NTS LogoSkeptical News for 2 March 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Victory over Hindu nationalists in California textbooks rewrite



Sacramento, California, Feb 28: The intense struggle over the content of Indian history in California textbooks ended yesterday afternoon at 2 p.m. with the special committee of the California State Board of Education [SBE] voting unanimously to overturn a majority of contentious changes proposed by Hindu right-wing groups to California school textbooks. This decision is a victory for community organizations such as Friends of South Asia (FOSA), the Ambedkar Center for Peace and Justice, the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America, and the Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), who have worked diligently to ensure that ahistorical and sectarian content proposed by Hindu right-wing groups is removed from California textbooks. Hundreds of South Asian scholars from across the United States and nearly fifty internationally renowned Indologists had repeatedly written to the Board as well, protesting the changes proposed by the Hindu nationalist groups.

At a public hearing on February 27th, the SBE special committee heard testimony from scores of people, regarding controversial edits for 6th grade history-social science textbooks proposed by two Hindu Nationalist Indian American groups, the Vedic Foundation (VF) and the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF). These organizations have provoked outrage from a broad spectrum of South Asian community groups for pushing sectarian agendas and revisionist histories which whitewash references to the oppression of women and Dalits (formerly known as "untouchables"), and present Hinduism as a monotheistic religion and Aryans as indigenous to India, despite overwhelming scholarly evidence to the contrary.

Parents, students, working professionals, faculty, first and second generation immigrants, and representatives of many community groups eloquently stressed the importance of presenting children with accurate, scholarly information on all aspects of ancient Indian history. Some of the most moving testimony before the SBE came from individuals who had personally experienced caste oppression. Representatives of Dalit organizations urged the SBE to restore references to Dalits and the caste system, which had been deleted from the textbooks on the HEF's and VF's recommendations. "The caste system is the single most important repressive social phenomenon that has been unique to Hinduism for over 3,000 years and should therefore find a place in the textbooks," reminded Rama Krishna Bhupathi of Friends of South Asia and a Dalit himself. Speaking for the Federation of Tamils of North America, Thillai Kumaran, a concerned parent who stated his lower-caste origins during his testimony, strenuously objected to the textbooks' suggestion that the caste system is no longer relevant in modern India. "Hinduism continues to affect the social status of people in India, and has condemned millions of Dalits as social outcasts," he said. Hansraj Kajla, also a parent and representative of the Guru Ravi Dass Gurdwara (a Dalit group), suggested that the deletion of references to the caste system and the word "Dalit" in the textbooks was tantamount to "wiping out the histories of more than 160 million people in India."

The powerful and stirring testimony from Dalit groups was met with outright denial from the HEF and VF supporters. One speaker claimed that there was no oppression against lower castes in India and indeed it was only higher classes in India that faced discrimination due to the affirmative action programs, while another argued that the very fact that some Dalits had migrated to California is evidence enough that Dalits are a privileged community in India.

While supporters of the VF and HEF claimed that references to negative aspects of Hinduism such as the caste system and the oppression of women damage the self-esteem of their children, others strongly disagreed. Speaking from her experiences of learning about caste and gender oppression in middle school, Veena Dubal, a joint law and doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, explained, "Like many of my European-American classmates whose ancestral histories could be traced to a time before women and people of color were given independent legal identities and allowed political participation… I was painfully embarrassed to read about the injustices committed in my parents' homeland. Yet it was precisely these lessons that taught me about the necessity for universal civil liberties and human rights." Simmy Makhijani, who also remembers facing racism and sexism in American classrooms while growing up, challenged the attempts by HEF and VF to sanitize Indian history. She asked, "My concern is why should history be (re)written to make us feel better?"

One of the most contentious edits that received considerable attention at the meeting was one where the HEF sought to replace the original text, "Men [in ancient India] had many more rights than women" with one that read "Men had different duties (dharma) and rights than women." The staff of the California Department of Education recommended against making this edit yesterday, in keeping with the demands of groups such as Friends of South Asia, Coalition Against Communalism and others who insisted on a historical approach to ancient India. As Kasturi Ray, a specialist in Gender and Women's studies in UC, Berkeley, and herself a Hindu-American parent said in her letter to the Board, "This sentence also equates difference with what were actually systematically-denied duties and rights based on gender. With this sentence, we lose the opportunity to understand what women really had to do (and continue to do) to win equal duties and rights." Angana Chatterji, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, concurred that an accurate understanding of history can inspire individuals to become better citizens. In her letter to the SBE, Chatterji observed, "We must make distinctions between a national pride that wishes to put forward a uniform and glorifying version of history and the scholarship of history, which seeks to present the complexities of societies. Fiction as history does not benefit Indian-American and other California school-goers."

Speakers at the special committee meeting also pointed out the VF and HEF have organizational ties to militant Hindu groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in India that have been linked to large-scale violence against religious minorities. Others underscored the pluralistic nature of Hinduism. Shiva Mandalam challenged the Hindu Education Foundation's claim that the Vedas constitute the source of Hinduism "Popular Hinduism, as it is practiced today," he pointed out, "is a complex set of practices, which has little to do with the Vedas." He claimed that the VF and HEF promote the views of high-caste Hindu elites "who view culture in terms of neat, boxed, and segregated religious categories and feel threatened by practices that are egalitarian and tolerant of other religions."

Raju Rajagopal, an organizer for CAC, marveled at the overwhelming community mobilization against the VF's and HEF's campaign to insert sectarian material into California textbooks. He also highlighted that this controversy was not just abstract debate but had immediate social relevance. "Hindu right wing historians claim that the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Kaaba in Mecca and some 1000 mosques in Ahmedabad were once Hindu temples. This was clearly on the mind of VHP/RSS rioters in 2002, when they destroyed or converted into temples over 270 mosques during the massive Gujarat pogroms. Rewriting history the Hindutva way – as suggested by many of the edits by VF/HEF -- are designed and destined to lead to more communal conflicts in India. "

The SBE is slated to make its final decisions regarding textbook adoption on its meeting on March 8-10, 2006.

The coalition issuing this press-release includes Friends of South Asia (FOSA), an organization working toward a multicultural, pluralistic, and hate-free South Asia, and Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), an Indian American organization which promotes religious tolerance in the Indian diaspora.

For further information on this press release, please contact mail[at]friendsofsouthasia.org

Industry-Funded Research Disputes Grow



Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dr. Aubrey Blumsohn was stunned: Research results were submitted to a scientific meeting under his name, yet the British bone specialist insists he not only hadn't written or reviewed the report, he wasn't sure it was accurate.

The incident turned into a public feud when Blumsohn charged that the U.S. drug company paying for the study rebuffed his attempts to analyze the data.

It's the latest in a string of controversies about pharmaceutical industry control of medical research, from hidden antidepressant risks to the undercounting of heart attacks in a critical study of the painkiller Vioxx.

Whoever pays for medical research — not necessarily the scientists who do the work — controls what doctors, and the public, learn about its outcome. Scientific journals, including one that published some of the reports Blumsohn now questions, are grappling anew with how to ensure that they print complete results.

"This is a major problem, for both researchers and scientific journals," said Dr. Joseph Lorenzo of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, which has convened a task force to consider whether extra steps are needed to protect against "hidden biases" in industry-funded research.

It's an important question, considering that the pharmaceutical industry provides about 70 percent of the financing for studies of medications in the United States.

Questions about that research started making headlines in 2004, when a Food and Drug Administration reanalysis of industry antidepressant studies concluded those drugs sometimes increase the risk of suicide in children.

Then Merck & Co. pulled its arthritis drug Vioxx off the market, after research found long-term use doubled the risk of heart attacks. Critics say the risk was downplayed until then — and last December, the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that it had published a 2000 Merck study that failed to disclose some heart attacks, making the drug appear less risky than later determined.

Reeling from bad publicity, the industry pledged to do better at revealing results of clinical trials. Editors of leading medical journals attempted to force them to do so, by declaring they would no longer publish results of any studies that hadn't been listed in a public registry. And Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is pushing for legislation to mandate full disclosure.

But Blumsohn, in a Capitol Hill visit arranged by the watchdog Government Accountability Project, is raising questions of more subtle influence — which Procter & Gamble, the company that funded his work, disputes.

P&G hired his lab at Sheffield University to analyze samples from thousands of women who used its osteoporosis drug Actonel. The goal: to determine what rate of bone renewal gives the most protection against fractures.

E-mails that Blumsohn provided to The Associated Press suggest P&G denied him access to the patient data until months after results had been submitted in his name to the bone society. Blumsohn finally got a brief look in July 2003, only to conclude that about 40 percent of the data was missing, skewing the results, he said.

"We've allowed the basic rules of science to be flouted without a murmur from anyone," contends Blumsohn, who is meeting this week with Grassley's staff and drug regulators in Washington.

P&G spokesman Tom Millikin said Blumsohn "was provided full and unfiltered access to all of the data that was relevant to the work he performed."

That appears to be in line with standards outlined by the industry's Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

"This issue is about a relationship fraught with misunderstanding, and we sincerely regret that," Millikin added, noting that Blumsohn willingly discussed the research at two medical meetings.

Blumsohn counters that he presented only data he could confirm.

"Access to data means you've got the numbers. They redefined 'access to data' meaning a company statistician would give you some tables," he said. "These companies are using scientists, university scientists, to give their research a veneer of university respectability and credibility."

The researcher's case made headlines in Britain, and was raised in Parliament last December after the university suspended him. Blumsohn said it was for speaking to the press; reports at the time quoted the university as saying it had encouraged him to raise his concerns using proper channels.

Many leading scientific journals require researchers to affirm that they analyzed all the raw data, not averages or compilations from someone else. Yet a recent survey, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, of 122 universities' standards for drug-company research found 17 percent reported disputes over control of or access to data. Also, they reported widespread disagreement over whether the companies that pay for research should be allowed to help write the results for publication, or insert their own interpretation of those results.

The American Association of Medical Colleges last month published principles for industry-funded research that affirm the importance of access to full data.

Forum: Evolution debate needs even chance


Published February 26, 2006

'Ideology deludes, inspires dishonesty, and breeds fanaticism. Facts, experience, and logic are much better at leading you to truth. Truth, however, is not everyone's intended destination." These are the observations of Daniel J. Flynn in his 2004 book "Intellectual Morons."

Is his quote applicable to the intelligent design versus natural selection debate? I think it is. The December decision by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones in Dover Pennsylvania that Intelligent Design (ID) is not a scientifically based theory only confuses this debate and does not bring us closer to truth, assuming that is the goal.

Litigation, and not the laboratory, is simply an easy short-term way to prohibit opposition to the status quo. Only courageous and confident adherents to any theory allow ongoing debate in the search for truth. What we have with this debate are two science-based views (ID and Evolution) and one theological-based view (Creationism). Many school boards across the country will confront this issue in 2006 as the two camps entrench themselves in ideological fortresses at the expense of the scientific process, the traditional way to reveal what is true, what is probable, what is unknown and what cannot be known.

This debate would be better served and make more sense if we let the wonderful and time-tested method of the scientific process expose valid and erroneous contentions in all theories. Proper application of the scientific method allows data to be formed into a hypothesis that is validated or invalidated by deduction, induction and experimentation. A hypothesis is peer reviewed and debated under the shared goal of finding a truth or model that explains our reality.

The debate of origins and life development should not be framed as science versus religion or reason versus faith. The tools of science and the scientific process of peer review and testing should be freely engaged to debate the merits of either theory and all theories. However, most traditional evolutionists are nervous about this as the burden of proof is on them and over the last 150 years of evolutionary passion there is scant evidence for "macro-evolution," or one species becoming another. Darwinian evolutionists have acted mostly as religious zealots and did not reinforce their theory by letting the scientific process work. Rather, they chose the cowardly way of shutting the doors to academia, classrooms, and the media to those offering credible dissent to their worldview.

The true scandal of this misdirected debate is the ongoing indoctrination of false science in many high school and college textbooks. So many evolutionary icons (Haeckel's Embryos, Peppered Moths, Darwins Tree of Life, Piltdown Man, etc.) have been proven a fraud or false. Where is the science in perpetuating a lie? All scientists should take a stand against false ideas regardless of their support of a particular theory.

I agree with the many who say teaching faith as science undermines the very idea of science. Too much scientific knowledge has historically been impeded by special interest groups applying a "survival of the fittest" mindset on what is fact or fiction, new evidence or probabilities be damned.

History is loaded with examples of incumbent powerful organizations or bureaucracies, such as school boards, that try and often do suppress any new idea, theory or evidence that undermines the dominant group's monopoly.

The Tennessee school board suppression of John T. Scopes' teaching of evolution in the 1920s is perhaps the most notable example. Though the state ruled in support of the school board, they were wrong in preventing Scopes from teaching evolution, a theory gaining popularity.

The present controversy of whether intelligent design should be taught in public school science classrooms along with evolution is an example of an interest group adhering to rigid dogma to maintain an idea monopoly and preserve the status quo. The monopolists in this case are the macro-evolutionists who fear the crumbling of their Darwinian worldview.

If the evidence is growing that the rise and development of life is unlikely to have occurredd by the long-taught evolutionary engines of natural selection and random mutations, the career work of numerous researchers, professors and scientists is discredited. The same self-preservation was evidenced by the church authorities in Galileo's time and just as wrong.

We would all benefit if the debate of origins was fairly presented and the scientific process always respected. Imagine how stimulated students would be if allowed to use all evidence at their disposal (historical, mathematical, probability, scientific, microbiology, experimentation) to test the validity of creationism, intelligent design, micro-evolution, macro-evolution, natural selection, and other hypotheses and theories.

If in 40 years, ID has been discredited as a valid theory for origins through the scientific process or reasoned objective debate, so be it. Perhaps the opposite will be the case: Evolution as traditionally taught may be exposed as the longest-running adult fairy tale in modern history.

If worldview prejudice could be put aside, true education may occur and the various theories of origins and life development would stand or fall on their own evidence, in the science classroom, without being defensively propped up by exclusionary autocratic dogma.

President of the Property Companies
Fairfax, Va.

Copyright © 2006 News World Communications, Inc.

Canadian college curbs Wi-Fi, fears health risks


Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:57 PM GMT

By David Rider

TORONTO (Reuters) - A small Canadian university has ruled out campus-wide wireless Internet access because its president fears the system's electromagnetic forces could pose a risk to students' health.

Lakehead University, in Thunder Bay, Ontario, has only a limited Wi-Fi connections at present, in places where there is no fibre-optic Internet connection. And that, according to president Fred Gilbert, is just fine.

"The jury is still out on the impact that electromagnetic forces have on human physiology," Gilbert told a university meeting last month, insisting that university policy would not change while he remained president.

"Some studies have indicated that there are links to carcinogenetic occurrences in animals, including humans, that are related to energy fields associated with wireless hotspots, whether those hotspots are transmissions lines, whether they're outlets, plasma screens, or microwave ovens that leak."

Lakehead University published a transcript of Gilbert's remarks on its Web site. Spokeswoman Eleanor Abaya said the decision not to expand the university's few isolated wireless networks was a "personal decision" by Gilbert.

But the president's stance has prompted a backlash from students and from Canadian health authorities, who say his fears are overdone.

"If you look at the body of science, we're confident that there is no demonstrable health effect or effects from wireless technology," said Robert Bradley, director of consumer and clinical radiation protection at Canada's federal health department.

He said there was no reason to believe that properly installed wireless networks pose a health hazard to computer users.

Adam Krupper, president of the Lakehead students' union, estimated about 1,000 of the school's 7,500 students have laptops that could pick up a wireless signal, and he said students "really, really" want Wi-Fi on campus.

"Considering this is a university known for its great use of technology, it's kind of bad that we can't get Wi-Fi," he said.

Gilbert is a former vice-provost of Colorado State University who holds degrees in biology and zoology. He was previously a zoology professor.

© Reuters 2006.

Alternative remedies fail government tests


Posted on Sun, Feb. 26, 2006

LINDSEY TANNERAssociated PressCHICAGO - For years, millions of Americans have spent billions of dollars on alternative remedies with unproven effects. Now, rigorous science is starting to test those treatments and mostly finds them lacking.

Last week, major government-funded research indicated that two wildly popular arthritis pills, glucosamine and chondroitin, did no better than dummy pills at relieving mild arthritis pain.

Earlier this month a study revealed negative results for saw palmetto to treat prostate problems; last July, ditto for echinacea and the common cold. Those followed similar disappointments for St. John's wort to treat major depression, and powdered shark cartilage for some cancers.

Yet despite the U.S. government's multimillion-dollar investment to scientifically scrutinize a little regulated $20 billion-a-year industry, the big question is, do the results really matter when so many consumers swear by these remedies?

"I'll wrestle anybody who says it's no good," Carl Haupt, 79, says of glucosamine and chondroitin, pills he credits with helping him resume mountain hiking, a hobby he quit seven years ago because of arthritis pain.

Haupt spends about $25 monthly on the pills. Debilitating pain returned when he quit taking them once, and he said the government's results won't change his mind.

"I wouldn't quit taking it again. I learned my lesson," Haupt said.

Even the researchers themselves, funded by the National Institutes of Health, say their results don't necessarily mean consumers are pouring their money down the drain.

"If someone tells me this is working for them, I'm not going to tell them not to take it," said Dr. Thomas Schnitzer, a Northwestern University arthritis specialist and co-author of the glucosamine/chondroitin study.

That's partly because the three most recent studies found no real harm; also, in some cases, the results are not completely clear-cut.

For example, while most people taking the arthritis pills in the study got no significant benefit, the pills did appear to help those with more severe pain. And critics of the echinacea study say different doses might have found a benefit in fighting colds.

Also, studying these herbs and extracts is far more challenging than researching prescription drugs, which are subject to Food and Drug Administration scrutiny. Alternative health products with the same name can have vastly different ingredients and potencies, and research results from one may not apply to others, said Gail Mahady, a botanicals researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She was not involved in the federal studies.

But another important factor is what scientists call the placebo effect - meaning that just thinking you're taking something useful can make you think there's a benefit.

Imaging tests have shown changes in the brains of placebo users, suggesting that the effect is not just "in your mind," it's also in the brain, said Dr. Stephen Straus, director of NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

"Their wishful thinking that they're going to get better is harnessing the body's own mechanism for relieving pain," said Straus, whose agency was formed seven years ago to stringently test non-conventional remedies.

The placebo effect was huge in patients unknowingly taking dummy pills in the arthritis study and could have overshadowed any potential benefit from the real pills.

But it's also likely that the placebo effect contributes to benefits that many people say they get from alternative remedies, and it's something doctors shouldn't dismiss, said Dr. Anthony Miksanek, a family physician in rural southern Illinois who has many arthritis patients on glucosamine and chondroitin.

"My thought is if you give somebody a pill and say this may help you," that might be the spark they need to "get out and do more things, walk more," or get more exercise, all of which can help relieve arthritis pain, said Miksanek, of Benton, Ill.

"Maybe it's a message of hope ... and the brain kind of takes that and runs with it," he said.

Milly Navarro, a 33-year-old public relations specialist in Dallas, said she doesn't care if the placebo effect explains why echinacea keeps her from getting colds - she'll keep taking it anyway.

"I know the mind is a powerful thing and even if it's that that does the trick, whatever it is, it works for me," Navarro said.

Barrie Cassileth, an alternative medicine researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said some products, including echinacea and St. John's wort, can interfere with conventional medicine and should not be considered harmless.

But others, including saw palmetto, are cheaper and have fewer side effects than prescription medicine. "If the results that people swear by work by placebo, who cares?" she asks.

Some data suggest that more than one-third of Americans use alternative medicine, and many remedies are even more popular abroad. It's too soon to know if this month's studies have changed any habits, but anecdotal evidence suggests all five products studied remain popular.

Ben Pratt, a spokesman for the General Nutrition Centers, a national chain of stores that sell nutritional supplements, said sales of echinacea remain strong and were not affected by last summer's negative study.

Some consumers use alternative medicine because of safety concerns about prescription drugs, including reports of heart problems that doomed the once-popular arthritis drug Vioxx. Others mistrust the medical establishment because it bombards them with contradictory studies.

"You can just wait long enough and someone else will have an opposite opinion," said Richard Peterson, 62, a Baltimore property manager who says he won't stop taking glucosamine.

But even if some consumers ignore the results, the rigorous government studies are extremely useful for doctors seeking to rely on more than word of mouth, said Miksanek, the family physician in Benton, Ill.

"We are very much relying now on evidence-based medicine," said Miksanek. "We're trying to get away from things like Doc Welby saying, 'I've used snake oil for years and it's the greatest thing around.'"

Miksanek said now he can tell patients with minor arthritis pain that the pills may not work for everybody while offering more hopeful advice to patients with more severe pain.

Straus, of the NIH's alternative medicine center, says his agency is committed to continuing research on supplements. The center's research budget has steadily grown to $107.7 million for fiscal year 2005.

"I think that consumers should pay attention," Straus said, "understanding that a single study may not provide the final answer."


NCCAM: http://www.nccam.nih.gov

Russian Student Sues for Teaching Creationism in Schools


SAINT PETERSBURG, March 2, 2006 (IslamOnline.net and News Agencies) – A Russian student and her father are suing the government to teach creationism in state schools alongside Darwin's theory of evolution, a case supported by the country's Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish communities, the daily Izvestia reported on Thursday, March 2.

"I have come to the conclusion that the theory of creationism is the most logical" explanation of the origins of humankind, said Kiril, the father of 15-year-old Masha Shraiber, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The case maintains that teaching only the theory of evolution violates basic freedom of conscience and religion rights enshrined in the Russian constitution.

It asks the education ministry to rewrite textbooks to include the alternative view of creationism.

"The majority of great religions share this point of view," Kiril said.

The Russian father and his daughter are being assisted in their lawsuit by three lawyers representing the Russian Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish communities, according to the newspaper.

The theory of evolution, first articulated by British naturalist Darwin in 1859, is based on the idea that life organisms developed over time through random mutations and factors in nature that favored certain traits that helped species survive.

In Abrahamic religions, creationism or creation theology is the origin belief that humans, life, the Earth, and the universe were created by a supreme divine being.

Father Dies

Henry Morris, the man seen by both allies and foes as the father of creation science, died Saturday at a convalescent hospital, reported the Washington Post on Thursday.

He was 87 and had had a series of strokes in recent weeks.

Morris, who coined the term "creation science," founded the California-based Institute for Creation Research in 1970 and built it into an organization of far-reaching influence as the intellectual center of the creationist movement.

He wrote more than 60 books, most of which took aim at evolutionary theory and offered justifications for creationism.

His 1961 book, The Genesis Flood, written with John Whitcomb, was the first significant attempt in the 20th century to offer a systematic scientific explanation for creationism and remains in print.

"He literally set the terms of the debate for the second half of the 20th century," Edward Larson, author of Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory told the Post in a telephone interview.

Morris' ideas have been roundly rejected by mainstream scientists.

His books have been the basis for many attempts to introduce creationism or similar theories in the public schools.

In 1987, the US Supreme Court ruled that creationism was a form of religion, not science, and could not be taught in the nation's public schools.

Anti-evolution petition doubted


Review of petition's signers show many are evangelicals who may have a built-in bias.

Kenneth Chang / New York Times

In the recent skirmishes over evolution, advocates who have pushed to dilute its teaching have regularly pointed to a petition signed by 514 scientists and engineers.

The petition, they say, is proof that scientific doubt over evolution persists. But random interviews with 20 people who signed the petition and a review of the public statements of more than a dozen others suggest that many are evangelical Christians, whose doubts about evolution grew out of their religious beliefs.

And even the petition's sponsor, the Discovery Institute in Seattle, says that only a quarter of the signers are biologists, whose field is most directly concerned with evolution. The other signers include 76 chemists, 75 engineers, 63 physicists and 24 professors of medicine.

The petition was started in 2001 by the institute, which champions intelligent design as an alternative theory to evolution and supports a "teach the controversy" approach, like the one scuttled by the state Board of Education in Ohio last week.

Institute officials said that 41 people added their names to the petition after a federal judge ruled in December against the Dover, Pa., school district's attempt to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.

"Early on, the critics said there was nobody who disbelieved Darwin's theory except for rubes in the woods," said Bruce Chapman, president of the institute. "How many does it take to be a noticeable minority -- 10, 50, 100, 500?"

Chapman said the petition showed "there is a minority of scientists who disagree with Darwin's theory, and it is not just a handful."

The petition makes no mention of intelligent design, the proposition that life is so complex that it is best explained as the design of an intelligent being. Rather, it states: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

A Web site with the full list of those who signed the petition was made available this week by the institute at dissentfromdarwin.org.

The signers all claim doctorates in science or engineering. The list includes a few nationally prominent scientists like James M. Tour, a professor of chemistry at Rice University; Rosalind W. Picard, director of the affective computing research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Philip S. Skell, an emeritus professor of chemistry at Penn State who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

It includes many with more modest positions, like Thomas H. Marshall, director of public works in Delaware, Ohio, who has a doctorate in environmental ecology.

The Discovery Institute says 128 signers hold degrees in the biological sciences and 26 in biochemistry.

That leaves more than 350 nonbiologists, including Tour, Picard and Skell.

Of the 128 biologists who signed, few conduct research that would directly address the question of what shaped the history of life.

Of the signers who are evangelical Christians, most defend their doubts on scientific grounds but also say that evolution runs against their religious beliefs.

Several said that their doubts began when they increased their involvement with Christian churches.

Some said they read the Bible literally and doubt not only evolution but also findings of geology and cosmology that show the universe and the Earth to be billions of years old.

Scott R. Fulton, a professor of mathematics and computer science at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., who signed the petition, said that the argument for intelligent design was "very interesting and promising."

He said he thought his religious belief was "not particularly relevant" in how he judged intelligent design. "It probably influences in the sense in that it makes me very interested in the questions," he said. "When I see scientific evidence that points to God, I find that encouraging."

Roger J. Lien, a professor of poultry science at Auburn, said he received a copy of the petition from Christian friends.

"I stuck my name on it," he said. "Basically, it states what I believe."

Dr. Lien said that he grew up in California in a family that was not deeply religious and that he accepted evolution through much of his scientific career. He said he became a Christian about a decade ago, six years after he joined the Auburn faculty.

Kenneth Chang's answers to select reader questions about this article are available here.

"The world is broken, and we humans and our science can't fix it," Dr. Lien said. "I was brought to Jesus Christ and God and creationism and believing in the Bible."

He also said he thought that evolution was "inconsistent with what the Bible says."

Another signer is Dr. Gregory J. Brewer, a professor of cell biology at the Southern Illinois University medical school. Like other skeptics, he readily accepts what he calls "microevolution," the ability of species to adapt to changing conditions in their environment. But he holds to the opinion that science has not convincingly shown that one species can evolve into another.

"I think there's a lot of problems with evolutionary dogma," said Dr. Brewer, who also does not accept the scientific consensus that the universe is billions of years old. "Scientifically, I think there are other possibilities, one of which would be intelligent design. Based on faith, I do believe in the creation account."

Dr. Tour, who developed the "nano-car" — a single molecule in the shape of a car, with four rolling wheels — said he remained open-minded about evolution.

"I respect that work," said Dr. Tour, who describes himself as a Messianic Jew, one who also believes in Christ as the Messiah.

But he said his experience in chemistry and nanotechnology had showed him how hard it was to maneuver atoms and molecules. He found it hard to believe, he said, that nature was able to produce the machinery of cells through random processes. The explanations offered by evolution, he said, are incomplete.

"I can't make the jumps, the leaps they make in the explanations," Dr. Tour said. "Will I or other scientists likely be able to makes those jumps in the future? Maybe."

Opposing petitions have sprung up. The National Center for Science Education, which has battled efforts to dilute the teaching of evolution, has sponsored a pro-evolution petition signed by 700 scientists named Steve, in honor of Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard paleontologist who died in 2002.

The petition affirms that evolution is "a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences."

Mr. Chapman of that institute said the opposing petitions were beside the point. "We never claimed we're in a fight for numbers," he said.

Discovery officials said that they did not ask the religious beliefs of the signers and that such beliefs were not relevant. John G. West, a senior fellow at Discovery, said it was "stunning hypocrisy" to ask signers about their religion "while treating the religious beliefs of the proponents of Darwin as irrelevant."

Discovery officials did point to two scientists, David Berlinski, a philosopher and mathematician and a senior fellow at the institute, and Stanley N. Salthe, a visiting scientist at Binghamton University, State University of New York, who signed but do not hold conservative religious beliefs.

Dr. Salthe, who describes himself as an atheist, said that when he signed the petition he had no idea what the Discovery Institute was. Rather, he said, "I signed it in irritation."

He said evolutionary biologists were unfairly suppressing any competing ideas. "They deserve to be prodded, as it were," Dr. Salthe said. "It was my way of thumbing my nose at them."

Dr. Salthe said he did not find intelligent design to be a compelling theory, either. "From my point of view," he said, "it's a plague on both your houses."

SBTS & FSU profs assess Intelligent Design, evolution


Published March 2, 2006

MARIETTA, Ga. (BP)–Proponents of Intelligent Design claim the theory explains complexity in nature that evolution cannot. Detractors dismiss ID as religion in disguise.

Both sides of the debate presented their cases at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum "Debating Design" Feb. 3-4 at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga. The forum featured leading ID proponent William Dembski and one of his key critics, Michael Ruse.

Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher, is the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.

Ruse is the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and professor of zoology at Florida State and editor of the "Cambridge University Press Series in the Philosophy of Biology."

Dembski opened the forum Feb. 3 with a defense of Intelligent Design as viable science.

"We are not talking about a guided form of evolution in which God or some intelligence is guiding the process in some sustentative way," Dembski said. "Evolution is a process that, for all we know, did not require any intelligence."

Darwinian naturalists deny the presence of design in nature, he noted; instead, they attribute the diversity and complexity they observe to natural, but random processes.

The scientific community has a double standard when it comes to ID and evolution, Dembski said. If scientists can imagine any natural process to explain something, it immediately "trumps" ID, he said, whereas facts are demanded of design researchers.

Observable evidence, Dembski said, points to a designer.

On the cellular level, organisms exhibit the "hallmarks of design," he said, citing the bacterial flagellum as an example of the complexity and design researchers have discovered.

Scientists have called the flagellum "the most efficient machine in the universe," Dembski said, recounting that Michael Behe first drew attention to the bacterial flagellum in his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box. Since then, the complex and efficient flagellum often has been called the "icon of ID."

Evolutionists do not have a good explanation for the flagellum, Dembski said. Darwinists have pointed to a subsystem embedded in the flagellum which they speculate could be a precursor to the full system, he said.

"What you have here is not a fully articulated [evolutionary] path," Dembski said. "What you have here is an island and you have a huge jump to the next island. The problem is unresolved."

ID researchers are not simply defaulting to design, Dembski noted; they believe that intelligence best describes what is happening in the flagellum.

"Intelligent Design is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence," Dembski said, defining ID theory. He cited archaeology and forensics as special sciences that already operate under this definition.

ID is not just creationism in disguise, Dembski maintained. Creationism focuses on the "doctrine of creation," while ID seeks to detect design through something Dembski calls the design inference.

While he sees much evidence pointing to an intelligent designer, Dembski said ID theory does not identify the nature of the designer. He said believers must utilize theological resources to point to the Christian God. However, he sees apologetic value in ID. He said the theory can clear away objections to Christianity and make faith "plausible." Darwinian naturalism, he said, is still the leading cause of disbelief.

Michael Ruse grew up as a Quaker in England. He stopped attending Quaker meetings at the age of 20 and became an evolutionist.

"If you grow up a Quaker, it's very hard to hate Christianity," Ruse said. "[But] I think people like Bill Dembski are completely mistaken, I don't want to mince words about that."

Ruse said Charles Darwin, whom he credits for changing the biological science paradigm, developed ideas about natural selection while visiting the Galapagos Island. There, Darwin observed great diversity in turtles and birds from one island to another.

One finch species exhibited a beak uniquely fitted for eating cactus, others had beaks fitted for eating insects, with one finch species even using twigs as tools to obtain food, Ruse said.

"These are all examples of adaptation – things the natural theologians before Darwin had said obviously had to be designed," Ruse said. "What Darwin said was, 'No, I think that these can be explained through unbroken law and there is no need for a designer to get them' – natural selection can do it."

Darwin did not say a designer was impossible, only that a designer was not necessary, thus making made it possible to be a non-believer, Ruse said. Ruse compared Darwin's argument for natural selection to a court where people are convicted for a crime without any eyewitnesses. For Darwin, Ruse said, all the clues pointed to natural selection.

"I am an evolutionist because of that kind of legal argument," Ruse said. "I am also a believer in natural selection because, like Bill Dembski, I think the world is very much as if designed."

Ruse claimed Intelligent Design is the product of Protestant evangelicalism bent on literal interpretations of the Bible, describing this approach as a development of the American South and West. From the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial and throughout the 20th century, evangelicals have promoted creationism in their struggle against evolution, he said, linking Intelligent Design to creationism.

"To say that Intelligent Design has nothing to do with religion is to miss the elephant in the room," Ruse said. "I see Intelligent Design as part of the overall American, indigenous Protestant and evangelical sort of position."

Ruse said Dembski is not a traditional creationist, but deemed ID as "creationism-lite." ID supporters, he said, are generally moralists who oppose abortion and gay marriage and support capital punishment. In conclusion, Ruse said, ID is a matter of the "red states and the blue states" of the past presidential election, reflecting the deep cultural divide facing America.

The forum continued Feb. 3 with a question-and-answer session with Dembski and Ruse and a panel of scholars: William Lane Craig, research professor at Talbot School of Theology; Martinez Hewlett, professor emeritus of molecular and cellular biology at the University of Arizona and adjunct professor of philosophy and theology at the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, Calif.; Francis Beckwith, associate professor of church-state studies at Baylor University; and Wesley Elsberry, information project director for the National Center for Science Education.

Next year's topic for the Greer-Heard Forum, set for Feb. 16-17, 2007, will be atheism. Oxford scholar Alister McGrath, a defender of Christianity, will dialogue with Daniel Dennett, a professor at Tufts University and an outspoken atheist.

Audio recordings of the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum are available at www.greer-heard.com.

Where are the Intelligent Design Science Articles?


Paul Gay

March 1, 2006

Intelligent Design, (ID) is the belief that the building blocks of life are far too complex to have started randomly on Earth, therefore a designer must have been involved. Some call it a theory, however the scientific community does not feel that it meets this definition, due to a lack of data. Regardless, everyone seems to have an opinion on ID. Even people who know next to nothing about the concept seem to formulate an irreversible opinion on the subject immediately upon receiving a quick brief about it. Many tend to base these opinions along religious lines. A more polarizing topic, you will not find. Of course the reality is that opinions are irrelevant. Indeed, what truly matters is the science behind it. For the past three months I have been reviewing articles via an RSS feed attempting to view the scientific data behind ID.

Note: For those of you not familiar with an RSS feed, it's an internet feature which allows you to automatically receive emails with links to articles about a given topic. You supply the keywords and the program searches the internet on a daily basis for articles related to them. It's an excellent way to keep tabs on any topic that interests you. Many of the larger search engines and news outlets offer them for free.

Each day I receive about five links to news stories about ID. These articles typically consist of the following:

1. Opinions on whether ID should be taught in public high school science classes.

2. Debates over the validity of ID via the over-use of philosophical arguments and analogies.

3. Reports on school districts and their intentions to include or exclude ID in school.

4. The formulation of state and local laws regarding ID.

5. And of course frequent reports on court rulings.

Unfortunately the key ingredient missing from these daily articles is the science behind Intelligent Design. Why is it so difficult to find factual scientific articles about ID? One immediate problem appears to be the lack of qualified scientists performing any research. It seems that only a small nucleus of experts are willing to try their hands at falsifying/testing the validity of ID. Currently an organization called the Discovery Institute is leading the charge. Representatives from this organization are frequently called upon to testify in court each time a school district decides to bring even the suggestion of ID into the science classroom. Thus far, they have failed to make their case in the eyes of the courts.

Another factor appears to be genuine disinterest on behalf of the scientific community. The problem they face is a lack of researchable scientific methods. Exactly how can a scientist study ID? Science studies the natural world, seeking explanations and making observations through repeatable experiments. Many experts feel that searching for a designer transcends into the metaphysical, thereby launching it into an area outside of science. That line of thinking bares little in the way of logic. If something is designed, (at least by humans), it seems likely that some indication of the design and production process will be visible. We design, (using our intelligence), all kinds of things everyday. A new birdhouse certainly shows indicators of design. Symmetrical sides, angles, tool marks etc. Even creating new strains of bacteria leave telltale signs of purposeful design. The real question is, "could a super intelligent designer construct life on this planet without leaving any indicators?" Finding the answers may be a daunting task, however it is hardly metaphysical. Why not simply use the natural world to investigate? Who knows, perhaps each of us has a molecular bar code stamped into our DNA.

Until science can figure out a way to look into ID, we should propose the following reverse methodology. What's the ole saying? If we cannot figure out what something is, perhaps we can figure out what something is not. If the vast majority of scientists don't feel that ID research is feasible, then it's time to begin publishing articles on why. At the very least, a few definitive answers would save millions in court battles for our nation's school districts.

People of science, the challenge is simple; explain in plain language why ID is unlikely or impossible based on the evidence in your field. Obviously the burden of proof is with the proponents of ID, however any points that science can add will certainly help the rest of us in our quest for the truth.

'Intelligent design' nearly makes own scientific case


March 1, 2006, 7:06PM

Ironically, its advocates are elevating value of intelligence


Advocates of teaching "intelligent design" aren't giving up, no matter the recent setbacks in California and Pennsylvania. In Utah, Texas, New York and elsewhere, they persist in trying to make science education subservient to a religious worldview. And yet the longer the controversy continues, the more it illustrates their own subservience to science.

As its name suggests, the major premise of intelligent design is that the existence of a supreme designer can be inferred by evidence of his, her or its "intelligence." And that premise rests in turn on an even more basic assumption: that intelligence is the most important, perceivable and telling attribute of God and of the creature supposedly created in God's image.

Minus the references to deity, this comes amazingly close to the same hierarchy of value on which the scientific worldview makes its case. Sense perception and logic — not sensuousness and emotion — are the keys to authentic understanding. Rationality will point us to God, if there is one. I think, therefore I am. He thinks like you can't even begin to think, therefore he is God.

According to this mind-set, if we can discover a big wooden boat on Mount Ararat and carbon date it to the sixth millennium B.C., then the story of the flood in Genesis might be "true." The authoritative shift is self-evident. It's not a matter of "what the Bible says," as authenticated by generations of shared cultural experience. It's a matter of what science says — or can be forced to say — about the Bible, as verified by a body of data. If you're a bit lost here as to whose mind-set I'm describing, that's my point.

For the advocates of intelligent design, the loveliness of nature is a second-class road to truth. It is "merely" aesthetic. In that regard, one notices that there is no campaign afoot to teach "divine inspiration" as the basis for the sacred works of Fra Angelico and Bach. "That's next," you say, and maybe it is next. The point here is that it wasn't first, and it wasn't first for a very good reason.

Once you have made intelligence supreme, you have elevated science to the highest form of knowing. And with that move, the self-appointed champions of religious tradition paint themselves into the same corner that they would like to lead us out of. Using intelligent design as a buttress against scientific hegemony is, to borrow from a Yiddish proverb, as outrageously self-defeating as murdering your parents and then pleading for leniency on the grounds that you're an orphan.

The irony extends from means to ends. The motivating force for many advocates of intelligent design, as for the advocates of school prayer who preceded them, is the perceived need for kids to have "some exposure" to religious ideas. If they don't get a taste of that stuff in school, they may never seek it elsewhere.

This is where the dismissal of intelligent design as "bad science" doesn't go far enough. It can also be dismissed as bad evangelism. The supporters of intelligent design betray a sadly compromised understanding of their own underlying mission. "The knowledge of the living God" is apparently not to be taught by lives of exemplary service but by fossil evidence. "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven," Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. Is it now to be understood that by "light" he meant the kind that shines in a specimen case?

Finally, the supporters of intelligent design betray their own secularist assumptions through their insistence that Darwinian evolution be taught with the disclaimer that it is "only a theory." One would assume that, from the perspective of faith, a great deal is only a theory. To apply that label exclusively to evolution suggests otherwise. It suggests that we inhabit a world of ubiquitous certainty. No one could walk on water in such a world because the molecular density of water is (unlike evolution, apparently) beyond the theoretical. Of course, that is the view of science, and the only proper view of science. One is amazed, however, to find it promulgated in the cause of religion.

This is not to make light of a serious threat posed by the advocates of teaching intelligent design. I happen to share the fears of those who see a theocratic agenda at work in their campaign. At the same time, I can't help but be amused by the notion of the entire edifice of the Enlightenment crumbling beneath the assault of a "religious" crusade. The barbarians may be battering at the gates, but the gates are mostly their own.

Keizer is the author of "Help: The Original Human Dilemma." This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

MIOS MEETING Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Hear Dr. Billy Cauldwell

Geology and Genesis

Dr. Cauldwell is an independent Geological Consultant specializing in petroleum evaluations, drilling locations, environmental site assessments and ground water research. He is a member of the American Institute of Professional Geologists and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. His Bachelors and Masters degrees in Geology were earned at Texas Christian University. His Doctorate is from Cambridge Graduate School

Dr. Cauldwell will present a PowerPoint presentation with insights from Geology into what occurred during the six days of creation.

Don't miss this fascinating presentation.

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

Tuesday, March, 7th, 7:30 PM

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Nev. Proposal Raises Evolution Questions


By BRENDAN RILEY The Associated Press

Wednesday, March 1, 2006; 9:51 AM

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- A proposed constitutional amendment would require Nevada teachers to instruct students that there are many questions about evolution _ a method viewed by critics as an opening to teach intelligent design.

Las Vegas masonry contractor Steve Brown filed his initiative petition with the secretary of state's office, and must collect 83,184 signatures by June 20 to get the plan on the November ballot. To amend the Nevada Constitution, he'd have to win voter approval this year and again in the 2008 elections.

Brown, who has three school-age children, said he's been interested in evolution for years. He added that if people take time to read his proposal "how can this not pass?"

The petition says students must be informed before the end of the 10th grade that "although most scientists agree that Darwin's theory of evolution is well supported, a small minority of scientists do not agree."

The plan says several "areas of disagreement" would have to be covered by teachers, including the view by some scientists that "it is mathematically impossible for the first cell to have evolved by itself."

Students also would have to be told some scientists argue "that nowhere in the fossil record is there an indisputable skeleton of a transitional species, or a 'missing link,'" the proposal says.

Also, the proposal says students "must be informed that the origin of sex, or sex drive, is one of biology's mysteries" and that some scientists contend that sexual reproduction "would require an unbelievable series of chance events that would have had to occur in the evolutionary theory."

Brown commented on his plan following a decision Monday by the Utah House to scuttle a bill that would have required public school students to be told that evolution isn't empirically proven.

Last month, the Ohio Board of Education deleted a science standard and lesson plan encouraging students to seek evidence for and against evolution _ another setback for intelligent design advocates who maintain that life is so complex it must have been created by a higher authority.

In December, a federal judge barred the school system in Dover, Pa., from teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in high school biology classes. The judge said that intelligent design is religion masquerading as science.

Also last year, a federal judge ordered the school system in suburban Atlanta's Cobb County to remove from biology textbooks stickers that called evolution a theory, not a fact.

But critics of evolution got a boost in Kansas in November when the state Board of Education adopted new science teaching standards that treat evolution as a flawed theory.

The Oracle Suggests a Truce Between Science and Religion



Published: February 28, 2006

It may seem that the longstanding war between science and religion is entering a new phase: Darwin versus intelligent design, religious opposition to stem cell research, Western secularism versus Islamic fundamentalism. All around we see growing tensions between the scientific demand for truth through reason and experiment, and the religious desire for consolation and revealed truth.

What seems like a clear trend, however, in fact misrepresents the underlying reality. We have indeed seen many conflicts over the centuries, vividly in the case of Galileo versus the church.

But the truth is that science and spirituality, rather than addressing similar ground, speak to very different realms of human experience and, at least in theory, have the potential to coexist in peace, complementing rather than constantly battling each other.

Some scientists, theologians and philosophers have acknowledged this exclusivity over the years. But their tolerant views are frequently lost in the din of metaphysical warfare and the worldly positioning of each side for power.

The recent discoveries of a renegade four-member team of scientists illustrate how the two realms are quite independent. They found the truth behind the Oracle of Delphi's legendary powers, showing how the most influential figure of ancient Greece prepared for ecstatic union with Apollo. The scientists, analyzing the Delphi region and the god's temple, discovered tons of bituminous limestone down below, its layers rich in intoxicating gases.

They also found two faults that crisscross beneath the shrine to form a geologic pathway to the surface. They even measured traces of intoxicants still bubbling up today. This and other evidence suggest that the Oracle inhaled a mist of potent gases that could promote trancelike states and aloof euphoria, helping send her into mystic ecstasies.

The scientists' triumph, however, did little to pierce the Oracle's veil, as the scientists were quick to acknowledge. They claimed no insights into how her utterances stood for ages as monuments of wisdom. They had no explanation for how the priestess inspired Socrates, or the seeming reliability of her visionary pronouncements. In short, the scientists, while solving a major riddle of antiquity, wisely left other mysteries untouched.

The modesty of the Delphic investigators stands in contrast to some of the world's top scientists and their champions, who have claimed that science can answer questions far beyond the usual realm of physical phenomena, such as puzzles of religion, culture, ethics and, most important because of their centrality to the rest, mind and consciousness. Some evolutionary theorists argue that religion works because it fosters beliefs that aid the struggle for survival, not because it is true.

Daniel C. Dennett, a philosopher at Tufts, promotes this view in his new book, "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" (Viking). He likens spiritual belief to disease and looks to psychology, philosophy and history to explain its grip on humanity.

Edward O. Wilson, the distinguished Harvard biologist, argues in his book "Consilience" (Knopf, 1998) that "all tangible phenomena, from the birth of stars to the workings of social institutions, are based on material processes that are ultimately reducible, however long and tortuous the sequences, to the laws of physics." The insights of neuroscience and evolution, Dr. Wilson wrote, increasingly can illuminate even morality and ethics, with the scientific findings potentially leading "more directly and safely to stable moral codes" than do the dictates of God's will or the findings of transcendentalism.

Such views are more hope than fact, as the best theorists concede, and can exhibit a kind of arrogance.

For its part, organized religion has for centuries found means of accommodation, approval and even support for science to leaven its sometime resistance. The early Roman Catholic Church adapted cathedrals across Europe to serve as solar observatories. Muslims of the Middle Ages pioneered the forerunners of optics and algebra.

So too, many scientists in history have turned to the heavens. Galileo believed in the power of prayer. Darwin wrote "Origin of Species" as a theist, envisioning divine control of the universe. Today, surveys show that roughly 40 percent of scientists believe in a God who actively communicates with humankind and to whom one may pray in expectation of answers — hardly a mob of atheists.

The scientists who make sweeping metaphysical claims may represent a vocal minority. But hubris and celebrity are a potent mix, and threaten to intensify a cultural war that need not be. They might consider easing their rhetoric and learning a lesson in humility from the discoverers of Delphi's secret.

William J. Broad's book "The Oracle: The Lost Secrets and Hidden Message of Ancient Delphi," is published this month by The Penguin Press.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Editorial Board: Criticize evolution, it can take it; intelligent design can't


By John Jordan (Contact) Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Three KU Medical Center professors have signed a petition that called for skepticism of the theory of evolution.

The signatures came from James Harbrecht, clinical assistant professor of cardiology; Gregory Ator, associate professor of head and neck surgery; and Jeanne Drisko, clinical assistant professor of alternative medicine. More than 500 scientists have signed the petition, which started on the Internet in 2001.

While the signatures may seem like a blow to supporters of evolution in the scientific community and another knock on Kansas' already tarnished scientific reputation, it really is just healthy criticism.

We applaud scientists who acknowledge the theory of evolution isn't perfect. If scientists don't question the theory of evolution, or any theory, there is no way to gather evidence for or against it, or attempt to prove or disprove it.

But more importantly, let's not twist this petition to include a victory for intelligent design supporters.

The petition does not support or mention alternative theories to evolution. It simply states, "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

Of course, examination should be encouraged. That's what scientists do. But intelligent design isn't science. There couldn't be a petition like this for that theory, because there is no evidence to be examined.

Intelligent design isn't provable or unprovable. It can't be tested with experiments or evidence. In fact, intelligent design supporters in the scientific community only attack the theory of evolution.

Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, testified on behalf of intelligent design at the trial of a Pennsylvania school board that tried to add a disclaimer on textbooks that said there were holes in the theory of evolution and mentions intelligent design as an alternative theory.

He said intelligent design was testable. He testified at the trial:

"In Darwin's Black Box (Behe 1996), I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can't be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum — or any equally complex system — was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven."

But if the process failed, only evolution would be disproved. There wouldn't be any evidence other than that Darwinism didn't explain it.

Like the petition says, "Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

No scientific theory should stay if it can't stand up to criticisms or questioning from the scientific community. The theory of evolution is a long-established, universally used theory for explaining life on this planet by science. But that doesn't mean scientists should just accept it how it is, that they shouldn't examine it.

And it certainly doesn't mean we should go looking at untestable, unprovable theories that couldn't stand up to the idea of this petition.

Schools not evolving to include intelligent design


by Nomaan Merchant and Anna Prior

February 28, 2006

The presentation of intelligent design in public schools has created an uproar in several parts of the country, but local schools have faced no controversy for teaching evolution.

Two weeks ago, the Ohio State Board of Education voted to get rid of curriculum guidelines that would have allowed the teaching of intelligent design in Ohio schools. This came after Ohio became the first state to allow "critical analysis" of evolution in science classes three years ago.

According to intelligent design, life advances because of a higher power, not necessarily God. Evolution, the theory widely accepted by biologists, states that random mutations lead to the growth of species.

Neither Evanston/Skokie School District 65 nor Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave., have specific policies in their science curriculums about intelligent design or Darwinism.

Local science standards mandate schools teach "biological evolution," District 65 science curriculum leader Becky Daniels said. Daniels also teaches science at King Lab School, 2424 Lake St.

"Being that the current climate requires that we consider standards when adopting curriculum and planning instruction, we would stick to these," Daniels said in an e-mail.

At ETHS, there is no formal policy for the teaching of evolution in biology classes, said science department chair Martha Hansen.

She said traditionally, evolution is taught at the high school.

The national debate over Darwinism versus intelligent design led ETHS chemistry teacher Joel Weiner to invite Michael Ruse, a Florida State University philosophy professor and a well-known authority on intelligent design and evolution, to speak at an open seminar at ETHS on March 11.

"The time was ripe for someone like Dr. Ruse to come in and talk to us," Weiner said.

There are more sides to the issue than debaters present.

"They have to have hypotheses that are testable, but they start with a conclusion," Weiner said. "Science just doesn't work that way."

ETHS biology teacher Eric Brown, SESP '97, said if parents felt strongly about not having their children learn about evolution, then those children could leave the room.

"I encourage discussion," Brown said. "My job isn't to make (students) believe evolutionary theory, it's to teach them what it is and let them chose for themselves."

ETHS sophomore Jordan Schweizer said she felt evolution was presented fairly to her last year.

"They gave us several different ways (to think about evolution)," Schweizer said. "Our teacher made it very clear that it was up to you."

ETHS sophomore Becca Thompson, who did not learn biology from Schweizer, her teacher stressed that evolution was still a theory, even if they didn't discuss intelligent design.

In District 65, sixth-grade students learn about space and the universe. But they do not discuss specifics about how the universe began. Seventh-graders take a life science unit, but generally do not discuss intelligent design or Darwinism.

"We don't talk about evolution directly," Daniels said. "We are not so prescriptive that we say (to teachers) you have to say this or you have to say that."

District 65 recently approved a new science curriculum for the current school year, Daniels said.

The middle school curriculum aims to develop students' curiosity in science rather than making them remember theories.

"Though we try to focus on content, we're also trying to focus on the nature of things," Daniels said.

A seventh-grade life science textbook at King Lab approaches species change without calling it evolution.

"Over time, species either develop adaptations to changing environments or they become extinct," the book says.

That line hasn't caused problems in Evanston.

"There's no reason for this controversy," Weiner said. "Why are people trying to force a non-science issue into the science classroom?"

Reach Nomaan Merchant at

n-merchant@northwestern.edu and Anna Prior at


Anti-Darwin Bill Fails in Utah



Published: February 28, 2006

In a defeat for critics of Darwin, the Utah House of Representatives on Monday voted down a bill intended to challenge the theory of evolution in high school science classes.

The bill had been viewed nationally, by people on each side of the science education debate, as an important proposal because Utah is such a conservative state, with a Legislature dominated by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But the bill died on a 46-to-28 vote in the Republican-controlled House after being amended by the majority whip, Stephen H. Urquhart, a Mormon who said he thought God did not have an argument with science. The amendment stripped out most of the bill's language, leaving only that the state board of education "shall establish curriculum requirements relating to scientific instruction."

Legislative officials said the bill was not likely to be revived before the scheduled adjournment of the Legislature on Wednesday. The Origins of Life bill, in its initial form, would have required teachers to issue a disclaimer to their students saying that not all scientists agree about evolution and the origin of species. It did not mention any alternative theory to Darwinism, but was viewed by some supporters and opponents as part of the drive to encourage the teaching of intelligent design, which says that life is too complicated to have evolved without an architect.

Some Mormon legislators opposed the bill because they agreed with Mr. Urquhart that science and religion should remain separate, others because they thought intelligent design was not in keeping with traditional Mormon belief.

Casey Luskin, a spokesman for the Discovery Institute, a research group based in Seattle that has promoted the ideas of intelligent design, called the vote "a loss for scientific education," but said it was a purely local Utah matter.

A spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Joe Conn, said Utah's vote would resonate.

"If the creationists can't win in a state as conservative as Utah, they've got an uphill battle," Mr. Conn said.

Monday, February 27, 2006

In Fire's Wake, Logging Study Inflames Debate

University Study Challenges Cutting Of Burnt Timber

By Blaine Harden Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, February 27, 2006; A03

MEDFORD, Ore. -- If fire ravages a national forest, as happened here in southwest Oregon when the Biscuit fire torched a half-million acres four years ago, the Bush administration believes loggers should move in quickly, cut marketable trees that remain and replant a healthy forest.

"We must quickly restore the areas that have been damaged by fire," President Bush said in Oregon four years ago after touring damage from the Biscuit fire. He called it "common sense."

Common sense, though, may not always be sound science. An Oregon State University study has raised an extraordinary ruckus in the Pacific Northwest this winter by saying that logging burned forests does not make much sense.

Logging after the Biscuit fire, the study found, has harmed forest recovery and increased fire risk. What the short study did not say -- but what many critics of the Bush administration are reading into it -- is that the White House has ignored science to please the timber industry. The study is consistent with research findings from around the world that have documented how salvage logging can strip burned forests of the biological diversity that fire and natural recovery help protect.

The study also questions the scientific rationale behind a bill pending in Congress that would ease procedures for post-fire logging in federal forests. This, in turn, has annoyed the bill's lead sponsor, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who has received far more campaign money from the forest products industry than from any other source, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Logging after fires is becoming more and more important to the bottom line of timber companies. It generates about 40 percent of timber volume on the nation's public lands, according to Forest Service data compiled by the World Wildlife Fund, and accounts for nearly half the logging on public land in Oregon.

But there is much more to the dispute than money. The Oregon State study was published in Science, the prestigious peer-reviewed journal. It appeared after a group of professors from the university's College of Forestry, which gets 10 percent of its funding from the timber industry, tried to halt its publication.

Professors behind the failed attempt to keep the article out of Science had earlier written their own non-peer-reviewed study of the Biscuit fire -- a study embraced by the Bush administration and the timber industry. It said post-fire logging and replanting were exactly what was needed to speed growth of big trees and suppress fire.

A couple of weeks after the Science article appeared and infuriated the forest industry, the federal Bureau of Land Management, which footed the bill for the study of the Biscuit fire, cut off the final year of the three-year, $300,000 grant. BLM officials said the authors violated their funding contract by attempting to influence legislation pending in Congress.

After the cutoff, Democrats in the Northwest congressional delegation complained about government censorship, academic freedom and the politicization of science in the Bush administration. Within a week, the BLM backed down and restored the grant.

Oregon State University has officially scolded the forestry professors for inappropriate behavior and praised the authors of the Science article.

Still, the issue is far from over.

On Friday here in Medford, there was a field hearing of the House subcommittee on forests and forest health, which is chaired by Walden, chief sponsor of the forest recovery bill that was cast in a dim light by the Science article.

In this corner of Oregon, where environmentalists and logging interests have been jousting for decades, jawboning about forest policy is a spectator sport. The hearing, held in Medford City Hall, was so packed with spectators that the fire marshal insisted it could begin only after he delivered a stern lecture on emergency exits.

The hearing's star witness -- and principal punching bag -- was Daniel Donato, lead author of the Science article and a graduate student at Oregon State's forestry school. By at least a decade, he was the youngest participant in the hearing. Rail thin and wearing neatly pressed khakis, he looked even younger.

Walden accused Donato, 29, of having failed to tell his federal research supervisor about the findings of his study, as is required by the terms of his research contract with the federal government. Donato conceded that he had not known about the requirement for consultation and that he knows more about it now.

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), another member of the subcommittee and a co-sponsor of the forest recovery bill, was even more disgruntled. He charged Donato with a long list of professional failings and character flaws, including "deliberate bias," lack of humility and ignorance of statistical theory.

Donato smiled nervously through these attacks and politely -- but firmly -- told the hearing that his article was solid on its facts and fair in its conclusions. He also said the forest study should not be viewed as, nor was it intended to be, the final word on post-fire logging.

After Donato was excused, one of the nation's best-known forest ecologists attempted to summarize the world's collective scientific knowledge on logging after fires. Jerry Franklin, a professor of ecosystem science at the University of Washington's College of Forest Resources, warned the hearing that Congress should be careful not to prescribe salvage logging as a cure-all for every forest fire.

Salvage logging and replanting can often succeed, Franklin said, if the intent is to turn a scorched landscape into a stand of trees for commercial harvest.

If, however, Congress wants to promote the ecologically sound recovery of burned federal forests, Franklin said, the overwhelming weight of scientific research suggests that "salvage logging is not going to be appropriate."


Creationism's Henry M. Morris, dead at 87; upheld Genesis flood


Feb 27, 2006 By Art Toalston Baptist Press

EL CAJON, Calif. (BP)--Henry M. Morris, widely regarded as the founder of the modern creationist movement, died Feb. 25 at the age of 87.

Morris' 1961 book, "The Genesis Flood," subtitled, "The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications," was a cornerstone of the movement. Morris coauthored the book while serving as head of Virginia Tech's civil engineering department; Old Testament scholar John C. Whitcomb was the book's coauthor.

In 1970, Morris founded the Institute for Creation Research, which continues to be a leading creationist force, now headed by his sons, John and Henry III.

Morris "had in recent days suffered a series of debilitating small strokes" and died at a San Diego-area convalescent hospital, according to a report on the website of Answers in Genesis, an organization in the creationist movement pioneered by Morris.

Morris earned master's and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota in 1948 and 1950, respectively, and taught civil engineering at several universities over the course of two decades before becoming head of Virginia Tech's civil engineering department in 1959.

Morris' views were embraced by a relative handful of scientists with Ph.D.s and by various segments of evangelical Christianity, but harshly criticized by scientists who embraced evolution.

After The Genesis Flood, Morris penned a steady stream of books, including "Scientific Creationism" (1974); "The Genesis Record" (1976), "That You Might Believe" (1978); "What Is Creation Science?" (with Gary Parker, 1982); "Men of Science; Men of God" (1982); "History of Modern Creationism" (1984); "The Long War Against God" (1989); and "Biblical Creationism" (1993).

Morris also was at the forefront of a King James Version "Defender's Study Bible" (1996).

He believed that the Earth was only several thousand years old, not millions.

"It is impossible to devise a scientific experiment to describe the creation process, or even to ascertain whether such a process can take place," he wrote in his book Scientific Creationism. "The Creator does not create at the whim of a scientist.

"... [T]he creation was 'mature' from its birth. It did not have to grow or develop from simple beginnings. God formed it full-grown in every respect, including even Adam and Eve as mature individuals when they were first formed. The whole universe had an 'appearance of age' right from the start. It could not have been otherwise for true creation to have taken place. 'Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them' (Genesis 2:1)."

Kurt Wise, director of Bryan College's Center for Origins Research and Education in Dayton, Tenn., who holds master's and doctorate degrees in paleontology from Harvard University, said in a statement to Baptist Press, "In a field so often dominated by heated, and sometimes vicious, conflict, Henry Morris was well known, even in a public debate, for having a soft-spoken, gentlemanly spirit. He was one of the very few true men of God I have ever known."

Recounting that Morris has been called "The Father of Modern Creationism" primarily because of "his many books, which popularized young-age creationism in the evangelical world," Wise noted, "Although this is appropriate, I believe Henry Morris most deserves this title for grounding creationism in Scripture. He spent the duration of his life tenaciously fighting for the supremacy and spread of God's Word. Let that be creationism's continuing legacy."

Wise, himself the author of numerous creationism books, predicted that Morris' influence "will not soon be forgotten. Henry Morris was trained as an engineer. But a full spectrum of disciplines are represented by those of us in creationism today who were influenced and inspired by his writings....

"Henry's death is the end of an era, but it's the beginning of another. Over the years, Henry shared a few of his dreams with me -– many of them unfulfilled in his lifetime. But by standing upon his shoulders, we can now see and reach the vistas of Henry's dreams. We owe, and will owe, much to Henry Morris," Wise said.

Among the various points of science concerning the Genesis flood that Morris pioneered is "biblical catastrophism" -- that a worldwide flood is a more plausible way of interpreting geological data than science's "uniformitarianism" theory that sedimentary rock was formed over billions of years.

Currently at the Institute for Creation Research, which includes a museum and an accredited graduate school, a team of young-earth scientists is involved in a project named RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth), examining and challenging radioisotope dating from a number of geological standpoints. According to a RATE news release, for example, "Diamonds thought to be millions/billions of years old by evolutionists contain significant levels of catrbon-14. Since carbon-14 decays quickly, none should have been found in the diamonds if the evolutionary age is correct."

Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis–USA, described Morris as "one of my heroes of the faith. He is the man the Lord raised up as the father of the modern creationist movement. The famous book The Genesis Flood, coauthored by Dr. Morris and Dr. Whitcomb, was the book the Lord used to really launch the modern creationist movement around the world."


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Wise's Darwinian Double-Speak


Editor's Note: This was sent to us from a former Discovery policy analyst.

Martha Wise is a member of the Ohio Board of Education. She cannot stand anything that is not conclusively and absolutely pro-Darwinian in science education. She is also the chief censor of any scientific criticisms of neo-Darwinian theory. Martha helped to oust the Ohio Critical Analysis of Evolution lesson plan.

Her op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer is a wonderful celebration of Orwellian double-speak in the service of Darwin-only science indoctrination: She's insists she is a creationist, but she opposes creationism. The science standards explicitly disclaim the mandating of ID, but the standards (she claims) mandate ID. In Dover everyone acknowledged they were teaching ID but in OH they are not--except that Martha says that in Ohio they somehow were by stealth, even though the NCSE originally proclaimed victory with the passage of the critical analysis benchmark. "Critical analysis" doesn't mean "critical analysis." People with religious motivations are barred from proposing the lesson plan, but Wise's religious motivations for stopping the lesson plan are in bounds. And feminist philosophers of science count as "evolutionary biologists."

(See http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/02/all_the_news_that_fits_the_nyt.html.)

Also, the public records request by Americans United that she mentions took place a long time ago. If she and the other Darwinists thought there was a snowball's chance in you-know-where, they would've filed a lawsuit way back when. She just banked on scaring the other Board members with an over-expansive extrapolation from Judge Jones' awful opinion in Kitzmiller v. Dover. Unfortunately she succeeded.

Martha claimed in the March '04 Board meeting that she opposed the Ohio Critical Analysis of Evolution (purely optional) lesson plan because she said she realized it was religion and that God was giving her the strength to stop it. I'm not kidding. Her performance at that Board meeting was not only silly but one of the most transparently scripted things I had ever seen. When Florida law professor Steven Gey gave his testimony repeating Barara Forrest talking points, Martha responded "I have ten questions for this witness." (Most people testifying were asked no questions or one or two at most.) She thought Gey was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Judge that one for yourself:


The op-ed says she is running for the Ohio Senate. I hope she gets a solid primary challenger. I would like to send a check to her opponent. Attached to my check would be a note asking her opponent, upon election, to propose a Senate resolution calling upon Martha to change her last name to ANYTHING but "Wise."

Posted by Keith Pennock on February 24, 2006 11:27 AM


Conservative Ohio values led to change in evolution policy



I believe in God the creator. I believe in freedom. I believe in America, and the state of Ohio, and the Republican Party, fiscal conservatism, fairness and honesty.

These values guided me last week to lead the Ohio Board of Education to remove creationism from our state's Science Standards and Model Curriculum.

You may ask: Why would being a creationist make me want to remove "critical analysis"/"intelligent design" creationism from the standards? It's simple, really:

It is deeply unfair to the children of this state to mislead them about the nature of science.

The future of Ohio's prosperity depends on a well-educated workforce that understands science. The future of religious freedom in this country depends on the electorate understanding that modern science is not a threat to faith. Atheists who say science disproves God are misrepresenting science just as badly as the most disingenuous "creation-science" peddlers.

Creationism is religion and deserves to be respected as religion, and protected. Creationists do not all believe exactly the same thing. This may be the best-kept secret in the whole creationist movement. So if we were going to teach creationism or other religious concepts in school, how would we decide whose view to teach? How can we be fair to all people of faith? The founding fathers came to the conclusion that the only way to protect religion was for the government to keep its nose out of it. I believe the founding fathers were right.

At last year's "Pennsylvania Panda Trial," Christians, Jews, scientists and parents convinced the conservative federal judge John Jones that good science is not a red state-blue state issue.

The judge ruled that evolution is good science, it's not atheism, it's accepted by many religious people, and that the elected officials who promoted ID repeatedly lied to conceal their true agenda - imposing their own religious view about creation on public school students with diverse religious beliefs.

There is no scientific controversy - only a religious one.

Jones said ID and other manufactured controversies are "a mere relabeling of creationism." He said school board officials were lying when they claimed they were attacking evolution so kids can learn "critical thinking."

Until last week, Ohio had its own relabeling program for creationism, using the term "critical analysis" instead of ID.

If it had gone to court here in Ohio, some of the evidence would have come from the Freedom of Information Act documents that Ohio Citizens for Science and Americans United for Separation of Church and State collected from the Department of Education. These documents demonstrate:

At least one backer of "critical analysis" on the board expressed religious motivation.

Evolution was singled out, specifically targeted for disparaging and denigrating treatment. Other sciences were not.

The science lesson writing committee was packed with creationists.

Our board had to decide whether to waste millions of taxpayer dollars to hear a federal judge tell them the same thing Judge Jones told the Dover, Pa., board. We chose to stand up for kids, for the state of Ohio, for freedom of religion, and for the integrity of science.

The public trusts us to uphold first-class standards and to protect democracy and religious freedom. So, we set aside our differences and did the right thing for Ohio and Ohio's children.

Martha Wise of Avon, Ohio, is an elected member of the Ohio Board of Education, representing the counties of Erie, Huron, Lorain, Lucas, Wood, part of Ottawa, and part of Seneca. Her term ends this year. She is also a Republican candidate for Ohio Senate.

Flu remedies for the birds



None of the alternative medicines sold on the internet as treatments for bird flu have proven benefits and some will increase the likelihood of the disease proving fatal, a leading expert warned this week.

From oregano oil to shitake mushroom extracts, dozens of products are being touted on commercial websites as preventing infection or combatting the effects of avian flu in the event of a human pandemic.

But Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Britain's Exeter University, said a study of the treatments such as bee pollen or high doses of vitamin D showed that none was backed by clinical research.

The academic, Britain's only professor of alternative therapies, said some of the products would make the H5N1 virus more dangerous by boosting the body's immune system.

Bird flu can kill humans by attacking the respiratory tract and tricking the body into pushing the immune system into overdrive, creating a "storm" of antibodies that cause blood to flood the lungs and suffocate the victim.

Professor Ernst, speaking at the Science Media Centre in London, said: "Hundreds of treatments have been promoted - we searched Google and found 3.3 million sites offering advice or products linking alternative medicine with bird flu.

"We looked at the evidence for and against these treatments and we found that virtually none is backed by good evidence. There is nothing under the umbrella of complementary medicine that works against bird flu.

"Indeed, some could be dangerous by encouraging the very response that bird flu uses to attack the human body."

The therapies, ranging from well-known products such as echinacea and green tea to more obscure extracts such as wolfberry fruit and algae, risk giving the public a false sense of safety, Professor Ernst says.

He warned that some patients could believe they were treating themselves effectively for an outbreak of avian flu with products that at best had no proven benefits.

But another scientist warned that the lack of clinical research into the effects of herbal and alternative remedies was also hampering the search for drugs that could combat bird flu and other diseases.

Dr Ron Cutler, a microbiologist at the University of East London, said that there were components of natural foodstuffs - such as allicin in garlic, reservatol in red wine and chemicals in green tea - which had been identified as potentially potent anti-viral agents but no trials were being conducted to develop them as medicines.

He said the result was an over-reliance on Tamiflu and Relenza - the two pharmaceutical treatments that will be used as the frontline weapons against a human form of bird flu.

Dr Cutler said: "One of the problems is that herbal companies are generally quite small and cannot afford clinical trials. Taking a drug to market costs hundreds of millions of pounds and that is simply beyond their means.

"On the other hand, a drug company will not look at these compounds because they will not be able to patent them and thus recoup the costs of drug development. There needs to be an arrangement to investigate these substances further."


Teachers find 'design' flawed


A biology textbook that stirred up controversy in Broward because it included a description of intelligent design will not be used in classrooms here.BY HANNAH SAMPSONhsampson@MiamiHerald.comBroward high school teachers chose the first-year biology text they'll be using until 2013 -- and it's not the one that raised eyebrows with a mention of intelligent design.

Starting next year, high school students will use Florida Holt Biology, a text that doesn't include the controversial intelligent design concept, which theorizes life could not have come about without help from a higher power.

The other text that the district's teachers considered -- Biology: The Dynamics of Life -- thrust Broward into the national debate over intelligent design last year. Critics say the concept is really thinly veiled creationism.

The controversial text, published by Glencoe, a division of McGraw-Hill, included a passage that said: ``Many of the world's major religions teach that life was created on Earth by a supreme being. A variation of this belief is that organisms are too complex to have developed only by evolution. Instead, some people believe that the complex structures and processes of life could not have formed without some guiding intelligence.''

After the passage proved inflammatory in Broward, Glencoe offered to remove it from the book, if the textbook was chosen by the district.

Broward Schools Superintendent Frank Till said at the time that the sentences should be removed and that their inclusion in the first place was a mistake and a distraction from learning.

Members of a district science textbook adoption committee had winnowed a field of six biology books to two finalists, the Glencoe and Florida Holt Biology, which is published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

High school science teachers certified in biology across the district examined both texts and overwhelmingly chose the Holt. The text is expected to be approved by the Broward School Board at an upcoming meeting.

School district spokesman Keith Bromery said Friday that the controversy that had dogged the Glencoe book had no impact on the decision:. ``It was selected because of the science in the book.

''They have a number of criteria. It has to do with the layout, the look, the way it's written, the photography,'' Bromery added.

The district will spend $1.2 million on 20,000 textbooks, which students will use until 2013. Years before the new books are outdated, Florida's science education standards will be revised.

Till has said he doesn't want Broward to jump into the discussion about intelligent design before the state updates its standards.

Any changes to standards for teaching science wouldn't make the textbooks obsolete, officials said.

''They would just add that item to the curriculum,'' Bromery, the school district spokesman, said.

The wedge into biology standards


Posted on Sat, Feb. 25, 2006

By MARY LANG EDWARDS Guest columnist

On Feb. 13, the Education Oversight Committee voted against accepting the 2005 Science Standard for Biology as written, despite overwhelming support of the standard by the state Department of Education and S.C. biologists. I was appointed to a panel of scientists asked to advise the EOC on Jan. 23 about teaching evolution in high school biology classes.

Sen. Mike Fair appointed the other two scientists on the panel, both of whom represented the Discovery Institute in Seattle, an organization that advocates creationism or intelligent design in school curricula throughout the country. Unfortunately the EOC believes that it is preferable to include the Discovery Institute's agenda to "critically analyze" evolution in the science standard, rather than follow the guidelines of the National Academy of Sciences.

Unless you are accustomed to thinking about science as practiced by the scientific community, the issues may be confusing. This confusion is exactly what the Discovery Institute hopes to accomplish.

What certain members of the EOC want citizens of South Carolina to believe is that by adding the words "critically analyze" to the biology standard for teaching evolution, they are merely asking students to study evolution objectively. But what they are actually introducing into the standard is the opportunity to discredit evolution. This is the wedge strategy of the Discovery Institute.

Initially, creationists battled school districts to introduce their religious persuasion into school curricula in many states. When Supreme Court decisions went against them, they morphed their beliefs into intelligent design, hoping to escape the religious label by not naming a specific creator. As this plan has also faltered, they have evolved new strategies to cloak their dogma in scientific terms.

Their slogans — "teach the controversy" and "critically analyze" — are designed to undermine the real science supporting evolution. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences and the Southeastern Association of Biologists, the evidence for evolution is irrefutable.

The 2005 science standards are the result of a rigorous process of consultation and review. Three separate committees approved standards for biology to teach students how to evaluate investigations, engage in problem-solving, think critically and draw conclusions, all within the boundaries of accepted science. Using scientific methods, students will examine many factors that affect evolution. This is very different from what the EOC advocates.

Science begins with asking a question, followed by the collection and analysis of data. Questions asked must be testable; not all questions can be answered by the scientific method. Metaphysical questions, including those that may concern a creator or a "designer," cannot be answered by science because they cannot be tested scientifically.

If you believe the EOC is advocating good science by introducing a wedge into the science curriculum for intelligent design, then ask it to design an experiment that tests for the presence of a "designer." By faith, you can know that God exists, but you cannot test it scientifically, and that alone excludes intelligent design from the realm of science.

South Carolina now is where Ohio was in 2002, when the term "critically analyze" was inserted into science standards. After years of effort by proponents for good science, the Ohio Board of Education voted Feb. 14 to delete a lesson plan and science standards with the term "critically analyze" that would have opened the door for students to be taught intelligent design. Other states have also successfully fought strategies used by proponents of teaching intelligent design.

We have the opportunity in South Carolina to stand behind a science program that can contribute to our efforts to improve our national standing in education.

In a recent visit to South Carolina, one of the top education officials in the country stressed the importance of achieving a superior science education in order to stay competitive. The first step for us is to demand that the EOC approve the proper, scientific biology standard.

Dr. Edwards is a professor of biology at Erskine College.

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