NTS LogoSkeptical News for 4 February 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Michael Ruse: Darwinist talks with Points about ID and evolution in the classroom


03:36 PM CST on Sunday, January 29, 2006

Do you think there is anything at all to the intelligent design argument from irreducible complexity?

No. I think it's "creationism lite" tarted up to look like science to get around the constitutional separation of church and state.

Leading ID theorists say that all they want to do is teach science, not philosophy or theology. Do you take them at their word?

Not really, but the point is, I just don't think you can teach ID just as science. I don't think it is science. It would be like saying, "All I want to do is look at naked women. There's nothing to do with sex about it, understand?" Yeah, right.

On the other hand, your fellow Darwinians argue that they, too, only want to teach science – but you say that there is a religious element in what many of them do. Explain.

I don't think there's any question about that. If you look at some of the popular books, like [Stephen] Gould's or the [Richard] Dawkins stuff, and Ed Wilson's On Human Nature – all of these at some level transcend the purely scientific. I do think that often evolutionists, at least in the public domain, move over past science into secular religion or secular humanism.

What is "evolutionism"?

As I've defined it, it's making a secular religion out of evolution. It's seeing evolution as having a transcendent meaning, having an upward meaning for humans – progress. I'm not saying evolutionists put on fancy dress and go up to the altar and things like that. [But] if you think of a religion as giving you a certain world perspective with moral direction, then it seems to me this is what traditional social Darwinism used to do. Get it absolutely clear: I'm not saying that people like Ed Wilson are neo-social Darwinists. But I do see something more than just science going on here.

Do you think that the Dover ruling will have settled the issue of teaching ID in public schools?

I doubt it very much. Obviously it's a big setback for the ID people. That's why I think the Discovery Institute people tried to get out of the way as soon as they could, especially because this judge was not a wimpy lefto. Besides, you live in the South. You know perfectly well that a ruling in Pennsylvania ain't gonna stop Texas.

Personally, I think the bigger threat is when these things go up to the Supreme Court. I think what's going to happen is the Supreme Court is going to start arguing that the separation of church and state doesn't have to go as far as before. Those who are prepared to overturn Roe vs. Wade are not going to stop at keeping ID out of the classroom.

What should Darwinians do to make a more persuasive case in the political struggle with ID proponents?

More scientists should get involved in this debate. There's a very strong negative force among young scientists not to get involved in the public domain. If you're trying to get tenure, you don't spend your summer fighting ID. Many people are not good at public involvement, but I'd like to see more of it.

I see evolution and creation as very much the top end of the iceberg. It's a litmus test of this whole red-blue division in America. I'd like to see the left, the Democrats or whatever we call ourselves, be more open to people's concerns. I mean, it's not helpful, and certainly not in America, when Richard Dawkins says all religion is evil. We have got to talk about moral values. We people of the left, we people of the Enlightenment, if you like, have got to start talking about broader issues. I would like to see science teaching, including the teaching of evolution, to be part of this, rather than something we isolate.

Michael Ruse, the author of "The Evolution-Creation Struggle ," teaches history and philosophy of science at Florida State University in Tallahassee. His e-mail address is mruse@mailer.fsu.edu.

Darwinist Ideologues Are on the Run


by Allan H. Ryskind Posted Jan 31, 2006

The two scariest words in the English language? Intelligent Design! That phrase tends to produce a nasty rash and night sweats among our elitist class.

Should some impressionable teenager ever hear those words from a public school teacher, we are led to believe, that student may embrace a secular heresy: that some intelligent force or energy, maybe even a god, rather than Darwinian blind chance, has been responsible for the gazillions of magnificently designed life forms that populate our privileged planet.

You don't have to be a liberal to be spooked. Two of our nation's most illustrious conservative elitists—Charles Krauthammer and George Will—have become terrified by the doubts about Darwinism. Krauthammer's argument boils down to this: ID is just a "tarted up version of creationism"—and such a "religious" view has no business entering a classroom dealing with a really holy subject such as Darwin. Even if a student is inexorably led by the science to believe that ID is a possibility, according to Krauthammer's logic, neither the student nor his teacher should be allowed to blurt out something so inappropriate in a biology class.

Missing Truth

Will has nothing but scorn for the lower human life forms who think ID should be mentioned, even if just shyly whispered, in a public school setting. When the Kansas State Board of Education decided to allow—but not require—ID discussions in science classes, Will raged that the board "is controlled by the kind of conservatives who make conservatism repulsive to temperate people." (Are these the words of a "temperate" man?) Those repugnant conservatives had the audacity to proclaim that evolution is not a fact— "But it is," Will sniffed.

Really? Well, let's just see if only dimwitted (and repulsive) conservatives think the case for Darwinian theory is weak. Literally hundreds of geneticists, biologists, paleontologists, chemists, mathematicians and other scientists—whose religious views vary from agnostic to evangelical—say the theory is not a fact. Among them: Lev. V. Beloussov and Vladimir L. Voelkov, two prominent Russian biologists from Moscow State University; Dr. Richard Sternberg, an evolutionary biologist at the Smithsonian Institution; and Dr. David Berlinski, a mathematician with post-doctoral training in molecular biology. (Berlinksi's scholarly article in the February issue of Commentary will prove an unpleasant read for evolutionists.)

The Discovery Institute recently produced a list of over 400 scientists of varying faith and non-faith—including those from such prestigious institutions as Princeton, MIT and Cornell—who signed onto a statement stressing they were "skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life."

Even many evolutionists, it seems, are uncertain that Darwinian theory is scientific fact. There is the famous story of the late Colin Patterson, who had been a senior paleontologist at the British Natural History Museum and the author of the museum's general text on evolution. Patterson gave a remarkable lecture in 1981 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City—all of it nicely retold by Tom Bethell in his book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science (Regnery—a HUMAN EVENTS sister company). A brilliant essayist and scholar, Bethell has been a long-time critic of evolution and, unlike Will, has a science degree from Oxford University.

Patterson informed his audience of mostly expert biologists that he had studied evolution for some 20 years and suddenly realized that "there was not one thing I knew about it. … So either there was something wrong with me, or there was something wrong with evolutionary theory."

Thus he decided to put this question to various groups of experts: "Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing, any one thing that you think is true? I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology seminar at the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and eventually one person said: 'I do know one thing—it ought not to be taught in high school.'" Bethell stresses that Patterson "never repudiated" his statements, though he never truly repudiated evolution either.

Irving Kristol is a prominent, brainy, Jewish social critic and the godfather of neoconservatism. He can hardly be accused of being a "literalist" when it comes to the Bible, as evolutionists so frequently try to portray their critics. In a Sept. 30, 1986, article in the New York Times, Kristol observed the following:

Though Darwin's theory on how man and animals were created "is usually taught as an established scientific fact, it is nothing of the sort. It has too many lacunae. Geological evidence does not provide us with the spectrum of intermediate species we would expect. Moreover, laboratory experiments reveal how close to impossible it is for one species to evolve into another, even allowing for selective breeding and some genetic mutation." Does anyone have the nerve to suggest Kristol is a close-minded, religious dogmatist as well?

So here's the crux of the matter: If a theory as shaky as Darwin's is a mandatory subject in the public schools, why shouldn't public school teachers be at least allowed, if not compelled, to inform their students that many reputable scientists, although still a distinct minority, believe that something else, including Intelligent Design, is worthy of some consideration?

Apple Pie

The Kansas school board that caused poor George Will to unravel did not try to impose a single view of creation on the state's public school system. The board majority is very unlike the rigid Darwinists in that regard. In November 2005, the board, by a 6-to-4 vote, drafted new scientific standards for education in the high schools. Far from eradicating the study of evolution, these "intemperate" board members made it a requirement, explaining that the new "curriculum standards call for students to learn about the best evidence for modern evolutionary theory …" But the members also called for students "to learn about areas where scientists are raising scientific criticisms of the theory."

These serious criticisms have now risen to a level where the board majority felt it would be positively remiss if those views weren't also discussed in the classrooms. Isn't this as American as apple pie? (Interestingly, Board Chairman Steve Abrams, a veterinarian, informed this writer that he set aside three days of hearings for pro-evolutionist experts, and three days for the skeptics, with each side allowed to cross-examine the other. The pro-evolutionist experts refused to testify and be questioned. The skeptics testified and faced cross-examination.)

What scares the pants off the Darwinians today is that the Bush Supreme Court may validate the Kansas-style scientific standards that have already been embraced by at least four other states. The Darwinians were deliriously happy when the High Court ruled against a Louisiana statute in 1987 requiring the state's public schools to give "balanced treatment" to "creation science" (sometimes equated with "intelligent design") and "evolution science." It amounted to imposing religion, said the court majority. But Antonin Scalia, with Chief Justice William Rehnquist in agreement, said this was nonsense. The evidence, said Scalia, was overwhelming that the law's framers were not trying to impose religion in the classrooms.

"The act's reference to 'creation' is not convincing evidence of religious purpose," said Scalia, "because the proponents and witnesses repeatedly stressed that the subject can and should be presented without religious content. We have no basis on the record to conclude that creation science need be anything other than a collection of scientific data supporting the theory that life abruptly appeared on Earth." (Emphasis added.)

Scalia, in short, blew both Krauthammer's and Will's reasoning about the teaching of "creation science" and "intelligent design" out of the water. Kansas and the other states, in truth, have done nothing more odious than attempt to permit a whiff of scientific freedom to enter the classrooms. With the High Court now about to have four justices in the Scalia mode, the Darwinist ideologues, including George Will, have a right to feel insecure.

Regnery Publishing, a HUMAN EVENTS sister company, has been in the forefront of publishing houses that have produced important books questioning evolution. Among Regnery books dealing with the topic: The Theme is Freedom, by M. Stanton Evans; Darwin on Trial, by Phillip E. Johnson; Icons of Evolution, by Jonathan Wells; The Privileged Planet, by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards; and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, by Tom Bethell.
Mr. Ryskind, HUMAN EVENTS Editor at large, is writing a book on Communism in Hollywood.

Alternative-medicine clinics in Baja have history of controversy


By Anne Cearley and Penni Crabtree
February 1, 2006

Battling advanced ovarian cancer, Coretta Scott King joined a long list of desperate people to seek out questionable alternative medical therapies south of the border in Baja California.

The 78-year-old widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was admitted Thursday to Hospital Santa Monica, an alternative cancer clinic in Rosarito Beach founded and directed by Kurt Donsbach, a former San Diego chiropractor. King died at the clinic at 1 a.m. yesterday, according to Lorena Blanco, spokeswoman with the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana.

Yolanda Denise King hugged clinic founder Kurt W. Donsbach at a San Diego funeral home yesterday.

The hospital's medical director, Humberto Seimandi, said King died of respiratory failure that was a result of medical complications. Those included a stroke and heart attack she suffered last year and the advanced ovarian cancer. One of her daughters was at her side at the time of her death.

No treatment at the clinic had been started before her death, he said.

"She had so many complications that we were actually just dealing with complications," Seimandi said.

The Tijuana area has been a mecca for alternative medicine for more than 40 years, reaching the height of its fame in 1980 after actor Steve McQueen was treated for cancer at another Rosarito Beach clinic with laetrile, a treatment made from apricot pits. McQueen died a few months after his treatment.

Donsbach has had a long and controversial career promoting treatments that many medical and health-fraud experts consider useless or unproven. His clinic's Web site touts such therapies as microwave energy for "heating" cancer cells, and anti-cancer nutritional supplements formulated by Donsbach.

Though the clinic's Web site refers to Donsbach as "Dr." and says he has "successfully treated thousands of critically ill patients," it fails to mention that Donsbach has no medical degree. Nor does the Web site cite Donsbach's conviction in 1996 for federal tax evasion and smuggling illegal medicines across the border.

Dr. Stephen Barrett, director of Quackwatch , a nonprofit group that combats medical fraud, said the U.S. government should pressure Mexico to "clean up the Tijuana 'alternative' clinic cess pool."

"When someone well-known and highly respected goes there it just demonstrates how vulnerable people are," Barrett said.

Donsbach did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

King initially gave her name as Ruth Green when she arrived at the clinic, according to one of the clinic's physicians, Dr. Rafael Cedeño Barragán.

King's ovarian cancer was detected from a biopsy taken in the United States about six months ago, said Cedeño, who had reviewed her U.S. medical records.

Cedeño said King arrived in poor health, with fluid in her lungs. Her body was half-paralyzed from the stroke and the cancer had spread to her abdominal area.

Discovery's Creation


A Seattle think tank launched the modern intelligent-design movement with a simple memo. The idea has evolved into a media sensation. And the cause has mutated beyond rational control.

By Roger Downey

A brief history of intellligent design.

In 1998, members of a Seattle nonprofit think tank drafted a secret five-year plan with an ambitious goal: to "defeat scientific materialism" and "replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."

By the end of the stated five-year period, the benevolent conspirators had seen much of their goal accomplished. There was widespread public debate with materialist Darwinists. Dozens of books had been published presenting a non-Darwinian alternative theory of life. There was widespread respectful press coverage of their cause, with innumerable supportive op-ed columns in mainstream media, cover stories in the national newsweeklies, and even a widely broadcast PBS documentary. School authorities in 10 states were looking into adopting some or all of the recommendations for high-school science curricula. So well was the campaign going that in 2004, some of the original antimaterialism advocates were confident enough of eventual triumph to predict in detail a complete meltdown of Darwinian science by 2025—the 100th anniversary of the notorious "Monkey Trial" of 1925.

However unlikely their optimism at the time, it looks a great deal more unlikely today. In December, a federal judge presiding over another case of Darwin versus faith in a public-school system handed the antimaterialists a defeat so sweeping—in the form of a judicial decision so detailed and so trenchant—that even the most passionate advocates of faith-based science seem stunned and confused about the future of their cause. They'll be back. But in this time of their momentary disarray, it seems appropriate to look back over the short but rocketlike rise to media celebrity of the idea called "intelligent design" and the small, dedicated band of true believers who sold the concept to the wider world.

The story begins, so far as the world at large is concerned, on a late January day seven years ago, in a mail room in a downtown Seattle office of an international human-resources firm. The mail room was also the copy center, and a part-time employee named Matt Duss was handed a document to copy. It was not at all the kind of desperately dull personnel-processing document Duss was used to feeding through the machine. For one thing, it bore the rubber-stamped warnings "TOP SECRET" and "NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION." Its cover bore an ominous pyramidal diagram superimposed on a fuzzy reproduction of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel rendition of God the Father zapping life into Adam, all under a mysterious title: The Wedge.

Matt Duss (left) and Tim Rhodes: from the copy machine to the World Wide Web. Pete KuhnsCurious, Duss rifled through the 10 or so pages, eyebrows rising ever higher, then proceeded to execute his commission while reserving a copy of the treatise for himself. Within a week, he had shared his find with a friend who shared his interest in questions of evolution, ideology, and the propagation of ideas. Unlike Duss, the friend, Tim Rhodes, was technically savvy, and it took him little time to scan the document and post it to the World Wide Web, where it first appeared on Feb. 5, 1999.

The unnamed author of the document wasted no time getting down to his subject. "The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Yet little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science." Such thinkers as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and, above all, Charles Darwin promulgated a "materialistic conception of reality" that "eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and music."

Not content with bewailing the intelligentsia's falling away from faith, the author proposed to do something about it. "Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its damning cultural legacies," he wrote. He went on to detail a 20-year plan to replace "materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God," and to replace materialist science with a new scientific paradigm "consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

The immediate impact of the posting of The Wedge on the Web was almost nil. The Internet was far from being the instant echo chamber of news and ideas it's since become. (On Feb. 7, 1999, Google had all of eight employees.) Outside Seattle, hardly anyone had heard of the Discovery Institute, let alone its Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. By last year, Seattle's DI and the center were internationally known as the world's most respectable and most talked-about and quoted resource for the new brand of "science" called intelligent design.

In retrospect, the successful campaign to disseminate intelligent-design theory is all the more astonishing because it was achieved with remarkably modest resources and promoted by a tiny cadre. The American scientific establishment has billions of dollars annually to promote programs; the Discovery Institute's overall budget has never much exceeded $4 million annually, and much of an increase in recent years is due to a near–$10 million grant to study local transportation issues, not biology or education. Yet until the decision this past December in the case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover School District, the Discovery Institute's pro-intelligent-design slogan "teach the controversy" seemed to be overtaking Nike's "just do it" as the most successful sales mantra ever to come from the great Northwest. "Considering that they did it with very few people, very little money, and no established power base, it's far and away the most successful campaign of its kind I've ever seen," says Philip Gold, a former Discovery fellow.

But if he didn't know already, Chapman soon learned that a think tank, particularly a brand-new one, has to trim its sails to the winds it encounters if it's to reach any harbor at all. Times had changed since the 1970s, when he and his East Coast coterie arrived to energize the sleepy, clubby Seattle political scene. The liberal Republican issues that had proved so effective 20 years before had lost their sizzle.

Chapman's own convictions had changed, as well. His stint inside the Beltway, as director of the Census and working for Reagan policy chief Edwin Meese, had exposed him to tough-minded, right-leaning ideologues and brought him intoxicatingly close to the centers of power. Finding no post of comparable responsibility open to him under the less-ideological presidency of George H.W. Bush, Chapman returned to the relatively brackish pond of Seattle. He was a considerably more doctrinaire conservative than when he departed.

"I think he had a hard time at first," says David Brewster, founder of Seattle Weekly and an ally during Chapman's Seattle City Council days. "He'd developed a taste for serious politics, and the issues that interested us in Seattle must have seemed pretty small potatoes. He'd gotten more serious about his religion, and that doesn't play very well in this town. Plus, he'd lost touch with his circle of friends and colleagues here, who had all gone off in their own various directions. He found himself with no ready-made base and had to build one for himself."

First Hudson, then Discovery provided Chapman with a platform, but it was not until 1994 that he found both a big defining issue to lend Discovery a distinct identity and the means to push it vigorously. Introduced to the idea of intelligent design by a young philosophy professor named Stephen C. Meyer, Chapman realized that this new approach to re-establishing spiritual values in the search for scientific knowledge not only spoke to his own needs and those of many others but offered access to some serious money if he could persuade the purse holders that he and his institute could do something to further their mutual goals.

By 1995, Chapman and an old friend, college roommate, and Discovery board member, George Gilder, were negotiating with the ultraconservative Ahmanson family of Southern California for a substantial grant to set up a program within Discovery Institute to promote intelligent design as a way to break Darwin's seemingly unbreakable lock on science education in America. Once again, Meyer was of crucial assistance; he'd worked as a science tutor to one of the Ahmanson children. Gilder and Chapman left Los Angeles with a pledge of a quarter-million dollars a year for three years, and the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture was born.

The center's first and so far only director was Meyer, who formerly worked in the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Chaplain Services at Whitworth College in Spokane, a 115-year-old private liberal-arts college whose mission is "to provide its diverse student body an education of the mind and heart, equipping its graduates to honor God, follow Christ, and serve humanity." To this end, the mission statement continues, "Whitworth's community of teacher-scholars is committed to rigorous and open intellectual inquiry and to the integration of Christian faith and learning."

With stable funding in hand, the center set about recruiting "fellows" to pursue goals of supporting research by scientists and other scholars. Among the goals in the center's founding document: "challenging various aspects of neo-Darwinian theory"; "developing the scientific theory known as intelligent design"; "exploring the impact of scientific materialism on culture"; and encouraging "schools to improve science education by teaching students more fully about the theory of evolution, including the theory's scientific weaknesses as well as its strengths."

The roster of fellows has grown apace over the past 10 years and numbers 44 now (only one of them female). The Web site of the Center for Science and Culture, as it is known now (www.discovery.org/csc), describes the list of fellows as "including biologists, biochemists, chemists, physicists, philosophers and historians of science, and public policy and legal experts, many of whom also have affiliations with colleges and universities." This list avoids mentioning that only seven fellows hold advanced degrees in biological sciences, while 13 profess philosophy and/or theology at such religiously oriented institutions of higher learning as Biola College in Los Angeles, Messiah College of Gratham, Pa., and Billy Graham's alma mater, Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Ill.

With such a roster, very little of the center's research into the weaknesses of Darwinism has been of the experimental, lab-oriented, peer-reviewed kind. Instead, in books, publications, and interviews, it has hewed to a tightly focused message: Intelligent design is not dogmatically antiscience, or even antievolution; on the contrary, it is an attack on dogma, on the stifling orthodoxy of modern Darwinism. Pointing out Darwin's ideological and evidential feet of clay is only part of the larger mission to open the scientific discourse to evidence and viewpoints that have been suppressed, even persecuted, by the Darwinian establishment. All we ask, the fellows have trumpeted again and again, is the opportunity to make our case, to see our evidence given equal time and exposure with Darwinism, in the media, in the academy—and in the schools.

In parallel with a mission of training the media to take it seriously, the Center for Science and Culture from the beginning had been looking for local school districts and state boards of education that might be sympathetic to the campaign. It struck gold near home in 1999. School authorities (and parents) in Skagit County's Burlington-Edison School District discovered that for going on 10 years, one of its high- school science teachers, Roger DeHart, had routinely been omitting part of the state-approved biology textbook to make room for his selected readings on evolution, most notably a little book called Of Pandas and People. It is devoted to highlighting questions unanswered by mainstream Darwinism and suggesting that the new science of intelligent design might provide answers.

Some district parents, then the American Civil Liberties Union, began threatening legal action against what they claimed was a veiled intrusion of religious teaching into the classroom. DeHart found himself with some parents on his side, but the decisive support came from the Discovery Institute, which announced to the world that the Darwinian establishment was interfering with a teacher's academic freedom. After a two-year tug-of-war, DeHart quit to continue the struggle in other ways as a Discovery Institute–subsidized martyr and witness to the intelligent-design cause. (He was still at it as recently as last May, testifying about his ordeal to a sympathetic committee of the Kansas State Board of Education, which was then looking into making intelligent design part of that state's high-school curriculum.)

Across the country, Discovery Institute fellows offered expert testimony in public and strategic advice in private. As the front widened, the message was honed for maximum acceptability.Across the country, Discovery Institute fellows offered expert testimony in public and strategic advice in private: Texas, Kansas, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, California. As the front widened, the message was honed for maximum acceptability. Although the founding documents of intelligent design proclaimed an intention of replacing Darwinian materialism with a new God-centered, faith-based science, the public pitch was much more moderate. As opponents of intelligent design scrambled to hone their own message, advocates ceased to insist even that their brand of biology be taught. Instead, the new mantra became "teach the controversy." Inform teachers and students that an alternative to Darwin existed, refer them to appropriate textbooks and other readings, and let them make up their own minds. Surely no civil libertarian could object to such an open invitation to debate.

Indeed, as more and more school boards seriously took up consideration of intelligent-design programs, the Discovery Institute became concerned that some of the people they were trying to influence might grow so enthusiastic as to push the newly moderate ideological envelope. They professed no knowledge of the origins of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture's founding Wedge document. They also dropped the loaded word "renewal" from the name and ceased demanding that intelligent design replace Darwinism in the high-school curriculum, or that it even be actively taught there. All that was asked now was that students be apprised that there was a controversy.

That was apparently all that was in question when, in late 2004, a district school board in a small suburb of York, Pa., voted 6-3 that high-school students "will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design." A month later, the board mandated that starting in January 2005, ninth-grade biology teachers would be required to read to their students a four-paragraph statement encouraging students to look into alternatives to Darwin and suggesting Of Pandas and People (available in the school library) as a good place to start.

Even though the new policy did not include active teaching of intelligent-design theory, Discovery Institute fellows issued a warning that the policy went too far and might, in fact, damage the cause rather than further it. Little did they know how damaging it would be. On Dec. 14, 2004, a district parent opposed to the new policy filed suit in federal court to block it. Tammy J. Kitzmiller and 11 other parents were represented in their suit against the Dover Area School District by 13 lawyers from the ACLU, the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the National Center for Science Education. Against this legal lineup, the constitutional-law equivalent of the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line, were the Dover board's defenders, fielded by the conservative Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Considering that the Center for Science and Culture had publicly opposed making the situation in Dover a test case, it seems curious that two of the Discovery Institute's most prominent fellows signed on to testify at the trial as expert witnesses: Lehigh University biochemist Michael J. Behe and University of Idaho microbiologist Scott Minnich. But testify they did, and it was their testimony, more than that of many experts fielded by the plaintiffs, that left the scientific credentials of intelligent design in tatters.

Behe's day in court began placidly enough, as More Law Center attorney Robert Muise established his scientific credentials, then coached him through a recital of numerous now-discarded theories once widely believed by reputable scientists—that the sun rotates around the Earth, that light travels through space as vibrations in an invisible ether—to suggest that Darwin's version of evolution might soon be due to join them. Behe also quoted a formidable list of well-known biologists—Steven Jay Gould, Francis Crick, even super-Darwinist Richard Dawkins—as stating that there were problems with Darwinism as currently formulated. At the same time, Behe modestly suggested that intelligent design, at least as formulated in his book, Darwin's Black Box, provides a simpler, more reasonable view of how living things came to be the way they are: Someone (or something) with a purpose designed them that way.

Almost as soon as Eric Rothschild began his cross-examination, Behe's cultivated scientific calm began to crumble. Rothschild baited him like a picador, dashing in, planting a barb, turning away to attack from a new direction before his victim realized it. Hour by hour, Rothschild got Behe to admit:

In the last testimony of the Dover trial, Discovery Institute fellow Minnich presented a low-key, engineer's approach to intelligent design but ended up just as ideologically pummeled in cross-examination by plaintiff's attorney Steven Harvey.

U.S. District Judge John E. JonesIn the decision handed down on Dec. 20, 2005, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, appointed to the federal bench in 2002 by George W. Bush, refers frequently to inconsistencies and equivocations in Behe's testimony, primarily in reference to this question: How does intelligent design differ in any significant way from earlier attempts to avoid conflict with the First Amendment prohibition of state-supported or countenanced religion? Judge Jones' answer: Not enough to distinguish it in law from the various versions of creationism already banned from the schools by a series of unequivocal U.S. Supreme Court decisions beginning in 1968.

Intelligent design, said the judge, is creationism with a scientific veneer. Advocates contend that nature offers any reasonable observer evidence of purposeful design while refusing to offer an opinion on who or what that designer might have been. On the contrary, said the judge, the evidence presented in the case should suffice to persuade any reasonable observer that the purpose of intelligent design is to slip God back into the classroom through the transparent device of refusing to mention his name. The Dover School Board's intelligent-design policy is unconstitutional. The board will pay all costs of the plaintiffs. Case closed.

The evidence, said the judge, should persuade a reasonable person that the purpose of intelligent design is to slip God into the classroom through the transparent device of refusing to mention his name.By the time the holidays had passed, the stunned silence following the court's decision was followed by a fusillade of attacks from Discovery Institute personnel, including Bruce Chapman himself, who appeared on a Salem Radio Network talk show to denounce the judge as a "judicial activist" and his decision as an example of unwarranted judicial intrusion into academic freedom—a concept now stood on its head to protect the rights of outsiders to dictate educational policy to teachers rather than the other way around.

One point made over and over by the losing side in Dover is that the decision has the force of law only in the middle of Pennsylvania's three federal judicial districts; therefore, intelligent design still has a clean bill of health in all the other areas of the country where advocates have brought it to the attention of school authorities. There are a lot of them. School districts and/or state boards of education in Texas, Kansas, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, and California have given intelligent design some level of approval in their curricular guidelines.

In reality, Judge Jones' decision should give a strong warning to anyone thinking of ignoring its provisions. Though it is "law" only in mid-Pennsylvania, the decision is so thorough and detailed in citation of constitutional precedent that most other courts would be likely to pay a great deal of attention to it, rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel. Other such midlevel decisions have proved decisive in earlier creationism cases: McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education technically applies only to the eastern district of Arkansas, but the Supreme Court has cited it approvingly in decisions on church-state issues.

There is also a financial impact in Jones' decision. School districts and state boards may not want to embark on a fight over intelligent design if there's a chance that, as in Pennsylvania, they might find themselves liable for millions of dollars in court and lawyer costs. There are already rumors that cooler heads are prevailing in some of the ongoing state disputes.

For local observers of the evolution wars, perhaps the most interesting aftereffect of the Dover bring-down is: What will the long-term impact on the Discovery Institute be? A number of former contributors have already cut back or eliminated support. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has pledged nearly $1 million a year for 10 years to the transportation arm of the institute, is known to be both uncomfortable with the adverse publicity that's come its way through funding an anti-Darwin organization and concerned that some of the funds earmarked for transport issues have been applied to other areas of Discovery's operations, including a substantial portion of Chapman's $120,000-a-year salary.

While trying to maintain a position above the partisan fray, the Discovery Institute has found itself more and more isolated ideologically. Former fellows have departed, concerned by what they see as a drift away from policy issues toward doctrinaire religiosity. It has not escaped the notice of those who question the nonpartisan bona fides of the institute that the executive director, Steven Buri, is a member of the fundamentalist Christian Antioch Bible Church of Kirkland, which describes its congregation as "not a collection of people to whom paid clergy minister" but "a called out collection of ministers who are doing God's work in the world." Further, "We believe that God gives His Church a great variety of ways to influence culture, business, government, education, and so on, and that He expects His Church to be salt and light throughout the community."

Some find the recent appointment to the Discovery board of directors of reclusive California evangelical and creationist Howard Ahmanson disturbing. Others were upset when it emerged, in the online journal Salon, that in the summer of 2000, Discovery Institute President Chapman had counseled a breakaway faction of Episcopalians opposed to the ordination of gays on how to fund their desired schism from the mainline denomination. Chapman addressed a memo to fellow dissident Episcopalians stating that for their campaign to succeed, fund-raising was critical. But that "is going to be affected greatly by whether we have a clear, compelling forward strategy." Ahmanson money might well be available to underwrite that strategy, Chapman continued, but "the Ahmansons are only going to be available to us if we have such a strategy and I think it would be wise to involve them directly in settling on it. . . . "

The question naturally arises: With Ahmanson the single biggest funder of the Center for Science and Culture and sitting on the Discovery board, to what degree is he consulted on strategy in intelligent-design issues? (So far as the schism in the American Episcopal community goes, Chapman is no longer personally involved in the painful issue; he was received into the Catholic Church in 2002.)

Seattle Weekly began making inquiries for this story in mid-2005, but neither Chapman nor any Discovery Institute fellow has been willing to be interviewed. A last attempt to elicit comment, e-mailed to spokesperson Rob Crowther on Jan. 4, elicited the following: "With the start of the new year all of the Fellows and staff are quite busy and their schedules are completely full. I think you'll find more than enough information on our website that you are welcome to quote from. If you want to submit questions in writing, I'd be happy to pass those along and see if anyone has time to respond, but I can't make any guarantees." A number of questions were submitted; none was answered.

Chapman's friends describe him as an agreeable, low-key, generous individual; ex-KIRO-TV news anchor Susan Hutchinson, who has served on the Discovery board for 10 years, calls him "one of the finest and best men I know in this city." Others describe Chapman's apparent drift toward stark conservative positions as something of a stance: "Bruce is a contrarian, and [intelligent design] was a contrarian idea," ex–Discovery fellow Edward J. Larson told The New York Times last summer. But it's hard to hear the voice of a generous contrarian in Chapman's Dec. 21 broadcast interview with right-wing radio pundit Janet Parshall in the wake of the Dover decision: If Judge Jones' decision stands, says Chapman, "you are going to have self-censorship around this country like you have never seen. You think all that's been happening on Christmas has been under attack, simply the fact that somebody had a personal religious faith will be used against studying what they have to say. This is a remarkable victory, frankly, for the ACLU."

No one believes that Judge Jones' decision, even if it's replicated in courtrooms across the country, is going to stop the campaign against materialism and for a God-centered worldview. But it surely must be seen as a catastrophic defeat for the notion of intelligent design, and no single institution is so identified with it, and has more of its financial and intellectual resources tied up in it, than the Discovery Institute of Seattle. Maybe the group can regroup and make a comeback, but for now, the mighty wedge is irreparably blunted.



The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 763 January 30, 2006 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

RARE e-/e+/e- STATE. The best study of the rare "atom" consisting of two electrons and one positron is being reported. Positronium (abbreviated Ps) is a very "clean" two-body object: it consists of an electron and a positron which after about 150 nanoseconds annihilate each other. For studying the theory of quantum electrodynamics (QED), Ps is in some ways better even than the hydrogen atom: with pointlike constituents and with no complicating nuclear forces (the size of the proton and its own internal structure interject uncertainties into QED estimates of H behavior), Ps is a simpler, albeit fragile, quantum system. An even more fragile "atom" is the tripartite object consisting of two electrons and one positron. Ps-, as it is known, is less suitable for QED studies than Ps, but has the great virtue of being the simplest three-body system in physics. Again, it is simpler than H-, H2+, and He because of its pointlike constituents and the absence of nuclear forces. Ps- is, like Ps, a bound state with discrete quantum energy states, although only the ground state is calculated to be stable against dissociation into Ps and a free electron. Very little is known about Ps- beyond its lifetime. Now, a new experiment carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg has measured the lifetime of Ps- with a sixfold increase in precision (the new value is half a nanosecond). Ps- is formed by shooting a positron beam into a thin carbon foil, and its size is actually a bit bigger than a hydrogen atom. (Fleischer et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article; contact Frank Fleischer, f.fleischer@mpi-hd.mpg.de, 49-6221-516-516) RELATIVISTIC ELECTRON COOLING of an antiproton beam has been demonstrated at Fermilab. Increasing the density of antiprotons by reducing the spread in longitudinal speeds leads to a larger collision rate in particle colliders, producing more sought-after scattering events that contain rare particles and decays. Antiprotons, made artificially by smashing protons into a metal target, must be collected on the fly and focused before they can be accelerated and collided with opposite-moving batches of protons; such proton-antiproton smashups are the premier activity at Fermilab's Tevatron facility. The more compact and tightly focused the two beams are, the more desirable high-energy collision there will be. The degree of focus and beam density is expressed in a parameter called luminosity. To achieve interesting results it is desirable to have both high collision energy and high luminosity. Taming swarming antiprotons, however, is difficult. One would like all the antiprotons to be co-moving at the same velocity, but because of the way they're made in the first place, they will be flying at high speeds through a beam pipe with a variety of motions, both longitudinal and lateral. The lateral motions can be largely suppressed by a process called stochastic cooling, in which electric signals are dispatched to various electrodes stationed around the Fermilab's three antiproton storage rings; the electrodes offer minor kicks which serve to lower the lateral "temperature" of the swarm. Reducing the spread in longitudinal speeds has been harder to accomplish, until now. In the new Fermilab process a continuous beam of electrons at an energy of 4.8 MeV is made to overlap with a beam of 8.9 GeV antiprotons which, because of their higher mass, move at the same speed as the electrons. The electron beam---in effect an electrical current of 0.5 ampere and 2 megawatts---removes some of the unwanted longitudinal velocity spread, increasing thereby the luminosity by a factor of 30%. E-cooling of this kind has been used before but only with much lower-energy particle beams. (Nagaitsev et al., Physical Review Letters, 3 February 2006; contact Sergei Nagaitsev, nsergei@fnal.gov; http://www-ecool.fnal.gov )

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. It is provided free of charge as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists. For that reason, you are free to post it, if you like, where others can read it, providing only that you credit AIP. Physics News Update appears approximately once a week.

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Alternative medicine 'intellectually dishonest' – cancer specialist


by Gary Finnegan

A leading cancer specialist has hit out at complementary and alternative medicine, branding it "intellectually dishonest" and accusing it of capitalising on the vulnerability of seriously ill patients.

Prof John Crown, consultant medical oncologist, St Vincent's and St Luke's Hospitals, Dublin, said advocates of alternative therapies prey on the idea that conventional chemotherapy is too aggressive and its side effects outweigh the benefits. However, he said medication was effective and the modern class of targeted chemotherapies are particularly efficacious with fewer side effects.

Addressing a meeting of the Irish Skeptics Society, Prof Crown said medical science had, in the past, been slow to apply laboratory breakthroughs to clinical practice. "The simple reason that people turned to alternative medicine is that clinical medicine was slow to translate lab science to the bedside. Quackery filled that vacuum."

He was also critical of the Irish Medicines Board for failing to strictly regulate the area of alternative medicine. "There's a real hole in the law covering alternative medicine," he said.

He said complementary medicine was merely alternative medicine "in disguise". "In general, it's a legal get-out for people who don't want to tell patients to stop taking their medication."

Prof Crown hit out at "conspiracy theories" that suggest alternative medicine works but that the establishment does not want to share this information with the public. "The big lie of alternative medicine is that there's some kind of conspiracy to suppress the truth about alternative medicine. There's this idea that there is evidence showing alternative treatments work but that pharmaceutical companies want to suppress that. It's not true." He said he had treated senior pharmaceutical company executives with cancer, and treated oncologists with cancer, "and they are clearly not in on the conspiracy."

Conducting clinical trials is the only scientific way to verify whether a treatment works and Irish patients have benefited greatly from the increase in trials of new cancer drugs in recent years, he said. "Believing something will work and seeing it work are entirely different," he added. Prof Crown said rigorous research had in the past even disproved some of his own hunches about what combination of therapies might work.

In the early 1990s, prior to the formation of the Irish Clinical Oncology Research Group, there were almost no clinical trials taking place in Ireland. This had dramatically improved, but Prof Crown warned that the EU Clinical Trials Directive has "snared us in red tape".

He dismissed the notion that patients with a strong will to live have better outcomes than other patients. This makes no difference to patients' chances of survival but may help people deal with their illness. "I'm 20 years in oncology and I've yet to see my first miracle," he added.

Clinic, founder operate outside norm


Holistic health practitioner has criminal record, dubious résumé

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/01/06

Coretta Scott King put her last hope for recovery in a Mexican alternative-medicine clinic run by an American with a criminal record and a history of rebukes from medical authorities.

King, 78, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was in the late stages of ovarian cancer last Thursday when she checked into Santa Monica Hospital, a "holistic health center" by the sea in Baja California, Mexico. She died there late Monday, her family said.

Hospital Santa Monica founder Kurt Donsbach (center), in California in 2001, claims to cure disease with nutritional supplements, a detoxification procedure called oral chelation and oxygen therapy.

The clinic and its founder, 72-year-old Kurt W. Donsbach, have drawn chronically and terminally ill patients to Rosarito Beach, 16 miles south of San Diego, for more than 20 years with promises of effective, "nontoxic" treatment of such maladies as cancer, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

Credentials challenged

Donsbach, who has no medical degree, also has attracted scrutiny from American authorities. They have repeatedly challenged his credentials and questioned the validity of his treatments.

From 1970, when California authorities charged him with practicing medicine without a license; to 1996, when he pleaded guilty to federal charges of smuggling illegal medications into the United States; to 2001, when he was investigated for being an unlicensed chiropractic practitioner, Donsbach has worked far outside the medical establishment. He says he can cure disease with nutritional supplements, a detoxification procedure called oral chelation, and oxygen therapy.

It is not clear whether King or her family knew about Donsbach's history when she arrived at Santa Monica Hospital with a daughter and a private nurse. Doctors at the clinic said they still were evaluating King for possible treatment when she died.

Efforts to reach Donsbach on Tuesday at his clinic and his two offices near San Diego were unsuccessful.

The clinic's medical director, Humberto Seimandi, said Tuesday in Rosarito Beach that Donsbach had not been at the facility since King checked in and had no role in her care.

Seimandi said he didn't know about Donsbach's status in the United States.

"But in Mexico he has his papers in order and is accredited as a chiropractor," he said.

The clinic's Web site contains testimonials from former patients. But medical watchdogs have continually criticized Donsbach's methods.

Dr. Stephen Barrett, a psychiatrist who operates the nonprofit organization QuackWatch, which monitors health care issues, said Donsbach "has been in continuous violation of medical norms."

Donsbach "has done a lot of harm to a lot of people," Barrett said. "He has misled many people and taken advantage of many people by taking money and making promises he can't keep."

Donsbach started his career as a chiropractor in the late 1950s, then studied nutritional medicine in Hollywood, Calif., according to his clinic's Web site. By the late 1960s, according to the Web site and news articles, he was running a health food store in Orange County, outside Los Angeles, selling nutritional aids that he claimed could treat cancer, stomach ulcers and heart conditions.

After a five-month undercover investigation, according to news reports, California officials charged Donsbach in 1970 with practicing medicine without a license. He pleaded guilty the following year and was placed on probation.

He founded a nutritional school — Donsbach University — in 1979 and produced and sold nutritional supplements. Officials in New York claimed the products had no medical value and sued Donsbach for doing business there illegally. Shortly before he settled that case, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered him to stop marketing an unapproved drug called orachel.

Under regulatory pressure in the United States, Donsbach founded Santa Monica Hospital in 1983 and similar facilities in Poland and China, according to his Web site. But controversies continued to swirl.

Oregon revoked his naturopathic license in 1990, and in 1996, federal authorities in San Diego alleged he had smuggled at least $250,000 worth of illegal medications from Mexico into the United States, court documents show. The drugs "were either new and unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration or were adulterated or misbranded," prosecutors said in court papers.

Donsbach pleaded guilty to the drug charge and to tax evasion. A judge sentenced him to one year and one day in prison, but records show he never served time.

Donsbach's activities attracted more attention in 2001 from the California Board of Medical Examiners, which investigated whether he was performing chiropractic medicine without a license, a board spokeswoman said. The investigation's outcome could not be determined Tuesday.

The Santa Monica Hospital administers a number of alternative therapies that standard medicine does not recognize.

The clinic's Web site says it rejects "the toxic so-called cancer-killing treatments of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery" and instead treats patients with chiropractic, "Oriental herbal knowledge," magnets and a vegetable and whole-grain diet, among other methods.

Included in the hospital's treatment menu are "oxygen therapies," which include high-pressure oxygen chambers, hydrogen peroxide solutions dripped into veins and ozone gas blown into the colon; microwave heating; inducing hypoglycemia by administering insulin; and administering a nutritional supplement called Oncotox.

'She was pure vegetarian'

King checked into the hospital under the name of Ruth Green, clinic officials said Tuesday; they learned her true identity the next day when they received her medical records.

King had long been interested in holistic medicine, said Lynn Cothren, her former special assistant for 23 years.

"She was pure vegetarian," Cothren said Tuesday. "She ate raw food for the past couple of years. ... She really tried to take care of herself."

She visited another facility in Florida over Christmas and had previously checked into another clinic in Rosarito Beach.

Dr. Margaret Mermin, an Atlanta internist, and Dr. Charles Wickliffe, a cardiologist, who treated King in Atlanta, declined to comment Tuesday. The doctors said the King family had asked them not to speak.

In Rosarito Beach, Dr. Rafael Cedeno, Hospital Santa Monica's oncology director, said the clinic had not solicited King to come.

She arrived partly paralyzed and in respiratory failure, according to Seimandi.

During her four days at the clinic, she received no treatment, Seimandi said. The clinic's staff could do nothing, he said, but try to keep her comfortable.

Staff writers Alan Judd (ajudd@ajc.com) and M.A.J. McKenna (mmckenna@ajc.com) reported from Atlanta, and Bob Keefe (bkeefe@ajc.com) from Rosarito Beach, Baja California. Staff writers Mae Gentry and Teresa Borden and researcher Alice Wertheim in Atlanta contributed to this article.

Alternative medicine 'intellectually dishonest' – cancer specialist


by Gary Finnegan

A leading cancer specialist has hit out at complementary and alternative medicine, branding it "intellectually dishonest" and accusing it of capitalising on the vulnerability of seriously ill patients.

Prof John Crown, consultant medical oncologist, St Vincent's and St Luke's Hospitals, Dublin, said advocates of alternative therapies prey on the idea that conventional chemotherapy is too aggressive and its side effects outweigh the benefits. However, he said medication was effective and the modern class of targeted chemotherapies are particularly efficacious with fewer side effects.

Addressing a meeting of the Irish Skeptics Society, Prof Crown said medical science had, in the past, been slow to apply laboratory breakthroughs to clinical practice. "The simple reason that people turned to alternative medicine is that clinical medicine was slow to translate lab science to the bedside. Quackery filled that vacuum."

He was also critical of the Irish Medicines Board for failing to strictly regulate the area of alternative medicine. "There's a real hole in the law covering alternative medicine," he said.

He said complementary medicine was merely alternative medicine "in disguise". "In general, it's a legal get-out for people who don't want to tell patients to stop taking their medication."

Prof Crown hit out at "conspiracy theories" that suggest alternative medicine works but that the establishment does not want to share this information with the public. "The big lie of alternative medicine is that there's some kind of conspiracy to suppress the truth about alternative medicine. There's this idea that there is evidence showing alternative treatments work but that pharmaceutical companies want to suppress that. It's not true." He said he had treated senior pharmaceutical company executives with cancer, and treated oncologists with cancer, "and they are clearly not in on the conspiracy."

Conducting clinical trials is the only scientific way to verify whether a treatment works and Irish patients have benefited greatly from the increase in trials of new cancer drugs in recent years, he said. "Believing something will work and seeing it work are entirely different," he added. Prof Crown said rigorous research had in the past even disproved some of his own hunches about what combination of therapies might work.

In the early 1990s, prior to the formation of the Irish Clinical Oncology Research Group, there were almost no clinical trials taking place in Ireland. This had dramatically improved, but Prof Crown warned that the EU Clinical Trials Directive has "snared us in red tape".

He dismissed the notion that patients with a strong will to live have better outcomes than other patients. This makes no difference to patients' chances of survival but may help people deal with their illness. "I'm 20 years in oncology and I've yet to see my first miracle," he added.

Galileo Groupies


The unlikely rock star of intelligent design.

By Peter Dizikes Posted Friday, Feb. 3, 2006, at 12:14 PM ET

In a column late last month in the Catholic Church's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Italian biologist Fiorenzo Facchini scolded intelligent design advocates for "pretending to do science." It was the Vatican's signal that the church had jumped ship on ID. That will no doubt rankle creationists who hoped for a potential ally in Rome. But there's a bright side for them: The church's rejection could help the ID-ers identify with their favorite scientist, Galileo Galilei.

Yes, that Galileo. In opinion pieces, speeches, and interviews, ID advocates commonly cite the 17th-century Italian astronomer and physicist as a forebear. It's not his views on biology they want a piece of, but rather his plight as a man before his time. "In my opinion, we must train students in the 21st century to do exactly as Galileo did … think outside the box," says William Harris, one of the key players in Kansas' rebellion against evolution last year. In his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box, leading ID-er Michael Behe calls the idea of a heliocentric universe, proposed by Copernicus and backed by Galileo, a prescient "assault on the senses." So, too, Behe says, will his own work be vindicated. Last fall, an interviewer for the British newspaper the Guardian asked Behe if the criticism of ID he faces brings Galileo to mind. The self-appointed science rebel had a simple answer: "Yeah. In a way it's flattery."

Welcome to creationism's absurdist history of science. During the inquisition, the Catholic Church put Galileo on trial in 1633 and forced him under threat of torture to recant his belief, presented unapologetically in the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, that the earth revolved around the sun. Galileo's story has nuances—Pope Urban VIII tolerated his ideas more than hard-line cardinals—but it is unquestionably a tale of science squelched by organized religion. That is not exactly a problem today's ID backers face.

Creationist references to Galileo are almost always limited to his support for the heliocentric system. Perhaps that's because Galileo's larger legacy is a rebuke to the methodology of ID. From his astronomical discoveries using a telescope to his mathematical codification of laws of motion, Galileo was above all a determined empiricist—"first and foremost in advancing the new art of experimental science," as the historian of science I. Bernard Cohen has written. When Galileo doubted Aristotle's claim that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones, he famously rolled balls of different weights down inclines to prove the existing wisdom wrong. ID-ers, on the other hand, seem to consider actual experiments unnecessary. The Kansas creationists have scrapped the state's previous definition of science as a "human activity systematically seeking natural explanations." Testing hypotheses: how very 17th century.

Still, if you're trying to be a science, you need scientist heroes. Creationism used to consist mostly of biblical literalism. But since a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision found that the presence of Bible-based "creation science" in public schools violates the separation of church and state, creationists have gradually embraced intelligent design, with its scientific veneer of mathematical precision and handful of well-funded backers with academic titles. Galileo's willingness to tackle opponents feeds the scrappy-underdog self-image that the ID movement cultivates. Never mind October's Gallup poll showing that 53 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form, while just 12 percent think we evolved without divine help: Creationists who complain they cannot get their work published cite Galileo as a fellow desert wanderer.

But here too they distort history. "Galileo was not considered reputable when he came out with his theory," said Kathy Cox, Georgia's schools superintendent, while backing creationism in 2004. In reality, Galileo was a prominent university professor in the 1590s, before he turned 30. It was precisely because of his scientific eminence that the church made an example of him. A full two decades before his trial, Galileo had discovered Jupiter's moons, observed mountains on our own moon, helped prove the heliocentric thesis with his observations of Venus, formulated what we now call the first law of motion, and defined uniform acceleration. He wasn't a rogue scientist to his many admiring colleagues—only to the inquisition.

But those are mere facts. For creationists, it's the Galileo legend that matters. Now that Rome has also rejected ID, albeit for wholly different reasons, expect more tailored-to-fit comparisons. What would Galileo say about all this? Perhaps what he wrote in the Dialogue: "The deeper I go in considering the vanities of popular reasoning, the lighter and more foolish I find them."

An "Explainer" clears up the difference between intelligent design and creationism. Meanwhile, Jacob Weisberg argues that faith-based ID should not be taught alongside the scientific theory of evolution. Another story posits that ID is a gussied-up incarnation of creationism, coined by academics rather than clerics. William Saletan explains why ID is full of holes.

Peter Dizikes is a journalist living in Boston. He often writes about science and technology.

Darwinists Stage Opposition to Course Exploring Criticisms of Evolutionary Theory


By Jim Brown February 3, 2006

(AgapePress) - A pro-intelligent design group warns that Darwinists have launched an all-out assault against a voluntary science lesson plan in Ohio.

In 2002, Ohio adopted science standards that allow for students to learn about both the evidence that supports Darwinism and about information that challenges that theory. Then, in 2004, the state adopted a lesson plan called "Critical Analysis of Evolution," through which teachers can present to students some of the scientific criticisms of evolution.

Last month, the Ohio Board of Education voted 9-8 to keep the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" curriculum. However, that move has angered Darwinists, who are pressuring the board to rescind the model lesson plan. And one intelligent design proponent believes the American Civil Liberties Union and similar groups are offering the pro-evolution crowd their support.

Rob Crowther is a spokesman for the Seattle, Washington-based Discovery Institute, a leading intelligent design think tank. He says dogmatic evolutionists are trying to strong-arm the state Board of Education.

"They don't like the fact that [the "Critical Analysis" lesson plan] presents some of the criticisms of Darwin's theory," Crowther asserts, "and they are being aided and abetted by groups like the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State." These evolution proponents are "threatening the school board that, if they don't rescind their lesson plan, that [the Darwinists and their supporters] might bring a lawsuit."

The Discover Institute representative says these pro-evolutionist activists are getting scientists and others to publicly criticize the approved science lesson plan and attack members of the state education board for supporting it. In fact, he contends, some Darwinists have resorted to extreme measures against the lesson plan's supporters.

"There are some scientists at Ohio State University who have attacked their colleagues who are critical of Darwinism and made all sorts of outlandish comments about them -- and who really have tried to put pressure on them through personal attacks," Crowther says. Paraphrasing one such attack, he notes, "It said things [about the evolution critics, such as that] they were going to 'burn these parasitic tics off the hide of the university,' and so on."

Crowther points out that the lesson plan being assailed by Darwinist opponents does not involve religion, creationism, or intelligent design theory. Instead, he says, it is merely based on "mainstream" criticism of evolutionary theory that comes straight out of scientific literature.

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

A 'Monkey Trial' Still Being Aped


By Tricia Olszewski
Special to The Washington Post Friday, February 3, 2006; C01

The battle involving intelligent design has been getting some star power the past few months -- at least theatrically.

"The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial," starring Ed Asner, James Cromwell and Sharon Gless, played Tuesday and Wednesday at the University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. And although the work might wait until its final words to draw the direct connection between the current church-state debate and its subject, the 1925 Scopes trial, the message behind the production is never in doubt.

"Tennessee Monkey Trial" has been adapted by Peter Goodchild from transcripts of the Scopes case. Often referred to as the "Scopes Monkey Trial," this lawsuit against Dayton, Tenn., teacher John Scopes was the first to be broadcast on radio and also the first to be dubbed "the trial of the century." (Scopes had volunteered to be a defendant in the case, initiated by the ACLU to challenge the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution in the state's public schools.)

Produced by L.A. Theatre Works, a group dedicated to the audio preservation of dramatic literature, "Tennessee Monkey Trial" is nearing the end of its 24-city tour -- which included York, Pa., close to what had become the hotbed of the intelligent-design debate: the Dover Area School District.

The district's decision to allow intelligent design to be taught along with evolution was eventually declared unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, who said the school board's plan reflected "breathtaking inanity."

Clearly, then, this production has an agenda. And it seemed welcomed at Wednesday's performance, which was staged and recorded as a radio drama, with the audience encouraged to be vocal about the arguments the piece presented.

Asner, playing William Jennings Bryan -- the three-time presidential candidate, former secretary of state and religious speaker -- seemed to step a bit out of character as he took center stage first with an ebullient "Well, I'm here!" The actor lapped up the applause from an audience not accustomed to seeing stars of such wattage grace a local stage.

With Gless serving as Narrator, the re-created trial quickly got underway, with Bryan joining Tennessee Attorney General Tom Stewart (played by Rob Nagle) to argue for the prosecution, and celebrated attorney Clarence Darrow (James Cromwell), corporate attorney Arthur Garfield Hayes (Jon Matthews) and divorce attorney Dudley Field Malone (credited only as one of the ensemble) defending Scopes (Matthew Patrick Davis). Jerry Hardin played the presiding judge, John T. Raulston.

The ideas argued during the 1925 trial -- with a few one-liners apparently inserted by Goodchild -- are little different from the debate today. Asner's Bryan, whose goofy, yokelish smile waned slowly throughout the proceedings, might have been tripped up during his questioning by Darrow regarding the literalness of the Bible. But Bryan held fast to his opinion that the teaching of a godless creation of mankind was heresy.

Cromwell proved to be the night's most magnetic presence, certainly because of his assured, exacting performance but also because his character, with his sharp, often caustic interrogations, was the standout hero, at least among the largely pro-evolution crowd. Questioning why the Bible had been deemed the authoritative source on the world's beginnings instead of, say, the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita or the teachings of Confucius, Darrow declared that the fight for creationism was a "brazen and bold attempt to destroy learning" and a "march backward to the 16th century."

Such speeches provoked roars of approval from the audience, and much of the performance was fascinating. At 2 hours 45 minutes, though, the show became wearying, and what should have been the highlight -- a standoff between Bryan and Darrow for most of the second act -- lost some of its power because of repetition.

Gless, however, reignited the audience's fire as she spoke of the trial's fresh relevance: "How much do we still live in the shadow of Dayton? Did [Bryan's] crusade die with him, or does it still continue?"

Friday, February 03, 2006


Robert L. Park Friday, 03 Feb 06 Washington, DC


Physicist James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies told the New York Times that since he gave a talk at the American Geophysical Union meeting on 6 Dec 05, NASA has screened his coming talks and requests from journalists for interviews. In his AGU talk, Hansen had argued that an increase in automotive fuel efficiency standards would significantly cut emissions. The administration policy is to rely on voluntary measures. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Science Committee Chairman, admonished NASA Administrator Griffin and pledged to investigate. It's not the first time Boehlert has leaped to the defense of climate scientists. Last July, Boehlert objected to harassment of climate scientists by Joe Barton (R-TX), Energy Committee Chairman http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN05/wn070805.html. WN would suggest that Mr. Boehlert might also want to look into NASA's termination of the Deep Space Climate Observatory.


Steven Milloy, who writes the "Junk Science" column for Fox News, praised Rep. Barton for his investigation of Michael Mann, a Penn State scientist whose research showed global temperatures sharply rising in the last century, after hundreds of years with little change. According to an article by Paul Thacker in today's New Republic, Boehlert accused Barton of attempting to intimidate a prominent scientist and "have Congress put its thumb on the scales of a scientific debate." Barton and Milloy have much in common. Both are recipients of huge oil company "donations." Milloy has also ridiculed the dangers of second-hand smoke, while on the payroll of Philip Morris and other tobacco companies.


Muslims are waving guns in the air and boycotting Danish pastry, while in Italy, an Italian judge has ordered a priest to appear in court this month to prove Jesus Christ existed. The Muslims are outraged by publication in Danish papers of political cartoons depicting Muhammad. In Viterbo, north of Rome, Luigi Cascioli accused Father Enrico Righi of "abuse of popular credulity," an offense under the Italian penal code. The claim that Jesus is a fabrication is not new. What Father Righi might offer as proof of Christ's existence is not clear.

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

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

Back to School with the Religious Right



The Supreme Court last made a major ruling on teaching creationism in public school in 1987. The landmark case Edwards v. Aguillard struck down a 1981 Louisiana law requiring that any public school teaching evolution must grant equal time to "creation science" on the grounds that the latter advanced a religious doctrine. The Court also stated that teaching "a variety of scientific theories" about human origins might be valid "with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction." Most creationist efforts since 1987 have attempted to exploit this language.

This new breed of creationist activism now dominates the movement, and has adopted the moniker "intelligent design" (ID). The main methods of injecting the ID/creationist agenda into public school curricula are via textbook disclaimers and the language of state science standards. The purpose of these efforts is to delegitimize evolution and minimize its profile in science education. There is also a growing movement to insert intelligent design into science curricula via books and lectures. Intelligent design groups do not concentrate their energy on producing scientific research, but on providing tactical and legal advice on introducing the topic into science classes via clubs, speakers and supplementary texts.

But some old-line creationists, represented by groups such as Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research, refuse to cloak their language by simply advocating "intelligent design." Religious Right groups like Focus on the Family (FOF) are also playing a central role, working directly and through state affiliates to challenge the teaching of evolution. In October 2001, Focus on the Family urged California students to write to the U.S. Justice Department and describe "how you and your faith were offended by evolution being taught as fact." If there was any doubt of FOF's intention, the piece is titled, "Californians Have Chance to Fight Evolution in Schools."

State Science Standards

In the 2001-02 school year, the battleground over science instruction shifted to Ohio from Kansas, which had drawn national attention when its state school board eliminated evolution from the state's science standards in 1999. The Kansas board eventually reversed it decision, but evolution opponents saw an opportunity in Ohio to take their Kansas success one step further. A state law signed in 2001 requires the state school board to adopt academic content standards in six areas, including science. A group called Science Excellence for All Ohioans (SEAO) is leading the effort to insert intelligent design creationism into the standards. SEAO is a project of the American Family Association of Ohio and is also affiliated with the Intelligent Design Network.

As in Kansas, the proceedings have turned into a showcase for the "intelligent design" movement. Speakers and lawyers from ID think tanks like the Discovery Institute and the Intelligent Design Network have appeared before state meetings and made the issue a statewide media-driven controversy. National and state groups are working together on the issue. The local Religious Right group Citizens for Community Values worked with the Discovery Institute and Focus on the Family to broadcast the anti-evolution video "Icons of Evolution" on a number of Ohio television stations. Other state-level Religious Right groups like the Ohio Roundtable and the Eagle Forum of Ohio are getting into the act, hosting intelligent design speakers and supporting SEAO's push to change the science standards.

After an extended period of public input and revision, the state board of education is scheduled to consider draft standards during Fall 2002 and, according to Ohio law, must adopt science standards in December 2002. The political fight is likely to intensify as the final vote approaches.

Hawaii and Nebraska also saw similar attacks involving science standards over the 2001-02 school year. In both cases, creationists failed to either add creationism or de-emphasize evolution in state policy, but it's clear that such efforts are the most active front in the battle for objective science education free of religious influence.

Inserting Disclaimers in Textbooks

In April 2002, the Cobb County, Georgia Board of Education decided to draft a disclaimer regarding the teaching of evolution to be inserted in science textbooks in response to a petition effort that gained support via local Bible study classes. Modeled on a successful effort in Alabama, anti-evolution forces won a disclaimer to be inserted in biology textbooks in Fall 2002 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."

One parent who requested board action was not satisfied with the decision, saying she wanted an elective science course exploring the controversy and wanted the insert to more clearly define alternative explanations. Another parent was more blunt, saying, "We believe the Bible is correct in that God created man. I don't expect the public school system to teach only creationism, but I think it should be given its fair share." In August 2002, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia filed a federal lawsuit against the district asking for the disclaimer's removal.

Since then, the school board voted unanimously to consider changing district policy relating to science and evolution education. The proposed policy states, in part, that "discussion of disputed views of academic subjects is a necessary element of providing a balanced education, including the study of the origin of the species." The board chair said it was not clear if the proposed language would allow creationism to be discussed. The Cobb County board will spend 30 days reviewing the proposed policy change and vote on the matter at the end of September.

Other Creationist Attacks on Science Education

In June 2002, the Annville-Cleona, Pennsylvania School Board rejected a series of reading texts because of objections that it contained the theory of evolution in some stories and "radical environmentalism" in others. School board member Kathy Horst said she would like to see the Pennsylvania School Board Association consider creationism as an issue for its legislative platform. "I want to see that the theory of intelligent design be taught in our classrooms, as well as evolution" said Horst."

The Greensburg Salem, Pennsylvania school district is considering a proposal to teach "creation science" alongside evolution in its high school science classes. A recent graduate who is currently a student at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University requested the change. The school board had considered adding "creation science" to an advanced biology curriculum in 1999, but rejected the proposal on a 5-4 vote. The science department is conducting an initial review of the proposal, but a final decision will be made by the school board.

In Joes, Colorado the Liberty J-4 School District voted 5-0 to reverse an earlier unanimous decision to include creationism in science classes. In Columbus, IN the district is yet to decide how to act on a request to add a "creation science" elective class.

Creationist Activity in Federal and State Legislatures

In 2001, the ID creationist leader Phillip Johnson helped craft language for an anti-evolution resolution to be inserted in a federal education reform bill in an attempt to give local anti-evolution activists another tool. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) sponsored the language in a non-binding "sense of the Senate" resolution. The resolution declared that, "where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject." Though Sen. Santorum claimed that the amendment did not "not try to dictate curriculum to anybody," more than 80 science groups decried the anti-evolution agenda behind the resolution. The Santorum language was removed from the final version of the education bill, and a compromise version with less strident anti-evolution language was instead included in the conference report that accompanied the bill.

Some have sought to give the Santorum language the force of law despite the fact that the language was part of a non-binding resolution and was relegated to a report that was not officially part of the final legislation. Reps. John A. Boehner and Steve Chabot, both Ohio Republicans, invoked the Santorum language in a letter to the Ohio school board suggesting that references to ID should be included in the state's science standards. In Georgia, the Santorum language was the basis for an anti-evolution bill that eventually died in committee. Anti-evolution bills were also introduced, but ultimately failed to progress, in state legislatures in Ohio, Washington and Mississippi.

Where Science and Public Policy Intersect, Researchers Offer a Short Lesson on Basics


By CORNELIA DEAN Published: January 31, 2006

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 — Congress took a science class this month, and some experts would like to make it a regular part of the curriculum.

Donald Kennedy, editor of Science, said that replication "is the ultimate test of truth in science." "It's not that we are inattentive; it's just that we have the war on terrorism, the Iraq initiative, Social Security, the budget, the list goes on and on," said Representative Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican and head of the House Science Committee.

Beyond that, Mr. Boehlert said, "everyone boasts that they are for science-based policy until the scientific consensus leads to an unwelcome conclusion, and then they want to go to Plan B."

So now, when scientific questions pervade legislation on issues like climate change and stem cell research, there is growing concern that Congressional misunderstanding can produce misguided policy.

To fight such misunderstanding, Mr. Boehlert and others sponsored the Jan. 23 briefing, organized by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard.

Capitol Hill has briefings by the dozen every year in which industry, academic and activist groups address diverse topics related to science.

Some criticize these briefings as little more than showboating. But Mr. Boehlert, like many others, thinks they are "absolutely" useful. And the briefing was unusual in that its subject was not avian flu, the budget for NASA or any other relatively narrow issue, but rather "how science works."

And some on Capitol Hill, notably Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat and a physicist, say Congress should address the lack of knowledge and understanding of science by establishing something similar to the Office of Technology Assessment, an agency that advised Congress until it was abolished after Republicans won control of the House in 1994. Prospects for that are uncertain.

Not everyone thought defining science was even possible, in such a short session. "It makes me extremely tired that they are going to do this again," said Sheila Jasanoff, a professor of science and technology studies at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, who has written widely on how science policy is made. "There is no easily graspable definition."

Robert Ferguson, who runs the Center for Science and Public Policy, which also presents briefings to Congress, argued that one of the speakers, Donald Kennedy, editor of the journal Science, had himself politicized the field in editorials on the dangers of climate change, marking him as having political motives.

He sent critiques of Dr. Kennedy by e-mail to prospective members of the audience so they could "decide if attending the event is worth your time."

But the briefing's subject apparently struck a chord. More than 100 committee staff members, Congressional aides and at least one senator, Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, crammed into a basement meeting room. With all of the seats filled, people leaned on walls, sat on the floor and spilled out into the hall.

Dr. Eric Chivian, who directs the Harvard center, said he got the idea for the briefing while following the debate over intelligent design and noticing what he called widespread misunderstanding about science.

"I suspected the same was true in the Congress," Dr. Chivian said, adding that he thought it would be useful to consider "how science should advise policy makers in the most effective way."

Dr. Chivian invited Dr. Kennedy and Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, the medical arm of the National Academy of Sciences, to speak.

The worth of any scientific finding, Dr. Kennedy told the crowd, is not the prominence of the researchers responsible, the prestige of their institutions or the authority of their funding agencies, but whether other researchers achieve the same results.

Dr. Kennedy did not refer explicitly to a scandal that is roiling science, and Science — the discovery that highly praised cloning experiments in South Korea survived the magazine's peer review process to win publication, only to be declared fraudulent. But he said: "Peer review is not a process that guarantees truth. If it were, no one would ever repeat experiments."

Replication, he said, "is the ultimate test of truth in science."

Dr. Fineberg spoke of the way scientific knowledge was turned into information useful to society, a process that he said the National Academy encouraged through its regular production of reports on topics as diverse as national security and arsenic in drinking water.

The academy's reports are influential, he said, because of its reputation for integrity, because of its avoidance of conflict of interest, because researchers who produce its findings are volunteers and because "nothing is kept back."

Some of the attendees were participants in another effort to bring scientific expertise to the Hill, a fellowship program run by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nation's largest scientific organization and the publisher of Science. The program places scientists with doctorates in Congressional offices and government agencies.

The fellows pressed the speakers on their proper role in policy making, the difference between scientific assessments and value judgments, the difficulties of dealing with low-probability-high-consequence problems like bird flu, and the necessity of scientists' making themselves heard in matters of policy, something Dr. Fineberg called "a civic obligation."

Chris Weaver, who has a doctorate in atmospheric science and is working as a program fellow at the Environmental Protection Agency, said the briefing was "the kind of thing we should be having more of."

But outside of forums like the House Science Committee, whose "excellent" staff has grown in recent years, Mr. Boehlert said, conversations like this are few.

"You'll find the odd congressman like Al Gore who will sit down with the boffins and say, explain it to me," said Daniel S. Greenberg, author of "Science, Money and Politics" (2001), and for many years the editor of the newsletter Science and Government Report. "But if you look at the voting, it's mostly along party lines." He added, "I don't think many congressmen could answer 10 basic questions" about science.

Mr. Holt, who has a doctorate in physics and was assistant director of the plasma physics laboratory at Princeton when he ran for Congress in 1998, jokes that he and Representative Vernon J. Ehlers, a Michigan Republican and also a physicist, are a two-man bipartisan physics caucus.

"Depending on how you count it, there's somewhere between a small handful and a large handful who have science backgrounds" in Congress, he said.

Mr. Holt has introduced legislation to establish what he calls the Center for Science and Technology Assessment. It would be a kind of successor to the O.T.A. and would be housed in the Government Accountability Office.

"I think there is a widespread if not total recognition that we need better technological assessment and advice to Congress," Mr. Holt said. "We are trying to find the right mechanism."

But not everyone agrees that such an agency would make a big difference. It is true that the Office of Technology Assessment is "much mourned," Mr. Greenberg and others say.

"If you could bring it back or establish something else to deal with these problems, it would be useful," he added.

But he blames politics for what he sees as a Congressional failure to take good action on science issues. "I don't think the worsening of the product of the Capitol — and it certainly has gotten worse — is attributable to the absence" of the office, he said.

Others say the National Academy of Sciences or the Congressional Research Service can provide information to lawmakers if they request it.

Mr. Boehlert said the prospects for Mr. Holt's proposal appeared dim. "I am for it," he said, "but in the present climate, when we are struggling to make ends meet, it's unlikely we are going to expand a support staff operation for the Congress. It's not a high priority."

That makes briefings like the one this month all the more important, Mr. Boehlert said, especially because scientists like Dr. Kennedy, a biologist by training, and Dr. Fineberg, a medical doctor, were on hand to make the case for science.

After the briefing ended, attendees crowded around the speakers, peppering them with more questions and comments. One of the fellows had a suggestion for Dr. Chivian.

"Do this again," she said, "but next time get a larger room."

Movie on Intel Design, Evolution Premieres in Kansas



Thursday's premiere of "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus'' is a sell-out.

The 84-minute documentary is being shown at the Glenwood Arts Theater in Overland Park, the hometown of the film's creator Randy Olson.

He says intelligent design supporters will "not be too discouraged'' with the film. Olsen says the movie follows the debate between evolutionists and those who believe life is too complex to be explained only by science.

A Harvard-educated scientist, Olson says he has no doubts about the theory of evolution. But he says his is the first film on the intelligent design concept that "looks at the whole picture.''

Intelligent Design advocate John Calvert is a major figure in the film. He'll see it for the first time at the premiere, which will be followed by a panel discussion involving supporters of both evolution and intelligent design.

Ed board wants book power back


Exclusive: AG asked to dump limits on panel's control of texts' content

07:17 AM CST on Tuesday, January 31, 2006

By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – At the behest of social conservatives seeking influence over textbooks used in public schools, State Board of Education members have asked the attorney general to strike down restrictions on their powers to review and reject the books' contents.

The move was initiated by Republican Terri Leo of Spring, one of five board members aligned with social conservatives and a major critic of the 1996 legal opinion that has thwarted board efforts to exert more control over textbook content.

Ms. Leo requested the opinion with the approval of board chairwoman Geraldine Miller. The requested opinion from Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott will be closely scrutinized because of Texas' influence. Many books are tailored to the state's wishes and then typically marketed in other states. And battles over content could touch on the teaching of evolution, what students are told about birth control and sexual abstinence, and interpretations of history.

A recent letter from Ms. Leo formally asking the attorney general to revisit the issue argued that the original opinion from former Attorney General Dan Morales was "erroneous on its face" and should be reversed, restoring full board authority over textbook selection.

"We suggest that the opinion misread the Texas Education Code and misinterpreted legislative intent; that State Board of Education establishment of general textbook content standards is lawful under current statute and serves a legitimate state interest," she said in her request for a new opinion.

Mr. Abbott's office typically does not comment on requests for opinions. He is considered more conservative than his predecessor Mr. Morales, a Democrat.

Her letter did not mention that the Legislature has repeatedly rejected bills over the past decade that would have done what she is now requesting – giving the board of education the right to screen content and reject books board members believe are not appropriate for students.

At least three such bills were filed in the 2005 legislative session. None came close to passage.

Mr. Ratliff, who later served as lieutenant governor, said Monday that the opinion was a correct interpretation of his legislation.

"Nothing has changed," he said. "I am still sure that was the intent of the legislation."

Ms. Leo requested the opinion with the approval of board chairwoman Geraldine Miller. Although Republican members aligned with social conservatives have been the most vocal critics of Mr. Morales' opinion, other board members – including some Democrats –have supported a restoration of the panel's textbook review authority.

After the law was passed, upset board members asked for an opinion from Mr. Morales, who upheld the restrictions. Board members were required to approve every textbook that was free of errors and contained at least half of the essential knowledge and skills in its subject, the attorney general said, citing the 1995 law.

Also voicing support for the Morales opinion at the time was Gov. George W. Bush's press secretary, Karen Hughes, and another GOP leader in the Legislature, Teel Bivins of Amarillo, then chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, a nonprofit organization that often spars with social conservative groups over religion in the schools, said that when Mr. Ratliff wrote the law, textbook selection had become bogged down over social conservatives' demands for changes on evolution, sex education and other sensitive topics.

"Every year, some board members demonstrate that given the opportunity, they would edit and change textbooks based not on the facts, but on their personal beliefs," he said. "This is a road you don't want to do down if you want a good education system. The Legislature knew that, and that is why they passed the 1995 law. And it's why they have refused to change the law since then."

Mr. Quinn said the board is now "trying to do an end run" around the Legislature.

"We would be left with textbooks that reflect the personal and political beliefs of board members if the attorney general rules in their favor," he added.

An attorney general's opinion is a written interpretation of a law. It carries the weight and force of law unless modified or overturned by a judge, the Legislature or a subsequent attorney general's opinion.

Americans for Prosperity, a group that promotes conservative causes, argued that a new attorney general's opinion affirming the board's authority over textbook selection is long overdue.

"We feel strongly they do have the authority and responsibility to review textbooks," said Peggy Venable, the group's director. "Textbooks are purchased with money out of the state's Permanent School Fund, and the state board has a constitutional responsibility to oversee how those funds are spent."

Ms. Venable said it is important that decisions on something as important as textbooks be made by elected officials rather than by government bureaucrats.

"These elected officials represent all the taxpayers in the state and have a responsibility to make sure textbooks used in our schools are accurate and conform" with the curriculum, she said.

E-mail tstutz@dallasnews.com

MIOS MEETING Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Hear Dr. Jobe Martin Describe

More Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution

Dr. Martin enters the fascinating world of animals to reveal sophisticated, complex designs that shake the traditional foundations of evolutionary theory. You will not only be inspired to look more closely at the world around you, but you will see powerful evidence that animal designs can not be explained adequately without a creator.

Dr. Martin began his scientific career as a dentist, and a believer in evolution. Some of his students challenged him to prove that evolution was correct. As he studied the topic he began to see that most of the world is heavily indoctrinated from their earliest education to believe in an earth that was created billions of years and life which evolved from non-life. Yet there is very little scientific evidence to back up this version of origins. Over the course of the next decade he uncovered abundant evidence that evolution is simply not provable, and is in fact, incredible.

Don't miss this fascinating presentation.

Bucky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX

Tuesday, February 7th, 7:30 PM

When Trust in Doctors Erodes, Other Treatments Fill the Void


February 3, 2006 By BENEDICT CAREY

A few moments before boarding a plane from Los Angeles to New York in January, Charlene Solomon performed her usual preflight ritual: she chewed a small tablet that contained trace amounts of several herbs, including extracts from daisy and chamomile plants.

Ms. Solomon, 56, said she had no way to know whether the tablet, an herb-based remedy for jet lag, worked as advertised. Researchers have found no evidence that such preparations are effective, and Ms. Solomon knows that most doctors would scoff that she was wasting her money.

Yet she swears by the tablets, as well as other alternative remedies, for reasons she acknowledges are partly psychological.

"I guess I do believe in the power of simply paying attention to your health, which in a way is what I'm doing," said Ms. Solomon, who runs a Web consulting business in Los Angeles. "But I also believe there are simply a lot of unknowns when it comes to staying healthy, and if there's a possibility something will help I'm willing to try it."

Besides, she added, "whatever I'm doing is working, so I'm going to keep doing it."

The most telling evidence of Americans' dissatisfaction with traditional health care is the more than $27 billion they spend annually on alternative and complementary medicine, according to government estimates. In ways large and small, millions of people are taking active steps to venture outside the mainstream, whether by taking the herbal remedy echinacea for a cold or by placing their last hopes for cancer cure in alternative treatment, as did Coretta Scott King, who died this week at an alternative hospice clinic in Mexico.

They do not appear to care that there is little, if any, evidence that many of the therapies work. Nor do they seem to mind that alternative therapy practitioners have a fraction of the training mainstream doctors do or that vitamin and herb makers are as profit- driven as drug makers.

This straying from conventional medicine is often rooted in a sense of disappointment, even betrayal, many patients and experts say. When patients see conventional medicine's inadequacies up close — a misdiagnosis, an intolerable drug, failed surgery, even a dismissive doctor — many find the experience profoundly disillusioning, or at least eye-opening.

Haggles with insurance providers, conflicting findings from medical studies and news reports of drug makers' covering up product side effects all feed their disaffection, to the point where many people begin to question not only the health care system but also the science behind it. Soon, intuition and the personal experience of friends and family may seem as trustworthy as advice from a doctor in diagnosing an illness or judging a treatment.

Experts say that people with serious medical problems like diabetes or cancer are least likely to take their chances with natural medicine, unless their illness is terminal. Consumers generally know that quackery is widespread in alternative practices, that there is virtually no government oversight of so-called natural remedies and that some treatments, like enemas, can be dangerous.

Still, 48 percent of American adults used at least one alternative or complementary therapy in 2004, up from 42 percent a decade ago, a figure that includes students and retirees, soccer moms and truckers, New Age seekers and religious conservatives. The numbers continue to grow, experts say, for reasons that have as much to do with increasing distrust of mainstream medicine and the psychological appeal of nontraditional approaches as with the therapeutic properties of herbs or other supplements.

"I think there is a powerful element of nostalgia at work for many people, for home remedies — for what healing is supposed to be — combined with an idealized vision of what is natural and whole and good, " said Dr. Linda Barnes, a medical anthropologist at Boston University School of Medicine.

Dr. Barnes added, "People look around and feel that the conventional system does not measure up, and that something deeper about their well-being is not being addressed at all."

Healthy and Dabbling

Ms. Solomon's first small steps outside the mainstream came in 1991, after she watched her mother die of complications from a hysterectomy.

"I saw doctors struggling to save her," she said. "They were trying really hard, and I have great respect for what they do, but at that point I realized the doctors could only do so much."

She decided then that she needed to take more responsibility for her own health, by eating better, exercising more and seeking out health aids that she thought of as natural, meaning not prescribed by a doctor or developed by a pharmaceutical company.

"I usually stay away from drugs if I can, because the side effects even of cough and cold medicines can be pretty strong," she said.

The herbal preparations she uses, she said, "have no side effects, and the difference in my view is that they help support my own body's natural capability, to fight off disease" rather than treat symptoms.

If these sentiments are present in someone like Ms. Solomon, who regularly consults her internist and describes herself as "pretty mainstream," they run far deeper in millions of other people who use nontraditional therapies more often.

In interviews and surveys, these patients often described prescription drugs as poisons that mostly mask symptoms without improving their underlying cause.

Many extend their suspicions further. In a 2004 study, researchers at the University of Arizona conducted interviews with a group of men and women in Tucson who suffered from chronic arthritis, most of whom regularly used alternative therapies. Those who used alternative methods exclusively valued the treatments on the "rightness of fit" above other factors, and they were inherently skeptical of the health care system.

Distrust in the medical industrial complex, as some patients call it, stems in part from suspicions that insurers warp medical decision making, and in part from the belief that drug companies are out to sell as many drugs as possible, regardless of patients' needs, interviews show.

"I do partly blame the drug companies and the money they make" for the breakdown in trust in the medical system, said Joyce Newman, 74, of Lynnwood Wash., who sees a natural medicine specialist as her primary doctor. "The time when you would listen to your doctor and do whatever he said — that time is long gone, in my opinion. You have to learn to use your own head."

From here it is a small step to begin doubting medical science. If Western medicine is imperfect and sometimes corrupt, then mainstream doctors may not be the best judge of treatments after all, many patients conclude. People's actual experience — the personal testimony of friends and family, in particular — feels more truthful.

To best way to validate this, said Ms. Newman and many others who regularly use nontraditional therapies, is simply to try a remedy "and listen to your own body."

Opting Out

Cynthia Riley effectively opted out of mainstream medicine when it seemed that doctors were not listening to her.

During a nine-year period that ended in 2004, Ms. Riley, 47, visited almost 20 doctors, for a variety of intermittent and strange health complaints: blurred vision, urinary difficulties, balance problems so severe that at times she wobbled like a drunk.

She felt unwell most of the time, but doctors could not figure out what she had.

Each specialist ordered different tests, depending on the symptom, Ms. Riley said, but they were usually rushed and seemed to solicit her views only as a formality.

Undeterred, Ms. Riley, an event planner who lives near New London, Conn., typed out a four-page description of her ordeal, including her suspicion that she suffered from lead poisoning. One neurologist waved the report away as if insulted; another barely skimmed it, she said.

"I remember sitting in one doctor's office and realizing, 'He thinks I'm crazy,' " Ms. Riley said. "I was getting absolutely nowhere in conventional medicine, and I was determined to get to the root of my problems."

Through word of mouth, Ms. Riley heard about Deirdre O'Connor, a naturopath with a thriving practice in nearby Mystic, Conn., and made an appointment.

In recent years, people searching for something outside of conventional medicine have increasingly turned to naturopaths, herbal specialists who must complete a degree that includes some standard medical training in order to be licensed, experts say. Fourteen states, including California and Connecticut, now license naturopaths to practice medicine. Natural medicine groups are pushing for similar legislation in other states, including New York.

Licensed naturopaths can prescribe drugs from an approved list in some states, but have no prescribing rights in others.

Right away, Ms. Riley said, she noticed a difference in the level of service. Before even visiting the office, she received a fat envelope in the mail containing a four-page questionnaire, she said. In addition to asking detailed questions about medical history — standard information — it asked about energy level, foods she craved, sensitivity to weather and self-image: "Please list adjectives that describe you," read one item.

"It felt right, from the beginning," Ms. Riley said.

Her first visit lasted an hour and a half, and Ms. O'Connor, the naturopath, agreed that metal exposure was a possible cause of her symptoms. It emerged in their interview that Ms. Riley had worked in the steel industry, and tests of her hair and urine showed elevated levels of both lead and mercury, Ms. O'Connor said.

After taking a combination of herbs, vitamins and regular doses of a drug called dimercaptosuccinic acid, or DMSA, to treat lead poisoning, Ms. Riley said, she began to feel better, and the symptoms subsided.

Along the way, Ms. O'Connor explained the treatments to Ms. Riley, sometimes using drawings, and called her patient regularly to check in, especially during the first few months, Ms. Riley said.

Other doctors said they could not comment on Ms. Riley's case because they had not examined her. Researchers who specialize in lead poisoning say that it is rare in adults but that it can cause neurological symptoms and bladder problems and is often missed by primary care doctors.

Dr. Herbert Needleman, a psychiatrist who directs the lead research group at the University of Pittsburgh, said DMSA was the pharmaceutical treatment of choice for high blood lead levels.

Researchers say there is little or no evidence that vitamins or herbs can relieve symptoms like Ms. Riley's. Still, she said, "I look and feel better than I have in years."

Life and Death

Diane Paradise bet her life on the uncertain benefits of natural medicine, after being burned physically and emotionally by conventional doctors.

In 1995, doctors told Ms. Paradise, now 35, that she had Hodgkin's disease. After a six-month course of chemotherapy and radiation, she said, she was declared cancer free, and she remained healthy for five years.

But in 2001 the cancer reappeared, more advanced, and her doctors recommended a 10-month course of drugs and radiation, plus a marrow transplant, she said.

Ms. Paradise, a marketing consultant in Rochester, N.Y., balked.

"I was burned badly the first time around, third-degree burns, and now they were talking about 10 months," she said in an interview, "and they were giving me no guarantees; they said it was experimental. That's when I started looking around. I really had nothing to lose, and I was focused on quality of life at that point, not quantity."

When she told one of her doctors that she was considering an alternative treatment in Arizona, the man exploded, she said.

"His exact words were, 'That's not treatment, that's a vacation — you're wasting your time!' " she said.

And so ended the relationship. With help from friends, Ms. Paradise raised about $40,000 to pay for the Arizona clinic's treatment, plus living expenses while there.

"I had absolutely no scientific reason for choosing this route, none," she said. "I just think there are times in our life when we are asked to make decisions based on our intuition, on our gut instinct, not based on evidence put in front of us, and for me this was one of those moments."

Cancer researchers say that there is no evidence that vitamins, herbs or other alternative therapies can cure cancer, and they caution that some regimens may worsen the disease.

But Ms. Paradise said that her relationship with the natural medicine specialist in Arizona had been collaborative and that she had felt "more empowered, more involved" in the treatment plan, which included large doses of vitamins, as well as changes in diet and sleep routines. After four months on the regimen, she said, she felt much better.

But the cancer was not cured. It has resurfaced recently and spread, and this time Ms. Paradise has started an experimental treatment with an oncologist in New York.

She is complementing this treatment, she said, with another course of alternative therapy in Arizona. She moved in with friends near Phoenix and started the alternative regime in January.

"It's 79 degrees and beautiful here," she said by phone in mid- January. "Let's hope that's a good sign."

For all their suspicions and questions about conventional medicine, those who venture outside the mainstream tend to have one thing in abundance, experts say: hope. In a 1998 survey of more than 1,000 adults from around the country, researchers found that having an interest in "personal growth or spirituality" predicted alternative medicine use.

Nontraditional healers know this, and they often offer some spiritual element in their practice, if they think it is appropriate. David Wood, a naturopath who with his wife, Cheryl, runs a large, Christian- oriented practice in Lynnwood, Wash., said he treated patients of all faiths.

"We pray with patients, with their permission," said Mr. Wood, who also works with local medical doctors when necessary. "If patients would not like us to pray for them, we don't, but it's there if needed."

He added, "Our goal here is to help people get really well, not merely free of symptoms."

That is exactly the sentiment that many Americans say they feel is missing from conventional medicine. Whatever the benefits and risks of its many concoctions and methods, alternative medicine offers them at least the promise of affectionate care, unhurried service, freedom from prescription drug side effects and the potential for feeling not just better but also spiritually recharged.

"I don't hate doctors or anything," Ms. Newman said. "I just know they can make mistakes, and so often they refer you on to see another doctor, and another."

Seeing a naturopath, she said, "I feel I'm known, they see me as a whole person, they listen to what I say."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Clinic Where Coretta King Died Attracts the Desperate

February 3, 2006 By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.


ROSARITO, Mexico, Feb. 2 — The cafeteria of the alternative medicine clinic where Coretta Scott King died this week was full of true believers on Wednesday afternoon, all swearing by the anticancer treatments of a man who never went to medical school and has a long history of fraud allegations against him in the United States.

That man, the hospital's founder, Kurt W. Donsbach, was presiding in the brightly lighted room, asking for testimonials from his patients. Several said their doctors in the United States had told them to go home and wait to die. Then they came to the clinic and discovered that Mr. Donsbach's treatments worked.

"Nobody takes your hope away here," said a 65-year-old Catholic nun and registered nurse, who has ovarian cancer and asked not to be named.

To his critics Mr. Donsbach is a huckster who lures people in fragile condition to his clinic in Mexico with empty promises of revolutionary treatments. They say some become seriously ill or die from infections contracted at the clinic, known as the Hospital Santa Mónica.

To his admirers he is a practical healer who uses a combination of unconventional techniques to help the body's immune system fight off cancer rather than bombard the body with chemotherapy and radiation.

"We don't have miracle therapies," Mr. Donsbach said. "We have a mosaic of doing many different things to impede the progress of cancer in the body."

Huckster or healer, Mr. Donsbach and his hospital are part of a long tradition in Tijuana and nearby Rosarito, where clinics offering treatments not approved in the United States have flourished for years under a government not famed for regulatory scruples. In 1980, Steve McQueen, the actor, received an anticancer treatment in Rosarito known as laetrile, made from apricot pits. He died a few months later.

Mrs. King came to the Hospital Santa Mónica last Thursday, suffering from ovarian cancer that had spread to her intestines, doctors here said. She was also partly paralyzed from a stroke. Her daughter Bernice King and a nurse accompanied her.

Mr. Donsbach said the family had heard about his clinic from members of their church congregation. "They were faced with a wall," he said. "There was no answer in allopathic medicine and they wanted to try anything that might be beneficial."

But the doctors who saw her, Humberto Seimandi and Rafael Cedeño, told reporters they could do nothing for her either. Mrs. King's health was so precarious that they never started her on any of Mr. Donsbach's treatments. They said, though, that they tried, unsuccessfully, to restart her heart when it stopped beating Monday on the fifth night of her visit.

No autopsy was performed. The death certificate was signed by an adjunct member of the clinic's staff, Dr. Carlos Guerrero Tejada.

The hospital itself is a modest white two-story building on a dirt road. Patients wander about with IV poles, receiving intravenous drips of hydrogen peroxide and vitamin C intended to boost the immune system. In another room doctors heat tumors with microwaves to weaken them.

The building faces a small piece of Baja California beach, bathed in clean Pacific light. At sunset, if one looks out to sea and squints, the spot could be mistaken for a paradise.

For George Ott, 63, a cabinetmaker from Lake Peekskill, N.Y., this paradise quickly turned into hell. Last summer Mr. Ott was told that the kidney cancer for which he had been treated two years earlier had returned, this time in his lungs.

Mr. Donsbach's claim that 70 percent of his patients are still alive after three years, as well as his promise of a cure without heavy chemotherapy, sounded enticing to a dying man, so Mr. Ott paid $12,500 for a 10-day stay in early August. Within five days, he said, he contracted a blood infection from a dirty intravenous needle that damaged his heart and nearly killed him.

"Desperate people do desperate things, and sometimes not the smartest thing in the world," he said.

Mr. Donsbach denied that Mr. Ott's infection had resulted from a dirty needle and said the infection did not develop until the day before he left the clinic.

Some patients swear by the clinic. Luke Ring, 65, a retired surgical assistant from Texas, said he had kept his throat cancer at bay for three years using Mr. Donsbach's treatments, especially one that mixed small doses of chemotherapy with glucose. "Nothing is perfect," he said. "But the treatment here is pointed toward raising the immune system to fight cancer."

Mr. Donsbach, 72, has been fighting legal battles with the authorities in the United States for decades over claims he made about nutritional supplements he sold, as well as a correspondence school for nutritionists he founded in 1977.

None of his legal troubles in the United States bothered the Mexican health authorities. Dr. Francisco Vera, health secretary for the state of Baja California, said that the clinic was registered under Dr. Cedeño's name, not Mr. Donsbach's, but that it would make no difference, since his department did not consider crimes committed in other countries when licensing medical practitioners. The clinic passed regular inspections, the most recent last June, he said.

Mr. Donsbach dismisses questions about his checkered history or lack of medical credentials as irrelevant. He maintains that most of his patients do better than those receiving conventional therapies in the United States. "They smear me instead of looking at results," he said.

Other patients here said they had turned to the clinic as a last resort. Susan Purkhiser, 38, a stuntwoman from Long Beach, Calif., said she was watching her mother, Jean Purkhiser, 72, suffer through chemotherapy when a friend told her about the clinic. Her mother decided to stop taking the drugs, and her doctors said she had only weeks to live.

"They gave my mom six weeks to live when we were stopping treatment," she said. "I said: 'Mom, you have six weeks to live. Let's go to Mexico.' "

Since arriving, Ms. Purkhiser said, her mother's condition has improved markedly. "They don't promise a cure," she said. "But even if she were to die in two months, the experience I have had down here with my mother is the most amazing I have had."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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