Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
Some ID supporters say their theory is a work in progress, just like string theory. But are they right?
By Matt Donnelly (February 7, 2006)
One of the most helpful philosophical results of the much-discussed intelligent design verdict in Dover, Pa., is a re-articulation of the difference between progressive and degenerating research programs (a concept provided by Imre Lakatos). Progressive research programs make predictions about the world that often turn out to be true, and in this way we make scientific progress. Degenerating research programs do not make accurate predictions, and they are ultimately abandoned.
This rather academic point comes to life in a fascinating editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The paper contrasts intelligent design theory and string theory, and it raises the question of whether those scientists who are open to string theory but skeptical about intelligent design are perpetuating a double standard and revealing a blatant bias.
The answer, in short, is no:
…String theory requires extra dimensions of space that have never been detected, and it describes not one universe but a near infinity of them. Parallel universes, invisible dimensions... these fantastic concepts are not directly observable, so the critics cry: "It's not science!" They appeal to the philosopher Karl Popper, who said that what distinguishes science from pseudoscience is that science can be falsified through experiment. In Popper's scheme, string theory and intelligent design can be lumped into the same category of untestable claims, and critics can make allegations that string theory is no better than religion.
Case Western physicist Lawrence Krauss, whose latest book, Hiding in the Mirror, has stirred the controversy, feels that science's current struggle against political and religious agendas makes string theory a dangerous liability. As he writes in the journal Nature, the scientific status afforded to string theory "opens us up to otherwise avoidable attacks, particularly from those who would include religious ideas in high school science curricula."
But the real danger is not string theory's lack of experiments — it is the misrepresentation of what scientific theories are all about. Sure, falsifiability is a key component of the scientific method. But there is something that matters more: the power of explanation. History reveals that the structure of a theory itself — its internal mathematical consistency, its scope, and its beauty — often determines whether it is accepted as science.
The different between intelligent design and string theory, argues the paper, is that string theory, as a scientific theory, can be falsified:
... while intelligent design is untestable in principle, string theory is just really hard. It is quite possible some clever scientist will devise a way to test it. Physicists have some ideas, but it is not going to be easy. In his new book The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design , string theory's inventor Leonard Susskind writes: "To divine the fundamental laws of nature that govern a world 16 orders of magnitude smaller than any microscope will ever see is a very tall order. It will take not only cleverness and perseverance, but it will also require tremendous quantities of chutzpah."
In recent months, leading opponents of intelligent design, including Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, have urged ID supporters to join scientific organizations and publish their work in peer-reviewed journals. In this way, she says, ID's research program will succeed or fail on the basis of scientific evidence.
For much more on ID, see the In Depth guide on ID .
By Judith Davidoff
Creationism or intelligent design could not be taught as science in Wisconsin public schools under a first-of-its-kind proposal announced today by Madison state Rep. Terese Berceau.
Under the bill, only science capable of being tested according to scientific method could be taught as science. Faith-based theories, however, could be discussed in other contexts.
Alan Attie, a biochemistry professor at UW-Madison, said the bill puts Wisconsin on the map in the ongoing controversy over evolution and intelligent design.
"We can be the un-Kansas," Attie said in an interview.
Kansas, Attie said, has been the object of derision since the state's Board of Education in 2005 adopted teaching standards that support intelligent design.
"To position us in exactly the opposite direction and be the first in the nation to do it, I'm thrilled about," Attie added.
In recent years a growing movement known as intelligent design - the idea that evolution was shaped by an intelligent creator - has challenged the teaching of evolution in public schools.
At a news conference this morning at the State Capitol, Berceau, a Democrat, was flanked by Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, and 13 top researchers from the University of Wisconsin who helped draft the legislation.
She said her bill addresses the attempts in Wisconsin and across the country to undermine science education.
"It is designed to promote good science education, and prevent the introduction of pseudo-science in the science classroom," she said.
"It does not ban the discussion of intelligent design or any other ideology in schools in nonscientific contexts. It simply states that if something is presented as science, it must actually be science."
Rob Crowther, director of communications for the Discovery Institute, the main booster group for intelligent design, said his group opposes the bill.
"We think it is a scientific theory," Crowther said of intelligent design. "There are a lot of scientists and scholars doing a lot of research on the topic in research institutions. Any effort to stifle the subject really ultimately harms the work they're doing. We see this as an academic freedom issue, not just for teachers, but for scientists."
Michael Cox, assistant chair of the biochemistry department at UW-Madison, said intelligent design is an "attempt to introduce fake science as science into the school curriculum in public schools."
In an interview, Cox said he hopes the bill improves the atmosphere for science in the state.
"I'm personally concerned as a working scientist that science is under assault in this country in a lot of different ways," Cox said. "I'd like to see some positive signs that the environment for science can be improved and I think this bill will do that."
Cox and others at the news conference said it is important to support science education in order to produce sound students, keep the nation on the cutting edge of technology, and maintain a growing and strong economy.
Berceau's bill would require that anything presented as science in the classroom be testable as a scientific hypothesis and pertain to natural, not supernatural, processes. The material would also have to be consistent with any description of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.
Berceau stressed in an interview that intelligent design and any other ideology could still be discussed in school in nonscientific contexts.
"You can even include it in a science class if you want to say why it's not a science," she said. "Otherwise it should be taught in a history of religion class or social studies or philosophy. But it's not a science and shouldn't be taught as a science."
She said the bill was inspired by recent assaults on science in the nation and state.
In Grantsburg, Wis., for instance, the school district in 2004 voted to direct its science department to "teach all theories of origin."
Grantsburg School District Superintendent Joni Burgin said today, however, that the school district has revised its policy and that it would, in fact, comply with Berceau's bill.
"There's no creationism, no religion," Burgin said.
Assembly Speaker John Gard, R-Peshtigo, did not return phone calls for comment.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Published: February 7, 2006
Technical questions and comments may be directed to The Capital Times Web editor Please state your concern in the subject line.
Copyright 2006 The Capital Times
Erica and Clive McLean turned to alternative therapy to fight his cancer, but he died. Still, it's a practice with growing acceptance.
By Shari Roan, Times Staff Writer
In the early evening of March 17, the man Erica McLean had hired to cure her husband of cancer arrived at their ranch in Sunland.
David Chuah, a biochemist from Canada, carried a large brown bag brimming with pills, drops and powders, Erica recalls. Clive McLean, 60, was to take them in addition to the other therapies Chuah had prescribed during six months of treatment, she says.
On earlier occasions he had lingered comfortably, chatting, joking, sometimes pouring himself a drink — but that night, she says, Chuah was in a hurry.
"He said, 'I'm going to leave you with a bill,' " recalls Erica, who had already paid Chuah about $18,000 for his services. As the nostrums were pulled from the bag, Clive McLean lay nearby in a rented hospital bed, his once 155-pound body withered to 95 pounds. He had been unresponsive for days.
Erica asked Chuah how to use the new medicines. Instead of answering, she says, he asked to use the McLeans' home computer, hastily typed out a bill for $120,000 and waited for Erica to write a check. He was planning to catch a flight home that evening to British Columbia, where he operated a clinic.
Stunned at the amount of money he was asking, Erica says she asked for Chuah's Social Security number. When he said he didn't know his number, her mounting frustration swelled to anger. She ordered him to leave.
"At that point it all hit me," says Erica, sitting in the now-empty living room recently, wiping tears from her eyes. "I knew this guy was a fake and that I'd never see him again. At that moment, it all made sense."
Clive McLean died March 29 of kidney cancer that had spread to his brain. The therapies for which he and his wife had paid so dearly — using up much of their savings and forsaking traditional cancer treatments that might have prolonged his life — were useless, doctors say.
Erica McLean says she has shared the details of her husband's experience with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. Acting on her complaint, the department recently completed an investigation into the actions of Chuah and Feline Butcher, a Los Angeles nutritionist with a large celebrity clientele who often works with Chuah.
The case has been turned over to the district attorney's office for consideration of criminal charges of grand theft and practicing medicine without a license.
Chuah could not be reached for comment for this article. Butcher's attorney, Donald Etra, says no charges have been filed against her and that she is "totally innocent of the allegations."
"There is no basis for any criminal action whatsoever," Etra says. "Ms. Butcher had nothing to do with Clive McLean's death."
Such investigations are rare; such allegations aren't.
So-called complementary and alternative medicine has gained a foothold in today's medical world, garnering grudging respect from many mainstream physicians and researchers. Medical centers such as UCLA and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City have created integrative programs, and medical schools increasingly offer courses in the field.
Several peer-reviewed journals are now devoted to the subject. And in 1998, Congress established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to conduct research on promising and popular therapies. "Complementary" means unorthodox therapies used in conjunction with conventional medicine, while "alternative" means therapies used in place of conventional treatment.
But with this measure of legitimacy has come a rise in unprofessional, even fraudulent, practitioners. Using the Internet and word of mouth to promote their services — and nuggets of science to defend their treatments — these peddlers of unproven cures offer hope to desperately sick people in imaginative new ways.
Some fatally ill patients forgo traditional care; others burn through their savings. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Coretta Scott King recently sought care at a Mexico clinic, Santa Monica Health Institute, known for its fringe medical treatments. She died there Tuesday, and it was shut down Friday by Mexican health authorities.
Many such patients merge conventional care with alternative practices without telling their doctors, thus risking dangerous side effects or drug interactions.
"People who know the field well think that many cancer patients are harming themselves by engaging in dubious practices," says Andrew Vickers, a research methodologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering who has studied alternative medicine.
An estimated 80% of all cancer patients in the United States use some type of unorthodox therapy, according to a 2002 survey by the business research firm Datamonitor. The worldwide market for complementary and alternative medicines for cancer patients could be as high as $18 billion, the research firm says.
Today, says Dr. Wallace Sampson, clinical professor emeritus of medicine at Stanford University, no treatments can be called bad, only "unproven." Sampson edits the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, a journal exploring the scientific validity of complementary and alternative treatments.
Proponents of unorthodox medicine have been quite successful at changing the language and the playing field, he says. "What we used to regard as illegal, immoral and unethical is now regarded as just a different way of thinking."
But Erica McLean maintains that she was duped.
"When you're dealing with something like this, you can believe anything and anybody," Erica says. "We were so pulled by the promise of a cure. It was a betrayal."
Keeping Hopes Up
Clive and Erica McLean were receptive to a different way of thinking. Clive, an easygoing man with thick hair and blue eyes, was born in Scotland, moving to London at 15 to enroll in a prestigious art school. Although painting remained his lifelong love, he left England for the United States as a young man to further his burgeoning photography career.
At 60, he was a successful photographer at Hustler magazine and owned a production company with Erica that made adult videos. He smoked cigars, laughed easily and, with Erica, his wife of 15 years, had purchased the ranch in Sunland three years ago. There, the couple kept horses and enjoyed sweeping canyon views. When they moved in, he engraved their names, the date and a heart in wet concrete on the front step of the home.
His dream, Erica says, was to ease out of his current career, build an art studio on their property and return to oil painting and sketching. Clive was also committed to his health, having given up alcohol about 11 years earlier and choosing only organic foods for the dinners he prepared for Erica each evening.
He had been a client of Butcher's nutrition practice for about 15 years, usually dropping by her office every month or two. He purchased vitamins and herbs from her to improve his energy levels and ward off colds. He even underwent intravenous vitamin therapy, containing vitamins B or C.
When Clive began suffering back pain and twitching on his left side in August 2004, he went to the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and was referred to Dr. David Hoffman, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCLA.
Hoffman diagnosed Clive with kidney cancer that had spread to his brain, and told the couple that Clive would probably die in a matter of months. But he didn't give up hope. He told them that some therapies, including surgery, did offer a slim chance of remission.
"Dr. Hoffman said, 'It's serious but let's work with it,' " recalls Erica, a petite woman who worked alongside Clive. "He said we had options."
Clive turned to Butcher for advice, Erica says.
Butcher is listed in Medical Board of California records as the office manager for Dr. Charles E. Law Jr. of the Studio City Health Center. Etra, her attorney, says she is a "nutrition consultant" without a college degree but is "self-taught with 20 years of experience." He said Butcher would not answer questions about the McLean case.
Butcher, a tall woman with a German accent who clients say exudes confidence in her advice and therapies, advised against surgery, Erica says.
Clive was torn. He first chose to undergo a treatment Hoffman recommended, gamma knife radiation surgery, to shrink the tumors in his brain that were causing his pain and twitching. The experience, Erica says, was "horrific."
On the morning of the procedure, Clive arrived at the hospital early, worried but prepared to see it through. A head frame was then attached to his skull with pins so that, during the procedure, doctors could beam radiation into the tumors. The pain was searing, but Clive was unable to lie down because of the frame attached to his head. Although he was eventually given morphine to ease his discomfort, he didn't undergo the procedure until 3:30 p.m.
Afterward, the couple left the hospital feeling as if the treatment, and what Clive had been forced to endure, had not been fully explained to them beforehand.
The experience made them even more receptive to the advice they had received two days earlier, Erica says, when Butcher dropped by to visit the McLeans with a guest in tow: David Chuah, a slight, unprepossessing man with a wealth of knowledge about alternative medicine.
Chuah described himself as a biochemist and a cancer doctor and told the couple he could cure Clive, Erica says. Then he provided a demonstration. Carting a briefcase containing rows of pills and a "dowsing rod," he instructed Clive to hold various bottles of medicine while Chuah swirled the rod around him, Erica recalls. As she tells it: If the rod made large circles, Clive didn't need that particular medicine; if the rod began spinning in small circles, the drug would be helpful.
By the end of the visit, Erica says, the McLeans had written a check for $450 for various medicines, two of which were called magic drops and C-3 drops.
"Chuah was guaranteeing that he could cure Clive," Erica contends. "Here's Western medicine with its horrible side effects, and here's this holistic, gentle nutritionist who acts so concerned."
After the radiation treatment, the McLeans informed Hoffman that they wanted to try alternative treatments instead of Hoffman's treatment plan.
The doctor had already prescribed steroids for the swelling in Clive's brain as well as an anti-seizure medication. But he had also recommended removal of the cancerous kidney and a course of interleukin-2, a drug that has been found to boost the immune system to fight solid tumors. Hoffman, an expert in the use of interleukin for kidney cancer, said about 10% to 15% of patients have a good response to the drug, sometimes surviving for several years.
Hoffman, an energetic, young doctor who prizes the bond he forms with patients, didn't fight the couple's decision to spurn traditional medicine.
Not only does he believe that patients have a right to make their own decisions, he viewed the McLeans' preference for alternative medicine as imperturbable. He had trouble convincing the couple that his treatments could make a difference, Hoffman says, and given Clive's poor prognosis, he was reluctant to try to dissuade them from something they believed could help.
"Our usual caveat is as long as it's not impoverishing you or making you feel sick, it's OK," says Hoffman of his patients' unorthodox therapies. "They were not asking me what to do. They were telling me what they were going to do." Besides, he adds, "our track record with this kind of tumor is pretty dismal."
The dowsing rod, the magic drops and the other proposed treatments were not mentioned, Hoffman says.
"The outlandish claims about a cure — I didn't hear about that until the end," he says, when Erica told him of their experiences.
Issues of Trust
The image — and, often, reality — of contemporary cancer treatment has fueled the public's search for medicine they see as gentler and practitioners they view as more empathetic.
Traditional treatments can be described as "slash, burn and poison" — surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Alternative therapies, many of them herbal, can seem safer, more natural.
Similarly, traditional care often relegates patients to long hours in waiting rooms and only minutes with their doctors. Alternative practitioners make a point of lavishing time and emotional support on their clients.
And while traditional doctors may be blunt when issuing a prognosis, alternative practitioners frequently emphasize hope and a sense of self-destiny.
People who pursue fringe alternative therapies "develop a false belief in the effectiveness and a false or unwarranted trust in the information source," says Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist who operates the website Quackwatch, devoted to debunking unproven medical claims. "If you're not sick, what you do doesn't matter a lot. But if you're sick, you have to make a decision on where to go, and that's where quackery comes in."
The belief in alternative medicine has grown amid distrust of the medical establishment. In a study published in August from the American Cancer Society, 27.3% of Americans surveyed agreed with the statement: "The medical industry is withholding a cure for cancer from the public in order to increase profits."
"That was really shocking," says Dr. Ted Gansler, the lead author of the study. "The great concern is that it implies there is a lack of trust."
Gansler, a researcher in the department of health promotion for the American Cancer Society, also found that 7% of people said they believe that "all you need to beat cancer is a positive attitude, not treatment." And 41% believed that treating cancer with surgery could spread the disease throughout the body. Neither is true.
The use of nontraditional therapies without regard to scientific proof has become culturally accepted and even encouraged, says Sampson of Stanford University. One study found that 73% of breast cancer patients used a complementary or alternative medicine and that most did so at the urging of friends, family members or because of information presented in the media — not because of a scientific study or a credentialed doctor's recommendation.
Experiences such as those Erica describes are thought to be common, although few cases of suspected fraud are reported and prosecuted. With many alternative practitioners unlicensed and unregulated by medical boards or state agencies, there is little recourse for consumers except to file a complaint with local law enforcement agencies. But those agencies' resources for identifying health fraud are thin, experts say.
For much of the fall and winter, Erica says, Clive devoted himself to taking nearly a dozen pills and drops and powders that Chuah provided — a daily regimen she kept on a large whiteboard in her kitchen. And, almost daily, she says, Clive underwent intravenous vitamin drips or colonics — a treatment to cleanse his colon with water.
Chuah also treated Clive with a Rife machine, Erica says, a computer-sized, black machine with blinking lights that supposedly emitted low-level energy to kill cancer cells. During another visit, Chuah asked everyone in the house to wear copper bracelets to "neutralize negative energy," Erica recalls. The treatments seemed bizarre, Erica acknowledges, but the couple tried to stay upbeat. Believing was part of the therapy.
"Every day was positive. Every day we said we are going to beat this," says Erica, who had T-shirts made up for herself and Clive emblazoned with the words "trust and believe."
Rife machines, which have existed on the fringes of alternative medicine for several decades, are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The agency not only prohibits marketing of the machines but also has denounced them as ineffective in curing cancer. The attorneys general in Minnesota and Wisconsin have also banned the devices; one called the machines "medical quackery, pure and simple."
The Federal Trade Commission has charged at least one manufacturer of ionized metal bracelets with making false and unsubstantiated claims, such as the statements that the bracelets correct an imbalance between positive and negative energy to stop pain or heal disease.
Practitioners of colonics, the FDA stipulates, cannot make therapeutic claims to cure or prevent disease. But Clive endured the procedures, Erica says, because he was told they could wash out the cancer cells dislodged by the Rife machine. Vickers of Sloan-Kettering calls such use preposterous. As for vitamin treatments, there is no evidence that natural substances alone can alter the course of cancer, Vickers says.
"Proponents of vitamin therapy obscure the difference between prevention and cure," he says. "They'll say there are a lot of links between diet and cancer. But prevention is a completely different biological event than a cancer cell growing. They make it sound scientific. But if you take it apart, it's meaningless."
The care and attention Clive received from Butcher and Chuah was intensely personal, even devoted, Erica recalls. And after each treatment or visit, she says, the McLeans wrote checks: $175 for a vitamin drip, $150 for a session on the Rife machine, $75 for colonics.
"When you're sick, you think that money doesn't matter," Erica says. "I wanted him to get well."
Altogether, Erica says, she wrote checks totaling approximately $20,000 to Butcher, $18,630 to Chuah and $18,000 to Law for treatments performed at the Studio City clinic, although Erica says Clive did not receive any direct care from Law. (Ultimately, she says, Chuah didn't pursue the additional $120,000 he requested.)
By February, Clive had grown weaker and was having trouble walking. Butcher suggested that the McLeans not return to Hoffman for care or to undergo tests, such as an MRI, because the procedures would further deplete him physically, Erica recalls. The tests, she knows now, would have shown the status of the disease.
Instead, Erica says, Butcher offered "to help Clive pass over to the other side."
'My Best Friend'
Erica now fights to control the guilt she feels over the therapies she purchased on Clive's behalf, the trust that they could somehow succeed where modern medicine had failed.
Although she recently returned to work, nine months later, she still won't change the message on her home answering machine — Clive's sonorous voice with its Scottish accent.
"Clive was so thrilled with life," says Erica, sitting in the living room of her sun-washed home. A pink Virgin of Guadalupe candle burns on the fireplace mantel beside a portrait of Clive, with his tousled white hair and brilliant smile. "We would sit around at the end of the day and just laugh. He was my best friend."
And, Erica says now, he may have lived longer — or achieved a remission — had he chosen conventional medical care. The couple could have taken the cruise around Mexico that Clive had suggested. "But I told him, no, we shouldn't interrupt his treatment to take a cruise," Erica says.
She regrets the unrelenting pain he endured, the "wear and tear" on his body from the daily trips for colonics and IV drips, the exhausting excursions that left him little time to groom his horses or paint. It's simply not true that Clive McLean had nothing to lose, says his wife.
"It wasn't just the money they took," says Erica. "It was the time."
Alternative medicine resources
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(888) 644-6226; http://nccam.nih.gov
This federally funded institute is charged with investigating the scientific validity of complementary and alternative therapies and making the results of those studies known to the public. It operates a clearinghouse to answer requests for information, but does not actively warn consumers about bogus or disproved treatments.
Food and Drug Administration
(888) 463-6332; http://www.fda.gov
This federal agency is charged with ensuring the safety of food, cosmetics, drugs and medical devices, including complementary and alternative medicine products. It sets limits on what health claims can be made and advises consumers on allowable health claims at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/dms/hclaims.html .
It also compiles consumer complaints regarding products and devices under its purview. Consumers can call (800) 332-1088 or go to http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/report/hcp.htm to file a complaint. The agency usually posts information on any enforcement action on its website at http://www.fda.gov/oc/enforcement.html . Warnings on supplements can be found at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/dms/ds-warn.html . In the past, the FDA has focused its alternative-medicine enforcement efforts on Internet health fraud and HIV fraud. The agency has too few resources to effectively enforce laws to prevent all fraudulent practices.
Federal Trade Commission
(877) 382-4357; http://www.ftc.gov
This federal agency enforces consumer protection laws and halts deceptive marketing practices, such as those surrounding bogus health products. Consumers can find out whether the FTC has taken action against the promoter of a product by visiting its website. Those who believe a health product is being falsely advertised can file a complaint by phone or online.
The most aggressive federal agency targeting health fraud, the FTC established Operation Cure.All to advise consumers on how to recognize health fraud online and guide businesses on how to market health products and services truthfully (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/cureall/index.html ). But the agency has limited resources and can't prosecute all falsely advertised products.
American Cancer Society
(800) ACS-2345; http://www.cancer.org
The society's guidelines urge doctors to ask their patients whether they are using complementary or alternative medicine. Surveys show that as many as 40% of cancer patients don't tell their doctors they are using such therapies. The cancer society's website offers educational materials and guidelines for such treatments.
Society for Integrative Oncology
(856) 423-3201; http://www.integrativeonc.org
This nonprofit organization helps doctors who treat cancer find the most effective combination of conventional and complementary therapies, but it does not actively warn the public about fraud or quackery.
Source: Los Angeles Times reporting
Saturday, February 4, 2006 6:40 PM CST
Both Rep. Bob May, a Rolla Republican, and Sen. Frank Barnitz, a Lake Springs Democrat, expressed concerns about the state controlling what local schools teach in science class — but both stopped short of saying they would vote against a bill requiring the teaching of intelligent design.
"I would have to weigh upon the public opinion of the people of my district," Barnitz said.
May said he would have to see exactly how an intelligent design mandate would affect schools.
A bill that appears to mandate the teaching of intelligent design is sitting idle in the Missouri House right now. Sponsored by Rep. Robert Cooper, R-Camdenton, the bill requires a "substantive amount of critical analysis" when teaching the theory of biological origins or scientific theory. "Critical analysis" includes the teaching of missing supporting data, alternate logical explanations, faulty logic and lack of experimental results.
Essentially, the bill appears to mandate the teaching that some intelligent being designed the systems on Earth, said Dr. Jerry Giger, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
Currently, Rolla schools teach biological evolution as it relates to fossil records and developmental stages of organisms. Natural selection is taught to describe how changes in characteristics provides survival advantages.
Those lessons do not include teachings that man evolved from lesser organisms, Giger said.
"We don't necessarily teach human evolution, it's not in the curriculum," said Mark Sells, who teaches biology, anatomy and physiology at Rolla High School. "What we deal with is factual evidence of change over time and genetically how that can occur."
Leaving his own personal feelings out of the equation, RHS biology teacher Dwight Warnke said he prefers teaching only scientific material.
"Intelligent design does not have hard evidence or hard facts to support the theory," he said. "Evolution is a theory, too, but it is the best showing changes over time.
"As long as it has scientific evidence and backing, I'll teach whatever," Warnke said. "My job is not to look at beliefs but to teach curriculum and curriculum teaches that science is based on scientific evidence, facts and measurements and things that are testable."
One problem with mandating the teaching of intelligent design is that it essentially teaches the belief in one higher power, he said.
"It establishes one god," Giger said. "If we teach one religion, we need to teach all."
Instead of teaching religion, he said science curriculum needs to stay focused on science and schools need to remain neutral on religious beliefs.
"People need to select their own religions and schools need to stay focused on what do we know about science that is related to science," Giger said.
The teaching of intelligent design is an issue being debated in several states.
In December, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that the Dover, Penn., School District's intelligent design policy is unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment.
In late 2004, the Dover school board adopted a policy requiring Dover High School teachers to tell students that there are gaps in Darwin's theory of evolution and also to direct students to a book about intelligent design.
The court found that teaching about "gaps" in evolutionary theory and the mention of intelligent design are essentially creationist theories. The court also took the position that intelligent design is not science.
A year after the policy was implemented, Dover voters ousted eight of nine school board members. The new board voted last month to rescind the policy.
Although the Pennsylvania District Court decision is not binding on courts or schools in Missouri, it does set a precedent that could affect how other courts rule.
Although Cooper's intelligent design bill is not currently on the legislative calendar, Giger said school officials are keeping an eye on the proposal.
Intelligent design is a reoccurring issue and will likely result in much discussion from lawmakers, if not this year than in future sessions, May said.
He said he has heard the argument that students should be provided information both about evolution and creationism. However, May admitted he is not sure how those discussions would incorporate ideas from religions that do not believe in one god.
And while Barnitz would not say how he would vote on such a bill, he did say schools should not be punished for introducing intelligent design or evolution theories.
"It needs to be balanced to allow schools to make that determination based on their local communities and local school boards," Barnitz said. "I'm not sure we should be mandating either way."
The Rolla community is made up of several cultures and religions, Giger said.
"We have kids from all over the world," he said. "We work with all cultures and beliefs. (Religion) is their choice and something parents need to teach. We need to accept each others thoughts and keep religious issues out of schools."
By KIRK JOHNSON Published: February 5, 2006
SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 3 — Faith's domain is evident everywhere at the Utah Legislature, where about 90 percent of the elected officials are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Prayers are commonplace, and lawmakers speak of their relationship with God in ordinary conversation.
So it might be tempting to assume that legislation relating to the divisive national debate about the teaching of evolution in public schools would have a predictable outcome here.
Senate Bill 96 is proving that assumption wrong. The bill, which would require science teachers to offer a disclaimer when introducing lessons on evolution — namely, that not all scientists agree on the origins of life — has deeply divided lawmakers. Some leaders in both parties have announced their opposition to the bill, and most lawmakers say that with less than a month left in the legislative session, its fate remains a tossup.
One of the reasons why is State Representative Stephen H. Urquhart, a Republican from southern Utah whose job as majority whip is to line up votes in his party. Mr. Urquhart announced last week that he would vote against the bill.
"I don't think God has an argument with science," said Mr. Urquhart, who was a biology major in college and now practices law.
Mr. Urquhart says he objects to the bill in part because it raises questions about the validity of evolution, and in part because the measure threatens traditional religious belief by blurring the lines between faith and science.
Supporters of the bill, which passed the Senate on a 16-to-12 vote one day before Mr. Urquhart's announcement, still predict that it will pass in the House. They say the bill is not about religion, but science. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a Republican and former Mormon missionary, has not said what he will do if the bill reaches his desk.
"I don't have to talk about religion — it's of no meaning and it's not part of this discussion," said State Representative James A. Ferrin, a Republican and the sponsor of the bill in the House. "It's not about belief, it's about not overstepping what we know."
Opponents of the bill, including State Senator Peter C. Knudson, the Republican majority leader, openly laugh at talk like that.
"Of course it's about religion," Mr. Knudson said.
He and other lawmakers say that part of the debate here is in fact over what kind of religion would be buttressed by the legislation. Although the Origins of Life bill, as it is formally known, does not mention an alternative theory to evolution, some legislators say they think that voting yes could be tantamount to supporting intelligent design, which posits an undefined intelligence lurking behind the miracles of life and which differs greatly from the Mormon creation story.
"There are people who say, 'That's not my religion,' or that it will only confuse our children," said State Representative Brad King, a Democrat and the minority whip in the House, who also plans to vote against the bill. "For me, it's sort of that way," added Mr. King, whose father, a Mormon bishop, taught evolution at the College of Eastern Utah.
Others say that Mormonism, with its emphasis that all beings can progress toward higher planes of existence, before and after death, has an almost built-in receptivity toward evolutionary thought that other religions might lack. Still others oppose the state's inserting itself in matters of curriculum, which are mostly under the control of local school districts.
Advocacy groups who follow the battle over the teaching of evolution nationally say that what happens here could be important far beyond state borders.
"It's being watched very closely because of the very conservative nature of the state," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, based in Washington. "If the legislation is rejected in Utah, it would be a very strong signal that the issue should be avoided elsewhere."
Missouri's legislature is considering a bill requiring "critical analysis" in teaching evolution. An Indiana lawmaker has called evolution a type of religion and proposed a bill banning textbooks that contain "fraudulent information."
Gov. Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky, a Republican, pointed out in his State of the State address earlier this month that alternative explanations for the origins of species can already be taught in Kentucky schools. A spokesman for Mr. Fletcher said he was not advocating alternatives to evolution, but merely pointing out the options.
The Utah bill's main sponsor, State Senator D. Chris Buttars, a Republican from the Salt Lake City suburbs, said he was not surprised by the debate it had inspired. He said ordinary voters were deeply concerned about the teaching of evolution.
"I got tired of people calling me and saying, 'Why is my kid coming home from high school and saying his biology teacher told him he evolved from a chimpanzee?' " Mr. Buttars said.
Evolutionary theory does not say that humans evolved from chimpanzees or from any existing species, but rather that common ancestors gave rise to multiple species and that natural selection — in which the creatures best adapted to an environment pass their genes to the next generation — was the means by which divergence occurred over time. All modern biology is based on the theory, and within the scientific community, at least, there is no controversy about it.
Even so, one important supporter of the bill, State Representative Margaret Dayton, a Republican and chairwoman of the House Education Committee, said her convictions had been underlined in recent days. "A number of scientists have been in touch with me, and I can verify that not all scientists agree," Ms. Dayton said.
Utah's predominant faith has also made its stance less predictable on other issues touching on religion in school — notably school prayer. Enthusiasm for the idea has been muted or ambivalent, said Kirk Jowers, a professor of political science and director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. Professor Jowers pointed to the awareness among Mormons of their religion's minority status in the nation and world.
"It was kind of a realization that if you push to have prayer in school, then outside of Utah, the prayer would not typically be a Mormon's prayer, so is that road you want go down?" Professor Jowers said.
Katie Kelley contributed reporting from Denver for this article.
February 4, 2006 By ANDREW C. REVKIN
A week after NASA's top climate scientist complained that the space agency's public-affairs office was trying to silence his statements on global warming, the agency's administrator, Michael D. Griffin, issued a sharply worded statement yesterday calling for "scientific openness" throughout the agency.
"It is not the job of public-affairs officers," Dr. Griffin wrote in an e-mail message to the agency's 19,000 employees, "to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's technical staff."
The statement came six days after The New York Times quoted the scientist, James E. Hansen, as saying he was threatened with "dire consequences" if he continued to call for prompt action to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. He and intermediaries in the agency's 350-member public-affairs staff said the warnings came from White House appointees in NASA headquarters.
Other National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists and public-affairs employees came forward this week to say that beyond Dr. Hansen's case, there were several other instances in which political appointees had sought to control the flow of scientific information from the agency.
They called or e-mailed The Times and sent documents showing that news releases were delayed or altered to mesh with Bush administration policies.
In October, for example, George Deutsch, a presidential appointee in NASA headquarters, told a Web designer working for the agency to add the word "theory" after every mention of the Big Bang, according to an e-mail message from Mr. Deutsch that another NASA employee forwarded to The Times.
And in December 2004, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory complained to the agency that he had been pressured to say in a news release that his oceanic research would help advance the administration's goal of space exploration.
On Thursday night and Friday, The Times sent some of the documents to Dr. Griffin and senior public-affairs officials requesting a response.
While Dr. Griffin did not respond directly, he issued the "statement of scientific openness" to agency employees, saying, "NASA has always been, is and will continue to be committed to open scientific and technical inquiry and dialogue with the public."
Because NASA encompasses a nationwide network of research centers on everything from cosmology to climate, Dr. Griffin said, some central coordination was necessary. But he added that changes in the public-affairs office's procedures "can and will be made," and that a revised policy would "be disseminated throughout the agency."
Asked if the statement came in response to the new documents and the furor over Dr. Hansen's complaints, Dr. Griffin's press secretary, Dean Acosta, replied by e-mail:
"From time to time, the administrator communicates with NASA employees on policy and issues. Today was one of those days. I hope this helps. Have a good weekend."
Climate science has been a thorny issue for the administration since 2001, when Mr. Bush abandoned a campaign pledge to restrict power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, and said the United States would not join the Kyoto Protocol, the first climate treaty requiring reductions.
But the accusations of political interference with the language of news releases and other public information on science go beyond climate change.
In interviews this week, more than a dozen public-affairs officials, along with half a dozen agency scientists, spoke of growing efforts by political appointees to control the flow of scientific information.
In the months before the 2004 election, according to interviews and some documents, these appointees sought to review news releases and to approve or deny news media requests to interview NASA scientists.
Repeatedly that year, public-affairs directors at all of NASA's science centers were admonished by White House appointees at headquarters to focus all attention on Mr. Bush's January 2004 "vision" for returning to the Moon and eventually traveling to Mars.
Starting early in 2004, directives, almost always transmitted verbally through a chain of midlevel workers, went out from NASA headquarters to the agency's far-flung research centers and institutes saying that all news releases on earth science developments had to allude to goals set out in Mr. Bush's "vision statement" for the agency, according to interviews with public-affairs officials working in headquarters and at three research centers.
Many people working at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said that at the same time, there was a slowdown in these centers' ability to publish anything related to climate.
Most of these career government employees said they could speak only on condition of anonymity, saying they feared reprisals. But their accounts tightly meshed with one another.
One NASA scientist, William Patzert, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, confirmed the general tone of the agency that year.
"That was the time when NASA was reorganizing and all of a sudden earth science disappeared," Mr. Patzert said. "Earth kind of got relegated to just being one of the 9 or 10 planets. It was ludicrous."
In another incident, on Dec. 2, 2004, the propulsion lab and NASA headquarters issued a news release describing research on links between wind patterns and the recent warming of the Indian Ocean.
It included a statement in quotation marks from Tong Lee, a scientist at the laboratory, saying some of the analytical tools used in the study could "advance space exploration" and "may someday prove useful in studying climate systems on other planets."
But after other scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory queried Dr. Lee on the statement, he e-mailed public-affairs officers saying he disavowed the quotation and demanded that the release be taken off the Web site. His message was part of a sequence of e-mail messages exchanged between scientists and public-affairs officers. That string of messages was provided to The Times on Friday by a NASA official.
In his e-mail message, Dr. Lee explained that he had cobbled together part of the statement on space exploration under "the pressure of the new HQ requirement for relevance to space exploration" and under a timeline requiring that NASA "needed something instantly."
The press office dropped the quotation from its version of the release, but in Washington, the NASA headquarters public affairs office did not.
Dr. Lee declined to be interviewed for this article.
According to other e-mail messages, the flare-up did not stop senior officials in headquarters from insisting that Mr. Bush's space-oriented vision continue to be reflected in all earth-science releases.
In the end, the news release with Dr. Lee's disavowed remark remained up on the NASA headquarters public affairs Web site until The Times asked about it yesterday. It was removed from the Web at midday.
The Big Bang memo came from Mr. Deutsch, a 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office at NASA headquarters whose résumé says he was an intern in the "war room" of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. A 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he was also the public-affairs officer who sought more control over Dr. Hansen's public statements.
In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word "theory" needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.
The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator."
It continued: "This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most."
The memo also noted that The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual specified the phrasing "Big Bang theory." Mr. Acosta, Mr. Deutsch's boss, said in an interview yesterday that for that reason, it should be used in all NASA documents.
The Deutsch memo was provided by an official at NASA headquarters who said he was upset with the effort to justify changes to descriptions of science by referring to politically charged issues like intelligent design. Senior NASA officials did not dispute the message's authenticity.
Mr. Wild declined to be interviewed; Mr. Deutsch did not respond to e-mail or phone messages. On Friday evening, repeated queries were made to the White House about how a young presidential appointee with no science background came to be supervising Web presentations on cosmology and interview requests to senior NASA scientists.
The only response came from Donald Tighe of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "Science is respected and protected and highly valued by the administration," he said.
Dennis Overbye contributed reporting for this article.
Copyright 2006The New York Times Company
In a Trial of Sham Acupuncture vs. Oral Placebo Pill, Patients Experienced Greater Pain Reduction From Sham Device Than Those Receiving Placebo Pill
BOSTON-February 1, 2006-The debate about the existence of a placebo effect has heated up over the past year as more and more lab experiments are detecting immediate physiological responses to placebos. A new study takes placebo investigations out of the lab and into a clinical trial, showing a discernible placebo effect over time, according to an article in the Feb. 1 British Medical Journal.
While researchers usually use placebos in clinical trials to test the effectiveness of a new treatment, this trial pitted one placebo against another.
"It's upside down research," said Ted Kaptchuk, assistant professor of medicine and associate director of the Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies and the Osher Institute at Harvard Medical School. "We investigated whether a sham acupuncture device has a greater placebo effect than an inert pill."
The study of 270 individuals with chronic arm pain had two phases. In the first phase, 135 patients were given sham acupuncture, and another 135 patients were given a placebo pill for two weeks. During this period, investigators found no strong evidence for an enhanced effect with placebo devices compared with placebo pills.
In the second phase of the study, the same patients were randomized again, with half the patients entered in a sham acupuncture device versus real acupuncture trial, and the other half in a placebo pill vs. real pain pill trial. The acupuncture trial extended four more weeks (the length believed needed to see improvement), and the pill trial lasted six more weeks (the length needed to have the real drug in the bloodstream).
In the second phase of the study, patients receiving sham acupuncture reported a more significant decrease in pain and symptom severity than those receiving placebo pills for the duration of the trials. The results of this study show that the placebo effect varies by type of placebo used.
"These findings suggest that the medical ritual of a device can deliver an enhanced placebo effect beyond that of a placebo pill. There are many conditions in which ritual is irrelevant when compared with drugs, such as in treatment of a bacterial infection," said Kaptchuk, "but the other extreme may also be true. In some cases, the ritual may be the critical component."
The enhanced placebo effect illustrated in this study applied only to subjective reports from patients about their perception of pain and the severity of their condition. More objective measures of grip strength showed no difference in improvements between the two placebos.
The results also provided evidence that what doctors tell patients about side effects directly influences their experience of them. Prior to participating in the study, doctors provided informed consent forms alerting the patients as to the side effects they might experience: temporary soreness for acupuncture and fatigue and dry-mouth for the pills. Of those receiving placebos, 25 percent of sham acupuncture and 31 percent of placebo pill patients reported experiencing the very side effects suggested to them even when nothing was administered to cause them.
This study takes the first step away from examining the placebo effect as a generalized phenomenon to one investigating how it varies in specific clinical environments. Kaptchuk and his colleagues have initiated other National Institute of Health funded studies that will explore the placebo phenomenon in clinical trials for different illnesses and in laboratory experiments that focus on underlying neurobiological, biochemical, genetic and psychological mechanisms.
Though the results of this study add evidence pointing to the existence of a placebo effect in a clinical environment, Kaptchuk does not recommend the use of placebos with patients or deception in the doctor-patient encounter. The aim is to understand how the ritual of healing affects health outcomes.
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Johnson to lecture on evolution and intelligent design at Campbell
A federal court judge ruled recently that intelligent design cannot be taught in biology classes in a Pennsylvania school district because the teaching of the Bible does not belong in science classes, but should be studied in its historical and literary context. Phillip E. Johnson, Professor Emeritus of law at the University of California at Berkeley, will discuss the controversial debate over evolution, intelligent design and the separation of church and state at a lecture held Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. in Lynch Auditorium of the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business.
The author of "Darwin on Trial" and "Reason in the Balance," Johnson, who is a founder of intelligent design, is an expert on the scientific and religious theories that have caused such heated debate. Should intelligent design, which holds that the biological aspects of life are so complex they couldn't have evolved randomly, but must have been produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, be taught in science class with Darwin's theory of evolution, or is it a violation of the separation of church and state as provided in the First Amendment? Johnson will discuss this complex and controversial question at this special lecture sponsored by Campbell University's Department of Biological Sciences.
A native of Illinois, Johnson received his undergraduate degree from Harvard and his Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago law school, where he graduated first in his class. He became a clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren at the Supreme Court and, in 1967, began teaching at Berkeley where he gained an international reputation as a teacher of criminal law and legal theory. He is the author of numerous books and has lectured throughout the country.
For more information concerning the lecture, contact the Department of Biological Sciences at (910) 893-1730.
Public release date: 26-Jan-2006
Contact: Patricia Lomando White email@example.com 412-624-9101 University of Pittsburgh
Jeffrey H. Schwartz's sudden origins closed Darwin's gaps; cell biology explains how
This release was previously embargoed for January 31, 2006 at 10 am EST.
An article by University of Pittsburgh Professor of Anthropology Jeffrey H. Schwartz and University of Salerno Professor of Biochemistry Bruno Maresca, published Jan. 30 in the New Anatomist journal, shows that the emerging understanding of cell structure lends strong support to Schwartz's theory of evolution, originally explained in his seminal work, Sudden Origins: Fossils, Genes, and the Emergence of Species (John Wiley & Sons, 2000).
In that book, Schwartz hearkens back to earlier theories that suggest that the Darwinian model of evolution as continual and gradual adaptation to the environment glosses over gaps in the fossil record by assuming the intervening fossils simply have not been found yet. Rather, Schwartz argues, they have not been found because they don't exist, since evolution is not necessarily gradual but often sudden, dramatic expressions of change that began on the cellular level because of radical environmental stressors--like extreme heat, cold, or crowding--years earlier.
Determining the mechanism that causes those delayed expressions of change is Schwartz's major contribution to the evolution of the theory of evolution. The mechanism, the authors explain, is this: Environmental upheaval causes genes to mutate, and those altered genes remain in a recessive state, spreading silently through the population until offspring appear with two copies of the new mutation and change suddenly, seemingly appearing out of thin air. Those changes may be significant and beneficial (like teeth or limbs) or, more likely, kill the organism.
Why does it take an environmental drama to cause mutations? Why don't cells subtly and constantly change in small ways over time, as Darwin suggests?
Cell biologists know the answer: Cells don't like to change and don't do so easily. As Schwartz and Maresca explain: Cells in their ordinary states have suites of molecules-- various kinds of proteins--whose jobs are to eliminate error that might get introduced and derail the functioning of their cell. For instance, some proteins work to keep the cell membrane intact. Other proteins act as chaperones, bringing molecules to their proper locations in the cell, and so on. In short, with that kind of protection from change, it is very difficult for mutations, of whatever kind, to gain a foothold. But extreme stress pushes cells beyond their capacity to produce protective proteins, and then mutation can occur.
This revelation has enormous implications for the notion that organisms routinely change to adapt to the environment. Actually, Schwartz argues, it is the environment that knocks them off their equilibrium and as likely ultimately kills them as changes them. And so they are being rocked by the environment, not adapting to it.
The article's conclusions also have important implications for the notion of "fixing" the environment to protect endangered species. While it is indeed the environment causing the mutation, the resulting organism is in an altogether different environment by the time the novelty finally escapes its recessive state and expresses itself.
"You just can't do a quick fix on the environment to prevent extinction because the cause of the mutation occurred some time in the past, and you don't know what the cause of the stress was at that time," Schwartz said.
"This new understanding of how organisms change provides us with an opportunity to forestall the damage we might cause by unthinking disruption of the environment," added Schwartz. "The Sudden Origins theory, buttressed by modern cell biology, underscores the need to preserve the environment--not only to enhance life today, but to protect life generations from now."
Schwartz, with his colleague Ian Tattersall, curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, also authored the four-volume The Human Fossil Record (Wiley-Liss, 2002-05). Together, the volumes represent the first study of the entire human fossil record. Volume 1 was recognized by the Association of American Publishers with its Professional Scholarly Publishing Award. In 1987, Schwartz's The Red Ape: Orang-utans and Human Origin (Houghton Mifflin Company) was met with critical acclaim.
Schwartz, who also is a Pitt professor of the history and philosophy of science, was named a fellow in Pitt's Center for the Philosophy of Science and a fellow of the prestigious World Academy of Arts and Science.
The journal, The New Anatomist, is an invitation-only supplement to the Anatomical Record.
Click here for full article: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/112349521/PDFSTART
By William Dillon, Staff Writer 02/03/2006
Robert M. Hazen, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Geophysical Laboratory, presents his lecture, "Why intelligent design is not science," Thursday at Iowa State University.
The debate over intelligent design's place in science billowed once again on the Iowa State University campus Thursday with the visit of Robert Hazen, an earth scientist from the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
In a lecture titled, "Why intelligent design is not science," Hazen laid out some of the ideas surrounding the origin of life. The argument he presented Thursday explained how the origin of life could have come from a sequence of emergent chemical events, each one more complex than the last.
Hazen didn't dismiss the concept of intelligent design as a viable argument in the philosophical or theological sense, but said it doesn't have anything to do with science. Science, by its very nature, he said, has no way to prove or disprove the evidence of God.
Hazen continuously admitted that science has many holes and unknowns. He said that while proponents of intelligent design explain those gaps through God or an intelligent designer, he sees the gaps "as an opportunity, compared to a wall that cannot be breached."
"Will we fill in every gap? No, because the more we learn, the more we learn we don't know," he said.
Of all the dimensions of the intelligent design debate, Hazen said he is "passionately" against those people who argue that a person has to be either "for science" or "for religion." Many scientists, he said, would struggle with that notion.
"They polarize the debate," he said. "They make it a lot harder than it has to be."
More than 400 people packed into the Sun Room of ISU's Memorial Union for Hazen's lecture Thursday. The lecture was heavily attended by students, more so than a typical lecture offered through ISU's Committee on Lectures, the organizing group behind Hazen's visit.
For some of the students, Hazen's lecture was about hearing something new.
"We wanted to hear somebody talk about something other than Christianity in Iowa," said ISU student Jenna Miller.
For at least one other student, it offered a chance to explore alternative ways of thinking.
"While I am a Christian, I feel you have to look at both sides," said Daniel Groepper, an ISU student majoring in chemistry. "I heard this quote once ... I can't remember who it was - Stevie Wonder or someone - that said, 'Unquestioned faith is just a hunch.' "
William Dillon can be reached at 232-2161, Ext. 361, or William.Dillon@amestrib.com.
Ailing look for hope
By Louie Gilot El Paso Times
Saturday, February 4, 2006
JUAREZ — Alfredo Moreno points to a pair of dusty deer antlers hanging over his head in his Juárez hierbería, or herbal remedies shop, one of many stores in Mexico sought by Americans, sometimes in desperation, to cure serious illnesses.
"You grind it up," he instructed a visitor, making a pounding gesture with his hands. "You boil it and you drink it. It's good for cancer."
For a half-century, cancer patients rich and poor have flocked to markets and clinics south of the border looking for medical miracles and agreeing to treatments that are shunned, prohibited or regarded as outright quackery in the United States.
Moreno also peddles a mysterious tea he calls hierba del cancer, cancer herb.
Pressed for more information, he takes out the catalog from his Mexico City supplier and finds a photograph of capsules of shark fin extract recommended for arthritis, osteoporosis, hemorrhoids and cancer, among other ailments.
Moreno gets a lot of American customers.
Last week, Coretta Scott King died in a clinic in the Mexican beach resort of Rosarito, 16 miles south of San Diego, where she allegedly received treatment for advanced-stage ovarian cancer.
In 1980, American actor Steve McQueen went to Juárez for cancer treatment and died of heart failure after surgery to remove a tumor.
His obituary by the Associated Press said he had been treated with controversial cancer drug "laetrile, coffee enemas, large doses of vitamins and intramuscular injections of animal cells."
But these days, doctors say, alternative cancer treatment is not a last-resort scenario anymore.
"When I started practicing alternative medicine in 1986, we saw only terminal cases. Now that alternative medicine and natural remedies are more popular and more understood, we see a lot more early (cancer) cases and we do a lot of preventive medicine," said Dr. Francisco Soto, a general surgeon and the founder of the Advanced Medical Group, which he considers to be the largest holistic clinic in Juárez.
Soto said another clinic similar to his with about 10 doctors also practices alternative medicine in Juárez.
In comparison, the area around Tijuana is a hotbed for the clinics, about 35 of them, according to Dr. Alfredo Gruel, former health services director for the state of Baja California.
Soto said that cancer patients make up about 40 percent of his practice, and that most of them are Americans.
Some of his methods for treating cancer patients are oxygen treatments, injections of extracts from cells of calf embryos, and a diet of vegetables and grains.
"These treatments are not approved in the United States," he said. "They are not proven scientifically."
The American Cancer Society generally recommends skepticism toward methods and lists all the research available on each method on its Web site. In El Paso, UTEP pharmacist José Rivera maintains a Web site listing the benefits and dangers of herbal remedies.
In a study to be released this year, Rivera found that the use of herbal products is much higher on the border, where close to 70 percent of people use medicinal herbs, than in the rest of the country, where only 13 to 19 percent do so. The idea is that it can't hurt.
Enriqueta de la O and her husband, Pedro Cruz, an elderly Juárez couple, bought honeycomb at the Cuauhtémoc market in Juárez last week for their adult daughter who has been diagnosed with uterine cancer. A friend of their daughter's suggested she take honey.
"Right now she is taking all sorts of things, natural things," de la O said.
"It can't hurt and if it doesn't work, well, honey is still good for a sore throat," Cruz said.
Rivera says some natural remedies can cause intoxication and death and interfere with conventional medication. But he also thinks that medicinal herbs are potentially beneficial and that the medical community should investigate them.
"People are taking these products. But the attitude of doctors is to simply say, 'Don't take that,' " he said.
Rivera is trying to get funding from National Institutes of Health to conduct clinical trials on some untested herbal products. Most herbs are not regulated by the Food and Drugs Administration.
The National Cancer Institute, part of U.S. Institutes of Health, is conducting studies on the use of shark cartilage; massage; pancreatic enzymes; hyperbaric, or high pressure; oxygen; and mistletoe to treat cancer. The institute has listed acupuncture as an effective way to manage the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and the pain associated with surgery.
However, critics said a lot of the apparent benefits of holistic medicine could be due to the so-called placebo effect, in which improvements appear only because the patient believes the drug is working.
The Mexican clinic where King died has been closed, U.S. Embassy officials said Friday.
The clinic's founder and director, Kurt W. Donsbach, has a criminal record and has been accused of offering dubious treatments to desperately ill patients, according to court records and a watchdog group.
It was unclear if Donsbach's past had anything to do with the closing of the Santa Monica clinic.
The clinic doctors assigned to care for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow said she arrived in poor health and they couldn't even begin to treat her before she died early this week.
"She came here with half her body paralyzed," Dr. Rafael Cedeno, the doctor who was overseeing her case, told reporters after King's death. "She was in really bad condition."
Louie Gilot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6131.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
For more information: www.advancedmedicalgroup.net and www.herbalsafety.utep.edu.
Religious critics of evolution are wrong about its flaws. But are they right that it threatens belief in a loving God?
By Shankar Vedantam Sunday, February 5, 2006; W08
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid . . .
-- Isaiah 11:6
What a book a Devil's Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low and horridly cruel works of nature.
-- Charles Darwin
Ricky Nguyen and Mariama Lowe never really believed in evolution to begin with. But as they took their seats in Room CC-121 at Northern Virginia Community College on November 2, they fully expected to hear what students usually hear in any Biology 101 class: that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was true.
As professor Caroline Crocker took the lectern, Nguyen sat in the back of the class of 60 students, Lowe in the front. Crocker, who wore a light brown sweater and slacks, flashed a slide showing a cartoon of a cheerful monkey eating a banana. An arrow led from the monkey to a photograph of an exceptionally unattractive man sitting in his underwear on a couch. Above the arrow was a question mark.
Crocker was about to establish a small beachhead for an insurgency that ultimately aims to topple Darwin's view that humans and apes are distant cousins. The lecture she was to deliver had caused her to lose a job at a previous university, she told me earlier, and she was taking a risk by delivering it again. As a nontenured professor, she had little institutional protection. But this highly trained biologist wanted students to know what she herself deeply believed: that the scientific establishment was perpetrating fraud, hunting down critics of evolution to ruin them and disguising an atheistic view of life in the garb of science.
It took a while for Nguyen, Lowe and the other students to realize what they were hearing. Some took notes; others doodled distractedly. Crocker brought up a new slide. She told the students there were two kinds of evolution: microevolution and macroevolution. Microevolution is easily seen in any microbiology lab. Grow bacteria in a petri dish; destroy half with penicillin; and allow the remainder to repopulate the dish. The new generation of bacteria, descendants of survivors, will better withstand the drug the next time. That's because they are likely to have the chance mutations that allow some bacteria to defend themselves against penicillin. Over multiple cycles, increasingly resistant strains can become impervious to the drug, and the mutations can become standard issue throughout the bacterial population. A new, resistant strain of bacteria would have evolved. While such small changes are well established, Crocker said, they are quite different from macroevolution. No one has ever seen a dog turn into a cat in a laboratory.
The students leaned forward. They were starting to realize that this was unconventional material for a biology class. Many scientists, Crocker added, believe that complex life reveals the hand of an intelligent designer. The theory of intelligent design holds that while the evolutionary forces of random genetic mutation and natural selection may shape species on a small scale, they cannot account for the kind of large-scale differences between, say, chimpanzees and humans. Only some form of intelligence -- most people read that phrase as "God" -- could have accounted for the origin of life from nonliving matter, or the existence of complex structures within cells and organisms that rely on many parts functioning together. While many advocates of the theory of intelligent design, including Crocker, are religious, some are not. What unites these advocates is not religion but the belief that supernatural forces are active in everyday life. Science, they say, fails to see the true nature of the world when it refuses to admit anything other than material evidence. Crocker believes that biological systems cannot grow more complex on their own any more than a novel, through chance typographical errors, can turn into a different book, with a different story. How could anyone think that new books get written because of typos in old books?
Ripples of excitement spread through the class. Crocker took the students on a tour of experiments that she said were supposed to prove evolution. In the 1950s, she said, scientists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey ran electricity through a soup of chemicals to show how chemicals on the early Earth could assemble themselves into the building blocks of life.
"Anyone read about it?" she asked.
"It's in our book," a student said.
Crocker said that subsequent research had shown that chemicals used in the experiment did not exist on Earth 4 billion years ago. "The experiment is irrelevant, but you still find it in your books," she said.
She cited another experiment, involving researcher Bernard Kettlewell, who produced pictures of variously colored peppered moths on tree trunks to show that when the moths were not well camouflaged, they were more likely to be eaten by birds -- a process of natural selection that influenced the color of the moths. "This comes from your book -- it is not actually true," Crocker said. "The experiment was falsified. He glued his moths to the trees."
Gasps and giggles burst out. Why was the experiment still in the textbook? Crocker said the authors' answer was, "because it makes the point . . . The problem with evolution is that it is all supposition -- this evolved into this -- but there is no evidence."
The students sat stunned. But Crocker was not done. From this ill-conceived theory, she concluded, much harm had arisen. Nazi Germany had taken Darwin's ideas about natural selection, the credo that only the fittest survive, and followed it to its extreme conclusions -- anti-Semitism, eugenics and death camps. "What happened in Germany in World War II was based on science, that some genes and some people should be killed," Crocker said quietly. "My grandfather had a genetic problem and was put in the hospital and killed."
Nguyen was among the first students to speak. "With so many things disproving evolution and evolution having no proof, why is it still taught?" he asked.
"Right now, in our society, we have an underlying philosophy of naturalism, that there is a material explanation for everything," Crocker replied. "Evolution came with that philosophy."
Carolyn Flitcroft, a student in one of the front rows, said: "So far, we have only learned that evolution is true. This is the first time I have ever heard it isn't."
"I lost my job at George Mason University for teaching the problems with evolution," said Crocker, a charge that the university denies. "Lots of scientists question evolution, but they would lose their jobs if they spoke out."
As more students began to speak, many expressed what were clearly long-held doubts about evolution. Nguyen said later that Crocker had merely provided evidence for what he had always suspected.
When Lowe finally spoke, it seemed as if the lecture had lifted a load from her shoulders. "I believe in creationism, I believe in intelligent design," she declared to the class. Humans have souls, which make them different from other animals, she told me later. To believe in evolution meant that "after you are dead, you are done." Without the accountability of Judgment Day and Hell, why would people follow the Ten Commandments?
A woman in the back of the class raised her hand. Her voice shook with emotion. "If science is the pursuit of truth, why is evolution not questioned?"
"I've heard scientists say people won't understand, so they should be told only one side," Crocker replied.
There was a long moment of silence. Finally the student said, "Isn't that lying to the public?"
Crocker declined to answer the question, but someone else grimly observed, "Won't be the first time."
I went up to this last student after the class. She initially agreed to be identified, but moments later, remembering what Crocker had said about the scientific establishment's intolerance of dissent, she begged me not to publish her name. The fear on her face was palpable. She wanted to be a veterinarian and was convinced that dream would be smashed if powerful scientists learned she had dared to question evolution.
Before the class, Crocker had told me that she was going to teach "the strengths and weaknesses of evolution." Afterward, I asked her whether she was going to discuss the evidence for evolution in another class. She said no.
"There really is not a lot of evidence for evolution," Crocker said. Besides, she added, she saw her role as trying to balance the "ad nauseum" pro-evolution accounts that students had long been force-fed.
Late last fall, Crocker debated Alan Leshner, head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The audience was a group of seventh-grade students at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in Falls Church. Leshner will not debate opponents of evolution in person, and he will not debate them in a science class, because the science association believes that such events convey a false sense to the public that there really exists a scientific controversy over evolution. As a result, Leshner and Crocker spoke to a debating class on consecutive weeks.
The theory of evolution, Leshner announced to the students, was as firmly established as the theory of gravity. That didn't mean it couldn't be disproved, just that no one had ever done so -- or even raised any significant doubts. Leshner grabbed a set of papers and books. If the theory of gravitation still held true, it predicted with very high probability that the bundle would fall. He let go, and the papers and books landed with a thud.
"Whew!" he quipped. "That's a relief."
Evolutionary theory, Leshner explained, does the same thing. It explains and makes predictions about the living world that hold up. Even though Darwin's theory predated -- by a century -- the discovery of DNA and a scientific understanding of the role of genes in heredity, the more science learns, the more the living world looks exactly like what would be expected if evolution were true. All living things are built from the same genetic toolbox, and species that evolution predicts are closely related share more genetic material than those that evolution says are far apart. Humans and chimps, for example, share 96 percent of their DNA sequence. Intelligent design's argument that evolution cannot explain the origin of astoundingly complex biological systems such as the flagellum of bacteria -- the microscopic, whiplike propulsion system with multiple interdependent parts -- is indistinguishable, Leshner said, from the bland assertion that science has not explained everything. Unexplained, however, is not the same as unexplainable. When ID advocates see something unexplained, they point to the supernatural. But science, by definition, looks only for natural explanations, Leshner said.
"For all I know, there was an intelligent designer, but science can't answer the question," Leshner told the students.
Crocker's arguments are part of a familiar litany of half-truths and errors, said Alan Gishlick, a research affiliate at the National Center for Science Education. The Miller-Urey experiment was not intended to be evidence for evolution but part of a research program into how biological mechanisms might arise from nonbiological chemical reactions. As for gluing moths to trees, Gishlick said, researcher Kettlewell affixed the moths to trees to determine how birds spot moths of different hues. The photos were illustrations and never meant to be depictions of real life.
"They put us in a position that we have to defend things that don't need defending, and then they come back and say, Why are you defending things that we know are wrong?" Gishlick told me, his voice rising.
While critics of evolution point to gaps in the fossil record -- asking, for instance, why no fossils of intermediary species exist between land mammals and sea mammals -- new discoveries regularly fill those holes. By 1994, observed Brown University biologist Ken Miller, scientists unearthed fossils of animals near the Indian subcontinent that had front and hind limbs capable of walking on land and flippering through water.
Why have such examples failed to convince doubters? Over many months of interviews about intelligent design, I gradually came to realize that evolution's advocates and critics are mostly talking about different things. While the controversy over intelligent design is superficially about scientific facts, the real debate is more emotional. Evolution cuts to the heart of the belief that humans have a special place in creation. If all things in the living world exist solely because of evolutionary competition and natural selection, what room is left for the idea that humans are made in God's image or for any morality beyond the naked requirements of survival? Beneath all the complex arguments of intelligent design advocates, Georgetown theologian John Haught agreed, "there lies a deeply human and passionately religious concern about whether the universe resides in the bosom of a loving, caring God or is instead perched over an abyss of ultimate meaninglessness."
If intelligent design advocates have generally been blind to the overwhelming evidence for evolution, scientists have generally been deaf to concerns about evolution's implications.
At a news conference last year to mark the start of a trial in Dover, Pa., where parents had sued a school board for trying to introduce intelligent design into curricula, Leshner's science association and Gishlick's science education center repeatedly argued that evolution has no moral implications. They insisted that science and religion could coexist easily and pointed out that many scientists who accept evolution are religious.
Many religious conservatives believe the assertion that science and religion occupy separate, non-conflicting spheres is a smokescreen, a convenient way for religious liberals to brush conflict under the carpet. That may be why Leshner's diplomatic views are rarely mentioned by critics of evolution. And it is also why a 64-year-old biologist in England has come to occupy an outsize role in one of America's oldest culture wars. No matter the forum, location or theme, any debate about intelligent design or evolution will sooner or later invoke the name of Richard Dawkins.
"Anyone who chooses not to believe in evolution is ignorant, stupid or insane," said Dawkins, professor of public understanding of science at Oxford University.
Dawkins was sitting in his Victorian Gothic home in North Oxford. The house boasts high ceilings and beautiful views of the garden, and, from this sanctuary, Dawkins has penned some of the world's best-known prose in praise of Darwin's theory of evolution. Among religious people, Dawkins is known primarily not for his science but for his militant views on evolution's implications, especially as they pertain to religion in general and Christianity in particular. What beneficent creator, Darwin himself asked after his voyage of discovery to the Galapagos Islands in South America, would permit the sort of suffering so widespread in nature? "The God of the Galapagos is careless, wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical," agreed the American philosopher David Hull, writing in the scientific journal Nature. "He is certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray."
Dawkins first shot to fame with his bestselling book, The Selfish Gene, published in 1975, which laid out the idea that animals -- humans included -- are essentially survival machines for genes. Individual animals die, and whole species may go extinct, but an unbroken genetic line connects every living thing on Earth. In the three decades since he wrote that book, Dawkins has seen his ideas become textbook orthodoxy, even as the notion of selfish genes has grown controversial among nonscientists. Even his wife, the biologist noted, once said, "Selfish genes are Frankensteins, and all life their monster."
It occurred to me as I listened to Dawkins that there is a parallel between the public's fear of selfish genes and the blockbuster science fiction movie "The Matrix," where highly sophisticated robots take over the world: Humans in the movie do not realize they are circumscribed by unseen rules and artificial parameters; they believe they are free, when in fact they are serving the robots. Genes, Dawkins asserted, behave much like these robots, with some differences. While the robots are malevolent and manipulative, genes lack conscious intention. The "selfishness" of genes is only a metaphor. Nor are genes purely deterministic. Behavior, especially at the level of humans, is complex, and leaves much room for learning and culture. Humans can also outsmart their genetic commanders -- contraceptives, for example, have disentangled the genetic lure of sexual pleasure from the genetic goal of procreation. Still, one implication of neo-Darwinian ideas is that even when people believe they are acting autonomously, they may really only be obeying the distant tugs of genes.
Dawkins's refusal to blunt the sharp implications of evolutionary theory places him at ground zero in debates about evolution. For doubters of Darwin, Dawkins has become the poster boy of how evolutionary ideas lead -- inevitably, many religious people believe -- to atheism. I asked Dawkins about his propensity to rub religious people the wrong way.
"I honestly think it comes from being clear," he said. "Some people can't bear clarity . . . to say someone is ignorant is not insulting. I'm ignorant of baseball, and I wouldn't be insulted if someone said, 'You don't know what you are talking about.' Anyone who thinks the world is 10,000 years old doesn't know anything about the world."
Dawkins told me that the idea that science and religion occupy separate spheres doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Every miracle in the Bible, from the Virgin Birth to the Resurrection, tramples on what Dawkins calls the scientific grass. "Politically, it's expedient to pretend there is no conflict," he told me. "What I care about is what's true, not what's politically expedient."
And evolutionary science has a great deal to say about ethics and morality, Dawkins said. Being "pro-life in debates on abortion or stem cell research always means pro-human life, for no sensibly articulated reason," he once wrote. The fact that humans think of themselves as altogether distinct from other animals -- and the biblical notion that humans have dominion over other animals -- is a sort of racism, Dawkins said. Evolution shows that fox hunters and bullfighters are tormenting their own distant cousins, which is why the biologist sends money to anti-bullfighting groups in Spain, and why he notes with pride that fox hunting was banned on the family farm. "The melancholy fact," Dawkins wrote in an essay called "Gaps in the Mind," "is that, at present, society's moral attitudes rest almost entirely on the . . . speciesist imperative."
Darwinian ideas about natural selection are also freighted with moral import because they show that nature, while spectacularly beautiful and ingenious, requires prodigious amounts of ruthlessness and suffering to achieve its ends. The grace of the cheetah, the beauty of a butterfly's wings and the complexity of the human brain were all achieved by the same general process that allows bacteria to evolve into a resistant strain -- they required the death of those less quick, less strong and less smart.
"The sheer amount of suffering in the world that is the direct result of natural selection is beyond contemplation," Dawkins told me. He recently published a collection of essays called A Devil's Chaplain, drawing on a phrase Darwin employed to describe the indifferent cruelty of nature, where wasps paralyze caterpillars segment by segment so their larvae may feed on living meat: "What a book a Devil's Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low and horridly cruel works of nature." But in response to his wife's suggestion that Frankenstein-like selfish genes have created living monsters, Dawkins believes that, alone on Earth, human beings can rebel against the mechanistic indifference of nature. Understanding the pitiless ways of natural selection is precisely what can make humans moral, Dawkins said. It is human agency, human rationality and human law that can create a world more compassionate than nature, not a religious view that falsely sees the universe as fundamentally good and benevolent. That is why, Dawkins said, he donates to disaster relief efforts -- work that is "un-Darwinian" -- and why he is a stickler for human laws, even the unimportant ones: When riding his bicycle, he stops at red lights even when there are no traffic and police officers present.
"I am a passionate Darwinian when it comes to explaining how things are, but I am an even more passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics," said Dawkins, who comes close to describing himself as a pacifist. "Let us understand Darwinism so we can walk in the opposite direction when it comes to setting up society."
Moral implications have attended Darwin's theory from the beginning. The arrow that points to the past, to the origin of human beings, also points in the other direction -- to human purpose and meaning.
"Moral concerns are exactly what most people who are concerned about Darwinism in the classroom are concerned about," said Russell Moore, dean of the theology school at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. "They may not articulate it in the same way, but most Americans fear a world in which everything is reduced to biology."
David Masci, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, who helped conduct a recent poll that found only about 1 in 4 Americans believes that humans came about through evolution alone, said that many Christians are disturbed by the Darwinian notion that human beings, far from being the point of creation, are essentially an accident: "But for a different mutation here or there, or if an asteroid had not hit the Earth 65 million years ago, none of who we are would have happened."
Some religious scientists have argued that evolution is consistent with a God who sets the world in motion and then leaves it to function according to fixed laws, or that the evolution of intelligent life reveals a divine plan for the emergence of creatures capable of recognizing God. However, those ideas of a distant designer are at odds with the notion of a loving God who regularly intervenes in the world to lift the burdens of the faithful. "There are a lot of forms of Christianity that are not compatible with Darwinism," said Richard Weikart, a professor of history at California State University in Stanislaus and the author of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany.
Weikart, who is also a research fellow at the Discovery Institute, the chief proponent of intelligent design in the United States, said Darwinism advanced the cause not of immorality, but amorality. As evidence, he pointed to the work of evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists who have applied Darwin's ideas to human behavior and society and who have concluded that the same processes of natural selection that gave rise to eyes, hands and legs also produce emotions and behavior -- even morality. Reduced to the Darwinian arithmetic of natural selection, emotions are neither good nor bad but merely appendages, such as wings or hands, selfishly designed by genes for their own survival. The distant tugs of genes may give rise to altruism, love and compassion, not just to selfishness and hatred, but that means human assertions about good and evil are just that, notions that humans impose on an indifferent universe, instead of absolute law. It would be as if human beings invented God, rather than the other way around.
"It may be difficult," Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species, "but we ought to admire the savage instinctive hatred of the queen-bee, which urges her to destroy the young queens, her daughters, as soon as they are born, or to perish herself in the combat; for undoubtedly this is for the good of the community; and maternal love or maternal hatred, though the latter fortunately is most rare, is all the same to the inexorable principles of natural selection."
If humans descended from animals, Weikart argued, no one could assert that humans ought to behave in qualitatively different ways from animals. And whatever Dawkins may say about humans choosing to turn their back on survival-of-the-fittest mentality, Weikart said, evolutionary ideas make the opposite more likely. "Eugenics would have had a difficult time getting off the ground without Darwinism," he said.
Evolutionists abhor that assertion, but social Darwinism goes right back to Darwin himself. In The Descent of Man, Darwin noted that it was "highly injurious to the race of man" that civilized nations care for and keep alive "the imbecile, the maimed and the sick." And while natural selection ascribes no particular value to any trait or race -- fitness is merely how well an organism adapts to its environment -- the naturalist reflected the prejudices of his time, 19th-century colonial Britain, when he quoted others who worried that the "careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman" and the "inferior" Celt usually multiply faster than the "frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious" Scot and the Saxon. Darwin believed society would be aided by "the weak in body and mind refraining from marriage."
In fairness, Darwin mostly refrained from extrapolating natural selection to human society. And he abhorred slavery at a time when many justified it as the natural order of things. Yet, it is unquestionably true that Darwinian ideas have been easily appropriated by advocates with axes to grind. In his own day, Darwin's research was eagerly seized upon by Thomas Henry Huxley, who used evolutionary ideas to cudgel religion.
"Extinguished theologians lie about the cradle of every science as the strangled snakes beside that of Hercules," Huxley declared in an 1860 essay about The Origin of Species. "And history records that whenever science and orthodoxy have been fairly opposed, the latter have been forced to retire from the lists, bleeding and crushed, if not annihilated."
In the caverns of the University of Cambridge, among darkened library stacks, Alison Pearn opened a small box. Inside were red, leather-bound notebooks, 3 inches by 6 inches, held shut with a metal clasp. The notebooks belonged to Darwin, and the ones we were examining reflected his notes on how evolutionary processes may explain the development of emotions. Lacking the tools of modern neuroscience, the naturalist studied animals, got nieces to monitor pets and even asked the parents of newborns to report to him on their crying babies.
On adjoining shelves that form the basis of the Darwin Correspondence Project, a massive effort by Pearn and her colleagues to collate the private letters and musings of evolution's prime theorist, yellowing sheets bore diary entries from Darwin's travels to South America on the HMS Beagle. Pearn delicately lifted pages of the notebooks with both hands; pens and ink of any sort were forbidden in the library area. As I examined the notebooks, I saw that Darwin's handwriting was spidery and bore idiosyncratic little ticks above his W's.
The origin of the moral conflicts over evolution goes back to those notebooks. They help explain why Darwin held his tongue for 20 years between his voyage and his publication of The Origin of Species in 1859. Realizing the religious and moral implications of his work, Darwin told a friend, was "like confessing a murder."
"The Origin of Species for people was a bombshell," said Darwin biographer James Moore. "It went off like a terrorist attack on the intellectual establishment."
Moore is a philosopher of science at the University of Cambridge, a visiting scholar at Harvard University and a co-author of Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist. I spoke with him at Cambridge last year, on the sidelines of a fellowship I was attending organized by the university and the John Templeton Foundation, which seeks to build bridges between science and religion. The foundation is critical of intelligent design for discounting abundant scientific evidence but has offered forums for advocates and critics of the theory to debate one another.
Darwin himself studied at Cambridge, where he showed the same curiosity about the natural world that would mark the rest of his life. For instance, no pursuit at Cambridge, Darwin noted in his brief autobiography, gave him more pleasure than collecting beetles. On one occasion, having peeled back the bark on a tree, Darwin spotted two rare beetles. Eagerly he scooped them up in either hand. At that very moment, he spied a third beetle, which he could not bear to lose. "I popped the one which I held in my right hand into my mouth," Darwin wrote. "Alas! It ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle out, which was lost, as was the third one."
Like many educated men of his time, Darwin planned to become an Anglican clergyman. When an opportunity arose to become a naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle, he set out expecting "to see God's magnificence manifested in nature," Moore said. Throughout the voyage, there is evidence Darwin held closely to his faith, to the point that he was teased for being such a keen believer, said Thomas Dixon, a historian at Lancaster University in England. That faith endured as Darwin was writing The Origin of Species, and it was eventually shaken less by his scientific findings than by a personal tragedy that caused Darwin to reject the existence of a Christian God who was loving and good.
At one point in Darwin's voyage to South America, Moore told me, the naturalist stopped in Brazil, where his blood ran cold to see slaves in manacles being tortured by Catholic traders. Darwin was enraged as a Christian, but also as a scientist, because he recognized that the slave trade relied on the false notion that slaves were a different, inferior and exploitable species. Upon his return to England, Darwin extended the idea to the way people treated animals, an early precursor to Dawkins's argument about speciesism. "To say man is the pinnacle of creation and all things were created for him . . . Darwin says that is the same arrogance we see in the slave master," said Moore. Quoting Darwin, he added that it is "more humble and I believe true to see man created from animals -- because that makes us netted together in the web of life."
Assembling and collating the staggering range of observations he made during his travels about plants, insects and animals, and drawing insights from geology and embryology, Darwin set about his argument. He realized it was going to be controversial, but far from being anti-religious, Moore said, Darwin saw evolution as evidence of an orderly, Christian God. While his findings contradicted literal interpretations of the Bible and the special place that human beings have in creation, Darwin believed he was showing something even more grand -- that God's hand was present in all living things.
"He is not degrading man," Moore told me. "He is bringing up the rest of creation."
But Darwin's religious worldview was shaken after the death of a beloved daughter in 1851, when he was unable to reconcile the death to God's will. Moore said Darwin determined that "yes, there is a God; yes, he governs by law, but the tragic consequence of these laws is that the very old and very young go out of existence . . .
"It was the personally providential Christian god that he gives up," Moore said. "He [still] believes in the power of God, but this is not the Lord and father of Jesus Christ."
Darwin's dilemma reverberates to this day: The basic tenet of all religions is that everything will work out in the end, said John Green, who studies religion and science at the University of Akron. In an indifferent universe, however, "everything is not going to turn out okay in the end."
While Dawkins believes that Darwin referred to "the Creator" in his book merely to assuage religious critics, Moore and Alison Pearn said it was a true reflection of Darwin's beliefs.
"Darwin stared deeply into the naked face of nature without a God, and I don't believe he could accept what he saw -- that there was just this natural machine," said Moore. The machine, Darwin eventually concluded, was the way God brought complex life into existence. This idea of a distant designer who sets creation in motion and then does not interfere with it is embraced today by many religious scientists.
"There is grandeur in this view of life," Darwin insisted in the conclusion to The Origin of Species. From simple beginnings "breathed by the Creator" the naturalist wrote, "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."
Eighteen Christians filed into the chapel of Truro Church in Fairfax. It was a sunny fall morning, and the group had shown up to listen to a different kind of sermon: Paul Julienne was giving a lecture on science and faith. Julienne is a physicist for the federal government and a believer.
"When people argue that science proves there is no God, they are taking a step beyond the science," said Julienne. "If I have a criticism of intelligent design, it is that . . . natural theology is not the way one comes to understand God. God loves us. We're not accidents. There is purpose. You don't have to snap at Darwin at the heels."
Julienne reflects two curious facets of the debate over intelligent design. The first is that while physicists were the original source of science's conflict with the church, Christians by and large seem to have made their peace with physicists. Passages in Genesis about Earth's central location in the universe are contradicted by astronomy, but battles between science and Christianity today are almost entirely over biology. In part, said Richard Potts, a biologist who studies human origins at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, this is because evolution requires a comprehension of enormous amounts of time; by contrast, telescopes have made Earth's peripheral location in the cosmos obvious. But there is another reason. With the advent of quantum mechanics, physicists have come to believe that there are things about the universe that are not only unknown but unknowable. Biologists, by contrast, are far more likely to be reductionists, who believe all phenomena are explainable.
Julienne's criticism of intelligent design echoes the concern of many people who are worried not about the consequences of intelligent design to science but about its consequences to faith. Brown University's Ken Miller, a devout Catholic, noted in his book Finding Darwin's God: "If a lack of scientific explanation is proof of God's existence, the counterlogic is unimpeachable: A successful scientific explanation is an argument against God. That's why this reasoning, ultimately, is much more dangerous to religion than it is to science."
Why have intelligent design advocates sought to conduct the debate on scientific grounds -- seeking to undermine the validity of evolutionary theory, while studiously avoiding mention of God or morality? In part, several historians said, this reflects the growing hegemony of science in a society where arguments need to be seen as scientific for them to carry weight.
Ronald Numbers, a professor of the history of science and medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has studied Darwinism and creationism, contends that a focus on evolution was also the only way to get creationists to set aside their own disagreements. Different groups, he told me, disagree over whether the world was literally created in seven days, as described in Genesis, whether those seven days were a metaphorical way to refer to seven epochs, or whether there were large, undocumented gaps of time between the days.
"There are three camps just within the creationists," said Numbers. "The intelligent design people say, let's set aside these quibbles, and let's focus on evolution. They want to create a big tent with all the anti-evolutionists."
While creationism in general has moved ever closer to scientific language in its various incarnations over the past century, Lancaster University historian Thomas Dixon noted that the modern debate over intelligent design -- largely an American phenomenon -- is really about neither science nor religion, but the American constitution, which has kept religion out of schools. The intelligent design movement, he said, is simply a reaction to this prohibition, which does not exist in Britain.
Given that so many scientists and religious people believe the theory does disservice to both science and religion, Dixon said, "a solution to this may be to have schools teach religion. Let them teach Christianity and everything else. It may be a complete and utter revolution in American history, but I'm saying it's a good idea."
Sitting in the pews of the church the morning I heard Paul Julienne was Caroline Crocker, the biology professor whom I had watched teach a few days earlier. I asked Crocker what she made of Julienne's assertions about intelligent design.
"I agree it makes for weak theology," she said.
But Crocker was reluctant to say much more. In fact, she seemed reluctant to be speaking to a reporter at all. She asked if I had seen the e-mail she had sent me the previous day; I had not. In it, she described the attacks targeted at her career as a result of her views on evolution. Losing the faculty position at GMU had left Crocker worried about how she could support a son at school in England. Family members were asking why she was sticking her neck out. Crocker and her husband, Richard, who is associate rector at Truro, believe she has become the victim of scientific authoritarianism. It is one thing to believe his wife is wrong, Richard Crocker told me, and quite another to deprive her of her right to speak.
GMU spokesman Daniel Walsch denied that the school had fired Crocker. She was a part-time faculty member, he said, and was let go at the end of her contract period for reasons unrelated to her views on intelligent design. "We wholeheartedly support academic freedom," he said. But teachers also have a responsibility to stick to subjects they were hired to teach, he added, and intelligent design belonged in a religion class, not biology. Does academic freedom "literally give you the right to talk about anything, whether it has anything to do with the subject matter or not? The answer is no."
Crocker said she came to her views on evolution not because of her religious faith but while working on a PhD in biology, when she learned about the complexity of the cell and the immune system. When I asked her what she made of the extraordinary genetic relatedness of living things, Crocker said she saw it as consistent with the hand of a creator, who uses the same palette of DNA to build protozoa, pandas and people.
The sense that the scientific establishment is intolerant of dissent has become common wisdom among intelligent design advocates. Many are convinced the fight should be left to tenured professors, such as biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, the author of the anti-evolution tome Darwin's Black Box, and to professionals at the Discovery Institute.
"She is really brave for it, but I felt bad that her contract wasn't renewed," said Irene Fanous Kamel, a student who took Crocker's class at GMU and whose orthodox Coptic Christian family hails from Egypt. Kamel, who recently presented her own sympathetic views on intelligent design at a seminar, said she heard exasperated sighs from professors. In private, however, many students said they agreed with her. Kamel said she "would be very surprised to find another teacher talk about ID in class, unless they have tenure. It's not welcome."
An unintended consequence of the scientific establishment's exasperation with evolution's critics is that supporters of intelligent design such as Crocker and Kamel are increasingly limiting their conversations to fellow sympathizers. Among themselves, these advocates believe the wheel has turned full circle: If Galileo and Copernicus were the scientific rebels who were once punished by the dogma and authority of the church, these advocates now believe that they are being punished by the dogma and authority of science.
"Just like they say you can't discriminate against black people, or against gays, maybe they will say you can't discriminate against Darwin-doubters," Crocker told me.
The personal flavor of the fight over intelligent design has been exacerbated by the political contours of the debate in the United States, where many backers of evolution fear the Christian right is seeking to impose its views on a secular nation, while religious people feel they are held in contempt by intellectuals. In an increasingly partisan atmosphere, advocates have begun to treat opponents -- and not just ideas -- as fair game.
Nancey Murphy, a religious scholar at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., said she faced a campaign to get her fired because she expressed the view that intelligent design was not only poor theology, but "so stupid, I don't want to give them my time."
Murphy, who believes in evolution, said she had to fight to keep her job after one of the founding members of the intelligent design movement, legal theorist Phillip Johnson, called a trustee at the seminary and tried to get her fired.
"His tactic has always been to fight dirty when anyone attacks his ideas," she said. "For a long time afterward, I would tell reporters I don't want to comment, and I don't want you to say I don't want to comment. I'm tired of being careful."
Johnson denied he had tried to get Murphy fired. He said that he had spoken with a former trustee of the seminary who was himself upset with Murphy but that he was not responsible for any action taken against her. "It's the Darwinists who hold the power in academia and who threaten the professional status and livelihoods of anyone who disagrees," Johnson said. "They feel to teach anything but their orthodoxy is an act of professional treason."
The odd thing is that while religious people are striving to sound like scientists, some scientists are starting to sound like religious advocates, Cambridge cosmologist John Barrow warned. "In doing science, one should be careful about wanting your theory to be true," he said. "This is a big difference between science and religion. If you have a religious theory, you have to want the theory to be true."
And it was exactly the kind of fight that Darwin abhorred, said Alison Pearn, the historian at the Darwin Correspondence Project. Although the naturalist's extraordinary scholarship entitled him to strong views, Pearn said Darwin always reached out to people with different opinions. In his books, he strove mightily to represent the best arguments against his own theory, a fair-mindedness that has sometimes been abused by critics who selectively use quotes to suggest the naturalist himself had doubts. Pearn said Darwin welcomed debate because he believed that, eventually, the better ideas would win.
"The question is whether other people must be made to believe what you believe," she said. If Darwin were alive today, she added, "Dawkins would have been goading him to say something, and he would have found a way to politely get out of it."
A wealth of studies in recent years have suggested the benefits of faith and religious community for mental and physical health -- potential markers, in Darwinian terms, of evolutionary success. Given that traditional people tend to have larger families, and that the doubters of natural selection are more likely than not to be religious traditionalists, I asked Dawkins whether natural selection may favor those who don't believe in it.
Dawkins said he thought the scientific evidence on the benefits of religion was equivocal. Still, he said: "That's an interesting suggestion that natural selection may favor those who do not believe in natural selection. It might be true."
Religious scientists and philosophers who believe Darwin is right on evolution are striving to reconcile the implications of evolution with their faith. Theologian John Haught argued that a loving God can be reconciled with the suffering inherent in evolution because divine love implies freedom, and freedom implies the possibility of suffering. John Polkinghorne, a Cambridge physicist and clergyman, wrote that the world's suffering is redeemed when God suffers along with creation: ". . . the Christian God is the Crucified God, not just a compassionate spectator of the travail of creation, but also truly 'a fellow sufferer who understands.'"
While evolutionary ideas may coexist better with Eastern religious traditions that do not emphasize the active, involved God of Christianity, there are still obstacles. When asked about Buddhist views on evolution at a recent meeting in Washington, the Dalai Lama said the theory failed to account for the idea of karma, the ledger of reward and punishment carried over from life to life.
Peter Lipton, a University of Cambridge historian and philosopher, said the only way he has found to reconcile the factual evidence for evolution with religious faith is to think of religious texts as novels, texts in which believers can emotionally immerse themselves, while still knowing, at another level, that the truth claims being made are not literally true.
Russell Stannard, a religious physicist and the British director of the fellowship where Lipton spoke to a group of journalists, bristled at the idea. "I can't see how a Christian can approach the New Testament as a novel," he said. "Whether there is a Resurrection or not is not the stuff of novels -- it is supposed to be historical fact."
"Maybe I am asking less of religion than you are," Lipton replied. "Think of all the worldly benefits you derive from religion -- they are benefits that might or might not be divinely caused. I get those benefits; I don't think they are divinely caused."
I asked Lipton whether he was trying to have his cake and eat it, too. He admitted he was: "Here I am in a synagogue on a Saturday morning, and I say the prayers and say all these things to God and engage with God, and yet I don't believe God exists. As I am saying that prayer, I recognize it as being a statement to God. I understand it literally, and it has meaning because of the human sentiments it expresses. I am standing saying this prayer that my ancestors said, with feeling and intention, those things are moving to me. What I am saying is, maybe that is enough."
Shankar Vedantam writes about science and human behavior for The Post. He will be fielding questions and comments about this article Monday at 1 p.m. at washingtonpost.com/liveonline.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company