NTS LogoSkeptical News for 2 February 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Holistic Health is Popular in East Texas


by Ramonica R. Jones

The nation is mourning the loss of Coretta Scott King. The wife of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died Sunday in a holistic hospital.

Mrs. King arrived at the hospital in Mexico just last week to start treatment for advanced ovarian cancer.

Alternative medicine is an option more and more people are exploring.

Yerberia Mexicana in Lufkin is full of herbal remedies and natural products. They're designed to treat everything from ear infections and stomach aches to prostate problems and kidney infections.

Medical experts disagree about whether natural products work as well as more traditional treatments, but customers young and old of all backgrounds come to Yerberia Mexicana for alternative medicine.

Mayra Vargas said, "I believe more in this than products in the pharmacies. I was raised this way, and we always come to places like this, so I prefer to come here."

Holistic or alternative medicine goes beyond trying to eliminate symptoms. It also includes herbal medicine, acupuncture, and other non-pharmaceutical techniques to treat and heal the entire body. The goal is to give people the option of using a natural approach to staying healthy.

Holistic practioners believe holistic health works because it emphazises the connection of mind, body, and spirit, rather than focusing on illness or specific parts of the body.

Devolving Ohio


In the wake of full-blown battles about the validity of intelligent design and its entrance into public school curriculums, Ohio's Board of Education revisited its "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan, which walks a fine line between teaching evolutionary theory and making reference to creationism, or the more politically correct ID. After a close 9-8 vote on Jan. 10, Ohio's Board of Education decided to keep the lesson plan on the books.

Although the "Critical Analysis" plan is marginally better than that of ID - it is not mandatory (schools have two other evolutionary theory options), and it is not as specific in its wording as ID - Ohio's lesson plan still should not be taught in the confines of a science classroom. Whether it's ID or "Critical Analysis," the truth of the matter is that neither approach has the necessary scientific evidence needed to warrant being taught in a public school. Leave the preaching in the pulpit, and the facts in science curricula - where they rightfully belong.

Proponents of ID often will cite gaps in evolutionary theory as a justification for teaching the politically correct form of creationism. They will argue it is in the best interest for students to consider all possible schools of thought before making an informed decision. And they will go to great lengths to point out that evolution is just a "theory" and not a fact. Basically, they will make excuses to defend ID, which has no testable hypothesis, no concrete data and ultimately, no place in schools.

Evolution has withstood decades of scientific testing and belongs in public school classrooms. ID is just another attempt to introduce religion into science. It is perfectly acceptable for parents to teach their children about God and creationism, but such a practice should be regulated to their home, a private school, place of worship or a park on a sunny day - anywhere but science classrooms in a public school.

By whatever name one wishes to call it - Creationism, intelligent design or "Critical Analysis of Evolution" - religion has no place in the realm of science. And that should hold true for Kansas, Delaware, Ohio and any other state.

Evolution vs. intelligent design debate rages


Three panel discussions before CSPAC play explore the age-old debate
By Jeff Amoros

February 02, 2006

One hundred forty-seven years after Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species and 81 years after the Scopes Monkey Trial ignited debate over Darwin's findings, the argument of evolution versus creationism remains a hot topic in America.

Now, through a series of discussion panels and performances of The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the historic debate has found a home on the campus.

From Jan. 31 through Feb. 2, the university is holding panel discussions about the debate, two of which took place prior to performances of the play. Each of the three panels discussed a different topic relating to the play and the trial.

Included in the discussion was the current debate over intelligent design and its place in the classroom, the issue of how scientists can reconcile their personal faith with science and the significance of court battles waged in the past year in Kansas and Dover, Penn.

During the first panel, actors from L.A. Theatre Works discussed the play itself. The play is based on actual transcripts from the 1925 trial in which John Scopes, a teacher in Tennessee, was arrested for teaching the theory of evolution. Although Scopes was found guilty of breaking the law, his conviction was overturned on a technicality.

Tuesday night's panel, hosted by the biology department, focused on the place intelligent design has in the scientific community.

Richard Payne, interim chairman of the biology department, moderated the discussion, which included faculty members Michael Cummings, Douglas Gill and Katy Gonder.

They discussed the idea that gaps in knowledge of the development of life must be a result of the design of a higher being and those gaps cannot be explained through evolution.

Gonder said scientists do not view intelligent design as science.

"I don't know how biology teachers can discuss biology without discussing evolution," she said.

The panel also discussed one of the main claims of intelligent design proponents, that evolution is random.

"There is nothing random about evolution," Gill said. "Natural selection is a non-random process."

Last night, another panel hosted by the Constitution Project discussed the historical and legal consequences of the Scopes Trial and other cases on evolution and creationism. The panel consisted of geologist and author Alan Cutler, government professor Mark Graber and Johns Hopkins University professor of history and science of technology Sharon Kingsland. Fred de Sam Lazaro, a PBS executive producer , moderated.

Graber discussed the effect politics have on the court, tracing legal precedents and cases from the 19th century through the present.

"You elect conservative Republicans, you get conservative justices," Graber said. "You will see the Roberts' Court be more accommodating to religion in schools than to increased minority enrollment."

Kingsland said creationist ideology has spread outside of the U.S.

"Many of the arguments and literature emanate from the U.S., but it has spread worldwide," Kingsland said.

When the panel accepted questions from the audience, one woman said she had witnessed four generations grow and could not understand how people could not see any change in that span of time.

She asked the panel why they felt evolution was so hard to understand.

"The span of time is more than the human mind can comprehend," Cutler said. "You never completely grasp it, you just get used to it."

Contact reporter Jeff Amoros at amorosdbk@gmail.com.

I see dead people: a look at after-death communication


by Marcia Montenegro

This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 25, number 1 (2003). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org


Recent years have witnessed a revival of interest in contact with the dead. Much of this interest is due to the popularity of mediums such as John Edward, Sylvia Browne, and James Van Praagh. Edward and Van Praagh both have popular television shows, and all three have written best-selling books and have appeared on numerous talk shows. Several movies, such as the hit, The Sixth Sense, have also made spirit contact the theme of their stories.

Sylvia Browne and James Van Praagh do not practice spirit contact in a vacuum; they have complex spiritual beliefs spelled out in their books and expressed on talk shows. While Edward claims to be Roman Catholic, Browne and Van Praagh have openly rejected orthodox Christianity and embraced a nonjudgmental God more tailored to New Age beliefs. Edward, Browne, and Van Praagh all have backgrounds that include heavy psychic experiences as well as research into the occult and psychic worlds.

Skeptics have denounced these mediums and attempted to expose them as frauds. This raises questions: Are all mediums frauds, and can we be sure that they are? Is it possible that some mediums may be receiving information from a demonic source? Is the classification of mediums as frauds a helpful response? Despite seemingly being debunked by skeptics, mediums still generate strong interest. The belief in after-death communication should not be ignored or simply put down. Christians need to tackle two issues dealing with this phenomenon. First, we need to examine the mediums' claims and spiritual beliefs in a biblical light. Second, we should address the mediums' popularity and the best response to it; debunking should be a low priority unless there is strong evidence of a medium's fraud.

The church's response is important since it could portray Christians as either condescending or as caring and concerned. In the quagmire of beliefs that surround after-death communication, Christians should not lose sight of what can be offered to those who grieve — the true source of comfort, Jesus Christ.

Scene 1: A group of people sits in a circle in a dimly lit room. One of them speaks commandingly, "We surround ourselves with white light. We ask that only benevolent and helpful spirits be present."

Scene 2: A man faces an audience and says, "I am getting a K, or a C, and a T — I'm getting the number eight. I see lots of books…." A woman from the audience smiles and vigorously nods her head, "Yes, yes! That must be my grandmother Katherine. Her birthday was March 8th."

Scene 3: A young boy claims to see the dead. He realizes this communication with the dead is a gift that he can use to help the living. This story was portrayed in the hit movie, The Sixth Sense.


According to a recent Gallup Poll, 38 percent of Americans believe ghosts or spirits can come back in certain situations. In 1990, it was 25 percent. Today, 28 percent think some people can hear from or "mentally" talk to the dead, compared with 18 percent 11 years ago.1 John Edward, a popular medium with his own show, Crossing Over, on the Sci-Fi channel, now has his show in syndication on 180 local TV stations, which cover 98 percent of the United States.2 A television show, Beyond, featuring James Van Praagh, premiered in early September of 2002.

Spirit contact, also known as spiritism, is an attempt to contact a disembodied being such as a dead person or ghost, an angel, a spirit guide, or a higher evolved soul in another dimension. There recently has been a revival of interest in contact with the dead, also called after-death communication.3 Following World War I, this practice became popular because people sought to contact loved ones killed in the war. Spiritualism, a religion that incorporates belief in contacting the dead, began in the 1800s and still exists. Before trusting Christ, I attended several spiritualist church services where ministers communicated messages purportedly from deceased relatives. I also took part in psychic development classes and sιances, and I had a spirit guide.

Several psychics4 and mediums, such as Sylvia Browne, James Van Praagh, Rosemary Altea, and John Edward, claim their psychic abilities allow them to communicate with the dead, who are in a place they call the Other Side. Movies, such as The Sixth Sense, What Lies Beneath, and The Others, have featured communication with the dead as a significant element of their plots. One writer attributes this rising interest in after-death communication to a "spillover" from interest in "alternative medicine and Eastern spirituality" because people are more open to the "unseen."5

Medium James Van Praagh categorizes mediumship as either physical mediumship, in which the spirit speaks through the physical body, or mental mediumship, in which the mind of the medium is used.6 Van Praagh claims to be a mental medium.7 John Edward calls himself a "psychic medium"8 and states that he acts as a "conduit of energy" from the "other side."9 Sylvia Browne claims to be a trance medium and defines her experience as letting her spirit guide, Francine, take control of her voice but not her body or mind.10 Edward, Browne, and Van Praagh have all written bestsellers.


One need not go to a sιance or consult a medium in order to witness spirit contact. Talk shows, such as Montel Williams and Larry King Live, often invite mediums on as guests to give readings from deceased family members to audience members or to callers. Edward's show, Crossing Over, became one of the most successful programs on the Sci-Fi cable channel.11

What do the mediums believe about God, death, and the afterlife? Can the dead talk to us? We will look at three popular mediums and a biblical response to spirit contact.

John Edward: A Rising Star. Born in 1969, John Edward is the youngest of the well-known mediums. He claims he astral traveled (traveled out of his body) from ages four to seven and had psychic abilities, which he thought were normal.12 An uncle who was involved in yoga and psychic practices and whose wife was a card reader, greatly influenced Edward,13 whose own mother "was constantly getting readings from psychics" and often brought them to the house to do readings and sιances for groups.14

At age 15 when Edward received an accurate reading from a psychic and was told he was psychically gifted, he was motivated to do research. He read "everything" he could on topics such as psychic phenomena, spiritualism, and spirit guides.15 He studied tarot cards and other "metaphysical" topics, eventually leading him to work at psychic fairs and seminars.16

At one of these psychic fairs, Edward had his first contact from what he believed was a dead person, which he claims was a "very different energy."17 These spirits continued to interrupt Edward's readings, but they brought to him "a feeling of contentment, love, and peace," so he decided to learn about after-death communication.18

Edward subsequently discovered through guided visualization that he had five spirit guides as well as a master guide.19 After receiving information from his recently deceased mother, Edward was convinced of after-death communication and eventually went to work as a full-time medium.20

Edward's television show, Crossing Over, which features him receiving messages from the dead, first became a hit on the Sci-Fi channel.21 According to Edward, he gets sounds, images, and sensations from the spirits since they cannot speak, and vibrate at very high rates, making communication difficult.22 Edward claims the dead person is validating that he or she is ok, so the surviving relative can be at peace.

Edward claims to be a Catholic, although he realizes that the Catholic Church opposes what he does.23 He maintains that his relationship with God is important and that his "connection to God has never wavered."24 Edward has priests and nuns as clients, and he prays the rosary and meditates before doing spirit contact.25

Edward believes in reincarnation, while asserting that he does not know much about the Other Side. He says one must review one's life after death to prepare for the next incarnation.26

Sylvia Browne: The "Christian Gnostic." Sylvia Browne claims that she was born psychic and that her psychic grandmother helped her understand her gifts. At the tender age of eight, Browne saw a glowing light, out of which stepped a dark-haired woman, who said, "I come from God, Sylvia." Frightened, Browne ran to tell her grandmother, who calmly told her this was her spirit guide.27 Browne relies on her spirit guide, Francine, for most of her information, and Francine is the main source of information for Browne's Journey of the Soul Series.

Browne gives her background as Catholic, Jewish, Episcopalian, and Lutheran, but she rejects any religion with "harsh" and "cruel" concepts such as "sin, guilt, and retribution."28 She also claims to have read "all twenty-six versions of the Bible," as well as the Qur'an, the Talmud, books on Buddhist teachings, and the Egyptian Book of the Dead.29 In 1986, Browne founded her own church, Novus Spiritus, which is based on her "Christian Gnostic theology with shades of many other religions blended in."30 According to Browne, being "Gnostic" means one "is a seeker of truth and knowledge about God" and not a seeker of "dogma."31 In order to be elevated to any spiritual level, one must have "total knowledge."32

Browne's trilogy, Journey of the Soul Series, presents complex teachings on God, creation, good and evil, death, spirits, angels, reincarnation, and other theological topics. Browne denies the pantheistic belief that all is God,33 but she nonetheless holds that we are a "divine spark" that emanated from God and that everyone has his or her own "God center."34 God, moreover, does not punish or judge, and there is no hell; man made up hell.35 It does not matter if Jesus is the Son of God because everyone is.36 According to Browne, Jesus did not die on the cross but came to bring wisdom.37

People live on earth in order for God to "gain information" through their "cells" because God is pure intellect and cannot directly know experience.38 On the other hand, Mother God, whom Browne calls Azna, is pure emotion and experience. She is the original Creator, often appearing in the form of Mary.39 She was suppressed by patriarchy but has come back through Gnostic teachings.40 Mother and Father God are a "dual entity."41 The information on Mother God was given to Jesus via the Essenes and Gnostics and hidden in a scroll in France.42

A believer in reincarnation, Browne states this life is her 54th and final one on earth.43 Each planet has its Other Side; Earth's Other Side is superimposed on our reality with a higher vibrational frequency. People on earth are actually ghosts in the world of spirits but are less alive than the spirits, who are fully alive.44 (This idea is also found in the movie, The Others.) All spirits on the Other Side are aged to appear 30 years old, but they choose their own physical attributes.45 Those spirits who come to earth (who include every human on earth) do so to learn and are watched over by spirits from the Other Side.46

James Van Praagh: Hunting Down Heaven. As a first-grader, James Van Praagh realized he was psychic when he knew that a car had hit his teacher's son before the teacher heard about it. This Catholic schoolteacher told young James that he had been given a gift and was "one of God's messengers."47 As a child, he also saw auras around people.48 Raised staunchly Catholic, Van Praagh nevertheless found himself wondering whether God really existed and if the Bible were really true.49 At age eight, after asking God to prove His existence, Van Praagh saw a large, glowing hand, pulsating with light, coming down toward him as he lay in bed, and he knew this was God.50 Van Praagh continued to have paranormal experiences, including contact with a spirit via a Ouija board.

To please his mother, Van Praagh enrolled in a seminary in preparation for the priesthood, but he had many doubts about the teachings. During a meditation at the seminary, Van Praagh realized that God is love, nonjudgmental, and within us. He subsequently left the seminary and the Catholic Church.51

A few years later, armed with a broadcasting degree, Van Praagh worked in Los Angeles, hoping to be a screenwriter. He received a reading from a medium who told him that he had mediumistic abilities and that the spirits would use him.52 After reading books on how to develop psychic and mediumistic abilities, he practiced these techniques for about a year, increasing his psychic sensitivity.53 Like Edward, Van Praagh states that doing spirit contact gave him a strong sense of "love and joy" and requests for his services led him to do this full-time.54

Van Praagh believes all creatures, both human and nonhuman, are made of the "same God spark."55 God is humankind's very "essence," and though many have come representing the "light of God," all of us are divine.56 Van Praagh also believes in reincarnation. The soul's journey after death involves an intermediate astral world, then progresses to a higher level where it is more "enlightened" and finally reaches the "true Heaven world."57

To communicate with the dead, Van Praagh says he must raise his vibrational level, since spirits vibrate at a higher level; and he must concentrate since he does not hear the spirits at a normal conversational level.58 He opens his mind to the thoughts of the spirits and repeats exactly what he perceives.59 Like Edward and Browne, Van Praagh believes everyone has spirit guides. Preparation for readings involves meditation; Van Praagh's books give instructions on various meditations.


Why do people consult mediums? After losing a loved one to death, a person may want the comfort of hearing from that loved one again and may be curious about where the loved one is and how that person is doing. Others are hoping to find out about death and the afterlife. Could God be comforting people through contact with the dead? What does the Bible say about this?

God's Word on Contacting the Dead. God's Word clearly forbids consulting mediums or spiritists. These activities are forbidden in several places, including Leviticus 19:31, 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:10–11; 1 Chronicles 10:13–14; and Isaiah 8:19–20. Jesus' story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) implies that the dead cannot contact the living. Consulting the dead, a practice called necromancy, usually was done for purposes of divination and seeking the advice of pagan gods.60 God considers consulting mediums and spiritists as spiritual adultery (see Lev. 20:6).

According to 1 Samuel 28:3–23, King Saul consulted a medium. Saul had banned mediums, but, desperate for advice due to the advancing Philistine army and God's silence on what to do, he sought out a medium to call up Samuel's spirit. Samuel appeared and told Saul that he had disobeyed God in not destroying the Amalekites in a previous battle, that Israel would fall to the Philistines, and that Saul and his sons would die in battle the next day. This passage cannot be taken to endorse spirit contact at all, especially when the writer of 1 Chronicles 10:13 clearly states, "So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance" (NKJV).

There is debate as to whether the spirit the medium called up was really Samuel or was actually a demon. The Bible, however, specifically says Samuel appeared. Samuel's accurate and specific predictions furthermore indicate that this was not a demonic spirit. Only God knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10) and, according to Deuteronomy 18:22, only prophets from God give predictions that consistently are 100 percent correct. The medium's surprise to see Samuel strongly suggests that God brought up Samuel in an unprecedented miracle for the specific purpose of rebuking Saul.

Accuracy and Communication. Edward, Browne, and Van Praagh all freely admit that they are not always accurate;61 indeed, Browne writes that no psychic has 100 percent accuracy and that 70 percent is above average.62 In psychic development classes I attended, one teacher often told us that the best psychic on his or her best day is about 75 percent accurate.

Edward claims that what the spirits give him is often in symbolic language and therefore difficult to interpret. He explains this difficulty as the higher vibrations of the spirits.63 There is no way to authenticate this information; we have only the word of the mediums and others who teach this concept.64 Edward talks about the spirits playing "psychic charades,"65 and Browne says that the spirits don't speak but communicate by pantomime in a sort of "divine game of charades."66 The mediums can always explain, therefore, that inaccurate information is due to difficulties in communication from the spirit world or misinterpretation of the symbolic language.

Contrary to this routine fallibility are the Bible's clear and accurate messages given by God's prophets and angels. God moreover commands that those who seek mediums should seek out God instead (see Isa. 8:19–20). When God speaks through the Scriptures, His words and messages are clear; there is no need to interpret gestures, images, or pantomime. Because angels, who are spirits, were able to speak distinctly, it is reasonable to conclude that information from God or approved by God will neither be confusing nor difficult to transmit or understand.

What If the Information Is Correct? It is true that sometimes the mediums are correct in the information they pass on. This validates for many what the mediums are doing.

How does one explain that the mediums' accurate information is not from God? The writer of Deuteronomy 13:1–3 advises us that if a "sign or wonder" comes to pass from a prophet or a "dreamer of dreams," and what they said comes true, but then that prophet or dreamer asks that we follow other gods, we are not to listen to what this person says. If the medium gives correct information but has spiritual beliefs contradictory to God's Word, then what he or she is saying cannot be from God. Browne and Van Praagh deny the biblical God, contend God is nonjudgmental and within everyone, and assert we are a part of God. Browne denies Jesus' death on the cross and the need for judgment of sin. All three believe in reincarnation, a doctrine that nullifies salvation by Christ and grace alone by teaching that one can be saved by improving spiritually and morally through the course of many earthly lives.

On a John Edward fan site at www.johnedward friends.org, fans suggest books for reading on topics, such as contacting angels, psychic development, past-life regression, and Tarot cards. The person suggesting the Tarot book notes that Edward recommends these materials in his "development tapes." In fact, on his official site, www.johnedward.net, Edward offers a tape on developing psychic powers.

Since Edward still claims his Catholic faith, could his ability to contact spirits, or a similar ability from someone claiming to be a Christian, be a gift from God? The apostle James states God gives only "good and perfect" gifts (James 1:17). God would not give someone a special skill that He Himself condemns. Even if the information is correct, it cannot be from God, since the mediums are engaged in a practice God has forbidden and they espouse beliefs that conflict with God's Word.


How can mediums pass on what seems to be accurate information? Skeptics who have assessed mediums and replicated what they do have concluded that mediums are doing tricks and fishing for information.67 Some say Edward and other mediums are practicing a technique known as "cold reading," in which initials or numbers are tossed out to the audience until someone eventually responds to them.68 Skeptics also point out that people notice the hits more than the misses, even though the misses outweigh the hits. Believers in mediums are convinced by the hits, which often seem to be enough for them.

The issue is often framed in terms of "either-or." Either the mediums are frauds or they are receiving information from spirits; but must it be one or the other?

What Edward, Browne, and Van Praagh describe about their experiences is similar to what I experienced as an astrologer and student of psychic techniques. When reading astrological charts, I did on occasion receive startlingly accurate information that seemed to be fed into my mind. I usually went into an altered state of consciousness69 and felt a beam of energy connect me to the chart (not the client). I also did many charts for clients who were not physically present, ruling out the possibility of reading body language or being led by the client. If I was able to come up with accurate information without practicing the techniques described by the skeptics, is it not possible the same thing is happening to the mediums?

Due to their spiritual beliefs, meditative practices, and training as psychics, the mediums may be opening themselves up to information from somewhere. If it is not the dead, then who is giving information when it is specific and correct? According to 2 Corinthians 11:14, Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. It seems possible that demons can disguise themselves as the dead and relay information that seems correct.

Even if skeptics are convinced that mediums are using tricks, is it necessary to use this accusation when we have God's Word forbidding this practice and when there exists the possibility of demonic sources? Skeptical debunking tends to alienate and does not convince the mediums' followers. It can also smack of smugness or condescension. The debunkers may convince doubters and people who deny the supernatural, but their exposιs have seemingly not decreased the numbers of those who continue to seek out mediums.

Instead of trying to label all mediums as frauds, why not consider that what is happening results from a combination of factors: coincidence, good guessing, the mediums' imaginations, generalities, demonic sources, and the client's belief and interpretations to fit the situation? If mediums are truly trying to contact the dead, is it not possible they are contacting demonic spirits in some cases?

Debunking the mediums could backfire if the debunking seems hostile; a better response might be to speak to the issue of why people are seeking to contact the dead and offer the comfort and peace found through knowing Jesus Christ as Savior. Jesus, the One who died on the cross to pay for our sins and rose on the third day, is the only One who has truly come back from the dead to give us a message. Let us offer a positive message and proclaim Him. As Christ said, "I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."70


1. Bill Hendrick, "Higher Communication," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 31 October 2001, sect. C; Greg Barrett, "Can the Living Talk to the Dead?" USA Today, 20 June 2001, sect. D.

2. Brian Lowry, "A Medium to Channel the Dead," Los Angeles Times, 15 August 2001, sect. F.

3. Ruth La Ferla, "A Voice from the Other Side," New York Times on the Web, 29 October 2000 (http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/29/living/29 DEAD.html).

4. Most psychics do not normally try to contact dead people.

5. La Ferla.

6. James Van Praagh, Talking to Heaven: A Medium's Message of Life after Death (New York: Signet, 1997), 51.

7. Ibid., 54.

8. John Edward, One Last Time (New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1999), xiv.

9. Terry Morrow, "Media Medium Tunes to Departed," Washington Times, 20 August 2001 (http://aasp.washtimes.com/printarticle.asp?action= print&ArticleID=2001820-526642.

10. Sylvia Browne with Lindsay Harrison, The Other Side and Back (New York: Signet, 2000), 191.

11. Chris Ballard, "John Edward Is the Oprah of the Other Side," New York Times on the Web, 29 July 2001, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/29/magazine/29PSYCHIC.html?searchpv=day0.

12. Edward, xiii, 5–6, 12.

13. Ibid., 5.

14. Ibid., 8.

15. Ibid., 10–12.

16. Ibid., 13–15.

17. Ibid., 15–16.

18. Ibid., 24.

19. Ibid., 25–26. I was introduced to my spirit guide in a guided visualization in the mid-1970s. This is a technique whereby someone verbally guides a person into a meditative state through a series of images and suggestions.

20. New York Times on the Web, 29 July 2001.

21. "Psychic Raises Ratings for TV's Sci-Fi Channel," CNN.com, 31 October 2000, http://www.cnn. com/2000/SHOWBIZ/TV/10/31/john.edwards/index.html.

22. Edward, 43–45.

23. Ibid., 104.

24. Ibid., 109.

25. Ibid., 45, 107, 222.

26. Ibid., 158–59.

27. Browne, xxii.

28. Ibid., xxiii, xxv.

29. Ibid., xxiv.

30. Ibid., xxv.

31. Sylvia Browne, Journey of the Soul Series, Book 1: God, Creation, and Tools for Life (Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2000), 3.

32. Ibid., 22, 39.

33. Ibid., 185.

34. Browne, The Other Side and Back, 7, 13, 203; Browne, God, Creation, and Tools for Life, 7, 81.

35. Browne, The Other Side and Back, 181; Browne, God, Creation, and Tools for Life, 21, 150.

36. Browne, God, Creation, and Tools for Life, 4.

37. Ibid., 50, 74.

38. Ibid., 6–8.

39. Ibid., 9–10, 18–19, 22.

40. Ibid., 20, 41.

41. Ibid., 13, 19.

42. Ibid., 15.

43. Browne, The Other Side and Back, 64.

44. Ibid., 3; Browne, God, Creation, and Tools for Life, 119.

45. Browne, The Other Side and Back, 4–5.

46. Ibid., 8–9, 216.

47. Van Praagh, 4–5.

48. James Van Praagh, Reaching to Heaven (New York: Signet/New American Library, 1999), 26.

49. Van Praagh, Talking to Heaven, 8–9.

50. Ibid., 9–10.

51. Ibid., 29–30.

52. Ibid., 33.

53. Ibid., 34–37, 243.

54. Ibid., 41.

55. Ibid., 42.

56. Ibid., 43.

57. Van Praagh, Reaching to Heaven, 51–52, 92–93.

58. Van Praagh, Talking to Heaven, 40, 54–55.

59. Ibid., 55–56.

60. Divination, often called fortunetelling, involves seeking information through an occult method or reading hidden meanings in the natural world. Divination includes palm reading, numerology, astrology, card reading, the I-Ching, and Rune Stones.

61. Tim Goodman, "Medium's Well-Done Show Wins over Some Skeptics, Chats with the Dead Make Compelling TV," San Francisco Chronicle, 23 January 2001 (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/ article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2001/01/23/DD26094.DTL); Browne, The Other Side and Back, xxiii, 58, 209; Van Praagh, Reaching to Heaven, 39.

62. Browne, The Other Side and Back, 58.

63. Edward, 43–52.

64. The concept of moving to a higher vibration as part of spiritual unfoldment was a part of New Age teachings I received. This is described in James Redfield's best-selling novel, The Celestine Prophecy (Warner, 1993).

65. Goodman.

66. Browne, The Other Side and Back, 166.

67. Michael Shermer, "Deconstructing the Dead: Cross Over One Last Time to Expose Medium John Edward," http://www.skeptic.com/news worthy13.html; also see information on James Van Praagh at http://www.skepdic.com/vanpraagh.html.

68. La Ferla. When I was an astrologer, we used the term "cold reading" to mean reading a chart without preparation; it had nothing to do with tricking people.

69. This happened spontaneously, perhaps due to my many years of Eastern meditation.

70. Revelation 1:17–18.

Dominionism: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.


The future we must stop!

Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us

Are you one of millions of people in this country and around the world who are alarmed about the rise of extreme reactionary religious fundamentalism in America? Angry at the growing attacks on the separation of church and state? Or weirded out when you see one of your relatives reading yet another one of the "Left Behind" novels, which have sold 60 million copies? You may get chills when you hear Bush's supporters say he was "sent by God." You hear some right-wing pastors talking about "reclaiming America for Jesus Christ" or bringing "the rule and reign of the cross to America," and it makes your skin crawl1. You have a creeping sense that the society these reactionary leaders would bring about would be horrible. But what you probably don't know is just how bad it would be - and what this has to do with Dominionism.

Don't know what Dominionism is? You're not alone. Very few people have heard of this brand of theology - let alone know what its program would represent if carried out, or how influential its doctrines and mandates are within the Bush administration and the Republican Party.

Dominionism2 is a doctrine which demands the total remaking of society to conform with the laws of the Old Testament of the Bible, and it states that the second coming of Jesus Christ will never occur until "God's kingdom" is established on earth and reigns for either a thousand years or an unknown time period. They contend that all of the laws of the Old Testament, unless specifically revoked later in the Bible, are still valid and they want to literally replace the U.S. Constitution and legal system with the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic laws of the Bible. If you have read Bob Avakian's writings on religion, or the Revolution series "God the Original Fascist," you know what this would mean:

If you don't follow the Christian faith, or if you ever leave it (we're talking millions of people in the U.S. alone) you'd be punished by death. Same thing for anyone who commits theft, who blasphemes (says "goddamn it"), or who commits heresy (says god does not exist). Frederick Clarkson, who wrote the book Eternal Hostilities: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, points out that "anyone responsible for abortion" (meaning women and abortion providers) would be given the death penalty as well.

For those who think this sounds too alarmist, consider anti-abortion activist Nellie Gray at the recent anti-abortion March for Life in Washington (which received a telephone message of support from Bush). She was quoted in the New York Times calling for Nurembrg-style trials of "feminist abortionists" -- doctors who provide abortions. And note that the actual Nurembrg trials, of former Nazi war criminals and mass murderers, resulted in executions.

Here's another Mosaic law: Leviticus 20:13.... "If a man lie with a man, as he would with a woman, they both commit abomination: they shall be put to death." Dominionist Gary DeMar told John Sugg of Mother Jones magazine that he was considered "liberal" among his cohorts because he only supported the death penalty for those who were actually caught engaging in "homosexual acts." And if the Dominionists made the laws, anyone who practices witchcraft or astrology, children who disobey their parents, women who commit adultery, and rape victims who don't resist sufficiently would all be executed.

Dominionists would nearly dismantle government, and establish the family as the basic governing unit of society - a family that would be mandated by god to unchallenged rule by the father. The role of the government would be limited to building roads and raising funds for armies carrying out sanctified battles.

You may be thinking, "Okay, so these guys are seriously lunatics, but there's no way they could gain enough influence or power to actually carry this out." But consider how many of its leaders or open proponents are well-connected to the Bush administration. Leaders who espouse Dominionist doctrines include former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice and a likely candidate for governor, Roy Moore, who installed a 5,200-pound engraved granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the judicial building of the state capital. There is the "Left Behind" author Tim LaHaye, whose wife heads up the Christian Fascist group Concerned Women for America. Pat Robertson, a powerful televangelist with a strong influence in the Republican Party, who is frequently asked to serve as a "religious commentator" by mainstream channels like CNN. D. James Kennedy, who hosts a yearly "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference that brings together nearly every major Christian fascist leader and many powerful Republican Party leaders (this year's conference will feature Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee). Dominionist Jack Hayford gave the benediction at George W. Bush's first presidential inauguration.

This Dominionist trend has been promoted and built up with major assistance from powerful ruling class forces. For example, two major contributors to the [Dominionist think tank] Chalcedon Foundation are Howard Ahmanson and Nelson Bunker Hunt - who are big monopoly capitalists and whose families played key roles in financing electronic voting machine manufacturer Election Systems & Software.

Dominionists call for reinstating slavery, which is upheld throughout the Old Testament, most notably in the Ten Commandments. Slavery is openly defended by Dominionist writers such as David Chilton: "Heathen slaves ... were actually favored by [slavery], since it placed them in contact with believers. They received the relatively lenient treatment of the biblical slavery regulations, and they were also able to hear the liberating message of the gospel."3

Dominionism, like many fundamentalist denominations of Christianity, holds that every word in the Bible is the literal, unerring word of god. But unlike more "typical" Christian fundamentalism, it opposes the idea that Christians should stay out of politics, and explicitly mandates that they work to bring about a theocracy. Dominionism calls for Christians to take literally Genesis 1:26: "... let man have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." D. James Kennedy sums up their calling:

"As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government ... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society." (quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, March 16, 2005)

These are the people giving benedictions at presidential functions and breaking bread with U.S. Senators. They must be stopped - and they can be.


1. These quotes are from, in order, U.S. Army General William Boykin, megachurch pastor D. James Kennedy, and Bishop Harry Jackson. Kennedy is not a marginal political player; his Center for Christian Statesmanship hosts prayer sessions with Congress members and boasts that it has "41 members in the House and nine in the Senate".

2."Dominionism" is not a universally accepted term; most of its followers avoid the term. Some prefer the term "Christian Reconstructionism." Some writers on the subject classify Dominionism as a particularly influential branch of Christian Reconstructionism.

3. Dominionists use Black pastors, such as Harry Jackson, quoted above, to pull in Black people to what is a pro-slavery, white supremacist movement. Key Dominionist writers, such as RJ Rushdoony and Gary North, openly proclaim white supremacy, and Dominionists such as Tony Perkins and Roy Moore have ties to white supremacist groups and leaders in Louisiana and Alabama, respectively.

Silicon Valley cheers Bush's research plan


Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Washington -- President Bush's $50 billion, 10-year plan to re-energize basic research to compete with China and India has received raves from Silicon Valley and rare praise and promises of cooperation from Democrats.

"Democrats agree," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, two words seldom heard in the Capitol.

If the money materializes -- and many are skeptical about that -- it could prove a boon to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and leading universities such as the University of California and Stanford. Bush proposed in his State of the Union address Tuesday to double funding for three core research agencies: the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Combined with smaller but significant efforts to improve math and science education, the administration's "American Competitiveness Initiative'' mirrors two bipartisan Senate bills and the "innovation agenda" Pelosi issued in November on behalf of House Democrats.

"I think this really hits the sweet spot for what we had hoped they would do," said Rhett Dawson, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group.

Bush's plan is a response to a series of increasingly strident warnings by business and academic groups that reached a crescendo in October when the prestigious National Academy of Sciences released its report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm."

The 500-page study addressed deep anxieties of workers and business executives looking with alarm at Asia's muscular new economic competitors.

"We are worried about the future prosperity of the United States," the report said. "We fear the abruptness with which a lead in science and technology can be lost. ... This nation must prepare with great urgency to preserve its strategic and economic security."

Critics say the executive branch has neglected technology policy since the tech boom ended in 2000, shortly before Bush took office. Although former and current White House officials sharply dispute that, Bush's "old economy" ties to the oil industry and his infrequent mentions of high-tech contrasted sharply with former President Bill Clinton's assiduous courtship of the tech industry.

Former Bush officials concede that 2001 terrorist attacks and the Iraq war pushed technology off center stage, although they maintain that work continued.

There is a wide consensus that government-funded basic research in the physical sciences is essential to spurring innovations that later migrate to commercial applications. The most famous example of this is the Internet, which grew out of a Defense Department project, but others include global positioning systems, laser eye surgery and medical imaging.

Because basic scientific research has highly uncertain outcomes and no quick payoff, even though any benefits are widely circulated, companies have little incentive to finance it. "It's a classic market failure," said Robert Shapiro, an undersecretary of commerce for Clinton.

"The problem is politicians typically believe what they need to say is, 'We're going to support the development of this technology or that technology, because it's identifiable to the public,' " Shapiro said. "What you really want, and what has been really underfunded, is the most basic research, which are the things that eventually lead to nanotechnology and supercomputers."

Congress has lavished money on basic research in the health sciences, but money for the physical sciences has been scarce for a long time.

"It didn't start with this administration," said Barry Toiv, spokesman for the American Association of Universities and a Clinton administration official. "It goes back 20 or 30 years. The growth has been very slow and frequently just flat. It's a long-term problem."

The Bush administration, for its part, has funneled most of the government's research budget into defense and homeland security, as well as health sciences. Congress, under Republican control, has expanded the practice of earmarking funds for members' favorite projects, taking the money from peer-reviewed projects.

But the issue has gelled now in Washington because "people are realizing what is going on, particularly in China as well as India," said Al Teich, director of science policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"The Chinese have come from nowhere and now have a significant share the world's research and development, and they keep increasing their spending. They have been producing an increasing number of scientists and engineers, and raising the quality of their domestic educational institutions, so the people they're turning out are getting better. You can't dismiss that anymore. That's gotten people's attention."

Bush's proposal also calls for adding 70,000 math and science teachers and improving grade school and high school curricula.

Two bipartisan Senate plans covering the same general ground, one by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M, and another by Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., have been introduced.

Democrats who support Bush's idea are skeptical that he will carry through on it but are happy he made it.

"If they do it, that's a good thing," Shapiro said, "It would be a new thing for them." Shapiro speculated that the administration has been reading public polling showing widespread economic anxiety, fed in part by worry about globalization, which he said Bush has not seemed attuned to.

"I would have proposed more innovative initiatives, but given our benchmark, which was zero, I think we've got to give him credit for raising the issue and putting some concrete proposals on the table," said Rob Atkinson, director of the New Economy Project at the centrist Democratic Progressive Policy Institute.

It is one thing, however, to propose a White House initiative and another to pay for it, especially for 10 years. Bush faces high chronic deficits and rising budget demands from entitlement programs such as Medicare, and he wants to make his first-term tax cuts permanent. Congress must appropriate the money and avoid earmarking the funds.

E-mail Carolyn Lochhead at clochhead@sfchronicle.com.

Behind Bush's New Stress on Science, Lobbying by Republican Executives


By JOHN MARKOFF Published: February 2, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 1 — President Bush's proposal to accelerate spending on basic scientific research came after technology industry executives made the case for such a move in a series of meetings with White House officials, executives involved said Wednesday.

In his State of the Union message Tuesday evening, Mr. Bush called for a doubling within 10 years of the federal commitment to "the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences."

The president's science adviser, John H. Marburger III, said Mr. Bush would request $910 million for the first year of the research initiative, with a commitment to spending $50 billion over 10 years.

Computer scientists have expressed alarm that federal support for basic research is being eroded by shifts toward applied research and shorter-term financing. But in his speech, Mr. Bush pointed to work in supercomputing, nanotechnology and alternative energy sources — subjects that were favorites in the Clinton administration but had not been priorities for the current White House.

What was different this year, according to a number of Capitol Hill lobbyists and Silicon Valley executives, was support on the issue by Republican corporate executives like Craig R. Barrett, the chairman of Intel, and John Chambers, the chief executive of Cisco Systems.

Industry officials eager to see a greater government commitment to research held a series of discussions with administration officials late last year that culminated in two meetings in the Old Executive Office Building on Dec. 13.

There, a group led by Mr. Barrett and Norman R. Augustine, a former Lockheed Martin chief executive, met with Vice President Dick Cheney. A second group headed by Charles M. Vest, the former president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, met with Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The industry and science leaders told the officials that the administration needed to respond to concerns laid out in a report by a National Academy of Sciences panel headed by Mr. Augustine. It warned of a rapid erosion in science, technology and education that threatened American economic competitiveness.

The report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future," has been circulating in draft form since October. It was put together by a group of top technology and science leaders, who say the country faces a crisis that the Bush administration is ignoring.

"The gravitas of that group," Dr. Vest said, "has a lot to do with how we got as far as we did."

Still, even after the meetings, the executives and educators were not certain that the administration would respond. So President Bush's proposal on Tuesday night came as something of a surprise.

Albert H. Teich, director of science policy for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nation's largest professional organization for scientists, called Mr. Bush's proposal "a breath of fresh air."

"We haven't seen this interest in basic research from this president before," Mr. Teich said. "We in the science community have talked about the state of basic research for quite a while, with its flat or declining budgets, and we are hopeful about this initiative."

Mr. Barrett of Intel, according to people who worked with him, had grown particularly frustrated with the lack of progress on the matter.

In a speech to the National Academy of Engineering in October, in which he described the findings of the Gathering Storm report, Mr. Barrett said: "If you look at the achievement of the average 12th-grade student in math and science, which is of interest to us here, that 12th-grader in the U.S. ranks in the bottom 10 percent among their international peers. I think it is incumbent upon all of us to look at that report and help raise our voices collectively to our local officials, state officials and national officials."

The executives said that the administration had also been induced to respond by a growing bipartisan movement in Congress supporting basic research and education.

Two bills tackling this matter have recently been introduced. One is the Protect America's Competitive Edge Act, by Senators Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico; Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico; Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee; and Barbara A. Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland. A similar bill was introduced by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut. Several of the senators met with President Bush in December to encourage him to support the competitiveness legislation.

"We're excited the president has jump-started this and that it is very bipartisan," Dr. Vest said.

Now the technologists and the educators are waiting to see the specifics of the financing when the president's budget is introduced next week. The report had called for an annual 10 percent increase over the next 10 years, and several executives said they now expected a rise of 7 percent annually, putting annual spending around twice the current level in 10 years.

Peter A. Freeman, the National Science Foundation's assistant director for computer and information science and engineering, said the president's initiative would make a big difference.

"We're obviously not at liberty to say what will be in the president's budget next week," Mr. Freeman said, "but we're very hopeful based on the State of the Union address. This is a strong sign that this administration will continue to be very supportive of fundamental science and engineering."

Despite there being little detail yet with precise figures, even those who had been publicly critical of the administration were enthusiastic.

"This is really a huge deal and I'm very encouraged," said David A. Patterson, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who is president of the Association for Computing Machinery, a professional group.

At the same time, though, Mr. Patterson was concerned that the president's proposal to double funds for basic research drew little applause from the Congressional audience on Tuesday night. "It just shows the challenge we have," he said. "It wasn't obvious to the legislators."

Warren E. Leary contributed reporting from Washington for this article.

Dee: The two black holes in Intelligent Design



James H. Dee, LOCAL CONTRIBUTOR Thursday, February 02, 2006

Anyone reading this page must know that ID (Intelligent Design) is a much-disputed and assiduously marketed competitor to evolution.

Scientists in every field (and now a federal judge in the Dover, Pa., school board case) have firmly rejected the concept, as has the science adviser to President Bush. But its advocates — who seem to have among their number U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the president and Gov. Rick Perry — carry on undeterred.

One of the chief problems with ID is its arbitrary application of the non-scientific, purely subjective word "intelligent" to natural phenomena. However, if we consider, among many counter-examples, life's ruthlessly predatory and destructive aspects ("nature red in tooth and claw") — or just the oddity of nipples on men — this "intelligence" seems much less evident.

Since proponents focus on ostensibly inexplicable facts and unhesitantly invoke divine intervention, why not call it "MD" ("Miraculous Design") instead of using the misleading and blatantly anthropomorphic word "intelligent"?

Even more serious objections can be raised against ID. There are two black holes at its core — the issues of purpose and causality, which do not generally turn up in discussions on either side of the controversy.

Starting with William Paley in the early 19th century, ID proponents have argued that a watch carries unmistakable evidence of design, and they would surely agree that watches are designed to carry out a particular purpose — telling time.

But what is the purpose of a specific structural feature in bacteria, or any of the innumerable non-human life-forms on the planet? What was the purpose of the bizarre — and now extinct — Burgess Shale creatures, enthusiastically described by Stephen Jay Gould in "Wonderful Life"?

ID will be trapped in a morass of implausible and unscientific rationalizations, trying to explain why a designer did this or that, whereas evolution does not ascribe purpose to the process called "natural selection." As Gould emphasized in his final public appearance here (in February 2002), it is unscientific and self-centered to think that our species — perhaps 160,000 years old, after 3.8 billion years of mostly microscopic unicellular life — represents the goal of evolution.

The other black hole might be even worse, for it challenges the assumption, simply taken for granted in most ID theory, that the hypothetical designer is able to go from a mental concept to actual effects in the material world — i.e., that divine intervention is possible.

For centuries, theologians have insisted that God must be, among other things, non-physical and, like the soul, not observable by the empirical methods of science. How, then, does a divinity that by definition has no physical existence carry out its designs? It must be through Walt-Disney-style magical powers, as there is no other way to get from an incorporeal entity to some kind of concentrated and controllable force.

Science, however, rejects claims of magic, and modern physics has made the application of divine power to real-world objects far more difficult to imagine. In the Newtonian world, solid billiard balls simply bounce off each other. But at the atomic level (say, one-trillionth of a centimeter), the surfaces never touch each other. Rather, their gazillions of negatively-charged "electron shells" repel each other, like two strong magnets of identical polarity.

Even worse, those electron shells are abuzz with Heisenbergian uncertainty. In the aggregate, the uncertainties average out, making the feats of pool-sharks possible. But the task for a non-physical deity becomes immensely more complicated, since to intervene in the real world — whether moving mountains or triggering neurons to create inspiration — it must apply its still-unexplained force simultaneously to each one of those gazillion atoms on a time-scale of billion-billionths of a second.

This is a serious problem not just for ID but for all forms of theism. The principal scientific challenge to religion comes not from the high-order concept of evolution, but from causality, which pervades the deepest nuts-and-bolts level of atomic reality.

Pro-theists have argued, following Aristotle, that the only escape from an infinite recess of causes going backward in time is a First Cause (aka God). But anti-theists have countered that there is nothing logically impossible about such an infinity and that if everything must have a cause, then God also must have one. And it seems desperate to invoke the idea of a "Quantum God," explaining the obscure by the even-more-obscure.

So, by an engaging paradox, the medieval theological principle called Occam's Razor — which is commonly translated to mean that the simplest answer is usually the correct answer — may be turned against the philosophy from which it arose. For if physical causality is both universal and sufficient, then God himself becomes superfluous and literally impotent — and ID theory loses its designer.

Dee is a retired classics professor living in Austin.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

S.C. governor OK with intelligent design


COLUMBIA, S.C., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says he believes intelligent design should be taught in his state's public school classrooms.

In a Sunday appearance on a WIS-TV program, Sanford said there's nothing wrong with presenting students with alternatives to the theory of evolution.

"I think that it's just ... that there are real chinks in the armor of evolution being the only way we came about," Sanford said.

Intelligent design posits life on earth is too complex to be explained by evolutionary theory alone.

"The idea of there being a, you know, a little mud hole and two mosquitoes get together and the next thing you know you have a human being is completely at odds with, you know, one of the laws of thermodynamics."

But College of Charleston physics professor Bob Dukes and biology associate professor Robert Dillon Jr. criticized the governor for his statements. They told the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier there aren't "chinks in the armor of evolution," and Sanford's citation of the second law of thermodynamics was also incorrect.

© Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc.



SOUTH PARK creators TREY PARKER and MATT STONE avoided poking fun at Scientology for years because they didn't want to upset show regular ISAAC HAYES.

The outrageous animators recently took a swing at the controversial religious movement in an episode, which found humour in TOM CRUISE and his sexuality - after growing tired of being told they couldn't attack Scientology by TV executives.

Parker explains, "To be honest, what kept us from doing it before was Isaac Hayes. We knew he was a Scientologist and he's an awesome guy. We're like, 'Let's just avoid that for now.'"

But, after hearing how comedy illusionist pal PENN JILLETTE was banned from poking fun at the controversial religion on his cable show BULLS**T, Stone and Parker decided it was time to point their comedy fingers at Scientology and it's most famous convert.

Parker adds, "Finally, we just had to tell Isaac, 'Dude, we totally love working with you, and this is nothing personal, it's just we're South Park, and if we don't do this, we're belittling everything else we've ripped on.'"

31/01/2006 09:11

'Paranormal' palmist on deception charges


Mon Jan 30, 2:13 PM ET

LONDON (AFP) - A palm reader who claimed he could reunite a woman with her ex-boyfriend using paranormal phenomena denied charges of deception at an English court.

Indian palmist Naseem Mohammed, 42, allegedly obtained 8,000 pounds (11,700 euros, 14,100 dollars) from Jasuir Mahill and is charged with falsely claiming he could rekindle her relationship with her former flame by using voodoo dolls.

Chester Magistrates Court in western England heard Mohammed allegedly deceived Mahill by claiming he could break a black magic spell which caused her ex-lover to leave her.

Mohammed pleaded not guilty to seven charges of deception and one charge under the Trades Descriptions Act of recklessly making a false statement claiming he was "able to perform paranormal phenomena guaranteeing to restore the physical relationship between her and her ex-boyfriend".

His solicitor said Mohammed "vehemently denied" the charges.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Tel Aviv to try Scientology founder's drug rehab program


Last update - 11:06 30/01/2006

By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondent

The Tel Aviv municipality will soon be running a drug rehabilitation program developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Drug addicts enrolled in the program, called Narconon, spend extended periods in a sauna and receive food supplements and vitamins to increase their perspiration rate and speed up the detoxification of their bodies. The program is being financed by private donors.

Despite City Hall's enthusiasm, the Health Ministry and the Israel Antidrug Authority have not approved the program.

"In my opinion, the Tel Aviv municipality cannot start such a process without the approval of the Health Ministry and the Antidrug Authority," said authority director general Haim Messing last week.

"The patients will receive large doses of vitamins and food supplements while in the sauna to increase the excretion of toxins by the body," explained Messing. "This method has not been checked out in Israel. We are in favor of pilot programs in Israel and will follow it with an evaluation study."

A few months ago three representatives of Tel Aviv City Hall visited the United States and were impressed with the success rate of the program, which Dr. Benny Avrahami, director of the Tel Aviv Municipal Anti-Drug Authority, reported as ranging between 50 and 75 percent.

Avrahami explains that the program will be run twice a year, with 150 participating drug addicts. The patients will be treated at a special rehabilitation center on a residential basis. During their first six weeks at the center, patients will spend 40-60 minutes in a sauna three or four times a day.

Between the sauna sessions, they will participate in physical exercises in a fitness room at the center and will receive food supplements. The second stage of the program, called Criminon, involves studying a curriculum that teaches participants how to cope with various situations.

"We received a donation of $1.5 million in the U.S. to run the program," says Avrahami. "The only condition set by the American donors was that we run this specific program." Avrahami is aware that the man behind the program is the founder of Scientology, but is undeterred.

"There is nothing in the implementation of this program that indicates spiritual goals. There will be no religious messages, not even veiled ones," assures Avrahami.

Criminon, which is part of the Narconon program, has been implemented in Israel's prisons for five years. So far 60 inmates addicted to drugs have been treated through the Criminon program. An Antidrug Authority source noted that in the Prison Services case, approval was given for the program because it did not involve the physical side of the program, only the educational one.

Brigadier General Yossi Beck, the Israel Prison Authority's head of treatment and rehabilitation, highly recommends the program.

"Of the 60 men treated via the program and released from prison, only one is back behind bars for a drug-related offense," says Beck. "The program seems to have a positive effect." Beck also hastens to add that despite the connection between the program and the founder of Scientology, there are no religious or spiritual messages in the program.

"Sure, the program was developed by the founder of Scientology and Scientologists use it, but a professional theory should not be discounted because its propounder is a member of a certain religion," says Beck.

Messing, too, does not link his objection to the program with its relationship to Scientology.

"In all my conversations with various people, I have not found any connection between Scientology and saunas. We are in favor of effective methods for drug rehabilitation, on the condition that programs be adopted only after being properly researched."

Arguments in support of Intelligent Design are based on in-depth scientific knowledge


Monday, January 30th 2006

Dear Editor,

The conclusions of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement are based on scientific evidence. And as one commentator said, "the empirical evidence for design, the facts of biology and nature, cannot be changed by legal decree".

Those who disagree with the ID arguments must show where those arguments are flawed, and be able to refute what ID proponents present as supporting evidence. 'Babbling' about ID being creationism in disguise, etc., etc., is running away from the issues. Deal with the evidence presented.

One will note too, that in the Dover court case there were broad statements made about ID being a means to get religion into the schools, that it is guided by religious motives, etc. No convincing arguments were provided to counter the presentation by the ID proponents, so as to provide a sound basis for the court's judgment.

One cannot deny that ID has religious implications, mainly because of its conclusion about an intelligent designer. Understandably, religious persons will lock on to that. This does not mean, though, that ID is based on religious teachings or sacred writings. In addition, ID proponents are fully aware that the scientific data does not identify nor say precisely who or what the intelligent designer is.

Opponents of ID should not confuse it with religion. The two are distinctly different, and in no way can the religious implications of the ID theory negate the evidence supporting its case. Because the theory is scientifically based, there should be no problem with it being introduced in science classes.

There isn't enough time and space here to detail the ID arguments. Interested persons could look at the website http://intelligentdesignnetwork.org/ (also http://www.discovery. org/ and http://www.designinference.com/) where they can see that objectivity is encouraged and the influence of religion and naturalism is discouraged in the search for answers to our origins. There is genuine emphasis on the use of the Scientific Method instead. Quite often it is very important that persons examine the evidence for themselves, instead of having it relayed or presented to them by a doubtful party.

When that is done one will see that "Irreducible Complexity" in biological systems and the "design inference" are part of the scientific and technical tools often used to support the ID conclusions.

Evidence for design can also be detected when one sees evidence of anticipation, evidence of planning in advance, to deal effectively with an expected, future event. Such evidence is prevalent in nature, and they are not mere signs of "apparent design" as some contend.

Easy- to-see examples in nature are the biological mechanisms in sexual reproduction. DNA coded instructions to create germ cells with half the number of chromosomes - DNA instructions to separately construct male and female sex organs, and a womb in some cases, - all in anticipation of copulation, conception, and the production of offspring.

The needs of the new-born are also anticipated and planned for in the DNA instructions that develop breasts to produce milk of the required constituents. No 'unintentional' process could anticipate and effectively plan for such events, nor could such meticulous biological preparations be achieved by chance. No wonder that evolutionists shy away from even speculating about what evolutionary processes could introduce and develop sexual reproduction. A theory that is unable to explain what is so fundamental to life is very seriously flawed. It is time for scientific alternatives to be considered.

ID arguments are not "arguments from ignorance", nor a case of assuming design due to the lack of knowledge about a process. These are arguments based on in-depth scientific knowledge and well defined scientific tools used to detect intelligence.

"The conclusion of intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself - not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs. To a person who does not feel obliged to restrict his search to unintelligent causes, the straightforward conclusion is that many bio-chemical systems were designed."-- from Michael Behe in his book 'Darwin's Black Box'.

So was life on earth.

In a genuine search for the truth about our origins, we should follow the evidence where it leads.

Yours faithfully,

Intelligent Design Proponents Lose Battles In School Districts In Four States


January 29, 2006 David R. Mark

Science teachers in Hillsborough County, Florida, last week voted to use biology textbooks that don't mention intelligent design.

Nancy Marsh, the district's high school science supervisor, told the Tampa Tribune that teachers based their decision on which book would best meet state science standards. Science supervisors in nearby Pasco and Pinellas counties don't expect intelligent design will become an issue for them either when they choose their science textbooks next month.

It's the latest blow for supporters of the controversial belief, which argues that a higher being designed the complex universe. The belief has been championed by conservative Christian leaders as an alternative to evolutionary theory worthy of being taught in public schools. But it has been fought by supporters of separation of church and state, who see intelligent design as a thinly veiled way to teach religion in public schools.

How thinly veiled? "I believe this is the class that the Lord wanted me to teach," wrote teacher Sharon Lemburg, whose "Philosophy of Design" class was shut down by El Tejon Unified School District in California earlier this month.

The school district chose to cancel the philosophy course rather than face a lawsuit from parents. The suit was brought forth because the class relied almost exclusively on videos that presented religious theories as scientific ones, including titles such as Chemicals to Living Cells: Fantasy or Science? and Astronomy and the Bible, according to the suit. Lemburg is the wife of an Assembly of God minister.

"This sends a strong signal to school districts across the country that they cannot promote creationism or intelligent design as an alternative to evolution whether they do so in a science class or a humanities class," Ayesha N. Khan, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the Associated Press. The group had filed the suit on behalf of eleven parents.

Last month, Americans United participated in a lawsuit that blocked the Dover, Pennsylvania, school system from teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in high school biology classes. U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that school board members' true motive in approving the intelligent design policy was to promote religion.

And a federal judge recently ruled that it was unconstitutional for Cobb County, Georgia, to require the placement of stickers in biology textbooks reading: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

That decision is currently under review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

The next battlefronts are Kansas and Michigan. Can science continue to trump thinly veiled religious belief? For the sake of the public school kids, let's hope so.

First speakers in intellgent design series say Kansas standards unconstitutional


By Kristen Jarboe (Contact) Monday, January 30, 2006

In a Dover, Pa., case, a judge ruled the curriculum for intelligent design was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of church and state.

Kansas science standards also should be declared unconstitutional, said Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science.

He said the Kansas science standards expect teachers to teach intelligent design, changing the definition of science to include supernatural causation. Krebs said this violated the separation of church and state.

He spoke to more than 100 people at the Dole Institute of Politics Saturday as part of a forum called "Intelligent Design, Kansas Science Education and the Law."

Attorneys Eric Rothschild and Steve Harvey, who argued against teaching intelligent design in the classroom in the Dover, Pa., case, joined Krebs in the discussion.

Also joining them was Richard Katskee, the assistant legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He also was an adviser to Rothschild and Harvey during their case.

Rothschild said, "Kansas has been a state that's probably been dealing with this issue the longest in recent times among the states who are confronting this opposition to teach evolution. We're here partly to say Pennsylvania is with Kansas."

The Kansas State Board of Education revised science standards last year, which now include criticism of evolution in the curriculum.

Hume Feldman, associate professor of Physics and Astronomy, spoke about the series of lectures he has organized. He said the University would educate students about what he considered to be the true definition of science.

Five lectures are planned for the spring and five in the fall, but dates are not set.

"Science is being re-defined as we sit here, and I think KU should take a leading role," Feldman said.

Pedro Irigonegaray, who argued against including criticism of evolution in science curricula at the Board of Education science hearings in May, also was at the discussion.

"Anyone from Kansas who loves this state, I think, has to be thinking, 'How far are we going to let the pendulum swing?'" Irigonegaray said, "I would suggest to you that the message that we as a group are sending is not one of a legal plug. It's not one of a thread of litigation. It's more in terms of a warning saying, 'Please pay attention.' Instead of being unaware, let's become aware of what's happening and how can we make it better."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Robert Weitzel: Judges with 'activist' moniker know truer meaning of justice


By Robert Weitzel

In December 2005, Federal Judge John Jones ruled that intelligent design, the notion that life was created by a supreme being, cannot be taught in the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania because of its inherently religious nature.

Anticipating attacks from intelligent design supporters, specifically the Discovery Institute, a right-wing Christian think tank that aggressively promotes intelligent design, Judge Jones wrote, "Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge."

No sooner had Jones put down his gavel than John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, issued a prepared statement. "The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea. ... This is an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur."

But an article published on the Discovery Institute's Web site the day before the non-jury trial began that identified Jones as the presiding judge failed to excoriate him for his activism. Could it be they thought he was their advocate? After all, Judge Jones is a conservative Republican Christian appointed to the bench in 2002 by an evangelical president who believes in intelligent design.

In July 2001, then-Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court had a 5,200-pound monument of the Ten Commandments placed in the rotunda of his courthouse. At a press conference the next morning Moore proclaimed, "In order to establish justice, we must invoke the favor and guidance of Almighty God."

Judge Moore was ordered to remove the Decalogue by (you guessed it) "activist" federal and appellate court judges on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment. He refused the order, was stripped of his office of chief justice and became a hero to right-wing fundamentalists.

In a bout of "activism" pre-emption, Moore co-authored the Constitution Restoration Act, which was introduced in both houses of Congress in March 2005. If passed, this act would have prohibited federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from ruling on cases in which a public official acknowledges "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty or government."

In March 2005, Judge George Greer, an evangelical Christian, upheld a Florida law allowing Michael Schiavo to remove the feeding tube from his wife, Terri Schiavo, who had been in a persistent vegetative state since collapsing in 1989.

For his effort in upholding Florida law, Greer was branded an "activist judicial tyrant" and was deluged with death threats from fundamentalist supporters of the sanctity of life.

In an 11th-hour attempt to overrule Judge Greer's decision and circumvent Florida law, members of Congress, making political hay with the far right, passed a bill that transferred jurisdiction of the Schiavo case to federal court. President Bush interrupted one of his frequent getaways at his Texas ranch to fly to Washington and sign the bill into law. "Activist" justices on the Florida Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional.

In May 1954, "judicial tyranny" became a popular right-wing buzzword after "activist" Chief Justice Earl Warren (an Eisenhower appointee) handed down the court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education,which ended segregation in public schools. This decision was blasted as "an undemocratic intrusion by judges onto the states' powers to embody their values in their laws."

The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in his 2004 year-end Report on the Federal Judiciary: "Federal judges were severely criticized 50 years ago for their unpopular, some might say, activist decisions in the desegregation cases, but these actions are now admired in our nation's history ... "

The nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor may be less a bone to the far right and more an "intelligent design" to save a presidency. It's fairly certain that President Bush is being only half honest when he says, "I don't believe in liberal, activist judges."

Judge Alito, a strong advocate of the "unitary executive theory," believes that absolute power is vested in the "supreme being" occupying the White House. This power includes the ability to interpret and twist laws to fit a far-right agenda, torture prisoners and disregard habeas corpus rights, wiretap American citizens without a warrant and take the country to war with lies and deception - in other words, high crimes and misdemeanors.

Considering the possibility of an impeachment in his future, President Bush needs all of the advocates he can appoint. He has every right to hope the new Supreme Court with Alito's swing vote will save the office the old Supreme Court gave him.

Likewise, others can only hope that Samuel Alito will earn both the enmity of the far right and their epithet, "activist judicial tyrant."

Robert Weitzel lives in Middleton. E-mail: debraw@chorus.net

Published: January 28, 2006

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EDITORIAL - Intelligent design is logical


By Guest editorial

The Courier has opened its editorial columns to area ministers, giving each in turn an opportunity to submit a guest editorial. The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily agree with those of the Courier.

To reject the idea of God's existence as our creator is really irrational when you think about it. Most of us grow up hearing about God, as well as the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Many of us said bedtime prayers. But, once we learned the truth about the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, we began to also question God's existence. Is God also just a product of our wishful thinking? As we look at the preponderance of the evidence and our capacity for reason, we will find it very reasonable to believe in God as our creator. There are four major arguments:

•The cosmological argument says there must be a cause behind every corresponding effect. The universe is a material effect, so something must have caused the materials to come into being and be placed where they are. Where did the materials come from? That is best explained by God.

•The teleological argument says the complex nature and orderly design of our universe calls for a designer behind it. Where there is a watch that works with all of its intricacies, there had to be a watchmaker. This is also true for the universe. The probability of life originating from accident is comparable to putting all the separated pieces of a wristwatch in a bag, shaking up the watch pieces in the bag, only to reach in the bag and find a fully-assembled working wristwatch.

•The moral argument says all people have an inner conscience to help them sense the difference between right and wrong. The exact standard may vary a little from culture to culture, but generalizations can be made that transcend all cultures. God, as our moral creator, best explains this.

•The experiential argument says that people who put their faith in Christ have experienced answered prayer, God's guidance, comfort's hope and peace. Christians share how God has altered their behavior and changed their lives

These are all reasonable proofs for God's existence as our creator. As biochemists discover more and more about the complex design of life, the chances of life originating by accident become more minute.

Friend, you are not an accident. God purposefully created you and me, and He loves us in spite of our sin. God's purpose for you is to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, and honor Him by following His Word, the Bible. "God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Jesus loves you. He created you, died for you and lives again for you. Trust in Him!

This week's guest editorial writer is Pastor Scott Schaefer, Evangelical Free Church.

Curriculum proposal could spark debate over intelligent design


1/28/2006, 3:23 p.m. ET The Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — One sentence in a proposed law to establish a statewide curriculum for high schools could spark a debate over whether "intelligent design" should be taught in science classes.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Brian Palmer, R-Romeo, said it was not his intention to inject the intelligent design issue into the bill.

"That's almost humorous. I think some people like to see a bogyman," Palmer, who chairs the House Education Committee, told the Detroit Free Press for a Saturday story.

The bill would require science classes to evaluate scientific theories and use "relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and formulate arguments for and against those theories."

Educators said that one sentence in the 14-page bill could lead to a battle over whether intelligent design could be used to challenge the theory of evolution.

"We don't want this bill to be used for any other agenda," said Margaret Trimer Hartley, spokeswoman for the Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union. "We don't need to further complicate the process by bringing in the argument of intelligent design or any other battle over specific curriculum."

Intelligent design's proponents hold that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by a higher force rather than evolving from more primitive forms. Critics say it amounts to a secular repackaging of creationism, which the courts have already ruled cannot be taught in public schools.

The issue has sparked debate across the country and led to a federal court ruling last month that blocked the Dover, Pa., school system from teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in high school biology classes.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said Dover's first-in-the-nation decision in October 2004 to insert intelligent design into the science curriculum violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

Palmer's bill borrowed wording from a bill by Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, that would require schools to critically evaluate the theories of evolution and global warming.

Palmer's bill does not refer to evolution or intelligent design.

Moolenaar said Palmer's bill would leave the decision on the teaching of intelligent design up to local school boards.

Palmer said he plans to hold a Tuesday hearing on the bill. It seeks to establish high school graduation requirements to include four years of English and math classes and three years of science, as well as classes in economics, geography and U.S. history.

He said the sentence at issue is a "general reference to science."

"You're testing scientific theory," he said. "That's what science is. Anyone who argues this is not a general reference to science and scientific method, I would be pretty amazed."

Finding Faith in Evolution


Published Saturday, January 28, 2006

Religion, science academics debate the merits of creation theories at Florida Southern College.

By Cary McMullen Ledger Religion Editor

In a wide-ranging conference that covered topics as diverse as Aristotle, spindle fibers in cell division and Augustine's interpretation of Genesis, speakers at a conference at Florida Southern College on Friday explored the controversy over evolution in American society.

Their conclusions: The evidence for evolution is overwhelming; there is no conflict between belief in God and Charles Darwin's theory of evolution; and intelligent design does not qualify as science.

The conference, "Change Over Time: The Theology and Science of Evolution," was organized by the Florida Center for Science and Religion at FSC. Six speakers gave lectures on scientific theory, the scientific evidence to support evolution, the political polarization produced by the controversy and alternatives to the extremes of atheism or creationism.

About 100 people attended the conference, which was held in the Hollis Room on campus.

In twin keynote lectures, Martinez Hewlett, professor emeritus of molecular and cellular biology at the University of Arizona, and Ted Peters, professor of systematic theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif., delved into the historical and social implications of Darwin's theory.

Darwin's 1859 book, "The Origin of Species," was given various interpretations almost from the moment it was published, Hewlett said. These included justifications for atheism, eugenics and laissez-faire capitalism, all of which have been criticized over the years as contradictions of Christian belief by liberal and conservative Christians.

It is important to strip away those interpretations and stick to Darwin's theory as a scientific explanation for the way the world works, Peters said. He described a range of views of how God acts in the world, from creation by supernatural act to atheism. Peters advocated "theistic evolution" as a way to reconcile belief in God while also accepting Darwin's theory. In this view, evolution is a means by which God creates life.

"God acts in all things, even the ordinary events in nature," said Peters, who co-authored "Evolution: From Creation to New Creation" with Hewlett.

A similar view was outlined by W. Waite Willis, professor of religion at FSC. He criticized the conflict between science and religion, blaming both "famous Christian preachers" such as Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell and "prominent voices in the natural sciences" such as the late cosmologist Carl Sagan.

Christians like Falwell have adopted empirical methods to "prove" the truth of the Bible, while scientists like Sagan have rejected the Bible on the grounds that science has disproven it, Willis said. But theological truths are not based on empirical facts.

"I say, a pox on both their houses," Willis said. "Let science be science, and let theology and faith be theology and faith. They don't have to fight each other."

Willis said it is only in the past 200 years that the account of creation in Genesis has been interpreted literally. He pointed to ancient theologians such as Origen and Augustine, who favored symbolic interpretations.

Paul Croce, professor of American cultural and intellectual history at Stetson University in DeLand, said one reason for the polarization over evolution has to do with differing values about certainty and reality.

Those on the left see religion as vague and elusive while science is reliable, he said. Those on the right say that science may have some useful truths but cannot provide certainty. Each, he said, holds a particular value -- inquiry or conviction.

As to whether Darwin's theory has held up in the 147 years since it was published, Mason Meers, associate professor of evolutionary biology and anatomy at the University of Tampa, said there is no question it has.

"Every subfield of biology presents evidence for evolution, and none of it presents evidence that evolution is wrong," he said.

Meers outlined several categories of evidence he said support evolution, including the finding that genetically humans and chimpanzees are 98.7 percent identical; the similarity of body parts among different species, such as forearm bones in humans and other mammals; and the existence of fossils that provide a link between ancient and modern species.

Meers was joined in his assessment by Hewlett and Nancy Morvillo, associate professor of biology at FSC. And Hewlett and Morvillo, in separate lectures, agreed that intelligent design, which states that the complexity of biological life means it must have had a supernatural designer, does not meet the criteria for a scientific method.

Some proponents of intelligent design have argued that it should be taught in public schools as an alternative scientific theory to evolution, but a key part of the scientific method is that there must be a way to show a hypothesis is false, Morvillo said.

"Supernatural explanations cannot be falsified," she said.

Hewlett said that intelligent design offers explanations of how the world works, but since the explanations refer to a divine or supernatural cause, they cut off inquiry rather than allow for further questions, as would a scientific explanation.

Peters said religious reactions to evolution are often misunderstood. Some early fundamentalists were ardent Darwinists. And many Christian opponents of the theory actually have a high regard for science, he said, especially "scientific creationists" who claim to use scientific rather than biblical arguments to support the creation of the world in seven 24-hour days, as a literal reading of Genesis yields.

In arguing for "theistic evolution," Peters said human beings are created by God to be "co-creators" of the world, working for good.

"God gave us the capacity to be creative and to be good stewards of the world. God has given us freedom and power to do increasingly better things," he said.

Intelligent Design vis-a-vis Public Schools


by Jim Clark Jan 28, 2006

In his State of the Commonwealth speech a few days ago, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher suggested that Intelligent Design be introduced in public schools. In a recent blog, Larry Keeling, resident guru of the Knight-Ridder newspaperThe Lexington Herald-Leader, Lexington, Ky., offered this wisdom: U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III nailed it in the Dover, Pa., "intelligent design" case. Creationism by any other name still isn't science. Notwithstanding the claim of a number of respected scientists that there is ample evidence to support the Intelligent Design concept, Keeling has a point in noting the judge's statement.

Those who demand that ID be "taught" in public schools may do well to concede that in this early stage of its introduction it needs to be handled in classes that deal more with the abstract than with the tangible, i.e., that ID is more readily understood as a "belief" than as a proven concept. Since philosophy, as such, is not usually a public-school subject, and with good reason, there is little opportunity for the discussion of ID. Perhaps it could be part of the sociology/psychology/history curriculum or as part of any classes dealing with the arts - music, poetry, painting - particularly since a huge segment, probably the largest body of works in the arts, has been conceived within the context of spiritual convictions, Christian, Jewish, and otherwise. It should also be noted that the theory of evolution, which is hammered into students, provides no clue as to "how it all came about," and the student is welcome to accept it as primary or not - as a matter of belief, the same as with ID.

This is not to say that ID lacks credibility as a scientific matter. Indeed, it could be reasonably argued that evolution is a part of ID. On merit alone, Intelligent Design can stand quite solidly. From a purely practical standpoint, anyone with walking-around-sense can look at his surroundings and at least wonder about ID, perhaps even enough to make it an object of investigation, quite apart from any concept of God. Or, anyone who has sat in a physics or chemistry or physiology or botany class can hardly escape noticing the intricate design of the planet and its inhabitants, organic and otherwise. Quite aside from this is the fact that scientists held in high repute insist that ID is for real and offer cogent arguments proving it. While there is no argument against the theory of evolution or the fact of it - with respect to things non-human - it has never been established scientifically or otherwise that human beings have evolved from a lower form of life. The "AHA! GOTCHA!" pronouncements that routinely come from the anthropologists who claim to be getting closer to it never eventuate in noting the discovery of that elusive "missing link" that is vital to connecting the long-tailed apes that can eat tree-bark quite well, thank you, with the no-tailed homo sapiens, who gag upon a bit of grass (even spinach).

Actually, no one who has ever lived - or who has bothered to remark it, in any case - has had a clue as to the actual science or method of the beginnings of things. The "Big Bangers" are silent now, since the Big Bang theory just doesn't cut it. Neither does any other. For the believer in the God of the Holy Scriptures, there is good reason that no one will ever discover the beginnings, namely that to do so would equate a mere human with God. Such a person could create his/her own universe, a possibility too remote even to reflect upon. For the atheist, there's no problem, since he/she is interested only in the "scientific process," if any at all, a process that can titillate at best, but never deliver the eternal answer.

Those who rail against even a slight mention of Intelligent Design being made in public schools on the basis of its religious overtones would do well to remember that ID, in and of itself, need not respect or even remark God or the god(s) of any faith (or non-faith) group. This fact should remove the 1st Amendment fear of those who claim ID is merely Creationism warmed over, assuming Creationism to be irrevocably connected to the God of the Bible. There need be no allusion to the initiator of Intelligent Design. There need only be an investigation of the "how" and "when" of the planet, perhaps, with absolutely no conclusions as to the "who" or "what," with respect to whatever force, if any, has been responsible for the world, its components, and even the entire universe(s). In other words, there need be only the suggestion that students examine the evidence available and then make up their minds, if so inclined, as to whatever force has been at work.

Those who inveigh loudly against ID on the basis that it promotes religion do so, at least in part, because the treasured concept of evolution simply has not come up with any definitive answers for the presence of mankind in this world or even the location, time, nature, or anything else definitive about the "first things." Indeed, the theory (and it's just a theory) contains no explanation for the "beginnings," not even that first one-cell amoeba allegedly scrambling out of the mire, if there was such a thing or if there was such a mire, to evolve into whatever into whatever into whatever, ad infinitum. Each new "discovery" only points to incomprehensible billions of other forms of matter, which in the next gazillions of years will point to other forms. Will anyone ever discover the actual nature of the beginnings? It's hard now to believe that will happen, but the jury is out; however, ALL theories should be presented in some form during the educational process, no matter how reasonable-seeming or how silly.

In this corner, the initiator of everything is believed to be God of the Holy Scriptures, but no pretense is offered as to knowing how the Creation or any part of it came into being or when or where or how or why. Ancillary to this belief is that there is life after death provided for by the Creator - God Almighty. The answers will come then, and that is enough. However, those in any other corner are welcome to both their scientific evidence and/or their abstract beliefs, including that there is no God or life after death. The point: If any theory is to be handled in schools, all theories should be presented.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Class over: Anti-evolution forces lose another round


Inside the First Amendment CHARLES C. HAYNES

Have Darwin's foes become their own worst enemy?

Consider the school board in the El Tejon Unified School District in rural California. On New Year's Day they approved a monthlong course called "Philosophy of Design," a thinly disguised attempt to challenge evolution by promoting intelligent design and creationism.

This week — facing a lawsuit by 11 parents supported by lawyers with Americans United for Separation of Church and State — the district announced it would end the course early and never offer it again.

This latest setback for opponents of evolution comes less than a month after a federal judge in Pennsylvania struck down as unconstitutional the Dover school district's inclusion of ID in the curriculum as a scientific alternative to Darwin's theory. Although proponents insist that intelligent design is not religiously based (ID holds that the complexity of life points to design by an intelligent force), the judge ruled that it is.

In the wake of the Dover defeat, even many supporters of ID now acknowledge that the Dover approach was a failed strategy — especially given the transparent religious purpose of the school board members who advocated the policy. Whatever one thinks about the ultimate fate of the claims for intelligent design as science, it seems clear that today's courts are unlikely to allow public schools to teach ID as a scientific alternative to evolution.

But wait. If the science classroom is closed to intelligent design and creationism (as science), why not enter school through the back door of social studies or humanities? That must have been what Sharon Lemburg was thinking. She's the special-education teacher (and wife of a local pastor) who proposed the now-abandoned "philosophy" course in the El Tejon district.

Well, why not? After all, social studies classes in public schools deal with all kinds of philosophical and religious issues. Who could object to a philosophy or history course that teaches the controversy surrounding the fight over evolution? Put that way, there's nothing unconstitutional about exposing students to the history of the many-sided debate in a course that considered the philosophical, religious and scientific issues in ways that are accurate, balanced and academically sound. No advocacy group — not the American Civil Liberties Union in Dover or Americans United in El Tejon — has argued that public schools can't teach about philosophical or religious ideas or disputes in the curriculum.

In fact, a wide variety of philosophical and religious views are currently discussed in social studies classes nationwide. Moreover, some public schools have offered electives in world religions and philosophy for years without controversy. But to pass constitutional muster in a public school, a philosophy or religion course must be done right.

Unfortunately, El Tejon got it wrong. Lemburg's syllabus for "Philosophy of Design" raises so many red flags that it's hard to understand why the school board approved it — unless, of course, board members had an ulterior motive.

Start with the fact that the teacher has no training or certification in the teaching of religion, philosophy or science. Guest speakers slated to appear were all advocates of ID. (Two evolutionists were on a list to be invited: One said he opposed the course; the other died in 2004). With one exception, the long list of videos to be shown in class advocated ID or creationism. Since the teacher has no academic preparation in the topics covered, students wouldn't get any critical analysis of these presentations. Viewing one-sided videos in an intellectual vacuum is propaganda, not education.

Getting it right takes work. There's plenty of material to choose from: Arguments for design have a long history in theology and philosophy. All of the world's religions have something to say about human origins. And philosophy of science is a major field of study with a broad range of thinkers for students to consider. Readings from any or all of these sources could form the basis for an outstanding course of study. But to be constitutional, such a course must include a variety of perspectives presented in an objective manner by a qualified teacher.

Apparently, school officials in El Tejon weren't worried about messy little details like academic rigor or the First Amendment. According to the complaint filed by the parents, the superintendent informed the school board that the district's lawyers "had told him that as long as the course was called 'philosophy,' the district could, if it wanted, even present an unbalanced class entirely about intelligent design."

Bad advice. Labeling a course "philosophy" doesn't relieve the district from presenting material objectively — using the best scholarship and assigning age-appropriate readings representing a range of views.

What's especially sad about these misguided efforts is how much they hurt education. In the best of all possible schools, students would be engaged in learning something about the history and philosophy of science, the ongoing dialogue between religion and science, and what religions have to say about creation and human origins. But that's not likely to happen as long as school officials in places like Dover and El Tejon put their opposition to evolution above what's best for the kids.

Contact: chaynes@freedomforum.org

Originally published January 26, 2006

New entry for SKEPTIC Bibliography


The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult
Clιment Chιroux, Andreas Fischer, Pierre Apraxine, Denis Canguilhem, and Sophie Schmit


2005, Yale University Press; 288p., illustrations fraud, occult:history, psi:history

The contributors show how 19th century photography documented spooks, auras, life forces, levitations, and more. This is a big book, a documentation of a recent exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, with hundreds of photographs. Looking through the pictures, it is fairly easy to see that not one demonstrates in an incontrovertible way that something supernatural was happening, but the photos are genuinely spooky and strange, and more than a bit silly. Though the book purports to be merely a historic documentation of a particular facet of photography without taking sides on veracity of the depicted phenomena, the essays that accompany the pictures cannot help but take the controversy into account. This is in part because the photographs were controversial in their time, and historic accounts of them cannot omit that there were lawsuits against frauds as well as apostate spiritualist photographers who afterwards made their living exposing tricks rather than performing them. The pictures are a documentation of the will to believe.

[ Reviewed by Rob Hardy, robhardy@earthlink.net ]

Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/
Please consider submitting an entry yourself.

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

Evolution education update: January 27, 2006

NCSE was recently featured in the New York Times Book Review, Harper's, and Scientific American. Meanwhile, on the legislative front, there are new antievolution bills in Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, and Utah's antievolution bill was approved by the state senate.


NCSE was featured in three major publications -- The New York Times Book Review, Harper's, and Scientific American -- now on newsstands.

First, NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction was highly praised by Judith Shulevitz in her essay "When Cosmologies Collide" (The New York Times Book Review, January 22, 2006). Shulevitz writes, "Scott could be said to be the one really doing God's work as she patiently rebuts people who make most other scientists spit gaskets like short-circuiting robots. Her book is both a straightforward history of the debate and an anthology of essays written by partisans on each side. Its main virtue is to explain the scientific method, which many invoke but few describe vividly. Scott also manages to lay out the astronomical, chemical, geological and biological bases of evolutionary theory in unusually plain English. ... Scott also walks us through the legal history of American creationism -- the court rulings that forced anti-evolutionists to adapt to their increasingly secular environment by adopting scientific jargon." She adds, "Anyone who wants to defend evolution at his next church picnic should arm himself with this book." Also receiving praise in "When Cosmologies Collide" was NCSE Supporter Michael Ruse's The Evolution-Creation Struggle.

Second, NCSE's Nick Matzke was described in Matthew Chapman's "God or Gorilla: A Darwin descendant at the Dover Monkey Trial" (Harper's, February 2006) as "lending intellectual heft" and "provid[ing] the science" for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover. In his lively, often acid, essay, Chapman -- a great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin -- expressed admiration of a number of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, including Eric Rothschild (who, Chapman reports, received "an Internet proposal of marriage" from a fan during the trial) and Stephen Harvey of Pepper Hamilton LLP, Richard Katskee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Vic Walczak of the ACLU of Pennsylvania (whom Chapman describes as having "the weary but pugnacious demeanor of a man who had devoted his life, for little pay, to defending the Constitution"). Chapman was also impressed with the testimony of Ken Miller and Robert Pennock ("too full of gusto to be stopped"), and with NCSE member Burt Humburg's defense of evolution at a public showing of a young-earth creationist video at the Dover firehouse.

Third, NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott was profiled by Steve Mirsky (Scientific American, February 2006), who described her as "the country's foremost defender of evolution education." "Her current career bears strong similarities to an academic one," Mirsky writes, quoting Scott as explaining, "I'm still teaching. I'm just teaching on a radio show, or I'm teaching a reporter the details. A lot of the same skills I had as a college professor are involved -- taking complicated ideas and bringing them to the level so that whoever you're talking to can understand." "Being a happy warrior is both natural to Scott and probably the best way for her and her side to harness support," Mirsky adds. Sean Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, told Mirsky, "To me, her most impressive accomplishments are the coalitions she has knit together in support of science education." The article ends with the confident prediction, in light of the Kansas Board of Education's adoption of a set of science standards in which evolution is systematically disparaged, "Scott, it seems clear, won't be out of a job anytime soon."

For "When Cosmologies Collide," visit:

For information about Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, visit:

For Steve Mirsky's profile of Eugenie C. Scott, visit:


On January 10, 2005, two identical bills -- House Bill 106 and Senate Bill 45 -- were introduced in the Alabama legislature, under the rubric of "The Academic Freedom Act," and referred to the Committees on Education of their respective chambers. These identical bills purport to protect the right of teachers to "present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views in any curricula or course of learning" and the right of students not to be "penalized in any way because he or she may subscribe to a particular position on any views." In language reminiscent of the Santorum language removed from the No Child Left Behind Act, they specify that "[t]he rights and privileges contained in this act apply when topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological or chemical origins." Presumably attempting to avert the charge that their provisions would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the bills also provide, "[N]othing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or non-religion."

HB 106 and SB 45 resemble previous antievolution bills -- three bills introduced in 2005 (HB 352, SB 240, and HB 716) and two bills introduced in 2004 (HB 391 and SB 336) -- all of which failed. SB 45's sponsor, Senator Wendell Mitchell (D-District 30), was a cosponsor of SB 240 and SB 336, of which he reportedly said, "I think there is a tremendous ill-balance in the classroom when you can't discuss all viewpoints. This bill will level the playing field because it allows a teacher to bring forward the biblical creation story of humankind" (Montgomery Advertiser, February 18, 2004). HB 106's sponsor, Representative Scott Beason (R-District 51), was the sole sponsor of HB 716. A novelty in HB 106 and SB 45 is section 7, providing, "Nothing in this act shall be construed as protecting as scientific any view that lacks published empirical or observational support or that has been soundly refuted by empirical or observational science in published scientific debate. Likewise, the protection provided by this act shall not be restricted by any metaphysical or religious implications of a view, so long as the views are defensible from and justified by empirical science and observation of the natural world."

For the text of HB 106 and SB 45, visit:

For NCSE's stories about previous bills in Alabama, visit:


Senate Bill 2427, introduced in the Mississippi Senate and referred to the Committee on Education on January 10, 2005, would, if enacted, ensure that "[n]o local school board, school superintendent or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing and answering questions from individual students on the issue of flaws or problems which may exist in Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution and the existence of other theories of evolution, including, but not limited to, the Intelligent Design explanation of the origin of life." The chief sponsor of SB 2427 is Senator Charles Edwin Ross (R-District 20); its cosponsors are Senators Patrick Alan Nunnelee (R-District 6) and William Gardner Hewes III (R-District 49.)

House Bill 953, introduced in the Mississippi House of Representatives and referred to the Committee on Education on January 16, 2005, would, if enacted, enable Mississippi school boards "[t]o authorize the teaching of 'creationism' or 'intelligent design' in the public schools." Moreover, "[i]f the school's curriculum requires the teaching of evolution, then the teaching of 'creationism' or 'intelligent design' shall be required." The chief sponsor of HB 953 is Representative Mike Lott (R-District 104); the cosponsors are Representatives Virginia Carlton (R-District 100), John L. Moore (R-District 60), Gary V. Staples (R-District 88), and Carmel Wells-Smith (R-District 111). Wells-Smith introduced antievolution legislation in previous legislative sessions: HB 888 and 1101 in 2002, HB 1397 in 2003, and HB 1288 in 2004. All of these bills died in committee.

For the text of SB 2427 and HB 953, visit:

For NCSE's stories about previous bills in Mississippi, visit:


Senate Bill 1959, introduced by Senator Daisy Lawler (D-District 24), is the third antievolution bill to be introduced in the Oklahoma legislature in 2006. If enacted, SB 1959 would provide:

A. Every teacher in a public school in this state shall be authorized to present information and allow classroom discussions that provide for views that may pertain to the full range of scientific views in any science course. B. No public school teacher in this state shall be terminated, disciplined, or otherwise discriminated against for presenting scientific information authorized pursuant to subsection A of this section. C. Nothing in this act shall be construed as requiring or encouraging any change in the state curriculum standards for public schools. D. Nothing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.

Like its predecessors, House Bills 2107 and 2526, SB 1959 will presumably be considered after the legislature convenes on February 6, 2006.

While evolution is not mentioned in the text of SB 1959, the phrase "the full range of scientific views" presumably originates in the so-called Santorum language removed from the No Child Left Behind Act. Moreover, Sections A and B resemble sections A and B of HB 2107, section C is identical to the second half of section D of HB 2107, and section D is identical to section E of HB 2107. Unlike HB 2107, however, SB 1959 is silent about "academic freedom," Edwards v. Aguillard, and "topics ... that may generate controversy, such as biological or chemical origins of life."

For the text of SB 1959 (RTF), visit:

For NCSE's stories about previous bills in Oklahoma, visit:


Utah's Senate Bill 96, sponsored by Senator Chris Buttars (R-District 10), was passed by the Senate on January 23, 2006, by a 16-12 vote. If enacted, SB 96 would direct the Utah state board of education to require "that [if] instruction [is given] to students on any theory regarding the origins of life, or the origins or present state of the human race, [then that instruction] shall stress that not all scientists agree on which theory is correct" and to "ensure that all policies and positions of the State Board of Education relating to theories regarding the origins of life or the origins or present state of the human race: (i) do not endorse a particular theory; and (ii) stress that not all scientists agree on which [scientific] theory is correct." (The bracketed phrases were added by a floor amendment during the Senate's debate.) The bill was subsequently introduced in the House of Representatives on January 24.

The Salt Lake Tribune (January 21, 2006) reported although Buttars attempted to eliminate any possibility that SB 96 might allow religious advocacy in the classroom, "religion is the reason he proposed the bill and religion drove most of the debate," adding, "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." Senate Majority Leader Peter Knudson (R-District 17) was reported to have objected to comments by Buttars the opposition to the bill is driven by "secularists and atheists" and to have explained that it is possible for religious people to accept evolution. "I will tell you that is not the spirit by which we should be debating this legislation," Knudson said.

In its January 24, 2006, editorial "Not fit to survive: A bad bill was made even worse", the Salt Lake Tribune objected especially to the addition of "scientific" in the bill, writing, " By adding the word 'scientific' at critical points, the bill stopped saying that there were other ideas about the origins and development of life on Earth and started saying that there were other 'scientific' ways of explaining those things. There are not. There are religious, philosophical and mythical alternatives to evolution, none of them in conflict with scientific thinking unless someone is stubborn enough to demand a fight to the death where none need exist." And the Provo Daily Herald (January 24, 2006) commented, "Buttars and his Senate colleagues want to push creationism into the public school curriculum. In truth, this is an attempt to insert a state-endorsed brand of religion into secular life."

For the text of SB 96 as amended, visit:

For the Salt Lake Tribune's report, visit:

For the editorials in the Tribune and the Daily Herald, visit:


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


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

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

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