wall was to convert it into a roller coaster.

Hubbard would later morph the tenets of Dianetics into the spiritual crazy glue known as Scientology, employing a confounding nomenclature sometimes referred to as "org-speak."

The first Church of Scientology was incorporated in California in 1954. Hubbard claimed that his system could be used to increase spiritual freedom, intelligence and to produce immortality. Recruits go through auditing (counseling) sessions of ever escalating cost in order to be "cleared" of "thetans" (souls).

A free soul must purge these body thetans in order to be truly liberated. Only after investing $100,000 and countless hours of auditing will the ultimate secret of Scientology be revealed to the recruit. This is the secret of Xenu.

According to Hubbard eschatology, 70 million years ago the planet Earth, then known as Teegeeack, had been one of 76 planets of the Galactic Federation that was badly overpopulated with hundreds of billions of people.

The evil overlord Xenu deccreed that excess populations on these planets should be sent to Teegeeack, put next to volcanoes and blown to pieces. The spirits or thetans of the victims were implanted with religious and technical images for 36 days. They were then sent either to Hawaii or Los Palmas to be stuck together in clusters.

Humans are a collection or cluster of body thetans. Xenu was rounded up after the fact and imprisoned in a mountain. The reader is spared from a comprehensive rendition of the history of the Galactic Federation.

In a 1983 Penthouse interview, L. Ron Hubbard Jr. stated that he was born prematurely after his father botched an abortion attempt on his mother. He claims that his father used copious quantities of drugs and even witnessed him injecting cocaine.

Hubbard Jr. has stated, "I believed in Satanism. There was no other religion in our house! What a lot of people don't realize is that Scientology is black magic spread out over a long time period. It's stretched out over a lifetime and you don't see it. Black magic is the inner core of Scientology and it is probably the only part that really works. Also, you've got to understand that my father did not worship Satan. He thought he was Satan."

Ron Hubbard Jr. also claimed that his father practiced something called "soul-cracking."

Hubbard Sr. would apparently beat his many mistresses and shoot them full of drugs in order to reach a state whereby, like a psychic hammer, he would break their souls and allow demonic powers to pour through them.

Junior also declared that the Scientology Operating Thetan techniques do the same thing. Junior would go on to co-author the popular1987 book "L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman." In that year the Church listed $503 million in income.

Two sinister Scientology graduates of the 60s were Robert DeGrimston and his wife Mary Ann. He was a former architecture student and she was a former prostitute who believed herself to be Joseph Goebbels incarnate. Both had an insatiable preoccupation with death and violence and it is perhaps inevitable that they ended up in San Francisco in 1967 where they established themselves as The Process Church of the Final Judgement. They took up residence on Oak St., in the so-called Devil House, two blocks from where Charles Manson had his "family" and close by Anton Lavey's Church of Satan.

Processans wandered the Haight sporting black capes and black suits and preaching a gospel of doom and destruction. The first edition of Ed Sanders' book "The Family" carries an interesting chapter on the Process Church. But a Chicago lawyer convinced them to sue for defamation and the offending chapter was deleted from subsequent editions. Robert Degrimston published several books on war (his favorite theme) and commanded his followers "THOU SHALT KILL!"

Another Process publication urged readers to experience the pleasures of grave robbing and necrophilia. A rant in the "Death" issue of their magazine was penned by Charles Manson.

Manson's rap was an amalgam of Process ideology and the 150 hours of Scientology auditing he'd received during one of his numerous prison stints (Charlie declared himself a "Theta Clear").

Contrary to popular belief, the Process is still around, having undergone numerous name changes over the years. The first was the "Four-P Movement."

Author Michael Newton wrote that the cult, "is also deeply involved in white slavery, child pornography and the international narcotics trade."

Still other name changes for the Process included The Foundation Church of the Millenium, The Foundation Faith of God and then Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Today it is known as The Best Friends Animal Society and is located in Kanab, Utah.

Mary Ann DeGrimston makes her home there along with several other former members. Gone are the days when Process members journeyed to San Quentin to interview Manson. Gone too are all references to Satan and doomsday.

Members now softpeddle their involvement in the Process Church of the Final Judgement citing juvenile misguidance. The goal of the reformed church now is to save animals. The large compound in southern Utah is their testament to this end. And the animal sanctuary is a huge cash cow.

n 2003 the Society raised more than $20 million. Perhaps the Degrimstons were wise to abandon Scientology when they did. Robert currently works in New York City as a business consultant.

The Sea Org

In the 1960s, after several years of generating vast sums from credulous recruits, Hubbard took Scientology to sea, in order to stymie various governments who were set to move against his church for fraud and tax evasion. He purchased several large ships and drifted around the Mediterranean searching ancient archeological sites where he'd lived past lives. These adventures lasted for almost a decade.

He devised cruel methods of discipline for recalcitrant followers that were enforced on a whim. Once, he confined a 5-year old deaf mute to a chain locker, the cold, wet, rat-infested area of the ship where anchor chains are stored.

Other malefactors were consigned to rusty tanks below decks where they chiseled off rust while standing in filthy bilge water. Oxygen was supplied via tubes.

Other Scientologists would periodically pound on the hull to ensure that the scraping continued, oftentimes the punishment lasting for days. A food bucket would be lowered down to the offending parties. Stories of shipboard abuse are legion and too numerous to recount in this limited forum.

In the power vacuum that followed the death of L. Ron Hubbard in 1986, high school dropout David Miscavige emerged as the de facto head of Scientology.

Known to his enemies as "the poison dwarf," the diminutive and asthmatic Miscavige even managed to depose Hubbard's wife. He also ordered Hubbard's son Arthur to be his personal servant. Miscavige and his followers do their best to attract high-profile members such as John Travolta, who has been in the cult for 20 years.

Gay porn star Paul Berrisi claims to have engaged in a homosexual relationship with Travolta that began in 1982 and lasted eight years. Berrisi claims that Travolta dumped him for another man in 1990.

In revenge, he sold his story to the National Enquirer in April of that year.

Shortly after the story broke, Travolta hastened to marry Scientologist Kelly Preston.

In 2000 Travolta starred in "Battlefield Earth," a film adaptation of a Hubbard science fiction novel. Critics roundly excoriated it as one of the worst films of all time.

Roger Ebert declared that it was like, "…taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad, but unpleasant in a hostile way."

Alt rocker Beck [Hansen] was raised in the cult. His parents have been members for 30 years. When pressed in interviews to admit his Scientology bona fides, he replies with a terse, "no comment."

Obviously, Tom Cruise is the most high-profile Scientologist in the world. For 20 years he has been assiduously courted by David Miscavige. Both men traded effusive praise at a 2005 Scientology gala in England.

Referring to Cruise as "the most dedicated Scientologist I know," Miscavige presented him with the church's first Freedom Medal of Valor.

According to Scientology's Impact Magazine Cruise replied, "I have never met a more competent, a more intelligent, a more tolerant, a more compassionate being outside of what I have experienced from LRH."

Scientologist Nicole Kidman often accompanied Cruise to the church's 500-acre compound at Gilman Hot Springs in the California desert.

Former member Maureen Bolstad was at Gilman for 17 years before leaving after a falling-out. She recalled a night from years ago when a state of emergency was declared at the compound.

Dozens of Scientologists worked through the night planting a field of wild flowers so that Tom could impress Nicole. On another occasion, dozens worked around the clock for three days renovating a skeet range so that Miscavige could impress Cruise.

Snickering and jibes aside, Tom Cruise is a major Hollywood player. During the filming of War of the Worlds, he insisted that a Scientology info-booth be available on the set for interested crew members. He had it staffed with ministers from the church. Director Spielberg later complained that Cruise spent more time on film junkets promoting Scientology than the film.

And Scarlett Johansson was bounced from the cast of Mission Impossible 3 after proving unreceptive to Cruise's Scientology pitch.

Notwithstanding all of the celebrity endorsements, the church continues to suffer large financial losses.

In May 2002, they paid more than $8 million to former member Lawrence Wollersheim after a 22-year legal battle.

Miscavige astutely surmised that payment of the money would prevent additional evidence being presented in court that could expose Scientology's controversial IRS charitable tax exemption to review or repeal and the risk that top executives could be jailed for corporate and asset fraud.

Perhaps the final word on Scientology should go to Jamie Kennedy, great-grandson of L. Ron Hubbard.

Kennedy is a 25-year old slam poet from San Francisco who bills himself, not inappropriately, as the "Hellspawn Leprechaun." He was expelled from high school after writing an epic poem vividly describing the massacre of all of his teachers, followed by a school explosion. This was pre-Columbine. He was kicked out of another school for obsessively writing about sex, death and murder. Yet again, he was booted out of two college classes due to student complaints and obscenity charges.

His wife gave birth to a daughter a couple of years ago and Kennedy prays that she is the female Antichrist. "They can't shut me up. I've made a career out of not giving a f___!" he declares.

Kennedy has the same red hair and occult predilections of his infamous relation. "Genetically, I think we share some traits. In high school a psychiatrist asked me if I had a history of mental illness in my family. I said, well, my great-grandfather was a cult leader."

Hellspawn, indeed…

Book sources: Bare-Faced Messiah by Russell Miller, L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman by Bent Corydon and L. Ron Hubbard Jr., Religion Inc. by Stewart Lamont, Programmed to Kill by David McGowan, Blood on the Altar by Craig Heimbichner, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley by John Symonds, Sex and Rockets by John Carter, A Piece of Blue Sky by Jon Atack, The Family by Ed Sanders, Open Secret: Gay Hollywood by David Ehrenstein, Raising Hell by Michael Newton

Articles: July 1983 Penthouse interview with L. Ron Hubbard Jr., Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley and British Intelligence by Richard Spence in Volume 13, #3 Journal of Intelligence & Counterintelligence, Scientology Revealed For the First Time in the Sunday Times 5 October 1969, Hubbard Used Black Magic by George Wayne-Shelor Clearwater Sun May 16, 1984, Scientology: The Cult of Greed by Richard Behar TIME Magazine (cover story) May 1991, Friends Find Their Calling by Louis Kilzer in the Rocky Mountain News February 28, 2004, At Inland Base Scientologists Trained Top Gun by Claire Hoffman December 18, 2005 LA Times.

Mark Owen is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Canada. He can be reached at markowen10@hotmail.com

Intelligent Design - The Hot Potato

http://usconservatives.about.com/b/a/2006_01_25.htm

January 25, 2006 Conservative Politics: U.S. Blog Archives January 22, 2006

From Amy Hess,
Your Guide to Conservative Politics: U.S..

Public schools have dropped Intelligent Design Theory more than once. Or had it knocked from their hands. While there are a number of parents, school administrations and teachers willing to expose students to Darwinism's weak spots, there are also a number of evolutionists and secularists who abhor such efforts. The result has been a steady stream of lawsuits and local battles.

Talk about a war of ideologies, and I thought scientists always agreed about things. After all, science is about certainty, isn't it? Haaaah.

Most recently, Intelligent Design was kicked out of a school district in California - less than a month after an I.D. loss in a Pennsylvania U.S. District court. The recent defeats have discouraged I.D. proponents in other parts of the country, but the war is nowhere near over.

Barred From One Philosophy Classroom

I.D was booted from California's El Tajon school district just last week. This raised my eyebrows at first, since I.D. opponents are often bellow, "Put it in a philosophy class, but keep it out of the science lab!" However, the class at Frazier Mountain High wasn't really a proper I.D. overview anyway. The course, Philosophy of Design, apparently turned into more of a class on Biblical Creationism, which is different than I.D. in many respects.

In early January, a group of parents decided to sue the school district for violating the separation of church and state by promoting religious ideas in a public school classroom. While Superintendent John Wight considered the course appropriate for a philosophy class, the school district settled out of court and agreed to never teach a "course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science or intelligent design." (Washington Post ).

This situation doesn't knock down I.D. for good, though. Schools still have room to offer classes that examine the different philosophical views that linger behind both I.D. and Evolution, for instance. Such classes could be extremely useful for students in deciphering where evidence ends and where scientists' interpretations begin.

Barred From the Science Classroom

The incident in El Tajon came less than a month after a landmark decision in Pennsylvania. Biology teachers in the Dover, PA area school district had been directed to read a brief statement about I.D. before starting new sections on biological evolution. The school district did not encourage teachers to actually teach about I.D., but only to make students aware of the theory's clash with the Darwinism.

Yet, just for that brief pre-Evolution-instruction statement, Darwin's bulldogs took the school district to court. And on December 20, 2005, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that Dover had violated the Constitution. Not only that, but the school board members who had approved the statement were replaced when elections came around.

Not a Religion

The absurd thing is that Intelligent Design theory itself has nothing to do with religion. It does not depend on religion or refer to religion or hope to define its Intelligent Designer. It simply argues that certain biological machines and processes are too interdependent and complex to have formed by evolution.

For a brief history of I.D. Theory, click HERE .

Both Have Implications

Of course, Design Theory has religious implications. An Intelligent Designer could easily be God. But, then again, some people identify the Designer as alien life. I.D. Theory does not worry about who the Designer is. It simply concerns itself with the empirical evidence and what Darwinism can and cannot satisfactorily explain.

For all the noise that secular scientists make about I.D., we need to all remember that the General Theory of Evolution has religious implications as well. Its implications are atheistic - the denial of God's existence. But, just as there are atheists who support I.D. (aliens designed us), there are theistic evolutionists who argue God used evolution to create today's array of life on earth.

The religious conclusions people make have nothing to do with whether scientists are using solid reasoning and are justified in their interpretations of the evidence.

What To Do?

Intelligent Design proponents, such as the scientists at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, do not recommend that teachers and administrators try to mandate the teaching of Intelligent Design in public school science classrooms. Most science teachers are not trained to properly teach about I.D., and many would be openly hostile to the theory anyway.

However, schools are free to encourage their teachers to explain both the strengths and weaknesses of the prevailing evolutionary theory. Students should be made aware that Darwinian Evolution does not explain for every complex, interdependent machine or process in nature. The human eye, for instance, still holds evolutionists in wonder.

"We believe evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned," said Casey Luskin, Program Officer for Public Policy & Legal Affairs at the Discovery Institute.

Science standards in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, New Mexico, and Minnesota currently require that students learn about some scientific controversies relating to evolution. South Carolina is right now considering the same approach to the issue.

For more information on issues related to Design Theory, see articles at the Discovery Institute Website: http://www.discovery.org/csc/.

Intelligent discussion on design

http://www.sthelenastar.com/articles/2006/01/26/columnists/features/iq_3269299.txt

Thursday, January 26, 2006 1:13 AM PST

Did some purposeful power bring the universe to be what we see? Or was there no "thinking" behind it at all? Politicians are not equipped to debate either side of this issue. "Bar fights" about Intelligent Design will not bring light on the subject.

We want to know how the things that exist came to be. No one was around to see the beginning. Of necessity, we work with what is here, looking for logical connections with the events at the beginning. Some hold Intelligent Design as the best theory to explain the origin of all things. These cite observation and reason. They say, "A planner was necessary to explain what I see."

Others believe there is no design but that things have emerged out of processes working without the guidance of purposeful intelligence. Observation and reason may also be used to support this theory. These say, "I see no plan in operation."

Scientific probing for what happened in the past does not start with "In the beginning God" nor with "In the beginning NOT God." Science starts with observation, reasons a bit, and then tests the reasoning with more observation.

In a scientific forum, it is improper procedure to rule out the possibility that there is no God behind everything. It is equally unscientific to rule out the possibility that God is behind all things. Either denial goes beyond what science is able to say while sticking with observation and reason. It is religion, not science, by which God is ruled out or ruled in. At a meeting of atheists, it makes sense to rule out God as Creator. Among a gathering of Jews, Muslims, or Christians it makes sense to rule out blind forces as responsible for what has come to be. But when limited to scientific process alone, you cannot rule God in or out.

Those who bar Intelligent Design from discussion are acting on their religious presuppositions, not as scientists. They have decided in advance that no planner (God, gods, aliens, or whatever) is factor. They wield their power to force their biases on others. They are not content just to expose their ideas, they want to impose them. They insist that their religious view be the only one that is expressed.

When such suppression involves governmental agencies like the forest service, a national monument, a public library or a public school, then the government is involved in establishing a religious view. The First Amendment to our nation's Constitution prohibited this by saying, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" Government was not to be a bully telling everyone what it is OK to believe.

Pilgrims came to this continent to escape from government that pushed one religious view and excluded others. Unfortunately, our system is sliding ever more deeply into the same pit. We are seeing the establishment of secularism in our public institutions. Other views are not welcome. It is not the place of government or its agencies to tell us what to believe, or not believe, about God as Creator.

Last November, I attended the Institute for Creation Research (www.ICR.org) conference in San Diego. This group does not represent the views or qualifications of all who hold to Intelligent Design, but their competence and integrity argues that such scientists should be heard. The speakers held doctorates in their fields of study and were current in the literature of their disciplines. Their speech was marked by humility and eagerness for peer review. The product of their research was published in technical fullness to invite line-by-line examination of their work. They had attended peer gatherings and done presentations, welcoming dialog with those who hold differing conclusions. These men were brilliant scientists.

All scientists hold religious views. Those gathered in San Diego held the view that "in the beginning God created the heaven and earth." They also did excellent science and ought to be heard along with others. The government has a constitutional mandate to prevent secularist thinkers from using public resources to establish their religion and suppress others. This protection is a foundation of our nation.

Intelligent design, ignorant evolutionists

http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=48517

Posted: January 26, 2006 1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com

The doctrine of evolution is a central pillar of the secularist religion. Like most trendy religions, secularism asks very little of its followers and yet speaks to their pride – which is why it has so many worshipers.

In a nutshell, the secularist religion says, "Everything originated by accident from nothing (the Big Bang). Biological entities were not created by an intelligent designer, they simply all grew out of the same tub of primordial pond scum conveniently left behind following the Big Bang (evolution). Thus, there is no God (atheism), so now we're in charge (power). Give us the money."

Ah, yes. Somehow or another it always come down to that, doesn't it? Pass the higher taxes collection plate and drop off the loot in my corner office, or dump it into my retirement account. And if you ever dare to question my faith, you'll never work at this university again – you untenured turnip.

And even tenured turnips are having their problems. You could ask, for instance, Dr. Henry F. Schaefer, director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. According to the Wall Street Journal, he "has written or co-authored 1,082 scientific papers and is one of the world's most widely cited chemists by other researchers" ("At Some Colleges, Classes Questioning Evolution Take Hold," by Daniel Golden, Nov. 14, 2005). Dr. Schaefer was "disinvited" to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he was going to talk about intelligent design, because "the school wanted to avoid 'legitimizing intelligent design from a scientific perspective.'"

Dr. Schaefer's comment? "Those who favor the standard evolutionary model are in a state of panic," he says. "Intelligent design truly terrorizes them."

But why? In the broadest sense, doesn't the university exist to seek truth – wherever that path leads? Isn't the purpose of science to find out how things really work? Isn't that why the concept of academic freedom came about – because truth frequently upsets the apple cart of convention and leaves angry vendors in the marketplace of ideas?

If academic freedom and tenure leave you with a good job and a corner office in the biology wing of campus – regardless of whether an intelligent designer created the flagellum or it evolved piecemeal from a leak in the pond scum tub following the Big Bang – what's the difference? Wouldn't you want to know the truth? Wouldn't that further your inquiries down the road? Isn't that why you entered the academy – to learn the truth?

The behavior of the current crop of academic turnips indicates that more often than not – much more often – the truth is not their elusive goal; rather she is a haunting ghost that appears at the most inopportune times, and in a variety of terrifying disguises – such as intelligent design.

Indeed, for far too many in the academy, truth is their sworn enemy. Their friend is the status quo: big salaries, generous grant money, growing prestige among their peers – and the ability to influence society through the next generation by passing on the tenets of their secular religion. And that's so much easier when your critics are locked safely outside the walls of the academic castle. Oh, and pass the tax-collection plate. The truth is, we need even more money.

Craige McMillan is a commentator for WorldNetDaily.

Intelligent Design is Original Source of Life –ID- Series IV

http://us.internationalreporter.com/news/read.php?id=840

MIL, Jan 26, 2006. H.Groover

California - The issue of Intelligent Design (ID) has come so closer to the human heart now that it has never been before. The main reason is that the verdict given by a Judge in America against the use of ID looks to have given a blanket power to the followers of Darwin's theory of Man's evolution.

" The scientists recent finding on the chimp that it has stunning similarities with man having a difference of 3 to 4% in DNA test has revived the controversy. It has not only made it live but also set a proper battle to be fought between the champions of ID and supporters of Darwin's theory of Man's evolution.

Dr. Raj Baldev, Cosmo Theorist from India, the head of SAROUL (Scientific Advance Research of Universe and Life) is quite confident that the discipline of ID is a scientific reality. He said, "It is the strongest of the strongest, and I want all the champions of Intelligent Design (ID) to come on one platform to counter them with a proper argument so as to save the people from being misled by Darwinism.

Dr. Raj Baldev said, "If the Supporters of the ID take it light and let the eminence and usefulness of ID overlooked or neglected, it can surely affect our lives. It may lead to a state of in-discipline in our moral and spiritual life all over the world and may deteriorate the moral standard of all the coming generations.

"The judiciary in advanced countries looks to be the follower of Darwin's theory of man's evolution egocentrically, whereas this principle should have been weighed in balance rather than to be accepted as a final theory. There is a gap of communication in the right and balanced understanding.

" Should the biologists and the judiciary be allowed to deny the discipline of Intelligent Design (ID) as they have done in America? There are scientists who are against this subject but there are also other scientists who not only support the ID but also recognize its rich values and interpret them in their right spirit.

"The majority of people in the world feel that science is not everything and it is also not necessary that each advancement or analysis of science is the last. Scientific theories erupt, amended and always improved by other researchers.

"Since the issue is not yet finally settled through any proper academic debates, the U.S. Judge who gave verdict against the ID simply seems to have taken undue advantage of his legal powers vested in him.

"In addition, the new finding claiming the chimp being extremely closer to man is also not finally accepted, it has serious lapses in their study. The proposal of the evolutionary biologists that the chimps should be brought under the classification of the humans is also very disheartening, illogical and unjustifiable.

"I have got the privilege of making some research on the theory of Big Bang and Darwin's evolution for the last 53 years. In my view, ID is a global issue and should not be restricted to a particular religion, philosophy, faith or belief, it is much beyond and it is based on solid facts.

"I am confident to claim on behalf of all the champions of the ID that it is not beyond the telescopic catch as the people generally believe. I have already reconstructed the theory of Big Bang and pointed out the discrepancies of Darwin's theory.

"There is a public demand being mounted on me to release the revised short version as e-book so as to afford opportunity to all the lovers of ID to enable them to know its scientific supporting aspects favoring Intelligence Design.

The main disappointing look is that the majority of scientists do not even wish to give any importance to the subject of ID, thinking that they are highly advanced people and to study this subject is against their standard. If the intelligent people who support the ID come together, they can undoubtedly prove scientifically that their opponents are absolutely wrong.

"In fact I have tried to prove this discipline scientifically in my book "Two Big Bangs Created the Universe" (Formed in Eternal Space). I replied the unanswered question put forward by Stephen Hawking.

" ID is an open drill for academic and scientific debate, healthy discussion and constructive argument to derive a final conclusion and to establish its right status while comparing with the origin of the man's descent on Darwin's principle. Though the origin of the Universe is foremost important than comparing the ID with Darwin's theory of evolution, I would like to give some brief hints about the Evolution.

"Even on the face of it, Darwin's theory is very weak particularly in the issue of descent of man from the available species like ape or chimp. For example, the supporters of evolution theory argue that an unborn human child of two to four weeks when it is just a collection of small mass, it cannot be differentiated from that of a mammal.

"In fact, the mass of two to four week unborn child not only resembles the mammilla to a certain extent but also it represents looking similarities to that of reptile and amphibians.

"Darwin's supporters do not take into account the fully born child but like to take the option by comparing the initial stages of the unborn for their convenience. They claim that an unborn human of about 3 weeks resemble a particular cell and varieties of species.

"There are different stages of the mass of an unborn child that imprecise with a number of different species in shapes and appearance while being nourished in their respective wombs. But this doesn't suggest that the human has derived from a particular species as pointed out by the revolutionary biologists.

"The scientists now reiterate that chimp is closer to man than ape. They base this assumption on the DNA test. They also consider gorillas and orangutans having striking similarities.

" If human resembles a peculiar type of fish doesn't mean that man must have derived therefrom. If it shows similarities with particular categories of animals and fishes including gorilla, ape or chimp, it doesn't establish that the human must have descended from it.

"There is no doubt that the relationship of all humans, animals and plants are related to each other, since its original source of designing is one, which you may call ID. Hence, the human's face shall naturally resemble with almost all mammals, it is just because the entire life is based on a particular principle set by one intelligent source.

"That original source gifted life to all, with head, hair, forehead, face, mouth, nose, eyes, ears and a throat, legs and hands or their substitutes as per their structures, and inculcated life in them, which instead of understanding it properly, we are fighting. But why, is it that some people claim to have attained advanced brains than others, whereas all disciplines need equal respectability?" Dr. Raj Baldev said while arguing the ID Series IV.

Johor to mount hunt for 'bigfoot'

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4650388.stm

By Jonathan Kent BBC correspondent in Kuala Lumpur

The ape man is thought to be hiding in the jungle

The government of the Malaysian state of Johor says it is to organise an attempt to track down a legendary ape man reputed to roam its jungles.

After a spate of sightings, Johor's chief minister says he will launch an official search for the beast, dubbed Malaysia's Big Foot by local media.

Malaysians have a long-standing love affair with anything big.

The obsessions resulted in record-breaking buildings, bridges, even piles of food.

Now they have gone crazy for Big Foot, known in local legend as Hantu Jarang Gigi - ghosts with widely spaced teeth.

The country has been gripped since November when three fishery workers claimed to have seen a Big Foot family that left footprints up to 45cm long.

Conservationists say that damage to branches suggested that the creatures could have been up to 3m tall.

There were similar sightings by members of the local indigenous minority who said they had seen a 'King Kong' covered in black fur.

Now, the chief minister of Johor, Abdul Ghani Othman, says a proper scientific expedition will track Big Foot's big foot-prints.

He is setting up two teams, one of which will scour likely locations, including the densely forested Endau Rompin National Park.

Mr Abdul Ghani says Malaysia is the first country in the world to openly welcome such an attempt. However, he says it is important that the expedition should not harm or frighten the creatures.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

No Dianetics for You

http://citypaper.net/articles/2006-01-26/naked.shtml

I came knocking, but L. Ron wasn't home.

by Meredith Lindemon

I've just been rejected by Philadelphia's Church of Scientology. I figured I'd be a shoo-in—the religion's been taking something of a beating lately and, hey, aren't religions in the business of converting new members? I couldn't have been more wrong.

I've not been "rejected," per se. I'm still allowed to visit 1315 Race St. to read and study from the vast works of L. Ron Hubbard, and encouraged to apply his principles to better and enhance my life, income, personal relationships and future (all of which could use a little assistance) on something of an independent study basis.

Bruce Thompson, director of special affairs for the Church of Scientology of Pennsylvania, explains, "There are circumstances, where until resolved, an individual is not eligible to take courses or receive auditing … examples of which might be someone involved in criminal activities, actively taking street or psychiatric drugs, or sitting in judgment of Scientology—just to find out if it works." Well, I'm no criminal.

But alas, I'm a reporter, or, according to Scientology: A New Slant on Life, a "merchant of chaos." And a chemically imbalanced one at that—I pop a (prescribed) Xanax each day to keep from randomly fainting from panic attacks. Oh, and I see a psychoanalyst. To them, I'm like the axis of evil: Scientologists are adamantly against psychiatrists and psychiatric drugs.

At the end of my first meeting with Thompson, he consoles me, saying should I get off the dope, it would not be impossible for me to join, just pretty hard. I imagine I would also have to quit writing for a paper, and ditch the shrink.

"Someone has to find out for themselves about Scientology. It's not something that we try to sell, because it's a philosophy," says Thompson. Someone who's interested, studies it and finds that the principles work and apply them to their life." There are 200 to 300 Philadelphians who find that Scientology works for them, by Thompson's guesstimate. Then, as we talk, he forms a triangle with his fingers (really), and stares back at me from underneath a framed Hubbard, who is also smiling at me. "We're here to assist them as they're studying and progressing in Scientology."

Once someone decides to become a Scientologist, and they do all the reading, they are given a personality test, called Oxford Capacity Analysis (OCA). The 200-question OCA "accurately measures 10 different personality traits," according to What Is Scientology? I was permitted to take one online and then brought my answers to Thompson for an evaluation. Questions include "Do children make you uncomfortable?" and "Do you buy things on credit with the hopes of keeping up the payments?" Hell, yes. Both counts.

When my results were plugged into the computer, I found that I have unacceptable levels of instability, depression, nervousness, uncertainty and irresponsibility. I'm critical, withdrawn and show a lack of accord. I scored desirable levels in only aggression and activity. Who knew?

While Thompson is not the official OCA evaluator, he did give me his advice: Read Dianetics, take an extension course in a workbook, which, says Thompson, "ensures the person gets the most from [Dianetics]," and then read Hubbard's Self Analysis. A few days later, a man called Chris called to ask if I'd like to come in for a personality evaluation. I told him I already spoke to Thompson, and I was from City Paper. He said he'd check with Thompson, and call me back. He never did.

I'll likely never be audited but here's how it goes, according to my reading: The individual becomes a "preclear" and sits down with an auditor and responds to questions while holding onto the electrodes of a gadget called an Electropsychometer (E-Meter). The electrodes emit low voltages of electricity, which can't be felt and pass through the body and back into the E-meter, which measures "the human soul, spirit or mind" and tells the auditor what in the preclear's psyche needs fixing. The device strikes me as a bit like Maxwell's Demon in The Crying of Lot 49.

This, with more study, including reading and making things out of clay "in order to understand ideas and concepts better," says Thompson, is supposed to increase one's IQ. "Scientology and Dianetics can and do raise IQ." Although, he admits, traditionally psychiatrists don't believe IQ can be changed. Members are also put in saunas to sweat out the world's impurities. Maybe I'll have to join a health club, too.

As a merchant of chaos, I had to ask, "So, what's with Tom Cruise?" Thompson said he would not be able to comment on the activities of any members of the church, celebrities or otherwise, no matter how bizarre.

I came away from my troubles with two texts and a church-run magazine called Freedom (the cover story, "The Terror Doctors," posits that psychiatrists were behind al-Qaida, and drugged the suicide bombers). As a religious reject, I guess I don't feel too bad. But should I… well, the Catholics have always been there for me.

War Against Reason: The "Intelligent Design" Scam

http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/view/2624/1/147/

By Owen Williamson

In November 2005, the first significant legal challenge involving the so-called "intelligent design" [ID] theory of creationism wrapped up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Court arguments in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District lasted 22 days, and involved a challenge by 11 parents who oppose the teaching of "intelligent design" (ID), a "lite" variation of the same old creationism theory that has been constitutionally excluded from the public schools since 1987. Even televangelist Pat Robertson has checked in on the issue, pronouncing damnation on Dover for having voted out a pro-ID school board. On December 20, 2005, a federal district court ruled that teaching intelligent design clearly violates the establishment clause of the US Constitution, which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Yet if things go as planned, this may be only the opening skirmish in a broad offensive by powerful ultra-right forces whose openly stated goal is total control of every aspect of American life.

As always, purveyors of right-wing pseudoscience rely on ignorance and lack of education as necessary preconditions for successfully peddling their poisonous product.

Intelligent design itself is in essence a scam: a theory based on lack of knowledge rather than knowledge, and as such impossible to disprove. ID theory claims that the anthropic principle, the remarkable series of low-probability cosmic events that allowed the development of multicellular life on Earth, the mysteries of quantum weirdness, the astounding complexity of DNA, the yet-undiscovered material basis of human consciousness and numberless other still-unexplored corners and closets of science all demand the presence of a "God of the gaps," an intelligent designer. This heavenly designer is painted as a sort of divine CEO benevolently micromanaging The Universe, Inc. for the very special benefit of America, for private profit and for the Republican Party.

It is fascinating to observe that ID advocates nowhere dare to claim that our "intelligently designed" universe is perfect or even moderately well functioning. Pointing out the obvious, that hurricanes, smallpox, Scooter Libby, appendicitis or bird flu have no logical place in an intelligently designed universe fails to faze them, probably because the fragile artificial tissue of ID theory was never intended to stand up under hard questioning in the first place. Further examination reveals that ID always has a convenient escape clause for these sorts of questions. The universe was indeed designed perfectly to start, but sin, Satan, Eve, feminists and/or the liberals screwed it all up and left us where we are now.

Since they cannot (yet) push fundamentalist creationism back into the public schools, ID advocates, who never seem adverse to twisting truth to serve their utterly righteous cause, claim that it is the duty of science teachers to "teach the controversy" between science and ID, a controversy that they themselves are in the process of fabricating from whole cloth. In addition, according to Science magazine book reviewer Steve Olson, "recently, intelligent design creationists have been forging alliances with some members of the discipline known as the rhetoric of science, which holds that scientific conclusions inevitably emerge from a process of persuasion, giving rise to the odd sight of conservative Christians making common cause with radical deconstructionists."

Historical Background

At first glance it seems rather obvious that virtually any religious believer (except, perhaps, a Buddhist) must necessarily subscribe to some theory of intelligent design. However, the larger historical debate as to whether a "hand of God" is visible in the material universe is not a new one. Remarkably enough, in recent centuries it was mostly Calvinist Protestants (the doctrinal predecessors of today's evangelicals) who proclaimed the "sola scriptura" dogma that fallen humanity is despicably wretched and thus absolutely incapable of discovering or deducing the existence of a God from the design of the material universe. In the 19th century it was this evangelical challenge, much more than atheism or nascent Darwinism, that prompted the Catholic Church's First Vatican Council to cast its "anathema" (damnation) on those who would deny that reason alone can discover (even though not conclusively prove) the existence of God from observation of material reality.

In the specific case of today's ID debate, there is an additional element of extreme bad faith. In an amazingly frank document called "The Wedge Strategy" (available at www.texscience.org/files/wedge.htm), leading creationists wrote in 1999 that:

we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points.

The authors of this document blame evolutionism for most of the "evils" in today's world, from product liability suits and welfare to the crime of trying to better the world. "Thinking they could engineer the perfect society through the application of scientific knowledge, materialist reformers advocated coercive government programs that falsely promised to create heaven on earth." And the ultimate goal of ID is made crystal clear. The movement "seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies."

The authors put forth an aggressive 20-year plan of action to achieve their goals, "to cultivate and convince influential individuals in print and broadcast media, as well as think tank leaders, scientists and academics, congressional staff, talk show hosts, college and seminary presidents and faculty, future talent and potential academic allies." By 2019, they aim for the complete and total defeat of American civilization as we know it, in order "to see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life."

Today's Relationship of Forces

It is crucial to understand the balance of forces that are involved in today's ID struggle in North America. As a website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science warns, "creationism appears again to be in a period of ascendancy," and ID is aptly described by science writers Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross as "creationism's Trojan horse." Olson emphasizes that "intelligent design [advocates] have produced no evidence that anything other than naturally occurring mechanisms is responsible for the empirically observed world. But, as is meticulously documented in Forrest and Gross's book, they have produced a flood of pamphlets, press releases, popular books, Websites, and other pronouncements" carefully aimed at school boards, legislators, clergy, rural white churchgoers and other "soft" targets.

Science writer Ushma S. Neil reported in a 2005 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation,

A 1999 Gallup poll showed that a startling number of people (38 percent) believed wholly in creationism, 43 percent believed in a more intelligent design-like theory, and only 18 percent of those surveyed believed in evolutionary theory as the sole explanation for the origin of humans. The same poll showed that increasing levels of education correlated with a belief in evolution (65 percent with postgraduate degrees versus 20 percent with a high school degree).

As always, purveyors of right-wing pseudoscience rely on ignorance and lack of education as necessary preconditions for successfully peddling their poisonous product. However, Neil points out that even among scientists, some 40 percent say they believe in God.

Yet, opponents of ID include virtually all working scientists, believers or not, as well as almost every conscientious science educator. Jewish, Muslim and other non-Christian religious believers have overwhelmingly rejected ID as the latest twisted monstrosity to crawl out of the intellectual swamps of American right-wing fundamentalism. And perhaps most importantly, vast sectors of mainline Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, are firmly speaking out against the ID scam in North America and around the world.

As an example, Dr. Neil Omerod, professor of theology at Australian Catholic University, recently wrote a scathing critique of ID entitled "How Design Supporters Insult God's Intelligence," In his article, published in the Sydney Morning Herald of November 15, 2005, Omerod points out that ID is "just a more sophisticated version of so-called 'creation science,' which is poor theology and poor science. As theology, creation science failed to read the biblical story within its historical and cultural context, reading it through the eyes of modern positivism, which equates truth with the accuracy of data. The Bible could only be 'true' if it were literally 'true' in every detail."

Omerod points out: "This literalist fundamentalism finds few supporters in mainstream Christianity. As science it manipulates the evidence to fit this misreading of the Bible. Intelligent design seeks to go beyond the limitations of creation science. It does not reject or manipulate the scientific data, but argues that the scientific evidence for biological change reveals 'intelligent design.'" He emphasizes that traditional Christian beliefs clearly allow for chance, and thus Darwinian evolution, and "because something necessarily happens does not mean it happens necessarily.… what God wills to happen by chance, will of necessity happen by chance." He concludes that ID is "an unnecessary hypothesis which should be consigned to the dustbin of scientific and theological history."

It is a major error for opponents of ID (even those who are nonreligious) to allow the right wing to frame the struggle as a serious debate of nonbelievers and secularists vs. Christians. The theory of ID remains political, not religious, at its core, despite advocates' best efforts to validate it by plugging the issue into older philosophical questions of faith and unbelief. Nor is it entirely correct to portray ID as a struggle of science vs. obscurantism (the ancient canard that "there are some things that humans must never know"). The gurus of ID are far from knuckle-walking Neanderthals or ignorant snake-handling God-shouters, and they do not hesitate to use social science (and even evolutionary theory, as it is applied to petroleum geology, for instance) for their own profit when required – one of the prime movers of the ID movement formerly worked as a geophysicist for the Atlantic Richfield Company. And, as is made repeatedly clear in the "Wedge Strategy" document, profit, and not faith, is what ID is ultimately all about.

The current ID offensive must be exposed and confronted for what it is: a vicious, carefully-planned political (not primarily religious) attack against the American people, perpetrated by a tiny, mendacious clique of well-educated and ideologically-driven right-wingers with virtually unlimited funding and unrestricted media access. As Neil writes in the Journal of Clinical Investigation:

We all must be informed and we all must get involved to make sure that our lay peers know the facts. The science curriculum is being changed to incorporate intelligent design in Ohio, New Mexico, Minnesota, Kansas and Pennsylvania – it is important to make sure this does not spread to other states, and that it is overturned in the states where it is taught. One thing is unambiguous: this sort of discussion – of religion – does not belong in the classroom.

To achieve this goal, progressives need to increase strategic cooperation with teachers' unions, parents' organizations, mainstream scientific, educational, political, academic and community groups, and should even consider tactical alliances with nonfundamentalist religious groups of all faith traditions.

In this struggle the ultra-right is already busy exploiting existing contradictions in American society (city vs. country – "metro vs. retro," "town vs. gown," Catholic vs. Protestant, gay vs. straight) and is eagerly seeking to create more. Only people's unity can turn back the extreme right's offensive against science, education and reason, and only science, education and reason can guarantee America's and the world's future.

--Owen Williamson teaches at the University of Texas at El Paso.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Evolution bill debate revolves around religion

http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_3423895

Article Last Updated: 01/21/2006 01:56:22 AM

Preliminary OK: Utah skeptics of Darwin's theory won on an initial vote
By Matt Canham
The Salt Lake Tribune

Sen. Chris Buttars on Friday said he is not trying to promote religious teaching in schools. The Senate preliminarily approved his bill that would require teachers to discuss alternatives to evolution. (Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune )

Sen. Chris Buttars has tried to eliminate any possibility that his bill questioning the validity of evolution could allow for religious instruction in the classroom - and avoid the legal risks associated with such teaching.

But religion is the reason he proposed the bill and religion drove most of the debate Friday, as the full Senate gave its initial approval to SB96.

Comments on the Senate floor commending God's creation of man and condemning atheists for pushing their "religion," could potentially end up as evidence in court should the bill become law.

Buttars, R-West Jordan, attempted to ward off a threatened lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union by amending his bill to explicitly say students should "consider opposing scientific viewpoints" and teachers should "stress that not all scientists agree on which scientific theory is correct." The word "scientific" did not appear in those statements beforehand.

But that amendment didn't satisfy the ACLU.

Two ACLU attorneys who attended Friday's debate said the bill is obviously fueled by a religious, not scientific, revulsion to Charles Darwin's theory. They contend that courts look not only at the letter of the law but the intent of lawmakers when determining if legislation is constitutional.

"We were disappointed in the vote," said Dani Eyer, executive director of the ACLU of Utah. "But we were sitting there watching them make our case in legislative history."

Buttars' bill would require teachers to say that scientists are not in agreement about theories explaining the "origins of life or the origins or present state of the human race" and that the state doesn't endorse any such theory.

"I challenge anyone to say that somewhere in those lines that I'm trying to promote religious philosophies," Buttars said. "My bill from the get-go never included anything about intelligent design, creationism or any faith-based philosophy."

Buttars said he decided to sponsor the bill after parents called him to complain about teachers who were telling their children that they evolved from "some lower species."

He said one woman told him that such classroom discussions "totally blew up their faith."

Legislative leaders expect SB96 to gain Senate approval on Monday. The bill would then need the approval of the House of Representatives and the signature of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. before it became law. The preliminary Senate vote Friday was 17-12, with all eight Senate Democrats and four Republicans opposing the bill, including Senate Majority Leader Peter Knudson.

Knudson rejected comments by Buttars and Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, that the opposition is driven by "secularists and atheists."

"I will tell you that is not the spirit by which we should be debating this legislation," Knudson said. "There is a place in life for evolution."

He said religious people may also believe in evolution, since "we don't know how God created the Earth."

Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, attempted to strip Buttars' bill of any reference to "origins of life," replacing it and similar statements with "scientific." Lawmakers shouldn't single out evolution, if the aim is for students to critically analyze scientific theories upon which some scientists disagree on, he said.

The amendment failed.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, and Sen. Patrice Arent, D-Murray, both voted against the bill, saying that the Legislature was "micromanaging" the elected members of the state Board of Education, who have already expressed their opposition to SB96.

Arent said: "It doesn't make sense to me for us to take on that role."

mcanham@sltrib.com

Intelligent design, Darwin can coexist

http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=442849&category=OPINION&newsdate=1/24/2006

First published: Tuesday, January 24, 2006

In response to Paul Balich's Jan. 8 letter: I have no idea where the phrase "intelligent design" came from. To the extent that it may represent a euphemism for fundamentalism, I want no part of it.

Nonetheless, I believe in intelligent design. Long ago, I came upon a book called, to the best of my recollection, "Human Destiny" by the scientist Leconte de Nouy, a Nobel Prize winner because of his discovery of the "miniscus" at the surface of liquids.

De Nouy set out to calculate the probability of the synthesis of that indispensable first protein molecule taking place by chance. That first protein molecule required bringing together all the necessary elements, in the right proportion and in a time and place that would permit the unsupervised syntheses to take place -- with sunlight or whatever the catalyst.

I'm certainly no mathematician, but I'll accept de Nouy's calculation that the likelihood of this synthesis taking place by chance would be about one in trillions. It was his conclusion that this event would be so mathematically improbable as to be mathematically impossible.

As a former biology teacher, I largely accept Darwin's "Origin of Species" as a description of what happened after that first protein molecule was synthesized, with admitted leaps that stagger the imagination. But I see no incompatibility between the two.

It's important to understand further that at no point did physiological evolution proceed on the basis of individual living things; it has always been the overall forms that evolved, while "species," "families," maybe even "phyla" failed to survive.

So my own faith does not include individualistic, personal payoff for good behavior or punishment for bad. But if one does not focus on individuals (like the hundreds of thousands of humans wiped out in wars or natural disasters last year), I believe you can find "intelligent design" in this world we live in.

ED BLOCH

Latham

The War Against Intelligent Design: Defending Science or the Science Establishment?

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=5074

Ira Brodsky

Ira Brodsky is a technology product development consultant based in St. Louis, MO. He is a columnist for Network World and is currently writing a book on the history of wireless communications.

author's web site

view author's other articles

January 23, 2006

Someday people will look back at recent opposition to Intelligent Design and see it as bordering on hysterical. Proponents of Evolution demand a complete monopoly over what is taught about the origins of life. They ignore the fact that scientific progress often springs from the interplay between accepted, contrarian and just plain wrong hypotheses.

Philosophers have debated the origins of the universe for more than two millennia. Was the universe created or did it always exist? Today most cosmologists favor the hypothesis that our universe was created--not because they have a religious agenda but because the Big Bang theory does a better job of explaining observable phenomena. Woe unto him, however, who dares to suggest that life's underlying molecular machinery might also have been created.

Like it or not, unpopular and sometimes strange hypotheses have played a major role in the progress of science. Granted, most fantastical hypotheses are wrong and, more importantly, do nothing to improve our understanding of how the world works. But there are many examples of hypotheses that contributed immensely to the progress of science despite being wrong. One of the greatest theoreticians in history, the Scotsman James Clerk Maxwell, based his revolutionary Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field on the existence of "ether" permeating all of space. The ether turned out to be mythical, but the theory Maxwell built upon this false foundation correctly predicted the propagation of electromagnetic waves through space—a phenomenon demonstrated years later by Heinrich Hertz and then put to practical use by Guglielmo Marconi.

In the Preface and Dedication to Pope Paul III of his masterpiece, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Copernicus defended the freedom to test hypotheses that at first glance seemed absurd. To most people, everyday experience provided overwhelming proof that the sun rotates around the stationary earth. Copernicus showed that assuming the earth rotates around the sun did a much better job of explaining the movements of the heavenly bodies. He wondered why some wanted to deny him the right to test his hypothesis, but were comfortable with a Ptolemean system propped up by mathematical gimmicks.

The rebuttal to all of this is that Intelligent Design was contrived to rescucitate biblical creationism, a religious belief demolished by Charles Darwin's theory of Natural Selection. That is a straw man argument. Intelligent Design has no more to do with the Bible than the Big Bang theory. Some advocates of Intelligent Design don't even deny Evolution; rather, they argue that Evolution is directed or was initiated by an intelligent designer.

Furthermore, the Intelligent Design hypothesis predates Darwin's theory of Evolution. William Paley and Charles Bell wrote at great length about Intelligent Design in the early 1800s—decades before Darwin's The Origin of Species was published. Paley presented several striking examples of forethought in living systems. For example, infants' teeth remain submerged in their gums so as not to interfere with sucking; later, the first set of teeth is replaced as the jaw grows. Given today's vastly superior knowledge of genetics, it is all the more reasonable to ask how such processes can be explained by Natural Selection. Genetic research has uncovered many examples of mutations that cause great harm or have no discernible effect, but few if any examples of organism-enhancing mutations.

Should Intelligent Design be taught in schools? Our education establishment prides itself on teaching students how to think critically, but bristles at the thought of Intelligent Design being presented as anything other than a laughable and totally discredited argument. Educators should welcome the opportunity for young people to compare and contrast Intelligent Design and Evolution, both in terms of scientific merit and social agenda.

I don't know whether the Intelligent Design hypothesis has legs. But of two things I am certain. First, even Neo-Darwinian Evolution is an incomplete and in many ways unsatisfactory theory, so it seems premature to shout down alternative ideas that could ultimately serve to refine Evolution. Second, scientists should be encouraged to conceive and test hypotheses no matter how unpopular or counter-intuitive. The proper way to deal with a false hypothesis is to disprove it—not form a lynch mob.

Intelligent design speech draws laughter, applause

http://www.kansan.com/stories/2006/jan/24/intelligent_design/

By Catherine Odson Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Insistent, assertive questions nagged Monday night's speaker, who felt his explanation of the scientific evidence of intelligent design fell upon "deaf ears."

Audience members awarded both applause and laughter to the questioners who stepped publicly into the controversy over intelligent design in Kansas.

William A. Dembski, the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Science and Theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said in his speech at the Lied Center that gaps in the scientific story of evolution led toward a still-developing theory of intelligent design.

"Darwin was a great man," Dembski said. "His theory was a great idea. And yet, it's not the whole story."

Mark Brown, campus director for Campus Crusade for Christ, said his organization wanted to host a discussion on intelligent design because of the large amount of misinformation circulating about the theory.

"There is an academic background behind it," he said. "It's not just theology masquerading as science."

Brown said truth should be a friend to both science and religion and that neither side should exclude concepts from the other side.

"Scientists shouldn't be scared of divine intervention in the natural world," he said.

Evolution theory is "a window into biological history," Dembski said. But the real explanation derives from the question, "What is design?" From an initial purpose, a designer formulates a plan to produce the design, a process Dembski said applied to everything from space shuttles to cake.

Intelligent design adheres to the same concepts as any other design. Dembski defines intelligent design as "the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence."

Fred Pawlicki, Lied Center associate director, estimated more than 1,200 people attended the lecture. The Lied Center evaluates events at its facility by how the audience reacts, he said. In this case, the audience seemed to be particularly engaged — even bursting into laughter at both questions and answers.

"I thought that this speaker was quite logical," Pawlicki said. "People wanted to hear what he said."

Despite the hour-long lecture and subsequent discussion, at least one student still felt Dembski didn't answer many of the questions about intelligent design that the audience had.

"I'm just not sure that he presented any proof that intelligent design works," Lauren Tice, Overland Park sophomore, said. "He didn't convince me."

Faithful, curious drawn to Bible story

http://www.cnn.com/2006/TRAVEL/01/24/bible.exhibit.ap/index.html

Exhibit traces history of sacred text

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (AP) -- The Bible's evolution from ancient Hebrew to modern languages and from clay tablets to printed books is a rich lesson in the history of civilizations, the origins of the written word and the revolution of printing.

The story of how the text of the Bible has been written and disseminated over the centuries is recounted in a new exhibition at the Florida International Museum that boasts artifacts as rare and priceless as they come, among them bits of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a fragment of the Gospel of John dating to about 250 A.D., a 1455 Gutenberg Bible and a first edition of the King James version from 1611.

The exhibit's founder and chief curator, William H. Noah, isn't a biblical scholar but a pulmonary physician who lives near Nashville, Tennessee. He said a personal interest in the history of the sacred text led him to study it and assemble a collection that opened in Tennessee a year ago called "Ink & Blood: Dead Sea Scrolls to the English Bible."

"I had traveled the world researching this for years and was just curious," Noah said. "You get all these extreme views (of the Bible) from different groups, and as I started to research this I found that the real academic view was an incredible story."

Noah said the focus of the 8,500 square-foot exhibit is more historical than religious, tracing the evolution of the Bible from early pictograph writings on clay tablets 5,000 years ago to the Dead Sea Scrolls -- the oldest known copies of most of the Old Testament books, written on animal skins -- to translations into Latin, German, French and English.

The displays include a working replica of Johannes Gutenberg's printing press, which brought the Bible to the masses in the 15th century.

The St. Petersburg opening is the first big splash for the exhibit, which was first shown in civic centers in Knoxville, Tennessee, and then Lexington, Kentucky, in 2005, drawing about 100,000 visitors. The four-month St. Petersburg stop is the exhibit's first in a museum and its first in a major population center.

"I wanted to open in a smaller community because of the controversial nature of anything biblical, and I wanted to see how it would be received," Noah said. "I was very impressed."

The crowds, he said, included academicians, religious leaders, the faithful and the curious. The exhibit was even held over in Knoxville because of the demand.

While in Lexington, the exhibit drew visitors from all over the state of Kentucky, said Niki Heichelbech, spokeswoman for the city's convention and visitors bureau.

"Whatever you may go into it with, you come out with a completely different feeling," she said. "It definitely opens your eyes in ways you thought it might not. It certainly had an effect on people."

James Strange, a University of South Florida religious studies professor and an expert in Bible archaeology, said examples of the many of the exhibit's oldest artifacts exist elsewhere -- including an extensive Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit in a museum in Israel. But it's not often that general audiences get access to such a variety of them.

"The average person has never seen the original version of the King James Bible, let alone the Dead Sea Scrolls," he said.

Kathy Oathout, executive director of the Florida International Museum, said "Ink & Blood" fits with the mission of the 10-year-old museum, which hosted an exhibit about Princess Diana last year and a Titanic show in 1997. "Our history is that we've told stories," she said.

The exhibit is being promoted heavily with mailings to area churches and schools, and the museum hopes to lure the area's wintering snowbirds.

Oathout shrugged off criticism from some who have said the exhibit leans toward being too evangelical. Every visitor will take away something different, she said.

Said Noah: "Whether someone believes the Bible is inspired or not, they cannot ignore that this is the most significant group of writings in Western culture."

Exorcism in the Orthodox Church

http://www.goarch.org/print/en/ourfaith/article7079.asp

Rev. George C. Papademetriou, Ph.D.

The Doctrine of Evil

To understand the Orthodox view and practice of exorcism, one must know the Orthodox presuppositions of evil and its doctrine of Satan. The patristic evidence points to the fact that the cause of evil in the world is the devil. The devil was created by God as an angel, who was free, and as a free agent chose to oppose the plan of God. That is, the devil is a fallen angel. Satan is not evil by nature, but by will and action. In Satan there is no truth whatsoever; he is absolute falsehood and deception. Satan is not just a negation or deprivation of good, but a positive force with free will that always chooses evil. The devil has the ability to recognize divine power, as in the incident of recognizing Christ as the Son of God (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-3). Satan has under his leadership legions and invisible powers, with their own "satanic teachings." The devil and evil spirits know that God exists and recognize true and devoted Christians, but pious Christians discern the plans of the devil. The devil, however, constantly employs every method of deception to enslave man to satanic forces and causes rebellion against God. He is the cause of corruption and disorder, a parasitic power in the world that will ultimately be destroyed by the power of God in the "last days." Because there is no compromise between God and the devil, the struggle will continue until the end.

The Orthodox doctrine of God is that He is eternal, uncreated and incorporeal. All other creatures, both visible and invisible, were created by God as free. The power of the devil will ultimately be destroyed by the resurrection of the dead and the renewal of creation. Salvation from all evil will be attained by obedience to God and His plan. This world is a battleground between the acceptance of good and evil. It must be pointed out that the world as the creation of God is not evil. What is evil is the satanic power, destroyed by the power of the cross and the resurrection of Christ.

The Orthodox Tradition of Exorcising

After examining the doctrine of Satan in the Orthodox Church, it is imperative to proceed to the method of repelling and exorcising the evil powers. In the New Testament, Christ sent out His apostles to heal and to "cast out devils" (Matt. 10:8, Luke 10:17-20). Christ Himself often expels demons from the possessed (Mark 1:23-27; Luke 4:33-35, 9:43; Matt. 10:1; Mark 16:17; Matt. 7:22). The New Testament, however, rejected popular uses of magic incantations and rites to expel the satanic powers from people, because they took advantage of superstitious religiosity (Acts 19:13).

In the name of Christ, one is able to cast out demons and to destroy the evil powers (Matt. 10:8). The Fathers of the Church accepted this doctrine and expanded on it. Justin Martyr (Apology 85, 2) says that in the name of Christ, the Son of God who was crucified and rose again, every demon that is exorcised is defeated and submits (Library of the Greek Fathers and Church Writers, Athens: Apostolike Diakonia 1955, Vol. 3, pp. 288-89). The satanic powers are destroyed through the power of the cross and the name of Christ. Objects possessed by demons, when exorcised in the name of the living God, are freed from the possession of evil. The patristic evidence is abundant in the belief in possession and expulsion of the devil by the power of the word of God (Ignatios, Epistles to Philippians 3 and 12; Library of the Greek Fathers and Church Writers, Vol. 2, pp. 333 and 336; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 4:14; Library, Vol 8, p. 82; Origen, Against Celsus, 6:44; Library, Vol. 10, p. 93).

The demonic possession of individuals and even of objects, has been accepted by the Orthodox Church today in the Sacrament of Baptism, in exorcising satanic powers in the case of the evil eye (vaskania), and in exorcising the devil in the case of a possessed person. In the early Church exorcisms were performed by a person especially trained and appointed to pray to drive out evil from those about to be baptized. Since the fourth century the place of the exorcist, as well as other functions and ministries, have been taken over by the priest. The exorcisms are prayers that invoke God to expel evil spirits. The priest prays to expel all evil, the spirit of error, of idolatry, of covetousness, of Iying and every impure act that arises from the teachings of the devil. The renunciation of the devil in baptism is used in every baptism that is performed in the Orthodox Church.

Vaskania

The exorcism of satanic powers is also performed by the Orthodox Church in other rites, such as that of the evil eye (vaskania).

Vaskania is simply a phenomenon that was accepted by primitive people as fact. They believed that certain people have such powerful feelings of jealousy and envy, that when they looked on some beautiful object or individual it brought destruction. Vaskania is recognized by the Church as the jealousy and envy of some people for things they do not possess, such as beauty, youth, courage or any other blessing. The Church essentially rejected Vaskania as contradicting the concept of divine providence. The prayers of the Church to avert the evil eye are, however, a silent recognition of this phenomenon as a morbid feeling of envy. The Church forbids people to go to "readers" or other individuals for use of magical rituals to overcome the evil eye. These readers take advantage of the weakness of superstitious people and destroy them spiritually and financially by playing upon their imagination.

There is also a secret rite performed by superstitious people to avert the evil eye, which verges on magic. Though the Church encourages even the laity to pray and exorcise evil, it rejects magical practices and rites. This secret rite is described as follows: "The exorcist (not a priest but an old woman) prepares a vial of olive oil and a small glass of water. She dips a finger in the oil, rubs it in a sign of the Cross on the victim's forehead and lets one drop fall onto the water; she repeats the process, making a cross on the forehead, on the chin and both cheeks. If the devil is indeed present, the four drops of oil in the water join to form the ellipsoid shape of an eye. The ritual then calls for the reading of prayers and repeating the four signs of the Cross; the drops of oil will not join in the water, but will disperse."

The possession of individuals by the devil and demonic powers and the cure in the name of Christ is evidenced in the New Testament (Acts 3:2-8, 9:32-42; 20:7-12; Matt. 10:8; Mark 16:17-18). The Church continues in its liturgical rites what Christ enacted in His ministry. The Church recognizes the influence of evil and renounces it in the name of Christ in prayers and fasting. The prayers of exorcism in the early Church were offered by special ministry through the exorcist. This is evidenced from the early prayers that have survived. From the fourth century onwards, the ministry of the exorcist has been fulfilled by the priest.

Orthodox Prayers of Exorcism

All the Orthodox prayer books include prayers of exorcism used by priests to fight the power of evil. The Orthodox Book of Prayers (Euchologion To Mega) includes three prayers of exorcism by Saint Basil and four by Saint John Chrysostom. They are read "for those who suffer from demonic possessions and every other malady." Through these prayers, the devil is exorcised (renounced) "in the name of God Almighty and the Lord Jesus Christ, and commanded to come out of the victim, who is liberated and redeemed by the eternal God from the energies (powers) of the impure spirits. The great ills that humanity suffers are attributed to the devil and demonic power."

From the Orthodox theological point of view, the following can be considered exorcists:

  1. Christ is the exorcist par excellence for it is He who won the victory over the power of the devil.
  2. Priests in the performance of the holy sacraments and in preaching the word of God follow Christ's example.
  3. All Orthodox Christians are exorcists as they struggle against personal sin and social evil. In fact, "the whole Church, past, present and future, has the task of an exorcist to banish sin, evil, injustice, spiritual death, the devil from the life of humanity." Archbishop Iakovos, in a sermon at the Sage Chapel, Cornell University, spoke on exorcism in the following manner: "Both healing and exorcising are ministered through prayers, which spring from faith in God and from love for man.... All the prayers of healing and exorcism, composed by the Fathers of the Church and in use since the third century, begin with the solemn declaration: In Thy Name, O Lord.' " (Exorcism and Exorcists in the Greek Orthodox Tradition, March 10, 1974.)
  4. In summary, the four prayers of exorcism by Saint John Chrysostom and the three of Saint Basil ask in the name of God to deliver the possessed from the captivity of the devil. Some can be healed by faith accompanied by fasting and purification. The use of exorcism must be made with discretion and great care. (For details, see G. Papademetriou, "Exorcism and the Greek Orthodox Church," in Exorcism Through the Ages, New York: Philosophical Library, 1974.)

Copyright: © 1990-1996 Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

© 2003 Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
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